1954 Florida Anthropological Society Inc.
The Florida Anthropological Society Inc. holds
source text of the Florida Anthropologist
considered the copyright holder for the text
all rights to the
and shall be
and images of
The Florida Anthropological Society has made this publication
available to the University of Florida, for purposes of
digitization and Internet distribution.
The Florida Anthropological Society reserves all rights to this
publication. All uses, excluding those made under "fair use"
provisions of U.S. Code, Title 17, Section 107 are restricted.
Contact the Florida Anthropological Society for additional
information and permissions.
ZJIE 9'oaida ctndrwoloigyi
THE MEDICINE BUNDLES AND BUSKS OF THE
FLORIDA SEMINOLE ...................... .William C. Sturtevant 31
A UNIOUE ST. JOHNS PUNCTATED VESSEL .......... .Ripley P. Bullen 73
GRATERS OF THE MIKASUKI SEMINOLE .............. Wilfred T. Neill 75
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE ............................. 77
Editorial Office at the Florida State University, Tallahassee.
Published at the University of Florida, Gainesville, for the
Florida Anthropological Society.
THE MEDICINE BUNDLES AND BUSKS OF THE
William C. Sturtevant
A recent paper by Louis Capron (1953) on some important aspects of
Seminole religion is the first major contribution to ethnological knowledge
of the Florida Seminole since Spoehr's publications (1941, 1944) on their
social organization. Like Spoehr's work, Capron's was carried out largely
among the Muskogee-speaking Cow Creek band.
Mr. Capron, a resident of West Palm Beach, has been sympathetically
interested in the Seminole and their customs for some twenty years. His
interest in Florida history and some anthropological training under MacCurdy
at Yale are perhaps important factors leading to his avocational study of
Seminole culture. Long and increasing freindship with several Cow Creek
Seminole, including one of the outstanding medicine men, resulted in a con-
fidence in his discretion and friendliness which opened to him aspects of
Seminole religious belief and practice usually closed to the outsider. His
investigation of these subjects, by observation and questioning, has been
carried out with tact, so that he is now one of the few outsiders whose
opinions and advice are sought by Seminole leaders. My own experience
with the Cow Creek leads me to believe that their friendly contact with
Capron is one reason for the fact that they are today much easier for the
anthropologist to investigate than are the Mikasuki.
The author of the present paper spent three seasons of field work among
the Mikasuki band.1 During the last of these, from May, 1952, to February,
1953, I had the advantage of a set of galley proofs of Capron's report,2 which
was a great aid in investigating the topics he covers (chiefly the medicine
bundles and the busk) among the Mikasuki. I have attended parts of two Cow
Creek busks (Capron has attended several, and seen parts of the ceremony
that I have not), but was unable to attend any Mikasuki ceremonies. My
knowledge of the subject is based largely on interviewing an ex-medicine
man of the Mikasuki, using as points of departure Capron's paper and to a
lesser extent my observations of the Cow Creek busks.
The purpose of this paper is to summarize and supplement Capron's
descriptions and indicate wherein they differ from my own data, and to give
some attention to the implications of the subjects for comparative ethnology
ISuperior numbers refer to notes which have been placed together in the section preceding
the bibliography of this paper.
of the Southeast and adjacent regions. Because of the differences in our
sources of data, the disagreements between Capron's and my own inforna-
tion are sometimes difficult to evaluate. Capron relies on much observation,
and somewhat scattered information from several different informants, spe-
cialist and non-specialist, given on many different occasions, and his de-
scription refers mainly to the Cow Creek band. My own information comes
chiefly from systematic interviewing of a Mikasuki specialist. Thus our
differences are due in part to concentration on different bands,'in part to
differences in knowledge of our informants, in part to the inevitable discrep-
ancies between theory and practice, and lastly to our own different back-
grounds and manner of working. It should be said at the outset that there
can be no disagreement that Capron has fulfilled his objective, of giving the
"skeleton, articulated as carefully as possible, with flesh and skin added
where possible," in which "the facts...given are correct [and] the broad
picture is authentic" (p. 160). Furthermore, he has made a major contribu-
tion to Southeastern ethnology in his discovery and description of Seminole
medicine bundles, and in giving one of the most complete accounts of the
busk of a single Southeastern tribe. Many busk descriptions have been
written before, but few or none are as detailed as Capron's. The outer
form alone of the Seminole busk has never before been even adequately
summarized, much less described from repeated observations and discus-
sions with participants, as Capron does in his paper.
A popular article by Capron (1942), written at an earlier stage in his
investigations, briefly previews some of the data in his present thorough
paper, but this first indication of Seminole medicine bundles has been over-
looked by all anthropologists concerned with the Southeast.4
In his 1953 paper, Capron opens with a brief introduction (pp. 159-161),
and then discusses the medicine bundles their caretakers, origin, function,
contents, preservation, and augmentation (pp. 162-172). This is followed by
a brief section (pp. 172-175) on some Seminole deities, attitudes towards
religion, and ideas about prayer, souls, and afterlife. The major part of the
work (pp.175-208) concerns the busk ("Green Corn Dance"). The purposes,
schedule, site and camp layout, ball game, and dancing are first discussed,
in connection with the opening days of the ceremony. The important events
of the following days are then described in chronological order. The paper
concludes with several excellent illustrations, from the author's photographs.
In the following discussion, Capron's material is only briefly outlined
(as his paper is readily available) to serve as a framework for the supple-
mentary or contrary information from my own field work. Page references
following a statement indicate that it is based on Capron's report rather than
my own data.
According to Capron, there was originally only one medicine bundle,
the contents of which and their uses were received in mythological times
from the culture hero (164, 167). The two original medicine men, one of
the Tiger sib and one of the Wind sib, were instructed in the use of the
medicines by an individual (165) who is identified in myths in my collec-
tion as the adopted son of the Corn Mother. During the Seminole Wars,
much of the medicine was lost or went West with parties of captives, since
small bundles of medicine were made up from the main one for the use of
individual war parties (167-168). At the end of the wars, three bundles
were left in Florida (168). These exist today (168), and are the basis of
modern Seminole ceremonial organization of three groups, each with a
bundle and the medicine man who takes care of it, and each holding a
separate annual busk including a meeting of the council which governs that
segment of the tribe (162).
My informant laid more emphasis on the role of the two original medicine
men in the discovery of the medicine. Some specific items are also, tradi-
tionally, gifts of various supernatural beings, chiefly the Thunders and
associated supernaturals. He also emphasized that during the Seminole
Wars there were many small, individual bundles, which were used by war
parties. Some of these were lost, but others were combined into larger
bundles on the death of their owners. The genealogies of the present
medicine bundles are known for a period beginning after the wars, about a
century ago. About seventy-five years ago there were nine different medi-
cine bundles of various sizes in existence. Three of these were accidently
destroyed in fires, two of them together about 1895, and the other about
1908. Of the remainder, one is Cow Creek, as it always has been. The
other five are today held by three Mikasuki medicine men, but this is a
recent development. For a long time each was held by a different medicine
man, who could if he wished hold an independent busk. However, two or
more medicine men usually joined together to hold a busk (my informant
remembers a maximum of four, including the Cow Creek one, in any one
year). At present, two men each hold two bundles, but always hold their
busks together, since one of them is said not to have sufficient knowledge
to run an independent ceremony. This is the Tamiami Trail Green Corn
Dance referred to by Capron. The other Mikasuki busk, Capron's Big
Cypress Green Corn Dance, is run by the medicine man holding a single
Mikasuki bundle, and the Cow Creek busk is independent as it has always
Each of the many separate small items in a bundle is individually
wrapped in a piece of buckskin, and all are kept together wrapped in a
deerskin with the head and leg skin kept on, hair side out (164, 170-171,
190-191). Between busks, the medicine man keeps the bundle at his camp;
a few days before the ceremony begins, he hides it in the woods somewhere
to the east of the busk grounds (171). Before sunrise on Court Day of the
busk, the bundle is brought to the dance ground by the medicine man or his
assistant, where the medicine man opens and examines each packet (171).
He places these in a different deerskin, in which they are kept hanging
from a special stake all during Court Day (171, 191). In the evening, the
skin cover is ceremonially laid on the ground, with the packets resting on
it; the next morning each packet is again opened and examined, the bundle
is re-wrapped in the original (?) skin cover, and the medicine man takes it
out and hides it,.returning for it some time after the busk concludes (170,
171, 200-201, 208). These twenty-four hours are the only time during the
year when the medicine bundle is displayed or handled (159).
According to my informant, most but not all of the items in a bundle
are wrapped in deerhide a few are unwrapped or kept in white cloth. The
deerskin packet-wrappings are of incompletely tanned buckskin. This must
be prepared by a man only (although tanning is normally women's work),
and the maker must fast during the task. The skin is that of a young buck,
its hair removed and slightly softened, but not smoked or dyed. When a
medicine man dies, all the wrappings of his bundle must be replaced. The
outer wrappings of the bundle in which it appears at the busk are only tem-
porary; one to four untanned buck hides are borrowed for the purpose by the
medicine man's assistant, and returned to the owner afterwards. In the
woods, the bundle is kept in a small wooden structure, often covered with
a tarpaulin. The bundle may be moved to a "better place" after the busk is
over (and the medicine man must fast when he does so), but it is kept hidden
in the woods the year round, not in the medicine man's camp.
According to Capron, each bundle contains six or seven hundred different
items, "but the identical things in each of the three bundles" (164). My
informant is not familiar with the contents of the Cow Creek bundle al-
though he believes it contains many items, perhaps as many or more than
any Mikasuki bundle but he is intimately acquainted with the contents of
the two Mikasuki bundles he himself has cared for at busks, and knows also
a considerable amount about the other three Mikasuki bundles, since he has
been an assistant or an associated medicine man at several busks in which
they were opened. He maintains that the number of items in the bundles
varies, since each was originally made up from the smaller individual war
bundles of from one to five or six owners. His estimate of the total number
of items in the bundle he knows best, made up from the individual bundles of
four or five warriors, is "about forty." Despite his conversion to Christian-
ity some years ago, the subject still carries much of its former affect for him,
so that I was unable to obtain a complete, detailed catalog of the contents
even of this bundle.
In the following paragraphs, I discuss all the known individual items in
the medicine bundles, arranged according to the traditional function of each
"medicine." The dozen or so specific items in the Cow Creek bundle as
described by Capron will be included with the approximately twenty types of
objects in the Mikasuki bundles on which I was able to get information.
Terms in single quotes are literal translations of the Mikasuki or Creek
(Cow Creek) names.
Most of the objects in the bundles had uses connected with warfare.
Some were used for offensive magic, some for defensive purposes, and some
to cure serious wounds.
In the first category belongs the object my informant mentioned first when
enumerating some of the contents of a medicine bundle. This is the 'Thunder
Missile,' a spherical, transparent, crystal-like object about three-quarters of
an inch in diameter, which caused the opposing soldiers to become excited,
as one feels during a thunderstorm. According to one tradition, this charm
was given by an underwater Thunder-being to a man who aided a wounded
supernatural 'water puma' belonging to him. This is the "thunder bullet"
mentioned by Capron, although the account he gives (from the same informant
as the one from whom I gained my information) states that its purpose was to
make the Indians invisible to the soldiers, and that it was found at the base
of a lightning-struck tree (172). In the same deerskin packet with the
'Thunder Missile' is kept some red powder, 'Bad Face-paint,' formerly used
Another item in the bundle is known (in Mikasuki) as sapiy?:,5 an un-
analyzable name. This was described as a powerful, sweet-smelling, silvery
powder, especially dangerous to women. In warfare, it was used to cause
enemy soldiers to fall asleep in camp. Today, a magical song causes the
s4piyt: in the bundle to put a person to sleep, even though the singer is far
removed from the medicine bundle and its contents. There is a mythical,
sweet-smelling, night-blooming plant called by the same name, which causes
a form of sickness. Both of these Mikasuki types of sapiyt: show strong
resemblances to the Creek magical "sabTa," colored crystal-like objects
sometimes said to be of vegetable origin, kept by individuals for power in
hunting, love, and war (Swanton 1928a:498-501).
