Prayer on Top of the Earth [Plains Apache (Kiowa Apache) in Oklahoma]




3. Apache Universe

3:1. Spirit Beings


3:2. Antient Time


3:3. Cosmic Spirits


3:4 Coyote the Trickster


3:5 Sacred Symbols


3:6 Water, Thundre, Whirlwind


3:8 Sweat-Lodge


4. Medicine-Bundles



7. People & Spirits

7:7 Ghosts


7:8 Death & Burial


7:9 Afterlife


8. Healing

8:2 Medicine Men & Medicine Women


8:4 Medicines


9. Caerimonial Dances

9:2 Dancing Societies


9:6 Rain Dance


10. Pan-Indian Religion

10:3 Peyote Religion


p. 15 synonyms for ‘Plains Apache (Kiowa Apache)’; tribes camping with

"Bad Hearts, Cataha, Cataka, Cattako, Cuttako, Gataea, Gattacka, Gutak, Katteka, Quataquois, Quataquon"

"in 1681 or 1682 ... the Gattacka were campled with the Manrhoet (Kiowas)"

"in 1706 the same group was ... camped ... above the Quapaws."

"in 1719 located the Quataquois and the Tawakonis"

pp. 28-29 3:1 prayer

p. 28

"when you dreamed of something good, you prayed it would come true. You might pray to Running-Under-the Water or to Fire Boy or Water Boy."

p. 29

"When Indian pray, he ... stand straight west. He spreads his arms out and lifts his face. Calls to God, "Pity me.""

p. 32 3:2 animal-gods who successively unsuccessfully hid sticks from monsters in guessing-game





"Coyote ... squeezed the moss, and the water spilled over the edge. Waves began to wash up against the cliff. ... finally all of the cliff gave way".

pp. 3:2 33-35 how daylight came into this world

p. 33

"In the beginning, ... everything was in darkness; there was no day. ... In this time of continued night ... they had snow ... . ... It was nighttime with only starlight. ...

p. 35

Ant stole Light from the house of two women and passed it in turn to



Buffalo, and finally

Terrapin, who sequestered it under his shell. One of the women ... asked Thunder to knock Light out of Terrapin. Thunder hurled a powerful lightning bolt that created the characteristic marks on Terrapin’s shell ... .

... the two women, who lost Light to Terrapin, went to live on the moon ... . One ... woman could be seen pulling a travois across the moon." ["the woman with a travois in the moon is holding a new baby." (p. 37)]

p. 36 3:2 how fire came into this world

Having been stolen by Coyote (whose tail "caught on fire"), that fire was passed, by way of relay, successively to :



Rabbit, who "finally brought the fire here and gave it to the people."

pp. 37-42 3:3 star-myths

p. 38

"That great big old white streak across the sky, the Milky Way, ... was the buffalo making all that dust."


"origin of the Pleiades" : "six boys and a girl, who were hunted, not only escaped from the bear but ascended to an abode in the sky to become immortal as a constellation."

p. 41

the 6 boys and the girl were pursued by the bear-guise of their elder sister {cf. Navaho myth of woman who became a she-bear and was slaughtering her own human relatives} :

p. 42

atop of magically growing hill, they escaped her.

pp. 42-47 3:3 Fire-Boy & Water-Boy

p. 42

"a mysterious stranger ... kills Fire Boy[’s] and Water Boy’s mother at their birth ... . The stranger then throws one of the twins into the river ..., and the other one into ... the fire" :

p. 43

"The voice ... took the woman and cut her hair off and split her down the middle. He opened her up and took out the twin boys ... . ... He then cut off the woman’s head and placed it right at the front flap of the tepee so that it was looking out. ... When the man came home that night, he saw his wife’s head and ... inside the tepee ... he saw the rest of her body, all cut up into little pieces."

p. 44

In primaeval times, trees and creeks were both hostile to humans : "If you walked under a tree, it fell on you right away. If you tried to jump over a creek, the creek would get wider as soon as you jumped, and you would fall in." These occurrences ceased when the twin boys, by substituting plumes for themselves, tricked both the tree and

p. 45

the river. "a horse ... he looks at you, his eyes sparkle like lightning, and he’ll kill you with his eyes. ... The boys turned into moles {cf. the mole as animal of Rudra} and went underground to the edge of the pond. When the horse came to get his drink {cf. Pegasos at Hippokrene}, the boys threw a rock in the water. When the rock fell in the water a ring appeared ... and roped the horse."

