Yurok Indian Spirituality, 5


5. Doctors pp. 127-169

pp. 129-132 sorcery-arrows & devil’s Shadows

p. 129

"the term "Indian devil," >uma>ah, is also used frequently used to refer to transformer-sorcerers, shape-shifters who run great distances at night, emit fiery sparks and displays, disguise themselves as various animals and birds – dogs, bears, and owls especially – and poison people by shooting them with tiny magical arrows {this practice of shooting with magical arrows is also S^uar, in Ecuador} from a foul-smelling kit, also called >uma>ah.

... so a person can "have a devil" – sometimes, they say, a phosphorescent root Yuroks obtain from Tolowas.

... the same terms and their variants, ra.k ni >uma>ah and ka.p ni >uma>ah – "creek devil" and "brush devil"

p. 130

... also refer to the gigantic humanoid called Big Foot in English."

"a sorcerer who has obtained a kit of twelve miniature poisonous black obsidian arrows, which empower him to sicken and kill ... . ... this kit "the mysterious thing" ... shot out showers of sparks and flames and originated in the poisonous fiery arrows of a jealous husband subdued, in myth, by the creator-hero Pulekukwerek ... . The tiny arrowheads were chipped from a magical "flint" so powerful that a flake of it would explode in a fiery eruption if not handled properly. Some people say that a man had to get this flint from a "creek devil," Big Foot ... . ... The "Indian devil," trained in the use of his kit, his devil, shot its tiny arrows into his victim ... . The twelve arrows were graded in strength and malevolence, the first causing a mild cold, the second a few days of cold with headaches, and so on up to the last four, which were lethal. The kits stank like very strong, rank angelica root, and their stench increased with use. They had, in fact, to be used frequently in order to retain their power ... . ...

p. 131

Very few doctors had the power to suck out these arrows".

p. 132

"devils send out their multiple shadows to confound their would-be captors. "You have to train to catch an Injin Devil, ... they got super-strength, duration, endurance – they last all night." Some say that the devil has twelve shadows, one for each of his arrows ..., and others say five." {cf. the 5 arrows of Kama-deva}

pp. 132, 288 wrestling with the Devil



p. 132 "he [did] see a shadow five times. ... The first one ... jumped – grabbed him. They wrastled to pretty near daylight and the sun was coming out. ...

{Ya<qob "wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day." (B-Re>sit 32:24)}

And that Indian Devil he [did] laugh ... . ...

{When he wrestled with the angel (Mika->el), Ya<qob was styled (by God) as "My first-born son" (LB, p. 186) : but Ya<qob was actually the son of Yis.h.aq, whose name signifieth ‘Laughter’ (the "laughter" of an angel).}

"Don’t ever mention my name.""

{Ya<qob "asked him and said, Tell me, I pray thee, they name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?" (B-Re>sit 32:29)}

p. 288, n. 5:6 "the young man must keep the devil’s human identity secret."

{The angel (Mika->el) had seemed to be a human, a shepherd (LB, pp. 185-6).}

LB = Louis Ginzberg : Legends of the Bible. Konecky & Konecky.

pp. 141-143 root-doctors for the dead; herb-midwives; medicine-women

p. 141

prayer-doctors : "he talks to the roots and you bathe in that {those} roots, when somebody dies in the family. And ... he prays over the roots and they bathe with it and sprinkle the house to keep the spirit out, ... and it won’t be haunted then."


"The midwife has to know ... deer medicine.

p. 142

Deer has medicine ... a certain kind of grass they eat. So we have to know what kind of grass [to] chew on, too; got to know that deer song."


