Wildcats (Bobcats, Lynxes)

by Richard L. Dieterle


Wildcat rules over all animals bearing his name (wičąšek), including bobcats. He is said to be very handsome, and when the daughter of Heroka was allowed to choose her husband from among the spirits, she nearly chose Wildcat on account of his good looks.1

 

Once a wildcat (or bobcat) lived in the rope grass near Hare's abode. He was the brother of Grandmother Earth, and therefore one of Hare's uncles. As he went through the grass, Hare sang a threatening song, and soon he and the wildcat were exchanging insults. The wildcat chased after Hare who escaped down a hole. At Hare's suggestion, the wildcat went off to get some of Grandmother's reed matting in order to smoke him out of his hole. In the absence of the wildcat, Hare placed four acorns into the hole and instructed them on what they should say. The wildcat put the smoking reed mats into the hole, and heard four loud popping sounds, from which he concluded that Hare's eyes and testicles had burst. While the wildcat was leaning over the hole, Hare shoved him in with a forked stick, holding him down until he was cooked. He brought this meat back to Grandmother's. As they were preparing it, he covertly splashed some of the wildcat blood on Grandmother's legs, then exclaimed, "Grandmother, you are having your period!" At this she ran from the lodge until she was far enough to set up a lodge of her own. Thus the first menstrual blood was that of the wildcat.2 The wildcat as a crepuscular hunter, who is about at dawn and dusk, and who therefore, is active at a temporal boundary period. He is also lunar: bobcats have a white ring around each eye, and lynxes have white spots behind their ears that look like full moons. They have a dental formula of 2 x 3/3, 1/1, 2/2, 1/1 = 28, the number of teeth being the same as the number of light days in the lunar cycle, 14 upper teeth for the waxing of the moon, and 14 for its waning.3 These attributes help associate the wildcat with menstruation.

Since menstrual blood, the blood of the wildcat, can "kill" war weapons, it follows that wildcats can effect strong war medicine. Thus we find that Kerexúsaka was blessed by the Thunders with two mounted wildcats facing in opposite directions. His father advised him that their power was too great to handle, but Kerexúsaka decided to accept this blessing, since it was the last offered him.4

A Wildcat Spirit once lived in the cave at the base of Silver Mound where he guarded the silver that many suppose is within. On rare occasions his giant footprints could be seen in the snow.5

Among the Hočągara, wildcats may be hunted for food.6 It is said that once a hunter, having run out of ammunition, loaded his musket with chokecherry pits. He shot a wildcat with these bullets, but the animal escaped. Sometime later he saw it again, and a chokecherry bush was growing from it.7


Links: Hare, Heroka, Redhorn, Grandmother (Earth).


Stories: in which wildcats (bobcats) are characters: Hare Kills Wildcat, The Choke Cherry Wild Cat, The Chief of the Heroka, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, Silver Mound Cave, Old Man and Wears White Feather.


Themes: a wildcat who frightened someone later dies at his hands: The Choke Cherry Wild Cat, Hare Kills Wildcat.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, "The Chief of the Heroka," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #33: 1-66.

2 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 104-106.

3 Chet M. McCord and James E. Cardoza, 'Bobcat and Lynx', chapter 39 of Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Economics, ed. Joseph A. Chapman and George A. Feldhamer (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 1982) 731.

4 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 251-252.

5 Dorothy Moulding Brown, Indian Legends of Historic and Scenic Wisconsin, Wisconsin Folklore Booklets (Madison: 1947) 45-46.

6 "The Wild Cat that was Shot by Choke-Cherries," in Paul Radin, "Short Tales," Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago IV, No. 7i (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Story #20. Paul Radin, "Old Man and His Grandfather," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #53, 1-107.

7 Radin, "The Wild Cat that was Shot by Choke-Cherries," Story #20.