Winnebago - Holy One and His Brother
There two brothers were living together by a lake. One day the elder said, "Younger brother, as long as I am here you will have nothing to fear, for I am the only holy one in existence, and I am the great power on this earth." Unbeknownst to him, the Waterspirits had overheard what he had said, and soon it became known to the spirits generally. All the spirits of the heavens, the earth, and the waters held a council to discuss the matter. It was decided that since he had boasted that he was the only holy one on earth, that he must be punished. It was decided that the Waterspirits would carry out the sentence.
One day the brother of Holy One did not return at his usual time. He waited a long time for his younger brother to show up, but he never came, so Holy One went out searching for him. He searched all over, but could not find him. When he stopped, he wept so many tears that a lake formed around his feet, and when he gave a sigh, the hills collapsed into valleys. As he was searching he came across Wolf and asked him, "Younger brother, I am out looking for my brother, but I fear that he is dead -- have you seen him?" Wolf replied, "I have been all over the earth, but I have heard nothing of him. Is it now my task to keep track of your brother?" This remark infuriated Holy One, and he chased after Wolf. They ran a long way, but Holy One finally caught up with him and hit him so hard with his bow that it broke apart his jaw and killed him. "I suppose you were part of the conspiracy against me," he muttered. After he hung the wolf's body on a tree, he went on. Soon he encountered Fox and said, "Little brother, you get about a lot, perhaps you have seen something of my brother. I fear he may be dead." Fox replied, "I have traveled all over, but I have heard nothing of him. Am I suppose to keep track of your brother for you?" After this remark, Fox took off running, but Holy One caught up to him and broke his jaw open, killing him. "It seems that you too were part of the conspiracy against me," he said. He hung Fox up on a tree, then moved on. Then he encountered Kaghi, the raven, and said, "Kaghi, you are one who knows much, tell me, have you knowledge of what befell my brother? I fear that he may be dead." Then Kaghi said, "I have flown all over the earth and heavens, but I have heard nothing about him. Am I suppose to keep track of your brother for you?" When Holy One heard this, he swatted Kaghi down with his bow just as the bird was taking off. Then he ripped his jaws apart, killing him. "I suppose even a little guy like you could be in on the conspiracy against me," he said. After hanging him on a tree like the others, Holy One moved on.
Now evening was setting in and Holy One started back to his lodge. On the way a little bird flew right by his face, almost hitting him. This happened twice more, much to the annoyance of Holy One. When the bird nearly hit him in the face a fourth time, he said, "Ho!" and looked up to see what it was. It was the kind of bird that they call a "woodpecker." Then Holy One spoke to it and said, "What an evil little bird you are that pecks my face and will not let me weep in peace!" Then the woodpecker said, "My grandson, I have news for you." "Forgive me," he said, "had I know it was you, grandmother, I would not have spoken as I did. Tell me everything that you know, and I will give you my paint so that ;you can paint your face, and I will give you my awl so that you can use it for a bill." "All right," she said, "I will tell you what I know. The spirits called a great council to conspire against you, but they did not invite me and my husband, so that is why I am telling you this. The Chief of the Waterspirits caused your brother to be killed, and the Waterspirits ate his flesh; but they kept his hide to use as a door flap on the chief's lodge. I will also tell you this: on nice days the Waterspirit's two sons like to bask in the sun on a sandbar just south of the shoreline." "It is good, grandmother," said Holy One. Then he took out his paints and painted her face, and she was beautiful to look upon. Then he attached his awl to her beak. When he was done, she flew off to a hardwood tree and pecked it with her new beak. The awl went right through the wood, which made her very proud. Holy One set out for the sandbar. On the way he caught many mice alive and took them with him. When he got to the shore, he turned himself into a willow stump and set the mice about as though they nested there. Soon the waters began to roar and two spirits arose form the depths. One of them looked around, then said, "Brother, there is Holy One standing on the shore," and they both retreated back to the depths. After awhile they came up again, but they still felt that Holy One was there, and they sank back down into the depths again. They did this yet again, but the fourth time they came up, one said,"That's not Holy One, that's just an old stump that's always been there." "Well," said the other,"you had better check it out just to make sure." So he went over to the stump, but when he got there a hoard of mice scurried out of it, running away in every direction. Then the Waterspirit said to his brother, "Look at all the mice that live in this stump. It cannot possibly be Holy One, as he would not have mice living all over him; besides, like I say, this stump has always been here." Then they came out and went to the sandbar. Then they spread out their entrails (omentums?) as Waterspirits always do. They laid out their fat and then lay down to bask in the sun. As they lay there asleep, Holy One crept up to them. He took out his bow and shot each one of them in his heart. They jumped up, scooped up their entrails, and crashed back into the water where they disappeared. After this, Holy One went home.
