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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS
AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY
Vol. 12, No. 10, pp. 397-441, 8 text-figures July 6, 1917
CEREMONIES OF THE POMO INDIANS
S. A. BARRETT
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UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS
AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY
Vol. 12, No. 10, pp. 397-441, 8 text-figures July 6, 1917
CEREMONIES OF THE POMO INDIANS
S. A. BARRETT
Ceremonial organization 398
General Features of the Porno Ceremoniea 401
Invitations to Ceremonies 402
The Ghost or Devil Ceremony 403
Stephen Powers on the Ghost Dance 404
The Ghost Ceremony Proper 406
Fire Eating 418
The Purification Rite 421
Summary of the Principal Features of the Ghost Ceremony 422
The Guksu Ceremony 423
The Scarifying Ceremony 425
Stephen Powers on the Guksu Ceremony 427
Completion of the Guksu Ceremony 429
Treatment of Disease 430
Dances in which Men and Women Participated 433
Dances in which only Men performed 438
Dances in which only Women performed 439
Additional Dances :. 440
The Messiah Cult 440
It has been at least twenty years since the last of the Pomo cere-
monies was held in a truly aboriginal fashion. Elaborate ceremonies
of a more recently introduced "Messiah" cult were held as late as
perhaps fifteen years ago, but these "Messiah" ceremonies contain
only a few features common to the indigenous tribal observances.
398 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
Dances are even yet to be seen in connection with some celebrations,
principally on the Fourth of July, but there now remains so little that
is really primitive about these that they are virtually worthless to
.the student. Information obtained through direct observation is at
present, therefore, impossible, and we must depend for our knowledge
of Porno ceremonies and ceremonial organization upon the statements
of the older men, and particularly those concerned with such matters
in former days. From such sources rather full information con-
cerning some of the ceremonies and dances is obtainable, but, under
the circumstances, it is impossible to secure exhaustive data concerning
all of them. In many instances informants recall only a few of the
details of a given ceremony or dance. Sometimes only its name is
remembered. Doubtless even the recollection of some ceremonies and
dances has been lost.
During a residence in the Pomo region from 1892 to 1904 the
existing vestiges of some of these Pomo ceremonies were observed
whenever possible, but no attempt at a systematic collection of data
on the subject was made until 1903 and 1904, when this work was
undertaken in conjunction with the collection of Pomo myths, as part
of the investigations of the Ethnological and Archaeological Survey
of California, maintained by the Department of Anthropology of the
University of California through the generosity of Mrs. Phoebe A.
Hearst. This information was obtained from informants of three
Pomo dialects — Northern, Central, and Eastern. Where a native term
is used in the following pages, therefore, the dialect is indicated by
N, C, or E, in parentheses directly after it. The phonetic system
employed is fully explained in "The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo
Indians. ' '^
The ceremonial organization of the Pomo was very loose. There
was no secret society of importance, as there was among the Maidu
and presumably among the neighboring Wintun, and no organized
priesthood vested with control over ceremonies. The ordinary chiefs,
however (or "captains," as they are more often called), were promi-
nently concerned with all ceremonies, and there were other officials in
charge of particular rites. We may begin therefore by mentioning
the various officials in the order of their importance.
1 Present series, vi, pp. 51-54.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 399
As has been elsewhere pointed out,^ the social organization of the
Pomo is based primarily upon blood relationship, the blood relatives
who resided in a definite village grouping themselves into a political-
unit under the leadership of an hereditary ' ' captain. ' ' Usually several
of these consanguineal units comprise a village, and their captains
form its governing body. From among these the people elect a head
captain. Not even the head captain has absolute authority, nor has
any captain important judicial power, or power to inflict punishment.
In short, the function of the captain is primarily that of adviser to
the group. The special duties of the head captain in olden times were
to welcome and entertain visitors from other villages, and to meet in
council with the other captains concerning inatters of general public
welfare, and to arrange for and preside over ceremonies.
What may be termed an honorary captainship was accorded any
man who, through his wealth or his prowess as a hunter, made him-
self very popular by providing large quantities of food and numerous
feasts for the people. A similar honorary office, that of female captain,
da' xalik (E), was based upon a woman's popularity, which depended
in turn on her good-heartedness and her fame as a cook. Neither of
these honorary offices, however, was hereditary. In spite of the am-
biguous nature of the office, incumbents were accorded great respect
at ceremonies and other public functions.
The other officials had duties almost, if not quite, exclusively con-
nected with ceremonies and had nothing directly to do wdth govern-
mental affairs. We may recognize the fire-tenders, the head singers,
the chorus singers, the drummers, and the masters of ceremonies. Such
offices were considered very honorable and were, as a rule, hereditary.
This was particularly true of the offices of fire-tender, head singer,
and drummer, in which the succession followed precisely the same
rules as did the chieftainship.
The fire-tenders, called me'dze (N) and la'imoc (E), were officials
of very great importance. Connected with each of the large, semi-
subterranean "dance-houses"^ there were two fire-tenders, who
saw to all matters concerning the fire and the preparation of the
dance-house except actually procuring the firewood. All the men
2 ' ' The Ethno-Geography of the Pomo and Neighboring Indians, ' ' present
series, vi, pp. 15-17.
