Sunset Point

retold in Hocąk style by Richard L. Dieterle

There was a village, and it was a Hocąk village. There Nątíga and his wife Wíhąga lived. He loved his wife greatly, there was nothing he would not do for her. Then, unexpectedly, she became gravely ill. He called the greatest of medicine men, but he could do nothing, and she died. All the old man could say was, "Have patience in your grief, Nątíga, for your sun is still high in the sky," but Nątíga's heart was flattened. All the things that had given him joy were as nothing to him now. His heart was mighty sore. It was not like anything: he could not even go on the hunt. He sought seclusion, and built a lodge on top of Sunset Cliff.

Nątíga blackened his face in mourning, and cried out to the Spirits that he might bring his wife back to life. He nearly fasted himself to death. He sacrificed to the Spirits his every possession, committing them to the fire. All his furs, his war weapons, and finally all the tobacco that he had left, these he offered into the fire. Finally, he dreamed, and a Spirit came to him. "Grandson, you have nearly thirsted yourself to death. Cease your weeping, your wife is happy among her kin in Spiritland. But, yet, if thus you wish to do, to have her back among the living, then follow me, and I shall lead you to the road to Spiritland." And thus he did. They had not traveled far, when, unexpectedly, he came upon a waterfall. "Behind this waterfall," said the Spirit, "lies the portal to Spiritland." Without waiting to hear more, Nątíga walked right though the small waterfall and into a tunnel. There he trudged through the wet and dark passageway. On he traveled, and as he was thinking to himself that this tunnel might have no end, finally, there, unexpectedly, he saw a small beacon of light. "This must be the opening of the tunnel," he thought. Nevertheless, he walked all night, and not until the sun was rising did he come to a small oval lodge.

When he entered in, he saw there an old man, with long white hair. There he sat, wrapped in a pitch black buffalo robe. In one of his hands, he held a crooked staff. "Hąhą́, I have been expecting you," he said. "Be seated, you must be tired from your journey," he said. "You have done good for me, Grandfather," he replied, "but I must not tarry, for I have a long way to go." "Grandson, the road that you are upon, this is the road to Spiritland. On this way no one hurries, for its time has no end. The one that you want to bring back to earth, you must know that she will grow old and her beauty will not be good, and in the end, she will only have to die again. Let me touch you with my staff, and all your longings will disappear, and she can remain happy where she is," he said. "Grandfather, I shall not stop walking this road until I have my wife once again in my arms. Thus it must be," he said. And the old man said, "Then Grandson, you will walk through this forest that you see before you, and after a time, you will come to a lake. There there will be many canoes on its shore. One of these canoes will have your clan emblem painted upon it. This is the canoe you shall board. As you make your way across the lake, you will see on the opposite side a lodge with the Black Bear emblem. There Wíhą shall await you. She will come up to you in the canoe and embrace you. Then she will invite you to a great feast that has been set out for you. Do not go with her, but stay in the canoe. No matter how hungry you are, do not eat of this food. If you take only one step out, the canoe will speed away of its own accord. It will become a silver sliver in the distance, and never return. Instead, Grandson, tell Wíhą to sit in the canoe, and when she does, paddle away with her. Do not look back. Land the canoe where you first found it — someday, you will have need of it." Thus did the old man speak, and Nątíga took leave of him to resume his journey.

He did as the old man had bidden him. He traveled through a beautiful forest, all its trees seemed perfect. Finally, in time, he came to a lake. There he found the canoe with his clan emblem emblazoned on it. He got in and went across the lake, and there on the opposite side, he saw a lodge with the same emblem painted on its front. He landed on the shore, but did not get out of his canoe. There stood Wíhą, and behind her were kettles full of the best food. Its aroma was great, and he almost got out to eat, since he had become very hungry. However, his attention was on his beautiful wife, whom he bade enter the canoe. There they embraced. He ignored her every entreaty to stay and eat, and shoved off from the shore. The ghosts ran to the bank and called for them to come back, but he never looked back and made swiftly for the opposite shore. Nątíga returned the way he had come and emerged with his wife through the veil of the waterfall.

Nątíga's parents were overjoyed to see him. They had given him up for dead, as the whole village had searched for him but could not find a trace. Then he announced that he had brought Wíhą back from Spiritland, but no one could see her. Only Nątíga could see her as she was. And when she spoke to them, they heard nothing at all, only Nątíga could hear what she was saying. Nevertheless, they knew someone was there, for she still cast a shadow on the ground. And when the Moon became full, only then could they hear her voice.

