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The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California, by Constance Goddard DuBois, [1908], at

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By A. L. Kroeber.

The subjoined information regarding Luiseño beliefs and customs was given principally by Felix Calac of Rincon, and Pachito, an old man of Pauma, in 1904. Pachito was born at the old village site by the Pauma cemetery, not far from the present rancheria of Pauma, and neither he, his father, nor his grandfather, lived at the San Luis Rey mission.

Besides mourning ceremonies of various kinds—five are mentioned below, the Luiseño possessed puberty or initiation rites for both boys and girls. Those for girls have been described as follows: 310

Girls’ Puberty Ceremony.

A fire was made in a hole in the ground. In this tule was placed. The girls were laid on this on their backs. Two flat stones were heated and laid on their abdomens. Several girls, generally relatives, were usually put through the ceremony at once. They were called as, and the ceremony weghenish. The ceremony lasted four or five days. A headdress of a plant called engwish 311 was worn by the girls for several months after the ceremony. During this period they could neither eat meat nor fish. The duration of this restriction does not seem to have been altogether fixed. The longer it was observed the better it was thought to be for the girls. In some cases it is said to have lasted a year. The ceremony was performed in order to make good women of the girls. They were talked to by their relatives and advised to be good and to give water and food to people.

The conclusion of the girls’ period of restrictions at puberty was marked by paintings made by them on the smooth surfaces of large granite boulders. These paintings, some of which can

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Fig. 4.—Remains of red rock-paintings made by girls after weghenish ceremony at Sheva, an old village site a mile from Rincon.
Click to enlarge

Fig. 4.—Remains of red rock-paintings made by girls after weghenish ceremony at Sheva, an old village site a mile from Rincon.

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still be seen, especially near the old village sites, consist of geometrical arrangements of red lines, usually in patterns forming vertical stripes several feet high. (Fig. 4.) After making her painting, a girl was again free to eat meat and salt. The paintings were called yunish312

At one period, apparently at the beginning of the ceremony, the girls ate tobacco. Several small balls of this, it is said without admixture of any other substance, were swallowed by them, after which they drank hot water. If they retained the tobacco they were said to be good; but if they vomited it, they were regarded as bad.

Boys’ Puberty Ceremony.

The initiation or puberty ceremony for boys, like that for girls, included a test of fortitude. Ants, antum, were put into a hole in the ground, the boys placed into the hole, and after more ants had been thrown on them they were covered over and left for a time. Afterwards they were made to run a race. From the old village site Taghanashpa, where the Pauma graveyard still is, they would run around the hill which lies to the northeast, and back again. In connection with the ceremony the boys were also preached to, and exhorted to be good men, and strong and enduring runners.

The chief initiation of boys, which is said to have followed the ant ordeal, was accompanied by the drinking of a decoction of jimsonweed roots, Spanish toloache. This plant was called mani. The period of stupefaction lasted two or three days, or sometimes four days, but this was regarded as too heavy a dose. The boys to be initiated were caught in the evening and given the drink in the wamgush, the ceremonial enclosure, the same night. Any adult man who might happen to be uninitiated on account of having lived elsewhere in his youth, would also be made to take the drink. The boys were instructed to be good and kind-hearted and not to steal. For several months after the ceremony they could eat no meat. If they refrained for a year they were thought more highly of. After the ceremony the boys were called pumal, plural pumalum, which is equivalent in meaning to

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[paragraph continues] "initiate." The ceremony was called mani paash, toloache-drinking. It was held at irregular intervals, not annually, according as there were boys of age to be initiated. The custom is said not to have come from the divinity Wiyot, but from the tribes of the coast, who in turn derived it from the San Clemente islanders, who were brought to San Luis Rey mission. The mountain Luiseño, after learning the ceremony from the coast people, taught it to other tribes.

The plant was also used as medicine for pain in the body. Its power of bringing on visions was well known.

