Collection: Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee

The Gatigwanasti Manuscript

Further inquiry elicited the names of several others who might be supposed to have such papers. Before leaving a visit was paid to one of these, a young man named Wilnoti, whose father, Gatigwanasti, had been during his lifetime a prominent shaman, regarded as a man of superior intelligence. Wilnoti, who is a professing Christian, said that his father had had such papers, and after some explanation from the chief he consented to show them. He produced a box containing a lot of miscellaneous papers, testaments, and hymnbooks, all in the Cherokee alphabet. Among them was his father’s chief treasure, a manuscript book containing 122 pages of foolscap size, completely filled with formulas of the same kind as those contained in Swimmer’s book. There were also a large number of loose sheets, making in all nearly 200 foolscap pages of sacred formulas. On offering to buy the papers, he replied that he wanted to keep them in order to learn and practice these things himself-thus showing how thin was the veneer of Christianity, in his case at least. On representing to him that in a few years the new conditions would render such knowledge valueless with the younger generation, and that even if he retained the papers he would need some one else to explain them to him, he again refused, saying that they might fall into the hands...

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Cherokee Formula for I Have Lost Something

Cherokee Formula for I Have Lost Something Listen! Ha! Now you have drawn near to hearken, O Brown Rock; you never lie about anything. Ha! Now I am about to seek for it. I have lost a hog and now tell me about where I shall find it. For is it not mine? My name is –. Explanation of I Have Lost Something This formula, for finding anything lost, is so simple as to need but little explanation. Brown in this instance has probably no mythologic significance, but refers to the color of the stone used in the ceremony. This is a small rounded water-worn pebble, in substance resembling quartz and of a reddish-brown color. It is suspended by a string held between the thumb and finger of the shaman, who is guided in his search by the swinging of the pebble, which, according to their theory, will swing farther in the direction of the lost article than in the contrary direction! The shaman, who is always fasting, repeats the formula, while closely watching the motions of the swinging pebble. He usually begins early in the morning, making the first trial at the house of the owner of the lost article. After noting the general direction toward which it seems to lean he goes a considerable distance in that direction, perhaps half a mile or more, and makes a...

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Cherokee Indian Hygiene and Medicine

No rules are ever formulated as to fresh air or exercise, for the sufficient reason that the door of the Cherokee log cabin is always open, excepting at night and on the coldest days in winter, while the Indian is seldom in the house during his waking hours unless when necessity compels him. As most of their cabins are still built in the old Indian style, without windows, the open door furnishes the only means by which light is admitted to the interior, although when closed the fire on the hearth helps to make amends for the deficiency. On the other hand, no precautions are taken to guard against cold, dampness, or sudden drafts. During the greater part of the year whole families sleep outside upon the ground, rolled up in an old blanket. The Cherokee is careless of exposure and utterly indifferent to the simplest rules of hygiene. He will walk all day in a pouring rain clad only in a thin shirt and a pair of pants. He goes barefoot and frequently bareheaded nearly the entire year, and even on a frosty morning in late November, when the streams are of almost icy coldness, men and women will deliberately ford the river where the water is waist deep in preference to going a few hundred yards to a foot-log. At their dances in the open air men,...

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Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees

The sacred formulas here given are selected from a collection of about six hundred, obtained on the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina in 1887 and 1888, and covering every subject pertaining to the daily life and thought of the Indian, including medicine, love, hunting, fishing, war, self-protection, destruction of enemies, witchcraft, the crops, the council, the ball play, etc., and, in fact, embodying almost the whole of the ancient religion of the Cherokees. The original manuscripts, now in the possession of the Bureau of Ethnology, were written by the shamans of the tribe, for their own use, in the Cherokee characters invented by Sikwâ´ya (Sequoyah) in 1821, and were obtained, with the explanations, either from the writers themselves or from their surviving relatives.