Among the many men who had courted Wíhą when she was single was a cousin of Nątíga's. This cousin was still greatly infatuated with her. One night he crept up to their lodge hoping to hear her voice once again. He heard her say to her husband, "Tomorrow I shall transform myself and become as I once was. Everyone will be able to see and hear me," she said. Then she said, "No one must set eyes upon me while I am undergoing this change. If anyone sees me, then I will die." So Nątíga made a partition in the lodge, and early the next morning Wíhą entered in and prepared to undergo a metamorphosis. While she was changing herself, Nątíga heard a rustling in the bushes behind the lodge, so he went out to investigate. It was a ruse by his cousin, who slipped into the lodge while Nątíga was searching the brush. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, Nątíga heard his wife scream. He rushed back in to find his cousin trying to pull back the curtain. They fought each other, and during the struggle, the curtain was torn down and both men caught sight of Wíhą while she was only half transformed. Wíhą fell to the ground, and the cousin was struck blind and his body paralyzed. Nątíga knelt beside his wife to hear her dying words: "Wrap my body in a bearskin, and set it back in the portal to Spiritland," she said, then she died.

Nątíga did as his wife had bidden him, and wrapped her body in a bearskin. Then he took her to the waterfall. There he sang his own death song, and picking his wife's body up, entered into the portal, never to be seen again.1

Commentary." Nątíga" — Saunder's rendering of this name is "Nah-dee-gah," but the /d/ represents the Hocąk unaspirated /t/. Since the name of his wife is a birth-order name (see next entry), it had occurred to me that this might have been for Naxíga, which is the name given to the fourth born male child. However, generally Saunder's words are not too greatly distorted, rendering such an interpretation implausible. While the name Nątíga is not found in lists of Bear Clan names, which lists are never presented as exhaustive, there is the very similar Bear Clan name of Nątísaka, "Climbs a Tree Swiftly." Dropping sak, "swift," we would have Nątíga, "Climbs Trees," or "Tree Climber," a reference to this proclivity among bears, thus making it a perfectly plausible Bear Clan name. As we shall see below, there are other reasons that favor this straightforward interpretation of Nątíga as a name in the Bear Clan.

"Wíhąga" — the name given to the second born female. This is the same birth order name of the lunar girl who married the Jupiter figure in the "Snowshoe Strings" myth. In the astronomical code of this myth, she plays exactly the same role.


Lunar Eclipse of 29 June 1722 ()

Cat. # Date TD of
ΔT s Luna # Saros # Ecl.
QSE Γ Pen. Mag. Um. Mag. Phase Durations
Pen. m Par. m Total m
08972 1722 June 29 01:49:16 10 -3433 125 T p- -0.3750 2.1452 1.1942 311.8 198.8 62.7

"she became gravely ill" — Wíhą in the astronomy code corresponds to the Moon. The action takes place around the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, as will become apparent as the story unfolds. During the summer months of June and July, the Moon in this sector of the Milky Way is full, which is to say, at the height of her powers. The most obvious illness of the Moon would be her eclipse. One occurred on 28 June 1722 (which is 29 June in Universal Time), initially below the horizon at Four Lakes, but it was still in eclipse at 2134 hours, at which time the Moon was about 14° altitude above the horizon. The reconstruction above, from Starry Nights Software, shows the conditions at 2054 hours (2:54 UT). As the table from NASA shows, the height of its total eclipse was at 1:49:16 UT, 29 June (= 0749:16 hours, 28 June), when the Moon was only 1° 13' above the horizon, which is to say, just as it had risen. So the Moon, Wíhą, at the height of her powers, was suddenly stricken with a disorder.

Starry Nights Software
10 November 1722
Jupiter with the Dying Moon

Strength of the Moon near Jupiter in the Proximity of the Scorpius Milky Way, 1722
Date Jan. 13 Feb. 10 March 9 April 5 May 2 May 30 June 26 July 25 Aug. 19 Sept. 16 Oct. 13 Nov. 10 Dec. 9
Percent Disk Illumination 20.64 36.00 51.66 62.65 85.15 98.28 91.09 75.96 75.96 50.40 35.06 13.1 0

"she died" — from late May to early July, the Moon is nearly full in the region of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way where Jupiter is situated in 1722. From the exact time of her eclipse, 28 June 1722, she begins a monthly decline until, in mid-November, she has essentially wasted away. After November 10, the Moon and Jupiter part company, and by the next Moon, Jupiter is no longer in the sky (conjunction with the Sun).

Sunset Point     The Resemblance of
the Scorpius Milky Way
to a Cliff

"Sunset Cliff" — a rock formation at Sunset Point in the Wisconsin Dells (43°40'31.8"N 89°48'04.7"W). Cliffs flank either side of Witches Gulch, itself formed by Gulch Creek, which flows east to west, emptying into the Wisconsin River in the Dells. The cliff therefore faces west on the river, which flows through the Dells from north to south. The cliffs are so called because the setting sun illuminates them. The flat top of Sunset Cliff is therefore a good platform from which to view celestial events taking place in the west around where the sun sets. In mid-November, Jupiter is still in the sky. He is situated on the edge of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, which itself resembles Sunset Cliff.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter's Sacrificial Fire
Sunset (16:28 Hours), 23 November 1722
Angular Separation: 12° 18' 18"

"the fire" — in mid-November, while sitting on the "cliff" of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, Jupiter-Nątíga is very close to the "fire" (the Sun), and soon, in late November, his entire surroundings plunge into this fire. Jupiter achieves conjunction with the Sun (RA 17h 4.647') at 07:36:58 hours, 9 December 1722. Thus Jupiter sacrifices all to the fire of the Sun, save himself, since he reemerges as a morning star about two weeks later, around the Winter Solstice.