3 An article by the present writer called ' ' Pomo Buildings, ' ' in the Holmes
Memorial Volume, fully describes these structures, which were erected especially
for ceremonial purposes and which formed the religious centers of Pomo villages.
400 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
participating in the ceremony were supposed to bring wood, which
they placed just outside the dance-house. One of the fire-tenders
then carried it up and dropped it through the smoke-hole, while the
other stacked it in ricks in the proper places within the house. As
remuneration for their labor, they received the beads which were
thrown at the dancers* by the people during the ceremony and which
were swept up when the dance-house was cleaned.
The head singer, called ke' kai tea (C) and ke'uya (E), M^as a man
of great importance in ceremonies, though he was very inconspicuous.
It was his duty to plan previously the proper sequence of the dances
and songs, and it was also his duty to start all songs and to carry the
air. The head singer had to possess a very good voice, and had to
make it his business to know the songs for the various ceremonies.
Now and then he was at a loss for the proper song for a particular
occasion. He was allowed to consult some other singer, or, upon
occasion, he might ask for suggestions from the audience. Any one
who knew a song which fitted the occasion might come to the head
singer and sing it for him in an undertone, until he caught it and
was ready to lead in the singing. As a rule he kept time with a split-
stick rattle, or a rattle made of cocoons.
The chorus or burden-singers, called skam (E), gave volume to
the music and marked time with their split-stick rattles, hai mitamitaka
(N). Their usual burden was "he, he, he, he, . . ." sung in a heavy
The drummers, called tsllo' gauk (E), tsilo' tea (C), and tsllo'
matutsi (E), were always two in number, and as a rule they took turns
in playing the large wooden drum which was set in the ground at the
rear of the dance-house, and which was beaten by the stamping of
the feet. The office of drummer was considered one of the most
important, and second only to that of fire-tender.
The master of ceremonies, called xabe' dima (E), xabe' gaiik (E),
and he'llma (C), started and stopped all songs and dances by certain
signals. The participants in the dance usually maintained certain
positions, but the master of ceremonies ran about from place to place
supervising the activities and giving directions as required. His
^ The reason for the throwing of the beads is as follows: Porno custom
prescribes a period of mourning lasting one year. If a dancer so far forgets
his sorrow as actively to participate in a ceremony of this kind before the
expiration of the prescribed mourning period after the death of a friend or
relative some atonement is required. It is customary under such circumstances
for some one in the audience to throw some loose shell-beads at the dancer, these
being evidently intended as an offering to the spirits and having nothing directly
to do with the dancer himself.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Povio Indians 401
presence was absolutely necessary at all ceremonies, and without him
a dance could not proceed. He acted under the general direction of
the head captain, but that official himself never served as master of
ceremonies. Very rarely did the same individual serve as master of
ceremonies and head singer. While as a rule the drummers and the
singers wore no special dress for ceremonial occasions, the masters
of ceremonies were almost always painted and dressed according to
different requirements for each ceremony (see below). They were
usually among the dancers who impersonated supernatural beings.
GENERAL FEATURES OF POMO CEREMONIES
A ceremony always centered about the dance-house,^ and lasted
four nights, or some multiple of four, beginning usually soon after
sunset. In the case of the ''ghost ceremony," which began at sunrise,
the preceding night was spent in performing other dances. Such
ceremonies were made up of a varying number of dances.
There was usually no prescribed sequence, but the ceremony took
the name of the dance which was its special feature, though this need
not necessarily open the ceremony. In a few instances it was recog-
nized that certain dances should be performed together.
A ceremony consisted of (1) an introductory procedure, accom-
panied by more or less ritual, such as the initiation of the children
through the gu'ksii ceremony (see below, p. 425) ; (2) a series of
dances; (3) a series of speeches by officials and men of importance
concerning the religious life or other matters of public interest; (4) a
final purification rite; and (5) various feasts, particularly one held in
the morning after the final night of the ceremony.
There were certain special ceremonies, such as the gu'ksu cere-
mony, in which a definite opening procedure was required, but after
this almost any desired dance might be held at any time, day or night,
throughout the duration of the ceremonial period. The procedure of
the final night of the ceremony was also usually fixed.
The principal ceremonies of the Pomo were :
The xahlu'Igax xaikllgaiagiba" (the "ghost" or "devil" ceremony).
The kalimatoto xaikilgaiaglba (the thunder ceremony).
The gu'ksu xaikilgaiaglba.
The da'ma xaikilgaiaglba.
•'> For a description of this large semi-subterranean structure see "Pomo
Buildings," by the present author in the Holmes Anniversary Volume.
6 These words are in the Eastern Pomo dialect.
402 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
INVITATIONS TO CEREMONIES
The captains of the village discussed with other important men
the question of holding a ceremony, just as they discussed other
matters relating to the general public good. Having agreed upon the
date and other details, the head captain usually walked through the
village delivering an oration, as was customary upon occasions of
importance, in which he announced to the people the decision of their
captains. This oration might, however, be delivered as he stood before
the door of his own house or before the door of the dance-house.