'Living Medicine' is a white or reddish powder, like the sapiyi:
dangerous to women. During war, a medicine man could use this to capture
souls of sleeping soldiers, thus making the owners vulnerable when they
A silvery powder known as 'Sour Medicine' also probably was used in
warfare, as I was told it was "good for kill man."
Capron describes a stone, "Power in War" medicine, which was nec-
essary for victory in war. The medicine man fasted and touched the stone
with his tongue, causing the power to "work" at a distance (168-169). My
informant mentioned no such object, and said that no stone in the medicine
bundle was so licked. Further, the terms Capron gives as the Mikasuki
and Creek names of this object refer instead to the next item he discusses,
the flint for making fire (Mikasuki "cho-no-thlee" = 'flint,' and Cow Creek
"sho-no-too Toot-ka" = 'fire flint'). He gives as names for the flint terms
meaning 'medicine stone' (169), which my informant recognized as an alter-
nate name for the object to be described next, which however my source
specifically denied was ever licked ("that's bad strong"). The situation
is still more complicated, for Capron says that his main informant was re-
quested to tell him about the "Power in War Medicine" by the same man
from whom my information derives (168). Another informant is quoted as
saying that "cho-no-thlee" was "sometimes there, sometimes gone. That's
little stone like old time make fire;" but the Cow Creek medicine man, the
source of Capron's Creek term, denied that the object disappeared (169).
It is evident that Capron recorded the wrong name for the "power in war
medicine," perhaps through error on the part of his first informant, which
led to confusion in questioning others about the object. Another complica-
tion involves the "live stone" for the sweat-bath, as will be seen. Some
of these seeming contradictions probably result from the fact that Capron
and I mainly discuss different medicine bundles, he the Cow Creek one and
I several Mikasuki ones.
Among the medicine bundle objects used in warfare for defensive pur-
poses is one known as ta:lis6hko:ct: in Mikasuki. The initial and final
elements of the name mean 'small stone,' but the central part is apparently
meaningless.6 A less proper name is 'Medicine Stone.' Capron's "live
stone" (169) was recognized as another, incorrect (at least in Mikasuki)
name for this. This stone was used to ward off bullets. Placing it between
his people and the soldiers, a medicine man, singing and shaking a rattle,
walked four times around it, magically causing it to increase in size so that
bullets'glanced off it. Only one Mikasuki medicine bundle contains one of
these objects; my informant did not know whether there is one in the Cow
Creek bundle. He denied that it has any connection with the busk sweat-
bath, although according to Capron's data the main function of the "live
stone" is to give this sweat-bath its curative and preventative powers
Another item is known as 'Twins' Plaything,' since it fell from the sky
long ago as a gift to the Indians from the supernatural Thunders who are
believed to cause the birth of twins. The object is a hard, rock-like
spheroid, about one and one-half inches long, and colored red, brown,
green and yellow. In war it is used much like the ta:lis6hko:ct: to ward off
bullets; but another and perhaps more important use is for magical weather
control. With proper fasting and manipulation of the 'Twins' Plaything' a
medicine man could cause rain or windstorms or change the path of a
In at least one of the Mikasuki bundles there is a miniature rattle, in
form like the modern Mikasuki dance rattles made from a perforated coconut
on a stick, but only about three inches in diameter, and harder than a coco-
nut shell my informant did not know what the receptacle is made from.
Capron has seen the coconut shell rattle which is- kept unwrapped in the
Cow Creek bundle (170-171), but this one is made from a full-sized coconut
(L. Capron, personal communication 12/23/52). My informant said that the
'Little Coconut (rattle)' was used with a song by a medicine man during
warfare, in order to make warriors unafraid. According to Capron, "it is
used only in the War Dance, where its purpose is to whip up emotion" (170).
Kept in a small bottle in the medicine bundle are six or seven 'Snake
Teeth,' from a rattlesnake. These were used to scratch the limbs of war-
riors to make them unafraid, prevent cramps in the legs, and generally make
them strong and confident. A tale is recorded by Capron about a fasting
contest between a rattlesnake and an owl, after which a supernatural called
"es-te mat-tee" collected two teeth from the snake and a claw from the
owl, for the Indians' medicine (164). Capron gives no data on the function
of these objects. Owls' claws are not among the objects in the Mikasuki
bundles mentioned by my informant, but a common method for treating a form
of muscular cramps, believed tobe caused by a rabbit, involves scratching
the affected part with a claw from a horned owl, puma, or wildcat, or a
rattlesnake's tooth (since all these animals kill rabbits). The myth given
by Capron is also referred to in explaining the rationale of the annual
autumnal Hunting Dance ceremony.
Another category of medicine bundle objects is those useful for treating
serious battle injuries. A type of fine silvery powder called 'Shot Medicine'
is one such item, which is said to be useful for reviving someone killed by
a bullet. The bundle also contains a small deerskin packet of about half a
cupful of 'Fish Eggs,' said to look like dried garfish eggs, one of which
added to water and drunk caused purificatory vomiting, thereby curing an
abdominal gunshot wound. A buzzard feather quill with a soft wooden stop-
per, not wrapped in one of the small packets, contains very fine bits of
feathery material, called 'Buzzard's Down,' which stopped bleeding when
a minute quantity was placed in a shot wound. Another medicine in the
bundle is that which Capron calls "shot-in-the-heart medicine," "white
medicine," or "white roots." The Creek and Mikasuki names he gives
(168) are the same as the ones I recorded, meaning 'White Medicine.'
Capron's suggestion (201,202) that this is ginseng is correct it is Panax
quinquefolium L., which does not occur in southern Florida. It was used
in Seminole War days for curing wounds, and is still an important element
in Seminole material medical. The supply today comes from Oklahoma, but
until twenty or thirty years ago south Florida Seminole men made occasional
trips north in the peninsula to replenish their supply of this and a few other
necessary medicinal plants which do not grow in the Seminole territory. The
ginseng in the medicine bundle is kept wrapped in a bit of white cloth.
Capron mentions another medicine in the bundle, which is derived from
a snake horn and is said to be more effective than ginseng for shot wounds.
A small amount of this placed in the corners of the mouth would revive a
dead man. The name given him for this by the Cow Creek medicine man he
writes "Hil-eesh tock-fee" (168). The first part means 'Medicine,' but I
do not recognize the final element, unless it is the Creek word written tokfe
in the traditional orthography, translated as 'brackish,' or perhaps t6ksE,
'sour' (both these forms I take from Loughbridge and Hodge, 1914:197). My
informant did not mention any medicine resembling this, unless it is the
same as the 'Snake Horn' described below.
In addition to objects useful in warfare, the medicine bundles contain
a few items which apparently were used only as hunting charms. Among
these is the "left-hand horn of the Snake King," which, when the hunter
sang, once attracted deer (168). It was broken from the "King Snake"
which lived "under [a] rock"; the more powerful right horn could not be
gotten (168). According to the information I collected, this object is called
'Snake Horn for Hunting' or simply 'Snake Horn,' and is a small greyish or
white sphere, about the size of a No. 8 shot, which originally was obtained
by singing out a horned snake which dwelt in a very deep clear pool in a
rocky place. The singer aimed a stone at the more powerful blue right horn,
but hit the left one instead. Capron's term "Snake King" or "King Snake"
seem to identify this being with the snake, with two horns like small deer
horns, which was the last to emerge from the hole in a hill from which the
Seminole sib ancestors came, according to the origin myth. This being was
chosen chief (Mikasuki mikt:, Creek mfkko both often translated 'king')
and was at first fed only past:, Button-snakeroot, Eryngium synchaetum
(A.Cray) Rose (which, incidentally, is given as the reason for the believed
effectiveness of this plant as an antidote for snakebite).
The charm is clearly the same as a type known to the Creek. According
to sources among these people, a hored snake living in a deep hole filled
with water was once compelled by singing to come to the surface of the
water, where both horns were sawed off (Swanton, 1928a:429; Gatschet,
1888:82-83). Some informants said that such snakes were sometimes found
sunning themselves out of the water, when their horns might be obtained.
The bits of horn were said to be red, "like sealing wax," whereas the
Alabama knew of yellow, white, red, or blue horns, from four different types
of horned snake (Swanton, 1928b:494). Hawkins, in the 1790's, wrote that
bits of the horn were carried by warriors in their shot pouches as "a charm,
a protection against all ills" (Swanton, 1928a:429), and the Tuskegee
Creek in 1904-1905 described a "bundle of magic herbs and fetishes" car-
ried by a war party, which included such horns which "were believed to
render the warriors immune to wounds" (Speck, 1907:118). But Swanton's
informants (1928b:494), and one of Gatschet's (1888:83-84), spoke of these
as hunter's charms only, which apparently were individually owned. It was
necessary to keep the powerful charm away from the house, else it would
make the owner's children sick (Swanton, 1928b:502).
Also formerly used as Seminole hunting charms were the 'Little People
Bones,' of which some bundles at least have "different kinds" in two to
four deerskin packets. They look like very small bits of animal bone. The
'Little People' are a class of supernaturals, comprising four types with
different appearances and characteristics, but all are less than a foot and
a half tall and live in trees. Also mentioned as a hunting charm was
'White Deer Hair.'7
The bundle also contains some 'Eagle Tail Feathers,' the use of which
fits none of the categories into which the other items fall. These feathers
were once used to send messages at great distances for example, a man
might announce the time of his arrival at a destination by magically send-
ing a feather back to his starting point many days travel away. The power
of doing this no longer survives, but one who could do so laid the feather
on a deerskin at night, placing the charm known as ta:lis6hko:ct: (described
above) with it, and perhaps some other medicine around these two. The
magically propelled feather arrived at its destination on the same night.
Today, some cedar leaves (Juniperus silicicola [Small] Bailey) are kept
with the feathers in the medicine bundle, to prevent them from causing
sickness. Some of Capron's informants said there were "Thunder Bird
feathers" in the bundle; my informant told him there were not, although
there were eagle feathers (172).
Also kept in the medicine bundle is the 'Flint' used with steel to light
the medicine fire at the busk. This is kept in a cowhorn or a wooden con-
tainer, not wrapped in a deerskin packet. The Cow Creek bundle also con-
tains a flint (169; see above for the confusion in Capron's terminology which
involves this item). Another bundle object kept for use at the busk is a
whistle about an inch and a half long, called 'Little Tube,' made perhaps of
cane or bone. This is blown a short time before the men enter the sweat-
bath on the last morning of the busk, and can be heard for a half-mile or so.
Presumably, the Cow Creek bundle does not contain one of these, since
Capron has been present at this stage of the busk but does not mention any
Capron describes as an important item in the Cow Creek bundle a stone
called the "live stone" (but see above on the confusion in terminology).
This is a bit of "the same kind of stone as is used in the sweat-bath,"8
which acts as a control for the sweat-bath stones without this object in
the medicine bundle, the sweat-bath would be ineffective (169). My inform-
ant mentioned no such item, and I incline to the opinion that the Mikasuki
bundles do not contain any.
