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The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California, by Constance Goddard DuBois, [1908], at


The sand-painting was first done by Tukwut, Iswut, and Mesmal Awawit, 23 Mountain Lion, Wolf, and Sea Fog. They were people and great medicine men, and were the first to institute Mani. It was after Ouiot died that they made all the rituals and ceremonies.

The sand-painting was used in four ceremonies: Mani, the toloache ritual; Wukunish, the girl's ceremony; the ant-ordeal; and in Unish Matakish, 24 the ceremony for burying the feathers of a toloache initiate when he died. 25

Since my authorities differed concerning it, it was with difficulty that I obtained anything like a complete understanding of the sand-painting; and it was not until all my notes were collated and compared that I decided that the main reason for these differences was the fact that some of the old men were describing one form of sand-painting and some another; that those were wrong who maintained that the girls’ and boys’ sand-paintings were alike; that there were in fact two forms of which one only was distinctly remembered by most of them.

The only alternative is to imagine that different practices prevailed in this matter in the old days.

As all were agreed concerning the sand-painting used in the girls’ ceremony, this will be first described.

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A central hole is dug, and the sand removed from it is taken to make a heaped-up circle about two feet in diameter, the width of the heaped-up border being about three or four inches.

This circle is then painted by sprinkling it with different colored sands or ground paint and powdered charcoal. The outer. edge is made white, the middle red, the inner edge black.

The central hole is defined in the same way, white outermost, red in the center, black nearest the hole.

Three concentric circular rows of nine points each 26 are made pointing outwards from the central hole; the outermost row of points are white, the next circle of points red, those nearest the hole black.

A sand-painting was made for the author, which is shown in plate 2. For convenience in photographing it was done chiefly in white. The outer enclosing circle, however, shows the red and black.

According to one authority the three circles forming the circumference mean, the white outer one the Milky Way; the red central one, tukmit 27 the sky; the black inner one, chum kwinamul, 27 our spirit. According to another, the outer circle of white is the Milky Way; the middle of red, chum towi 27 our spirit; the inner of black, kwinamish, 27 the spirit. Another gives these as chum towi, chum wanamul, chum kwinamul, all meaning our spirit; the central one referring to the Milky Way, which he places in that position, making the white circle central and uppermost. Wanamul seems to include the stem which is found in wanawut, as if spirit and Milky Way were synonymous. 28

The sand-painting represents the world. The sky bending above is supposed to rest upon the circle of the Milky Way. The whole of the visible universe is thus represented.

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All the authorities but one maintain that there is a "door" to the north to allow the escape of the spirit. The informant who denies this has either forgotten, or he belongs to a line of descent, a 'clan,' in which the ceremony was modified.

The gate towards the north is shown in the photograph. The Earth-mother lies with her feet to the north. 29 Those who laid Ouiot on the funeral pile stood facing that way. All ceremonies and invocations are performed facing the north.

In the outer circle of points or diamond-shaped divisions, in the second one from the door, is a small circle of sand. This represents the sea, which according to one version of the creation myth, gives us the breath of life which fills our lungs.

In the next division is a small heap of sand; this is kawima hulwul, that is, the little hill of hulwul, 30 the sacred Chungichnish plant that grows on the hills, which punishes the transgressor; how, it is not known.

In the sixth division, counting in the same direction, is a larger hill combining the meaning of four Chungichnish avengers: sowut, hunwut, tukwut, iswut, that is, rattlesnake, bear, mountain lion, wolf.

In the middle circle of points, in the fourth division, there is another small heap of sand. This means mukil, boil or abscess, which is a Chungichnish avenger and sent to punish those who do not fast for the appointed time, or who secretly steal meat or salt during the fast.

The name of the sand-painting is eskanish tarohayish, a double name. Eskanish means any kind of images or figures, and after the habit of Luiseño double terms is qualified, as it were, by tarohayish which means this particular kind of image. It is also called nahish. 31

Into the central hole of the sand-painting, the girls spit the lump of sage seed and salt at the conclusion of the ceremony. In this hole also are buried the feathers of the toloache initiate

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after his death. The hole in this case must be made larger. In the girls’ sand-painting the hole is about four inches in diameter.

Salvador is the only one who gives a different sand-painting for the boys’ ceremony (fig. 2); the others think it differed only in being of a larger size.

Fig. 2.—Sand-painting for boys’ initiation as sketched by Salvador Cuevas.
Click to enlarge

Fig. 2.—Sand-painting for boys’ initiation as sketched by Salvador Cuevas.

Salvador is probably correct. He drew both for me on pieces of paper and explained them as well as he could. The circle in the boys’ sand-painting is about as large as a wagon wheel, and is divided in quarters, three of which are marked off by lines into nine divisions each; the fourth being empty except for the figure of a rattlesnake and three round figures meaning the flat baskets, tukmul, which belong to the men and are sacred to Chungichnish, being placed on the ground in every ceremonial, containing a little grain.

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The divisions of this painting are said to be in various colors, made with powdered yellow bark, white and red clay, and other paints, yellow, green, white, blue, and red.

This painting represents the earth, the colors symbolizing flowers, fields, and trees.


87:23 Mesmal, mist, fog; awa’vit, fog.—S.

87:24 Yunish, burying of an initiate's ceremonial feathers; matakish, grinding stone.—S.

87:25 It will be seen that these are all connected with the idea of initiation.—Ed.

88:26 The design may also be imagined as consisting of nine pointed figures of the form of a Gothic arch, intersecting, and surrounding the central hole.—Ed.

88:27 Tukomit, night, also the first 'man' made by Kyuvish Ataxvish (x German ch); sky, tupash; Towish, spirit, corpse, cham-towi, our spirit. Cham-kwinamo, our spirit, root, or origin, from kwinamush, which really means root, and is used in speaking of the root of a plant or the origin of a person.—S.

88:28 To most California Indians the Milky Way is the spirits’ or ghosts’ road.—Ed.

89:29 Cf. Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XIX, 312, 1906.

89:30 Kawimal hulval, hulval hill; hulval, Artemisia californica.—S.

89:31 Mr. Sparkman gives the same interpretation of eskanish and tarohayish. For nahish he has nawish, marking, writing, painting, from the verb nawi.

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