Invitations were then sent to the people of other villages to attend
the ceremony. This was done by means of a special invitation
string. "Wormwood or willow sticks about two inches in length were
tied, each separately, into a short string, the number of sticks being
equal, according to some informants, to the number of days inter-
vening before the ceremony was to begin, usually not fewer than two
or more than eight. Other informants stated that this number was
equal to these intervening days plus the number of days during which
the ceremony was to be held. For instance, if a four-day ceremony
was to begin four days hence, these being the usual numbers in both
instances, eight sticks were tied into the invitation string. According
to another informant, if the number of sticks was from two to five,
the guests were invited for the first of two or more ceremonies. If
six or more sticks were present, they were to come for a later ceremony.
This latter, however, seems to be rather improbable. To one end of
the string was tied, as an ornament, a small section of forehead-band
made of yellow-hammer feathers. This string might be presented as
such, but frequently it was tied to the end of a wand about two feet
long. Its general name among the Central Pomo was haidel. Before
sending, it was called ha'icbu ; after it had been sent out, it was termed
A messenger took this string or wand to the captain of the village
invited and, if it was necessary for him to make a journey of any
considerable length, he broke off a stick for each day of his journey.
According to most informants, he simply delivered the string to the
head captain of the invited village and immediately returned home
with the message of acceptance from that village. According to one
informant, however, he remained as the guest of the head captain, and
himself broke a stick each day from the invitation string and finally
conducted the visitors to the ceremony.
As a rule, visitors arrived at least one day before the ceremony
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 403
began, but they never entered the village itself until the morning of
the first ceremonial day, making camp meanwhile at some convenient
spot within a short distance. The visitors collected a present of a
considerable number of shell beads, which was carried by their head
captain as he led them into the village. Some, at least, of the younger
men among the visitors attired themselves in their dance costumes
and danced into- the village, usually following a little apart from the
rest of their people.
As soon as the visitors appeared in sight, a watchman, stationed
on the roof of the dance-house, gave notice to the head captain, who
was inside. He at once came out and, taking a position directly in
front of the dance-house, delivered a short oration inviting the visitors
to enter and making them welcome. As the visitors entered each
group was assigned to its particular position in the dance-house, and
all seated themselves with their head captain, captains, fire-tenders,
and other officials in front. When the head captain of the host village
finally entered the dance-house, which was not until after all the
visitors had taken their seats, he was called by the visiting head captain
to their position. The visiting head captain then made a short speech
of presentation and gave the beads to the host head captain, who
made, in return, a second and more lengthy speech of welcome. He
then took these beads to his own house, and they were later divided
among his people. A present of equal value was returned to the
visitors, either immediately or at some time before the close of the
This formality of welcome over, some dance might be held at once
or the guests and hosts might enjoy a general visit. If one of the
secret ceremonies was to be held, all the women and children and the
uninitiated men retired from the dance-house before it commenced.
THE GHOST OR DEVIL CEREMONY
This ceremony was perhaps the most important of the four-day
ceremonies of the Pomo. It was usually held in the spring and was
witnessed only by properly initiated men, never by women or children.
The uninitiated men, as well as the women and children, were much
afraid of these dancers and kept a very respectful distance when they
entered the village. This was due to the belief that to approach closely
would produce serious illness.
Such esoteric ceremonies are unusual among the Pomo, though
404 University of California Fuhlications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
they occur among other California tribes. As examples might be
mentioned the Hesi ceremony among the Wintun and Maidu, especially
among the Maidu, who have a definite secret society.
STEPHEN POWEES ON THE GHOST DANCE
The ghost dance of the Porno has been attributed by Powers^ to
a secret society. In speaking of the subject of chastity among the
Pomo, he describes a "devil-raising" ceremony conducted by what he
terms a "secret society" which had several branches in the various
Pomo villages. His description of this ceremony is given from infor-
mation obtained by him from an old resident closely connected with
the Indians of the region in early days, and, while his assumptions and
deductions are in many respects incorrect, it is plainly a description
of the ghost dance.
After speaking of the "secret society . . , whose simple purpose
is to conjure up infernal terrors and render each other assistance in
keeping their women in subjection," Powers says:^
Their meetings are held in an assembly-house erected especially for the
purpose, constructed of peeled pine-poles. It is painted red, black, and white
(wood color) on the inside in spiral stripes reaching from the apex to the ground.
Outside it is thatched and covered with earth. When they are assembled in it
there is a doorkeeper at the entrance who suffers no one to enter unless he is
a regular member, pledged to secrecy. Even Mr. Potter, though a man held in
high honor by them, was not allowed to enter, though they offered to initiate
him, if he desired. They do not scruple to avow to Americans who are well
acquainted with them, and in whose discretion they have confidence, that their
object is simply to * ' raise the devil, ' ' as they express it, with whom they
pretend to hold communication; and to carry on other demoniacal doings, accom-
panied by frightful whooping and yelling, in order to work on the imaginations
of the erring squaws, no whit more guilty than themselves.