A very interesting category of objects in the Cow Creek bundle is
described by Capron, but unfortunately I could obtain little information on
anything similar in the Mikasuki bundles the latter may therefore largely
lack such items. These are the eighteen9 small white horn tips, the tradi-
tional function of which is not given. The intriguing thing about these horns
is that there is a relatively detailed traditional description of the animal
from which each came, which allowed a Seminole Capron accompanied to
New York in 1938 to supply Creek names to many of the exotic African
mammals in the habitat groups of the American Museum. As examples of
the names applied, Capron gives "Big Rabbit," "Water Cow" (166-167), and
in his earlier article "cho-fee thlock-o" [for Creek cofiL&kko, 'big rabbit']
applied to the Axis deer, and "yen-ah schla-kee" [apparently containing
Creek yanasa, 'bison'] applied to the two horned rhinoceros (Capron, 1942:
18). When I inquired about these objects, my informant replied rather vaguely
that "long ago" the bundles contained "lots of bones" among them 'White
Deer Horns,' which are no longer in existence. He said that there were no
"buffalo" or "big rabbit" horns in the bundles; the latter animal he did not
recognize, remarking that the rabbit never had horns. The name which Capron
gives apparently as the general term for these horn tips is "ee-ah-pee,"
which seems to represent the Creek term meaning 'horn.'10 One of these
horns, from the animal called "yen-ah schla-kee," is particularly powerful
(167; Capron, 1942:18). Capron's guess that the traditional descriptions of
the animals derive from the Negro allies and so-called slaves of the Seminole
during and before the Seminole Wars (167) is worthy of consideration, al-
though one would like a more detailed listing of the names and the accom-
panying descriptions than is as yet available. In his early article (but not
the recent one), his informant is quoted as saying that the descriptions came
from the culture hero (Capron, 1942:18).
"A twist of bees' wings" is among the few objects listed in Capron's
first, popular, article (1942:17), but is not included in the recent paper and
was specifically denied by my informant to be a component of the medicine
Some of the objects in the bundles are so powerful that it would be ex-
ceedingly dangerous to touch them with one's hands. For handling these
when the medicines are examined at the busk a special utensil is included,
unwrapped, in the bundle. Capron seemingly refers to this as the "sticks"
used to pick up the "yen-ah schla-kee" (167; 1942:18), and Greenlee, who
came very close to discovering the real importance and complexity of the
Seminole medicine bundles, refers to 'the quill taken from the wing of a
buzzard" in a similar context (Greenlee, 1944:317). Actually, these tongs
consist of a pair of the distal wing bones of a buzzard (Cathartes aura),
the Mikasuki name meaning 'Buzzard's Distal-wing-joint Bones.' They are
used in handling the 'Thunder Missile,' the 'Snake Horn for Hunting,' and
the 'Little People Bones.'
This exhausts the inventory of items at present known to be contained
permanently in the medicine bundles. However, the medicine bundle may be
used to increase the potency of other medicines placed in it temporarily.
Capron refers to the "private Medicine" of many individuals, which must be
"renewed periodically" by being placed with the medicine bundle during
the twenty-four hours it is displayed during the busk. The only specific
object mentioned is a gun which was given "supernatural accuracy" in this
manner (172). My informant explained that certain medicinal plants are
made more powerful by being left with the medicine bundle in this way. Not
all plants used medicinally may be so treated, but only a few of the more
important ones, particularly those used in various purificatory ceremonies
of a medical nature but whose chief purpose is the prevention rather than the
cure of sickness or misfortune. Seven such medicinal substances were
enumerated: Button-snakeroot (Eryngium synchaetum [A. Gray] Rose) and
Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) roots, Redbay (Persea borbonia [L.]
Spreng.) and Southern Red Cedar (luniperus silicicola [Small] Bailey) leaves,
twigs of Sassafras (Sassafras albidum [Nutt.] Nees) useful for the bark,
twigs (?) of an Oklahoma tree called hoyani:cT: in Mikasuki (perhaps Dwarf
Gray Willow, Salix tristis Ait.), and roots and perhaps buds of an unidenti-
fied plant called ayikcho:mt:, 'bitter medicine,' in Mikasuki and toho:mt:
in Creek. Although any man who wishes to may strengthen some of these
for his own use, the presiding medicine man is particularly likely to treat a
supply, which he will use and sell during the ensuing year (he may not sell
During the day when the bundle is displayed, some tobacco is kept
with it, which is smoked by the medicine man and his assistants during
the last night of the busk.
According to Capron when "changing conditions" make a new medicine
necessary, the Culture Hero causes it to appear in the bundle during the
last night of the busk. The medicine man discovers it when he examines
the items before wrapping up the bundle in the morning (163, 171-172). My
informant said that if a medicine man is "good" and "smart," that is,
works hard at his ceremonial duties, doctors "his people" and takes care of
them properly, medicine will "come back" to his bundle during the busk -
where it comes from he did not know. On the other hand, a man who does
not properly fulfill his role as a medicine man will cause medicine to dis-
appear from his bundle. Whether it is only the 'Living Medicine,' or any
medicine in the bundle, which is thus augmented or decreased, or even
whether entire items, old and new, can disappear and re-appear, I could
Capron describes the modern functions of the Seminole medicine
bundles as that of tribal palladia. The bundle "contains everything nec-
essary for the Indian's well-being," and one of the main purposes of the
annual busks is to renew and preserve the power of the bundles. The
medicine bundles are the symbols and the powers around which Seminole
ceremonial and political life are organized, are believed necessary for the
existence of the group, and can in this sense be considered the "soul" of
the Seminole "body." The medicines are capable also of doing great harm
or of losing their potency, so must be treated carefully and protected from
potentially harmful influences (among which are probably inquisitive or
skeptical outsiders) (160, 162, 163, 175). These beliefs make it exceeding-
ly difficult to obtain detailed or reliable information on the esoteric aspects
of Seminole religion, and the normal Seminole inarticulateness with out-
siders, due in part to inadequate control of English but even more to sus-
picion of the motives of the questioner, make it well-nigh impossible to ex-
plore thoroughly the ramifications, interrelations, and significance of Semi-
nole religious beliefs and practices. What little information I was able to
get on these subjects tends to substantiate Capron's estimate of the func-
tion and importance of the medicine bundles. I have already mentioned the
fact that improper handling of some of the medicines may cause sickness;
furthermore, if the medicine man does not properly "take care of his people,"
not only may the medicine decrease in quantity, but it may actively cause
sickness. It is said that in former days the medicine in the bundle "ate"
the blood of soldiers killed by Seminole warriors; today, in the absence of
slain enemies, the medicine may turn on the people belonging to his own
group if the medicine man is lax in his duties. This "eating" of people
causes a sickness known as 'shot blood,' characterized by rheumatic pains
in the joints and head. rhus another function of the bundles is to provide
supernatural sanctions to ensure the proper role performance of the medi-
cine man, the primary religious and political officer of the band. The group
organized around a bundle, that is those who regularly attend the busk
supervised by the medicine man in charge of a specific bundle, is the largest
organized group among the modern Seminole. Only informal association, and
of course commonality of culture, unite these bands into the Seminole
The newly discovered existence and importance of Seminole medicine
bundles has interesting implications from the comparative and culture-his-
torical point of view. Most of the aboriginal peoples of the Southeast have
been displaced to the present state of Oklahoma, where the disruption
caused by the removal and the subsequent close association with many
other tribes from other parts of the United States have resulted in far-reach-
ing cultural changes. Fortunately, there are a few segments of the original
tribes which escaped deportation and have subsequently developed inde-
pendently chiefly the North Carolina Cherokee, the Mississippi and
Louisiana Choctaw, and the Florida Seminole. The last are by far the least
acculturated descendants of the towns of the Creek Confederacy of Georgia
and Alabama, and it is plain that study of their culture will cast much light
on the pre-removal culture of the Creek. Spoehr has demonstrated this in
his study of Creek and Seminole social organization (Spoehr, 1942, 1947).
It is necessary, of course, to evaluate the changes and possible changes
which Seminole culture has undergone since the tribe split from the Con-
federacy12 and moved into a quite different environment in South Florida,
undergoing also considerable disruptive pressures due to the Seminole Wars.
The central position of the medicine bundles in modern Seminole religion
is striking in comparison with the Creek. Swanton has written that "tribal
medicines or palladia such as are often met with in other parts of America
were almost unknown to the Creeks unless we include the 'ark' or war medi-
cine under this head....Nevertheless, there is one apparent exception, the
famous copper and brass plates preserved by the town of Tukabahchee"
(Swanton, 1928:503). The "ark" is known chiefly from Adair's early de-
scription, which probably refers to the Chickasaw rather than the Creek;
Swanton mentions a similar object among the Alabama, but not the Creek
proper (Swanton, 1928a:408-412, 425). The "war medicine" of the Creek
seems to have been individually owned charms (Swanton, 1928a:429; 1928b:
502). War parties of the Tuskegee Creek, it is true, are reported to have
used a medicine bundle (Speck, 1907:118). The Tukabahchee plates ful-
filled much the same function as the modern Seminole medicine bundles,
but nothing similar is known from any other Creek town (Swanton, 1928b:
502-510, 555-556, 570, 572). Yet both Tuskegee and Tukabahchee were
Upper Creek towns, whereas most of the Seminole ancestors were probably
Lower Creek. Furthermore, there is rather convincing evidence that both
these towns were originally non-Muskogee, taken into the Confederacy at a
relatively late date (Swanton, 1922:207-211, 277-279; Speck, 1907:105-106),
so that they may well have been culturally somewhat different from the
general Creek pattern. A search among the Creek for parallels to the Semi-
nole medicine bundles is best made from two angles: do separate charms
occur, similar to the individual items in the Seminole bundles in nature and
traditional function? and, are there any objects similar in function if not in
makeup to the modern Seminole bundles taken as a whole? Turning first to
the individual items, we have already mentioned the Creek "sabTa" and
snake horns. These are the closest parallels to the individual Seminole
medicines. Similar in function were the bones of the mythical 'man eater'
which (perhaps together with the snake horns) formed the "war physic"
carried by a warrior in his shot pouch for good luck in war (Swanton, 1928a:
429; Gatschet, 1888:47, 82-83). The Tuskegee war bundle contained snake
horns which gave invulnerability, cedar leaves for the treatment of wounds,
and probably other items, and was carried to war by the leader or medicine
man of a war party (Speck, 1907:118). Adair's "ark," probably Chickasaw,
was chiefly or only effective in warfare. It was apparently a hickory-splint
basket containing "several consecrated vessels," carried by the leader of
a war party and his assistant and never touched by others or placed on the
ground. At home it was kept hung on the war pole. It ensured the success
of a war party (Swanton, 1928a:408-412). Miscellaneous individually-owned
charms effective in hunting, war, love, and weather-control were important
among the Creek (Swanton, 1928b:498-503, 630), but none except those
mentioned above show any close resemblance to the Seminole items-or
are reported as associated in a bundle, and none seem to have any connec-
tion with the busk ceremonies or any integrative social functions. For the
latter, we have only the Tukabahchee plates, unless perhaps the "articles
used by various towns during the celebration of the busk and held in great
reverence" (such as the "large conch shells out of which the Coweta
Indians took their black drink"), which the Indians "had had for a long
time and preserved with great care," may be understood in this sense but
there are no details as to what these objects were, except for the conch
shells, and "there is no certainty that these things were really palladia"
(Swanton, 1928b:503). The Tukabahchee plates do not resemble in form any
of the Seminole objects. From the brief available descriptions of them,
Swanton concludes that "there can be little reasonable doubt" that these
spatulate copper and circular "brass" plates "are of Spanish origin"
(Swanton, 1928b:510). The possibility should be investigated, however,
that they are survivals of the embossed copper plates characteristic of the
archeological Southern Cult (cf., among others, Watson, 1950, and Goggin,
1949). It is in their functions that the Tukabahchee plates closely resemble
the modern Seminole medicine bundles. They were kept at the busk grounds,
buried or housed in a special structure, and were brought out only during the
annual busk, when they were displayed with considerable ceremony for just
twenty-four hours. "They hold, that the health and prosperity of the town,
depend in a great measure upon the proper observance of the rites connected
with them." They were so powerful as to be dangerous, for they could be
spoken of only guardedly, for fear of dangerous consequences; women could
not look at them; if improperly touched or handled, the desecrator would die
and sickness and various other calamities would befall the town (Swanton,
1928b:503-510, 555-556,570,572). There is however no evidence that they
were connected in any way with warfare.