"a buzzard ... . Anyone walking along the canyon is fanned by his wings, and they drop dead. ...

p. 46

Then the boys pushed him off the cliff. {cf. Skiron who was pushed off a cliff by Theseus, or else Theseus who was pushed off a cliff by Lukomedes} They told him that he would always be bald headed".

Twin boys are subjected to ordeals by old woman cannibaless : Water Boy was protected by Fire Boy from smoke within a tipi;

p. 47

Fire Boy was protected by Water Boy from steam within a tipi. {Twins surviving ordeals within a prison is likewise a theme in the Popol Vuh.}

The twins ascended into heaven via a tornado.

pp. 48-49 3:4 Coyote-Man

p. 48

Having been empowered by Porcupine to extract and re-emplant his own eyen, Coyote tossed his eyen on a plum bush, where they became plums.

p. 49

"But he fell off the high bank and was killed."

pp. 50-1, 53 3:5 sacred directions & colors; painted tipi

p. 50

"The door of the teepee always faced east, as did the opening of the big circle in the Sun Dance and the circle in the peyote ceremony."


"Black ... was the color of the handkerchief medicine men wore as a badge of their craft. The black handkerchief, perceived as imbued with mysterious power, was used ... in curing and legerdemain.

p. 51

"painted tepees, sometimes referred to as heraldic tepees, were common ... . ... These tepees belonged to families and ...

p. 53

were inherited in the male line. [A male ancestor] had gotten a vision of this tepee when he was out fasting and seeking power."

pp. 55-56 3:6 Water-, Thundre-, & Whirlwind-Spirits

p. 55

"Zodlton, a group of cold water sulphur springs near the present Apache location in southwest Oklahoma, ... had physically rejected Apache gift offerings ... : "They ... would put a bracelet or ring in the water. ... Whatever is in there ... won’t keep it." ... Zodlton’s spirit had been observed floating [in the air] around the springs as a mysterious light. ... "We’d seen that light coming. And then when it got to the end of the mountain, well, it’d just float over them trees, and then it got on the west side of the mountain. And then it got on the south side and just went on in the creek. ...""


"Thunderstorms" : "Commonly, people appealed to a horse to send the storm away".

p. 56

"the whirlwind ... "was a ghost was a ghost capable of paralyzing a person," ... In the following Coyote story, ... :

Coyote ... came to an open place and saw two pretty girls there. They were really Whirlwind, transformed into the shapes of pretty girls. This Whirlwind appeared as twin girls. ... So one of the girls got on each side of Coyote, and they gave him a whirl."

pp. 57-58 3:8 sweat-lodge

p. 57

"Men routinely took sweat baths ... to bless one of the sacred medicine bundles or perhaps to communicate with Owl. ...

p. 58

They use sage in the sweat lodge."

p. 59 3:8 the trilevel structure of the universe

"On one level was the cosmos, the inhabited part, that became an orderly functioning universe was a work of the semidivine gods ... . ...

The lower level was within the earth and within waters where the reptiles, the water monster, moles, armadillos, and similar others could be found ... .

The upper level of the universe ... was the sky where birds flew and the celestial spirits lived – the moon, the sun, the stars, and the gods : Great Spirit, Man-Up-There, Blue-White Man."

pp. 60-62 medicine-bundles generally

p. 60

"The four medicine bundles, addressed as

sitsoyan, ... "four grandfathers," or

no`.bi`ka’gs^e’.li’., ... "prayer on top of the earth," ...

soyan, ... grandparent or grandchild, added to sit, the number four".

p. 61

There were "rules, such as those stipulating that the bundle be touched only with the left hand and carried only under the left arm".

p. 62

"When the first thunder of the spring rains was heard, each medicine bundle was opened by the bundle-owner in a specially-erected tepee, and the bundle’s old cover was replaced with a new one of buffalo calf hide."

