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 second trial. This time the pebble may swing off at an angle in another direction. He follows up in the direction indicated for perhaps another half mile, when on a third trial the stone may veer around toward the starting point, and a fourth attempt may complete the circuit. Having thus arrived at the conclusion that the missing article is somewhere within a certain circumscribed area, he advances to the center of this space and marks out upon the ground a small circle inclosing a cross with arms pointing toward the four cardinal points. Holding the stone over the center of the cross he again repeats the formula and notes the direction in which the pebble swings. This is the final trial and he now goes slowly and carefully over the whole surface in that direction, between the center of the circle and the limit of the circumscribed area until in theory, at least, the article is found. Should he fail, he is never at a loss for excuses, but the specialists in this line are generally very shrewd guessers well versed in the doctrine of probabilities.

There are many formulas for this purpose, some of them being long and elaborate. When there is reason to believe that the missing article has been stolen, the specialist first determines the clan or settlement to which the thief belongs and afterward the name of the individual. Straws, bread balls, and stones of various kinds are used in the different formulas, the ceremony differing according to the medium employed. The stones are generally pointed crystals or antique arrowheads, and are suspended as already described, the point being supposed to turn finally in the direction of the missing object. Several of these stones have been obtained on the reservation and are now deposited in the National Museum. It need excite no surprise to find the hog mentioned in the formula, as this animal has been domesticated among the Cherokees for more than a century, although most of them are strongly prejudiced against it.

Cherokee Original


Sge! Ha-nâ´gwa hatû´ngani´ga Nû´nya Wâtige´i, gahu´sti tsûtska´di nige´sûnna. Ha-nâ´gwa dû´ngihya´li. Agiyahu´sa si´kwa, haga´ tsûn-nû´ iyû´nta datsi´waktû´hi. Tla-‘ke´ a´ya a´kwatseli´ga. 0 0 digwadâi´ta.

Cherokee, Medicine,

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

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