The evidence heretofore on record would indicate that the sacred bundle
complex so important among the Central Algonkians and on the Plains s
reached the Southeast only in a very attenuated form. The Seminole data
make plain the need for further investigation among the southern Indians;
field work on this problem might even now bring to light new Creek informa-
tion certainly the Tukabahchee plates should be re-investigated. This is
necessary before a decision may be reached as to whether the similarities
of the Seminole bundles to those of other eastern tribes are due to common
origin or diffusion, on the one hand, or to convergent development on the
Capron's data on the Cow Creek busk are very full and detailed; my own
information from the Mikasuki is quite spotty. Therefore, all that will be
attempted here is to outline briefly the highlights of the ceremony, point
out where our information is still inadequate, give a little data supplement-
ing that in Capron's work (chiefly some information useful for comparison
with the Creek busks), and make a few remarks of a comparative nature.
According to Capron, the Cow Creek and the "Trail" Mikasuki busks
are held at "the new moon the last of June or the first of July," "Picnic
Day" falling "two days after the calendar date of the new moon." The
other Mikasuki busk is held when "the Pleiades, which have sunk below
the horizon, make their reappearance" (177). The latter date, in the lati-
tude of Miami, is May 25, and the date changes about one day only over a
period of two centuries.15 I was unable to obtain such specific methods
of fixing the dates of busks. Recorded dates for Mikasuki busks vary from
late April or early May to the end of June or the beginning of July, and for
the Cow Creek from late June to mid July. In 1952, the Picnic Day of the
"Trail" busk did fall on May 25; but the busk involving the same bundle
seems to have fallen in mid June in 1929 (Spencer, 1929:3). The medicine
man formerly in charge of this busk said that it was up to the medicine man
and his assistant to set the date, which they do when the corn is ripe in
the spring. Then the two meet to discuss the date of the busk. They may
set it at a new moon a month or so away, but they are just as likely to
choose a time just before a full moon, so that the helpers can get water
for the medicine on the last night by the light of the moon. In 1952, the new
moon appropriate according to Capron, fell on June 22, but the Picnic Day
of the Cow Creek busk was June 23, and the "Big Cypress" Mikasuki husk
had been held in late April or early May. According to my informant, corn
is planted four months before the busk (which marks the date after which
green corn may be eaten by the men) in early February among the Mikasuki,
and a month or more later among the Cow Creek.16 At any rate, the dates of
Fig. 1. "Big Cypress" Mikasuki busk grounds in June, 1952. A, Dance area note
medicine bundle stake (left foreground), ball pole, Bighouse, sweat-bath frame;
B, Bighouse; C, Sweat-bath frame; D, Scoreboard on ball pole.
the busks vary somewhat from year to year, although normally the Mikasuki
ones are held earlier than the Cow Creek. Neither Capron nor myself heard
of any preliminary meeting of officials to set the date (except the informal
conversation of the medicine man and his assistant), nor of the use of tally
sticks to count the days until the busk began common Creek busk elements
(Swanton, 1928b:558-559, 571, 587) although both are mentioned by Mac-
Cauley (1887:522), who here relied on a Mikasuki informant.17
The busks are held some distance from both Indian and white settlements,
at grounds which are moved every few years (176-177). The dance ground
itself centers on a fire, built on a slightly raised mound and not made by the
spoke method used for ordinary camp fires. Around this is a circular dance
area, cleared and packed, varying from about thirty to about forty feet in
diameter. There is no raised ridge of earth around this area. Within or slight-
ly outside the circle is the ball pole, a young pine or cypress twenty-five to
forty feet tall, stripped of branches except for a plume left at the tip (my
informant had never heard of anything else being used at the top). A ring of
bark is removed for a foot or two, ending about four feet from the tip (a hit
above this ring counts as a score), and four faces one to two feet long are
sliced about five feet from the base to serve as a scoreboard. In the three
or four plans given by Capron (179-181) and in the three other Cow Creek
dance grounds I have seen, the pole is in the quarter between east and south-
east of the fire. At a Mikasuki dance ground I examined, at another seen by
Spoehr (1939), and in a diagram drawn for me by two Mikasuki men, the pole
is due east or slightly north of east of the fire. Always just on the west
edge of the circle is the single arbor, facing east. This is a palmetto- and
brush-covered roof, which slopes slightly, its higher edge towards the east,
supported by vertical logs and sheltering seats of logs resting on the ground.
The arbor is rectangular, twelve to fifteen feet long and ten to eleven feet
wide, the roof usually supported by six uprights (Capron's plans and photos,
my observation of a Cow Creek example, Spoehr's notes from Cow Creek
informants), but occasionally by nine (Mikasuki example examined by me).
There are no traditions of the previous use of more than one arbor at a dance
ground. When a dance ground is used for the first time, the arbor is built on
Picnic Day. Both the Cow Creek and Mikasuki names for the arbor mean
'Big House'; the term is not used for the dance ground as a whole. On the
west side of the grounds is a pile of firewood for the dance fire. To the east
are the medicine man's fire, the sweat-bath, and the medicine bundle stake.
Women do not enter the arbor at any time, and stay out of the dance circle
except during dances or the ballgame.
In a circle around the dance grounds are the camps.in which the par-
ticipants live during the bask. Each is from twenty-five to a hundred yards
from the dance circle. There is no consistency in the order of their arrange-
ment, although, during the use of one dance ground, a sib occupies the same
Fig. 2. A, Mikasuki ball game at Pine Island, near the present town of Davie, about
1895 (Bur. Amer. Ethnol. photo); B, Ingraham Billie, "Trail" medicine man,
with ballsticks and ball (Aug., 1952); C, Mikasuki ball for busk ball game,.
collected in 1951 buckskin stuffed with deer hair (Yale Peabody Mus. spec.
camp in successive years. Capron's charts and my own observations show
a tendency, though not a necessity, for there to be a gap in the camp circle
towards the east. These camps are much larger than those in which the
Seminole extended families live during the rest of the year. Four or five
camps hold the one or two hundred participants. In theory, each matrilineal
sib has its own camp, occupied by the women of that sib and their husbands
and children and the unattached males of the sib. The larger sibs may how-
ever sometimes set up two separate camps, and small sibs frequently join
with another "related" sib. 18
The Seminole busk may last from five to seven days (177-178). Informants
often say that the busk lasts "four days" four is the Seminole pattern
number and this appears to be the minimum possible. The important events
occur on the last three days, in a fixed order (C,Sp,St). 19
In former days, the men of a band went on a hunt, a week or two before
a busk, to provide meat for the Picnic Day (St). Today, the medicine man
buys beeves and groceries (C,St), with the help of "contributions" (C).
The participants gather at the busk grounds over a period of several days
before the first day (C,Sp,St), but the medicine man and his assistants tend
to arrive early to begin the preparation of the grounds (Sp,St). During these
days the camps are repaired and the dance grounds cleaned (C,Sp,St). In
the afternoon of each of the four days of the busk except the last, there is a
ballgame, of the single pole variety, with the boys and young men playing
against the girls and young women; on each of the three essential nights
there is dancing after dark (C,Sp,St). Dancing may begin the evening of the
day preceding the first day (St, Sp), and Capron once saw dancing begin the
night of the third day before the first (178), although he also gives a schedule
calling for dancing beginning the first day and "not before" (178). Ballgames
apparently begin the same day as the first dancing (St,Sp). The day before
the first day is sometimes called smoking tobacco leaves" or "smoking"
(C), but what this refers to is unclear.
On the first day, the medicine man bathes ceremonially at dawn, as he
does each subsequent day of the busk on the third day, at least, in company
with his assistants) (C, pp. 163, 189). The rest of the first day is spent in
completing the preparation of the grounds, with the men and boys gathering
wood for the dance fire in the afternoon before or after the ballgame (C,St).
At dusk, the dance circle is swept by the medicine man's two young "help-
ers" (C), and the dance fire is lit (C,Sp,St). Dancing, consisting mostly of
"Crazy Dances,"20 but with animal dances intermixed, continues until 10 or
11 p.m., when all go to bed (C,Sp,St).
The second day, Picnic or Feast Day, is spent largely in eating, in
preparation for the following fast. The food for the men is brought by the
women from the camps to the Bighouse, where the men alone eat the women
and children eat in the camps (C, Sp, St). No green corn is eaten this day
(Sp,St). If the busk is being held in a new spot, the Bighouse is built this
day; if at a busk ground previously used, the thatch is repaired now (C,Sp).
This is done by the young men, under the direction of an older official (Sp).
Also, the birds to provide the white feathers for the next day's Feather
Dance, if one is to be held, should be killed on the second day (C,Sp). In
the afternoon a ballgame is held (?), and dancing continues from dusk to
midnight (C,Sp). Feasting continues with the dancing, and the men's fast
begins at midnight (C, Sp, St).
The third day, Court or Fasting Day, is the most important. At dawn,
the medicine man and his assistants bathe ritually, and the medicine bundle
is brought to the dance grounds, examined, and hung up (C). Meanwhile, the
two young helpers of the medicine man prepare two pots of emetic, one of
the beaten roots of Button-snakeroot (Eryngium synchaetum [A.Gray] Rose)
and the other of the inner bark of Southern Willow (Salix amphibia Small);
both are added to cold water, and the willow drink is given potency by the
medicine man or an assistant by singing and then blowing into the pot through
a special cane tube (C,St,Sp). Both these plants are important elements of
Seminole material medical, and the strengthening of the medicine through the
doctor's songs and breath is an important part of curing procedure (St,C). In
the morning, small boys who are not expected to fast the entire period and
men unable to be present the next day, are scratched (C). The poles for the
Feather Dance, if this is to be danced, are prepared in the morning (Sp), and
the dance is done four times, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon
(C,Sp). After the first Feather Dance (C) or after each (Sp), the two black
drinks are taken by all the men (but not by the women). They are drunk and
rubbed on the body, and the men then go off to vomit in private (C). The
purpose on this occasion is the same as that for the use of these and other
emetics at other times: to "clean the body" and purify it (St).
At about noon, the men gather in the Bighouse for the annual court or
council. This meeting has judicial powers as well as governmental ones -
punishments for crimes of the past year are meted out, and various problems
of the tribe and group are discussed. Influential men from other groups,
usually including some of the other medicine men, are present, and their
opinions are sought (C). It is only the most serious crimes which are
adjudicated at this time: murders and serious injuries, and, in former times
miscegenation and attempting to learn to read and write. The accused gets
a chance to defend himself before the group, which then reaches a decision
democratically, taking into account not only the nature and circumstances of
the crime, but the perpetrator's past behavior and reputation, his influence
and friends, and the size and importance of his family and sib21 (St). This
area of Seminole culture is perhaps even more carefully concealed from out-
siders than is the religion, so that it is exceedingly difficult to obtain infor-
mation on the "criminal code," punishments, case histories, and trial pro-
cedures and officers. My informant however, denied the method of punish-
ment in a low hut described by Capron (196). There is no doubt that capital
punishment was decreed and carried out until a few years ago my data
agree in general with that of Capron regarding the 1938 execution and I
have heard vague references to the levying of fines and to whipping. Ear
cropping is traditional, but said to be long obsolete. Whether or not ostracism
is decreed by the busk council is doubtful; in at least some cases, an offend-
er remained away from the busk on his own volition, apparently in order to
avoid a trial on Court Day. Some of these and other punishments were inflict-
ed also, or only, at times other than during the busk. It is said that the settle-
ment of a crime decreed at the busk closes the matter for all time, and that
serious crimes cannot be discussed or settled except at this time, after the
men have taken the purifying emetics, when the crimes of the past year are
"killed" (St). The granting of amnesty to criminals who succeeded in enter-
ing the dance circle unseen is denied by modern informants, although recorded
for the Cow Creek Seminole in 1881 (quoted in Witthoft, 1949:70). The Semi-
nole believe strongly in obeying the "law" (defined very broadly), and even
young Christians emphasize that Indian justice was and is quick and certain,
whereas white justice is long, tedious, and unsure (St).
