Sacred Texts  Native American  California  Index  Previous  Next 

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


On arriving at the age of puberty a girl had formerly to undergo certain rites. A hole was dug in the ground several feet deep. In this stones were placed and a fire built to heat them. The stones were afterwards covered with coarse grass or brush, on top of which the girl was placed and covered over. She was kept here for three days and nights, only being taken out a short time each night to be fed, during which interval the stones were also reheated. During the time she was in the pit, dancing and singing was kept up around it. Several girls might be placed in the pit at the same time. It was only necessary that one of them should be of the correct age, the others might be younger. But it was imperative that all should belong to the same clan or family. The feast-chief of the clan to which the girl or girls belonged never performed the rites himself, but employed another who understood them to do so. As in the case of the boys’ ceremony this was usually the feast-chief of another clan, though

p. 225

any one outside of his own clan who understood the rites might be employed.

At the conclusion of the period during which the girl remained in the pit, her face was painted, and a similar painting was also made on a rock. At the end of a month the girl's face was painted in a different manner, and a similar painting was added to the first painting made on the rock. This was repeated every month for a year, each month a different painting being placed on the girl's face, and a similar one added to the original one on the rock. During this year the girl was prohibited from eating either meat or salt. At its close other rites were performed, and a lecture or counsel was given to the girl on much the same lines as that given to the boys. She was cautioned against being stingy, against dissembling, and against looking sidewise. She was also told not to eat jackrabbit or venison. After this lecture the girl was freed from all restrictions.

The girls’ rites have not been performed in the upper San Luis Rey valley since 1890, and even then only a part of them were performed. The boys’ rites have not been performed for about forty years. The prohibition of eating venison, jackrabbit, and chia was perhaps made because the old people wished these delicacies to be reserved for themselves. 11 The opening left on the north side of the circle of the ground-painting is symbolical of the direction the soul of a good person is supposed to take as it rises to the sky.

The following is a translation of the lecture or counsel given to girls at the puberty ceremonial, yuninish, literally "sprinkling. "

See, these are alive, these will think well of you if you believe; and if you do not believe, they are going to kill you, if you are heedless, a dissembler, or stingy. You must not look sideways, must not receive a person in your house with anger, it is not proper. You will drink hot water when you menstruate, and when you are pregnant you will drink bitter medicine.

This will cause you to have your child quickly, as your inside will be clean. And you will roast yourself at the fire (after childbirth), and then your son or daughter will grow up quickly, and sickness will not approach you. But if you are heedless you will not bear your child quickly, and people will speak of your heedlessness.

p. 226

Your elder relations you must think well of, you will also welcome your daughters-in-law and your brothers-in-law when they arrive at your house. Pay heed to this speech, and at some future time you will go to their house, and they are going to welcome you politely at their house. Do not rob food of overnight; if you have a child it will make him costive, it is also going to make your stomach swell, your eyes are also going to granulate. Pay attention to this speech, do not eat venison or jackrabbit, or your eyes are going to granulate, and people are going to know what you have done by your eyes. And as your son or daughter will grow up, you will bathe in water, and your hair will grow long, and you will not feel cold, and you will be fat, if you bathe in water. And after the puberty rite you will not scratch yourself with your hands, you will scratch yourself with a stick, your body is going to have pimples if you scratch yourself with your hands. Do not neglect to paint yourself, and people will see you, and you will grow old, if you pay attention to this speech, and you will see your sons and daughters.

See these old men and women, these are those who paid attention to this counsel, which is of the grown-up people, and they have already reached old age. Do not forget this that I am telling you, pay heed to this speech, and when you are old like these old people, you will counsel your sons and daughters in like manner, and you will die old. And your spirit will rise northwards to the sky, like the stars, moon, and sun. Perhaps they will speak of you and will blow (three times) and (thereby) cause to rise your spirit and soul to the sky.


225:11 This may have been partly true, but in the main no doubt, if the Luiseños were like other uncivilized people, genuine religious beliefs were the principal motive.

Next: Mourning Ceremonies and Mourning