"a Spirit came to him" — there is a good correlate to this otherwise unidentified Spirit. Immediately after Jupiter immolates everthing, and emerges on the morning side of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, just when Mars comes into view, and traveling faster than Jupiter, comes to him.

Starry Nights Software
Mars Coming to Jupiter, Then Leading Him to the Great Rift
Sunrise, 25 December 1722 - 12 January 1723

"I shall lead you" — by 12 January 1723, Jupiter reaches the "tunnel" having been led there by Mars. Since Mars is not a prominent Spirit in Hocąk religion, it is hard to give any explication of the significance of being blessed by him.

"a waterfall" — the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way both resembles a cliff and a waterfall (see the illustration above). In the origin myth of the Milky Way, it is said to have come into existence when water from the Ocean Sea was splashed into the sky. Therefore, the Milky Way is taken to be literally water.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Entering the Great Rift "Tunnel" Opposite M8
10 January 1723

"a tunnel" — back on November 10, Jupiter (Nątíga) was on the edge of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, now exactly two months later, Jupiter is poised at the edge of the Great Rift, a long, narrow dark cloud that runs up the center of the galaxy here. Not surprisingly, the allegory homologizes this dark tube as a tunnel.

"a small beacon of light" — on the other side of the Great Rift along the pathway of the ecliptic lies M8, a nebulous star cluster known as the "Lagoon Nebula." It stands out against the background of dark dust, even though it has an apparent magnitude of only 5.00. Given the contrast, it is a small beacon of light nonetheless.

"all night" — this journey took about two weeks (see below).

"until the sun was rising" — this is an underworld Spiritland appropriate to someone of the Lower Moiety. It has its own sun and sky, despite being far underground. In the astronomical code, Jupiter has gone from being in This World to descending below the horizon in the Below World. This happened when Jupiter crossed the horizon during solar conjunction and emerged on the other side as a morning star. There he is greeted with the sunrise, rather than, as before, emerging with the sunset.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Arrives Opposite M8
25 January 1723

"a small oval lodge" — the Lagoon Nebula, M8, is being homologized as an oval lodge.

"long white hair" — the Milky Way generally resembles long white hair, and here we find the old man taking on the attributes of what Jupiter sets his eyes upon as he travels over this sector of space.

"a pitch black buffalo robe" — black buffalo (bison) are at least extremely rare, so we should expect that the color of the robe is meant to be symbolic. In astronomy codes, the stars are often homologized to a giant herd of buffalo coursing across the night sky. The obvious symbolism of black in connection with buffalo would be in reference to the night sky. The darkness of the night sky is not seen as an absence of light, but rather the positive presentation of a black substance, a kind of anti-light, that is spread across the sky after sunset by supernatural beings known as Nightspirits. While the crook that this Spirit possesses aligns him with the Bear Clan, he is not wearing a bearskin robe. This suggests that he is not a Bear Spirit. Nevertheless, Nightspirits have some associations with black bears in particular. The recent (ca. 1630's) founder of the Black Bear Subclan, Fourth Universe, was not only blessed by the Nightspirits, but through prophetic vision discovered that he had originated as a Nightspirit. Just as the Bear clansmen are Soldiers (Máną́pe), so too are there Night Soldiers (A Ae m n leAe = Hą̄hé Máną́pe).2 So there is an intimate connection between the Black Bear Subclan in particular, and the Nightspirits.

With reference to the astronomy code, inasmuch as buffalo are stars, and the robe is black, this would seem to be a reference to the night sky whose darkness, and whose buffalo herd of stars, surrounds and contrasts with the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way. This forms a complement to his white hair, a reference to the two strands of the Milky Way that descend from the round "top" of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way above the ecliptic.

"a crooked staff" — once again, the attributes and possessions of this Spirit are taken from those of the Milky Way here at the edge of the Great Rift, which itself bears a resemblance to a crooked staff.

Given that this myth is so firmly grounded in the Bear Clan, it is very likely that this crook is the hokere’ų. The literal meaning of hokere’ų is, "(that which is) made to be placed upright." A hokere’ų crook would be set erect in the ground to mark a wacųnák line. The wacųnák line was a line of battle which must be held at all cost, and no member of the Bear Clan could be expected to desert this line alive. The hokere’ų functioned as the battle standard of the clan, and when it was advanced, the Soldiers (Mą́ną́pe) would advance behind it; and when it was stuck in the ground upright, it warned the enemy that they could advance no farther.3 That the old man held a hokere’ų shows that he is a Spirit affiliated with the Bear Clan. His black buffalo robe suggests that he is a Nightspirit, which, as we have seen above, connects him particularly to the Black Bear Subclan.