A part of the initiation ceremonies were connected with a ground-painting in the wamgush. The painting was made with red and yellow paint, paesul and navyot, ashes for white, and charcoal for black, on the ground which formed the background of the painting. The entire picture, which was circular and represented the world, was called torokhoish. (Fig. 5). The circle was bisected from north to south and from east to west. At each end of the two diameters were represented the bear and the rattlesnake. The four radii formed by the intersecting diameters, and pointing as it were to the cardinal directions, were called tamaiawot pomo, the hands of the world. Parallel to the circle on one side, and apparently outside of it, was a representation of mountains, tota-kolauwot, literally, rock-wood or stone-timber. This representation may have consisted of no more than a line. In the two quadrants of the circle farthest away from this mountain symbol, were placed representations respectively of the raven, and of the spider called kuikhingish, or the tarantula. In the center of the circle, where the two diameters intersected, was a hole perhaps a foot and a half across, called the navel. This is said to have had reference to death, to have represented the grave, and indicated to the initiates the fate that would overtake them if they disobeyed. (The ceremonial feathers of an initiate were buried in this hole after his death.) The world is thought to be tied at the north, south, east, and west with hair-ropes, yula-wanaut or yula-wanal. At each of its four ends is a little hill, khawimal, and a rod or cane, nakhat, to which one of the four hair ropes is tied. It is not clear whether this is only a cosmological conception or was also represented in the painting. The entire torokhoish

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painting "filled the wamgush," being apparently about twelve or fifteen feet in diameter. 313

Fig. 5.—Sand-painting, torokhoish, representing tamaiawot, the earth.
Click to enlarge

Fig. 5.—Sand-painting, torokhoish, representing tamaiawot, the earth.

1. Hands (or arms) of the world.
2. Mountain.
3. Spider.
4. Raven.
5. Bear.
6. Rattlesnake.
7. Central hole, navel.

The raven was represented in the torokhoish painting because he is thought to see the whole world and to bring good fortune if one obeys him, but to cause the death of those who do not obey ceremonial instructions or who refuse to enter ceremonies. When a raven was seen coming and cawing, "witiak" was said to him.

After having drunk the jimsonweed, and apparently toward the conclusion of the entire initiation ceremony, the boys rose and stood in a circle around the sand-painting. The initiated men

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were with them, and other people looked on from outside. An old man talked to the boys. He explained the meaning of the picture. He told how the raven would see everything, and if anyone disobeyed or thought lightly of the ceremony, the bear and the rattlesnake would kill him. Whether he went north or south or east or west he would be killed. In this way the old man instructed the boys.

A short rope made of wish, 314 and called wanawut or wanal, whereas an ordinary rope is wichit, was laid next to the hole in the center of the painting. The boys went to the wanaut and, holding their feet together, made three jumps along on it. Thereupon they spat into the hole, thereby ending the ceremony.

When one of the initiated, the pumalum, dies, the ground-painting is again made. In the hole in the center are buried his head-dress, cheyat, and similar articles. At the end of the ceremony the initiates squat in a circle, with their hands stretched forward, growl or blow three times, and erase the painting.

When a boy had a bad dream, the initiates brought baskets of seeds and deposited them in the ceremonial enclosure, where they were divided, especially among the old people. Thereupon the initiates danced for three days. If they failed to do this the boy would be bitten by a rattlesnake and would die. Perhaps this refers to a boy dreaming while being initiated.

The ceremonial structure or wamgush, the vanquech of Boscana, is an open enclosure of brush. It is only a few feet high, so that it can be looked over from the outside. The eastern end is left open. At the north and south are small gaps used as entrances. A little distance to the east is a smaller brush enclosure in which the dancers put on their ceremonial dress. When there is dancing in the wamgush as in the tanish or dancing in connection with the toloache ceremony, the pumalum or initiated dancers stand at the western or closed end. A fire is in the middle. The singers, old men, sit at the open or east end, and behind them are women who sing. The people who are looking on are behind these. Half of the dancers proceed from the small enclosure around the southern side of the wamgush and

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enter at the north, while the other half pass around the northern end and enter from the south.

Mourning Ceremonies.