The next morning Holy One retuned to the same spot to find out what he could overhear. Soon he heard someone singing, so he followed the sound and soon came upon someone who was chopping wood. He stopped by an old burnt stump and there he blacked his face. He then went to where the person was, and found an old woman who was singing,
Then he asked her, "Grandmother, why are you singing that?" She said, "Are you Holy One?" "No," he replied, "I am not Holy One; indeed, I should think that by now he has cried himself to death." "Well, grandson," she said, "I am chopping wood for the two sons of the chief who were shot with arrows yesterday." "What do you suppose they plan to do about that?" he asked. She said, "You are Holy One, aren't you?" "No, grandmother," he said, "I am not. Don't talk foolishly. I have been fasting on the other side of the hill for days. I only came over here because I heard you chopping wood. I have not heard news from the village for some time, that is why I am asking you these questions. Beside, I'm sure that Holy One is dead by now." "I guess you are right, grandson," she said. "In the morning they are going to go to Hawk so that he can cure them, unless he is too late." "What time does he have to be there?" asked Holy One. Then the old woman began to wonder and said, "Aren't you the Holy One?" "No, grandmother," he replied, "I am not. He has been long dead by now." "Very well," she said, "the hawk will arrive when the sun stands straight in the sky." "What direction will he come from," he asked. "He will come from the ridge in the east," she replied. "Tell me, grandmother," he asked, "what will they do to the Holy One?" "They will kill him," she said. Then he asked, "How will they do that?" She told him, "They will send snakes to entwine themselves around his body and kill him that way." "If they were to do that," he said, "Holy One would put on turtle shell moccasins and trample the snakes to death." The old woman asked, "Are you sure you're not the Holy One?" "Of course not," he said. "What will they do if the snakes fail?" "Then, grandson," she said, "they will cause a blizzard that will snow him in so that he cannot hunt, and when he has eaten even his bowstring, they will send against him a four-cornered herd of buffalo to trample him to death." "All that will happen," he said, "is that he will have plenty of meat to eat. If the buffalo fail, then what will they do?" She asked again, "Are you not Holy One?" "How could I be him?" he replied. "Well grandson," she said, "they will next create a flood so great that the whole earth will be covered." Then he asked, "What will they do if he gets into his metal boat?" She replied, "Then they will send Waterspirits who will capsize him with their tails." He declared, "All that will happen then, is that he will have a good time cutting off their tails." "Are you sure that you're not Holy One?" she asked. "Grandmother," he replied, "how could I be Holy One? But tell me, if the Waterspirits fail, what will they do then?" "Well, grandson," she said, "they will send the Muskrat Spirits to chew a hole in his boat." "All that will happen then," he declared, "is that he will take out his metal oars and cut the muskrats in two." "Are you sure you're not Holy One?" she asked. "How could I be?" he replied. "Now tell me, is that all that they will do?" She told him, "Yes, that is all; but I should add that I will be one of them who eats a hole in his boat." "How can you do that, grandmother, as age has surely left your teeth in bad condition?" he said. She said, "Take a look at them," and closed her eyes while she opened her mouth very wide. He took his bow and knocked out her teeth. There the old muskrat fell to the ground dead.
The next morning Holy One went to where the hawk was to come. Just at noon he saw Hawk flying on his way singing a song:
Hawk, they came to you as a doctor;
Hawk, what will you do?