Once in seven years these secret woman-tamers hold a grand devil-dance
(cha-du-el-keh), which is looked forward to by the women of the tribe with
fear and trembling as the scourging visit of the dreadful Yu-ku-ku-la (the
devil). As this society has its ramifications among the many Pomo tribes, this
great dance is held one septennium in one valley, another in another, and so on
through the circuit of the branch societies.
Every seven years, therefore, witnesses the construction of an immense
assembly-house which is used for this special occasion only. I have seen the
ruins of one which was reared in Potter Valley somewhere about the year 1860.
The pit, or cellar, which made a part of it was circular, sixty-three feet in
diameter and about six feet deep, and all the enormous mass of earth excavated
from it was gouged up with small, fire-hardened sticks and carried away in
baskets by both men and women, chiefly men. It was about eighteen feet high
7 Contr. N. A. Ethn., iii, 158-160, 1877.
8 Loc. cit.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 405
in the center, and the roof was supported on five posts, one a center pole and
four others standing around it, equidistant from it and the perimeter of the pit.
Timbers from six to nine inches in diameter were laid from the edge of the pit
to the middle posts, and from these to the center pole. Over these were placed
grass and brush, and the whole was heavily covered with earth. Allowing four
square feet of space to each person, such a structure would contain upward of
seven hundred people. In their palmy days hundreds and even thousands of
Indians attended one of these grand dances.
When the dance is held, twenty or thirty men array themselves in harlequin
rig and barbaric paint and put vessels of pitch on their heads; then they secretly
go out into the surrounding mountains. These are to personify the devils. A
herald goes up to the top of the assembly-house and makes a speech to the
multitude. At a signal agreed upon in the evening the masqueraders come in
from the mountains, with the vessels of pitch flaming on their heads, and with
all the frightful accessories of noise, motion, and costume which the savage
mind can devise in representation of demons. The terrified women and children
flee for life, the men huddle them into a circle, and, on the principle of fighting
the devil with fire, they swing blazing firebrands in the air, yell, whoop, and
make frantic dashes at the marauding and bloodthirsty devils, so creating a
terrific spectacle, and striking great fear into the hearts of the assembled
hundreds of women, who are screaming and fainting and clinging to their
valorous protectors. Finally the devils succeed in getting into the assembly-
house, and the bravest of the men enter and hold a parley with them. As a
conclusion of the whole farce, the men summon courage, the devils are expelled
from the assembly-house, and with a prodigious row and racket of sham fighting
are chased away into the mountains.
After all these terrible doings have exercised their due effect upon the
wanton feminine mind, another stage of the proceedings is entered upon. A
rattlesnake was captured some days beforehand, its fangs were plucked out,
and it was handled, stroked, fed, and tamed, so that it could be displayed with
safety. The venerable, white-haired peace-chief now takes his station before
the multitude, within the great assembly-house, with the rattlesnake before him
as the visible incarnation of the dreadful Yukukula. Slowly and sonorously
he begins, speaking to them of morality and feminine obedience. Then warming
with his subject, and brandishing the horrid reptile in his hand full in the faces
and over the heads of his shuddering auditors, with solemn and awful voice he
warns them to beware, and threatens them with the dire wrath of Yukukula if
they do not live lives of chastity, industry, and obedience, until some of the
terrified squaws shriek aloud and fall swooning upon the ground.
Referring again to the "devil dance," as practiced among the
Gualala, Powers says:"
In the midst of the ordinary dances there comes rushing upon the scene an
ugly apparition in the shape of a man, wearing a feather mantle on his back
reaching from the armpits down to the mid-thighs, zebra-painted on his breast
and legs with black stripes, ber^rskin shako on his head, and his arms stretched
out at full length along a staff passing behind his neck. Accoutered in this
harlequin rig, he dashes at the squaws, capering, dancing, whooping; and they
and the children flee for life, keeping several hundred yards between him and
themselves. If they are so unfortunate as to touch even his stick, all their
children will perish out of hand.
9 Op. cit., pp. 193-194.
406 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn, [Vol. 12
THE GHOST CEREMONY PROPER
The dancers were of two classes, the ordinary ghost-dancers, or
"devils," called xahluigak (E), and the "ash-devils," or fire-eaters,
called no xahliiigak ( E ) . The former danced almost exclusively
during the day, and the latter at night, though these regulations were
not quite absolute. The ash-devils were always present at the ghost
ceremony and during the ghost dance proper they served, in a way,
as sergeants-at-arms and as clowns.