pp. 63-66 the particular medicine-bundles

p. 63

"in the late nineteenth century, the original Water Medicine Bundle was split ... . The four quartz rocks in the bundle were divided so two newly fashioned Water Medicine Bundles held two quartz rocks each."

p. 64

legend of the origin of the Water Medicine Bundle from Devil’s Lake : "The Apache ... hero sat by Devil’s Lake ... by five nights of frightening visions. {cf. frightening visions of the retinue of Mara by the Buddha} ... The spirit-chief appeared and instructed him to throw four stones in succession into the lake. [He] did so, the waters parted, he stepped into the lake, the waters closed in on him, and a lodge appeared, which he entered. Having arrived at the Land of the Dead, [his] name changed to Running-Under-the-Water. ... he was given medicine power to cure everything ... . He was allowed to return to camp ... . He made a medicine bundle ... . {cf. the bundled Ark of the Covenant} He provided food {cf. manna} for his people when they were starving and cured them during an epidemic. But one day a flock of geese circled overhead four times, which was a call for him to return to the lake. He went back into the lake."

p. 65

"The Baby Medicine Bundle, about the size of one’s hand, was the smallest of the four bundles. It, too, had a buffalo calf hide cover but was always kept covered with a scarf." "a special rule pertaining only to the Baby Medicine Bundle required that any visitor who slept in the same tepee or room with the bundle should place a symbolic bow and four arrows" under his or her pillow all night." "Specifically prohibited in Baby Medicine’s presence ... was the use of any kind of ball".

p. 66

"Poor Owl Bundle, the remaining one, ... is once again being given ritual care. Today it is opened in a regularly scheduled sacred ceremony."

pp. 119-123 7:7 ghosts

p. 119

"at the moment of a person’s death a c^i`.ye’, or ghost, ... emanated from the corpse, .. lost its individual identity and became a part of a general ghost community." "the c^i`.ye’, or "spook," returned as an owl or a whirlwind".


"after death took place, the c^i`.ye’ is contacted by the ba`’e’.h and pulled out of the body ... . After life, the c^i`.ye’ and the ba`’e’.h travel about together."

p. 120

The ba`’e’.h "magical. ... The ba`’e’.h never dies. It’s ... something ... that is beyond our comprehension. Each person doesn’t have his own ba`’e’.h."


During the daytime, "one could see spirits of the dead ... in the form of a whirlwind. Can’t see them well. But at night one could see spearks of light preceding the wind. This would be the c^i`.ye’ in spirit. ... If it comes back with the ba`’e’.h, it may paralyze one."

p. 121

"they heard tepee poles making noise and people talking, but they couldn’t understand the talk. It was up in the air. ... "Well, they’re Night-Movers. Dead people been dead long time still using tepee. ..." Then they heard dogs barking up in the air." {cf. the "Wild Hunt" with ae:rial hounds, as known, e.g., in Germany and in Malaya}


"cedar smoke for the person who dreamed about the dead."


"If you have to lay a baby down, like in the house or ... in a tepee, and have to go out for a while, you should put a stick across his cradle, on his chest. This keeps ghosts and evil away."

p. 122

"the owl, that’s ba`’e’.h. ... owls ... can twist your eyes, mouth, and body. The owl was supposed to be a dead person".

"fear of sleeping in the cemetery ... because he was afraid the spirits would give him ... a facial paralysis commonly termed "ghost sickness" or "ghost did it.""

p. 123

"When there be a funeral here, their ghosts might come around here. They might whistle at you, and that make them twist you."

"People say that ba`’e’.h twist your mouth, eye. If it make some sound at you and you turn to look, it witch you."

pp. 123-124 7:8 process of dying

p. 123

"Warning of impending death in the camp came ... from the howl of a dog. ... If a dog howled and a person subsequently died, the dog was killed – "otherwise it will howl again and be asking for more people to die.""


"it was customary for the dying person to give away his or her most prized possessions ... . To do so meant the possessions ... would not be buried with him or destroyed. Great prudence was particularly important when giving away a medicine bag to ensure that the recipient would learn the cures and administer them properly."