Hawk, you may carry the gourd;
Hawk, you may carry the gourd;
Hawk, you may carry the gourd!
Thus he sang. He carried a black bag with a gourd attached to the top of it, and as he tilted from side to side, the gourd rattled in time with his song. As Hawk came to where Holy One was waiting, the latter said, "Grandfather, you look magnificent!" Then Hawk circled around to talk. Holy One asked, "Grandfather, what brings you here?" He replied,"Grandson, I am going to doctor the sons of the chief who have been shot with arrows." He asked, "Grandfather, what will you do when you get there?" Then Hawk told him,"Grandson, I will go on singing as I have been, and when I get near, they will open the flap of the lodge and I will fly in." "Grandfather," said Holy One, "you look so magnificent. I wonder if you could fly back down as you did before, only this time turn from side to side more and fly lower. It is such an impressive sight!" So Hawk was happy to oblige, and swooped down singing as he had been before. "Now, grandfather," said Holy One, "swoop even lower!" And as Hawk dipped down very low where Holy One was standing, he struck the hawk a fatal blow. Then he skinned him and put on his hide. Now he flew off singing just as the hawk had done.
Then Holy One flew to the Waterspirit village in the outer form of the hawk. They all yelled when they saw him, "There he is! The hawk is coming just in time to save the chief's sons. Now they will live for sure." As Holy One descended they flung open the flap of the lodge for him, then he said to himself, "Oh my brother." "What did he say?" some of them asked. "He said, 'Oh my brother'," they answered. "No," said Holy One, "what I really said was, 'The chief's son and his brother'." "Ah yes," some said, "that is what he said." Then they showed him his patients. Each one had an arrow buried in him all the way to the feathered shafts. "Put two kettles on to boil," he ordered, "they must be given a bath. Also bring me two iron rods." They put the kettles on to boil, then he told them, "Put the two iron rods in the fire to heat." Then he added, "I want the whole village to go beyond the hill out of range of hearing, as I will work very hard to effect the cure." They did as he bid them, and when they were gone, he got up and went over to one of the brothers. As he walked he made a sing-song kind of noise. Then he grasped the arrow and shaking it, he pulled it out. This made the patient groan. Then he took the red hot iron and thrust it into the wound. This made his patient groan even loader. Then he thrust the iron rod all the way to the heart. "There," he said, "now you will not feeling like groaning anymore." Then the other one said, "I think you have killed my brother!" but Holy One replied,"Nothing of the kind, I have merely relieved him of his pain." Then he pulled the arrow out of the remaining patient, then jammed the hot rod down into his heart and killed him as well. Both the brothers he chopped into small pieces and threw them into the pot to boil. While they were cooking he took down the skin flap made from his brother's hide and rolled it up. Then he had a hearty meal of Waterspirit.
After some time had passed, the Waterspirits said, "Let's send son-in-law to find out what has happened." So the son-in-law went under ground and came up to where the two brothers had been. He stuck out his tongue and Holy One saw it. He said, "Well, little brother, there is plenty enough here for you," and filled his mouth with pieces of fat. Then he told him, "When ;you return, just say, 'Holy One, Holy One'." So he returned, and said, "It is Holy One, it is Holy One." They told one another, "He says that it is Holy One, so let's go get him." Then they all set out after Holy One, who took off running. As they closed on him they would come with waves of water, but as he shot at the waves, they would recede. Thus they kept coming at him, and they kept falling back. Finally, they said, "Let us stop now -- he has gotten away from us." By then he had killed many Waterspirits.
Now Holy One was at his home by the lake. Then, one day, the snakes began to come, but Holy One merely put on his turtle shell shoes and stepped on their heads. Soon they were saying, "Let's get out of here, he has killed many of us." Thus they retreated and stopped their attacks against him.