There are special officials for the "council" meeting. The headman, of
the Tiger22 or Wind sib, may or may not be the medicine man who supervises
the rest of the busk. There is a moderator or peace maker of the Bird sib, a
"councilman" (perhaps the executioner or enforcing officer?) of the Tiger
or Wind sib, and two men from the same sibs who act as "helpers" of the
headman. Although a man usually fills any one of these statuses for several
years, he may be removed for inadequate performance. Not all offices need
be filled at a busk (in 1952 at one Mikasuki busk there was only one "helper"
and no "councilman") (St).
In the afternoon, older boys and some men may be scratched and
break their fast, although most men wait until the next morning (C,St). The
Buffalo Dance "is always danced" in the afternoon, according to Capron
(198). Spoehr saw it at sundown and just before dawn the next morning, at
both the Cow Creek and a Mikasuki busk in 1939 (Sp). It was not danced at
the 1951 Cow Creek busk (St).
During the afternoon, wood is collected for the following night's dancing
and a ballgame is played as on other days (C, St, Sp).
At twilight, the medicine fire is lit with the flint kept in the medicine
bundle (C,St), and the medicine is ceremonially taken down and laid out (C).
At each cardinal point of this fire an ear of green corn is laid (St, Sp; cf.
Swanton, 1928b:555). In former days, all fires in the camps were extinguished
on this day and re-lit from this medicine fire the so-called New Fire cere-
mony, or as my informant put it, "just like new year." This, however, is no
longer done (St). On the medicine fire is cooked the "third Black Drink" or
"Big Pot Drink" (C, pp. 201-202), which is called in both Mikasuki and Creek
'Gathered Medicine,' or 'Big Gathered Medicine' (the latter to distinguish it
from the 'Small Gathered Medicine,' which also consists of many plants
'gathered' together, but these are different plants and are used medicinally
rather than at the busk) (St).
The identification of the plants which go into this third black drink is an
area in which there is considerable difference between the data collected by
Capron, Spoehr, and myself at least partly because of varying practices of
different medicine men. It seems advisable to record here these differences.
Unfortunately, the inadequacy of Capron's method of writing Creek and
Mikasuki words sometimes makes identification difficult. I list and discuss
first the plants mentioned by Capron, and then set down the remaining ones
mentioned by Spoehr's and my own informants:
1. Willow root inner bark (Salix amphibia), Creek "ac-wa-nah," Mikasuki
"o-kee box-see" (201, 189). Neither my informant nor Spoehr's mentioned
this as a component of the third black drink. Southern Red Willow, Salix
amphibia Small,23 is frequently used in medicines, and is called in Creek
ahwi:na: and in Mikasuki okibakst:.
2. Roots of Button-snake root (Eryngium synchaetum), Creek "pa-sa,"
Mikasuki "pa-see" (201, 189). Neither my informant nor Spoehr's mentioned
this as a component of the third black drink. The botanical identification
(E. synchaetum [A.Gray] Rose) agrees with that of the plant called past: in
Mikasuki and pa:ssa in Creek by my informants, and also with a botanist's
identification of a specimen of "pasa" submitted by Spoehr (1939).
3. Ginseng, Creek "hil-eesh hat-kee," Mikasuki "ai-yicks hat-kee"
(202). This is a plant today imported from Oklahoma (C, St, Sp), where the
Creek name is the same (Swanton, 1928b:656). Small (1933:959) identifies
ginseng as Panax quinquefolium L. The plant, called ayikchatkt: (Mik.)
and hilishatkt: (Ck.), was not included by my informant among the ingredients
of this black drink, but was recorded by Spoehr (as "hilishatki:"24) as an
optional component. However my informant did say that if a bit of ginseng
root is used by a doctor to treat a patient who dies, the piece from which it
came may not be used for other patients until it has been purified ("just like
people") by washing with the 'Gathered Medicine' at the next busk.
4. The whole plant of St. John's wort (Hypericum aspalathoides Willd.),
Creek "wee-ah-ko-chee," Mikasuki "a-posh-shee-ka-yee" (202, 209, pl. 14).
According to my informant the 'Gathered Medicine' contains the leaves of a
plant called hapo:sika:yt: (Mik.) or kafocka (Ck.). This is not mentioned by
Spoehr, unless this is what his "pofacka" (otherwise unidentified) represents.
However, hapo:sikt:yt: is Pennyroyal (Pycnothymus rigidus [Bart.] Small),
with which identification Stirling (1941) agrees. A medicinal plant called
cisilayko:mt: in Mikasuki, cissiwi:lano:ma: in Creek, not used in this black
drink, is tentatively identified as Hypericum aspalathoides Willd. or H.
fasciculatum Lam. Mr. Woodbury tells me that the leaves, though not the
plant size, of IH. aspalathoides and P. rigidus are very similar. Capron's
"wee-ah-ko-chee" is not recognizable as any Creek plant name known to me;
his "a-posh-shee-ka-yee" plainly represents Mikasuki hapo:sika:yI:.
5. Leaves of Redbay (Persea borbonia [L.] Spreng.), Creek "too-la,"
Mikasuki "too-lee" (202, 209, pl. 14). That this is an ingredient, both my
own and Spoehr's data confirm. The botanical identification agrees with
that of specimens pointed out by my informants, although Stirling (1941) gives
the closely related Persea pubescens (Pursh) Small (sic read P. pubescens
[Pursh] Sarg. or Tamala pubescens [Pursh] Small; see Small 1933:922).
Spoehr's sample of "tola" was identified, probably erroneously, as the
(introduced) avocado, Persea persea (L.) Cockerell. The Mikasuki name of
the tree is to:lT:, and the Creek to:la.
6. Leaves of Blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites Lam.), Creek "tsa-fuck-in-
na," Mikasuki "o-luck-ee" (202, 209, pl. 14). My informant also gave this
as an ingredient of this black drink, and his olakt: (Mik.) or ca:fakna: (Ck.)
was also identified as V. myrsinites. Spoehr's informant did not mention
7. Leaves of Water-liana (Cissus sicyoides L.), Creek "chu-los
sho-a-kee," Mikasuki "tsuk-ko-chee"; also of the grapes Vitis rotundifolia
Mich. (Creek "so-losh-ka," Mikasuki "tsu-ko-chee") and Vitis caribaea
H. & B. (no names given) (202, 209, pl. 14). The identification of the various
grapes in the black drink is confused. Spoehr's informants gave none, but
mine mentioned two. One of these, called baLbt: in Mikasuki and pALko
in Creek, is Shuttleworth's grape (Vitis coriacea Shuttlw.); the other, Mika-
suki c6ko:ct: and Creek col5:skoct:, is a Muscadine or Scuppernong (Mus-
cadinia Munsoniana [Simpson] Small). The Mikasuki name of the latter must
be represented by the "tsuk-ko-chee" given by Capron for both C. sicyoides
and V. rotundifolia; the last is closely related to M. Munsoniana, for Small
(1913:757) puts it in the same genus. Further, Stirling (1941) identifies
Mikasuki baLbb as Vitis Labrusca L., and Mikasuki "tcokotci" as Vitis
rotundifolia Mich., which, taken with Capron's and my data, would suggest
that at least V. rotundifolia and M. Munsoniana are not distinguished by the
Seminole. Capron's "chu-los sho-a-kee" may represent Creek cols:skoct:;
his "so-losh-ka" is unclear can it be the "coldswa" given by Lough-
bridge and Hodge (1914:32) with the meaning "muscatine"?
8. Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana) (leaves?), Creek "too-la hat-ka,"
Mikasuki "too-lat-kee" (202). The names are better written to:laha:tka
(Creek) and to:lhatkt: (Mikasuki). My informant denied that this is an
ingredient of this black drink, and it is not mentioned in Spoehr's notes
9. Rabbit-tobacco (Pterocaulon undulatum) (202). This plant, called
picikcalahkayikct: or ac8:bahcayikct: in Mikasuki and yanasahiliswa: in
Creek, is not an ingredient of 'Big Gathered Medicine' according to my
informant. Spoehr's list does not include it, either. His specimen of
"yanasa hiliswa" was identified as P. undulatum (Walt.) C. Mohr, as was
The following ingredients are not mentioned by Capron, but were in-
cluded by my informant or Spoehr's or both:
10. Leaves of Lizard's-tail (Saururus cernuus L.), Creek oyihilfswa,
Mikasuki yahkakayikct:. The plant was included by my informant, and is
given as an ingredient by Spoehr without identification under the name
11. Leaves of Southern Red Cedar (Juniperus silicicola [Small] Bailey),
Creek acing:, Mikasuki acint:. This plant was not included by Spoehr's
12. Leaves of Mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens [Pursh] Nutt.),
Creek tohiLikko, Mikasuki hinLimasokct:. This, also, is not given in
Spoehr's list of ingredients.
13. Leaves of an unidentified plant, probably a grass, called pahihatkoct:
in Creek and pahAtlo:ct: in Mikasuki. This is not one of the components
on Spoehr's list.
14. The bark of "miko hoyanica." An optional ingredient according to
Spoehr, this was not included by my informant, who called the plant hoyani:ct:
in Mikasuki and mikko hoyant:ca: in Creek. The plant does not grow in
Florida, but is now imported from Oklahoma, where, according to Swanton
(1928b:655), a medicinal species of Salix is called "miko hoyanTdja" by the
Creek. My informant agrees, that it is a kind of willow. An early botanical
work (Baldwin, 1843:59) mentions a "Salix 'Dwarf willow'" called "Micco
Hloyenejau" by the Creek. Thus this may be Salix tristis Ait., the "Dwarf
gray-willow" given by Small (1933:415).
15. A plant called "pofackaLako" in Creek. Given by Spoehr without
identification, the plant may be kafo:ckaLakk8: (Mik. hapo:sikayco:bT:),
Hyptis pectinata (L.) Poir, if Spoehr's "pofacka" represents kafocka as
suggested above. My informant said that hapo:sikayco:b': is not used in
the 'Big Gathered Medicine.'
The following plants are listed as ingredients by Spoehr, with Creek
names for which I am unable to suggest botanical identifications or Mika-
16. "hici pakpaki" (apparently 'tobacco flowerss))
The 'Big Gathered Medicine' is boiled until midnight (C, St, Sp), when
the four ears of corn roasting by it are added to the pot (St,Sp), and the
medicine is taken four times by the men, who then vomit (C). The medicine
prevents green corn from making men sick (St, Sp), is a sort of general tonic,
making the body strong and healthy, and also prevents gossipping and
"craziness" and keeps the people "friendly, rejoicing" during the ensuing
year (St). After midnight, whenever the male dancers get hungry they may
stop for another drink but, as a young man told me, it only "makes you
weaker and sleepier." Behind the fire on which it cooks sit the medicine
man, his assistants, and various men invited to sit with them to help keep
them awake, talking, smoking, and telling stories until dawn while the rest
of the people dance. Not only is eating forbidden to the men during this
night, but also sleeping (St).
The dance fire has been lit at dusk, and the dances begin soon there-
after and continue nearly continuously until morning (C, St, Sp). Most
dances are Crazy Dances, but various animal' dances are intermixed at
random (St, C, Sp), and at midnight the Corn Dance is first danced, being
repeated several times before dawn (C; this was not the case at the 1951
Cow Creek busk).
