Testing the Slave

Version 1

by Jasper Blowsnake

Jasper Blowsnake

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(178) For as long as you will live, you will never tell the story (of this rite), you shall never tell it. If you told it, this earth would come to an end. We would all die.

Therefore, they tell this to warm each other up: Certain ones marked the time of a slave. They waited for the slave in the brush, and said, "You're going to tell us what goes on in the Medicine Rite," they said to him. "If you don't tell, you're going to die," they said to him. (179) "But if you do tell us, we won't kill you," they said to him. The slave said, "Just kill me," he said. "I died a long time ago. I won't tell anything, so kill me," he said. "Didn't you say that such is the way with friends? Even he didn't tell."

Therefore, if someone tells of it, we would make ourselves poor, so telling it is forbidden. Earthmaker did this. Keep this a secret. We'll do good that way. We are still keeping this. All the time we keep it very deep so that being very deep here in our Grandmother, the root cannot stick out. That's all that I say to them.1

Version 2

by Sam Blowsnake

Hocąk-English Interlinear Text

(82) And Earthmaker made this rite. (83) If one joins, then he must be the only one who knows about this rite. And one who does not join this rite knows nothing about it. (84) One would never come to know this for free. So anyone who is going to join, they look him over, and after scrutinizing him to know him, (85) only then do they permit it.

Some time ago they let a slave (captive) know this rite. They had adopted him as a child. They loved him and he was wise, so they let him join. (86) They could kill him and they could do it legitimately. They knew that because he was one of that sort (a slave). They were a bunch of bad characters. They went and took him someplace way out there and then they tied him up. (87) And they had taken a weapon with them. "You know that you are a slave. You know that you should be killed, yet you are alive. And you are going to do it to yourself. You are dead, yet if you will want to live — well, they put you in the Medicine Lodge. (88) We are going to ask you something about that. If you tell us, then were won't kill you. If you do not tell, then we will kill you." And he said, "It has been our chief's will that I am alive. (89) Besides, I died a long time ago. I have been just this way. And my foster parents truly loved me, so they let me join the Medicine Lodge. I understood everything they said to me. (90) After I get to the life of the future, the life of the soul, I will never die, it is said. So I will do with this bodily life, as I am going to die anyway. If you are going to kill me, it will be easy, (91) but it is hard to lose the life of the soul. I am not going to feel it. Kill me." Then these men stood looking at each other. They did not answer the one who was tied. (92) They untied him and went away.

"Hąhá little brother, not even this one told. This is the moral: this should never be shown to outsiders."2

Commentary. "I died a long time ago" (1, 2) — Radin says in his notes, "Winnebago proverb meaning either death has no terrors for me or the very fact that you ask me to betray the secrets of the ritual has killed me."3

"keep this a secret" and "this should never be shown to outsiders" — Amelia Susman has a long account of what was done if someone violated this trust. "(3) If anyone mocked the Medicine Lodge and talked about it, four older men took each a young one, and they decided whether to have the man sicken and die, or be hurt and die, or be bitten by a snake and die — and they decided on the last. They made an image of a man on the ground with the heart and everything and opened the medicine bag and (4) took everything out and put medicine on it and then they took green hay (?) and stuck it in the figure. Then they cleaned everything up. And in a few days they heard the man was dead, bitten by a snake."4

Links: Earthmaker.
Stories: pertaining to the Medicine Rite: The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Journey to Spiritland, Holy Song, Holy Song II, Maize Origin Myth, The Necessity for Death, Hog's Adventures, Great Walker's Warpath.

Stories from Jasper Blowsnake's account of the Medicine Rite (The Road of Life and Death) in notebook order: The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 1), Keramaniš’aka's Blessing, The Woman's Scalp Medicine Bundle, The Blessing of Kerexųsaka, Historical Origins of the Medicine Rite, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge of the Medicine Rite, Lifting Up the Bear Heads, East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), The Creation of the World (v. 12), The Creation of Man (v. 8), Otter Comes to the Medicine Rite, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 4), East Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 1), The Commandments of Earthmaker, The Coughing Up of the Black Hawks, The Animal Spirit Aids of the Medicine Rite, The Arrows of the Medicine Rite Men (v. 2), East Shakes the Messenger, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth (v. 4), The Messengers of Hare (v. 2), North Shakes His Gourd, Grandmother's Gifts, South Seizes the Messenger, Four Steps of the Cougar, The Messengers of Hare (v. 1), The Island Weight Songs, The Petition to Earthmaker, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Completion Song Origin, Great Walker's Medicine (v. 2), Great Walker and the Ojibwe Witches, The Diving Contest, The Sweetened Drink Song, The Plant Blessing of Earth, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 3), The Tap the Head Medicine, The Claw Shooter, Tobacco Origin Myth (v. 4), Peace of Mind Regained, The Journey to Spiritland (v. 5), A Wife for Knowledge, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth (v. 2), The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), South Enters the Medicine Lodge (v. 1), Death Enters the World.

Themes: someone is abducted and led off into captivity: The Captive Boys, A Man's Revenge, Bluehorn's Nephews, The Lost Child, Wears White Feather on His Head, Įcorúšika and His Brothers, Bird Clan Origin Myth, The Man Whose Wife was Captured, Bladder and His Brothers, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Bluehorn Rescues His Sister, Black Otter's Warpath, The Boy who was Blessed by a Mountain Lion, The Green Man, Brave Man, The Chief of the Heroka, Šųgepaga, Hare Gets Swallowed, Hare Acquires His Arrows, The Raccoon Coat, Wojijé, Wolves and Humans, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Thunderbird and White Horse, Heną́ga and Star Girl, Brass and Red Bear Boy, Traveler and the Thunderbird War (v. 5), The Boy who Flew, Soldiers Catch Two Boys, a Black One and a White One; a man under risk to his life states the proverb that he is already dead: The Boy who Flew.


1 For the original handwritten interlinear text, see Winnebago II, #6: 178-179. For a revised phonetic text, see Winnebago III, #6: 375.154-376.158. A loose English translation is found in Paul Radin, The Road of Life and Death: A Ritual Drama of the American Indians. Bollingen Series V (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973 [1945]) 265.

2 Amelia Susman, Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, January, 1939) Book 8:82-92.

3 Radin, The Road of Life and Death, 343 nt 27.

4 Susman, Notebooks, Book 2: 4.