Front Cover
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Group Title: Purification of the sacred bundles, a ceremony of the Pawnee
Title: Purification of the sacred bundles
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00001425/00001
 Material Information
Title: Purification of the sacred bundles a ceremony of the Pawnee
Series Title: Field museum of natural history. Anthropology leaflet, no. 7
Physical Description: 11 p. : pl. ; 22 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Linton, Ralph, 1893-1953
Publisher: Field Museum of Natural History
Place of Publication: Chicago
Publication Date: 1923
Subject: Pawnee Indians -- Rites and ceremonies   ( lcsh )
Pawnee Indians -- Religion   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Ralph Linton.
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00001425
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000620833
notis - ADF0182
oclc - 01934695
lccn - 26001551

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front page 1
        Front page 2
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
    Back Cover
        Page 12
Full Text

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Purification of the Sacred Bundles,
a Ceremony of the Pawnee
The religious beliefs of the Pawnee, which seem, in
some ways, to have been on a higher plane than those
of the other Plains tribes, have been described in
Leaflet 5 of this series, under the title "The Thunder
Ceremony of the Pawnee." At the head of their pan-
theon stood Tirawa, a purely spiritual being, who was
not identified with any animal, object, or natural phe-
nomenon. Below him there were a great number of
gods of lesser rank who were divided into two great
classes,-the gods of the heavens and the gods of the
earth. The former were, for the most part, identified
with the stars, the Evening Star holding the highest
place, with the Morning Star second. The former was
an embodiment of all the female, the latter of all the
male, attributes. The gods of the earth were, for the
most part, identified with animals, and their rank was
less rigidly fixed. Of the two groups the heavenly
gods were the more important, and were considered
the guardians of the people as a whole, while the earth-
ly gods were more especially the guardians of indivi-
duals and secret societies.
The ceremonies held in honor of the heavenly gods,
centered around collections of sacred objects called by
the whites sacred bundles or medicine bundles. The
Skidi Pawnee called them chuhraraperu, :meaning


"rains-wrapped-up." The tribe was divided into a
number of villages all of whose members traced their
descent in the female line from a single ancestor. Each
of these villages possessed a sacred bundle, while
there were two others which were considered the
property of the tribe as a whole. The Four Direction
village had four sacred bundles one of which was sacred
to each of the cardinal points. These points were, to
the Pawnee, southwest, southeast,- northwest, and
northeast. The sacred bundle of each village was be-
lieved to have been given to its first ancestor by one
of the heavenly beings, and constituted a link between
its members and the divine donor. From their tradi-
tions the "gift" seems to.have consisted rather in ex-
plicit directions for its making than in an actual pre-
sentation of the objects. The bundles were inherited
in the female line so that their owners were always
women. Their keepers, and the priests who performed
their ceremonies, were, on the other hand, men.
All the village bundles contained much the same
objects. The most important of these were one or two
ears of corn, which were called Mother-Corn and were
believed to give life to the bundle. They were shelled
in the spring and distributed for seed, being replaced
at harvest time. When the Mother-Corn consisted of
two ears, one of these was attached to a stick and sym-
bolized the male element or Morning Star, while the
other symbolized the female element or Evening Star.
Next in importance to the Mother-Corn were the to-
bacco-filled skins of hawks and owls. The hawk sym-
bolized a warrior; the owl, a chief, because it was
always awake and watchful. The owl seems to have
also symbolized the watchfulness of Tirawa, the su-
preme being. One or more scalps, taken from slain en-
emies, were found in every bundle. Pieces cut from
them were used in various ceremonies, and they had to
be renewed from time to time. Four skins, each of


