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


When several members of a family have died within a short period, it is customary to hold a ceremony called Image Burning or Keruk, southern dialect Wukeruk. The corresponding ceremony

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among the Luiseño is called Tochinish or Tauchanish. 87a Images representing each of the deceased are made out of matting. These are stuffed with grass to give them a lifelike appearance, and are dressed in all sorts of finery. Eyes, nose, ears, and teeth are represented with bits of haliotis shell. The gum of the greasewood is used for glue. Drops of this substance are also used to make the pupils of the eyes. Human hair is put on the heads of the images. These images, together with considerable property, are burned amid elaborate rites. The whole forms a long and complicated ceremony.

Mention of this ceremony is made several times in the mythology of the Diegueño. 88 Its origin is described in the Creation myth which follows in this paper. It is believed by the Diegueño to be the first ceremony ever performed. The author of the account of the equivalent Luiseño ceremony says correctly that the original source of the ceremony must remain a matter of speculation.

Though in the account given of the Luiseño ceremony no mention is made of time, it seems likely that the rite itself consumes only two or three days. The Diegueño ceremony, however, requires six days. For the latter a small ceremonial house is built. This house, keruk, is absent from the Luiseño ceremony. It seems, therefore, that the Diegueño have a fuller form of the rite. Since, in addition, the ceremony is mentioned in Diegueño mythology, while it is nowhere mentioned in Luiseño mythology as so far printed, it at least seems likely that the ceremony was first celebrated by the Diegueño and acquired from them by the Luiseño.

As always, the family giving the ceremony entertains all the visitors. It was formerly a matter of pride to furnish not only an abundance of food, but also to provide delicacies. For this reason a quantity of pine-nuts, axiw, choke-cherries, akwai, and mesquite beans, anal, was gathered, and sometimes brought from a distance. The images are made in some private place by the relatives of the deceased persons. On the spot chosen

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for the ceremony the small ceremonial house called keruk is erected. It is in shape half a hemisphere facing the east. 89 When all is in readiness the people assemble and pass one night in wailing. In the morning they have something to eat, and go to sleep. The relatives of the dead fast as much as they can and carefully refrain, moreover, from touching any of the festival supplies.

The next night a large fire is built near the keruk. The faces of the images are then painted. Those which represent women are painted red with scorched mescal syrup. Those which represent men are painted black with graphite, with the addition of a white stripe down the nose and chin. Amid great wailing the images are then picked up and carried to the fire. The relatives join in the procession, but do not carry the images. They continually wail. The following song is sung as they march.

wumi pawakaam
wumi maiyeuwinyaka am

weeping we-arrive
weeping we-come

When they reach the fire the people march around it from left to right. They advance first one foot and then the other with the twisting motion of the body already mentioned. The sound of the elderbark skirts worn by the women at the time is supposed to be represented by the following song:

xeyul paxal apuraxa apuraki
apuraxa xatca tcapuk
amai payiw

put-on elderbark-skirt ... ...
... Pleiades (he)-comes-forth
up-in-sky (he)-finishes

A long series of songs follows, and the dancing continues all night. So the time passes for six days, with eating and sleeping in the daytime, and dancing at night. Several times every night the relatives of the deceased persons pile baskets and clothing on the fire and burn them. Small baskets are also thrown in the air. These the visitors gather up and keep for themselves. This is always accompanied by wailing on the part of the family giving the ceremony. On the seventh night, after dancing till sunrise, they put the images inside of the keruk. Then they put in a great quantity of property, clothing, baskets, beads, and household goods. Finally the remaining space is

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filled with dry brush and the whole set on fire. While the smoke and sparks shoot upward in the early morning sunlight, they sing the following song:

wa katomi aminy awa
wa katomi aminy awa

is-going essence to-your home
is-going essence to-your home

The significance of this song as showing the existence of a belief in a future life has already been discussed. The singers were thoroughly questioned concerning this belief, but no further particulars were brought out. No distinction seems to be made in this future state between "good" and "bad" people, nor between those who observe the ceremonies and those who do not. Concerning the general purpose of the ceremony, the usual explanation was that offered for the Clothes Burning—that people did not wish to see any reminders of the dead left about, because it made them feel bad. This of course does not explain the custom of burning new and valuable property which has no association with the dead. On a second visit to the region the writer was informed that the ceremony was to make the dead contented, "so they would not come back." After this ceremony the dead are never mentioned, and signs of grief are discontinued.


312:87a DuBois, op. cit., pp. 100, 103, 180; Sparkman, p. 227.

312:88 Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XIX, 153, 160, 1906.

313:89 East is the ceremonial direction among the Diegueño, as north is among the Luiseño.

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