Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": HOW LEBID BECAME A SHAMAN

KWAKIUTL INDIAN


'Lebid had been sick for a long time,' said the one who told the tale. 'For three winters he had been sick abed and he was just bones. It was real mid-winter and it was very cold.......

[After Lebid had died, his body was wrapped in blankets and laid at the far end of the village site. It was too cold to bury him.]

Night came. When all the Gwasila lay down, a wolf began to bowl behind Gwekelis. It was not long that one wolf was howling, when many wolves began to howl. They gathered at the place where Lebid was wrapped up on the rock. Then the Gwasila guessed that the wolves were going to eat him. Probably the wolves were sitting around the dead one, for they were all howling together. -The Gwasila did not sleep for they were afraid. When it was near daylight the wolves were still howling, many. Then all the Gwasila heard Lebid singing his sacred song among the howling wolves and they knew that Lebid had now become a shaman. When day came in the morning the many howling wolves went back into the woods, and Lebid went also into the woods, singing his sacred song. He kept together with the wolves. Now the sisters of Lebid and his late wife, Maxmaklodalaogwa were running about in vain, looking at the place where he had been wrapped up on the rocks. They saw the tracks of Lebid who had been walking among the wolves. Now the Gwasila were asked by the shamans of the Nakwaxdax that they should all go and wash, with the women and children in the morning and in the evening, so that they should all purify themselves. Then they did so. Now he had been away for two days, then he was heard singing his sacred song inland from the village of Gwekelis. . . . When day came in the morning the Gwasila went to get fire wood. Lebid's wife and daughters and sisters cleared Lebid's house so as to make it clean. . . . All the Gwasila were purified. When it got dark in the evening he came singing his sacred song. They could hardly hear him in the woods. Now at once the Gwasila started a fire in the middle of the house. All the men and the women who were not menstruating and the children went in. Now the shaman of Nakwaxdax told all those who went into the house to carry batons. When they were all holding the batons the shaman of the Nakwaxdax, whose name was Making-alive (Qwequlagila) told the Gwasila to beat fast time together. They all beat time together. For a long time they were beating time. Then they stopped beating time and the sound of Lebid came nearer as he was singing his sacred song behind the village. Three times the Gwasila beat fast time. Then the sound of the sacred song came to the front of the house. Again they beat fast time; the fourth time Lebid came into the door, really naked, only hemlock was wound around his head and hemlock was wound around his neck. He was really lean. The Gwasila beat fast time. He went around the fire in the middle of the house still singing his sacred song. These are the words of his sacred song:

1. I was taken away far inland to the edge of the world by the magical power of heaven, the treasure, ha, wo, ho.

2. Only then was I cured by it, when it was really thrown into me, the past life bringer of Naualakume, the treasure, ha, wo, ho.

3. 1 come to cure with this means of healing of Naualakume, the treasure. Therefore I shall be a life bringer, ha, wo, ho.

4. 1 come with the water of life given into my hand by Naualakume, the means of bringing to life, the treasures, ha, wo, ho.

Then Lebid sang his other sacred song:

1. He turns to the right side, poor one, this supernatural one, so as to obtain the supernatural one, ha, wo, ho.

2. Let the supernatural one be the life bringer, the supernatural one, ha, wo, ho.

3. That the poor one may come to life with the lifebringer of Naualakume, ha, wo, ho.

4. The poor one comes, this supernatural one, to give protection with the means of giving protection of Naualakume, ha, wo, ho.