"let me touch you with my staff, and all your longings will disappear" — when a hokere’ų staff is set up all longings for retreat are given up and a wacųnák line is established beyond which no one will fall back. Here the opposite is the result: the touch of his staff will dispel his longing to advance, and he will never go beyond the staff. It is somewhat blended with the ideas around the Spirit Woman (Hinųkxop’ini). The departed spirit will encountered her on the road to Spiritland, just as Jupiter-Nątíga has encountered the old man on this same road.

She will boil rice. If you eat, you will have a headache. Then she will say, "Grandson, you have a headache. Let me cup it for you," she will say. After she cups it, there she is going to crack your head, and take out your brain. Thereafter, you will forget earth here. You will not be lonesome for your relatives. You will not live in worry over the affairs of your relatives. You shall become like in being to the various spirits (waxopini).4

Once she cracks open his skull and removes his brain, his longings and earthly connections disappear. It's as if the old man's staff effects the same result.

Don Saunders   Starry Nights Software
The Emblem of
the Bear Clan
    The Great Rift as a Bear

"your clan emblem" — the page in Saunder's text has a picture of this emblem, which is a bear's head superimposed upon a tree. This recalls the attested Bear Clan personal name, Nątísaka, "Swift Tree Climber," and more to the point, it is a counterpart to the name of the protagonist of this myth, Nątíga, "Tree Climber." The importance of the illustration contained in Saunder's text is that it makes perfectly clear that Nątíga belongs to the Bear Clan, as his name would seem to imply. We could take the pine tree to stand for a generic tree, however the fact that it is a pine may have added significance. The Bear Clan both as Soldiers (Máną́pe) and as sovereigns over the land, are therefore the defenders of Wazija. Wazija is the name given to the Hocąk country, and means literally, "At the Pines." So the gaping mouthed bear standing before the pine tree clearly suggests the Soldiers defending the Wazija.

The Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way is, in many myths, homologized to a tree. The Great Rift looks, as it actually is in fact, like something superimposed upon the face of the milky background. In the story "Snowshoe Strings," the Great Rift black cloud is homologized to a bear. Therefore, the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way is, symbolically, a black bear superimposed over a tree, which may meet well enough the requirements for the clan emblem. Here the emblem turns out to be bigger than the canoe.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Boards a Canoe
0513 Hours, 2 February 1723

"canoe" — the remark that it will speed away and that it will end up a "silver sliver" clearly point to the canoe as the Moon. The Moon being compared to a canoe is common enough, given the shared shape of the canoe and the quarter moon. Although a canoe-shaped moon passes by Jupiter at this time, it does not, needless to say, move in tandem with the planet. It is clear that nothing moves in tandem with Jupiter that would function as a conveyance, and this is especially true of the Moon, which speeds away leaving each of the planets behind. So how is Jupiter's conveyance across the "lake" (Milky Way) lunar? The answer is simple enough: Jupiter moves with time, which is measured in "moons." So moons moved Jupiter along and are therefore like canoes, each moon being counted by its initial apparition in the sky as a "silver sliver."

"the Black Bear emblem" — the exact words in Saunder's text are, "Black Bear totem." The Hocągara, unlike all their cousins of the Chiwere branch (Ioway, Oto, Missouria), do not have a Black Bear Clan, but only a subclan so designated. The previous thin evidence that there was some connection in this story to the Black Bear Subclan now becomes almost explicit. The black buffalo robe of the guiding Spirit in conjunction with his crook, the former suggestive of a Nightspirit, and the latter suggestive of the Bear Clan, are combined uniquely in the heritage of the Black Bear Subclan.

"a great feast" — today we know that both the Moon and Jupiter are closer to us than the stars, allowing us to understand why they occlude stars when they pass in front of them. We can't be sure that this was understood by the Hocągara or other tribes of the north, although it was well understood by the various civilizations of Mexico. In allegorical terms, when the disc of the Moon passes over a star, it seems to "eat" it. Jupiter has a wide enough disc that it too can eat stars. So the banquet prepared for them is the aggregate of stars lying on the ecliptic which they may occlude or "eat."

"a silver sliver in the distance" — Saunder's has, "... it will sail out of sight into the blue. The birch bark will be polished and frosted by the star dust into a silver sliver that will never return." Unfortunately, "the blue" may refer either to the lake or to the sky, and "star dust" is a purely Western poetic fancy. Furthermore, does he mean that the canoe will never return to the lake, or never return to him? Otherwise, it is clear that the canoe is being homologized to the Moon, the silver sliver being its quarter phase.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Parks His Canoe on the Opposite Shore
0137 Hours, 29 March 1723

"he landed on the shore" — on 29 March 1723, Jupiter arrives at the edge of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, and there lands his canoe, the crescent moon. Since Jupiter and the Moon rise together, they are both touching the ground (horizon) at the same time.

