Moon (Hąhewira)

by Richard L. Dieterle

Known as Hąhe-wi-ra, "Night Luminary,"1 Moon is the wife of Sun (Hąbᵋwira).2

The moon is similarly shaped, but composed of cold substances. It has the power of gestation and is the female companion of the sun. Her resting place is near that of the sun. She does not appear during the six months of spring and summer, but sends one of her children, who possesses less cold than herself. In the winter she comes herself, prepared to congeal the rain as it falls and to freeze the rivers. ... They suppose that when the sun and moon meet above the earth, they cohabit with each other, which cause an eclipse — and they believe that such an occurrence portends war, sickness, murder or other misfortune to those who live in the direction of the eclipse. They generally fire their guns to produce a separation of these heavenly bodies and prevent the fatal consequences of their union.3

The stars are the most numerous of the offspring of the Sun and Moon, and differ from one another according to the composition of cold and hot elements that they inherit from each of their parents.4 Since the sun is the father of the Twins, we may conclude that their mother is the moon, and in this capacity, she also gave birth to Big Eater, the Chief of Horses.5

When Earthmaker created the moon it was originally full and had no blemish, nor did it wax and wane. The gray markings on the face of the moon first appeared when an auk, holding the heads of three of his enemies, fled permanently to the moon.6 Nevertheless, the moon shown quite brightly, and when the evil spirits saw how her light destroyed their cover, they began to eat it away in just the way that the Hindu gods diminish the moon by consuming Soma.7 Although Earthmaker caused it to wax again, the cyclical struggle is eternal. This is why Moon continues to wax and wane.8 (The connection between the devoured crescent moon and eating is seen in the assonance between, wirák’o, "to eat everything up," and wirák’ošų, "crescent moon"). Mice, who are often portrayed as bad spirits of the earth, seem to be among those who gnaw upon the moon. When Hare lay with Grandmother Earth, he took out one of his eyes and hid it by a bush. When he retrieved it, he found that it had been gnawed by mice. This eye would seem to be the moon.9 The related Dakota believe that it is mice that gnaw at the full moon until it disappears.10 Her nature is to give of her own substance, whereas the nature of the sun is to eternally consume without impact on its immutable form. So it is, then, that when Moon once took on human form and lived with Sun as a mortal couple, the sun acquired a ravenous appetite that she alone sated with her own food.11

Many of Moon's attributes were established in primordial times. The number of moons that would occur in a year, for instance, was settled when Chipmunk suggested that the period be modeled after the number of stripes on his back. The councilors decided that his six black stripes would be the moons of summer, and his six white stripes would be those of winter.12

Sometimes Moon appears in a thinly disguised form. In one waiką she is a Giant princess of pale complexion, gray eyes, and flaxen hair (the stars). She married Wojijéga, the Meteor Spirit, and ascended with him to heaven when their lives as humans had run their course.13 In another story, she created a Giant and sent him to live on earth. However, the Giant developed a taste for human flesh and had to be killed by Turtle.14

In another tale she takes on the form of a heavily tattooed woman of very white complexion. She is the bride of One Legged One, an avatar of Herešgúnina. He is in a great hurry to return home with her, but she must stop to urinate with uncommon frequency.15 Her constant full bladder is an expression of the universal association of the moon with water.16 The husband of this moon-bride finally loses all patience and strikes her with the most lunar of weapons, his bow. She instantly transforms into a spotted prairie frog, perhaps the most lunar animal of that environment.17

She controls many powers, but usually bestows blessings of long life on women during their puberty fasts. If a man were blessed by Moon in the appropriate way, he would have to become a berdache. If he were to refuse Moon's blessing, he would surely die. Men blessed by the moon prove to be more skilled in women's work than women themselves, and they acquire the power to foresee the future.18

The sacred emblem of Moon [inset] is either a white or a dark crescent.19 In the Warbundle Feasts they give Moon the unique offering of bear ribs,20 appropriate not only because of the conjunction of light (bone) and dark (meat), and the crescent shape of ribs, but because the bear disappears periodically below the earth to sleep like the dark moon.

