The Corn Ceremony was held in the spring or early summer as a
prayer to the spirits to grant bountiful harvests and strength to
A man who in the preceding autumn had witnessed the ceremony in a
dream, climbed to the top of his lodge. There he made a vow to
the Corn Spirit, whose name, Kadhutetash means "Old Woman Who
"Hear me, Old Woman Who Never Dies," the man said in a loud
voice. "I shall give a great feast in your honour for four
reasons. I want to live to see another season. I want my people
to become strong and prosperous. I want our harvest to be
bountiful. And I want our children to become as abundant as the
flowers in the spring."
All of his people would hear him, and he would hear a murmur of
approval throughout all the village. He then began to collect
robes, clothing, horses, and other things of value, to be given
away as presents or exchanged as medicine bundles.
When everything was in readiness, he took a gift and a pipe to a
man whom, he believed, had greater supernatural strength than
himself. He requested this man to act as priest in the Corn
Ceremony. If the man accepted the invitation and smoked the pipe,
he became the Medicine Maker, the chief medicine man of the
ceremony. The Medicine Maker soon went to the lodge of the
Singer, who knew all the songs and secrets of the ceremony. When
the Medicine Maker offered him a robe and invited him to
participate in the Corn Ceremony, the Singer gladly accepted.
They then smoked the pipe together.
When the Medicine Maker had left the lodge, the Singer dressed
and painted himself. Taking a piece of charcoal, he made three
motions, as if he were painting his face. The fourth time, he
drew a mark across his face as he sang:
"I am walking. I am walking."
The words meant that he was still following the instructions that
the Old Woman Who Never Dies gave to the first priests of the
first Corn Ceremony. He then placed a necklace of corn ears about
his neck as he sang, "Yellow, Yellow," meaning "corn." Taking an
ear of corn in his hand, he chanted:
"I am standing. I am walking."
Putting on a cap of the head-skin of his medicine animal--the
kit-fox, for example--he sang:
"Kit-fox is walking. Kit-fox is asking."
When he was ready to depart, he addressed Old Woman Who Never
Dies by singing:
"Young Woman, your fire-smoke I see;
I am coming. It is here."
The Singer then went to the lodge of the Medicine Maker, where
those who were to participate in the ceremony were seated. They
had been invited because their medicines were various birds that
were thought to be the children of Old Woman Who Never Dies, and
were therefore particularly appropriate for this ceremony. Their
medicine bundles were laid in the centre of the lodge.
The Medicine Maker burned incense, and then all started for the
lodge of the man who had made the vow. He was called the votary.
The Medicine Maker led the group, carrying the head of a deer.
The others followed, with the Singer in the centre.
As they approached his lodge, the votary came forth with a pipe,
which he offered to the Medicine Maker. He took a few whiffs and
then returned the pipe. This stopping and smoking occurred four
times before the group reached the votary's lodge.
In the place of honour in his lodge, a very fine buffalo skin had
been spread as an altar. Upon it the Medicine Maker placed the
deer's head he had carried. The Singer sat behind it, and at his
right sat the Medicine Maker, the votary and his wife, and the
other participants. Buffalo robes had been spread in front of the
positions taken by the assisting medicine men. Each of them
placed his medicine bundle upon his particular robe.
The Medicine Maker raised the deer's head and touched the body of
the votary's wife with it. Then each of the medicine men touched
her body with his bundle and laid it in front of the altar, on
robes that had been spread out for that purpose. This part of the
ceremony was to give to the woman the strength and the power
contained in the medicine bundles.
The votary and his wife then seated themselves on the side of the
lodge at the left of the Singer. The Singer said to the votary,
"Bring a live coal from the fire in the centre of the lodge and
lay it on an earthen bowl."
Near it was a special bowl that was considered a symbol of Old
Woman Who Never Dies. From it, the Singer took a handful of sage.
After making a slow motion toward each of the Four Winds, the
Singer lowered the sage to the hot coal, made four circles over
it, and let the handful of sage fall.
The Medicine Maker waved a large bundle of sage over the smoke.
Everyone was silent. The Singer took up the bowl in which the
incense burned and passed it back and forth over the medicine
bundles. As he passed it, he sang, again and again:
Sage is good.
Sage is good.
When he had set the bowl down, all the people stretched their
hands toward it and rubbed themselves as if they were receiving
its power. The votary filled a pipe and handed it to the medicine
man at the end of the row. After inhaling a puff or two, he
passed it to the one seated at his left.
When all had smoked, the Singer raised one of the medicine
bundles, perhaps the raven, and sang as its owner came forward:
Raven is walking. Raven is walking.
Raven is walking.
The Raven man took the bundle from the Singer's hands and danced
backward and forward between the altar and the fireplace. He held
the bundle in his hands and swung it back and forth and from side
to side. As he danced, he and the Singer chanted:
Raven is dancing back and forth.
Raven is dancing back and forth.
The Medicine Maker brought choice bits of meat and pretended to
feed the Raven bundle! The votary then gave it back to him, and
he returned to his seat. His wife gathered up the presents
offered to his medicine by the votary.
The Singer thus called, in the correct order, each of the
medicine men, and learned the songs as he had learned the Raven
songs. When all these songs had been repeated, the votary and his
wife brought food and placed it before the altar. The Singer
chanted the prayer to The One Who First Made All Things:
I am walking in your path.
The votary brought a dish of choice parts of meat and laid it
before the Singer. He sang:
"Old Woman Who Never Dies, I am walking in your path."
Lifting the dish, he extended it to the Four Winds and then threw
the meat among the medicine men while he sang:
I take; I offer; it is done.
This was allegorical of the feeding of her birds by Old Woman Who
Never Dies. The people scrambled for the food, chirping like
blackbirds, ravens, and chickadees. The votary and his wife
distributed the remainder of the food among the participants and
the spectators. When the feast was finished, the owners of the
medicine bundles advanced to receive them, while the Singer
I am walking; I have finished.
The land is green,
The land is yellow,
The land is gray.
The Medicine Maker took a bundle of sage and waved it toward the
Four Winds and toward the door, as if to rid the lodge of evil
spirits. The Singer brushed himself with sage, removed his cap
and his necklace of corn ears, and then washed his face with
water brought by the votary. His last song was this:
It is done; come--.
This song meant that the vow had been fulfilled and asked the
Corn Spirit to answer the prayers for a bountiful harvest.
Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker
Copyright @ 1993-2016
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