Three similar mourning ceremonies, differing in degree of elaborateness, were practiced, besides the eagle ceremony and the morahash dance. These three were the tuvish, when the clothes of the dead were washed; the djudjamish, when his clothes were burned; and the totinish or tautinish, at which images of the dead were burned and property was distributed.

At the tuvish, the first and simplest of these ceremonies, the clothes of the dead person were brought to the fire in the ceremonial enclosure and washed or gone over with water, after which they were kept to be burned at the djudjamish. There was singing throughout the tuvish, and at times men or women danced. The men three times emitted a growling or groaning sound ending in a blowing, and accompanied by the exclamation "wiau." This was done to prevent the dead spirit from being about.

The djudjamish was apparently held somewhat later, also in the ceremonial enclosure and at night, and its general course seems to have been similar to that of the tuvish. Its purpose is described as having been to sever all connection with the dead and to cause them to be forgotten. They were told not to remain about, but to go to the sky. If their clothes were not burned, their ghosts would not depart. At this ceremony the relatives of the dead wanted to think of them for the last time.

The tautinish or totinish was prepared for many months before. Women made baskets, which at the ceremony were burned or thrown among the spectators. The same was done with other property and with money. Figures representing the dead were made of tule, dressed in clothing, and burned. Visitors who attended this ceremony were given money or property by the people of the place. They were paid also for dancing. The tautinish ceremony seems to have been held at irregular intervals. Whenever the chief thought that enough people had died to warrant the ceremony being held, it was made. A recent ceremony at Pala was made for twelve persons.

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A tuvish ceremony that was seen, began in the early part of the night. There was a fire in the ceremonial enclosure. About midnight some of the people were sitting about inside, but the majority were outside in groups, talking and not paying attention to what was being done. A man holding a turtle-shell rattle was leading the singing. Near him sat several old men, while behind him, on the ground, were several women. At intervals between songs, one of the old men would speak, for about a minute at a time, in a ceremonial or oratorical style, in short detached words. This speaking resembled the declamation which is a characteristic part of Mohave ceremonies, but was less loud and the words were not so abruptly uttered. Also as among the Mohave on such occasions, the content of these speeches was said to have been much the same as the meaning of the words of the songs. Both the rattling and the singing were less monotonous than under similar circumstances among the Mohave; the rattling especially was somewhat varied. All the songs had words. Once an old woman stood up and danced. She held her feet together and her knees were somewhat bent, so that her American dress reached the ground. In consequence it was impossible to determine whether she jumped from the ground a little at each step of the dance, or whether she only raised herself on her toes. She held her hands together in front of her. Most of the time she stretched them out from the wrists, stiffening her arms. Her eyes were shut. While she danced some of the old men stamped one foot on the ground, uttering each time a growl or grunt. Usually several women dance together on this occasion, it was said. After a few songs the old woman sat down again. The principal singer was about southeast of the fire. Several other men sat on the opposite side of the fire. Some of these occasionally accompanied the singing or helped it by exclamations. The woman who danced stood east of the fire, not far from the singers. Those in the enclosure smoked freely, and children and dogs ran about it. The ceremony is said to have continued until about two in the morning.

The songs sung on occasions such as this, in part name animals, and at least at times contain references to myths. It was not learned whether or not they form a connected narrative

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series. The owl is sung of because the owl's call is a sign that some one will die. The words of the song mention the bird's call and express regret. Other songs mention the coyote, a coyote's cry near a house being an omen of death to one of the inmates. The words of one song are said to be: "I am sorry, for we must all die." Many songs are about Wiyot, especially his death. Such matters as his foretelling of the time when he would die, and his counting or naming the months until his death, are typical of the subjects of the songs.

In recent years the Indians of Pichanga had given up the mourning ceremonies. A woman of high rank, of a chief's family, had died. Then a person dreamed of Coyote. Coyote said to him: "Why do you not hold the djudjamish any longer? It is not good not to have it. I do not like it so." Then this person told the chief of his dream. He said to him: "Have you heard the coyote howling at night? That was the dead woman. She told me that she wanted us to burn the clothes of the dead again." This dream caused the resumption of the ceremony.