Then it began to snow, but Holy One was prepared for what was to come: he had stockpiled both wood and food. The blizzard was indeed terrible, and soon the snow piled up so high that he could see out only trough the smoke hole in the roof of his lodge. After a time, the spirits said, "Let us send our son-in-law to see how things are going with Holy One." So they sent their son-in-law to investigate. He was a little bird. Four times he flew over, and only the last time did he land on the smoke hole and peep in. Holy One saw him and said, "I wish that I could eat that little bird -- he would keep me alive for another four days. But what am I saying? I have my bowstring, I can eat that." So he took off his bow and laid it on some coals. The little bird flew back and told the spirits that he was reduced to cooking his bowstring and that he wanted to eat him as well. "Ah," said the spirits,"it is about time." So they gathered together a four-cornered herd of buffalo and sent them to trample Holy One to death. However, Holy One slipped out and waited in ambush. When the herd came they trampled everywhere that Holy One had stayed, but as they were running around, he shot at them until he had killed many of them. Then the buffalo said, "Let's get out of here before he rubs us out." When he came out of his blind, he saw that only his lodge had been snowed upon and all the rest of the ground was completely bare. So he dressed and packed away the buffalo and had plenty of meat to eat.
One day it began to rain. The rain kept coming and there was no let up. Soon it began to flood in many places, but the rain did not stop. In time the whole earth was flooded. However, Holy One was prepared and had set sail in his metal boat. As he was floating along, he heard something scrape the side of his boat. He took out his metal oar and swept it across the side of his boat. This sliced the tail right off a Waterspirit. Then he heard another scraping sound on the other side of the boat, and did the same. Once again he cut off a Waterspirit's tail. Soon he was chopping off the tails of Waterspirits right and left. He found this to be a very enjoyable sport. Then he heard the sound of something scraping under his boat. So he took his oar and swept it below his boat and cut a Muskrat Spirit in two. This happened several more times until, finally, the Muskrat Spirits said, "Let us quit before he kills us all." Thus they stopped attacking his boat. At that time the whole world had been flooded, and to this day the water marks can be seen on the striations of the hills.
After the water had receded, Holy One built himself a new lodge. Then he built a platform and unrolled his brother's hide and placed it there. He wept for days on end, until one day he heard his brother's voice say, "Older brother, you have wept for me long enough. Now you may cease, as I have come back." But Holy One said, "Indeed I have wept long for you, but now a feel that it would be better if you returned to the form you had before you came back.," There was a great cry of anguish, and his brother said, "Oh! oh! brother, why have you have treated me so badly? Because you have said this, from now on whenever anyone dies, I will take care of his soul." Then he walked away in the direction of the setting sun, but Holy One, regretting what he had said, now followed after him. When evening fell, Holy One built a fire and said, "Come, brother, and share the fire with me," but his brother refused, saying, "Now I cannot do that anymore, for it is one thing to be in the flesh and another to be a ghost." After they had camped that night they set out again for the west, but Holy One could not see his brother. He saw a fire up ahead, but when he got there, all he could see of his brother was that part of his body that was below his neck. Again they went west, and his brother got well ahead of him. That evening he saw his campfire in the distance, but when he got there, all he could see of his brother was his legs. The next day the brother went even farther ahead, and when Holy One reached his campfire at night, all he could see of his brother was his feet. That night they reached the end of the earth. He could no longer see his brother at the campfire, but he heard his voice say, "Older brother, I can no longer abide with you. This is your own doing. As long as your nephews and nieces live on this earth, death will be with them because of what you did. Whoever dies will end up here." Holy One wept bitterly and returned home. When Holy One arrived home he said, "Now I shall roam the earth. Thus he did ever after, and wherever he went, he called all living beings his brothers.
Because of what Holy One did, death is always with us. His brother rules over the spirit village of the dead, but he is the only spirit who is still in the flesh. These are the ones who go to the spirit village of Holy One's brother when they die: all those who have not won a victory on the warpath; all who know nothing about the origin of their clan; all those who have no clan home. (All those who belong to a clan have their own clan home.)
This is the waikâ of Holy One and his brother and what they caused to happen in the world.
Paul Radin, "The Story of Holy One," [unpublished] Notebooks, Winnebago IV, #4, Freeman #3859 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) 59-77 [= 969-987].