After he had danced, all those went out of the house who were not shamans. Then the real shamans of the Gwasila sat down in the house. Lebid sat down on a new mat in the rear of the house. All had their faces blackened, the old shamans, and all had on their heads the shamans' head rings of red cedar bark. All had around their necks shamans' neck rings of red cedar bark. Then they all lay on their backs and there was no talking. Only Lebid, the new shaman who had come back to life was sitting on his new mat. . . . They were waiting for all the men and women who were not shamans to go to sleep. When they thought they were all asleep they sent four real shamans to go and look into the doors of all the houses of the Gwasila to see whether they were not barred. Then they found that all the doors of the houses were barred. They came into the meeting house of the shamans and they barred the door of the house. Then they sat down. They were sitting quite a while in silence, then arose one of the shamans, whose name was Bringing-Life-out-of-the-Woods (Qulamoltelsila). He spoke and said, 'Indeed, friends, indeed, this is the way it is done, for we came here to this house, that Lebid, who is newly added to us, our friend, may tell us how it was brought right down to this shaman. Now he will tell us why he came to life again. He will keep nothing hidden from his friends.' Thus he said and sat down.
Then Lebid spoke and said, 'Indeed, friends, you fellow-shamans, thus you must do to a new shaman. Now I will tell you, friends. I was very sick, and a man came into the place where I was lying in another house and invited me to follow him. Immediately I arose and followed him. Then I saw that my body was still lying here groaning. We had not gone far into the woods before we arrived at a house and we entered the house. I was asked by the other man to go and sit down in the rear of the house. When I had seated myself, then spoke the man who was sitting on the right hand side of the doorway of the house. He said, "Go on, speak, Naualakume, he who is the great shaman, of what we shall do to him who has come and is sitting among us," said he. Then a man came who had tied around his head a thick ring of red cedar bark and a thin neck ring of cedar bark. He spoke and said, "Our friend will not stay away, for I wish him to go back to his tribe so that he may become a great shaman and that he may cure the sick in his tribe. And he shall have my name for his name. Now he shall have the name Naualakume. And I shall take out the breath from his body so that I may keep it," said he as he went out of the door of the house. It was not long before he came back. He spoke and said, "Now his body is dead on the ground, for I am holding his breath, which is the owner of the soul of our friend. Now I shall give him my shamanistic power," said he and he vomited a quartz crystal. Then all the men beat fast time on the boards. He sang his sacred song as he threw the quartz crystal into the lower part of my sternum, and now I had become a shaman after this as it was getting daylight. Then Naualakume said, "Again we shall beat time for our friend tonight," said he. Then all the wolves who were now men, went to sleep. In the evening they all went into the house, for Lebid was still sitting there. And when the men were all in, Naualakume came singing his sacred song outside the house. Then he came in. There was a wolf carved out of yew wood on the back of his rattle. He went around the fire in the middle of the house. After he had gone around four times he sat down near me and pressed (on top) with his right hand on the top of my head, and he put down his rattle and pressed with his left hand the top of my head; then he sang his sacred song. Then he pressed down with both his hands on both sides of my head, down to the lower end of my trunk.' And so he brought his hands together, put his hands flat together, and raised his hands throwing up the sickness of Lebid. After he had done this four times he finished. . . . Then all the men put on their wolf masks and when they were all dressed, they all went out of the door of the house, and also Lebid. As soon as all had come out, all the wolves howled. Lebid walked among them, and also Naualakume kept the breath of the body of Lebid, for only his soul had been taken by the wolves. Now they went to where the body of Lepid was wrapped on the rocks. As soon as they had arrived there, Naualakume asked the other wolves to take off the mat that had been spread over the body and the wrapping of two pairs of blankets. As soon as all had been taken off, Naualakume went there. He called Lebid to sit by his side. He took his breath and drew it into his mouth. Then he blew it into the mouth of Lebid's body. He asked the many wolves that they all should lick the body of the dead one. 'Now my soul was sitting on the ground and was just watching the wolves as they were licking the body. They had not been licking it long when it began to breathe. Then Naualakume pressed both his hands on the head of the soul of Lebid and he pressed down with both his hands on his head. Then the soul began to get small and it was of the size of a large fly. He took it and put it on top of the head of Lebid and blew it in. Immediately Lebid arose and sang his sacred song. Now he was singing among the wolves who were howling and they went back into the woods and went home to their house. Lebid also followed them. Again the wolves beat time at night. And now they really taught Lebid who had now the name Naualakume how to treat the sick. He said that he could not throw (sickness), and other Gwasila say that he could throw (sickness), he who had now the name Naualakume. Then said the great shaman of the wolves [i.e. Lebid] that he would always make him dream "about what I should do when curing really sick ones, as he was giving instructions to me." Now I came into this house where we are sitting now.'


Franz Boas, The Religion of the Kwakiutl Indians, vol.II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1930), PP. 46-50

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