Creation Myths of Primitive America, by Jeremiah Curtin, , at sacred-texts.com
THE chief assists always in this ceremony, because a doctor can be made only in a sweat-house. Two chiefs may consult together and agree with old doctors in this matter, or one chief may do so if it suits him. If doctors begin, they must consult the chief, because he owns the sweat-house. The doctors and the chief or chiefs agree upon the time, and then give out the news that on a certain night they are going to create doctors. Young persons who wish to be doctors go to the sweat-house; most of the old people stay at home.
The men heat the sweat-house, shut it up closely, and sit down. Sweat pours from them like rain. When they have sweated sufficiently, all go to the river and swim. After that the people, men and women, go into the sweat-house. One doctor or two will begin to sing. Young unmarried men or women who are candidates present themselves. The doctors suck out of these all that is bad in them, all that is impure, unclean. They suck the forehead, breast, back, arms. At times they suck out blood; at times something sharp like a fine bone comes out. They suck out everything that is evil. When they have finished sucking, the doctor sings again, and puts a yellowhammer's feather into each ear of the candidate. The feather may go in out of sight, or the doctor puts it on the person's head, and the feather may sink through his skull. Now the people dance, and especially the candidates for the dignity of doctor. The chief goes out, stands on the housetop, and calls to all the yapaitu in the rocks, in the water, in Olelpanti, in the trees, in bathing springs, to come. "We are going to make doctors," says the chief; "you must come and help my people."
After this the chief goes in, and they close every hole, every chink in the sweat-house; close them all safely. There is no fire, no light, inside. When they have begun to talk in the sweat-house, one doctor calls to all the spirits of yapaitu in the east, west, north, south to come. Pretty soon a spirit may be heard on the
housetop; spirits make a whistling noise when they come. That moment a man or woman falls down, and all know that the spirit has gone into that person's head.
Now the doctor calls, "One more; one more!"
In a moment another whistling may be heard as the spirit touches the housetop and goes in. Another man or woman falls; the spirit has entered that one. The persons into whom spirits have entered know nothing. They become as if crazy, as if they had lost their wits. They try to go to the housetop. Some try to climb the central pole; some want to leave the sweat-house; they know nothing for half an hour perhaps.
One doctor keeps on calling spirits, and they come one at a time. Many doctors may be made in one night, or a few, or none. There are always many people in the sweat-house to whom spirits will not come. The spirits never go into people unless they like them. The spirit looks straight through a man and knows him immediately.
The people dance all night. There is no light in the sweat-house; the place is very hot, though there is no fire there. Next day those to whom spirits have come tell the doctors and chief what spirits are with them. If not, the chief may give them food offensive to the spirits, and the spirits would kill them if they ate. Some spirits may stay two or three days with a person, who would then sit inside all the time. The old doctors have to ask this spirit what it wishes, and make it go away for a time, so that the person possessed may eat something. Each spirit has its own kind of food. If we give a man something that the spirit has never eaten, it will kill him right away if he eats. The old doctors ask his spirit what it wants, and it tells. The salmon spirit, for instance, likes leaves or water; a sucker of the mountains would eat mountain pine nuts, but a valley sucker needs nuts off the digger pine. If strange food is placed before a spirit, it is afraid; and if the man possessed eats this food, the spirit will kill him. Some spirits don't like buckskin, and the man to whom they have come must not wear it.
The bad spirits are numerous; the sucker is one of these, and so is Kele (the mountain wolf). This wolf is dangerous; it may hurt you in this way: you may think that you see a good-looking
man or woman on the mountain or in the woods. If you go toward this person or this person comes toward you, comes near you, speaks to you, and you agree with it, the next thing you know this strange man or woman turns into a wolf, runs away, and your mind is gone; the wolf has taken it. The sucker does the same, but disappears before your eyes or turns into something ugly.
There are three causes of sickness. The first is when a good yapaitu spirit is angry with a man and strikes him with his spirit point; second, when a bad spirit puts his missile in a man and makes him sick (the spirit in this case does it at his own instance); third, when an evil spirit sends his missile into a man at the request or prayer of a doctor.
When the dokos or missile that has been sent into a man is drawn out by the spirit which assists the curing doctor, the doctor forces the dokos to tell what yapaitu sent it, and at the prayer of what doctor. But the dokos does not tell the truth in every case, and sometimes accuses the wrong person. It is very difficult, therefore, to know surely what doctor is guilty of making a man sick. A doctor, if the spirit is in him when he comes to see a sick man, is able to look right through the body of the patient and see where the dokos lies. Sometimes he is not able to draw it out; he can see where the dokos is, that is all; but if his spirit were stronger than the one who put it there, he could draw it out and cure the patient.