which contained red, black, and white paint in little
buckskin pouches; sweet grass, a pipe and native tobac-
co, and the penis bone of a racoon, were also placed in
each bundle, all these objects being used in the cere-
monies. The sweet grass was burned as incense, and the
bone was attached to a stick and used as a fork to re-
move meat from the pot. Some bundles contained
additional objects.
When the bundle was not in use, all these articles
were done up in an inner and an outer wrapper of
buffalo hide and tied with a rope of plaited buffalo-
hair. To the outside of the bundle were attached the
stems of one or more pipes whose bowls were in the
bundle, a few arrows captured from the enemy, and
some other objects. The arrows were used as fire
pokers and pipe tampers during the ceremonies. In
ceremonial smoking it was forbidden to press down
the tobacco in the pipe with the finger lest the gods
should think that the smoker offered himself to them
with the tobacco. Associated with each bundle, and
often fastened to it, there were four large gourd
rattles of special form. These symbolized the four
dieties who were the special guardians of the Evening
Star, and also represented the breasts of the two divine
women in the west,-the Evening Star and the Moon.
Except at the time of ceremonies, the sacred bundle
was hung up on the west side of its keeper's lodge,
above the buffalo skull which was always placed there.
When so hung, it was likened by the Pawnee to a dead
man in his grave. The spirit lived in it, but slept.
Even when opened, the bundle continued asleep until
the Mother-Corn had been placed in it. It then came
to life, and during the ceremony the corn and the other
objects represented, individually and collectively, super-
natural beings. These beliefs of the Pawnee differ
considerably from those held by most of the other
tribes who used sacred bundles; and Dr. G. A. Dorsey


has concluded that the village bundles of the Pawnee
are more nearly comparable to the elaborate altars of
the Southwestern Indians than to the medicine bundles
of the northern Plains tribes and Central Algonkins.
It seems probable that there was originally a special
ceremony connected with each bundle. There were ad-
ditional ceremonies, such as that held when the first
thunder was heard in the spring, which might be per-
formed with several bundles in turn, and there were a
few rites in which all the bundles participated. The
purification of the sacred bundles belonged to the last
The purification ceremony was held in the spring
and again in the autumn, before the tribe left their
permanent villages for the buffalo hunt. It has al-
ready been said that the Four Direction village had
four sacred bundles. These took the lead in successive
years. When the chiefs had decided upon the date
for departure on the hunt, they notified the priest of
the bundle which was leader in that year. He sent
his errand man to summon the priests of the other
three bundles. These came to his lodge, bringing their
bundles with them. As they entered, they beat their
bundles, then crossed to the west side of the lodge, and
seated themselves with their bundles in front of them
on the ground. The errand man was then sent to sum-
mon the keepers of all the other village bundles, direct-
ing them to bring their bundles and also mats, pillows,
and food-bowls. When these arrived at the lodge, they
took designated places around it, spreading their mats
on the ground and hanging their bundles, unopened,
on the wall behind them.
When all had arrived, one of the four priests went
through the village announcing the beginning of the
ceremony and calling on the people to bring gifts to
Mother-Corn. These gifts consisted of a robe, mocca-
sins, a hair cord, to be used as a girdle, and dried meat


and fat. The articles of clothing had to be new and
unused, and the meat that of buffalo which had been
dedicated to the gods at the time they were killed. The
gifts could only be presented by men who were in
favor with the gods. If the priests accepted them
from men who were evil in their lives or negligent in
their religious duties, the gods would be offended and
refuse to send the buffalo. Before taking a gift to the
lodge, a man painted himself red, so that all the
people might know his errand; and, when the gift
had been accepted, two messengers went through the
village, thanking him publicly.
The priests and bundle keepers remained in the
lodge for three days and nights, sleeping in their desig-
nated places. No ceremonies seem to have been per-
formed during this period, and they passed the time in
talk and in feasting on the food which was brought to
them. No women were allowed to enter the lodge dur-
ing the whole time of the ceremony.
On the morning of the fourth day the priests of the
Four Direction bundles rose very early and dug a rec-
tangular pit to the west of the fire-place, between it
and the permanent altar of the lodge. The buffalo
skull, which at ordinary times stood on this altar, was
removed and placed north of the fire-place. The earth
from the excavation was taken outside the lodge and
piled in a mound before the door. When the pit was
finished, the priests carpeted it with white downy
feathers. This pit seems to have corresponded to the
pit dug below the scaffold at the time of the human
sacrifice to the Morning Star and, like it, represented
the Evening Star's garden in the west, the source of
all earthly fertility and increase.
When the pit had been completed, the priests di-
rected the keepers of the various bundles to open them
and take out the Mother-Corn. A sacred stick, kept
in the Big-Black-Meteoric-Star bundle, was set up


