Paint Medicine Origin Mythnt
by Sam Blowsnake
Hočąk-English Interlinear Text
(424) Our grandfathers knew of one from another tribe who had obtained certain materials. They were known to be good. In order to know, they asked him to take pity on them. It is said to be Hinųk Waróni medicine. It made the heart of a Hit’énųk’e sad (to part with it). A chief whom he (Earthmaker) had placed there for all eternity to keep it (the earth) quiet, with what the Creator had put him in charge of, he blessed this woman, as she had nearly thirsted herself to death. The chief had himself die, and when the woman took material there, she knew it to be good. Then she tried her medicine. For the first time she did it. In the sky above there stood a hawk whirling about very near the vault of the sky. The woman did it. (426) She dipped her forefinger into the medicine and when she pointed it at the hawk, it fell quite dead; she made it fall through the top of the lodge. It landed right in front of the woman. She was going to use it as a medicine bundle.
Then she had dreamt that a man had been taken away that he might fast. She said to the man, "Put forth all your strength. Do not try to come here." She also told something to his relatives, that they should watch him. "Tonight I am going to sing a paint song, and if the man comes, he will die. Take care of him that he not come." That night when she sang the paint song, the man came running. She forbade him, but he came anyhow and died dancing. And this paint is called "Hit’énųk’e Paint." It was this much of a help in coming to us.
Postscript. They knew this paint to be good. They had handled it. When they asked him to bless them with it, he let up on them and sent it to them. When they obtained the paint, they did not use it in the midst of the lodge. They made it into a warbundle. When they used the paint in war, they well knew how good it was. They estemed it so valuable that they placed it in a warbundle. We will make our breath audible. His paint we have and we will sing something. We will sing warbundle songs. When we had his paint we once amounted to something.1
Commentary. Radin says in a footnote, "This is not a Winnebago tale."2 However, it has been adapted to Hočąk theology, mentioning the Waterspirits that act as Island Weights, and has an important place in the Thunderbird Warbundle Feast. Probably the primary reason that Radin thought that this was not a Hočąk myth is that it mentions a people, the Hit’énųk’e, from whom the medicine bundle was derived. However, as is shown below, these seem to be a mythical race.
"Hinųk Waróni" — Radin says in a footnote, "My interpreter [Oliver LaMère] could not translate the name of this medicine into English. He thought that it might mean 'wicked woman medicine,' but this is extremely doubtful."3 The word hinųk definitely means "woman" in Hočąk. The word waroni is attested as the name of an unidentified bird in How the Thunders Met the Nights.4 Since the first effect of this medicine was that the old woman was able to kill a hawk by merely pointing at it, it is highly plausible to think that the medicine was called "the woman's hawk medicine," especially since the hawk in question served as the medicine bundle cover.
"Hit'enųk'e" — this is what Radin says about the name in a footnote: "What tribe is meant by 'Hit’énųk’e' it has been impossible to find out. The word, I believe, means "those whom we can speak with" in reference to the fact that their language was intelligible to the Winnebago. I was definitely assured that neither the Oto, Iowa, or Missouri were meant. I have sometimes surmised that the Winnebago may be referring to the Mandan, whose language, from the little I have seen of it, is surprisingly close to that of the former. All that the older Winneago could tell me about the Hit’énųk’e was the fact that many years ago they had been in contact with a tribe speaking a language similar to their own."5 However, Kenneth Miner's informants told him quite some time later that the people referred to by Hit’énųk’e were Giants, specifically, "large people who lived in the caves of Minnesota."6 So the Hit’énųk’e are probably a mythological tribe. See also, the Commentary to "A Wife for Knowledge."
"chief" — when the earth was first created, Earthmaker found that it spun or rocked violently. In order to make it stable, he sent four Island Weights, who were Waterspirits, down to quiet the primordial earth. It is to one of these Waterspirits that the word "chief" (hųgé) refers. The text (unlike Radin's translation) never refers to them explicitely as Waterspirits.
"she had nearly thirsted herself to death" — a hyperbolic way of saying that she fasted rigorously for a vision.
"took material" — the various parts of a Waterspirit's body can be used in creating magical potions or medicines. These can be used for good or ill. The Waterspirit, being a supernatural being, can simply regenerate another body at will.
