Cherokee Treatment for the Black Yellowness

Cherokee Treatment for the Black Yellowness

Yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´,
Yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´ Yû!

Listen! In the great lake the intruder reposes. Quickly he has risen up there. Swiftly he has come and stealthily put himself (under the sick man).

Listen! Ha! Now you two have drawn near to hearken, there in the Sun Land you repose, O Little Men, O great anida´wehi! The intruder has risen up there in the great lake. Quickly you two have lifted up the intruder. His paths have laid themselves down toward the direction whence he came. Let him never look back (toward us). When he stops to rest at the four gaps you will drive him roughly along. Now he has plunged into the great lake from which he came. There he is compelled to remain, never to look back. Ha! there let him rest. (Yû!)

Directions of the Treatment for Black Yellowness

This is to treat them when their breast swells. Fire (coals) is not put down.

Explanation of the Treatment for Black Yellowness

This formula, from A’yûnini’s manuscript, is used in treating a disease known as Dalâni, literally, “yellow.” From the vague description of symptoms given by the doctors, it appears to be an aggravated form of biliousness, probably induced by late suppers and bad food. According to the Indian theory it is caused by revengeful animals, especially by the terrapin and its cousin, the turtle.

The doctors recognize several forms of the disease, this variety being distinguished as the “black dalâni” (Dalâni Ûnnage´i) and considered the most dangerous. In this form of dalâni, according to their account, the navel and abdomen of the patient swell, the ends of his fingers become black, dark circles appear about his eyes, and the throat contracts spasmodically and causes him to fall down suddenly insensible. A’yûnini’s method of treatment is to rub the breast and abdomen of the patient with the hands, which have been previously rubbed together in the warm infusion of wild cherry (ta´ya) bark. The song is sung while rubbing the hands together in the liquid, and the prayer is repeated while rubbing the swollen abdomen of the patient. The operation may be repeated several times on successive days.

The song at the beginning has no meaning and is sung in a low plaintive lullaby tone, ending with a sharp Yu! The prayer possesses a special interest, as it brings out several new points in the Cherokee mythologic theory of medicine. The “intruder,” which is held to be some amphibious animal-as a terrapin, turtle, or snake-is declared to have risen up from his dwelling place in the great lake, situated toward the sunset, and to have come by stealth under the sick man. The verb implies that the disease spirit creeps under as a snake might crawl under the coverlet of a bed.

The two Little Men in the Sun Land are now invoked to drive out the disease. Who these Little Men are is not clear, although they are regarded as most powerful spirits and are frequently invoked in the formulas. They are probably the two Thunder Boys, sons of Kanati.

The Little Men come instantly when summoned by the shaman, pull out the intruder from the body of the patient, turn his face toward the sunset, and begin to drive him on by threats and blows (expressed in the word gû´ntsatatagi´yû) to the great lake from which he came. On the road there are four gaps in the mountains, at each of which the disease spirit halts to rest, but is continually forced onward by his two pursuers, who finally drive him into the lake, where he is compelled to remain, without being permitted even to look back again. The four gaps are mentioned also in other formulas for medicine and the ball play and sometimes correspond with the four stages of the treatment. The direction “No fire (coals) is put down” indicates that no live coals are put into the decoction, the doctor probably using water warmed in the ordinary manner.

Takwati´hi uses for this disease a decoction of four herbs applied in the same manner. He agrees with A’yûnini in regard to the general theory and says also that the disease may be contracted by neglecting to wash the hands after handling terrapin shells, as, for instance, the shell rattles used by women in the dance. The turtle or water tortoise (seligu´gi) is considered as an inferior being, with but little capacity for mischief, and is feared chiefly on account of its relationship to the dreaded terrapin or land tortoise (tûksi´). In Takwatihi’s formula he prays to the Ancient White (the fire), of which these cold-blooded animals are supposed to be afraid, to put the fish into the water, the turtle into the mud, and to send the terrapin and snake to the hillside.

Cherokee Original


Yuha´ahi´, (yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´,)
Yuha´ahi´, (yuha´ahi´, yuha´ahi´), Yû!

Sge! Ûntal-e´gwâhi´ didultâ´histi ulsge´ta. Usinu´li dâtitu´lene´i. Usinu´li dunu´y’tani´lei´.

Sge! Ha-nâ´gwa statû´ngani´ga, nûndâ´yi distul’tâ´histi, Stisga´ya Dist’sdi´ga, stida´wehi-gâgû. Ûntal-e´gwa dâtitulene´(i) ulsge´ta. Usinu´li detistû´l’tani´ga ulsge´ta. Ditu´talenû´nitsa nûnna´hi wi´de´tutanû´ntasi´, nûntadu´ktahû´nsti nige´sûnna. Nû´’gi iyayû´nlatagi´ ayâwe´sâlû´nta de´dudûneli´sesti´, Gû´ntsatâtagi´yû tistadi´gûlahi´sesti. Tiduda´le’nû´(i) û´ntale´gwâ witi´stûl’tati´nûntani´ga. Na´’na witûl’tâ´histani´ga, tadu´ktahû´nsti nige´sûnna. Ha-na´’na wid´ultâhiste´sti. (Yû!)

(Degasisisgû´ni)-Hia´ anine´tsi ga´’tiski adanû´nwâti. U´ntla atsi´la ti´’ti yi´gi.


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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