The Religion of the Luiseño Indians of Southern California, by Constance Goddard DuBois, , at sacred-texts.com
The stars were those of the First People who went up into the sky in the attempt to escape from death when it became known that the death of Ouiot had brought death to all upon earth.
In the old times much more was known about the stars than at present. Songs remain containing the names of stars which cannot now be identified. It is possible that the motions of the planets were recognized, but today Venus seems to be the only one distinguished by a special name. Venus is Aylucha, 296 that which is left over from evening till morning, food or anything of the kind.
Only the most important stars have names. They were the chiefs among the First People, and they took their parties of adherents or relatives with them, which are now the stars grouped about the chief star, but without individual names.
The associated stars form much larger groups than those which we have adopted from antiquity; and when the Luiseño system is understood, there is something more impressive in it than in the haphazard arrangement of the Greeks and Romans. The oldest and most important star-chiefs, those most often mentioned, are Nükülish, Antares, and Yungavish (buzzard), Altair. The right hand of Antares, Nükülish po-ma, Nükülish his-hand, is Arcturus. Rising always in advance of Antares, it heralds his coming. All the other stars grouped around and between are the people of Antares, a large following.
In the same way Yungavish po-ma, the right hand of Altair, is Vega. The feather headdress of Altair, Pecheya Yungavish, 297 is a star close to and immediately above it.
The Luiseños regard the Milky Way as the spirit, the home of our spirits, to which they are sent when leaving the earth. The long series of songs of Kwinamish define their beliefs concerning the spirit. These songs are extremely difficult of interpretation and explanation, for they include words unused in ordinary life, and ideas that would have been puzzling in the old days to any but the initiated. The instruction concerning the things of the
spirit given to the candidate in the toloache ceremony, as explained by the symbol Wanawut, has already been referred to. The exact character of this can never be discovered; nor in just what manner it symbolizes these ideas.
One of the songs of Kwinamish, already given, begins: Tomamik Yula Wanawut poponakala ponyarakala auma, to the north the spirit in carefully woven strings remains tied. The striking peculiarity in the Luiseño use of sacred terms, the doubling of the word, has been referred to. Wanal Wanawut has been explained. Yula Wanawut has almost exactly the same significance. Yula means spirit, and literally head or hair. It is possible that in ancient times the object Wanawut was made of hair, as were the bracelets and anklets used in the girls ceremony. In the creation myth one of the first states of existence, out of which Earth and Sky came by successive transitions, was called Whaikut Piwkut, explained as something silvery gray, like the glimmering of dawn or the gray hair of old age. In one of the earlier notes made, the explanation identifies Whaikut Piwkut with the Milky Way. It is possible that Whaikut Piwkut was the pre-existing form of the Milky Way, which in that case would have preeminence over Earth and Sky. Its silvery glimmer is suggested by the term; hut all this is involved in uncertainty.
The other chiefs of the first people now seen as stars of the first magnitude are Waonesh, 298 Spica; Nawiwit Chawachwish, 299 Fomalhaut; and Tukmishwut, 300 the North star. Hulaish 301 is Orion, and Chehaiyam 302 the Pleiades. These two are always named together.
Tukmishwut, the North star, 303 remains motionless, and all his people, the members of his "party," move in a circle about him. This is the reason the dancing and marching are in a circle around the sacred enclosure, the fire, and so on. His hand and heart are both to be seen in the sky. The outlines of these figures, traced
in tiny sixth-magnitude stars, are only to be seen in an atmosphere entirely free from moisture as well as from clouds. Three fingers are outlined, the blunt one having been bitten off; and the heart is placed among them, its point reaching to the horizon beneath. Albañas's grandfather taught him the outlines of this constellation of the North star in the evenings when the little boy sat by the hearth fire, tracing the figure in the sparks of little live coals upon the earth floor of the hut (fig. 3) .
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Fig. 3.Heart and three fingers of north star.
At the time when the stars went up in the sky to escape death, the Pleiades, Chehaiyam, were seven young women, sisters; and when they went up a rope was let down for them to climb on.
Coyote came along, and as there was no man with them he said, "I will go with you, girls." They did not answer him, but he took hold of the rope and kept on going up after them. But when they were safely up, they cut the rope and Coyote fell backwards. There is always a star following them, Aldebaran, and this is Coyote.
Orion went up at the same time.
The eclipse of the moon is the physical manifestation of Ouiot's sickness when he counted the months expecting to die. When the eclipse clears off, Moyla, Ouiot, gets well again.
At the time of the eclipse they sing the songs of Pikmakvul.
The moon was sent up into the sky to watch the people and regulate everything, and all goes according to the moon. Especially is this so in regard to women who have their menses, but men are also affected by it, and become strong or weak as the moon waxes and wanes
Mr. F. S. Sparkman in his unpublished dictionary of the Luiseño language says:
"The Luiseño year was divided into eight periods, each of which was again divided into two parts. Periods of time were not represented by these divisions, which merely indicated when certain fruits and ripened, grass began to grow, trees came into leaf in the valley, or on the mountain, etc.
"The following are the divisions of the year:
"It will be seen that the first word of the name given to the first part of each period has the diminutive suffix -mal affixed to it, while the second word of the name, alumal, means thin or lean. Therefore this means something like the small lean part of the period. Mokat, the second word of the name given to the second part of each period, means large, therefore the second parts are spoken of as the large parts. But it is not necessary to use the words alumal and mokat; the other words may be used alone.
It has been impossible to ascertain exactly what periods of the year are represented by these divisions; informants reply differently."
The names of these "months" are all taken from the physical features of different seasons. Tausunmal, August, means everything is brown and sear. Tovukmal refers to the little streams of water washing the fallen leaves. Tasmoimal means that the rain has come and grass is sprouting. In Nemoimal the deer grow fat. The "months" are marked by the rising of certain magnitude stars counted in the early morning. 304
162:296 Eluchax (x German ch).S.
162:297 Yungavsh po-eheya, buzzard his-headdress.S.
163:298 Waunish, a star.S.
163:299 Ngoiwut chawochmush, a star.S.
163:300 Tukmi iswutum pomshun, or tukmi iswut, the north star.S.
163:301 Hulachum, the three stars of Orion.S.
163:302 Chehaiyam, Pleiades.S.
163:303 His finger was bitten off by the rattlesnake. Journ. Amer. Folk-Lore, XIX, 54, 1906.
165:304 The Diegueño year was divided into six months and the morning rising of five chief stars was noted. The names of the months are: Hutlnamashap, Hutltai, Hutlpswi, Hutlkwurx, Hutlmatanai, Hutlanaxa.
The Diegueño constellations are altogether different from the Luiseño, and based upon totally different ideas. It has not been possible to secure an accurate account of them; but it seems that there is no one consistent idea to account for them as with the Luiseños, whose superior intellectuality is shown in their power of generalization; but it is probable that with the Diegueños as with us, they represent each a different myth concept.
Orion is called Mu in Manzanita Diegueño, Emu at Mesa Grande, the word meaning mountain sheep. This apt name is given from the perfectly defined horns of the mountain sheep which can be traced on one side of the constellation as we see it, in tiny stars.
It is said that Scorpio is with the Diegueños a boy with a bow and arrow.
The Diegueño conception of the Milky Way was probably adopted by them from the Luiseños along with the rest of the Chungichnish religion.