just east of the pit. The keeper of that bundle then
brought the Mother-Corn from it and placed it in the
pit, thrusting the stick to which the male ear was at-
tached into the earth so that it stood upright and
leaning the other ear against its base. The keepers
of the other bundles then came forward in turn and
did the same. A wooden bowl filled with water Was
then placed to the east of the pit, between it and the
fire-place. A clam shell was laid in the bowl, and a
turtle, supported by a framework of sticks, was placed
upon it. To the northeast and northwest of the bowl
were laid the heads and necks of loons, to the south-
east the head and neck of a swan, and to the south-
west a gar fish. The meaning of these objects is not
perfectly understood. The bowl seems to have repre-
sented earth and water; the turtle, fire and also one of
the important earthly gods. The loons and swan repre-
sented earthly gods, guardians of medicine men; and
the gar fish, the great sea monster which first gave
the medicine men's ceremony to human beings.
After these objects had been arranged, the chief
priest selected four men to sit at the northeast, north-
west, southeast and southwest corners of the bowl.
The sacred stick from the Big-Black-Meteoric-Star
bundle, and a star chart, kept in a bag attached to that
bundle, were taken outside and placed on the mound
in front of the doorway. The priest then took four
smooth stones from the some bundle and gave one to
each of the four men. These stones were extremely
sacred, and were believed to have been given to the
people at the beginning of the world. They were pro-
vided with withe handles so that they could be carried
without touching them. When they had been distrib-
uted, the priest said, "It is now time for these men
to go outside and look at the heavens and over the
earth. They will take with them these four stones,
which were given to our people when the. earth was


created." Turning to the men, he told them to rise
and go out of the lodge. When they had risen, he went
to the man who stood on the northeast and gave him
the sacred pipe from the bundle which was the leader
in that year and a strip of dried buffalo fat about one
foot long and four inches wide. After this the men
passed out of the lodge, while the priests sang a song
describing their looking at the heavens and earth.
The four men seated themselves around the mound
of earth taken from the pit in the same positions they
had occupied around the bowl in the lodge. An errand
man then kindled a small fire to the east of the mound,
and the man who sat on the northeast placed the dried
fat upon it. As soon as the grease began to run out,
the other three men caught some of it in their hands
and greased their hands and faces. They also greased
the sacred stones and passed them through the smoke.
When this had been done, the fat was removed from
the fire, and all four smoked the sacred pipe, passing
it from one to another. At the conclusion of the smok-
ing, the pipe was laid on the mound, and all stood up
slowly, looking at the sky in all directions. They then
picked up the fat, the pipe, and the sacred stones, and
re-entered the lodge.
While the men were outside, the priests had sung a
series of songs, but ceased singing as they entered. The
man from the northeast, who was the leader of the
four, went to the bowl of water, picked up the bird's
head which lay northeast of the bowl, dipped its bill
in the water, and drank from it. He then pressed it
first to his right and then to his left breast, and re-
placed it on the ground. He took up the turtle and did
the same with it, except that he pressed it against his
abdomen instead of his breast. When he had finished,
he stood a short distance away on the west, and the
other three men came from their respective directions
and went through the same performance. After this


rite, they seated themselves in their original places,
and the priest said, "Priests, the men whom we have
sent out to look about have returned. They will tell
us what they have seen." The man on the northeast
rose and' announced, "We went out before daylight.
We found the buffalo; so many of them that they have
almost drunk the river dry." The others rose in turn
and gave the same answer.
The chief priest then called some famous warrior
and gave him the sacred pipe which the men had used,
and gave the strip of fat to a chief. These passed
around the interior of the lodge, first on the north, and
then on the south side, offering first the pipe and then
the fat to each of the keepers in turn. All reached for
the pipe at once, trying to get as many hands on it as
possible. They did the same with the fat, clutching it
as if starving and trying to tear off pieces. This sym-
bolized their eagerness to kill buffalo, and the tighter a
man grasped the pipe, and the more fat he succeeded
in tearing off, the better would be his success on the
When the pipe and fat had completed their circuit,
they were placed on the altar. The priest then called
the chief of the whole band to the altar and invested
him with the robe, rope, and moccasins which had been
provided as gifts to Mother-Corn. The sacred pipe
was placed in his hands, and the priest announced,
"Priests and men, this man will take us to the river."
All the keepers then went to the pit and took from it
the Mother-Corn belonging to their respective bundles.
While this was going on, men had entered the lodge
and seated themselves in front of the bundles belong-
ing to their respective villages. The star chart was
brought in from outside and given to a warrior belong-
ing to the village of the Big-Black-Meteoric-Star
bundle. Three other men were given quivers belonging
to other sacred bundles. These four seated themselves,


