Cherokee Formula for Ball Play

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This Concerns The Ball Play – To Take Them To Water With It.

Listen! Ha! Now where the white thread has been let down, quickly we are about to examine into (the fate of) the admirers of the ball play.

They are of-such a (iyu´sti) descent. They are called-so and so (iyu´sti). They are shaking the road which shall never be joyful. The miserable Terrapin has come and fastened himself upon them as they go about. They have lost all strength. They have become entirely blue.

But now my admirers of the ball play have their roads lying along in this direction. The Red Bat has come and made himself one of them. There in the first heaven are the pleasing stakes. There in the second heaven are the pleasing stakes. The Pewee has come and joined them. The immortal ball stick shall place itself upon the whoop, never to be defeated.

As for the lovers of the ball play on the other side, the common Turtle has come and fastened himself upon them as they go about. Under the earth they have lost all strength.
The pleasing stakes are in the third heaven. The Red Tlaniwa has come and made himself one of them, that they may never be defeated. The pleasing stakes are in the fourth heaven. The Blue Fly-catcher has made himself one of them, that they may never be defeated. The pleasing stakes are in the fifth heaven. The Blue Martin has made himself one of them, that they may never be defeated.

The other lovers of the ball play, the Blue Mole has come and fastened upon them, that they may never be joyous. They have lost all strength.

The pleasing stakes are there in the sixth heaven. The Chimney Swift has made himself one of them, that they may never be defeated. The pleasing stakes are in the seventh heaven. The Blue Dragon-fly has made himself one of them, that they may never be defeated.

As for the other admirers of the ball play, the Bear has just come and fastened him upon them, that they may never be happy. They have lost all strength. He has let the stakes slip from his grasp and there shall be nothing left for their share.

The examination is ended.

Listen! Now let me know that the twelve are mine, O White Dragon-fly. Tell me that the share is to be mine-that the stakes are mine. As for the player there on the other side, he has been forced to let go his hold upon the stakes.

Now they are become exultant and happy. Yû!

Explanation of Cherokee Formula for Ball Play

This formula, from the A’yûnini manuscript is one of those used by the shaman in taking the ball players to water before the game. The ceremony is performed in connection with red and black beads, as described in the formula just given for destroying life. The formulistic name given to the ball players signifies literally, “admirers of the ball play.” The Tla´niwa (sa´niwa in the Middle dialect) is the mythic great hawk, as large and powerful as the roc of Arabian tales. The shaman begins by declaring that it is his purpose to examine or inquire into the fate of the ball players, and then gives his attention by turns to his friends and their opponents, fixing his eyes upon the red bead while praying for his clients, and upon the black bead while speaking of their rivals. His friends he raises gradually to the seventh or highest galû´nlati. This word literally signifies height, and is the name given to the abode of the gods dwelling above the earth, and is also used to mean heaven in the Cherokee bible translation. The opposing players, on the other hand, are put down under the earth, and are made to resemble animals slow and clumsy of movement, while on behalf of his friends the shaman invokes the aid of swift-flying birds, which, according to the Indian belief, never by any chance fail to secure their prey. The birds invoked are the He´nilû or wood pewee (Contopus virens), the Tlaniwa or mythic hawk, the Guli´sguli´ or great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus), the Tsûtsû or martin (Progne subis), and the A´nigâsta´ya or chimney swift (Chætura pelasgia). In the idiom of the formulas it is said that these “have just come and are sticking to them” (the players), the same word (danûtsgû´lani’ga) being used to express the devoted attention of a lover to his mistress. The Watatuga, a small species of dragon-fly, is also invoked, together with the bat, which, according to a Cherokee myth, once took sides with the birds in a great ball contest with the four-footed animals, and won the victory for the birds by reason of his superior skill in dodging. This myth explains also why birds, and no quadrupeds, are invoked by the shaman to the aid of his friends. In accordance with the regular color symbolism the flycatcher, martin, and dragon-fly, like the bat and the tla´niwa, should be red, the color of success, instead of blue, evidently so written by mistake. The white thread is frequently mentioned in the formulas, but in this instance the reference is not clear. The twelve refers to the number of runs made in the game.

