The Difficult Blessing

narrated by J. B. [Jasper Blowsnake ?]


The following is an account of what the informant, J. B., was told to expect as a result of his fast and vision quest.


I fasted all the time. We moved back to a place where all the leaders used to give their feasts. Near the place where we lived there were three lakes and a black hawk's nest. Right near the tree where the nest was located they built a lodge and the warbundle that we possessed was placed in the lodge. We were to pass the night there, my older brother and myself. It was said that if anyone fasted at such a place for four nights, he would always be blessed with victory and the power to cure the sick. All the spirits would bless him.

The first night spent there one imagined himself surround by spirits whose whisperings were heard outside of the lodge," they said. The spirits would even whistle. I would be frightened and nervous and if I remained there, I would be molested by large monsters, fearful to look upon. Even [the bravest] might be frightened, I was told. Should I, however, get through that night, I would in the following night be molested by ghosts whom I would hear speaking outside. They would say things that might cause me to run away. Toward morning they would even take my blanket away from me. They would grab hold of me and drive me out of the lodge and they would not stop until the sun rose. If I was able to endure the third night, on the fourth night I would really be addressed by spirits, it was said, who would bless me, saying, "I bless you. We had turned you over to them [the monsters, etc.] and that is why they approached you, but you overcame them and now they will not be able to take you away. Now you may go home, for with victory and long life we bless you and also with the power of healing the sick. Nor shall you lack wealth. So go home and eat, for a large warparty is soon to fall upon you and as soon as the sun rises in the morning they will give the war whoop, and if you do not go home now, they will kill you." Thus the spirits would speak to me.

However, if I did not do the bidding of this particular spirit, then another one would address me and say very much the same thing. So the spirits would speak until the break of day, and just before sunrise a man in warrior's regalia would come and peep in. He would be a scout. Then I would surely think a warparty had come upon me, I was told. Then another spirit would come and say, "Well, grandson, I have taken pity upon you and I bless you with all the good things the earth holds. Go home now, for the warparty is about to rush upon you." And if I then went home, as soon as the sun rose the war whoop would be given. The members of the warparty would give the war whoop all at the same time. They would rush upon me and capture me and after the fourth one had counted coup, then they would say, "Now then, grandson, this we did to teach you. Thus you shall act. You have completed your fasting." Thus they would talk to me, I was told. This warparty was composed entirely of spirits, I was told, spirits from the heavens and from the earth; indeed, all the spirits that exist would be there. These would all bless me. They also told me that it would be a very difficult thing to accomplish this particular fasting.1


Commentary. Since the spirits tend to pass the same blessings along to descendants, the fasting experience is also essentially the same from father to son in a given family. However, in this family, the blessings were so elaborate as to suggest that a measure of pure invention had crept in. It is not surprising that neither J. B. nor his brother experienced the slightest thing during their fast. Furthermore, as J. B. says, "That night [after the young men lied about having received a blessings] we gave our feast. There, however, our pride received a fall, for although it was supposedly given in our honor, we were placed on one side [of the main participants]. After the kettles of food had been put on twice, it became daylight."2


Links: Ghosts.


Stories: 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, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, Sunset Point; about fasting blessings: Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), 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, 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, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, The Plant Blessing of Earth, The Blessing of Šokeboka, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Tap the Head Medicine, The Sweetened Drink Song, Ancient Blessing.


Themes: ghosts try to snatch away a living man's blanket: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; 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 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, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Girl who Refused a Blessing from the Wood Spirits, 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 Blessing of Šokeboka, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Bow Meets Disease Giver, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Sunset Point, The Rounded Wood Origin Myth, A Peyote Vision, The Healing Blessing.


Notes

1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 260-261.

2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 261.