Male Shooting Way

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The story of the Male Shooting Way tells of the travels and adventures of twin brothers and their acquisition of ceremonial powers by contacts with supernaturals. The two principal versions (Newcomb and Reichard 1975, Reichard 1977:37-73) begin with familiar portions of the war god story from the general origin myth, but the sequence of incidents following upon this varies somewhat in the two versions. One story (Newcomb and Reichard 1975) first recounts visits to Changing Woman, two adventures of Monster Slayer (involving bullroarers and rattlesnake), a visit to Sun for ritual knowledge, and encounters with whirling-tail-feather, arrow people and waterox; at several points these events are connected with previous material of the general origin myth. The other (Reichard 1977:37-73) tells of pulling down the sun and moon and of the hero's adventures with snake people. The central portions of both versions are more similar than these opening events; in both cases they include a hunting transgression, swallowed by fish, and encounter with buffalo people. Again the concluding events show variation: the Newcomb and Reichard account adds encounters with translucent rock people, dogs and bears, porcupine, and weasel; the Reichard version ends with a journey with ant people and the teaching of the ceremony for earth people. The hunting transgression and swallowed by fish are repeated in the third fragmentary version (Reichard 1934: 194-95). After these adventures have been completed, the ceremonial knowledge thus gained is taught to earth people and the participants depart to live with the supernaturals (Reichard 1977).


This story as a whole deals with the adventures of twin heroes provoked by their inadvertent or intentional venturing into strange circumstances of forbidden territory and with the usual acquisition of ritual power consequent upon such encounters. Throughout the complicated and often confusing array of detail runs the theme of their courage or foolhardy courting of danger. The heroes repeatedly undertake, wittingly or unwittingly, forbidden or dangerous adventures. From the resulting catastrophes they are protected or restored by supernatural aid, and gradually, as a sort of immunity is gained through the resulting accumulation of sacred power, they are better able to withstand and combat these dangers by their own efforts.

Courting of danger may take the form of venturing into forbidden territory, as when the older twin overcomes rattler, approaches the whirling-tail-feather, hunts in forbidden territory, or out of curiosity visits snake people despite his host's warnings. In each case he meets with some difficulty or danger but eventually emerges safe and wiser with ceremonial knowledge. As stated in one version (Newcomb and Reichard 1975) the hero takes pride in venturing into forbidden spots, "for he reasoned that he always came back restored and richer in lore for Earth People." His precarious situation may result from transgression of a taboo, as when the older twin ventures forth without his talking prayerstick or uses arrow feathers from the sacred grebe without permission. Accident may befall without the hero's knowledge of transgression, as when the younger brother reaches for a feathered cornstalk and falls into the water to be swallowed by fish. Or the hero may be attacked without apparent offense on his part, as when the older brother is torn up by dogs and bears or when he is shot by weasel. The rescue or restoration from these mishaps is usually by intervention and ritual treatment by supernaturals, in the course of which the hero gains ceremonial knowledge. Two of the hero's adventures involve his marriage, first to a snake wife and later to buffalo women. In his snake marriage there s intimation of his father-in-laws trickery, and ultimately Coyote takes the hero's form and transforms him into a coyote in hopes of stealing his snake wife. From this accident he is, however, restored. Likewise, when the hero marries two buffalo women, he again meets difficulties, this time an attack by the offended buffalo husband. With his own power he is able not only to withstand this attack successfully but after the slaughter to restore the buffalo people for his wives. Pg. 116-17

Katherine Spencer, 1957

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