According to some informants, a new dance-house was especially
built for each ghost ceremony. Other informants did not particularly
mention this fact and it seems probable that in more recent times,
after the ceremonial procedure of the Pomo had become somewhat lax,
this rule was not observed, and the same dance-house may have been
used for more than one ghost ceremony, and for other ceremonies as
In this ceremony the dancers impersonated the spirits of the dead,
as is indicated by the speech of the chief devil-dancer made just before
disrobing.^" The dance is said to have had its origin in mythical times
when the birds and mammals had human attributes. The Pomo
account is as follows:
Hawk, the captain of a village, was killed by Vulture. After being absent
from the village for some time Hawk suddenly returned, came into the dance-
house, and sat down in front of the center pole, at its foot. A ceremony was
about to begin, and the people noticed nothing out of the ordinary about Hawk
and were perfectly willing to allow him to participate in the dancing. Meadow-
lark, however, noticed an odor about Hawk which showed that he had just
returned from the realm of the dead. With his characteristic garrulity, he
commenced to chatter about the improprieties of mortals dancing with dead
people. Hawk was a chief and one of an important family and felt especially
offended at these reflections upon him and left at once, never again returning
to the village. According to one version of the myth, Meadowlark had, in those
days, a long tail like most other birds. His action upon this occasion, however,
so enraged the other members of the village that some one struck at him with
a fire poker which happened to be near at hand. Meadowlark was able to dodge
the blow, but the poker clipped off a large part of his tail. He has, therefore,
had only a stub of a tail since that day. The people then fell to discussing
what could be done to atone in some way for this insult to Hawk. A number
of men immediately went out into the woods and dressed themselves as the
devil-dancers now do, returning to the village to personate the spirits of the
departed. From this mythical source has descended the present-day ghost or
The ceremony was directly under the supervision of the chief
"gH'ksu doctor," and it was he who safeguarded the ghost-dance
10 See below, p. 414.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 407
paraphernalia during the long interval between ceremonies. The
ghost-dancers and the ash-devils were actually assisted in dressing by
the gu'ksu doctors.
The dress of the ghost-dancer proper was quite elaborate. Each
ghost-dancer repaired to some secluded place in the woods or brush,
preferably back in the hills about the village, where he dressed. This
going into seclusion to dress is called tsuma' kabek in the Eastern
Pomo dialect. He first rubbed his body with chewed angelica root,
at the same time making a prayer for long life, good health, and
prosperity for himself, his fellow dancers, and the people of the village.
He also made a prayer to a certain supernatural being^^ to lend him
a striped skin. He next painted his body with white, red, and black
paints. A man might paint his body entirely one color. The upper
half of the body might be of one color, while the lower half was of
another. The same difference in color might obtain between the right
and the left sides, and bands and stripes might also be freely used.
Before finally finishing the painting of the face and arms, however,
the remainder of the attire was put on. This included, for the head,
(1) a head-net with which to confine the hair; (2) a down-filled head-
net; (3) a feather tuft on top of the head; (4) a yellow-hammer quill
forehead-band fastened at the top of the forehead, passing back
through the parted feather-tuft and hanging down the back; and (5)
a fillet of pepperwood leaves. The remainder of the costume consisted
of a short girdle of pepperwood branches worn about the waist and,
if desired, a similar adornment about the neck.
The ash-devils, or fire-eaters, dressed more simply. According to
some informants, they were entirely nude except for a coat of blue
paint. According to others, their attire was somewhat more elaborate.
The face was painted red, black, or white, two colors never being used
together. The legs were painted white, then scratched with the finger-
nails so as to remove some of the paint and produce longitudinal
stripes. The hair was bound up with the usual head-net into which
a single black feather was inserted,^^ or a feather tuft was attached
to it. As a screen or mask before the face, the dancer also wore a
fringe of green twigs further to disguise his identity. Otherwise he
was completely naked.
11 The exact identity of this supernatural being could not be determined from
12 According to one informant, two feathers instead of one were worn by
these dancers. These were placed so that they projected laterally from the
University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
When everything was in readiness in the village, the head captain
sent out a messenger to notify the dancers. When the latter were
ready to enter the village, a small fire was built in the hills to give
notice of the fact. They made their first entry just about daybreak
on the first day. A crier, who was always one of the captains or a
fire-tender detailed to this duty, took his position on the roof of the
dance-house just below the smoke-hole, where he gave the ghost call
''ye . . ." four times. At once answering calls were heard from the
ghost-dancers in their several locations, for they had scattered to a
number of different places, each man by himself, or in groups of
not more than two or three individuals. The ghost response was a
loud ' ' wau wa'i, ' ' repeated four times. If the ghost-dancers were
sufficiently close together, this was given by their leader only. The
crier continued his calling until one or more of the dancers appeared
on the outskirts of the village. They came running in,^^ each carrying
in his hands two bunches of grass or twigs a foot or so in length,^*
behind which he at times pretended to hide. Each suddenly stopped
as he came in sight of the dance-house and stood for a moment with
outstretched arms. Thereupon the crier shouted, "6,5,5,6," after
which he delivered an invocation to the ghost-dancers, asking them to
come running into the village bringing health and happiness to the
people. This invocation was as follows:
Then, according to one informant, all the people who were assem-
bled in the dance-house shouted, while the drummer beat rapidly for
a minute or two. The head singers took their cocoon rattles and
13 One informant stated that each dancer was ablaze on his back, head, and
arms, and that smoke issued from his mouth. This accords with Power's state-
ments, quoted above.
