Cherokee Formula for Hunting Birds

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Cherokee Formula for Hunting Birds

Listen! O Ancient White, where you dwell in peace I have come to rest. Now let your spirit arise. Let it (the game brought down) be buried in your stomach, and may your appetite never be satisfied. The red hickories have tied themselves together. The clotted blood is your recompense.

O Ancient White,  Accept the clotted blood (?)

O Ancient White, put me in the successful hunting trail. Hang the mangled things upon me. Let me come along the successful trail with them doubled up (under my belt). It (the road) is clothed with the mangled things.

O Ancient White, O Kanati, support me continually, that I may never become blue. Listen!

Explanation of Cherokee Formula for Hunting Birds

This formula, from A’yûnini’s manuscript, is recited by the bird-hunter in the morning while standing over the fire at his hunting camp before starting out for the day’s hunt. A’yûnini stated that seven blowgun arrows are first prepared, including a small one only a “hand-length” (awâ´hilû) long. On rising in the morning the hunter, standing over the fire, addresses it as the “Ancient White.” rubbing his hands together while repeating the prayer. He then sets out for the hunting ground, where he expects to spend the day, and on reaching it he shoots away the short arrow at random, without attempting to trace its flight. There is of course some significance attached to this action and perhaps an accompanying prayer, but no further information upon this point was obtainable. Having shot away the magic arrow, the hunter utters a peculiar hissing sound, intended to call up the birds, and then goes to work with his remaining arrows. On all hunting expeditions it is the regular practice, religiously enforced, to abstain from food until sunset.

A favorite method with the bird-hunter during the summer season is to climb a gum tree, which is much frequented by the smaller birds on account of its berries, where, taking up a convenient position amid the branches with his noiseless blowgun and arrows, he deliberately shoots down one bird after another until his shafts are exhausted, when he climbs down, draws out the arrows from the bodies of the birds killed, and climbs up again to repeat the operation. As the light darts used make no sound, the birds seldom take the alarm, and are too busily engaged with the berries to notice their comrades dropping to the ground from time to time, and pay but slight attention even to the movements of the hunter.

The prayer is addressed to the Ancient White (the Fire), the spirit most frequently invoked by the hunter, who, as before stated, rubs his hands together over the fire while repeating the words. The expressions used are obscure when taken alone, but are full of meaning when explained in the light of the hunting customs. The “clotted blood” refers to the bloodstained leaves upon which the fallen game has lain. The expression occurs constantly in the hunting formulas. The hunter gathers up these bloody leaves and casts them upon the fire, in order to draw omens for the morrow from the manner in which they burn. A part of the tongue, or some other portion of the animal, is usually cast upon the coals also for the same purpose. This subject will be treated at length in a future account of the hunting ceremonies.

“Let it be buried in your stomach” refers also to the offering made the fire. By the red hickories are meant the strings of hickory bark which the bird hunter twists about his waist for a belt. The dead birds are carried by inserting their heads under this belt. Red is, of course, symbolic of his success. “The mangled things” (unigwalû´ngi) are the wounded birds. Kana´ti is here used to designate the fire, on account of its connection with the hunting ceremonies.

Cherokee Original


Tsige´! Hikayû´nl-Une´ga, tsûltâ´histû´n gûlitâ´histani´ga. Nâ´gwa tsûda´ntâ talehi´sani´ga. Sâ´gwa igûnsi´ya ts’skwâli´ udû´nisate´sti, ts’su´lti nige´sûnna. Wane´(i) tigi´gage(i) tali´kaneli´ga. U´ntali udanû´hi tsagista´’ti.

Hikayû´nl-Une´ga, anu´ya uwâtatâ´gi agi´sti tatsiskâ´ltane´lûhi. U´ntali u´danû´ te´tûlskew´si´ga.

Hikayû´nl-Une´ga, nûnna´(hi) kana´ti skwatetâ´stani´ga. Unigwalû´ngi te´gatûntsi´ga. Nûnâ´(hi) kana´ti tati´kiyû´ngwita´watise´sti. Unigwalû´ngi tigû´nwatû´tsanû´hi.
Hikayû´nl-Une´ga, Kana´ti, sk´salatâ´titege´sti, sa’ka´ni ginu´t’ti nige´sûnna. Sge!

MLA Source Citation:

Mooney, James. Sacred Formulas Of The Cherokees. Published in the Seventh Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 301-399. 1886. Web. 26 January 2015. - Last updated on Jun 13th, 2013

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