The ritual of this society consists of 102 songs, divided into four sections, as follows: The first section, 15 songs; the second, 23 songs; the third, 30 songs, and the fourth, 34 songs. The order of the ceremony is somewhat like that of the Medicine Company. All the songs are sung in darkness. It is believed that the spirit members of the society come and join in the singing, and their voices are thought to be audible at times.
The water drum and the horn rattle are used in this ceremony for keeping time. There is a brief dance. The Dark ceremony is designed to appease certain spirits and to procure the good offices of others. Meetings are called at any time for the purpose of appeasing the spirits of certain charms that have become impotent or which may become so, or are called by members and even by nonmembers who are troubled by certain signs and sounds, such as the drumming of the water fairies or stone throwers, pygmies, who by their signs signify their desire for a ceremony. Nonmembers become members by asking for the services of the society. The rites are preeminently the religion of the "little folk" whose good will is sought by all Indians living under the influence of the Ongwe`'oñwe`ka', Indian belief. The Pygmies are thought to be "next to the people" in importance, and to be very powerful beings. They demand proper attention or they will inflict punishment upon those who neglect them. This society, however, "sings for" all the "medicine charms" and all the magic animals. These magic animals are members of the society, and in order of their importance are: Jongä'on, Elves or Pygmies; Jodi?'gwadon, the Great Horned Serpent; Shondowêk'owa, the Blue Panther, the herald of death; Dewûtiowa'is, the Exploding Wren. Other members, equal in rank, are: Diatdagwût', White Beaver; O`nowaot'gont, or Gane?'onttwût, the Corn-bug; Otnä'yont, Sharp-legs; O?wai'ta, Little Dry Hand; Dagwûn'noyaênt, Wind Spirit, and Nia?`gwahe:, Great Naked Bear.
These charm-members are called Ho'tcine'gada. The charms or parts of these members, which the human members keep and sing for, are: none of the first two, because they are very sacred and "use their minds" only for charms; panther's claw; feathers; white beaver's castor; corn-bug dried; bone of sharp-legs; dry hand; hair of the wind, and bones of Nia?'gwahê. Some of these charms bring evil to the owners, but must not be destroyed under any circumstance.
Their evil influence can be warded off only by the ceremonies. The owner or his family appoints someone to "hold the charm" after the first owner's death. Other charms are only for benevolent purposes, but become angry if neglected. Of the evil charms, the sharp bone may be mentioned; and of the good charms the exploding bird's feathers. Most of them are regarded, however, as ot'gont. The members of this society save their fingernail parings and throw them over cliffs for the Pygmies.
The ceremonies of the societies are always opened with a speech by the invoker. The following speech is that of the Pygmy Society, and in a general way is the pattern of nearly all opening invocations.
Yotdondak'o`, Opening Ceremony of the Pygmy Society
We now commence to thank our Creator.
Now we are thankful that we who have assembled here are well. We are thankful to the Creator for the world and all that is upon it for our benefit.
We thank the Sun and the Moon.
We thank the Creator that so far tonight we are all well.
Now I announce that A B is to be treated.
Now this one, C D, will throw tobacco in the fire.
Now these will lead the singing, E and F.
So I have said.
[The "tobacco thrower" advances to the fire and, Seating himself, takes a basket of Indian tobacco and speaks as follows:]
Now the-smoke rises!
Receive you this incense!
You who run in the darkness.
You know that this one has thought of you
And throws this tobacco for you.
Now you are able to cause sickness.
Now, when first you knew that men-beings were on earth, you said,
"They are our grandchildren."
You promised to be one of the forces for men-beings' help,
For thereby you would receive offerings of tobacco.
So now you get tobacco--you, the Pygmies. [Sprinkles tobacco on the fire.]
Now is the time when you have come;
You and the member have assembled here tonight.
Now again you receive tobacco--you, the Pygmies. [Throws tobacco. ]
You are the wanderers of the: mountains;
You have promised to hear us whenever the drum sounds, Even as far away as a seven days' journey.
Now all of you receive tobacco. [Throws tobacco.] You well know the members of this society,
So let this 1 cease. You are the cause of a person, a member, becoming ill.
Henceforth give good fortune for she (or he) has fulfilled her duty and given you tobacco.
You love tobacco and we remember it; So also you should remember us. Now the drum receives tobacco, And the rattle also.
It is our belief that we have said all, So now we hope that you will help us.
Now these are the words spoken before you all, You who are gathered here tonight.
So now it is done.
121:1 The malific influence causing sickness.