14 According to one informant, some of these dancers carried stones, long
sticks, or even snakes with which to frighten the spectators. Note also Power's
reference to the use of the rattlesnake in the ghost dance, quoted above.
Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians
intoned a song as they marched outside to meet the dancers. After
singing outside for a short time, they re-entered the dance-house.
The dancers then came running in, making a loud noise produced
by a voiced expulsion of breath through the relaxed but closed lips,
*'bu . . ." and ran to a point about one hundred yards directly in
front of the dance-house door (see fig. 1). While the dancers were
running into the village, the singers sang the following song :
yohiya', yohiya', yohiya',
yohiya', yohiya', yohiya',
yohikoli kole, yohikoli kole.
\ / ^
Fig. 1 Fig. 2
Fig. 1 — Paths of the ghost-dancers as they enter the village, and their cere-
monial course before the dance-house.
Fig. 2 — Positions taken and course traveled by ghost-daneers in approaching
410 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
Meantime the crier and the dancers continued their respective cries.
The head ghost-dancer always dressed at a place north (i.e., in the
rear) of the dance-house, so that in entering the village he ran past
the dance-house to take up his position. Here he bowed very low, and
quickly dropped his arms with the bunches of grass above mentioned,
at the same time crying "we . . ." He then trotted perhaps twenty
feet in one direction, where he repeated this motion and cry, and then
to a point an equal distance in the opposite direction from his central
position, repeating the same motion and cry there. This he did four
times, jS.nally stopping in the middle of the forty-foot line thus blocked
out, and directly in front of the dance-house door. The next dancer
to enter the village might come from any direction- He ran toward
the head dancer and crossed, if possible, in front of him, though if
necessary he passed behind him. In this case the head dancer turned
around so as to face the runner. The newcomer began to pass back
and forth along the line, making the motions and cries as above
described. He then took up his position at one side or the other of
the chief dancer. These dancers were at liberty to laugh, talk, and
play at will. Frequently they performed various comical antics, such
as pretending to be stung by wasps, and doctoring one another.
The crier continued his calls until finally the leader of the dancers
walked along a zigzag path to a position about one-quarter of the
distance between the line of dancers and the dance-house (see fig. 2).
Here he halted and cried "wui' ..." after which the crier at the
dance-house called all the initiated men of the village to assemble.
There was a fixed restriction against the presence of the uninitiated
in this assembly. One informant maintained that the ceremony, as
held in his locality (the coast of the Central Pomo area), required that
four posts be set up, each at a distance of several yards from the
dance-house, as is shown in figures 1 and 2, the imaginary lines from
post to post forming an inclosure for the dance-house and its imme-
diate vicinity, within which none but the initiated dared venture.
The singers and others officially concerned with the dance came
from within the dance-house and formed two lines, one on each side
of the outer door of the tunnel, as indicated by the small crosses in
figure 2. As the crier gave his call, the initiates answered with a cry.
of "ye . . ." after which they formed these two lines between which
the ghost-dancers must pass to enter the dance-house.
At the outer ends of these lines were two masters of ceremonies
who directed the ceremony from this point on to its close. They first
Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians
chased each of the dancers^^ as he came to enter the house, returning
each time to the heads of the two lines, there to await the arrival of
the next dancer. These masters of ceremonies were called xahlti'Igak
kaldaiyaii ( E ) or masa'n kaldaiyau ( E ) , and were entirely nude except
for a head-net and a feather tuft on their heads.
The chief ghost-dancer entered the house backwards and started
towards the drum, passing, however, on the west or wrong side of the
fire. Before he had gone very far, he stopped and groped around
Fig. 3 — Course of each ghost-dancer entering dance-house.
with one foot, as if to find his way, and finally inquired which way he
should go. Ghost-dancers used the same words in speaking that ordi-
nary people did, except that they inverted their statements and re-
versed the meanings of words. In this case the spectators replied,
' ' You must go on the west side, ' '^® meaning, of course, that the dancer
was expected actually to go down the east side of the dance-house.
He then reversed his direction, as is shown in figure 3, and circled
four times about the fire, finally passing to a position in front of the
15 Two or three dancers sometimes came together.
i8Miba.x bol malidai (E).
412 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
center pole. The spectators meanwhile constantly called out to each
dancer to pass down the "east" side of the house.
When the dancer entered through the tunnel, the spectators all
cried, "ye' -ye." He at first advanced very slowly backwards until
he reached the point at which he inquired his way. As soon as he
received this direction he sprang up and ran the prescribed four times
around the fire and finally reached the foot of the center pole, making
meanwhile the same " bu . . ." noise which he had made upon entering
the village. He here awaited the arrival of the other dancers, who
went through the same succession of movements.
The chief ghost -dancer, upon arriving in front of the center pole,
said, "mamule'" (E), to which the spectators replied, "hehe' . . ."