Starry Nights Software
The Moon (Wíhą) Standing Before Jupiter
26 April 1723

"there stood Wíhą" — by 26 April the Moon is waxing sufficiently enough (67.88% of its disc illuminated) that it no longer looks like a canoe and can better represent Wíhą.

Brian Brondel
The Cause of the Apparent Retrograde Motion of a Planet

"shoved off from the shore" — the allegory now demands that Jupiter turn around and go back to where he had come from. It should not be forgotten that in terms of planetary motion as it appears in our sky, planets undergo what is called "retrograde motion." Why this occurs can be seen in the diagram above. As it happens, precisely this occurs just exactly when it is demanded by the astronomy underlying the story: on 25 April 1723, Jupiter reached its minimum Right Ascension (18h 35.892m), and began its retrograde motion.

"he never looked back" — in space, Nątíga and his wife are returning to Earth from Spiritland, so their temporal direction put Earth in the future, but as we learn from the Hare myth on the Necessity for Death, backward is the direction of the past. Therefore, setting one's sights backwards is to encompass only the past, the places previously traveled, and those whose future is nothing but the past arae by definition the dead, since the dead have no future, only a past. Therefore, had he set his sights backward for Spiritland, he would not have been able to return to Earth, since Earth would now not be in his future (foreward sight). By looking back, he makes himself a dead man by definition, and the residence of the dead is in Spiritland. As a result he would never have been able to escape the land of the dead and return to earth.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Lands on the Other Side of the Lake,
Completing His Retrograde Motion
25 April - 25 August 1723

"the opposite shore" — Jupiter completes his retrograde motion, reaching the Great Rift. The black portions of the celestial dome stand for land, so any part of the Milky Way that touches a black field constitutes its shore. Jupiter reaches the shore on 8 August 1723. On 25 August 1723, Jupiter begins its resumption of direct motion (minimum RA 17h 53.117m). This creates a problem for the allegorist, who must now shift homologues. The Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way cannot remain the underworld, since Jupiter will never retrograde all the way back to where it was when it was situated on the Scorpius side of the Milky Way (mid-November, 1722). After this time, Jupiter resumes its direct motion, pulling away from the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way altogether and achieving conjunction with the Sun at 19:03:13 hours, 10 January 1724 (RA 19h 27.037m), having disappeared into the solar light around the Winter Solstice of 1723. This exit from the scene makes it necessary to continue the story by restating the last set of astronomical events using a different set of homologues. This repetition by re-characterization is, of course, the typical pattern of theme and variation used in myths generally.

"no one could see her" — on Earth the ghost is normally invisible, so the idea that she retains this feature of the departed soul shows that she has not entirely regenerated the life of the flesh.

"they heard nothing at all" — this is a corollary of the symbolism of sound for light, a homologue well known in Hocąk mythology. Since she is invisible, which is to say that light does not emanate from her, it is in keeping with this symbolism that sound does not emanate from her either.

"shadow" — the idea that a ghost is a "shade" is very familiar from Western antiquity. Among the Hocągara, the word náǧitak (for nąǧírak) means, "1) dead man’s spirit 2) soul 3) shadow 4) man’s reflection in the water," according to Gatschet; and Miner gives the meaning "shadow" for nąǧírak. That she is nothing to the living world but a shadow is just another way of saying that she had not completely transformed into flesh and blood from her recent state of being a spirit or "shadow." Since life is light (hąp), as explicitly stated in the Medicine Rite, it should follow that death is its opposite, darkness. Thus, the universal practice in Indian pictography of indicating a dead animal by coloring its form black.

"when the Moon became full, only then could they hear her voice" — again, we have the symbolism of sound for light. It is clear that in this context, Wíhą has an identity with the Moon, since it is only when the Moon reaches its peak of light that Wíhą crosses the threshold of sound required to be perceptible. Only when the Moon is restored to its full light is Wíhą restored to her full sound. Just as Brave Man as an incarnation of Bluehorn was a blue sky that had come to earth, so it ought to be that Wíhą is a moon that has come to earth. Like the Moon, she has died on earth only to be resurrected for another cycle of life.

"cousin" — the Hocąk word for cousin is kinų́p. A kinų́p (plural, kinų́bᵋra) is variously, a cousin (Foster, 1850; Dorsey, 1888; Jipson, Helmbrecht-Lehmann), brother (Merrill, 1830; Foster, Dorsey, Jipson, Radin), sibling (Miner, Helmbrecht-Lehmann), or a mere relation (Dorsey). When clan structures were more rigorously in place, kinų́p may have simply meant "a clan brother," that is, "a close male relative who is the offspring of one's father or his brothers." This, then, fits nicely with hi’ą́c, which means, "father or father's brothers." That would mean that a kinų́p is the offspring of one's hi’ą́c. Consequently, in the context of this story, there is no way to tell whether an original kinų́p referred to a cousin or a brother; all we know is that Nątíga and his competitor had a hi’ą́c in common. Therefore, the two suitors of Wíhą could have been brothers.