"dreamt" — this is not the form of consciousness that occurs in nocturnal sleep, but is a state achieved by a vision seeker when she is contacted by a spirit.
"the midst of the lodge" — in other words, this was not treated as ornamental paint to be used for social occasions. It was paint with supernatural properties and was to be treated as a sacred object.
Links: Waterspirits, Island Weights, Witches.
Stories: 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, The Waterspirit of Sugar Loaf Mounds, Lakes of the Wazija Origin Myth, Waterspirits Keep the Corn Fields Wet, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, 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, Waruǧábᵉra, 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 Star Girl, Peace of Mind Regained, The Story of the Medicine Rite, 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; mentioning Island Weights: The Creation of the World, The Island Weight Songs, South Enters the Medicine Lodge, East Shakes the Messenger, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, North Shakes His Gourd, Wolves and Humans, Šųgepaga, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 2), The Lost Blanket, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth (v. 1), The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, South Seizes the Messenger, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Messengers of Hare, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Petition to Earthmaker; mentioning witches or warlocks: The Witch Men's Desert, The Thunder Charm, The Wild Rose, The Seer, Turtle and the Witches, Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Claw Shooter, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Migistéga’s Magic, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Migistéga's Death, The Mesquaki Magician, The Tap the Head Medicine, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, Battle of the Night Blessed Men and the Medicine Rite Men, The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather, The Hills of La Crosse, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara (v. 2), Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, Potato Magic, Young Rogue's Magic; about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Difficult Blessing, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Seer, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Black Otter's Warpath, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Holy Song, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing; mentioning medicine bundles: Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Mesquaki Magician; mentioning Warbundles: Waruǧábᵉra (Thunderbird), The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Thunderbird), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (Thunderbird), Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į (Thunderbird), Šųgepaga (Eagle), The Warbundle Maker (Eagle), The Masaxe War (Eagle?), Black Otter's Warpath (Bear?), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (Bear), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka (Sauk), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store (Potawatomi), A Man's Revenge (enemy).
Themes: a person who fasts receives blessings from the spirits: The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Redhorn's Sons, The Boy Who Became a Robin, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Seer, Maize Comes to the Hočągara, The Warbundle of the Eight Generations, The Woman who Loved Her Half-Brother, The Boy who would be Immortal, The Thunderbird, Lake Wąkšikhomįgra (Mendota): the Origin of Its Name, The Waterspirit Guardian of the Intaglio Mound, Great Walker's Medicine, Šųgepaga, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, Heną́ga and Star Girl, A Man's Revenge, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Man who Defied Disease Giver, White Thunder's Warpath, Black Otter's Warpath, A Man and His Three Dogs, The Oak Tree and the Man Who was Blessed by the Heroka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, The Diving Contest, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Holy Song, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Blessing of Šokeboka, The Completion Song Origin, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; spirits bless a man with an artifact: Waruǧábᵉra (warbundle, warclub), The Warbundle of the Eight Generations (warbundle, flute), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (warbundle), The Thunderbird (warclub), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds (warclub), The Rounded Wood Origin Myth (ceremonial object), Origin of the Decorah Family (drum), The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth (flute and gourd), Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka (flute), Ancient Blessing (pot, ax, spoon), The Blessing of the Bow (bow and arrows), Heną́ga and Star Girl (Thunderbird Medicine, arrow); as part of a blessing, a spirit orders the beneficiary to kill him and make magical use of his body: A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, White Wolf, The Seer, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Elk's Skull; a witch blesses someone with (things of) power: Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle; using body paint stored in a warbundle: Waruǧábᵉra, The Red Man, Black Otter's Warpath, White Thunder's Warpath; a person of supernatural power is able to kill a soaring hawk merely by pointing at it: The Magical Powers of Lincoln's Grandfather.
1 Sam Blowsnake, The Warbundle Feast of the Thunderbird Clan (First Version), in Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 ) 399-481 [424-427].
2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 425 nt. 68.
3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 425 nt. 69.
4 Paul Radin, "Mązeniabera," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #21, p. 23.
5 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 425 nt. 70.
6 Kenneth L. Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon (Kansas City: University of Kansas, June 1984) s. v.