A month or moon (wi) begins with the new moon. The Hocągara have particular terms for each of her phases:21

hąhĕ́wirokiri new moon
hąhĕ́wirokisak half moon
kit’ákĕrĕ ¾ moon
hąhĕ́wirokís full moon
hąhĕ́wirokit’ĕ dark moon

The Hocąk moons are:22

Contemporary Hocąk Nation Henry Schoolcraft Thomas J. George Alice C. Fletcher (Nebraska) J. O. Dorsey Paul Radin (Nebraska) Paul Radin (Wisconsin) Kenneth Miner (Wisconsin) Principal Activities
1. Hųjwiconįną (First Bear), January 9. Honch-wu-ho-no-nik [Hųcwixononik] (Little Bear's Time) 3. Hųcwira (Bear Season or Month — when the young she bears have their young), about December 9. Little Bear's Time 9. Little Bear's Time 1. Hunjwíra (Bear Moon), January 1. Húnjwiconína (First Bear), January Hųjwiconįná (First Bear Month), January Bear Feast
2. Hųjwioragnįna (Last Bear), February 10. Honch-wee-hutta-raw [Hųcwixątera] (Big Bear's Time) 4. Hųcwixątera (Big She-Bear Season), about January 10. Big Bear's Time 10. Big Bear's Time 2. Húnjwioràgenina (Last Bear), February 2. Húnjwioràgenina (Last Bear), February Hųjwiroágnįná (Last Bear Month), February Winter feasts
3. Wakekiruxewira (Raccoon Mating Month), March 11. Mak-hu-e-kee-ro-kok [Wakwekirukok] (Coon Running) 5. Wakekiruxewira (Coon-Hunting Season), about February 11. Coon Running 11. Coon Running 3. Wak'ek'irúxe (Raccoon Breeding), March 3. Wak'ék'iruxewìra (Raccoon Breeding), March Wakékirúxewirá (Raccoon Mating Month), March Hunting season
4. Hoiroginįnąwira (Fish Appearing Month), April 12. Ho-a-do-ku-noo-nuk [Hoatuxanunąk] (Fish Running) 6. Hokituxewira (Fish Running Season), about March 12. Fish Running 12. Fish Running 4. Hoítoginana, April 4. Hoítoginana (Fish Becoming Visible), April Hóirogįnąwirá (Fish Month), April Fishing season
5. Mąįtawušiwira (Earth Drying Month), May 1. Me-tow-zhe-raw [Mąįtažira] (Drying the Earth) 7. Maitąwusiwira (Dry Season or Month), about April 1. Drying the Earth 1. Drying the Earth 5. Maįtąwus, May 5. Maįtąwus (Drying of the Earth), May Mą́įtawúshirá, Mą́įtawúshiwirá (Earth Drying Month), May Deer hunting season
2. Maw-ka-wee-raw [Mąkewira] (Digging the Ground, or Planting Corn) 8. Moinkewira (Planting Time), about May 2. Digging the Ground 2. Digging the Ground 6. Mank'éra, June 6. Mank'éra (Digging), June Corn, squash, and beans planted
6. Mąįna'ųwira (Earth Cultivating Month), June 3. Maw-o-a-naw [Mą'oana] (Hoeing Corn) 9. Mointa'uwira (Hoeing Month), June 3. Hoeing Corn 3. Hoeing Corn 7. Maįna (Cultivating), July Mą́įna'ų́wirá (Cultivating Month), June
7. Waxojrawira (Corn Tasseling Month), July 4. Maw-hoch-ra-wee-daw [Waxojrawira] (Corn Tasselling] 10. Wahocrewira (When Corn Tassels Turn Gray), July 4. Corn Tasseling 4. Corn Tasseling 7. Wixócera (Makes Them [the fields, look] Gray), July 8. Wixócerera (Tasseling) August Waxojráwirá (Corn Tasseling Month), July Deer hunted (they are at their fattest); hunters return home at the end of this month
8. Watajoxhiwira (Corn Popping Month) August 5. Wu-toch-aw-he-raw [Watocawira] (Corn Popping, or Harvest Time) 11. Watocuwira (When the Corn Gets Ripe), August 5. Corn Popping Harvest 5. Corn Popping, harvest (?) 8. Witájox (When the Roasted Ears of Corn Burst), August Watajoxhíwirá (Corn Popping), August Drying and storing of corn
9. Hųwąžugwira (Elk Calling Month), September 6. Ho-waw-zho-ze-raw [Hųwąžuzirá] (Elk Whistling) 6. Elk Whistling 6. Elk Whistling 9. Wizázek'e (the name of the bird that appears then), September

