The Warbundle of the Eight Generations
narrated by Y.
Our warbundle is eight generations old. In the beginning my clansmen had no warbundles. Whenever they had war, they had nothing from which to receive strength. The only powerful possession they had was fire. That was the only thing they carried when on the warpath. Soon they discovered that other clans had warbundles and that they received them by fasting for them. So Kerexų́saka started to fast for one. He fasted from early autumn until summer and he received a blessing. Then he went to his father and told him, "Father, you told me to fast. Let me now go and see with what I have been blessed." So the old man accompanied his son. When the old man got there he found a snake dried and dressed up and standing in an upright position. The snake had long hairs on its back, scattered here and there. The father on seeing it said, "My son, this is really too great. If you accept this and carry it with you on the warpath, you will not leave any human beings alive." The son therefore refused it, and went out to fast again. Then the spirits blessed him again and again he went to his father and asked to accompany him to the wilderness and see what blessings he had obtained. When they came to the wilderness, they found two wildcats (already stuffed) standing there and facing in opposite directions. Then the old man told his son again not to accept this blessing because it would be too powerful, but the young man said, "This is the last blessing that I am going to get," and accepted it.1
Radin says, "What follows was obtained at a later time from the same informant and relating to the same blessing:"
The first blessing Kerexúsaka received was from the Thunderbirds. They dropped a flute and two feathers from heaven. But these he refused. The second blessing was also from the Thunderbirds. This time they told him to go to a certain place where he could see them himself. He went there and found four men sitting there broiling meat. They gave him a piece of meat. It was only when he fasted for the fourth time that he was blessed with a warbundle.2
Commentary. "The snake had long hairs on its back, scattered here and there" — As we learn from the concluding elaboration, the blessings are from the Thunderbirds. In that context, the snake, with its unusual hairs, clearly symbolizes the lightning with its main bolt and smaller branches. The blessing, therefore, is in some ways comparable to the Thunderbird Warclub.
"too powerful" — Radin has the following note on this: "By 'too powerful' the old man means that the feasts, offerings, etc., that would be necessary for so great a blessing it would be quite beyond the means or the ability of the young man. It is to be remembered that the bestowal of a blessing does not in itself insure its efficacy, but that this can only be assured if the proper offerings and the proper emotional attitude accompany its subsequent use. Evidently the old man did not feel that the young fellow would be equal to the task. I have been told by many of the older Winnebagoes that when the old system was still intact the older people always made it a point to warn impetuous youths against taking upon themselves responsibilities that they might possibly not be able to fulfill, a very excellent device, it seems to me, for not multiplying the chances of failures and consequently the necessity of explaining them. However, one need not believe that this was the reason for their caution."3 See the Commentary to "Keramaniš’aka's Blessing."
Links: Snakes, Thunderbirds, Wildcats, Fire.
Stories:mentioning Thunderbirds: The Thunderbird, Waruǧápara, How the Thunders Met the Nights, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, Traveler and the Thunderbird War, The Boulders of Devil's Lake, Thunderbird and White Horse, Bluehorn's Nephews, How the Hills and Valleys were Formed (vv. 1, 2), The Man who was a Reincarnated Thunderbird, The Thunder Charm, The Lost Blanket, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, Story of the Thunder Names, The Hawk Clan Origin Myth, Eagle Clan Origin Myth, Pigeon Clan Origins, Bird Clan Origin Myth, Adventures of Redhorn's Sons, Brave Man, Ocean Duck, Turtle's Warparty, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, The Quail Hunter, Heną́ga and Star Girl, The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty, Redhorn's Sons, The Dipper, The Stone that Became a Frog, The Race for the Chief's Daughter, Redhorn Contests the Giants, The Sons of Redhorn Find Their Father, Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, Origin of the Hočąk Chief, The Spirit of Gambling, Wolf Clan Origin Myth, Aračgéga's Blessings, Kunu's Warpath, The Orphan who was Blessed with a Horse, The Glory of the Morning, The Nightspirits Bless Čiwoit’éhiga, The Green Waterspirit of the Wisconsin Dells, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Baldheaded Warclub Origin Myth, The Big Stone, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Song to Earthmaker, The Origins of the Milky Way; mentioning snakes: The First Snakes, The Woman who Married a Snake, Blessing of the Yellow Snake Chief, Snake Clan Origins, The Omahas who turned into Snakes, A Snake Song Origin Myth, The Serpents of Trempealeau, Rattlesnake Ledge, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Twins Disobey Their Father, The Two Boys, Wears White Feather on His Head, Creation of the World (vv. 2, 3, 4), The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Waruǧápara, The Green Man, Holy One and His Brother, The Man who was Blessed by the Sun, Turtle and the Merchant, The Lost Blanket, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, The Shell Anklets Origin Myth; in which wildcats (bobcats) are characters: Hare Kills Wildcat, The Choke Cherry Wild Cat, The Chief of the Heroka, Silver Mound Cave, Old Man and Wears White Feather; in which fire plays a role: The Creation Council, Thunderbird Clan Origin Myth, The Twins Retrieve Red Star's Head, Hare Secures the Creation Lodge, The Four Steps of the Cougar, East Shakes the Messenger, East Enters the Medicine Lodge, North Shakes His Gourd, The Descent of the Drum (v. 2), The Man Whose Wife was Captured (v. 2), Red Cloud's Death, see Young Man Gambles Often (Commentary); mentioning Kerexų́saka: The Blessings of Kerexųsaka; mentioning Warbundles: Waruǧápara (Thunderbird), The Adventures of Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), Redhorn's Sons (Thunderbird), The Twins Join Redhorn's Warparty (Thunderbird), Wanihéga Becomes a Sak’į (Thunderbird), Šųgepaga (Eagle), The Warbundle Maker (Eagle), The Masaxe War (Eagle?), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (Bear), The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits (Buffalo), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (Hit’énųk’e Paint), The Blessing of Kerexųsaka (Sauk), Yellow Thunder and the Lore of Lost Canyon, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store (Potawatomi), A Man's Revenge (enemy); mentioning flutes: The Love Blessing, The Blessings of the Buffalo Spirits, Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka, Mijistéga’s Powwow Magic and How He Won the Trader's Store, Partridge's Older Brother, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, The Fox-Hočąk War (v. 1), Redhorn's Sons.
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, 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 Hočągara, 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, 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 man rejects a blessing because it is too powerful: Keramaniš’aka's Blessing; spirits bless a man with an artifact: Waruǧápara (warbundle, warclub), The Blessing of a Bear Clansman (warbundle), The Thunderbird (warclub), The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds (warclub), The Rounded Wood Origin Myth (ceremonial object), Origin of the Decorah Family (drum), Paint Medicine Origin Myth (magical paint), Disease Giver Blesses Jobenągiwįxka (flute), Ancient Blessing (pot, ax, spoon), The Blessing of the Bow (bow and arrows), Heną́ga and Star Girl (Thunderbird Medicine, arrow).
1 Paul Radin, The Winnebago Tribe (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990 ) 251-252.
2 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, 252.
3 Radin, The Winnebago Tribe, p. 252, nt. 20.