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The Culture of the Luiseño Indians, by Philip Stedman Sparkman, [1908], at


As may be supposed, witchcraft is still much believed in, though not nearly so much as formerly. A person whose children are dying, even of such a disease as consumption, will imagine that some evilly disposed wizard is bewitching them. He will perhaps go to some wizard and ask him who is killing his children. The wizard will inform him that a certain person is doing so; and after this, nothing will make the man believe otherwise.

To bewitch a person it is considered necessary to get something belonging to his body, as a little of his hair, the parings

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of his nails, some of his blood, or a handkerchief that he has blown his nose in. For this reason it was formerly customary when one had his hair cut to carefully sweep up every particle, carry it away, and bury it, for fear that some enemy might possess himself of it to bewitch him. Some follow this custom still.

One method employed by the wizards is said to be to make small images of the people they wish to kill, and to perform their incantations over them. It is said that such images have sometimes been found, either accidentally, or in the house of a wizard after his death. Should the finder burn them, the death of the wizard or witch is said to follow invariably.

The wizards, shamans, or medicine-men, by whichever name they may be called, are nearly all doctors. An Indian has but little faith in medicine, but much more in the supernatural powers of the medicine-men. It is a fact that the latter use remedies made from plants to some extent, but they rely mostly on shamanistic practices. One of their methods of treatment is to suck the part of the body affected, and pretend to draw out something. Sometimes it will be a greenish or blackish fluid, or perhaps a reddish liquid that they declare to be blood; at other times beetles, lizards, or stones. A Cahuilla doctor is said to have sucked a rattlesnake about a foot long out of a woman's chest. They also doctor by rubbing or blowing on the part of the body which is paining the patient. Sometimes the rubbing is performed with a stone of peculiar shape or color. They also use a bunch of feathers to shake over the patient, also sometimes a stick with a number of rattlesnake rattles tied on one end. Some of them must either be sleight-of-hand performers, or else possess the power to hypnotize. We have heard one who did not believe in their supernatural powers say that "they make you think you see things you don't see." We have often wondered if they believe in their own arts, and have come to the conclusion that they do to a certain extent, though they must know that their pretended sucking of substances from the bodies of their patients is fraudulent.

A substance is compounded by medicine-men which is supposed to cause persons of the opposite sex to become enamored

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of its possessor. It is much used by both men and women who wish to get married, also by those whose husbands or wives have either left them or no longer feel affection for them. The mere possession of it is thought to be sufficient, but if it is wished to captivate a person a little of it may be rubbed on the hands, and an endeavor made to shake hands with him or her. It is also sometimes rubbed on the face. When it fails to accomplish the desired purpose, appeals are often made to the medicine-man to send a "stronger medicine." Many are willing to testify to the efficacy of this substance, but this is easily accounted for by the fact that their faith in it is so great that its possession gives them more courage than they had before. This may cause them to be successful, and they not unnaturally attribute it to the "medicine."

A family who had a relative die came to the conclusion that he had been bewitched by a certain person, a member of the family who was a medicine-man having declared that he had found out who killed their relative. So they talked over the matter of revenging themselves by in turn bewitching and killing their relative's slayer. Now this man was at Los Angeles, over a hundred miles away, and they were at first nonplussed how to get hold of something of his body to work on. After a while one of them remembered that he had been bled some time before, and that the blood had been caught in a broken piece of earthenware, which was afterwards thrown away in the bushes. So a search was made for it, it was found, and the old medicine-man of the family took it and worked with it for several days, holding it up and talking to it, and going through other performances with it. When he had completed his incantation, he and the rest of the family took the piece of earthenware to a graveyard one night and buried it.

Some time afterwards the man they wished to kill was taken ill in Los Angeles, and was brought home from there in a paralytic condition, "all twisted up." Soon after he died. Of course the medicine-man who had performed the incantation over the broken piece of pottery, claimed, and without doubt firmly believed, that he had brought about this person's illness and death.

Some medicine-men claim to have the power to make rain,

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and go through performances with that end in view. Should it rain within several days, they claim that it is due to their efforts. Should it fail to do so, they seldom lack an excuse; perhaps it is because the people have no faith in them or ridicule them. But a commoner excuse is that some other rainmaker or medicine-man is envious of them, and, when they try to bring rain, works against them, and prevents them from doing so.

Especially do they claim this if a contrary east wind should rise when the clouds are coming up and it looks promising for rain. That is surely the work of some evilly disposed medicine-man who is jealous of them, and made the east wind rise to drive away the rain which was about to fall through their efforts.

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