August 19, 2016

Superstitions of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians


Superstitions of a ridiculous, and most extravagant nature, were found associated with these Indians, and even now, in almost every town, or hamlet, the child’s first education is a belief in their authenticity; and they grow up from infancy familiar with all their fabulous traditions. The effect tends to enervate their physical faculties, and weaken their mental, so that they naturally become a pusillanimous race of people, liable to be deceived, imposed upon, and of course easily influenced by the puplem, and old men, who are their sole instructors.

There are men, and also females, who are believed to possess the power of enchantment, to such a degree, that no one can withstand their powers; so that without resistance, all immediately acquiesce in their demands.

The incantation is performed thus: Beneath the left arm, in a small leather bag, they carry a black ball, called by them “aguet,” composed of a plaster of mescal, and wild honey, or, as they term it, “quijotes,” or “sejat.” When they wish to make use of the same, to exercise its virtues upon any one, the right hand is placed upon the leather bag, and without any other ceremony, the sorcery is effected.

Should the person appear indifferent to the presence of the enchanter, then a companion immediately announces the fact, that be bears the sacred charm, and their demands are complied with, without reply or opposition. The said “aguet,” is a composition unknown to all but the sorcerers, and of course, only used by them. How it possesses so much virtue, I have never been enabled to discover. Nevertheless, they give up whatever is asked of them, under the impression that more calamities will attend them, if they do not.

They have an idea, that if the shadow of the aura, in his flying through the air, should fall upon them with their heads uncovered, they would become afflicted with sores and diseases, and on this account, whenever it so happens that a bird of this class approaches, they immediately cover their persons.

They believed when the pelican visited the inland population, that it was an omen of death to some one, and consequently, they persecuted the bird until it left their neighborhood.

Another ridiculous belief among them was, that the deer hunters could never partake of venison which they, themselves, procured, and only of such as was taken by others, for the reason, that if they did, they would not get any more. And the fishermen, also, possessed the same idea with regard to their fish. More singular, however, than this, was the custom among the young men, when starting for the woods in search of rabbits, squirrels, rats, or other animals.

They were obliged to take a companion for the reason, that he who killed the game, could not eat thereof–if he did, in a few days he complained of pains in his limbs, and gradually became emaciatcd. On this account, two went together, in order to exchange with each other the result of their excursion.

This infliction did not extend to every one who partook of the game of his own taking, but only to such as were guilty of consuming it secretly. Neither was it incurable, for they had among them certain sorcerers possessing the power to reinstate them in their former health and contentment.

When the sun, or moon, was eclipsed, they appeared much frightened; and the men, women, and children, were heard crying and shouting, whilst throwing sand into the air, and beating with sticks upon dry hides, or upon the ground. This was done, as they said, to scare away a large and ferocious monster, who would devour the sun and moon, and if he were permitted to accomplish the entire consumption of either, that is, if there should be a total eclipse, all would immediately die, and the world would come to an end.

At the time of new moon, and on the first day of its appearance, it was usual amongst them to call together all the young men for the purpose of its celebration. A “correr la luna!” shouted one of the old men. Come, my boys, the moon! the moon!

Immediately, racing commenced, and without order they ran about as if they were distracted, whilst the old men danced in a circle, saying the following words–“As the moon dieth, and cometh to life again, so we also having to die, will again live,”–thus manifesting clearly the resurrection of the flesh. How this was understood by them, I did not ascertain, for they could not explain it, and they merely observed the ceremony, on account of its having been practised by their ancestors.

Another belief, current with the younger part of the females of the community, was, that the meteoric appearances often beheld in the evening, were the Tacuieh, or children of the moon, and whenever they beheld them, they fell upon the ground, and covered their heads, fearing if seen by them, that their faces would become ugly, and diseased. They had amongst them certain individuals who pretended to be descendants of the “Coyote” eaters of human flesh–not as the cannibals and Mexicans–but their manner of proceeding was after the following disgusting custom.

Whenever a Captain, or one of the Puplem, died, they sent for the Eno, who was thus called before he officiated in his duties, and afterwards “Tacue,” signifying “an eater.” Having arrived at the place, where they had placed the dead body, he immediately cut off a large piece from the neck, and the back, near the shoulder, and consumed the flesh in its raw state, in presence of the multitude assembled to witness the performance.

This was always done in commemoration of the feat performed by the “Coyote” upon the body of the great Captain Ouiot, as has been already recounted in a previous chapter. For this, Eno was well remunerated, and every one contributed for the purpose. The young of both sexes, were very much afraid of this Tacue, and looked upon him as a sorcerer.

These Indians were not entirely destitute of a knowledge of the universal deluge, but how, or from whence, they received the same, I could never understand. Some of their songs refer to it; and they have a tradition that, at a time very remote, the sea began to swell and roll in upon the plains, and fill the valleys, until it had covered the mountains; and thus nearly all the human race and animals were destroyed, excepting a few, who had resorted to a very high mountain which the waters did not reach.

But the songs give a more distinct relation of the same, and they state that the descendants of Captain Ouiot asked of Chinigchinich vengeance upon their chief–that he appeared unto them, and said to those endowed with the power, “Ye are the ones to achieve vengeance–ye who cause it to rain! Do this, and so inundate the earth, that every living being will be destroyed.” The rains commenced, the sea was troubled, and swelled in upon the earth, covering the plains, and rising until it had overspread the highest land, excepting a high mountain, where, the few had gone with the one who had caused it to rain, and thus every other animal was destroyed upon the face of the earth.

These songs were supplications to Chinigchinich to drown their enemies. If their opponents heard them, they sang others in opposition, which in substance ran thus: “We are not afraid, because Chinigchinich does not wish to, neither will he destroy the world by another inundation.” Without doubt this account has reference to the universal deluge, and the promise God made, that there should not be another.

Chinigchinich, religious God of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians
Description of the Vanquech or Temple
Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Puberty Rites
Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Marriage Customs
Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Principal Feasts and Dances
Superstitions of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians
Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Funeral Customs

Native American Religion
About nativelady

Leave a Reply