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Cherokee Formula for Treating the Crippler – Rheumatism

Formula For Treating The Crippler (Rheumatism). Listen! Ha! In the Sun Land you repose, O Red Dog, O now you have swiftly drawn near to hearken. O great ada´wehi 1Ada´wehi is a word used to designate one supposed to have supernatural powers, and is applied alike to human beings and to the spirits invoked in the formulas. Some of the mythic heroes famous for their magic deeds are spoken of as ada´wehi (plural anida´wehi or anida´we), but in its application to mortals the term is used only of the very greatest shamans. None of those now belonging to the band are considered worthy of being thus called, although the term was sometimes applied to one, Usawi, who died some years ago. In speaking of himself as an ada´wehi, as occurs in some of the formulas, the shaman arrogates to himself the same powers that belong to the gods. Our nearest equivalent is the word magician, but this falls far short of the idea conveyed by the Cherokee word. In the bible translation the word is used as the equivalent of angel or spirit., you never fail in anything. O, appear and draw near running, for your prey never escapes. You are now come to remove the intruder. Ha! You have settled a very small part of it far off there at the end of the earth. Listen! Ha! In...

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The Gahuni Manuscript

The Gahuni Manuscript The next book procured was obtained from a woman named Ayâsta, “The Spoiler,” and had been written by her husband, Gahuni, who died about 30 years ago. The matter was not difficult to arrange, as she had already been employed on several occasions, so that she understood the purpose of the work, besides which her son had been regularly engaged to copy and classify the manuscripts already procured. The book was claimed as common property by Ayâsta and her three sons, and negotiations had to be carried on with each one, although in this instance the cash amount involved was only half a dollar, in addition to another book into which to copy some family records and personal memoranda. The book contains only eight formulas, but these are of a character altogether unique, the directions especially throwing a curious light on Indian beliefs. There had been several other formulas of the class called Y´û´nwehi, to cause hatred between man and wife, but these had been torn out and destroyed by Ayâsta on the advice of an old shaman, in order that her sons might never learn them. In referring to the matter she spoke in a whisper, and it was evident enough that she had full faith in the deadly power of these spells. In addition to the formulas the book contains about twenty pages of...

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Cherokee Formula Concerning Living Humanity – Love

Cherokee Formula Concerning Living Humanity – Love Kû! Listen! In Alahi´yi you repose, O Terrible Woman, O you have drawn near to hearken. There in Elahiyi you are at rest, O White Woman. No one is ever lonely when with you. You are most beautiful. Instantly and at once you have rendered me a white man. No one is ever lonely when with me. Now you have made the path white for me. It shall never be dreary. Now you have put me into it. It shall never become blue. You have brought down to me from above the white road. There in mid-earth (mid-surface) you have placed me. I shall stand erect upon the earth. No one is ever lonely when with me. I am very handsome. You have put me into the white house. I shall be in it as it moves about and no one with me shall ever be lonely. Verily, I shall never become blue. Instantly you have caused it to be so with me. And now there in Elahiyi you have rendered the woman blue. Now you have made the path blue for her. Let her be completely veiled in loneliness. Put her into the blue road. And now bring her down. Place her standing upon the earth. Where her feet are now and wherever she may go, let loneliness leave its mark...

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Cherokee Formula for Ball Play

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...

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Color Symbolism in Cherokee Formulas

Color symbolism plays an important part in the shamanistic system of the Cherokees, no less than in that of other tribes. Each one of the cardinal points has its corresponding color and each color its symbolic meaning, so that each spirit invoked corresponds in color and local habitation with the characteristics imputed to him, and is connected with other spirits of the same name, but of other colors, living in other parts of the upper world and differing widely in their characteristics. Thus the Red Man, living in the east, is the spirit of power, triumph, and success, but the Black Man, in the West, is the spirit of death. The shaman therefore invokes the Red Man to the assistance of his client and consigns his enemy to the fatal influences of the Black Man. The symbolic color system of the Cherokees, which will be explained more fully in connection with the formulas, is as follows: East = red  = success; triumph. North = blue = defeat; trouble. West = black = death. South = white = peace; happiness. Above? = brown = unascertained, but propitious. = yellow = about the same as blue. There is a great diversity in the color systems of the various tribes, both as to the location and significance of the colors, but for obvious reasons black was generally taken as the symbol of...

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