one behind the other, near the entrance of the lodge, the
man with the star chart being in the lead. The various
objects in the bundles were then distributed to the men
from their villages. The chief of the band, in his cere-
monial costume, left the lodge, and began to muster the
small boys of the tribe outside. All who were old enough
to take part were expected to be present, and in per-
forming this duty the chief was supposed to show his
watchfulness over the people.
During the distribution of the sacred objects the
priests had been shaking their rattles and singing.
Three songs were sung, and when they reached a cer-
tain word in the fourth, the man who carried the star
chart jumped up and ran toward the river, closely fol-
lowed by the men with the quivers. All the others fol-
lowed them, with much crowding and fighting at the
doorway. The priests and the keepers of the bundles
remained behind. The men raced to the river bank, and
there lined up in four ranks. Anyone who overtook
the runner with the star chart snatched it from
him, the idea being to carry it to the stream in the
least possible time. At the river bank it was re-
turned to its original bearer. The man with the star
chart, and those with the quivers, stood in the center
of the front rank, with the men who carried the
Mother-Corn on either side. Behind them stood the
men with the owl and hawk skins from the bundles,
and behind these in turn the bearers of the less im-
portant objects. The last rank was made up of small
boys, who carried racoon bones and arrows. When all
had taken their places, the ranks opened in the center,
and the chief came through, carrying the sacred pipe.
He waded down into the water and went through the
motions of bathing the pipe four times, although he
did not wet it. He then pretended to wash first his
right and then his left hand, and finally dipped his
right hand in the water and touched it to his mouth,


nose, and forehead, and then drew it down his face.
These movements were repeated four times, with the
right and left hands alternately. When he had-done
this, he came up out of the water, passed through the
ranks, and took his place behind the rearmost, with his
face toward the village. The men of the first rank
then waded down into the stream and went through
the same performance with the sacred objects they
carried. They then passed through the other ranks
and took their place behind the chief. The other two
ranks did the same. When all had finished, the chief
led them back to the village. As they entered it, the
small boys dispersed, but the men continued on to the
ceremonial lodge, where they returned the objects they
carried to the keepers of the bundles and put on their
robes, which they had left behind during the race.
They then returned to their own lodges.
All the women who were bundle owners had ground
corn during the preceding night and made mush.
This mush had been brought to the lodge and given to
the chief priest early in the morning, before the com-
mencement of the ceremonies just described. He now
offered a little of it to the gods and distributed the
rest to the priests and keepers. They ate, and then
tied their sacred bundles, took up their mats, pillows,
and bowls, and returned to their own lodges.
After they had left the ceremonial lodge, a crier
went through the town, telling the people to clean
their lodges and the streets of their villages and carry
the filth away. When this had been done, the priests
who had taken part in the ceremony had a sweat lodge
built, and one of them stood outside it, shaking his
gourd rattle and singing. All the people assembled
and ran a race down to the river. When they reached
it, the priests waded in, came out at once, and went
to the sweat lodge, where they took a steam bath. The


rest of the village, men, women and children, remained
at the river, swimming and playing in the water.
Ceremonies of general purification were important
among the settled agricultural tribes of the southeastern
and southwestern United States. Among these tribes
they were usually associated with the making of new
fire, a feature which seems to have been lacking in the
Pawnee ceremony. The account of this ceremony has
been compiled from the unpublished notes of Dr. G. A.

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