Cherokee Original

HIA´ A´NE´TS UGÛ´nWA´LI AM´YI DITSÛ´nSTA´TI

Sge! Ha-nâgwa a´sti une´ga aksâ´ûntanû´n usinu´li a’ne´tsâ unatsâ´nûntse´lahi akta´’ti adûnni´ga.

Iyu´sti utadâ´ta, iyu´sti tsunadâ´ita. Nûnnâ´hi anite´lahehû´ ige´ski nige´sûnna. Dû´ksi-gwu´ dedu´natsgû’la´wate´gû. Da´’sûn unilâtsi´satû. Sa’ka´ni unati´satû´.

Nûnnâ´hi dâ´tadu´nina´wati´ a´yû-‘nû´ digwatseli´ga a’ne´tsâ unatsâ´nûntse´lahi. Tla´mehû Gigage´i sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga. Igû´nyi galû´nlâ ge´sûn i´yûn kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâ´gi. Ta´line galû´nlâ ge´sun i´yûn kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâ´gi. He´nilû danûtsgû´’lani´ga. Tla´ma ûnni´ta a´nigwalu´gi gûntla´’tisge´sti, ase´gwû nige´sûnna.
Du´tale a’ne´tsâ unatsâ´nûntse´lahi saligu´gi-gwû dedu´natsgû´’lawisti´tegû´. Elawi´ni da´’sûn unilâtsi´satû.

Tsâ´ine digalû´nlatiyu´n Sa´niwa Gi´gagei sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga, ase’gâ´gi nige´sûnna. Kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâ´gi nû´’gine digalû´nlatiyû´n. Guli´sguli´ Sa’ka´ni sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga, ase’gâ´gi nige´sûnna. Kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâgi hi´skine digalû´nlatiyû´n. Tsutsu´ Sa’ka´ni sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga, ase’gâ´gi nige´sûnna.
Du´tale a’ne´tsâ utsâ´nûntse´lahi Tine´gwa Sa’ka´ni sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga, ige´ski nige´sûnna. Da´’sûn unilâtsi´satû. Kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâ´gi sutali´ne digalû´nlatiyû´n. A´nigâsta´ya sâ´gwa danûtsgu´’lani´ga, ase’gâ´gi nige´sunna. Kanû´nlagi uwâhâ´histâ´gi kûl’kwâgine digalû´nlatiyû´n. Wâtatû´ga Sa’ka´ni sâ´gwa danûtsgû´’lani´ga, ase’gâ´gi nige´sûnna.

Du´tale a’ne´tsâ unatsâ´nûntse´lahi, Yâ´na dedu´natsgû´’lawistani´ga, ige´ski nige´sûnna. Da’sûn du´nilâtsi´satû. Kanû´nlagi de´tagaskalâ´ûntanû´n, igûn´wûlstanûhi-gwûdi´na tsuye´listi gesû´ni. Akta´’ti adûnni´ga.

Sge! Nâ´gwa t’ski´nâne´li ta´ladu´ iyû´nta a´gwatseli´ga, Watatu´ga Tsûne´ga. Tsuye´listi gesû´ni ski´nâhûnsi´ a´gwatseli´ga-kanû´nlagi a´gwatseli´ga. Na´’nâ utadâ´ta kanû´nlagi dedu´skalâ´asi´ga.

Dedû´ndagû´nyastani´ga, gûnwâ´hisâ´nûhi. Yû!



MLA Source Citation:

Mooney, James. Sacred Formulas Of The Cherokees. Published in the Seventh Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 301-399. 1886. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 27 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/cherokee-formula-for-ball-play.htm - Last updated on Jun 13th, 2013


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