"this cousin" — in examining the sky at the place and time at which this allegory is set makes it quite evident who this kinų́p is. The one and only relative of Jupiter that fits the bill by being present throughout the course of action is the planet Saturn. Saturn's sidereal cycle is 29.46 years (10,759.22 days), that of Jupiter is 11.86 years (4,332.589 days). However, the two planets have a conjunction every 18-20 years. Needless to say, these do not occur in the same place in the sky. The conjunction (☌) of Jupiter (♃) and Saturn (♄) is known as the Great Conjunction, and the occurrence of this phenomenon is tabulated here for when it takes place only within the confines of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way:

Date ♃ ☌ ♄ 22 March 809 6 April 1663 18 Oct 1663 1756h 5 Jan 1723 20 April 1782 5 Nov 1782 5 Jan 1842
RA ♃ 16h 11.786m 16h 54.901m 16h 47.320m 17h 31.340m 17h 55.383m 17h 52.218m 18h 38.406m
Galactic Latitude ♃ 7° 51.046' 9° 22.653' 10° 38.195' 2° 32.378' -1° 28.511' -1° 3.166' -9° 29.744'

The span of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way at the ecliptic is taken to be from Galactic Attitude 12° 25' to -10° 22'. The years 1663 and 1782 (this last less so) are both, at least superficially, plausible candidates for satisfying the allegory. However, in both these cases, Jupiter's retrograde motion has him meeting with the old man, then in his direct motion, turning around and heading back instead of forward across the lake. Therefore, these two dates cannot serve as alternate hypotheses to the 1722/3 date. The other Great Conjunction in the year 809 is too distant in time to be plausible.

"everyone will be able to see and hear me" — this is an inconsistency: we were told the only time anyone other than her husband could hear her was when the Moon was full, but the present statement implies that she is only being heard by her husband; yet the cousin (Saturn) has crept up and heard her even though the Moon is not full. This inconsistency really arises from the allegory, where, at this time, the Moon is not full.

"a partition" — the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way has now been re-homologized into a lodge, and the black ribbon that runs vertically down its center is now homologized as a curtain used to partition the lodge. The myth now reduplicates part of the astronomical sequence required to complete the story line.

Starry Nights Software
Saturn Approaching Jupiter with the Moon, 29 March 1723

"early the next morning Wíhą entered in" — this will have occurred on 29 March 1723, when the Moon is on the left side of the Great Rift partition.

Starry Nights Software
Jupiter Going Out Behind the Milky Way While Saturn Observes the Moon
Sunrise, 25 April 1723

"he went out to investigate" — on 25 April 1723, Jupiter is still in direct motion and for three days just barely moves past the edge of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way "lodge." At 1748 hours, 28 April, Jupiter had reached his maximum forward motion (RA 18h 35.894m), and was now about to embark on his retrograde. As he is at his "station," the position at which he becomes stationary between direct and retrograde motion, he is just barely standing outside the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way (-10h 22.191m Galactic Lattitude).

Starry Nights Software
Saturn Passing Through the Partition (Great Rift)
While Jupiter is Outside the Milky Way Lodge
Sunrise, 22 May 1723

"scream" — this will have occurred on the next occasion in which the Moon is situated in the partitioned area of the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, which was 22 May 1723. Since sound symbolically corresponds to light, the scream must correspond to the intense light of the Moon, which now is 94.41% full.

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Jupiter and Saturn in Retrograde, as Saturn Tears Through the Great Rift Curtain
28 April - 18 August 1723

"pull back the curtain" — both Jupiter and Saturn are in retrograde motion simultaneously. As Saturn "flees" Jupiter, he passes from one side of the "curtain" to the other, thus tearing it down.

"both men caught sight of Wíhą" — when the Moon is next in position within the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way is on 8 September 1723. It is then, therefore, they catch sight of her.

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Jupiter with the Half Moon, Sunset, 8 September 1723

"half transformed" — this is quite nearly literal as the Moon's disk is 61.8% illuminated, which makes it nearly a half moon.

"blind" — we might expect this to mean that his "light" was put out so that he was not able to have what was going on in his field of vision. This occurs when he sets before Wíhą has died and Jupiter has knelt by her side (for which see below).

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Saturn at Station, 8 September 1723   Saturn Setting, 1050 Hours, 8 September 1723

"paralyzed" — as far as the eye can detect, the station of Saturn seems to last for a month, since there is no good reference star against which to check his miniscule reversal of motion. Therefore, being at his station, Saturn is motionless, and therefore "paralysed."

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Jupiter Kneels Beside the Moon After She Falls to the Ground
2305h, 8 September 1723

"Wíhą fell to the ground" — early in the night of 8 September 1723, the Moon literally falls to the ground, that is, it sets (2308h).

"Nątíga knelt beside his wife" — as the Moon sets at 2308h, Jupiter is himself on the ground (horizon), to set himself at 2309h. Using the horizon for alignment, this makes the Moon and Jupiter in conjunction.