10. Hųwaižúkera, October

9. Hųwaižúkera (Elk Whistling), September Hųwą́žugwirá (Elk Call Month), September Tying of wild rice into bundles
10. Camąįnąǧowira (Deer Pawing Month), also known as the "Strawberry Moon," October   12. Camainixowira (When Deer Begin to Paw the Ground), September 10. Cámaįnàxora (considered another name for Hųwaižúkera), October 10. Cámaįnàxora (When the Deer Paw the Earth), October Cąmą́įnąǧówirá (Deer Digging Ground Month), October Fall move and big game hunting
11. Caikíruxewira (Deer Mating Month), November 7. Cha-ka-wo-ka-raw [Cakeruxera] (Deer Running] 1. Cakiruxewira (The Month of the Deer Running), about October 7. Deer Running 7. Deer Running 11. Caik'íruxe (Deer Breeding), November 11. Caik'irúxira (Deer Breeding), November Cáikirúxewirá (Deer Mating Month), November Fall move and the drying of meat
12. Cahewakšųwira (Deer Antler Shedding Month), December 8. Cha-ka-wak-cho-naw [Cahewakcuna] (Deer's Horns Dripping (sic)] 2. Cahewakšunwira (Deer Horn Season, when the deer shed their horns), about November 8. Deer's Horns ?Dropping 8. Deer's Horns ... 12. Cáhewakšù (Deer Shed Their Horns) December 12. Cahéyakèna (Deer Shed Their Horns) December Cahéwakšų́wirá (Deer Antler Shedding Month), December Return to winter quarters

Cf. Foster: Hoïrukénąną, April; Wihócera ("Gray Month"), August. Alice C. Fletcher's list of months so exactly corresponds to Dorsey's that we should conclude that one is the source of the other. In the lists collected in the Twentieth Century (Contemporary, Wisconsin, and Nebraska Hocągara), 1 is January, ... 12 is December. Months 9 and 10 on George's list (1885) follow more closely the contemporary Hocąk months than they do those collected by Radin (ca. 1910) in either Wisconsin or Nebraska. See also the lists of Hocąk moons by Trowbridge (1823), Jipson (1923), McKern (1927), and Susman (1938). The Hocąk months also have some points of convergence with the list of Osage (see the table) and Dakota moons (see the table).

From about December through February, and during June and August, the Hocągara were more or less sedentary, living in their villages. From about September through November, they led a more nomadic existence.23 The cycle of moons was often measured by a calendar stick, a staff upon which incisions were made to indicate days and months.24

Links: Sun, Nightspirits, Bluehorn, The Twins, Gottschall, Mice, Hare, Horses, Giants, The Meteor Spirit, One Legged One, Herešgúnina, Earthmaker, Turkeys, Partridge (I), Chipmunks, Bird Spirits, Bears.