At midnight, or soon thereafter, the naming ceremony, in which boys
receive their adult names, occurs (St,Sp). This is not held every year, but
only when there are enough un-named boys aged about 13 to 15 years to make
it worth while (Sp); it apparently has never taken place at a busk attended
by Capron, since he does not mention it, and it did not happen at the 1951
busk I attended. However, Spoehr observed the ceremony at the 1939 Mika-
suki busk he attended, and both his Cow Creek and my own Mikasuki inform-
ants described it. This is the occasion at which a man receives his adult
name, with the result that the Christian boys now reaching adulthood will
keep their boyhood names throughout life, since they do not attend the busk
(St). The names have been chosen earlier by the sib elders (Sp) or the
medicine man in consultation with several older men (St). They are the
names of men now dead (St). The boys to be named are seated in a curved -
line behind the medicine fire, with the medicine man in the center (Sp); the
names are given by two men, apparently one for each ceremonial moiety
(St, Sp). The namer calls out the new name four times in a loud voice,
prolonging the final syllable (Sp, St) this brings the name "like a spirit"
from the afterworld where the previous holder resides (St) and the boy who
is to receive it comes up to the namer (Sp, St). The namer takes from the
medicine man a white feather (Sp, St), which has been kept with the medicine
bundle all day (St), and places this in a handkerchief tied around the boy's
head (Sp, St). He wears it the rest of the night, placing it in the Bighouse
in the morning (St). It is said that formerly scalps were used as feathers
are today; those taken during the year were heaped around the ballpole, and
the ball games played around them at the busk, until on the last night they
were given out with the names, and burnt up the following morning (St).
The dances continue until dawn, when the women leave the grounds to
go to the camps to prepare the food which breaks the men's fast (C). The
medicine man now examines the medicine bundle contents, re-wraps them,
and carries the bundle out to hide it (C). Meanwhile all the men not previous-
ly scratched strip to rolled up pants or a shirt twisted between the legs, rub
their bodies with water to prevent the scratching from "peeling" the skin,
and submit one by one to a series of long scratches on limbs and torso by
six or eight men, older scratchers operating on the older men and young ones
on the youths (C, St).
Although Capron (192) once saw the scratching done with three to four
sewing needles simply held in the fingers, the normal method involves the
use of a tool. Capron mentions and illustrates (192, 210, pl. 15) one con-
sisting of six ordinary sewing needles run through a small rectangular block
of wood and bound in with string. A more traditional form, still used at
least by the Mikasuki, has four or five sewing needles inserted in a rectan-
gular frame, made by bending the quill of a wild turkey or sandhill crane
wing feather at four spots, inserting the small end in the opening of the
large end, and wrapping the needles into the frame with thread (St). The
original form of this implement was said to use snake teeth in place of the
modern needles (St).25 An example of the quill-frame type was collected
in Florida by Harrington in 1908, probably from the Mikasuki (Harrington,
1908; Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, spec. 1/7922). In
1910, Skinner collected one made of two flat pieces of wood with four needles
C D E
Fig. 3. Mikasuki Busk Artifacts (scales in inches). A, Pair of woman's turtle-shell
leg rattles (collected in 1910; Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. photo); B, One of a pair
of woman's tin-can leg rattles, unwrapped (coll. in 1951); C, Same, wrapped
as worn (1952 photo); D, Scratching tool, of needles and wild turkey quill
(coll. in 1952); E, Coconut dance rattle (coll. in 1951). (A: AMNH spec.
50.1/2331; B, D, E: Yale Peabody Mus. Spec.s 145566a, 145563, 145565;
C: Indian owned.)
between, bound with thread probably also Mikasuki (American Museum of
Natural History spec.50.1/2348; see Skinner 1913a).
Similar tools were once widespread in the Southeast. The Catawba used
fifteen rattlesnake teeth set like a comb in a "split reed" (Swanton, 1946:
564); the Chickasaw also used snakes' teeth in a split reed, or in a piece of
wood (Swanton, 1928b: 540); the Creek traditionally used the jaw of a garfish
,kith teeth in it, but in more recent times have used an "implement" contain-
ing needles (Swanton, 1928a:354; 1928b:554); the Yuchi used six steel pins
set in a rectangular frame of a shaved turkey quill, with a short feather and a
leaf of Button-snakeroot attached at one corner (Speck, 1909:121); the North
Carolina Cherokee type also involved a rectangular turkey quill frame, with
six to eight needles inserted and bound in with thread but here, the needles
are narrow sharpened splinters of turkey leg bone (Mooney and Olbrechts,
1932:69, pl. 7; Harvard Peabody Museum spec. 73433; Museum of the American
Indian, Heye Foundation, spec. 1/8964; Chicago Natural History Museum
specs. 15544, 92467, 92468). This last type is undoubtedly pre-Columbian
in origin, for nearly identical bone needles have been found in clusters in
several archeological sites in the Southeast (Williams, 1954).
According to Capron (192,207) the purpose of this scratching is "to
purify the blood and prevent blood poison" during the following year. My
informant explained that the blood becomes "too heavy" and must be "let
out" to ensure healthiness. Certainly this ritual scratching of all males
should not be confused with the dry scratching of children by their parents
or mother's brother as punishment, nor with the deep dry scratching of adults
as punishment, nor with the medicinal use of scratching with owl, wildcat, or
puma claws or snake teeth in order to cure muscular cramps; none of these
involves needles in a frame (St).
After the scratching, fifteen or twenty younger men crowd into the small
sweat-bath structure, where the remains of the 'Big Gathered Drink' are
poured on the stones, which have been heating on a separate fire since about
3:00 a.m. (C, St). This treatment prevents anti-social behavior, "craziness,"
. to which young men are particularly susceptible (St). After the sweat-bath,
all the men, not only those who took the steaming, go off to bathe (C, Sp).
The men return from bathing to the Bighouse, where they await the return
of the medicine man from hiding the medicine bundle (C). The feast begins
as soon as he comes back, between dawn (C) and 8:00 a.m. (Sp). The food
is brought to the Bighouse where the men eat (C, Sp). The most important
item eaten is corn from the new crop, which is forbidden to all males before
the busk (C, St, Sp); the women may eat it as soon as it ripens, but if men
so much as see them cooking it, much less eating it, they will become weak
and sick (St). Visitors from other bands may not participate in this corn
eating unless their own busk has already been held, since "it's still the old
year for them" (St).
After the fast is broken the people pack up their belongings and leave for
home during the afternoon.
Capron mentions twelve different busk dances, briefly describing a few
and giving most attention to the "Feather Dance" (186-187, 193-195). There
are at least thirty more busk dances known to the Florida Seminole, most of
them with animal names similar to most of those mentioned by Capron. Re-
cordings of many of these and some choreographic information on a few are
available; but in this place I shall mention only a few of the dances which
are interesting for comparative reasons.
A 'Long Dance' is remembered, but has not been danced for many years.
An "old people's dance" (Creek "opanka acoli") was given as a busk dance
by one of Spoehr's informants, and Frances Densmore recorded an "Old"
dance among the Florida Seminole, which she describes as a "social" dance
just as she does most of the other busk dances (Densmore, 1942). According
to my best informants, the 'Old Man Dance' (Mikasuki nakn8:stalflwT:) or
'Old Man Replica [i.e., Mask] Dance' (Mikasuki nakn8:sf:btalflwT:) was a
separate ceremony in the fall, lasting about four nights and involving a hunt,
in which the dancers wore masks, which probably were of bark and perhaps
painted. It has been obsolete for fifty years or more. The "Gun Dance" is
known to me only from Capron's mention of it, although the shooting of guns
during the "Buffalo Dance" was mentioned by my informants and observed by
The Buffalo Dance is the only occasion on which a drum is used. This
is a water drum, made today of a tin can with a buckskin head, formerly of
cypress bark or a section of a hollow cypress trunk (the use of cypress
"knees" was denied). The other instruments used to accompany dances are
two types of rattle. The Mikasuki dance leader still often uses a coconut
shell on a stick, with lines of holes drilled in the coconut and Canna (Canna
flaccida Salisb.) seeds or large beads as rattling pellets. Possible substi-
tutes for this are, most commonly, a perforated condensed-milk can alone or
mounted on a stick, or a box turtle (Terrapene carolina bauri Taylor) similar-
ly punctured and mounted. There is no tradition of the use of gourd rattles.26
The other type of rattle is the woman's leg rattle. Most modern specimens I
have seen consist of a pair of bundles of condensed-milk cans, tied together
with cloths and worn one on each calf. Each bundle contains six cans
(Capron's "12 to 16" [p. 1841 seems excessive). These replace the type
still occasionally used, which consists of five to twelve perforated box
turtle shells lashed to a cloth or buckskin square, one for each leg. These
also contain Canna seeds or beads.27
Fig. 4. Dancing during the last night of the 1938 Mikasuki busk at Rock Island in
the Everglades. Note the stack of Feather Dance poles in B, upper left.
(Photos courtesy of the Junior Museum of Miami.)
The constant accompaniment of all dances is singing, frequently antiph-
onal and done only by the men. The "words" of the songs are almost always
meaningless, although the syllables sung are fixed for each song. Except
for a few with rather complex figures, all dances simply circle counter-clock-
wise around the dance fire. Many involve motions or gestures intended to
imitate the animal for which the dance is named.
The "Feather Dance" is unusual in several ways. It is properly
called, in Mikasuki, cita:hayt: which has no other meaning beyond the
name of this dance. 28 Although it may be called 'Day Dance' since it is
performed only during daylight, it is known as "Feather Dance" only in
English. It seems to be the only busk dance in which men alone participate,
and is the only one in which the dancers carry anything except palmetto
leaves. For the Feather Dance, each dancer carries an eight- to ten-foot
pole with one or two white feathers at the tip. The dance is performed four
times on the third day, twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon.
Between performances, and throughout the subsequent night, the poles are
stacked against one end of the Bighouse (C, St, Sp). The Feather Dance is
not a part of every busk, but, according to Capron, "it must not be allowed
to go four years without being danced" (193). My informant explained that
once performed, it must be held at four successive busks, but may then be
allowed to lapse for one to four years. He said that it is the responsibility
of the Bird sib, not the medicine man, to decide to hold it and to manage it.
Others may request the Birds to put it on, but do not have the right to do so
themselves. The officials who supervise and lead the dance itself are two,
one a member of the Bird sib and the other a man whose father was a Bird.
Capron is correct in doubting that the only function of this rather elaborate
preparation and the relatively complicated dance is "to keep the men awake"
(193), yet I did not succeed in eliciting any other explanation. The question
of the function and rationale of all other busk dances as well as this one is
a subject which requires further investigation. It is difficult to elicit such
explanations even from the best Seminole informants, but a serious attempt
should be made, since this is one of the weakest points in our data on Creek
The small amount of information on the busk officials collected by myself
and by Spoehr (1939) agrees in general with that given by Capron (162, 167,
183), but adds little to it. The main official is, of course, the supervising
medicine man. He has one to three assistants, one of whom normally suc-
ceeds him on his retirement or death. These may fill most of his functions
during the busk. There are also two "helpers," younger men belonging to
the Tiger and Wind sibs among the Mikasuki and the Tiger and Bird sibs
among the Cow Creek (who lack the Wind sib). These men sweep the dance
ground, help keep order, collect the herbs for the black drinks and prepare
the third black drink, and round up the men for the scratching. My informant
mentioned a third man, not given by Capron or Spoehr, who acts as a police-
man, announcer, and messenger for the medicine man and his assistants dur-
ing the day. At night there is a dance "boss," chosen by the medicine man
and his assistantss, whose duties are to select the dances and their leaders,
urge people to dance and to continue dancing, and see that no men are sleep-
ing. On the last night there are two such bosses, one before and one after
Some of the functions of the Seminole busk may be mentioned. It marks
the beginning of the Seminole new year and provides for the general health
and well-being of the people, especially the men and boys, during the follow-
ing months. The function perhaps most frequently mentioned is to permit the
males to eat the new crop of maize without becoming sick; hence the English
name "green corn dance." Another important purpose is the annual re-exam-
ination of the medicine bundle, to ensure its continued potency and power for
good. The political activities of the council on the third day are also essen-
tial. This is the time for trying serious crimes, discussing important matters
affecting the tribe, and maintaining the informal political connections with
the other Seminole bands. The membership of the several bands is defined by
regular attendance at the appropriate busks. The busk further is the chief
social affair of the Seminole year, the time when the people gather from their
scattered camps and associate with old friends, renew old acquaintanceships,
and learn the news and gossip of the past year.29
The functions of the busk should be examined in more detail; the origin
myth of the busk, brief versions of which are in hand, should be investigated
more fully for the light it probably will shed on the rationale behind the whole
ceremony. The political functions of the council, and the role of the sibs
here and in other parts of the busk, call for more investigation. Our data on
the ceremonies connected with handling the medicine bundles are inadequate,
also. It is to be hoped that enough information can be obtained to evaluate
Mikasuki-Cow Creek differences, and to distinguish these from differences
due only to varying personnel filling the important offices if indeed the
differences between the Mikasuki and Cow Creek busks amount to more than
this. Musicological and choreographic descriptions and analyses of the
dances should be made. Enough recordings are available to carry out the
musical analyses although none have yet been transcribed or analyzed
except for the few so treated in Densmore's manuscript (1942) but more
observation is required before choreographic description in any detail is
A comparison of the Seminole busks with those of the Creek shows
considerable simplification in the former, although the central importance of
the medicine bundles maybe a new or unique feature. Witthoft (1949: 68) has
compiled a list of traits apparently always present in the Creek busk before
removal of the tribe to Indian Territory. These are given below, with my
comments on the Seminole busks added on the right:
1. Taboo against eating green corn prior 1. Present
to the busk.