Then he made a short speech in a more or less archaic language. Its
purport was : " I do not come to do any one harm, but rather to take
all sickness away and to make everybody strong."
habadutkiya gahnu kudi' putsa'lwal gakba ga'kalik gaba da'kalik
good chiefs chieftainesses
gaba, ka'lnine gaba bekal sima bexba gahnu cama ihiwala
He next marked off, according to one informant, two or three places
on the east side of the floor, saying that he and his followers would
dance there. This w&s contrary to the usual procedure in dances,
for the regular dancing area in front of the center pole was always
used. As a matter of fact, the ghost dance itself was actually per-
formed in the usual area also, but this indicating of another area, and
this announcement, are only other evidences that the spirits must
always do things differently from mortals. In fact, the whole dress
and conduct of these dancers, their reversal of terms of direction, their
groping their way, etc., typify the conduct of the spirits of the de-
parted, who find everyhing strange when they return to the realm of
Throughout the entire ceremony, and especially during the time
that the ghost-dancers were entering, the spectators were obliged to
use great care not to obstruct their passage in any way, or otherwise
to interfere with them, else they were likely to be very roughly handled
by the dancers.
As the last ghost-dancer entered the tunnel leading into the dance-
house, the men in the two lines outside cried "yiihe'" four times, after
which they entered and took up their positions.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 413
The above described entry of the dancers was according to the
regular procedure. However, these dancers, especially the ash-devils,
were privileged to perform many comical antics, and it not infre-
quently happened that one or more of them would run up on to the
roof of the dance-house and dive through the smoke-hole. In fact,
this was one of the usual modes of deception practiced in this ceremony.
A special net, cko'l fabiti kale hai (N), was stretched about two feet
below the smoke-hole to catch the dancer. A special post was set in
the ground beside this net for the dancer to slide down. He would
then go through the usual series of movements, running four times
around the fire. After this he usually took up a position at one of
the posts near the door, there to levy tribute upon the spectators.
This tribute might be in the form of firewood, tobacco, or other
The music for this ceremony was provided by a drummer, two
chief singers, and a number of burden-singers. The ghost-dancers
sometimes sang a kind of burden of their own while dancing. This
was simply "hi, hi, hi, hi," etc., in a very high key. The chief singers
were provided with cocoon rattles. These and the drum were the
only instruments used. The dancers carried no whistles, although
these were ordinarily used by performers in other dances. The burden-
singers also used no split-stick rattles, but clapped their hands instead
in time to their singing.
After the performers had in this way entered the dance-house, the
chief ghost-dancer called to the singers to start. The drummer then
jumped upon the drum, crying " hiitsaiya'hn " (E)." With the first
cry of the drummer, the chief singers sounded their rattles. After
an interval of perhaps a minute, the drummer repeated his jump and
call. The song started and the dance began.
The song as given by one of the informants is as follows :
yohiya' yohiya', yobiya' yohiya',
kuli kule kule . . .
kuli kule kule . . .
hil . . .
The two masters of ceremonies took up their respective positions
at A and C (fig. 3) and danced back and forth along the lines AB
17 This expression was said by informants to be untranslatable, simply an
expression used to start the song. This jumping upon the drum and calling by
the drummer were called tehe'sba (E).
414 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
and CD. In starting the movement, they stood with hands out-
stretched and bent their bodies sidewise toward the drum as they
shouted "htitsaiya'hii." They then ran rapidly sidewise to the op-
posite ends of their respective courses, where they repeated the same
ben'ding, this time in the opposite direction. When they had gone
back and forth over these courses and had returned to their original
positions for the fourth time, they again shouted as at first. This
particular set of the dance was repeated four times, thus completing
this part. After any such part had ended, it occasionally happened
that one dancer would continue his steps just as though the music
were in full swing. Ultimately one of his fellow-dancers would strike
him lightly to call his attention to the fact that the dance was over,
and he also would stop.
Four such parts completed the first division of the dance. After
this the masters of ceremonies advanced toward the ghost-dancers,
motioning them back toward the center pole with the palms of their
hands turned outward and held in front of them, while they said
"hahyu', hahyu'" (repeated indefinitely).
The singers, masters of ceremonies, and the drummer then seated
themselves or stood a short distance away from the drum, and the
ghost-dancers proceeded with their ceremonial disrobing.
The chief ghost-dancer proceeded from the foot of the center pole
by a path, as is indicated in figure 4, leading around the center pole
and fire and back to the east side of the drum, which the ghost-dancers
term cuna' bilat (E), literally ''canoe worn out." Upon his arrival
at the drum the chief ghost-dancer made a speech in which he said
that he and his fellows ' ' had come from the hollow stems of the grass,
crawling like snakes," to visit the people.