There is danger, however, in drawing out a very powerful dokos by sucking, for when it is coming out of the sick man's body it may be sent down through the mouth of the doctor into his body by the spirit who owns it, and the doctor is killed in this way.
A doctor may have twenty or thirty spirits, but he rarely calls on more than two or three, and it is seldom that any great number are fitted to work together in a given case.
The office of doctor is very dangerous, especially if the doctor is powerful. If he has many spirits to help him, each has to be pleased in its own special way; each has its own food, prefers certain kinds, and dislikes others. The doctor must not eat food hateful to his spirits: if he does, he is liable to be killed. A man who
his twenty or thirty spirits is greatly limited, therefore, in his manner of living.
Some spirits do not like venison, others do not eat fish; the doctor who commands these spirits must eat neither venison nor fish, and so with other kinds of food in the case of other spirits.
The man who seeks to be a doctor cannot choose his spirits they come to him; he cannot refuse to receive them, and must live in a way to please them.
Every dokos can be extracted from a sick man's body by the aid of a spirit stronger than the one who put it in.
Among other spirits, doctors have the spirit of the sun, the spirits of stars and the clouds to help them. These are good spirits. Sedit's spirit cannot help doctors much. They call it sometimes, but it doesn't do much; it has not the power. Suku (dog) is very powerful and bad. If Suku wants to kill a man, he does it quickly. A doctor who has the Suku spirit in his service is great. If a man has been made sick by Suku, he will vomit blood, or bleed from his nostrils all the time. The Suku spirit is a good one to send to kill people. Chir (the sucker fish) is an evil spirit too. When Chir wants to kill a man, it makes him giddy and crazy right away. He becomes senseless and dies, unless some doctor cures him, and generally doctors can do nothing against Chir. The Chir sickness is the worst that spirits bring. It is called chiruntowi, sickness from the sucker. The man who has it dies; he cannot tell where he is troubled; he grows dizzy and senseless. No one can cure him unless by great luck. Something tried by some doctor may save him--just by chance, just because it happens so. Kele is also an evil spirit. He has a song, the same which his two daughters sang on the mountain top (see the tale "Kele and Sedit "), and which Sedit heard far away in the west. This is a poison song, and draws people after it. Kele is here now, suppose, in Cottonwood or in Tehama, and sees a man up at Yreka. Kele sings, and the song goes as straight as a string to the man. It draws him and draws him; he is drawn as water is when people pump it. The man must follow the song; he has got to do so, he cannot help himself, he is sick; his sickness is called lubeluntowi (sickness from lubelis). The man will
keep going and going and going; he will not know what makes him go. Suppose I am listening to Kele's song. I go, and it is the song that draws me. I hear it; but nobody else does. The spirits of the Kele girls drew Sedit to them; he couldn't help himself, he couldn't stop; he had to go, and he never went home again; he had to stay up at Kele's. The spirits of Chir and Kele always make people crazy.
Many Wintu women lose their minds, and are killed by Kele's sons. Many Wintu men have been lost through Kele's daughters. Suppose I am out here in the wood, I see a woman coming, a nice woman. She stops and talks; I talk to her. If I have sense in me, I look at her toes to see if she is one of those Kele women. If she is, she has a bunch of hair on the tip of her foot, and if I see it, I say right there, "You are a Kele!" At these words she will leave me and run. When ten feet away, she will turn to a mountain wolf, and I shall see that Kele running away very fast.
Suppose some woman is out in the woods. She is thinking of some man that she likes, and right away she sees the very man she is thinking of. He is coming to meet her. He comes up and asks, "Where are you going?" The woman is glad to see him. She tells. He carries her to the mountain, and never again will that woman be seen by her friends or by others. It was one of Kele's sons who took the form of the man she was thinking of, so as to entice her away and destroy her. If the woman has sense she will look down at the foot of the stranger, see the tuft of hair, and say, "You are Kele; go off." He turns to a wolf on the spot, and runs away to the mountain. All Wintus went barefoot in old times, and this tuft could be seen, if a person had sense enough left to look for it. As every one wears shoes or moccasins now, it might not be easy to find it. But to this day the Keles lead people astray. All the Wintus know them, and are afraid.
They live on Wenempuidal, a high mountain near the left bank of the Little Sacramento. Dekipuiwakut, a small creek, comes down from Kele's Mountain and falls into the Sacramento. White men call it Hazel Creek. The Keles live at the head of this creek. The whole mountain is their sweat-house. They are up
there now, and almost any night you may hear them howling on the mountain when the evil brothers are going home.