The eagle ceremony is a mourning ceremony for a chief. It is called ashwut maknash, eagle killing. Either an eagle or a condor is used. The people of the coast also use bald eagles and chicken hawks. The birds are taken when young from their nests in the canyons. The eagles of certain places belong to certain villages. Thus the Potrero people owned the eagles at Pachorivo. When caught, an eagle is raised by the chief. At the eagle-ceremony dancing is made during the night around a fire. Men take turns holding the eagle. As each man holds it he presses it, breaking an additional bone. At the cry, "Hu! Hu!" the dancer who is carrying the eagle gives it to another, who then dances with it until the cry is heard again. Toward morning the eagle is finally killed by a certain pressure on the heart. The relatives of the dead chief for whom the ceremony is made then cry. A blanket is laid down and the eagle put on this. The chief's relatives thereupon bring property and money, and lay them with the eagle, which is finally covered with a large basket. People whose relatives have died place the clothing and property of these on the blanket with the eagle. In return the dead chief's successor, who is holding the ceremony, seems to give these people

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an equivalent in property. The entire property placed with the eagle's body is given by the chief making the ceremony to the chief of another village, who divides it among his own people. This chief also takes the eagle, which he burns. The entire ceremony seems to be made by a son or grandson or relative, in other words the successor, of the chief in whose honor it is held, and whom the eagle represents or "calls."

A dance called morahash was performed by a single dancer in the wamgush. It would be made for a dead chief by his son, some years after his death. The young chief would hire the man who danced for him. All chiefs had such dancers; they did not dance themselves. The women sang, the men "growled" or blew, and the singer shook a turtle-shell rattle. The songs were descriptive of the dancing. The dancer was called totawish; his performance is evidently what is called the "tatahuila" dance by the present-day Diegueño, who do not acknowledge this word as their own. The dancer wore a skirt of eagle feathers, called balat; cheyat, a head-dress of a bunch of owl, crow, or raven feathers, fastened to the hair by a pin or stick; piwish, ropes of owl feathers, wound around the head or hung around the neck; and apuma, a head-dress of long eagle-feathers worn upright on the head.

This morahash dance is said to have been among the Luiseño before the toloache-ceremony. It is thought to go back to the time when the people were still in the north. It is not from Wiyot, for Wiyot did not give dances, but the people made them after his death. The morahash was first made over his ashes.

Customs and Beliefs.

The medicine man is called pula. He derives his power from dreaming. He does not dream of Wiyot, nor derive his power from him, but dreams of a rock, a mountain, a person, or something similar. Shamans were men, not women.

The shamans have songs, which they receive from the object of their dream, and which they sing to themselves. It is not known whether they also sing them while doctoring. Their stone pipes seem to be regarded as fetishes. At least shamans frequently speak to their pipes. They also blow tobacco smoke on

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the sick person. Sometimes they sleep near the patient, waiting for a dream in which their guardian spirit tells them how to proceed. The main reliance seems to be on sucking. Water is also spurted or blown on the patient.

When a man killed a deer, or rabbits, he brought them to the wamgush. Then the people ate the meat, but he did not partake of it. If he should eat of the meat of animals he himself had killed, even only very little, he would not be able to kill others. However if he confessed to the people that he had taken some of the meat, he would again be able to hunt successfully.

The dead went to the sky.

A menstruating woman did not mix with other people. She could not cook for them. She herself ate neither meat nor fish. She slept by herself, outside the house.

After the birth of a child both the mother and the father remained quiet. They did not cook or work. They remained lying down for twenty, thirty, or forty days. They used medicine of a plant called hulvul, 315 boiled in water. They ate no meat. All this was done for the health of the child. When the child's navel string was cut, it was tied over the navel. After the cord fell off, it was buried.

