Ghost Dance Origin Myth I

narrated by R. G.


Hočąk-English Interlinear Text


(1) A man was to learn from the spirits. He fasted and he would sleep four times. In the evening he would stand with both hands full of tobacco. Earthmaker made Waterspirits and put them in charge of the spirits, as many as there are above, all that are on the earth, they and all below the earth. Then the man cried pitifully — he made himself thirst to death; he made himself hunger to death. He cried to the spirits. After awhile, he would sleep six times. After awhile, he would sleep eight times, then ten times he would sleep, and then the various spirits that there are above, they who are on earth, the chief that were below earth, all of them blessed him. (2) The spirits that there are, everyone he went to, in a space plumbed by spans of the earth. He was thirsty, thereby he killed himself, therefore, that man became not someone unknowledgeable.

There he made a warbundle. The one in charge of ghosts had blessed him. He said to him, "I am in charge of ghosts. Human being, I bless you," he said to him, "not of anything will you fail to know. With wars I bless you, with life I bless you. I bless you with the possessions of the people. I bless you with all that is in this village. With my Dance I shall bless you for as long as your roots shall be, that long shall I bless you. Whenever you start this dance among your people, (3) those who lie ill will get well . And so I will come to place back within them the spirits of all who are frail. If my servants come, they too will put the spirits back in them. They will come." He would always remember tobacco and hot water.

The man knew of a great thing. Right away now he wanted to do it. The thing that he did was to fix the war-date. He went to war taking very many along with him, and he came back victorious and by these victories he did it so that they might know that he was a dreamer. Then he started the Ghost Dance (Wanąǧí Waší) and a life there was in it he thought, so in this way he acted. He gave a great feast. He boiled for those who are in charge of ghosts. (4) Kettles reaching far into the distance he set up for the Ghost Chief. Having offered tobacco, he said, "Grandfather, for wars, life, clothing, to put spirit back into the frail, you said that you would come, so such as these I ask for. He boiled and gave tobacco for the Wanąǧí Mónąč who roamed about visiting with them. "You also, my friends, added minds for me. You said to me what you blessed me with, and it is these things that I ask for: wars, long life that we may live, so tobacco I fill for you," he said, "then the people will have all that." Everyone thought that the Ghost Dance was sacred, so they were attentive. (5) For the dance the people made four of them dance leaders and all of them were to dance. Women, people whosoever they are, they are to obtain life, to obtain war powers.1


Commentary. "Waterspirits" — The raconteur, who is only known by his initials R. G., tells us that Earthmaker created certain Waterspirits who were apparently in charge of all spirits. These are the four Island Weights, and although they keep the earth stable, their powers are exaggerated here.

"roots" — When the spirit in charge of ghosts blesses the man, he says "I shall bless you for as long as your roots shall be." Here the word "roots" (rejú) is used as a metaphor to denote descendants.

"hot water" — The hot water that the man always remembered refers to the kettles of water set boiling for food offerings to the spirits.

"dreamer" — The reference to his being a "dreamer" refers to his ability to gain contact with the spirits through his fasting visions. Such a characterization denotes a "shaker and doer" and not an idle day-dreamer as the expression might suggest to the Western mind.

"Wanąǧí Mónąč" — Paul Radin says in a note: "Wanañǧi Mónąč = some spirits who always were in ghost shape. They could be any[where] above, on earth and below." See "Links" below.

"place the spirits back with us" — The waiką́ is not entirely forthcoming about the purpose of the return of the ghosts. The object of Wavoka, who founded the Ghost Dance, was to enlist the returning ghosts of the dead to drive out the white people and reestablish the hegemony of the Indian nations over the continent. This is what would give the people war powers, life, and property. However, this Hočąk version speaks of placing the naǧirak' back within those persons who are ill and frail. This naǧirak' is their spirit, the force associated with the soul and over which the soul has control (except as to quantity). The story further comprimises by saying not that the ghosts of the departed will return, but that spirits who take on the form of ghosts will bless them with their powers, which seems to consists more of returning the lost power of spirit.


Wovoka's Messiah Letter


Links: Ghosts, Wanąǧi Mónąč, Waterspirits, Earthmaker.


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 II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Two Roads to Spiritland, Sunset Point; mentioning the Ghost Dance (Wanąǧí Waší): Ghost Dance Origin Myth II; 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, Sunset Point, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Two Roads to Spiritland, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧápara, 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 Hočągara, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; 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, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, 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; in which dancing plays a role: Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Mijistéga and the Sauks, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Little Priest's Game, How Little Priest went out as a Soldier, Migistéga’s Magic, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Įčorúšika and His Brothers, Trickster and the Dancers, Wolves and Humans, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts; 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, 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, Paint Medicine Origin Myth, Waruǧápara, 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, 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, The Sacred Lake, Lost Lake; mentioning Earthmaker: The Creation of the World, The Creation of Man, The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Blesses Wagíšega (Wešgíšega), The Man Who Would Dream of Mą’ųna, The First Snakes, Tobacco Origin Myth, The Creation Council, The Gray Wolf Origin Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Seven Maidens, The Descent of the Drum, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Spider's Eyes, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Fourth Universe, Šųgepaga, The Fatal House, The Twin Sisters, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Elk Clan Origin Myth, Deer Clan Origin Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, The Masaxe War, The Two Children, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Petition to Earthmaker, The Gift of Shooting, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Stone Heart, The Wild Rose, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Lame Friend, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed, The Hočąk Migration Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hočąk Clans Origin Myth, The War among the Animals, Lake Winnebago Origin Myth, Blue Mounds, Lost Lake, The Hočągara Migrate South, The Spirit of Gambling, Turtle and the Giant, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, The Hočągara Contest the Giants, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Bird Origin Myth, Black and White Moons, Redhorn's Sons, Holy Song, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Death Enters the World, Man and His Three Dogs, Trickster Concludes His Mission, Story of the Thunder Names, The Origins of the Milky Way, Trickster and the Dancers, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, The Creation of Evil, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Song to Earthmaker, The Blessing of the Bow, The Origin of the Cliff Swallow.


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, 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 MedicineŠųgepaga, 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, 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 Čiwoit’éhiga, Sunset Point, 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 Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, 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 Difficult Blessing, 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; a spirit blesses a man with knowledge of a sacred dance: Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Origins of the Sore Eye Dance.


Notes

1 R. G., Ghost Dance, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909?) #79, 1-5.