Morning Star (Wiragošge Xetera, "The Great Star")
by Richard L. Dieterle
Morning Star is a great warlike spirit who often bestows prowess in battle on vision seekers.1 His emblem on white buckskin offerings (inset left) is a single large star in keeping with the meaning of his name.2
He is very swift, perhaps the fastest runner among all the spirits.3 The waiką "Bladder and His Brothers," says that Morning Star's older brothers are clouds.4 He himself is call Wa'įkipíraka, "Girded in Blankets,"5 unless his name should be rendered as Wa'įgipįraga, "He Likes Blankets." In either case the blankets probably refer to clouds. It is no doubt for this reason he is said to have founded the Thunderbird Clan.6
Once he descended to earth as a man to help the mortals fend off the Giants. He awoke into existence as a full grown man just as Earthmaker awoke into existence before he created the world. Although Morning Star was alone and did not know where or who he was, he was able to quickly teach himself the use of the bow and arrow. He was blessed by the Heroka and succeeded in terrorizing the Giants into submission by pulling a full grown oak tree out of the ground before their scheduled wrestling match.7 In another wrestling match, he broke the back of his Giant opponent. During this adventure he befriended one of the Little Children Spirits who are able to turn themselves into babies. These two beat the Giants in a foot race. When the Giants attempted to flee, Morning Star killed them all except for a little boy and girl, whom he flung across the northern ocean.8
Morning Star is played by a nameless spirit in a number of Bluehorn myths. We know that this figure must be Morning Star, since he is identical in every respect to Bluehorn, who is himself the Red Star, know to us as the "Evening Star." This twin of Evening Star beheads him, and runs through the skies carrying his trophy while Red Star's body lives on without its head. In the end the nephews of Red Star (Bluehorn), rescue their uncle's head and avenge him by beheading his doppelgänger.9 In another variant, this spirit is said to be Herešgunina, the Hočąk devil. This can be understood as the product of Christian influence, since Satan is identified as the "son of the morning" referred to in Isaiah 14:12. The son of the morning is the Morning Star, called "Lucifer" in Latin. So by this means Lucifer came to be identified with Satan. Given that Lucifer in one sense is the Morning Star, and in another is Satan, it is not surprising that the Morning Star has been replaced with Herešgunina in the later Hočąk tradition. We know that missionaries stressed the identity of Morning Star with Lucifer, as we are told by the Crow:
Baptists told him [the narrator's grandfather] it [the Morning Star] is the Devil. We don't know for a fact, but they said that it is the Devil. Bird Far Away [a Baptist convert] spoke to him about it. He told my grandfather that the Morning Star may have a lot of different stories about it, but it is the Devil. Maybe Baptists are afraid of this star [laughs].10
Since Morning Star and Evening Star are twins, we would expect that they are also brothers. And this is what we are told in "Grandfather's Two Families" where it is said that the ninth of the ten sons of the Sun was Red Star, and the youngest was Morning Star.11 Since Morning Star plays a bad spirit in the Bluehorn stories, he is thinly disguised as Lucifer, or is never named at all.
Links: Celestial Spirits, Bluehorn, Earthmaker, Giants, Heroka, Little Children Spirits, One Legged One, Lice, The Twins, Gottschall.
Stories: featuring Morning Star as a character: Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Bladder and His Brothers, Grandfather's Two Families, The Origins of the Milky Way; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, The Seven Maidens, Morning Star and His Friend, Little Human Head, Turtle and the Witches, Sky Man, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, The Star Husband, Grandfather's Two Families, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Children of the Sun, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Origins of the Milky Way, The Fall of the Stars.
1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 ) 238-239.
2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 200, plate 47.
3 Paul Radin, "Morning Star (Wiragošge Xetera)," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #8: 1-93.
4 "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend," collected by Louis L. Meeker (National Anthropological Archives, 1405 Winnebago, A.D.S., Nov. 22, 1896); "The Morning Star," in David Lee Smith, Folklore of the Winnebago Tribe (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997) 105-110.
5 John Harrison, The Giant or The Morning Star, translated by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #11a, Story 8: 92-117.
6 Meeker, "The Morning Star, A Winnebago Legend."
7 Paul Radin, "The Man's Head," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #51.
8 Harrison, The Giant or The Morning Star, 92-117.
9 "The Epic of the Twins, Part One," in Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 24-41. The original text is in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #2: 1-123 (syllabic text), 1-38 (English translation).
10 Timothy P. McCleary, The Stars We Know: Crow Indian Astronomy and Lifeways (Prospect Hills, Illinois: Waveland Press, 1997) 34.
11 Radin, "Morning Star (Wiragošge Xetera)," Notebook #8: 1-93.