The I?'dos Company is a band of "medicine" people whose object is to preserve and perform the rites thought necessary to keep the continued good will of the "medicine" animals. According to the traditions of the company, these animals in ancient times entered into a league with them. The animals taught them the ceremonies necessary to please them, and said that, should these be faithfully performed, they would continue to be of service to mankind. They would cure disease, banish pain, displace the causes of disasters in nature, and overcome ill luck.
Every member of the company has an individual song to sing in the ceremonies, and thus the length of the ceremony depends on the number of the members. When a person enters the I?'dos, he is given a gourd rattle and a song. These he must keep with care, not forgetting the song or losing the rattle.
The head singers of the I?'dos are two men who chant the dance song. This chant relates the marvels that the medicine man is able to perform, and as they sing he proceeds to do as the song directs. He lifts a red-hot stone from the lodge fire and tosses it like a ball in his naked hands; he demonstrates that he can see through a
carved wooden mask having no eyeholes, by finding various things about the lodge; he causes a doll to appear as a living being, and mystifies the company in other ways. It is related that new members sometimes doubt the power of the mystery-man and laugh outright at some of the claims of which he boasts. In such a case he approaches the doll, and though his face be covered by a wooden mask, cuts the string that fastens its skirt. The skirt drops, exposing the legs of the doll. Then the doubting woman laughs, for everyone else is laughing, at the doll she supposes, but shortly she notices that everyone is looking at her, and to her utmost chagrin discovers that her own skirt-string has been cut and that she is covered only by her undergarments. Immediately she stops laughing and never afterward doubts the powers of the medicine-man, who, when he cut the doll's skirt-string by his magic power, cuts hers also.
The I?'dos is said to have been introduced among the Seneca by the Huron. The ritual, however, is in Seneca, though some of the words are not understood. The principal ceremonies are: (a) Gai`yowên'ogowa, The sharp point; (b) Gahadi'yagon, At the wood's edge; (c) Gai`'don, The great Gai`'don. Other ceremonies are: O`to?dongwa`', It is blazing; and Tci'gwawa, The other way around. During ceremonies b and c only individual members sing. The chief of the society is said to be a man who is able to see through a wooden mask which has no eye-openings. By his magic power he is able to discover hidden things previously concealed by the members, probably by some particular member. He discovers the ceremonial, no matter where hidden, and juggles with a hot stone drawn from the fire. When the ceremonies are finished the members feast on a pig's head. In early times a deer's head was used. As do the members of the Medicine Lodge upon such an occasion, the members tear the meat from the head with their teeth. The ceremonies of the society are now considered an efficacious treatment for fevers and skin diseases. The rites are supposed to be strictly secret.
The writer has transcribed the entire text of the I?'dos ritual in Seneca and has translated it. Three masks are used in the rites--the Conjuror's mask, the Witch mask, and the Dual-spirit's mask. These masks are never used in the rites of the False Face Company, and differ from them in that they have no metal eyes. A flashlight picture of a corner of the I?'dos lodge was made by the writer in January 1909, but the session of the lodge was not one of the "regular" ones.