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The Peyote Cult, by Paul Radin, [1925], at

p. 367


I went to Oklahoma once as the guest of an Arapaho Indian. While there I witnessed the Arapaho manner of holding a peyote meeting and was very much impressed with it. A year later this Arapaho came to visit me in Winnebago, and while he was with us a few of my friends urged me to hold the peyote ceremony according to the Arapaho method. I held several meetings at which my Arapaho friend led.

Now these are the instructions that Arapaho Bull gave me.

The person giving the ceremony must get up at sunrise so that he can tell exactly where the sun is going to rise. He must place a stick and make the drawing of a cross on the earth just in that direction from which the sun is about to rise. He does this in order to get the correct location for the tipi and the fireplace. Then he marks a circle around the cross. Then he makes a diagonal mark through the center of the circle, thus making the circle resemble a star. The circle is the outline of the tipi. Then another diagonal mark is made so that the drawing resembles, to their minds, a peyote. A fireplace which resembles a half-moon is placed right in the center of the lodge. After that the tipi poles are raised, 12 in number. Finally the whole is inclosed in canvas. When finished it is supposed to represent the earth. It is then ready to be entered. Special preparations are made for entering. The drummer with his drum and the leader and those behind him with all their regalia march up to the door. Before these enter, however, an attendant, called the fireman, spreads sage all over the lodge, from the seat of the leader to the door and back again. Then he starts a fire, always placing the left fire sticks first. When they are all thus lined up outside of the door the leader offers a prayer.

"May the Creator be with us when we enter this lodge."

The leader now enters and, proceeding along the left side of the lodge, marches to his seat, and there he stands with his drum until the lodge is filled. After all have entered they sit down. Then the fireman who sits to the right rekindles the fire. The leader now spreads out his articles—a gourd, a drumstick, a staff, and the feathers. He then takes 12 sage leaves and lays them out in the form of a star, first making a cross-shaped object and then filling this into the desired form. On top he places the peyote, and, leaning against that, be places a flute made of an eagle bone, the mouth of the flute resting against the peyote. Then he puts an otter-skin cap at the foot of the flute. After a while the leader takes the peyote he is going to use in one hand and some cedar needles in the other,

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and, going to his seat, where all the other objects are spread out, he sits down and prays. He prays that all the participants may be strengthened by the prospective meeting. He offers up thanks for the peyote and prays that all may be in the proper spirit that night. Then he throws the needles in the fire and holds the peyote over the smoke of the cedar. When this has been finished he returns to his seat, eats one peyote, and gives one to the drummer. After they have eaten these he passes four peyote in turn to those on his left until the peyote comes to the one sitting nearest the door. Four peyote are given to the one nearest the door that he, in turn, may pass them to those on the other side of the door and so on until the leader is reached again. Before the peyote is eaten, the leader gets up and talks. He instructs the people as to the nature of the meeting and tells them that those who wish to go out must do so after the midnight water is drunk and not until after the leader returns from outside. No one is to go out while anyone is singing, praying, or eating peyote. He then speaks of the special prayers that are to be offered up and asks them to offer general prayers for all nonmembers and even for their enemies. After that the leader again offers up a prayer and smokes all the objects he had spread before his seat. Then the songs are to start, all, however, first eating peyote.

(When the fire first starts and thereafter, throughout the night, it is supposed to represent light, just as God said, "Let there be light.")

The first song is always the same and is called the starting song. Those that follow are peyote songs. When he has finished these songs he passes the singing staff to the right of the drummer. When this one has finished the staff is returned to the leader, who passes it on to the left, and then in rotation it goes to the one sitting near the door. The drum, when it is handed on, is always passed under the staff. The fire is always replenished, but toward midnight special care is taken in this regard and the coals are placed in the shape of a crescent between the fire and the earth crescent, and the fireman sweeps first around the left and then around the right side. Then exactly at midnight the leader calls for his singing staff and his drum, no matter where they happen to be, and, taking the singing staff and sending the drum to the drummer, he blows his flute and sings. The song he sings then is called the midnight song. After that three peyote songs are sung, it making no difference which they are. As the leader starts his midnight song the fireman takes up his position at the doorway opposite the fireplace and the leader. When the second song is started the fireman turns around to the right and goes out and gets water and soon comes back with it. When he reenters he makes the figure of a cross on the ground where he stood just before he left and places water on it. Then he squats down on his knees.

