Visionary

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The Visionary is the youngest or next to youngest of several brothers. His elder brother is described as rich, while the hero himself is a "wayward, roving gambler" who in his wanderings stakes the property of his brothers on gambling. His reports of visionary experiences are not believed by the brothers, who ridicule and scorn him. In four versions a sister's husband is part of the family group; this brother-in-law is sympathetic to the hero, believes his reports of visions, and in one case remonstrates with the brothers for thus dismissing his reports. The brothers go hunting without the Visionary. This may be stated or implied as an attempt to evade him or to leave him at home to take care of the hogan, and in one such case the sister confirms his guess as to where the brothers have gone. The hero follows but is unable to overtake them before nightfall. He suspects that they have intentionally evaded him but he hopes to help them carry their game and "be rewarded with a pelt or two". During the night the hero has a vision; he sees the fires and hears the voices of the holy ones who are holding a ceremony. They recount how a crow and magpie have been killed by the hunters. It is specified that this happened when the birds were in search of meat or when they lighted on the carcass of a slain deer. The killing of the birds may be treated as their own fault; "That is what must be expected if you will go to such places you must expect to be killed." "They ought to be killed. Whenever they see red meat they go thither." Since they did not heed warnings to be careful, it is now too late to help them. The holy ones are apparently considering whether their ceremony should be stopped in view of these deaths, but in only one case is this action taken. Later in this same version Talking God lays down the rule that if anyone dies the ceremony must stop at once. Twelve deer have already been killed by the hunters, and the holy people consider that this number is enough or that the hunters should be punished for killing the magpie and crow by not being able to kill more game. When the hero overtakes his brothers the next day, he is able, on the basis of this information, to tell them what has already transpired in their hunting and /or to predict that they will have no more luck. At first only the brother-in-law believes him, but after repeated failure in hunting or simply because the hero has been able to tell what they had previously killed, his brothers also begin to credit his visions. The holy people control game but the brothers are reluctant to admit this. In one version the brother-in-law tells him that these were also hunters disguised as birds in search of meat for the holy people.


On the way home from this hunting trip or a few days later, the hero ambushes four mountain sheep but at each attempt to shoot them he either becomes paralyzed, is seized with spasms and trembling, or is somehow unable to release his arrow. After four or five such attempts the sheep reveal themselves as gods. They transform the hero into, or dress him as a mountain sheep, resume this form themselves and depart with him. In two versions the hero faints when he beholds the gods but is revived by them. The brothers follow his trail and find his discarded clothing or the tracks of what are by now five mountain sheep. Now they believe his visionary powers. They weep for him or blame themselves for his disappearance; they make offerings and pray for his return. "The eldest brother cried in his remorse, for he saw that his brother was holy, and he had always treated him with scorn." The brothers are assured by the wind that he will return. In one version, when they try to follow his trail, the hero appears to them from a height on a cliff, chiding them for not having believed his tales and telling them that he is being taught by the gods and that they should return home. In another, the sacred offerings made by the brothers serve to pay the gods for the ceremony the hero is to learn.

References Mythology and Values; by Katherine Spencer, Pgs. 156, 158 (1957).

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