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The Moon Wrapped in Bearskin and Left at the Portal
Sunset, 28 November 1723

"a bearskin" — that Jupiter-Nątíga wraps Wíhą in a bearskin further reinforces the conclusion that Nątíga is affiliated with the Bear Clan. By 28 November 1723, the Moon in the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way has been reduced to a minimal sliver, its disk illuminated only 1%, making it almost all black. Its blackness is its black bear fur wrap.

"to the waterfall" — on 28 November, the Moon, now almost completely dark is placed at the portal where the waterfall is found (the Scorpius side of the Milky Way).

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Jupiter and Moon in Solar Conjunction, 27 December 1723

"never to be seen again" — around the solstice in 1723, Jupiter is swallowed up by the light of the Sun and disappears from the sky in solar conjunction. The Moon on 27 December 1723, when it is located in the Sagittarius-Scorpius Milky Way, is in conjunction with the Sun, and therefore does not appear in the sky. Thus, in their shared conjunction with the Sun, they are both "dead." When the Moon finally rises out of the Sun, it inaugurates the Hųjwiconįną or First Bear Month, the time when bears hibernate, and when the Bear Feast occurs.

Summary. Given that we have an illustration of the clan emblem and that it features a bear, makes it perfectly clear that the clan in question is the Bear Clan. That the Spirit who gave him directions on the road to Spiritland has Nightspirit attributes tends to implicate the Black Bear Subclan as the likely source for this myth.

This summary should be useful in showing the brief reduplicated section when the Milky Way is re-allegorized as a lodge with a partition curtain inside.

Date 29 June, 1722 10 Nov. 23 Nov. 9 Dec. 25  Dec. 10 Jan., 1723 25 Jan. 2 Feb. 29 March 25 April 26 April 25 April - 25 Aug. 22 May 28 April - 18 Aug. 8 Sept. 28 Nov. 27 Dec.
Total eclipse of the Moon The Moon all but disappears from the sky Jupiter atop the Scorpius Milky Way approaches the Sun Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun Mars approaches Jupiter, passing him, and pulling ahead when he reaches the Great Rift Jupiter passes through the Scorpius side of the Milky Way and reaches the Great Rift Jupiter arrives opposite M8 Jupiter approaches a thin quarter moon Jupiter and a crescent moon are together on the horizon at the edge of the Sagittarius Milky Way     A half moon lies nearby to the west of Jupiter Jupiter's retrograde motion terminates at the edge of the Great Rift                
Wíhą sickens and dies On top of Sunset Point, Nątíga sacrifices everything he has into the fire Nątíga immolates everything he owns into the fire A Spirit comes to Jupiter and leads him to the portal to the Underworld Nątíga goes through a waterfall and enters a tunnel Nątíga arrives at the lodge of a Spirit Nątíga boards a canoe Nątíga lands his canoe on the opposite shore of the lake     Wíhą stands in front of Nątíga Nątíga plies his canoe to the other side of the lake                
Jupiter and the Moon are together in the Sagittarius half of the Milky Way, while Saturn is at its edge at the Great Rift Jupiter leaves the Milky Way while a nearly full moon is situated in the Sagittarius half of the Milky Way     Jupiter is outside the Milky Way while Saturn is in proximity to a full moon Jupiter and Saturn retrograde simultaneously. Saturn goes through the Great Rift with Jupiter following Jupiter and Saturn are near a half moon situated in the Sagittarius half of the Milky Way Saturn appears to be stationary as it changes to direct motion from its retrograde Saturn sets Jupiter and the Moon set at the same time The new moon appears at the opening of the Great Rift Jupiter and the Moon are both in solar conjunction
Nątíga's cousin listens in as Nątíga and Wíhą talk While Wíhą is undergoing a transformation, Nątíga checks behind the lodge     While Nątíga is outside, the cousin enters where Wíhą is and she screams Nątíga and his cousin fight, and the curtain is torn Nątíga and his cousin see Wíhą when she is half transformed The cousin is paralyzed The cousin is blinded Jupiter kneels by his dying wife Nątíga wraps Wíhą in a bearskin robe and sets her at the portal Wíhą, having entered the Otherworld, Nątíga now sings his death song and joins her.

This beautiful allegory, whose story ends precisely at the First Bear Month and the time of the Bear Clan Feast, overlaps with the astronomical allegory of the story "Snowshoe Strings." The evidence points to the Blue Bear Subclan as the authors of this latter story. Our story was created at the same time as an episode in the other story, which traces the interactions between two brothers, Evening Star and Jupiter. There, Jupiter marries a Moon given the same name, Wíhą, as his wife has in the present allegory. It seems very likely that the authors of the great "Snowshoe Strings" myth had at least some influence on the creation of this smaller story containing some of the same astronomical subject matter. In the grander story, Saturn is merely a "friend" of Evening Star, whom the latter brought to a dance in Spiritland. In our story, he has a greater role to play, and is promoted to the status of a clan brother. The astronomy of Saturn in the greater myth is passed over, but this myth gives an allegorical description of that planet that makes up for the short comings of its sister myth. We are left wondering how many other myths that there might have been that were devoted to tracking astronomical events and supplementing with more detail grander allegories devoted to tracking important celestial actors over a greater expanse of time.