"Midwives ... steamed a newborn infant in wormwood and soaproot, ... protecting its vulnerable "life" for ten days until it had lodged firmly in the baby’s body."

p. 143

"child-curing brush dance" : "brush dance medicines are on Red Mountain, >oka., near the mouth of the Klamath. ... we took a [burden] basket up to the graveyard and she fastened on a feather in a certain way."

pp. 146-148 spirit-shadows seen by clairvoyants

p. 146

"The pegahsoy is a clairvoyant doctor, usually a man, who can "see" the "shadows" of evil past deeds ... implanted in the body of the patient. ...

p. 147

The pegahsoy elicits such confessions by entering a light trance through singing and smoking a pipe. Once he – or a psychic assistant – has clairvoyantly seen the cause of the illness and the patient or a family member has confessed, the doctor prays over the patient and then blows off the shadow that afflicts him with his or her breath. ... He burned tobacco and blew on the patient, after confession, blowing away the "shadows" of misdeeds that he and his assistant, along with the "doctoring spirits" that were helping them, had seen."

p. 148

"spirit beings, "unseen beings" and "doctoring spirits" ... are the sources of their clairvoyance and ability to cure and prophesy. ... "doctoring spirits come to help. The doctor can see them and work with them ... . The spirits look [the patient] over and see what’s wrong, what needs to be confessed."

pp. 148, 289 how the pegasoy acquire their powers; diagnosis by seeing mythic bird

p. 148

acquisition of power : "He has to go out and have a vision and then he has to bring that vision out. When he goes to the mountains he generally goes to Doctor Rock and then to the men’s rock to pray ... . And then he’s given a certain power for what he’s been praying for".

discovering the source of the evil : "they just sing and smoke their pipes, and then they see this evil vision. ... And they’ll have to see which direction this evil vision comes from. And they’ll pinpoint it to some village ..., and they can almost find the person who is guilty of it."

p. 289, n. 5:15

citing Spott & Kroeber (1942), p. 157 : "a doctor sees a hegwono., a mythical bird, "come to the shadow" of someone who had broken the law, indicating his guilt."

Spott & Kroeber 1942 = U OF CA PUBLICATIONS IN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, vol. 35(9) [1942], pp. 143-256. Robert Spott & A. L. Kroeber : "Yurok narratives".

pp. 140, 147, 289 terms for : ‘doctor-shaman’; ‘herbalist’; ‘blowing-doctor’







meges [who is dealer in "herbal "medicine," meskwoh" (p. 139)]



"pegahsoy itself, as a verb rather than a noun, means "to make a wish.""

289, n. 5:16


singular : kegey / kegei / kigei

plural : kegeyowor

pp. 150-158, 290 mainly female shamanic curers

p. 150

"The kegeyowor, sucking doctors, were ... higher in power and prestige than pegahsoy. ... these doctors [were] almost without exception women ... . The kegey receives her potential for power, usually as a mature woman, ... by "natural design" or

p. 151

"universal destiny" ... compelling : one has no choice but to accept it, and ... the potential to be a kegey is most dramatically announced, traditionally, by a nightmare, a special shaman’s dream (ka.mil, "to dream bad"), distinct from ordinary dreaming, so.nil. ... "... They’d dream there was something bad working on them, then they’d have to become a doctor. ..." ... If the dream comes, or a vision is gained ..., the novice is confronted by a guardian spirit. This may be the spirit of a dead doctor who has come back to the earth from the Spirit World to help novice, but it may also be an animal, usually in anthropomorphic form – Whale, Wolf, Chicken Hawk ... . In the classic accounts, the spirit made the potential doctor swallow some sort of – often repulsive – object, and gave her her first doctoring song or "spirit song." The object was a telogel or "pain.""

p. 290, n. 5:18

Yurok religion had ">ekonor (from >ekonem-, "to hold," "to keep"), personal spirit-guardians, "guardian angels" that protect every individual. ...

1) Yurok kegeyowor had spirit-helpers that appeared to them in both anthropomorphic and animal forms, and

2) doctors’ telogel, shamanic power objects, were enlivened by the life spirits (wewolocek>) of these guardian spirit-like helpers."

p. 151

novice kegey : "When she was ready she began to dance the remoh, "kick dance" or "doctor dance," in her family’s men’s sweathouse, perhaps falling unconscious and being supported by her male relatives. She was "crazy," kelpey – like a shaman, however, not kerpey, as in ordinary madness ... . She might foam at the mouth. In this first kick dance, which lasted for ten days, the novice was c^e>wis, "clean spirit dancing." She had to learn to regurgitate the telogel, deposit it in a dipper basket, keyom, and reingest it from across the room, sucking it in through her mouth or through a pipe, repeating this feat at will until she gained control of this first and most powerful "pain." {ectoplasm} ...

p. 152

When the novice had recovered she was taken into the high mountains in the summertime by her mentor and her male relatives (as many as ten of them). They went to a prayer seat, cekce>l, a semicircular enclosure of rock – sometimes river rock brought from below ... . ... the novice and her teacher swept the seat carefully."


