Wears White Feather on His Head, or Wears Sparrows for a Coat
by Richard L. Dieterle
Wears White Feather on His Head (Mąšųskakerega) is an unusual spirit who has come to earth on more than one occasion to help people in distress. His name, "Wears White Feather on His Head," is what the spirits of the Upper World call him; those of the Lower World call him, "Wears Sparrows for a Coat." They called him this on account of his very peculiar wrap, a coat made entirely of living sparrows. Whenever he took his coat off and began to shake it, the sparrows would birst into boisterous song. On his head he wore at least one pure white feather, and as part of his headdress, he wore a living loon. The white feathers were symbolic of the fact that he is chief of the white cranes.
He is always associated with an old man who is said to be his grandfather. As a spirit, the old man is a hįča owl. One of his brothers is a kind of forked tailed bird, but when he is an anthropomorphic form he has two upper torsos joined at the waist. Thus he is known as the "Forked Man." They are akin to the Čaručge, "Head Eaters," and they all wage ceaseless war against the small creatures of the earth, like mice, lizards, and snakes. Nevertheless, Wears Sparrows for a Coat is associated particularly with the squirrel. When his enemies are trying to shoot a squirrel from the trees through which it is running, only he is able to knock it down. When he contests unnamed opponents, he is able to change himself into a squirrel to avoid being catapulted by the trees upon which his opponents place him at the beginning of their foot race. However, as a water bird chief he is associated with the realm of the Waterspirits. His son whom he had with a Waterspirit woman, was taken in his youth as an offering to his mother's sister, who seized him as he walked along the water's edge. When Wears Sparrows for a Coat died in his mortal form, he too went to the Spiritland of the Waterspirits.1
Links: The Forked Man, Crane, The Redhorn Panel of Picture Cave. An American Star Map, Bird Spirits, Owls, Loons, Flint, Waterspirits, Bears, Beavers.
Stories: about Wears White Feather (Wears Sparrows for a Coat): Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather; in which the Forked Man is a character: The Red Man, Chief of the Heroka, The Spirit of Gambling, Wears White Feather on His Head; featuring cranes as characters: How the Thunders Met the Nights, Bladder and His Brothers (v. 1), Wears White Feather on His Head; mentioning loons: Old Man and Wears White Feather, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Medicine, The Raccoon Coat; in which owls are mentioned: Crane and His Brothers, The Spirit of Gambling, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Chief of the Heroka, Partridge's Older Brother, Waruǧápara, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Green Man; about Bird Spirits: Crane and His Brothers, The King Bird, Bird Origin Myth, Wears White Feather on His Head, Old Man and Wears White Feather, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Thunderbird, The Boy Who Became a Robin, Partridge's Older Brother, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Ocean Duck, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Quail Hunter, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Trickster Gets Pregnant, Trickster and the Geese, Holy One and His Brother (blackbirds, woodpeckers, hawks), Porcupine and His Brothers (Ocean Sucker), Turtle's Warparty (Thunderbirds, eagles, kaǧi, pelicans, sparrows), The Dipper (Thunderbirds, kingfishers, hummingbirds, black hawks), Kaǧiga and Lone Man (kaǧi), The Old Man and the Giants (kaǧi, bluebirds), The Bungling Host (snipe, woodpecker), The Red Feather, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Trickster, the Wolf, the Turtle, and the Meadow Lark, Waruǧápara, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Black and White Moons, The Markings on the Moon, The Creation Council, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna (chicken hawk), Hare Acquires His Arrows, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, The Hočąk Migration Myth, Blue Jay, The Baldness of the Buzzard, The Abduction and Rescue of Trickster (turkey buzzard), The Shaggy Man (blackbirds), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (blackbirds), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbirds, snowbirds), Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Įčorúšika and His Brothers (Loon), Great Walker's Medicine (loon), Roaster (woodsplitter), The Spirit of Gambling, The Big Stone (a partridge), Trickster's Anus Guards the Ducks, The Green Man (owls), The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4) — see also Thunderbirds, and the sources cited there; mentioning squirrels: Turtle's Warparty, Wears White Feather on His Head, Porcupine and His Brothers; in which Waterspirits occur as characters: Waterspirit Clan Origin Myth, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Green Waterspirit of Wisconsin Dells, The Lost Child, River Child and the Waterspirit of Devil's Lake, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bluehorn's Nephews, Holy One and His Brother, The Seer, The Nannyberry Picker, The Creation of the World (vv. 1, 4), Šųgepaga, The Sioux Warparty and the Waterspirit of Green Lake, The Waterspirit of Lake Koshkonong, The Waterspirit of Rock River, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Devil's Lake — How it Got its Name, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Diving Contest, The Lost Blanket, Redhorn's Sons, The Phantom Woman, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Great Walker's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath, The Descent of the Drum, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, Hare Retrieves a Stolen Scalp (v. 2), The Two Children, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, Ocean Duck, The Twin Sisters, Trickster Concludes His Mission, The King Bird, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Heną́ga and the Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Spiritual Descent of John Rave's Grandmother, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Shaggy Man, The Woman who Married a Snake (?), Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake.
Genealogy: Chief of the White Cranes (+ Hįča Owl Spirit, The Forked Man, the Čaručge)
1 Paul Radin, "Wears White Feather on His Head," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #4: 1-50; Paul Radin, "Old Man and His Grandfather," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #53, 1-107.