"As death neared, relatives caring for the dying person burned mountain cedar and sage ... . ... "They thought that the spirits of the dead would come after his [the dying person’s] spirit. Living people were afraid of these spirits, and they would burn mountain cedar to prevent the spirits from taking [healthy persons along with the dying]." Even the ghost, whose

p. 124

only task was to lead the new ghost to the afterworld, was considered a threat, ... an attempt to extinguish the life of the living."

pp. 124, 126 7:8 funeral

p. 124

"The relations wouldn’t handle the body. But if some of those other people come and handle the body, then next time you can do that for them, help them." "The closest relatives were not expected to attend the burial."


Custom "dictated that the body be buried in a rock crevice where it could be mounded over with other rocks".

p. 126

"After returning to camp, the mourner fumigated the tepee, ... to use cedar and sage. ... that was supposed to keep the c^i`,ye’ away."

pp. 127-128 7:9 afterlife

p. 127

"The da`.Ga’.’ was considered ... the personal nature of the individual ... . ...

p. 128

When a person dies, his da`.Ga’.’ makes a path to the hereafter, and his relatives follow it when they died. ... Bad people are good after they die. ... The blind and crippled people become well and whole."

pp. 131-135 8:2 medicine-men and medicine-women

p. 131

"If a man wants to be medicine man, he go way out into the prairie, all by himself. ... [Out on the prairie] they used sage pillows, lie all naked. ...

[The power] is just like a shadow. They know what it is. ... you start to pray, and it goes over you. So many nights you do this, and you learn your medicine. ... If you dream about something out there, you could take it for your medicine. ... When he sees things in his sleep, like a snake or a buffalo or wildcat or leopard {i.e., cougar}, he finds how they can cure.

p. 132

... he goes in a creek and makes a motion to the water. And he dives in seven and seven – fourteen times, and he come out. {cf. the 14 submergences of the world beneath universal deluges, in the 14 Manu-antara-s} ... They [the people] look at him down there, taking a bath. They say he must be a medicine man. ... He tells his story, but ... keeps some of it secret for himself, how he doctors, that’s what he’s going to keep secret."


how a woman "got medicine powers from a snake that taught her how to doctor snakebites" : "A big snake came to her. He said, "Don’t be afraid of me. I’m going to tell you what to do." ... She had moccasins on. ... When she left he told her to leave one moccasin behind. ...

p. 133

Snakebites is what she learned [to doctor]. ... She’s got all kind of snakes drawed on her tepee."

p. 134

"The medicine man ... had to have that black scarf around his neck all of the time. He also wore bones on his wrist".


"When an Apache would see an animal in his dream, he would know that he had seen that thing. When the doctor put his mind on that animal, he could doctor. He would always wear some part of that animal. He might see a bear, and he could make a bear claw necklace or put bear ears on his head or a bear hide or bear ears on his wrist. ... That’s what he saw in his dream.

The same if he saw a buffalo. He would try and act like a buffalo. He would throw dirt into the air and holler like a buffalo. He might keep the skin of that animal in his bed and might tie it to the tepee."

p. 135

"The medicine men had red paint on them. They wore it on their cheeks and on their foreheads. Sometimes they just painted it down over their eyes. Sometimes they would paint it all over their face."

p. 136

curing caerimony : "Then crumbled leaves of cedar, sage, or medicine fat were sprinkled on a bed of coals to produce smoke. The resulting fumigants were believed ... to alleviate illnesses caused by bad spirits".


curing of a child : "The medicine man ... uses just plain water. He drinks it and splashes some on the feather. Then he doctors the child with the feather."

pp. 140-141 8:4 medicines

p. 140

"medicine fat ...was ... not fat, it’s wood. it’s a root ... . ... It smells good. ... It looks greasy, but it’s actually not."


"The bush morning glory, called "ghost throw at you," was the one plant Apaches feared. They believed a ghost could cause paralysis by throwing that plant’s roots at someone, but, contrarily, the plant was used beneficially to treat ghost sickness".

p. 141

"Yellow medicine, also called shingles medicine, had ... dodder ... and the heads of red ants and wasps."


"Red medicine, a concoction of ... roots of puccoon, raccoon liver, ... and a small aromatic see called birdseed – was ... given to treat measles."


