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A Mission Record of the California Indians, by A.L. Kroeber, [1908], at

San Luis Rey.

The language of this mission is called Lamancus. 15

Fights arise over any sort of trifle, and they readily kill one another.

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They throw seeds, beads, and other objects into the fire in which they burn their dead.


We have not observed any other idolatry among these Indians than that connected with certain birds which they call azuts, which really are a kind of very large vulture. 16 At the right time, while still small, they take them from the nest (according to what they say there are never more than two), and he who has captured them presents them with many carabanas to the chief of the village. The chief raises them with much attention and care until they are grown up; when, being of good size, the Indians make their great festival with the following ceremonies.

The night before the festival they put the azuts or vultures in the middle of a large circle of themselves. While they dance and sing a very miste song, and while old men and old women are blowing out towards all points of the compass, and making a thousand strange faces and grimaces, they very slowly kill the birds. When they are dead, they extinguish the fire and all break out in wails, shouts, and outcries, as if they were crazy, waving firebrands and striking blows as if they were furious, in such a way as to cause horror and confusion. After a considerable space of time during which this extravagance lasts, they again light (atizar) the fire. They skin the birds and throw their flesh on the fire. Meanwhile they begin to sing again, and with somewhat more suavity. They keep the feathers of the birds with much escovra and veneration until the following day, when they make a sort of skirt of them. This skirt they put on a boy during the days that the ceremony lasts. Wearing this skirt, he dances in

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the middle of a great circle of Indians, who make turns (dan vueltas, make short excursions) in time to the measure to which the boy is dancing in the center. They make this dance at intervals, and other boys who have been assigned to this take the place of the first boy. After the ceremony the chief of the village keeps the skirts with great veneration or a species of idolatry. We made the most careful efforts to ascertain the purpose of this ritual, but we have never been able to extract anything else than that thus their ancestors made it.


In order to win in their games of obligations (empeño) they drink a liquid which they call mani, made from the root of toloache pounded and mixed with water. 17 This drink renders them inebriated, and at times they give forth what they have in the stomach. In the state of intelligence, from which they depart with this nonsense, they say that because the other fasted and drank more. 18


These Indians do not use any sort of unusual drink, other than that made from toloache or mani. This drink does them so much damage, that if they drink a quantity, and do not vomit, they die in their intoxication, foaming at the mouth.

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When there is an eclipse of the sun or of the moon they shout with very loud outcries, making noises by clapping their hands and in other ways. On being asked the reason, they have always answered us that they believe that an animal was trying to eat the sun or the moon, and that they did these extreme things in order to frighten him, thinking that if he ate them they would all perish. 19


The method observed by these Indians in their illnesses is as follows: For external matters, such as wounds, they make a tight bandage above the wound, with the end that the illness may not go up higher. In addition they most commonly use one of the following remedies: a plaster of tule leaves, which they call pibut, cooked and chewed; at other times they use the wild onion, queheyaguis, chewed and made into a plaster. There is another herb which occurs on the seashore. This they burn and put the ashes on the wound. We do not know the name of this plant, but they call it chaeca. If the wound is a burn (quemadosa) they follow the same treatment as regards the ligature, but in addition they put on powdered prickly pear (tuna) leaves, naboi, or more often powdered excrement of the jackrabbit or rabbit, tosoyat posa. Others use leaves of sage (salvia), cosil. If the trouble is the bite of a poisonous animal, they use, again in addition to the ligature, a stone similar to lapis, xaclul. This stone they soak in the mouth, and when it has become wet they apply some of the moisture to the wound. They do the same for wounds from poisoned arrows. If the sickness is a swelling, they still do not forget the ligature, and in addition anoint with ointment or oil of the seed of the gourd (chilicote), ennuix, until it rabierta or esparrama. In the case of internal illnesses they tie up very tight the part of the body which most hurts them, which we have observed to be most commonly the capa. They use also certain powdered roots, which they drink mixed with water and with the following: the root of the mangle (mangrove?), hechis; of the elder (sahuco), crita; of the wild rose of Castile, husla; of wild

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cane, hiquix; and of the plant called hial. 20 They say that these drinks are all purgatives, and the root of the mangle also very provocative to vomiting. They do not make use of blood-letting. They have certain doctors (curanderos), who suck the sick person wherever he feels most pain, and presently they extract from the mouth blood, or sometimes pebbles, sticks, bones, or bits of skin, which they have deceitfully provided themselves with before. Making the patient believe that this was the sickness, they presently blow towards the four winds, and the sick man remains well satisfied, although sicker than before. They make him keep diet so rigorously that ordinarily they do not give him anything to eat unless he asks for it. They also practice the superstitions of dances, songs, and breathings for the sick, while a wizard makes a thousand faces over him. Thus, when the first remedies do not avail, and one of these medicine-men is employed, he does not give over until he has killed the patient and made of him a martyr to the demon. In short, in the matter of their superstitions regarding sickness, idolatry, and witchcraft, they are so rare (raros), full of deceit, and reserved, that although I have been among them since the foundation of this mission, that which I can most readily manifest regarding these matters, is my ignorance of them. They never confess more than what they cannot deny.


