Caddo Witchcraft

Sickness may be caused by a witch 1 who has sent something into your body-horse hair, an insect, a bit of cloth, an arrow. Your doctor (konah’) would draw out 2 this thing and send it back into the witch who sent it. Then a fight would be on “between the two witches,” i.e. your doctor and the one bewitching you. The one who has the more power will win. 3 If the curing doctor is stronger than the witch doctor, he will make a cure, otherwise the witch doctor will send the sickness into the curing doctor. 4 The curing doctor has first of all to learn who is the witch doctor in the case. If he finds that the witch doctor is one with greater power than himself, he ill not take the case. Some doctors are witches and some are not. Witches are mostly men. A doctor would teach his or her grandchild, especially a daughter’s child. A woman doctor might teach her grandson.

In discussing the removal of the witch-sent object, White Moon was uncertain how it was done, whether or not by sucking. 5 For a bruise or sprain the flesh is cut in a cross, and a horn or bottle in which paper is burned is applied to draw out the blood. This is, of course, a form of cupping. It has also a curious resemblance to sucking as performed by the early Choctaw who cut and then through a horn sucked out the blood and, sometimes, a bit of wood or bison wool or insects alleged to have been the spell of a witch. 6 sucking by horn (or tube) is Indian and was practiced throughout the Southeast; exhausting the air is European, 7 but the resemblance of extraction may have been a source of confusion to White Moon.

Of a witch operating with arrows White Moon gave the following account. A woman saw through the window of a house a short, blood-stained arrow fall down from the air and an old man pick it up. More arrows similarly fell and were picked up. The old man would blow on them and they would disappear, soon to reappear. He was sending these arrows into some one, and he was so powerful that he could send them a hundred miles. A party organized to kill this witch. They shot him through the back and as they shot, he kept jumping into the air. They cut the body up into pieces but the pieces would join together. 8 This occurred five times, the sixth time they cut his heart crosswise; that killed him. Witches could hit you with their magic arrows over long distances-one thousand miles (Pardon)-in fact they could send their power over any distance.

A witch can kill you immediately or let you suffer for three or four days or for years. Witches can not kill a White man, except through his food; the White man has too much pepper and salt in him.

Witches may turn into a screech owl 9 (kaietsi) or may get their power from the owl or be partner with him (p’it’oniwahna ku kaietsi). 10 After bewitching, the screech owl will be sent by the witch to the invalid’s house to spy out how he is doing. Accordingly, whenever people see a screech owl about the house, they try to kill it. Whenever a bird is shot, there in the corresponding part of the witch’s body will be a hole or bruise. 11 If the owl is killed and boiled in a kettle, the witch will die. According to Ingkanish this witch-sent owl can not be killed. “Bad luck” is foretold by Owl, also by Coyote through his cry (Pardon). 12Citations:

  1. neiidi’ (White Moon); naite (Ingkanish).[]
  2. di’m..aGa’ (R.), take it out of him.[]
  3. Cp. Dorsey 2: 44.[]
  4. Once, reports Fray Francisco Casañas de Jesus Maria, a medicine-man “by his tricks tried to prevent me from baptizing a woman. I hurled an exorcism against him. and, all at once, he ran away as if I had tried to kill him. There was another along who tried by certain ceremonies to throw fat and tobacco into the fire in order to do me some harm. I hurled an exorcism at him in the presence of more than thirty persons. So great was his fright that he was not able to hold the bow and arrow which they always carry in their hands; but he ran away from me and the others assembled there. Next morning they went in search of him to get him to cure the sick; but they found him dead in a valley. Since that time all the medicine-men whom they call canna, are afraid of me and give me a free path, praising what I do. They tell the sick that it is very good for them to permit themselves to have the water applied.” more-over, five medicine-men themselves applied for baptism (Hatcher, XXX, 295-296).-Little did the otherwise very understanding friar realize how well he had proved himself to be superior witch doctor, one to be greatly feared![]
  5. Into the eighteenth century Caddo doctors did practice sucking (Hatcher, XXX, 296, XXXI, 165).[]
  6. Swanton 3: 228, 236.[]
  7. The Choctaw did this also with their sucking horn.[]
  8. For this resurrection pattern, cp. Caddo, Dorsey 2: 19, also Kiowa, Parsons, 116.[]
  9. Cp. Creeks, Swanton 1: 632.[]
  10. Cp. Shawnee (Voegelin); Kiowa, Parsons, 115.[]
  11. Widespread belief in the Southwest.[]
  12. See pp. 7, 59.[]


Parsons, Elsie Clews. Notes on the Caddo, Memories of the American Anthropological Association. Supplement to American Anthropologist, Volume 43, No. 3, Part 2. 1921.

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