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Religious Practices of the Diegueño Indians, by T.T. Waterman, [1910], at


The expectant mother among the Diegueño refrains as far as possible from meat and salt. This is held to make childbirth less dangerous. At birth the navel string of the infant is cut with a flint knife, hakwuca. A poultice or small mat of pounded white willow bark, myal, southern dialect meyal, is then heated at the fire and placed on the infant's abdomen. Among the northern Diegueño a small flat stone perforated at one side, milaputapa, was used in place of the willow bark. This was thought, by warming the stomach, to cause the child's digestion to be good for life. So far as the present writer could ascertain, no customs attach to the umbilical cord itself. Wrappings or swaddling clothes of nettle fibre, ahorl29 were put on the child immediately. As soon as practicable thereafter the infant was bound on a straight "cradle-board" made of willow twigs. This binding

p. 285

on the cradle-board is thought to make his back straight and strong. The people say nowadays that all the old men, who are as a rule remarkably hardy, show the advantage of this practice. The younger generation, who are laid in beds and baby-buggies and other soft places, grow up round-shouldered, and are not sturdy like the older generation.

The customs and restrictions attending adolescence are made the occasion of long and somewhat complicated ceremonies. Boys were put through the rather violent kusī or jimsonweed initiation into manhood. 29a At this time they were taught the practices which are supposed to prove the possession of magic power. The proper religious knowledge was taught them through the medium of a great "painting" made on the ground in seeds and colored earths. The girls escaped the administration of the jimsonweed drug, and were not shown any painting. 30 Their ceremony had quite a different purpose, and was apparently concerned primarily with the prospect of motherhood. The difference between the two ceremonies might be summed up by saying that the boys’ ceremony was primarily an initiation into a ceremonial cultus, while the girls’ ceremony referred to their physiological well-being in their future life.


284:29 Compare above, p. 278.

285:29a Cf. p. 274 and note 3a.

285:30 It must be observed that this contradicts the account given of this ceremony by Miss DuBois, op. cit., p. 96. The boys’ ceremony is one of the awik or imported series, while the girls’ ceremony is thought by the present writer to be older and original with the Diegueño themselves.

Next: Girls’ Adolescence Ceremony