"The doctors used to walk up to Doctor Rock. They’d go up there and they’d dance for ten days, ten nights. ... Hupa had their own place up at Trinity Summit. Orleans [Karuks] went someplace in the Marble Mountains. ... Yuroks and Katimin [Karuks] went up to Doctor rock and Chimney Rock."

p. 153

"The degree of power attained in the mountain seats was related to their altitude : Chimney Rock is considerably higher than Doctor Rock. ... Different spirits resided at different altitudes, and even on different parts of a single rock. ... ther were at least four different spots on Doctor Rock, in the southern Siskiyous, where doctors danced for power, although there was also a single famous place where they left their pipes and blankets and paraphernalia for others to use (a cave ...). The spirits that came to these places were those of old doctors who had passed away long since and who spent part of their time in the spirit world, dancing, and part "inland," helkew, in the mountains, helping deserving supplicants ... . ... Novice doctors also went into the mountains with their mentors and male kin, after considerable training, to be "tested" or "examined" ... . The candidate danced to the different directions ... . The doctor listened for the right voices among the many that she heard – those singing remoh songs. Other voices might have offered her evil powers ("a devil’) ... . When she heard the right voices the spirit "hit" her and she fell into a trance and became "crazy" again, running back down the mountain to her village sweathouse, led by one of the wo.gey, ... and protected by her male relatives – who might restrain her with a long strap, weskul". [p. 290, n. 5:20 : "The use of a strap – reportedly about twenty feet long – to restrain the novice as she ran in a frenzy (kelpeyew-) brings to mind the similar restraint of Hamatsa (Cannibal Society) initiates among the Kwakwaka`wakw". ]


"When the novice successfully passed her mountain test she had attained new spirit helpers and songs, and she had "made her path into the

p. 154

mountains" through establishing a relationship with the wo.gey and doctors spirits there ... . This meant that she could call on the mountain spirits ... for assistance in her cures and could also visit her mountain seat in trance, without leaving her home, gaining control of new pains in this way. It also means that her route had been established into the mountains, where she would abide as a spirit after death, helping novice shamans." [p. 290, n. 5:21 : "the trail from Blue Creek to Doctor Rock that is now called the Golden Stairs."]

p. 155

"In the mountain test the novice acquired a second pain, if she had not already gotten it, perhaps in the first kick dance, because telogel always occur in pairs, wahpemew – one male and one female. {in spiritism, a practitioner maketh used of a pairs of "spirit-guides", "one male and one female" (CYPSG)} {"As always with Yorubian spiritual deities there are two, one male and one female. One who lives in the sky and one who lives in the sea (to keep cool)." (YR)} After she ran down the mountain, the newly tested doctor, who had been "hit" by the spirit, began dancing a second kick dance in her family’s sweathouse, gaining control of both of her pains and demonstrating her ability to vomit them up and to reingest them from a distance."

"after the new doctor had refined and demonstrated her ability to cure she might be given a final dance, >ukwrkwr – the "pain cooking" ceremony -- ... a great many people came to sing, to help the new doctor dance".

"Often by then she had acquired the powers of a "tracer," a finder of lost objects, together with clairvoyance and the ability to cure by sucking out a patient’s paired sets of "pains.""


medical practice : "Smoking her pipe, singing her spirit song and dancing, the kegey entered trance and saw the cause of her patient’s affliction. ...

p. 156

They’d get the doctors and they’d dance and they’d ... all see this formless thing. It is not an object – just a sort of mass of something. ... A doctor would have a vision of ... a mass of something coming towards them. That was a memory in the family, some terrible secret they’d hidden, ... that was affecting that person. And when it was stated, then it would go away and the person would get better. {cf. the confessional in Caelestial Master (of China) style of healing} The whole family ... would be there. The doctor would sing in trance and she’d tell her vision. If you had knowledge of it you had to tell. After there was a confession the doctor’d fan the patient with a large basket."