2. Setting of the date by male officials 2. Absent, or present only in much re-
at a preliminary meeting. duced form.
3. Square ground. 3. Present.
4. Erection of "sheds" on the sides of 4. Only one present.
the square ground.
5. Direction and color symbolism. 5. Apparently absent.
5. Preparation of the square ground. 6. Present.
7. Ritual disposal of earth removed 7. Absent.
from the square ground.
8. Cleansing of the households. 8. Absent.
9. Prohibition against salt. 9. Absent.
10. Fasting. 10. Present.
11. Concluding feast on new corn and 11. Present.
12. All-night ritual observances. 12. Present.
13. New fire ritual. 13. Absent, but traditional.
14. Scarification (scratching) for punish- 14. Present, as a ritual feature.
ment and as a ritual feature.
15. "Going to water" ritual. 15. Present, in simplified form.
16. Ceremonial hunt. 16. Absent as a feature during the husk
17. Seclusion of the men in the square
ground at certain times.
18. Granting of amnesty to criminals.
19. Use of herb medicines and purges.
20. Priest's blowing into the medicine.
21. Appointment of "drivers" (as police-
22. Feather dance.
23. Old dance.
24. Gun dance.
itself (present in the Hunting or Snake
23. Absent (?); tradition of existence as
a separate ceremony (?).
24. Present (?).
25. Animal dances. 25. Present.
26. Use of gourd rattles. 26. Absent (coconut or turtle rattles
27. Use of women's turtle-shell leg rattles. 27. Present.
28. Use of water drum. 28. Present.
29. Use of ibis or heron (?) wings. 29. Absent; but palmetto leaf fans carried
by male dancers, white water bird
feathers used on Feather Dance poles.
Thus, the Seminole busk is in many ways a Creek busk, stripped of almost
all except its minimum essential features, but with the addition of medicine
bundles. The simplification of the Seminole busk as compared with its Creek
antecedents, on the one hand, and the apparent elaboration of the medicine
bundle cult and of the Hunting Dance, both seemingly developed from relative-
ly unimportant and un-integrated Creek antecedents (although this should be
checked in fieldwork among the Oklahoma Creek), may reflect the decline in
the importance of Seminole agriculture under the influence of a new environ-
ment and continued harassment by the whites during the Seminole Wars, with
a concomitant increased reliance on hunting and increased importance of war
and offensive and protective war magic. The Seminole medicine bundles,
whether an independent convergent development or not, are of great importance
as a possible link between the green corn ceremonialism of the Eastern Wood-
lands (see Witthoft, 1949), and the Central Algonkian and Plains sacred
It is obvious that further field investigation among the Seminole is desira-
ble, but the data already known from this tribe point the way for several com-
parative studies and underline the necessity for more field work among the
Creek and other surviving Indian groups of the Southeast.
1. The field work was made possible by grants from the Department of Anthropology
and the Peabody Museum of Yale University, as part of their Caribbean Anthropologi-
cal Program aided by funds from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological
2. I am indebted to Miss Helen Palmer of the Bureau of American Ethnology for these.
3. Chiefly referring to the Creek. Most of the previous ones are given, together with
Swanton's own observations, in Swanton, 1928b. An important discussion of the state
of knowledge on this subject and its implications is Witthoft, 1949.
4. This article was brought to my attention by Charlton W. Tebeau.
5. For the orthography used here for writing Mikasuki, see Sturtevant, 1953, p. 66.
For the Cow Creek language, I use the system worked out by Haas (1940:149-150)
for the Creek language of Oklahoma, of which Creek Seminole is a sub-dialect -
except that for typological simplicity I substitute a colon for her raised dot and a
capital L for her barred 1.
6. isohkt: (note the lack of an accent on the second syllable) means 'file, rasp,' but
my informant did not know any meaning for the similar element in ta:lisohko:cd:.
.7. The context in which the information was given makes it somewhat doubtful whether
this last item is a constituent of the medicine bundle.
8. Some Mikasuki sweat-bath stones I saw, and the Cow Creek ones illustrated by
Capron (pl. 11), seem to be the ordinary limestone rocks of south Florida. Capron
says the four sweat-bath stones are "of a lime conglomerate" (p. 207).
9. A misprint is involved here. Capron gives the number twice, once as 38 and once
as 18. The latter seems correct, for it is the number given in his earlier article
10. yv'pi in the orthography of Loughbridge and Hodge (1914:39).
11. In the last ten or fifteen years the situation has changed considerably, with the
conversion of about half the tribe to Christianity. The converts do not attend the
busks and have overtly cast aside their beliefs in the bundles yet it is difficult
to find even a Christian who is willing to talk about the bundles or the non-Christian
12. Creek settlement of north and central peninsular Florida began in the first half
of the eighteenth century, but there is evidence that rather close contacts with the
old settlements to the north were maintained well into the first quarter of the nine-
teenth century. The beginnings of the Seminole as an entirely independent group had
best be set at about 1815-1820.
13. See, for example, Skinner, 1913b, 1915, 1925; Wissler, 1912, 1916, 1920. I hope
at some other time to discuss the distribution and significance of sacred bundles in
the East and on the Plains.
14. Skinner's suggestion (1913b:92-93) that the Menomini bundles are the result of
combining into a single bundle individual charms, of the widespread eastern and
southern type, is pertinent here also.
15. For this information I am indebted to Dr. Joseph Ashbrook of the Yale University
Department of Astronomy.
16. I am told by Mr. Charles H. Steffani, Dade County Agent of the University of
Florida Agricultural Extension Service, that whites in Dade county plant corn in mid-
February, while those near Belle Glade do so in late March or early April, and that a
difference of a month or more in time of ripening is not excessive for about 100 miles
difference in latitude.
17. "Ko-nip-ha-tco," then a young man, later known as Little Billy, and the father of
Josie and Ingraham Billy (cf. MacCauley, 1887: 476, 493, 522). Strangely, this inform-
ant gave MacCauley only Cow Creek expressions MacCauley hence did not even
recognize the fact that the Seminole spoke two languages. This is the reason for
Capron's incorrect statement (p. 209) that MacCauley's informant must have been
Cow Creek since he uses the Creek term for the ceremonial structure of the busk
18. The sib called "Little Bird" in Capron's maps and discussion is the same as
that Spoehr (1941:14-15) calls "Talahasee." The identification is based on the
fact that my Cow Creek informants gave "Little Bird" as the sib affiliation of in-
dividuals assigned to "Talahasee" in Spoehr's fieldnotes (1939). Sib eponymy is
complicated among the Mikasuki, and apparently also among the Cow Creek.
19. In the following outline of the events of the busk, I have combined three sources
of information; the symbols C, Sp, and St after each statement indicate the sources
on which it is based. Capron, 1953, (C), is the most complete account. Spoehr,
1939, (Sp), contains notes on interviews with Cow Creek informants and on two
busks Spoehr attended: one Cow Creek (at which he was present on June 18 and
again on June 20, Picnic Day, through the end, except for the council meeting), and
one Mikasuki (at which he was present from about 5:00 p.m. of the last afternoon,
through the conclusion the following morning). My own notes, (St), contain informa-
tion from Mikasuki informants, and from my attendance at two Cow Creek busks. In
1951, I was present from 2:00 to 11:15 p.m. on July 3, and again on July 7, Court
Day, from 2:30 p.m. through the night until 5:00 a.m., just before the scratching and
sweat-bath. In 1952, I was allowed to be present from 2:45 p.m. to 11:25 p.m. of
the first day.
20. Called "just dance" by Capron (186). The Creek and Mikasuki names are
usually, although somewhat inadequately, translated 'crazy dance' Mikasuki ha:ct:
and Creek ha:c8: mean approximately though not precisely 'crazy.'
21. Since the principle of sib responsibility holds, members of the damaged sib may
temper their demands for punishment in order that a future offense by one of their
own sib mates will be more leniently dealt with.
22. i.e., puma, panther (Felis concolor coryi Bangs).
23. Unless otherwise noted, the botanical identifications of my plant specimens
were made by Mr. Roy Woodbury, University of Miami Botany Department. Capron
does not say by whom his plants were identified perhaps himself?
24. In transcribing Spoehr's Creek words, I substitute the phonemic equivalents (in
Haas' [ 1940:149-1501 transcription) for his phonetic symbols.
25. Capron (192) guesses that claws or snake teeth may have preceded needles, but
his implication that the insertion of the needles in a frame is a recent invention is
26. Nor of anything resembling the curious rattles from Silver Springs (Neill, 1952),
which do not look at all Southeastern, although the "hard, round, and buckshot-like"
seeds in the receptacles of these specimens are those of Canna flaccida. I have to
thank Dr. Neill for showing me these.
27. For a photograph of Creek coconut and leg rattles very similar to the Seminole
types, see Speck, 1907, p. III.
28. Cf. the similar Creek dance called "tcitahaia" (Swanton, 1928b:609).
29. The only other occasion on which a whole band gathers is the Hunting or Snake
Dance in the fall, which is a less important ceremony. This is a uniquely Seminole
ceremony, as yet undescribed in print, which shares many features with the busk but
lacks the more important ones, although other, non-busk, features are present.
Capron omits mention of the extensive drinking of beer, wine, and whiskey which
is an informal but constant part of both the busk and Hunting Dance. Although some-
times complained about by the older men, it rarely leads to serious difficulties and
certainly lubricates social relationships and adds to the enjoyment of many partici-
pants. There is evidence that this is by no means a recent feature of the Seminole
AA American Anthropologist, New Series. Lancaster; Menasha.
AMNH-AP Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural
History. New York.
BAE-AR Annual Report of the Bureau of (American) Ethnology.
BAE-B Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin. Washington.
FA The Florida Anthropologist. Gainesville.
1843. Reliquiae Baldwinianae: Selections from the Correspondence
of the late William Baldwin, M.D., Surgeon in the U.S. Navy.
With Occasional Notes, and a Short Biographical Memoir.
Compiled by William Darlington, M.D. Kimber and Sharpless,
1942. "The Medicine Lives." Tomorrow, vol. 1, no. 9, pp. 17-22.
1953. "The Medicine Bundles of the Florida Seminole and the Green
Corn Dance." Anthropological Papers, no. 35, BAE-B 151,
pp. 155-210, pls. 7-15.
1942. Seminole Music. [MS. in the Bureau of American Ethnology,
Gatschet, Albert S.
1888. "Tchikilli's Kasi'hta Legend in the Creek and Hitchiti
Languages, with a Critical Commentary and full Glossaries to
both Texts,[vol. 2]." St. Louis Academy of Sciences Transac-
tions, vol. 5, pp. 33-239. St. Louis.
Goggin, John M.
