Cherokee Formula to Shorten a Night-Goer on this Side

Cherokee Formula to Shorten a Night-Goer on this Side

Listen! In the Frigid Land above you repose, O Red Man, quickly we two have prepared your arrows for the soul of the Imprecator. He has them lying along the path. Quickly we two will take his soul as we go along.

Listen! In the Frigid Land above you repose, O Purple Man,  Ha! Quickly now we two have prepared your arrows for the soul of the Imprecator. He has them lying along the path. Quickly we two will cut his soul in two.

Explanation of Cherokee Formula to Shorten a Night-Goer on this Side

This formula, from A’yû´ninis’ book, is for the purpose of driving away a witch from the house of a sick person, and opens up a most interesting chapter of Cherokee beliefs. The witch is supposed to go about chiefly under cover of darkness, and hence is called sûnnâ´yi edâ´hi, “the night goer.” This is the term in common use; but there are a number of formulistic expressions to designate a witch, one of which, u´ya igawa´sti, occurs in the body of the formula and may be rendered “the imprecator,” i.e., the sayer of evil things or curses. As the counteracting of a deadly spell always results in the death of its author, the formula is stated to be not merely to drive away the wizard, but to kill him, or, according to the formulistic expression, “to shorten him (his life) on this side.”

When it becomes known that a man is dangerously sick the witches from far and near gather invisibly about his house after nightfall to worry him and even force their way in to his bedside unless prevented by the presence of a more powerful shaman within the house. They annoy the sick man and thus hasten his death by stamping upon the roof and beating upon the sides of the house; and if they can manage to get inside they raise up the dying sufferer from the bed and let him fall again or even drag him out upon the floor. The object of the witch in doing this is to prolong his term of years by adding to his own life as much as he can take from that of the sick man. Thus it is that a witch who is successful in these practices lives to be very old. Without going into extended details, it may be sufficient to state that the one most dreaded, alike by the friends of the sick man and by the lesser witches, is the Kâ´lana-ayeli´ski or Raven Mocker, so called because he flies through the air at night in a shape of fire, uttering sounds like the harsh croak of a raven.

The formula here given is short and simple as compared with some others. There is evidently a mistake in regard to the Red Man, who is here placed in the north, instead of in the east, as it should be. The reference to the arrows will be explained further on. Purple, mentioned in the second paragraph, has nearly the same symbolic meaning as blue, viz: Trouble, vexation and defeat; hence the Purple Man is called upon to frustrate the designs of the witch.

To drive away the witch the shaman first prepares four sharpened sticks, which he drives down into the ground outside the house at each of the four corners, leaving the pointed ends projecting upward and outward. Then, about noontime he gets ready the Tsâlagayû´nli or “Old Tobacco” (Nicotiana rustica), with which he fills his pipe, repeating this formula during the operation, after which he wraps the pipe thus filled in a black cloth. This sacred tobacco is smoked only for this purpose. He then goes out into the forest, and returns just before dark, about which time the witch may be expected to put in an appearance. Lighting his pipe, he goes slowly around the house, puffing the smoke in the direction of every trail by which the witch might be able to approach, and probably repeating the same or another formula the while. He then goes into the house and awaits results. When the witch approaches under cover of the darkness, whether in his own proper shape or in the form of some animal, the sharpened stick on that side of the house shoots up into the air and comes down like an arrow upon his head, inflicting such a wound as proves fatal within seven days. This explains the words of the formula, “We have prepared your arrows for the soul of the Imprecator. He has them lying along the path”. A’yû´nini said nothing about the use of the sharpened sticks in this connection, mentioning only the tobacco, but the ceremony, as here described, is the one ordinarily used. When wounded the witch utters a groan which is heard by those listening inside the house, even at the distance of half a mile. No one knows certainly who the witch is until a day or two afterward, when some old man or woman, perhaps in a remote settlement, is suddenly seized with a mysterious illness and before seven days elapse is dead.

Cherokee Original


Sge! Uhyûntsâ´yi galûnlti´tla tsûltâ´histi, Hisgaya Gigage´i, usinu´li di´tsakûni´ denatlûnhi´sani´ga Uy-igawa´sti duda´nti. Nûnnâ´hi tatuna´wati. Usinu´li duda´ntâ dani´yûnstanili´.

Sge! Uhyûntlâ´yi galûnlti´tla tsûltâ´histi, Hisga´ya Te´halu, hinaw’su´’ki. Ha-usinu´li nâ´gwa di´tsakûni´ denatlûnhisani´ga uy-igawa´sti duda´nti. Nûnnâ´hi tatuna´wati. Usinu´li duda´ntâ dani´galistani´.

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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