citing Spott & Kroeber (1942), p. 156 : "while pegahsoy were often called in by kegeyowor to assist in diagnoses, the kegey had a technique that was her own ... . This was the technique of sucking out the patient’s "pains," telogel ... . When the patient was not afflicted by a shadow that could be blown off or wished away, the kegey, entering trance, saw pairs of telogel in the patient’s body and sucked these out with her mouth. The pains that she had acquired from guardian spirits and learned to control through the kick dance went

p. 157

out and captured the patient’s paired "pains" in a "blanket of slime" ..., allowing the doctor to extract them."


"When the doctor sings ... The pains get hypnotized by the songs and start rising in the body to see what it is and when it’s {they are} close enough to the surface the doctor can take it {them} out by sucking".

p. 158

"Doctors were ... ranked in terms of the numbers and strength of the pains and other powers that they controlled, as well as the altitude in the mountains at which they had been tested. After the kegey had passed her mountain test she could acquire additional pains for treating various sorts of illnesses without going back into the mountains physically, although she might demonstate these new powers in additional kick dances."

Drucker 1937 = U of CA PUBLICATIONS IN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, vol. 36(4) [1937], pp. 221-300 Philip Drucker : "The Tolowa and their southwest Oregon kin."

CYPSG = "Contacting Your Personal Spirit Guides" http://www.eaglespiritministry.com/pd/sdc/sdc11.htm

YR = http://www.photius.com/religion/yoruba.html

pp. 290, 159 pains from dreams

p. 290, n. 5:22

"Drucker writes (1937:257) ... that "A potential [Tolowa] shaman often received her call in a dream ... . ... One dreamt ... ‘about the sunrise’ (whose colors indicate the color of the pains the dreamer will obtain).""

p. 159

a kegey woman "was in great pain because of a dream she’s had." In order to assist that kegey woman to gain control over that pain which she had discovered in her dream, a male shaman sang a "song about a bird that had a special stump that nobody else could come near because it was full of his food." This bird was "a small sparrow", having "gold stripes on its shoulder." {[in the Yokuts creation-myth] a "tree stump" was involved in a food- (fish-)gathering by Eagle and by Crow for earth-diver Duck (YICM).} {[in C^ippewa myth] a kingfisher said that "Wis must turn himself into a stump"; at the advice of a kingfisher Neneboj^o "assumed the shape of a rotten stump"; a kingfisher evaded Weneboj^o who had "turned himself into a stump" (FSAW-Ch).}

YICM = http://www.indianlegend.com/california/california_001.htm

FSAW-Ch = http://home.earthlink.net/~misaak/floods.htm#Chippewa citing :- James Frazer : The Golden Bough.

pp. 160-161, 291 ocean-tides and vital-currents in healing; blue aura of healer[ess]

p. 160

"The energy of "creation" is visible in the waves and tides of the ocean, which are caused by the rim of the sky rising and falling upon the sea at the western edge of the earth. [A prominent shamaness]’s first doctor’s dream was of the sky-rim, that dripped with repugnant icicles of blood – one of which was to be her first telogel. ... The waves caused by the falling sky-rim go throughout creation."


"There was a theory ... that the ocean waves went through the body. ... the ocean waves ... set a rhythm in your body, too. That rhythm would come ten or twelve times a minute or as slow as four, when you’re almost gone. If there’s a lot of tension it might get up to eighteen or twenty – so much tension that you can’t relax. That wave -- ... It’s an energy wave, spirit. It comes up through your feet, all the way up to your head, then back out down through your feet and your fingers. Occasionally it goes through the top of your head ... . ... When [the same prominent shamaness] was curing I used to see a blue light coming off the back of her head and I could see it at the end of her fingers. You see that in a dim room. She’d create a low-keyed hum ... like a beehive {cf. sound of Australian aboriginal didgeroo ‘drone-pipe’} – keep it

p. 161

up for hours. Then suddenly she’d touch a tension spot on her patient’s body and lead the tension off."

p. 291, n. 5:28

"Cora DuBois (1940:91) reported that [a certain Wintun shaman] sent out bolts of power in a long spark, "like electricity," from the tip of his index finger. Comparable reports on [a certain Pomo shamaness] and other Pomo doctors, however, stress that the power is channeled through the middle finger. {is this largely a distinction of sexual gendre – a difference between shaman and shamaness?}

When spirit appears as light it is usually reported, by Yuroks, as being blue – as in the blue light seen above Burrill Peak by those who are pure. ... the human body is surrounded by blue light that is dark when the individual’s spiritual capacity is strong, growing lighter as he grows spiritually weaker."

