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The Culture of the Luiseño Indians, by Philip Stedman Sparkman, [1908], at


Puberty ceremonies were generally performed with several boys at once, always of the same clan. The feast-chief 7 of the clan to which the boys belonged never performed the rites himself, but employed another to do so. This was usually the feast-chief of another clan, though any one outside of his own clan who understood the rites might be employed.

At the commencement the boys were given a small quantity of the juice of the roots of the toloache or jimson-weed, Datura meteloides. This soon stupefied them, and while they were in this condition dancing was kept up in a circle around them. As soon as they recovered they had to engage in the dance themselves, at the conclusion of which they were taken by the person in charge of the rites into the field, not to their homes. The following day they were required to bathe and be painted, and in the afternoon were taken to the dance again. This was kept up every day for a month, during which time they did not visit their homes.

Even after this period they were under certain restrictions for a year, not being allowed to eat either meat or salt for that time. At the close of the period of restriction the most important rites of all were performed.

A treble circle was drawn on the ground, with an opening on the side facing the north. The outer circle represented the milky way, the middle one night, and the inner one blood. A small pit, representing "hell," was made in the center of the treble circle, and figures of animals were made between this hole and the inner circle, as indicated in the illustration. (Pl. 20.) These figures were made by strewing sand on the ground. 8

A long lecture or counsel was then given to the youths by the person in charge of the ceremonies. They were told to respect

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their parents, and all grown-up people; not to shout in the presence of old men; and if an old person came to their house, to welcome him or her, and give them food and water, if they had any; if not, to tell them so politely. Also, if when out hunting they should kill a hare or rabbit, and an old man should ask them for it, they should hand it to him without being angry. They were told to bathe on rising in the morning (which it was formerly customary to do), to eat but little, and not to eat hurriedly, even when hungry. Also not to eat chia, venison, and jackrabbit. 9 If they did not heed the counsel given them, the bear and panther would kill them, the raven would shoot them with bow and arrow, if bitten by a rattlesnake in the field they would die right there, and they would also die if bitten by a black spider. Apmikat would lame them, make them blind, make boils break out on their bodies, or cause them to have consumption. The "breaker" would kill them, the stick would splinter them, and so on.

But if they did heed the counsel given them, they would kill the bear and panther and thereby gain fame. If bitten by a rattlesnake or black spider, they would not die, and if chased by a bear or panther they would not be overtaken. Illness would not attack them, their bodies would be active, and they would win races. They might even on rising to the sky after death live again as one of the stars, which it was said were formerly people. Still other inducements were held out to them to obey the counsel given them, and they were told that their actions were seen by the earth and sky. 9

At the close of the lecture they were given some flour of white sage seeds mixed with salt. This they were required to chew and eject from their mouths into the small pit in the center of the circle. The lecturer examined this, and by its appearance pretended to tell whether the youth who ejected it had heeded the counsel given him or not. If dry he declared that he had done so, if moist, that he had not. In the latter case, shouts of disapprobation were made by the spectators, who were gathered around the edge of the outer circle.

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The following is a literal translation of the lecture or counsel given to boys over the torohaish or tarohaish, ground painting.

See these, these are alive, this is bear panther; these are going to catch you if you are not good and do not respect your elder relations and grown up people. And if you do not believe, these are going to kill you; but if you do believe, everybody is going to see your goodness, and you then will kill bear panther. And you will gain fame and be praised; and your name will be heard everywhere.

See this, this is the raven, who will shoot you with bow and arrow, if you do not put out your winnowing basket. Hearken, do not be a dissembler, do not be heedless, do not eat food of overnight (i.e., do not secretly eat food left after the last meal of the day). Also you will not get angry when you eat, nor must you be angry with your elder relations.

The earth hears you, the sky and wood-mountain see you. If you will believe this you will grow old. And you will see your sons and daughters, and you will counsel them in this manner, when you reach your old age. And if when hunting you should kill a hare or rabbit or deer, and an old man should ask you for it, you will hand it to him at once. Do not be angry when you give it, and do not throw it to him. And when he goes home he will praise you, and you will kill many, and you will be able to shoot straight with the bow.

This is a black-rattlesnake, this is going to bite you. Do not eat venison, do not eat jackrabbit, do not eat chia, do not shout in presence of old people. And if old people arrive at your house, you will welcome them at once. And if you have no food to give them, you will tell them so politely. And if you have, then you will give them some at once, also water. And when they arrive at their house, they will praise your goodness, and you will have a good name. And if a rattlesnake should bite you far off in the field, you will be able to arrive at your house. But if you should be wicked and heedless, you will not arrive; right there you will die in the field. And people will say that you are heedless, and that for that reason the rattlesnake bit you.

See this, this is a black-spider, this is going to bite you. Do not steal food of overnight, do not eat hurriedly when you are hungry. Also when you rise in the early morning you will bathe in the water, and you will always be active, and you will win when you run races. And the people will praise you, and you will shout, and will throw away food. And you will not eat much, or your body is going to be heavy, and you will get tired when you run races, and you will sting your foot with nettle.

See this, this (apmikat) is alive, this is going to break you, this is going to lame you, this is going to cause you to have boils on your body, this is going to make you blind, this is going to give you consumptive cough. In the early morning you will bathe, and if illness comes it will pass you by, also blood (i.e., blood-vomiting sickness).

When you die your spirit will rise to the sky, and people will blow (three times) and will make rise your spirit. And everywhere it will he heard that you have died. And you will drink bitter medicine, and will vomit, and your inside will be clean, and illness will pass you by, and you will grow old,

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if you heed this speech. This is what the people of long ago used to talk, that they used to counsel their sons and daughters. In this manner you will counsel your sons and daughters.

This is the breaker, this is going to kill you. Heed this speech and you will grow old. And they will say of you: He grew old because he heeded what he was told. And if you die at some future time you will be spoken of as those of the sky, like the stars. Those it is said were people, who went to the sky and escaped death. And like those will rise your soul (towish). In this manner you will counsel your sons and daughters, should you have any. Pay heed to this speech, that was spoken by the people of long ago.

See this, this is going to splinter you, this is going to give notice what you do, this is going to see you, this is going to know if you have bad thoughts. And if you marry, you will not approach your wife when she is menstruating. The rattlesnake is going to bite you, the stick is going to splinter you, consumption is going to catch you, the earth and sky are going to see if you do anything bad. Listen to this speech and you will grow up and become old. And you will think well of your elder relations, and they will say of you: He is good, whose son is he? In this manner you will counsel your sons and daughters.

And if a bear or panther will wish to catch you, they will not overtake you. And if a rattlesnake or black-spider should bite you, you will not die. But if you are heedless and a despiser, right there you will die. And your spirit (heart) will not rise to the north, or your soul (towish) to the sky.


221:7 "Feast-chief" is probably a translation of "capitan de fiesta"; by this term must be understood a chief of ceremonies, the "religious chief" mentioned in the paragraphs concerning government.

221:8 This sentence was left incomplete by the author, as if an addition had been intended.

222:9 These sentences were left incomplete by the author, as if additions had been intended.

Next: Girls’ Puberty Ceremonies