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Religious Practices of the Diegueño Indians, by T.T. Waterman, [1910], at


The Atanuk, or girls’ adolescence ceremony, will be found to correspond closely with the Wukunish ceremony of the Luiseño. There is no internal evidence, however, of a Luiseño source, since the songs throughout are in the Diegueño language. The ceremony is not however mentioned in Diegueño mythology as far as this mythology is known at the present time. The ceremony is the same as that described briefly by Rust 31 and others as the "roasting of girls."

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Several girls undergo the ceremony at the same time. At least one of them has to be in the actual period of adolescence, while the others may be either older or younger. A pit, lopop, is dug, large enough to accommodate all of the girls when stretched out at full length. This excavation is lined with stones and a large fire kindled in it. When the stones become very hot, the fire is taken out and the pit filled with green herbs. Three kinds are used, white sage or biltai, thistle sage, Salvia carduacea, or alolo, and common ragweed, Ambrosia psilostachya, or xawoxa. The girls are then brought to the edge of the pit and seated, in the presence of all the people of the village. At a signal the entire company motion upward three times, expelling the breath each time. The leader then fills a basketry cap, npurl, with water, and mixes in it crumbled native tobacco, up. Each girl then takes a large drink of the liquid. If there were anything evil or morbid inside of the girl, this drink, it is thought, would cause her to vomit it out, and she would never thereafter be troubled by it. Whatever the case among the Luiseño, 32 this ceremony is not considered by the Diegueño to be an ordeal. They strive rather after a benign physiological effect. After the girls have drunk this mixture, they are placed at full length, face-downward on the bed of herbs, and covered with a blanket, wūkwil, of rabbitskin. Sage-brush, biltai, is then piled over them. The heat of the rocks causes a fragrant steam to rise about the girls. This is kept up by occasionally renewing the herbs and putting in new hot rocks. The girls remain in this pit with as little movement as possible as long as they can stand the strain of confinement, except as mentioned below. This is usually about one week, though girls who are not of a nervous disposition stand it for three or four. The longer the confinement, the greater the benefit is supposed to be.

A ceremonial crescent-shaped stone, atulku, (pl. 21, fig. 1), is warmed at the fire and placed in turn between the legs of each girl close against her body. 33 The supposed effect was to warm and soften the abdominal muscles. The quality imparted by

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this means was thought to last through life, and to make future motherhood easier for the girls. A garland or "hat" of ragweed, xawoxa, wrapped with tule, asok, is placed on each girl's head. This garland is renewed every day while they remain in the pit. They also wear on their wrists, throughout the "roasting," bracelets made of human hair. Their faces are painted black each morning with straw-charcoal.

Certain restrictions are placed on the girls during the progress of this ceremony and for some time afterward. They are required in the first place, as already noted, to stay in the pit with as little movement as possible, leaving it only for short periods at a time. If they moved about or were restless they would through after life be nervous and discontented. Once every day they are taken out, carefully wrapped in blankets, 34 while the pit is lined with hot rocks and filled with fresh brush. During this period and for as long as possible afterward, the girls abstain absolutely from meat and salt. They are however given plenty of sage-seed mush and drinking water. They are not supposed to look at people, especially at men. 35 They are carefully warned not to touch their hair with their hands. If they do so it will come out. For this reason each girl is given two "scratchers" of shell, or of late years two small sticks of wood, which she uses should scratching become necessary. It is noticeable both in this and the following features that the Diegueño do not show the fear concerning the phenomena of menstrual life in women, which is common among primitive races. The restrictions prescribed during menstruation and during the period of adolescence spring usually among savage peoples from the belief that the glance or touch of a woman in that condition will have a harmful effect on other people or on the world. Among the Diegueño however the restrictions, at least as far as indicated by their adolescence ceremonies, seem to refer rather to the well-being of the girl herself. Outside of the enforced inaction the ceremony under discussion seems to have been rather

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pleasant than otherwise. The time between chatting, laughing, and sleeping passed very cheerfully.