"Butterfly medicine was a combination of butterfly parts and two snapping turtle hearts".

pp. 150-153 9:2 Manatidie

p. 150

"The Manatidie, or Blackfeet Dancing Society, was one of two adult male Dancing Societies ... . ...

p. 151

The aboriginal Manatidie had seven officiants : four staff-bearers or chiefs, the "bull," and two ba’’z^a`ye’. ... The bull, who carried a whip with the skin of a red fox attached, set all the rules for the dance. The ba’’z^a`ye’ ... found potential members who were hiding, spied on the wives of

p. 152

members at the meetings, started the fire for the meeting, and brought water ... for the members. ...

The Manatidie had ... responsibilities ... to police the buffalo hunt."


"The four ceremonial staffs that formed the centerpiece of meetings were regarded as sacred. ... Each was ceremonially wrapped every spring with new otter skin ... . While the drum was going on, one man would cut one strip of otter from head to foot. ... They would wrap the staffs with otter skin clear to the bottom". {cf. Spartan secret messages written on a strip of hide wrapped helically around a rod}

p. 153

"Members wore spotted fawn-skin {cf. fawn-skins worn by Dionysiacs} skirts and painted designs on the exposed parts of their bodies. ... The headdresses were of turkey "whiskers," ... and a deer tail dyed red. Dressed and painted this way, participants were allowed sexual license." {Dionysiacs were likewise allowed sexual license}

pp. 156-157 9:2 other Dancing-Societies

p. 156

"Membership in the Tlintidie, sometimes called the Horse Society, was reserved for the oldest ... men in the tribe. ... Wives were not members but attended with their husbands. ... If some member flirted with another member’s wife, the offended husband obtained relief by blowing on the whistle.

p. 157

... distinguishing characteristics of the Tlintidie were its ... name Contraries Society, and ... how members were expected to act in the Contraries Society :

The members talked "backward," as ... to stop meant "to continue." Thus, when they were dancing outside and someone said to them, "Don’t dance in that water," they were obliged to go into the creek with full regalia. ... Only another person could release them by ... telling them "to stay there." ... When the "owl man," or "ghost man," the most prominent of the leaders, shook out his breechcloth, which resembled an owl, the group was obliged to dance for four days and nights. ... At the dances, the owl man characteristically engaged in ... shocking behavior that could include disrobing or engaging in open sexual behavior."


"About twenty of the oldest women and one old man belonged to the secret Izuwe Dancing Society".

p. 160 9:6 Rain Dance

"A four-day rain dance ... was the only Plains Apache ritual ... in which the participants were masked. ... with the exception of two lone women, all the dancers "wore hideous masks, some with distorted noses, grotesquely painted." {cf. Iroquois "False Face" masks, having distorted noses} The dancers were "fantastically dressed, with ... head-dresses" consisting of wooden frames, and small bells were attached to their legs. ...

Masks and headdresses of wooden frames on the dancers were important identifying characteristics of Apaches located in the Southwest. ... it would provide another link between the Plains Apaches and the Apache tribes in the Southwest."

pp. 173-174, 177, 179 10:3 Peyote Religion

p. 173

"peyote, or Lophophorus williamsii ... .

... on the ingestor of the plant, ... synaesthesis ... occurs. Sounds become colors and colors sounds."

p. 174

"in the peyote meeting, ... They prayed to Blue-White Man."

p. 177

"The meeting was held in a specially erected tepee with a door to the east. A crescent ... altar was mounded in the center of the tepee, with its tips pointing toward the east. ... An arc drawn from tip to tip along the center of the crescent was called the road line, or lifeline, and it represented the journey of the individual through life. The south tip of the crescent was the infancy of man, the center midlife, and the north tip old age. ... [Initiates] confided that the road on the crescent originally represented a rainbow : ...

That ... road on it stands for a rainbow. ... Some of the Indians now say that’s a road, but the man that first made it said it was a rainbow."

p. 179

"Following the peyote leader was the drum chief, ... who carried a carved drumstick and the drum, ... and walnuts ... that you hope ... to eat and be strong."

p. 182

"The curative powers of peyote have been widely attested to by many who have either been cured or observed others cured".

Kay Parker Schweinfurth : Prayer on Top of the Earth : the Spiritual Universe of the Plains Apache. U Pr of CO, Boulder, 2002.