1949. "A Southern Cult Specimen from Florida." FA vol. 2, nos. 1-2,
Greenlee, Robert F.
1944. "Medicine and Curing Practices of the Modern Florida Semi-
noles." AA vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 317-328.
Haas, Mary R.
1940. "Ablaut and its Function in Muskogee." Language, vol. 16,
no. 2, pp. 141-150. Baltimore.
Harrington, M. R.
1908. [Field Catalog of Seminole Specimens Collected in Florida in
1908.1 (MS. in Mr. Harrington's possession.)
Loughbridge, R. M. and David M. Hodge
1914. Dictionary in Two Parts, English and Muskokee and Muskokee
and English. Westminster Press, Philadelphia.
1887. "The Seminole Indians of Florida." BAE-AR 5, pp. 469-531.
Mooney, James and Frans M. Olbrechts
L932. "The Swimmer Manuscript; Cherokee Sacred Formulas and
Medicinal Prescriptions." BAE-B 99.
Neill, Wilfred T.
1952. "Unusual Rattles from Silver Springs, Florida." FA vol. 5,
nos. 3-4, pp. 33-35.
1913a. "Notes on the Florida Seminole." AA vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 63-77.
1913b. "Social Life and Ceremonial Bundles of the Menomini Indians."
AMNH-AP vol. 13, pt. 1, pp. 1-165.
1915. "Kansa Organizations." AMNH-AP vol. 11, pt. 9, pp. 741-775.
1925. "Observations on the Ethnology of the Sauk Indians. Part II,
War Customs." Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of
Milwaukee, vol. 5, no. 2. Milwaukee.
Small, John Kunkel
1913. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Second Edition. The
Author, New York.
1933. Manual of the Southeastern Flora. The Author, New York.
Speck, Frank G.
1907. "The Creek Indians of Taskigi Town." Memoirs of the Ameri-
can Anthropological Association, vol. 2, pt. 2. Lancaster.
1909. "Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians." Anthropological Publications
of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, vol. 1,
no. 1. Philadelphia.
Spencer, Lucien A.
1929. Annual Report, Fiscal Year 1929. Seminoles in Florida. Narra-
tive Section. (19 page typed MS. carbon copy in files of Seminole
Agency, Dania, Florida.)
1939. [Field Notes on Florida Seminole Ethnography.] (MS. in Dr.
Spoehr's possession, kindly lent the writer in 1951.)
1941. "Camp, Clan, and Kin among the Cow Creek Seminole of
Florida." Anthropological Series, Field Museum of Natural
History, vol. 33, no. 1. Chicago.
1942. "Kinship System of the Seminole." ibid., no. 2.
1944. "The Florida Seminole Camp." ibid., no. 3.
1947. "Changing Kinship Systems." ibid., no. 4.
Stirling, Gene M.
[1941?] Preliminary Report on the Mikisuki Division of the Seminole
Indians of Florida. Part I, Myths and Dictionary of the Mikisuki
Language. (98 page typed MS. in the library of the Peabody
Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge.)
Sturtevant, William C.
1953. "Chakaika and the 'Spanish Indians': Documentary Sources
Compared with Seminole Tradition." Tequesta, no. 13, pp.
35-73. Coral Gables.
Swanton, John R.
1922. "Early History of the Creek Indians and their Neighbors."
1928a. "Social Organization and Social Usages of the Indians of the
Creek Confederacy." BAE-AR 42, pp. 23-472.
1928b. "Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek
Indians." BAE-AR 42, pp. 473-672.
1946. "The Indians of the Southeastern United States." BAE-B 137.
Watson, Virginia Drew
1950. "The Wulfing Plates." Washington University Studies New
Series, Social and Philosophical Sciences, no. 8. St. Louis.
1954. An Archeological Study of the Mississippian Culture in South-
eastern Missouri. Ph.D. thesis, Sterling Library, Yale Univer-
sity, New Haven.
1912. "Ceremonial Bundles of the Blackfoot Indians." AMNH-AP
vol. 7, pt. 2, pp. 65-290.
1916. "General Discussion of Shamanistic and Dancing Societies."
AMNH-AP vol. 11, pt. 13, pp. 853-876.
1920. "The Sacred Bundles of the Pawnee." Natural History, vol.
20, no. 4, pp. 569-571. New York.
"Green Corn Ceremonialism in the Eastern Woodlands."
Occasional Contributions from the Museum of Anthropology
of the University of Michigan, no. 13. Ann Arbor.
NEW HAVEN, CONN.
A NOTE ON FUTURE ISSUES
Papers which have been accepted for publication and which will appear
shortly in The Florida Anthropologist include "Archaeology on Rocky Point,
Florida," by William W. Plowden, which is a contribution from the new chap-
ter of the Society in the Tampa area; "The Davis Mound, IIardee County,
Florida, by Ripley P. Bullen, and "Further Notes on the Battery Point Site,
Bayport, Hernando County, Florida," by Adelaide K. and Ripley P. Bullen.
The Rocky Point and Davis mound papers were received by the editor in
November, but considerations of space, and balance of content between
archaeology and ethnology, has delayed publication. A more recently sub-
mitted manuscript, which we expect to publish soon, is "A Peruvian
Tasseled Fabric," a study of a specimen in the Carter collection at Florida
State University by Ina Van Stan.
Fig. 1. St. Johns Punctated vessel found near Deland, Florida.
A UNIQUE ST. JOHNS PUNCTATED VESSEL
Ripley P. Bullen
Most of the chalky pottery found in the St. Johns River area is either
plain or decorated with check stamping. It is interesting, therefore, to note
the St. Johns Punctated vessel illustrated in Figure 1. It was found about
five years ago by Eddie Ward, now of Gainesville, Florida, on the St. Johns
River near Deland and recently presented by him to the Florida State Museum
(Cat. No. 92613).
Unfortunately, all of the vessel was not found. The remaining lower por-
tion is three and one-half to four inches high, three and five-eighths inches
outside diameter at the top, and one and three-eighths inches outside diam-
eter at the bottom. Walls are fairly thick, varying from one-quarter to five-
sixteenths of an inch, and both inner and outer surface exhibit vertical
smoothing marks. The small base is flattened so that the vessel will stand
on a level surface without other support.
In spite of a fair range in depth and diameter, individual punctations all
were made with the same pointed tool, as each exhibits the same character-
istic pit, reflecting the condition of the tip of the tool.
The interesting feature of this vessel is the punctated design. Puncta-
tions near the broken edge clearly indicate a curvilinear design,for the upper
part of the vessel, although, due to the fragmentary condition of the specimen,
we are unable to determine the pattern. This design is brought downward to
the base of the vessel by a double-curved line of punctations (below the
catalogue number) which, when they reach the base, join a double row of
punctations around the periphery of the base. Nearly diametrically opposite,
two other portions of the upper design are also brought downward to the base.
This feature starts out as two double rows, which shortly join to form four
rows, but lose one row just before the final bend towards the base.
Thus, different portions of the design have been joined by rows of punc-
tations which meet each other around the periphery of the bottom of the
vessel. If we had the whole design we might know why the artist felt this
joining of design elements to be necessary. Or was it just a whim? In
either case, the decorative treatment of this vessel seems to be unique for
FLORIDA STATE MUSEUM
Fig. 1. Tin graters of the Mikasuki, reminiscent of West Indian implements.
GRATERS OF THE MIKASUKI SEMINOLE
Wilfred T. Neill
Apparently, graters seldom were used by Southeastern Indians. Certainly
there are few references in the literature to such artifacts. Swanton (1946)
makes no mention of them at all. The root crops of the Southeast, such as
coontie and Smilax, were prepared by chopping or pounding rather than by
grating. However, graters are made by the present-day Mikasuki Seminole of
Two of these artifacts are shown in an accompanying photograph (Fig. 1).
They were brought to Silver Springs from Big Cypress Swamp by a family of
Seminole. Each specimen is about a yard in length. The utensils are con-
structed entirely of white man's materials: boards, tin, and nails. Neverthe-
less, they are somewhat reminiscent of the large cassava graters from the
As far as I know, sweet potatoes are the only plant product that the
Seminole often prepare by grating. After shredding, the sweet potatoes are
made into a sort of pone. A very similar dish finds favor among rural whites
in the Southeast.
Evidently graters are not a recent invention of the Mikasuki. Older
Indians informed me that the implements had been manufactured for generations.
In referring solely to Mikasuki graters, I do not mean to imply that such
utensils are lacking among the Muskogee-speaking Seminole. However, I
have observed them only among the Mikasuki or Hitchiti-speaking group.
Swanton, John R.
1946. "The Indians of the Southeastern United States," Bureau of
American Ethnology Bulletin 137. Washington.
ROSS ALLEN REPTILE INSTITUTE,
SILVER SPRINGS, FLORIDA
CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS ISSUE
William C. Sturtevant, a graduate student in anthropology at Yale Uni-
versity, is writing his doctoral dissertation following three seasons of field
work among the Mikasuki Seminole. His review of Neill's Florida's Seminole
Indians appeared in the December, 1952, number of this journal. After
accepting an invitation to review Louis Capron's report, "The Medicine
Bundles of the Florida Seminole and the Green Corn Dance," which appeared
in Bulletin 151 of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Mr. Sturtevant happily
expanded his paper to the present significant contribution to Southeastern
Wilfred T. Neill, who contributes the note on Mikasuki graters, is presi-
dent of the Florida Anthropological Society. Since publication of his work on
the Seminole in 1952, Dr. Neill has extended his research into the archae-
ology and ethnology of Florida's Indians. He is director of the Research
Division, Ross Allen Reptile Institute, Silver Springs.
Ripley P. Bullen is curator of social sciences of the Florida State Museum,
Gainesville, and treasurer of the Society.
FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY
First Vice President:
Second Vice President:
Wilfred T. Neill, Silver Springs.
Leigh M. Pearsall, Melrose.
Charlton W. Tebeau, Miami.
Glenn T. Allen, Jr., Clearwater.
Ripley P. Bullen, Gainesville
Robert Anderson, Tallahassee.
Frederick W. Sleight, Mount Dora.
H. James Gut, Sanford.
J. E. Dovell, Gainesville.
Membership in the Florida Anthropological Society is open to everyone
interested in its aims. Dues are $3.00 per year. Members receive the Florida
Anthropologist, the Newsletter, and other publications of the Society. Appli-
cations should be sent to the Treasurer, who should be addressed also con-
cerning receipt of publications. His address is 103 Seagle Building, Gaines-
General inquiries concerning the Society should be addressed to the
Manuscripts and publications for review should be sent to the Editor, at
the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, Florida State University,
Address items for the Newsletter to the President, Research Division,
Ross Allen Reptile Institute, Silver Springs.
Student Membership $1.50.
LIST OF PUBLICATIONS
FLORIDA ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY
The Florida Anthropologist
Vol. I, Nos. 1-2, 3-4 Vol. IV, Nos. 1-2, 3-4
Vol. II, Nos. 1-2, 3-4 Vol. V, Nos. 1-2, 3-4
Vol. III, Nos. 1-2, 3-4 Vol. VI, Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4
Vol. VII, .No. :1 Vol. ;VII, No. 2
Each Single No. Each Double No.
Members $ .50 $1.00
Non-Members .75 1.50
Newsletter, Florida Anthropological Society
Nos. 1-26 ........................15 cents each
Publications, Florida Anthropological Society
No. 1 "Two Archaeological Sites in Brevard County, Florida,"
by Hale G. Smith. 32 pages, 4 plates . .50 cents
No. 2 "The Safety Harbor Site, Pinellas County, Florida,"
by John W. Griffin and Ripley P. Bullen. 42 pages, 4
plates . . . .. . . 50 cents
No. 3 "The Terra Ceia Site, Manatee County, Florida," by
Ripley P. Bullen. 48 pages, 7 plates . 50 cents
All publications may be ordered from the Treasurer:
Ripley P. Bullen
103 Seagle Building