The girls are placed in the pit usually in the afternoon towards sunset. When they are comfortably fixed, the matrons of the village gather around them, each woman holding a small branch of white sage. At a signal they wave these branches up and down. Meanwhile two of the older women chant:

wutcaitci wutcaitci
asamaiya kamavairo

cover cover
brush fine

[paragraph continues] This song is repeated for quite a long time. Then the branches are dipped in water and the girls sprinkled. The same two women sing:

lilmalilmalila lilmalilmalil
xawoxa malila pilyatai malil

ragweed sprinkle sage-brush sprinkle

[paragraph continues] When the sun gets low, all the women join hands in a circle about the pit. Then they dance around in a line from left to right. Each woman holds her arms out from her sides and raises first one hand and then the other in time to the music. The men sing the following song while the women dance:

yuliyu yuliyu timana
yuliyu yuliyu timana

low-down he-is-flying (or sailing)
low-down he-is-flying

[paragraph continues] "Yuliyu" is said of a bird when he is flying or sailing low, near the ground. The song is said to refer to the sun.

When the sun has gone down, the dancers circle in the opposite direction (that is, contrary to the course of the sun), while the men sing:

kwutukwaik kwutukwaik

circle-the-other-way circle-the-other-way

[paragraph continues] The custom is for these dances to continue all night. A great many songs are known, of which the following are samples:

ki-ima ki-ima
myu-wiw kaya

dance! dance! 36
let-us see (you) now!

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yaka alolo kewaiya timayaka
xalasi kewaiya kewaiya
timayaka otca kama ali
timayaka otca kabasiw

lying thistle-sage under she-is-lying 37
willow under under
She-is-lying (under) that-which ...
She-is-lying (under) that-which (is) green



yoyokanaitc yoyokanaitc
mariyoi mariyoi

you-must-sing you-must-sing 38
you-are-embarrassed you-are-embarrassed

After a number of songs of this character, the dancers no longer hold hands, but each woman dances by herself. The following are specimens of the songs sung during this second period:

mai katcyiw
ipaka tcawam
kto kaltco yiwaka
waikatca waikatca

where! shall-we-start-to sing
here we-will-start
... ... ...
... ...



wiyam tcwa no
wiyam tcwa nomeskwa
opwiyam wesolke
yipexai wiyam

he went for
he-went for feather-case-made-of-tule
he-went (for) elder-bark-skirt
feather-skirt he-went (for)

When the sun rose they sang the following song:

inya-tcopuk amiyo
inya-tcopuk tcamico
yolami yolami
kwakwar kwinyor

sunrise I-menstruate 39
sunrise ...
... ...
... red

On the second and following days of this ceremony it is the custom for the people of neighboring villages to come and join in the ritual. The following song was sung when a party of strangers was seen approaching:

pok nyawiyeu
wa xohapi

there they-are-coming 40
house they-join-us

During the progress of this ceremony each of the girls is tattooed on the face. The process is performed with a cactus thorn and powdered charcoal, and therefore requires some little

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time. A little is done every day until the whole is completed. One of the old women begins it on the second day of the "roasting". The usual design is a stripe downward from each corner of the mouth, with sometimes a third stripe down the middle of the chin. 41 A small disc is sometimes tattooed between the eyes. If this tattooing were not done, it is believed that the girls would turn into beetles when they die.


285:31 H. N. Rust, "A Puberty Ceremony of the Mission Indians," Am. Anthr., n.s. VIII, 28, 1906. For Luiseño accounts see DuBois, op. cit., pp. 93, 174, 224; Am. Anthr., n.s. VII, 625, 1905.

286:32 DuBois, op. cit., pp. 94, 178.

286:33 Rust, op. cit.

287:34 Beyond the covering of blankets, the girls in this ceremony seem to have worn no clothing. One informant at Campo, however, said that they wore short skirts of willow-bark, fastened to belts made of milkweed fibre.

287:35 Cf. above, p. 277.

288:36 University of California phonograph record 744(2).

289:37 Ibid., 745.

289:38 Ibid., 746(1).

289:39 Ibid., 747(1).

289:40 Ibid., 744(1).

290:41 Few women show this tattoo at the present day.

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