Cherokee Formula for Catching Large Fish

Cherokee Formula for Catching Large Fish

Listen! Now you settlements have drawn near to hearken. Where you have gathered in the foam you are moving about as one. You Blue Cat and the others, I have come to offer you freely the white food. Let the paths from every direction recognize each other. Our spittle shall be in agreement. Let them (your and my spittle) be together as we go about. They (the fish) have become a prey and there shall be no loneliness. Your spittle has become agreeable. I am called Swimmer. Yû!

Explanation of Cherokee Formula for Catching Large Fish

This formula, from A’yûnini´s’ book, is for the purpose of catching large fish. According to his instructions, the fisherman must first chew a small piece of Yugwilû´ (Venus’ Flytrap-Dionæa muscipula) and spit it upon the bait and also upon the hook. Then, standing facing the stream, he recites the formula and puts the bait upon the hook. He will be able to pull out a fish at once, or if the fish are not about at the moment they will come in a very short time.

The Yugwilû´ is put upon the bait from the idea that it will enable the hook to attract and hold the fish as the plant itself seizes and holds insects in its cup. The root is much prized by the Cherokees for this purpose, and those in the West, where the plant is not found, frequently send requests for it to their friends in Carolina.

The prayer is addressed directly to the fish, who are represented as living in settlements. The same expression as has already been mentioned is sometimes used by the doctors in speaking of the tsgâ´ya or worms which are supposed to cause sickness by getting under the skin of the patient. The Blue Cat (Amiurus, genus) is addressed as the principal fish and the bait is spoken of as the “white food,” an expression used also of the viands prepared at the feast of the green corn dance, to indicate their wholesome character. “Let the paths from every direction recognize each other,” means let the fishes, which are supposed to have regular trails through the water, assemble together at the place where the speaker takes his station, as friends recognizing each other at a distance approach to greet each other, uWâhisâ´nahi tigiwatsi´la, rendered “our spittle shall be in agreement,” is a peculiar archaic expression that can not be literally translated. It implies that there shall be such close sympathy between the fisher and the fish that their spittle shall be as the spittle of one individual. As before stated, the spittle is believed to exert an important influence upon the whole physical and mental being. The expression “your spittle has become agreeable” is explained by A’yûnini as an assertion or wish that the fish may prove palatable, while the words rendered “there shall be no loneliness” imply that there shall be an abundant catch.

Cherokee Original


Sge! Nâ´gwa hitsatû´ngani´ga hitsiga´tugi´. Titsila´wisû´nhi uwâgi´’li tege´tsûts’gû´’lawisti´. Tsuli´stana´lû ûle´ waktûi, agi´sti une´ka itsû´nyatanilû´istani´ga. Gûnwatu´hwitû´ nûnnâ´hi degûndâltsi´dâhe´sti. uWâ´hisâ´nahi tigiwatsi´la. Tutsegû´’lawisti´tege´sti. Ûntali´ degû´nwatanûhi, uhisa´’ti nige´sûnna. Tsuwatsi´la dadâl’tsi´ga. A’yû A’yû´nini tigwadâ´ita. Yû!


Mooney, James. Sacred Formulas Of The Cherokees. Published in the Seventh Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology, pp. 301-399. 1886.

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