They have an idea of a rational soul, which they call chamson, and believe that when they die this goes below to tolmar, 21 where all come together and live forever in much happiness. With this they have, however, no idea of reward or punishment. 22


6:15 With San Luis Rey we enter Shoshonean territory, in which the three following missions were also situated. The Luiseño are the only group of California Indians besides the Diegueño to have been brought under mission control and to survive in any numbers. The account here given is probably from the pen of Father Antonio Peyri, who was for many years identified with San Luis Rey. Father Geronimo Boscana, author of the important account of the religion and customs of the neighboring San Juan Capistrano Indians (in A. Robinson, Life in California, 1846), was at San Luis Rey from 1812 to 1813. The name Lamancus is not known. The only native name ordinarily given for this language, or the allied dialect of San Juan Capistrano, is Ne-tela, my speech, or Cham-tela, our speech.

7:16 Azuts are really not vultures, that is, condors, but eagles. Ashwut is Luiseño for eagle, yungavaiwot for condor. The author's Luiseño and Diegueño informants always mentioned the eagle as the bird connected with this ceremony. Boscana, however, describes the bird as much resembling the common buzzard, but larger, which clearly makes it the condor. It is not unlikely that both species were used. The annual eagle ceremony, the central feature of which is the slow pressing to death of an eagle in the course of the night, has already been mentioned as one form of mourning ritual practiced by most of the mission tribes of Southern California. Boscana, in the dialect of San Juan Capistrano, calls both ceremony and bird panes. The dance in the eagle-feather skirt, paelt, Luiseño palat, is also described by Boscana. A Luiseño dance made in remembrance of a chief, in which one man wearing the palat dances alone, is called Morahash. The boys here described as wearing the eagle-feather skirt were probably initiates of the puberty ceremonials.

8:17 The drinking of Datura meteloides, the common jimson-weed, Spanish toloache, is the most important act of an initiation ceremony for boys, held formerly by probably all the Indians of California that today are known as Mission Indians. A somewhat similar ceremony is practiced by the Yokuts Indians of the southern San Joaquin valley. The Mohave and Chumash used the plant for religious purposes, but are not known to have employed it specifically in connection with an initiation ceremony. The religious importance of jimson-weed among the Indians of Southern California, may be judged from the fact that almost all their public rituals are either mourning ceremonies, or puberty initiation ceremonies related to this one. The effect of jimson-weed is sometimes loosely compared to that of alcohol, but differs in that it quickly produces unconsciousness and visions, and if taken in excess not infrequently causes death, as our missionary informant states. In the jimson-weed ceremony the young men received knowledge of the religious beliefs and practices of their tribe. The plant was also used as a medicine, especially in the case of broken bones. The Cahuilla say that it was taken by them for practical motives like that here mentioned, namely, to become rich and be successful in worldly matters. The plant is called mani, manit, or manich by all the Shoshoneans of Southern California, except the Cahuilla, who name it kiksawal.

8:18 The manuscript reading is confused here, apparently through an omission: cuya bevida los pone ebrios y veces provocan quanto tienen en el estomago, en la inteligencia, que se con este disparate pierden, dicen que porque el otro ayunó y bevió mas.

9:19 Compare the same statement below regarding the San Juan Capistrano Indians, and what Boscana says on page 298. Compare also the prayer or formula sung by the Tachi Yokuts at an eclipse of the sun, present series, II, 374.

10:20 The Luiseño dictionary of P. S. Sparkman gives pivut, a rush, Juncus mertensianus; kashil, white sage; navut, prickly pear; enwish, chilicothe, Echinocystis macrocarpa; kutpat, elder; ushla, wild rose; huikish, Elymus condensatus, a species of cane used for arrows.

10:21 Chamson means "our heart," from cham-, the possessive prefix of the first person plural, and -sun or -shun, heart. The analogous term nu-shun was given the writer by a Luiseño informant as meaning my soul, "alma mia." Boscana, 317, gives pu-suni, his heart, as the San Juan Capistrano term for soul. The Sparkman Luiseño dictionary translates tolmal as a place in the center of the earth where some people go after death.

10:22 In which they agree with almost all Indians.

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