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


Among the Diegueño exists a peculiar association of direction with color. 126a The two ideas appear together frequently both in their myths and in their religious formulas and rituals.

p. 333

[paragraph continues] North is associated with red, east with white, south with blue or green, these colors not being distinguished by the Diegueño, and west with black.

One of the songs accompanying the Eagle dance given above is:

The white eagle puts his nest on cliffs.
The eagle from the west puts his nest on sycamore along the edge of the creeks.

The eagle from the west is in the song contrasted with a "white" eagle. The western eagle seems therefore to occur to the native mind as black. The association of west with black is carried out by the statement of the old men, that when the dancers witch a white eagle to death in the Eagle-dance, as described above, "they send him east. When they kill a black eagle they send him west."

In the myth of Chaup, 127 there is shown a corresponding feeling for color connected with north and south. "The elder sister, who was a witch-doctor and knew everything, stood up and held her hand to the north and brought down a red stone. ... Then she held up her hands to the south and got a blue stone of the same sort." Further on in this same story, 128 the corresponding colors for east and west are indicated. "The boys stood and held their hands to the east and got some white clay and with it they painted their cheeks. Then they held their hands to the west and got some black clay."

A complete color-system for the four cardinal points has already been quoted in connection with the Clothes-burning ceremony. The account of the original ceremony is as follows:

From the north he (the first man making the ceremony) brought a red rock, from the east a gleaming white rock, from the south a green rock, and from the west a black rock because the sun sets there. Then he said: "My father and grandfather are dead, so now I sing."

menai dispa tcawai tcawi
menai dispa tcawai tcawi
xitol kawak enyak awik
amai amut

now dead I sing
now dead I sing
North, South, East, West
up, down

p. 334

Certain passages in Diegueño mythology seem to indicate that this system is not always understood. In the Chaup story, for instance, the following passage occurs: 129 "Then she held up her hand to the sky and got a black sticky substance . . . and then she reached out her hand toward the west and got some shining stuff like quicksilver." This of course contradicts the statement already made, that west is associated with black and east with "gleaming white." The author of the quoted passage, however, elsewhere confuses her Diegueño directions east and west. In her paper in the present series 130 east is given as awik, and west as nyak, the terms being reversed. The confusion of the color association in the above passage may therefore have risen only in the English translation, and not from any confusion in the mind of the native narrator.

The colors are however to a certain extent confused by the Diegueño themselves. The present writer for instance obtained the following sentence from an old man at Campo named Tciwal: "He reached his hand to the north (he was a wonderful medicine man) and got a blue flint." North of course ought properly to be "red." In this case the contradiction came from an actual confusion in the informant's mind. The writer's attention was attracted by the violation of the usual color rule and the argument which followed precluded the possibility of any misunderstanding of the narrator's words.

It must be said however that in all such violations of the rule which have so far come to light in Diegueño mythology, the color in question is always applied to the direction opposite to the proper one if any mistake is made. North and south are always identified with one pair of colors, east and west with another. The order within these pairs merely is sometimes reversed. On the whole, in spite of occasional discrepancies, the color-system outlined above may be considered well established.


332:126a See the author's "Diegueño Identification of Color with the Cardinal Points," Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XXI, 40, 1908.

333:127 Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XVII, 218, 1904.

333:128 Ibid., 226.

334:129 Journ. Am. Folk-Lore, XIX, 151, 1906.

334:130 Op. cit., p. 125, record 1090.

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