Dubois 1940 = U of CA PUBLICATIONS IN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, vol. 36(1) [1940], pp. 1-148 Cora DuBois : "Wintun ethnography".

pp. 162-166, 291 male shamanic curers; world-renewal

p. 162

"in an earlier publication (1925:68), Kroeber himself mentioned a male Yurok shaman who had a rattlesnake for a telogel and who specialized in curing insanity.

p. 163

"Lucy Thompson’s 1916 book ... her frequent references to the "pe-girk-kay-gay" (pegrk kegey), the "men doctors." ... these men ... tended to come from the aristocratic or "high" houses and ... they played important roles in what Kroeber called "the world renewal cult" : "These men doctors help to start and to make the settlements for the white Deer-skin dance ..." (Thompson 1916:42 ...)."


Pertinent also is "the occurrence of the cekce>il, "prayer seat," in a Karuk renewal ceremonial" (adduced in Kroeber & Gifford 1949:82.4).

p. 164

"Welkwew[,] Requa, Pecwan, Cappell, Weitchpec – five places. They take turns. ... they have five fires ... there are five doctors, Indian medicine men. One in each village ... . Men doctors, pegrk kegey."

p. 291, n. 5:30

"The five Yurok "world renewal" dances on the lower Klamath were centered at Welkwew, Rek>woy, Pekwon, Kep>el, and Wec^pus. There were also once dances on the coast south of the mouth of the Klamath".

p. 165

"there was a "ha>gelnin" at each of these sweathouses who was an astronomical specialist". "the regional council performed highly esoteric work, psychically "retying the knots" of the world sky-net {cf. "net of Indra", Iban sky-net, etc.}, symbolized by the sacred seats and mountain peaks that defined "the world" in terms of a regional grid, mapped by the roof timbers of the primary sweathouses."

p. 166

The "medicine man for the fish dam at Kep>el", whose formal title was "wi lo hego, that one dam he makes" [p. 292, n. 5:31 : "wi lo>hego>l, "he goes to make the dam""], "customarily shortened to lo>", identified himself as "Doctor of the world", and "his prayers, as lo>, were "to cure the world". {in Karuk mythology, in the Land of the Dead the souls of the dead do their "fishing" (A, p. 74) at a "fish dam" (A, p. 73) : beside it a returning visitor (live man visiting soul of his dead wife) must wait for "nine nights" (A, p. 75) before being ferried "across the river" (A, p. 83) again to the Land of the Living.}

Kroeber 1925 = BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, Bulletin 78 = A. L. Kroeber : Handbook of the Indians of California. 1925.

Thompson 1916 = Lucy Thompson : To the American Indian. Eureka (CA), 1916.

Kroeber & Gifford 1949 = ANTHROPOLOGICAL RECORDS, vol. 13(1) [1949], pp. 1-155. A. L. Kroeber & E. W. Gifford : "World Renewal".

A = Julian Lang (transl.) : Ararapi`kva. Heyday Books, Berkeley, 1994.

pp. 167 curers’ association with heaven

"at death, both kegey and medicine men go inland to the mountains and from there to dance in the spirit world above, where the most wonderful wealth objects – like albino deer half-covered with scalps of pileated woodpeckers – live. ... clairvoyant and prophetic doctors go to "heaven" in trance and see this wealth".

"when the kegey established her trail into the mountains she established her connection with the world above, the "sky," wes>onah ... . ... The most powerful men ... enter trance in a seat on what is today called Peak 8, a serpentine dome near Doctor Rock, and from there rise ... through an aperture in the sky."


Thomas Buckley : Standing Ground : Yurok Indian Spirituality. U of CA Pr, Berkeley, 2002.