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When the leader stops singing he walks to the crescent by the fireplace and begins praying again. After the prayer he burns some more cedar needles. The reason for drinking water at midnight is because Christ was born at midnight and because of the good tidings that he brought to the earth, for water is one of the best things in life and Christ is the savior of mankind. After the leader has made his prayer and the cedar is burned, then the fireman reaches over toward the smoke and makes a motion with his body as if he were drawing the smoke over himself. He then takes the water and brings it over to the leader. The leader takes a bunch of feathers and, dipping it into the water, sprinkles it on the peyote, then on the fire, on the sage, and finally all over the lodge, beginning with the doorway and then going around. The water is then drunk in a regular order, first by the leader, then by the drummer, and then by all the other people. After all these things have been done the leader returns the staff to the man from whom he had taken it at midnight. As soon as this man starts the singing again the leader takes his flute and goes outside. He goes toward the east for a short distance, and there he sits down and offers up a prayer for the people. Then he blows his flute, and going to the south of the lodge repeats the same procedure. This is also repeated for the west and the north. When the singing within the lodge has stopped, he returns and takes his seat.

The purpose of going to the four directions and blowing the flute is to announce the birth of Christ to all the world.

After the leader has reentered the singing continues as before. At daybreak the fireman fixes the fire in the same way as at midnight. The staff, drum, etc., is now passed to the leader, who as soon as he has received everything takes his flute and blows on it. Before doing this, however, he puts on his otter-skin cap. The purpose of blowing the flute just at that time is to represent the trumpet of the Day of Judgment, when Christ will appear wearing His crown in all glory. The putting on of the otter-skin cap represents the crown.

The song used on this occasion is called the water song. After the first song is finished the fireman opens the door and a woman enters carrying water, which she pours over the cross which the fireman had sprinkled at midnight. The fireman then spreads something for her to sit on, between the water and the door.

When the leader has finished his four songs, he lays down his staff, etc., and, taking some cedar needles, offers up a prayer of thanks, and as he finishes he throws the cedar into the fire and sits down while the woman gathers the smoke toward her in the same way as the fireman had done on the previous night. Then the leader takes a drinking cup and sends it toward the woman. The

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fireman now rises and pours water on the impressions he had made when drawing the cross on the earth, and the woman drinks some water from the cup, which she then returns to the leader. The water is then returned to her and she passes it around the lodge, beginning at the left. When it reaches the leader again, he takes out the same cup which he had handed to the woman and drinks out of it. The water, however, is passed on until it reaches the door. The fireman would then take it and bring it back to where it had been placed when first brought in. The woman rises and goes around the fireplace from left to right, taking the water with her. Finally the leader takes his singing staff and sings four songs. When these songs are finished, the woman places some food just outside the door. The fireman goes outside and brings in this food, placing it in a line between the fire and the door. Four things are brought in—water, corn with sweetened water, fruit, and meat. When the food is brought in the leader puts away all the objects he had spread out before him, which the fireman takes out of the lodge. The leader then offers up a prayer of thanks and says grace. The four kinds of food are passed around the lodge, beginning with the entrance, from left to right. After they are returned they are placed in line again, only in the reverse order from that used before. The fireman then takes them outside. While the people are eating the door remains open.

(During the evening the leader represents the first created man, the woman dressed up is the New Jerusalem, the bride waiting for the bridegroom. The cup used by the leader and the woman is supposed to symbolize the fact that they are to become one; the water represents the God's gift, His Holiness. The corn represents the feast to be partaken of on the Day of Judgment and the fruit represents the fruit of the tree of life. The meat represents the message of Christ and those who accept it will be saved.) 4

The above descriptions represent the Peyote cult as it was given between 1908 and 1913. It is quite clear that a definite organization exists consisting of a unit of five positions occupied by the leader and four helpers. No specific requirements, with the exception, of course, of that of being a peyote eater, are associated with the right to occupy these positions.

No specialized features have become associated with the positions of the four helpers. As indicated before, John Rave is always the leader when he is present, but the position of leadership can be delegated to others. This is always of a temporary nature. It may be significant to note that whenever delegated the leadership is always delegated to men who have been among the first of the converts, outside of Rave's immediate family, and who were leaders in the old

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pagan ceremonies. In 1910 this delegation of leadership was clearly a recent tendency, conditioned, on the one hand, by the size of the reservation and the impossibility of Rave's being everywhere, and, on the other hand, by Rave's frequent absence on proselytizing missions. In 1913 it had already become customary for a number of men to hold the position of leader even when Rave was present. A further complication was introduced when Jesse Clay began giving the peyote ceremonies in the Arapaho manner, for he then stood in the same relation to his method of giving the ceremony as Rave stood to the older form. As we shall see, there was, even in 1908, a separatist movement led by Albert Hensley, which, if it had succeeded, would have given Hensley the same leadership that Rave enjoyed before him and that Clay subsequently acquired.


370:4 J.C.'s account ends here.

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