For an Astronomy myth occurring in the same time frame and involving Jupiter, see Snowshoe Strings.

Comparative Material. For stories from other tribes about retrieving someone from Spiritland, see "The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter."

Links: Ghosts, Moon.

Stories: about two brothers: The Two Children, The Twin Sisters, The Captive Boys, The Twins Cycle, The Two Brothers, The Two Boys, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Children of the Sun, The Lost Blanket, The Man with Two Heads, Bluehorn's Nephews, Snowshoe Strings, The Old Man and the Giants, The Brown Squirrel, Esau was an Indian; about journeys to and from Spiritland: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧábᵉra, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hocągara, The Friendship Drum Origin Myth, Aracgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; mentioning ghosts: The Journey to Spiritland, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Holy One and His Brother, Worúxega, Little Human Head, Little Fox and the Ghost, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Lame Friend, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, The Message the Fireballs Brought; pertaining to the Moon: The Markings on the Moon, Black and White Moons, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Hare Kills Wildcat, Grandfather's Two Families, Berdache Origin Myth (v. 1), Turtle and the Giant, A Deer Story; set in the Wisconsin Dells: The Twin Sisters, White Flower, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Red Cloud's Death, The Story of the Medicine Rite, Mighty Thunder.

Themes: someone is disconsolate over the death of a relative: White Flower, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, The Lost Child, The Shaggy Man, Holy One and His Brother, The Message the Fireballs Brought, Rainbow and Stone Arch; frustrated love: White Flower, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Twin Sisters, The Phantom Woman, The Woman who Loved her Half-Brother, Old Man and Wears White Feather, Partridge's Older Brother, The Stone Heart, Snowshoe Strings, Trickster Soils the Princess, The Message the Fireballs Brought, Rainbow and Stone Arch; 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 Hocągara, 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, Aracgéga'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, The Man Who Lost His Children to a Wood Spirit, 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, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Nightspirits Bless Ciwoit’éhiga, Song to Earthmaker, First Contact (v. 1), The Horse Spirit of Eagle Heights; a spirit is quoted as he gives someone a blessing: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Nightspirits Bless Jobenągiwįxka, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Stench-Earth Medicine Origin Myth, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Woman Who Fought the Bear, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Aracgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, The Friendship Drum Origin Myth, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Great Walker's Medicine, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunderbird and White Horse, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Completion Song Origin, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, The Difficult Blessing, The Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing; in order to win a woman that he loves back from the dead, a man must endure supernatural temptations: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; a human being physically travels to Spiritland without having died: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Snowshoe Strings, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Star Husband, White Wolf, Waruǧábᵉra, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Shaggy Man, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Aracgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Boy who would be Immortal, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, Rainbow and the Stone Arch (v. 2), The Friendship Drum Origin Myth, Trickster Concludes His Mission; in order to return a soul to life from Spiritland, a hero must avoid joining in the festivities of the ghosts: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; people are tempted by the dead to give into their purposes, but (could) succeed by following the advice of a friendly spirit and resisting with their utmost power: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Little Human Head, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Snowshoe Strings; in order to win a woman that he loves back from the dead, a man must endure supernatural temptations: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; a man brings back to life the young woman he loves: The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; someone returns from the dead: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, White Fisher, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Shaggy Man, The Two Brothers, The Two Boys, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, White Wolf, A Miraculously Cured Man Finds the Prophet, The Red Man, The Chief of the Heroka, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Waruǧábᵉra, The Lost Blanket, The Old Man and the Giants; someone is, or can become, invisible: Sunset Point, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, Partridge's Older Brother; (sex role reversal:) a man forbids his female relative from looking at him when he is engaged in a secret activity, but she cannot resist the temptation and does it anyway to his detriment: The Markings on the Moon, Redhorn's Father, The Man who Defied Disease Giver; a person is told by a spirit that he should not look upon someone during a particular period of time, but curiosity gets the better of the person and he looks anyway, causing the object of his gaze to be injured: The Man who Defied Disease Giver, Snowshoe Strings, The Dog that became a Panther; failure to observe ritual practice or taboo has fatal consequences: The Masaxe War, The Osage Massacre.


1 "The Legend of Sunset Point," in Captain Don Saunders, Driftwood and Debris: Riverside Tales of the Dells of Old Wisconsin by the River Guides, 2d ed. (Wisconsin Dells: Wisconsin Dells Events, 1959) 24-27.
2 Jasper Blowsnake, "Sore-Eye Dance (Hišjaxiri Waši)," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Notebook #23: 31, s. 67 = Notebook #69: 25, s. 67.
3 McKern, Winnebago Notebooks, 27165.
4 Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3897 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, n.d.) Winnebago V, #24: 75-80 (Hocąk syllabary), 75-80 (English translation). This has been published in English translation in Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 95-96.