Women were tattooed on the chin, with a vertical line down the forehead, and with a small circle on each cheek. On their wrists there were bands of tattooing and across the breast a curved band or line from which lines extended downward. Men tattooed less than women.

The following animals are said not to have been eaten: the dog, bear, coyote, lizard, frog, turtle, eagle, buzzard, and raven.

At marriage property was given to the parents of the bride. It is not certain whether this took the form of a purchase payment or merely of a customary gift. The informants questioned knew of no restrictions on communication between parents-in-law and children-in-law.

Houses and Implements.

The house consisted of a framework of posts, rafters, and poles, with a thatching of shuikawat 316 plants. The thatching was

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then thickly covered with soil. The interior of the house was excavated perhaps two feet. Tule houses were built by the mountain Luiseño while at San Luis Rey mission.

The sweat-house was similar but smaller. Two forked posts were erected and connected by a log, on which poles were rested from both sides. A thatching of plants was covered with mud, and over this was put dry soil. The door was on one of the long sides. The sweat-house was not used for dancing, all such functions occurring in the wamgush enclosure. The sweat-house was regularly used for sweating in the evening, and sometimes in the morning also. After sweating in the evening, men slept in the house, not in the sweat-house. The heat in the sweat-house was produced directly by a fire, not by steam.

The mortars of the Luiseño are generally large boulders weighing perhaps two hundred pounds or more. The cavity is conical and pointed rather than rounded. The pestles are usually a foot or more long and rather unshaped. One or two sides are generally flat, as in Yokuts pestles, and the butt end, which is wider than it is thick, has a diameter of about half the length of the pestle. On the whole the pestles seem to be boulders or slabs which are little worked except at the rather pointed pounding end. The most common material is granite. A flat metate, malal, was also used.

Head-bands of human hair, called yukish, 317 were made from hair cut off in mourning, and were worn by old men in dancing.

Nothing corresponding to a drum is said to have been used in any ceremonies. Whistles, bakhal, of cane or reed, huikish, 318 and asphalt, shanat, were used at the boys’ initiation, at the time when the boys were buried and covered with ants. The pumalum or initiated men danced in a circle on this occasion, blowing these whistles and singing in slow broken syllables. The chief musical instrument in ceremonies was the rattle. This was made of a turtle-shell, paayat, which often contained cherry-seeds. String was wound around the shell until the head and leg openings were covered. A stick was put through the top and bottom of the shell until it projected a few inches above and about a foot below.

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[paragraph continues] Such rattles were used in the singing in the mourning ceremonies. They were also used for the dancing in connection with the girls’ puberty ceremony. At this ceremony women danced, while men, bending their bodies forward, sang and rattled, stamping one foot.

Money, auvirat or khenkhat, was made from shells called si’wal, probably a clam; khapshut, almeja; and shauvish, a large univalve of which the columella was used. The clam shells were made into small disks which were perforated and strung. The strings were measured around the circumference of the hand, much as by the Yokuts, except that the measurement seems to have been a little scantier. The end of the string was held between the tips of two fingers. The string was then passed entirely around the edge of the hand back to its beginning, and continued a second time down one side of the hand to the wrist. This measure, approximately one and a half times the circuit of the hand and fingers, was half the unit measure, which was called ponko. This full measure was also determined by taking the end of the string between two finger tips, and then passing around the elbow and back to the finger tips.


174:310 Am. Anthr., n. s. VIII, 32, 1906.

174:311 Enwish, Echinocystis macrocarpa.—S.

176:312 Yuninish, the girls’ puberty ceremony.—S. Cf. note 34.

178:313 Compare the native drawing in Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XIX, 312, 1906.

179:314 Objective case of wicha, given by Mr. Sparkman as Apocynum cannabinum, while Dr. Barrows, in his Ethno-botany of the Cahuilla Indians, makes Cahuilla wish the name of Phragmites communis.

184:315 Hulval, Artemisia californica.—S.

184:316 Croton californicum.—S.

185:317 Yula, hair; yukut, hairy; yutush, the scalp, when detached.—S.

185:318 Elymus condensatus.—S.

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