Stories: pertaining to the Moon: The Markings on the Moon, Black and White Moons, Berdache Origin Myth, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, Hare Kills Wildcat, Grandfather's Two Families, Turtle and the Giant; featuring white faced (lunar) women: The Roaster, The Woman who became an Ant, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy; in which berdaches appear as characters: Berdache Origin Myth, The Chief of the Heroka; featuring Sun as a character: Sun and the Big Eater, Grandfather's Two Families, The Big Eater, The Children of the Sun, Hare Burns His Buttocks, The Birth of the Twins; about stars and other celestial bodies: The Dipper, Įcorúšika 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; featuring Wojijéga (The Meteor Spirit) as a character: The Roaster, Wojijé, The Raccoon Coat, The Green Man; featuring One Legged One as a character: The Woman Who Became an Ant, Bladder and His Brothers (in v. 2 as Wareksankeka); cf. The Spirit of Gambling; featuring Giants as characters: A Giant Visits His Daughter, Turtle and the Giant, The Stone Heart, Young Man Gambles Often, Spear Shaft and Lacrosse, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Morning Star and His Friend, The Reincarnated Grizzly Bear, The Old Man and the Giants, Shakes the Earth, White Wolf, Redhorn's Father, The Hocągara Contest the Giants, The Roaster, Grandfather's Two Families, Redhorn's Sons, The Meteor Spirit and the Origin of Wampum, Thunder Cloud is Blessed, Little Human Head, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Rich Man, Boy, and Horse, Sun and the Big Eater, The Big Eater, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Origins of the Milky Way, Ocean Duck, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, Wears White Feather on His Head, cf. The Shaggy Man.


1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 [1923]) 238, 392; The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. Bollingen Foundation, Special Publications, 3 (1954): 14.

2 Paul Radin, "Morning Star (Wiragošge Xetera)," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #8: 1-93.

3 Charles C. Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," (1823), Winnebago Manuscripts, in MS/I4ME, Trowbridge Papers, Burton Historical Collection, p. 96.

4 Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," p. 97.

5 Paul Radin, XI. Untitled, Winnebago Notes, Freeman #3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909, recopied and corrected, 1945) Winnebago III, #11b: 61-63. Told by Frank Ewing.

6 Paul Radin, "The Auk," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #46: 1-22.

7 A. A. MacDonell, Vedic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Barnassidas: 1974 [1898]) 112.

8 LaMère and Shinn, Winnebago Stories.

9 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 104-106.

10 Edward Duffield Neill, The History of Minnesota: From the Earliest French Explorations to the Present (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1858 [reprint, 1975]) 86-87.

11 Radin, "Morning Star (Wiragocge Xetera)," 1-93.

12 Oliver LaMère and Harold B. Shinn, Winnebago Stories (New York, Chicago: Rand, McNally and Co., 1928) 91-99. Informant: Oliver LaMère of the Bear Clan.

13 Paul Radin, "The Roaster," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #2.

14 Charlie N. Houghton, "A Story about Turtle and a Giant," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3894 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago III, #9: 160-161.

15 Paul Radin, "The Woman Who Became an Ant," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #52.

16 Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion (New York: Meridian, 1958) 159-161.

17 Radin, "The Woman Who Became an Ant."

18 Nancy Oestreich Lurie, "Winnebago Berdache," American Anthropologist 55, #1 (1953): 708-712.

19 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 200, plate 47.

20 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 238, 390, 392.

21 W. C. McKern, Winnebago Notebook (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1927) 271.

22 The list of contemporary months is found at the following website: The Ho-Chunk Nation > Culture > Language > Lesson 17: The Twelve Moons.

J. Owen Dorsey (?), Winnebago Ethnography, Misc. (Smithsonian Institution: National Anthropological Archives) MS 4558 (102).

Alice C. Fletcher in Papers of Alice Fletcher & Frances La Flesche, MS 4558: Research of Alice Fletcher & Frances La Flesche, Series 26 & 27: Other Tribes, 1882-1922 [26], Box 31 (Washington, D. C.: National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, n.d.).

Thomas J. George, Winnebago Vocabulary, 4989 Winnebago (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, 1885). Informants: Big Bear of Friendship, Wisconsin, and Big Thunder.

Kenneth L. Miner, Winnebago Field Lexicon (University of Kansas: June, 1984) ss. vv.

The moons of the Wisconsin and Nebraska Hocągara are found in Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 76-77. Informant for monthly activities was a member of the Bear Clan.

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, 4 vols. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1856) 4:240.

23 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 77.

24 Robert H. Merrill, "The Calendar Stick of Tshi-zun-hau-kau," Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bulletin 24 (Oct., 1945): 1-11. Alexander Marshack, "A Lunar-Solar Year Calendar Stick from North America," American Antiquity, Vol. 50, #1 (Jan., 1985): 27-51. McKern, Winnebago Notebook, 40, 271.