katsa' muto'lai waha badui'kiu (E)
grass hollow ^ travel like a snake
He told them that he had come for their good and with no evil
motives, that he had come to bring them good health and happiness,
not sickness and misfortune. With a cry of "me . . ." he then
jumped across the drum to its west side. The spectators cried "mi'bax
b5'w6wa" (E), literally "go on your west side," indicating the west
side of the drum, according to the ghost-dancers' inverted method of
speech. In compliance with this instruction, the chief ghost-dancer
jumped across the drum, after which he sometimes felt around with
his foot as if in search of something. Thus he jumped back and
Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians
forth four times across the drum. He had really been in search of
the drum all the time and had feigned his inability to find it. He
finally, however, jumped upon it and stamped rapidly for a minute
or so to indicate his satisfaction. Throughout this whole performance
the singers and others near the drum continually cried "ho . . .
ho , . ." etc. While standing on the drum, the chief ghost-dancer
faced toward the wall, thus bringing his back toward the fire. Fre-
quently he made some comic observation to those near by,^^ and from
time to time turned his head toward the right so as almost to face the
fire, the while he made the peculiar noise, "bu . . ." characteristic
Fig. 4 — Ghost-dancer's course in disrobing.
of this dance. Meanwhile he turned his head slowly, first to the right
and then to the left, until he had done this four times in each direction.
He next took the brush or grass, which he had throughout the
ceremony been carrying in his hands, first in his left hand and passed
it downward over the right side of his body until he had passed it
down and up four times. He then took it in his right hand and
passed it in the same manner over his left side. He next took part
of it again in each hand and passed both hands back and forth side-
wise over his legs while standing in a bent posture, until he had done
this also four times. The brush or grass was then placed upon the
18 Compare below, p. 419.
416 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
He next took off the girdle of twigs about his waist and dropped it
to the ground, usually without ceremony, though if he chose he might
pass this through the same series of motions as the twigs carried in
his hand. He next took off his entire head-gear at once. This he held
in his left hand and passed from his right shoulder up over his head
four times, repeating the same motions with the right hand on the
left side. He then placed this with the other paraphernalia on the
He next left the drum and went directly back to the foot of the
center pole, where he rejoined the rest of the ghost-dancers. The
remaining dancers went, one by one, or in small groups, and performed
exactly the same ceremony as that just described. When all had
disrobed, each took his costume and retired to the woods or brush,
redressed himself, endeavoring to change his painting to one as dif-
ferent as possible from that which he wore before. Later the same
performance was repeated : the calling by the crier, entry of the
dancers, series of dances, and ceremonial disrobing.
On the first day this entire series of dances was repeated four
times in all — at about 5 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m., respectively.
After the ceremonial disrobing at the end of the fourth series, the
ghost-dancers left their suits in the dance-house and repaired to the
river or lake to swim, after which they returned to the dance-house.
During the other three days of the ceremony they might appear any
desired number of times during the day.
The dancers were forbidden to eat or drink on any particular day
as long as the dance continued, but as soon as they had gone down to
swim this restriction was removed.
As a rule, fire-eating and fire-handling were only incidental to the
ghost dance proper. However, if occasion arose, the ghost-dancers
themselves might handle fire, though they could not eat it. This
privilege was especially reserved to the ash-devils, no' xahlulgak ( E ) ,
In case something was done to offend the ghost-dancers, such as an
inadequate provision of wood or some inattention on the part of the
officials, they might attempt to show their displeasure by throwing
fire about the dance-house. It then became the duty of the two fire-
tenders to hold sticks of wood across the fire. This operated as a
taboo to the ghost-dancers, who were prevented from touching the fire.
If there were any of the ash-devils present, even though not regularly
participating in this particular ceremony, they at once brought their
special bird-shaped staffs, which served as their badges of authority,^^
i» See below, p. 418.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 417
and gave them absolute control over the entire assemblage, including
even the head captain. This caused the fire-tenders to remove their
restriction, and the ghost-dancers were then privileged to do as they
wished as long as they were under the patronage of the ash-devils.
While serving, during the regular ghost dance, as messengers,
sergeants-at-arms, and collectors of fines, the ash-devils were called
katsa'tala ( E ) , and were the special clowns who performed all manner
of antics in their endeavors to provoke an outward expression of mirth
from some unfortunate spectator. Should he so forget himself as to
laugh or even smile at the antics, one of these katsa'tala ran at him
with his wand and levied tribute in the form of a payment of beads
or some other commodity, or imposed a penalty requiring the offender
to bring wood or water for the dancers. Furthermore, if some one
of the dancers should see a spectator in possession of something desir-
able, he sent one of these katsa'tala with his wand to this spectator to
demand the desired article. The spectator must then bring it to the
foot of the center pole and deposit it for the dancers.
In order to provoke the spectators to mirth, these katsa'tala did
many odd things and made themselves as grotesque as possible. For
instance, one of them would prop his eyelids open with small wooden
pegs (an action called u'i batak (E)), or he would hold his mouth
open and stretch it out of shape ( an action called katsi'da batak ( E ) ) ,
or he would fill his cheeks very full and puff them out with grass
(called kawe'ts kale (E) ) .
These ash-devils never actually danced in the ghost dance proper,
but accompanied the regular ghost-dancers when they appeared. The
intervals between dances were filled and greatly enlivened by their
antics, and it was during these intervals that they made good their
name by rolling in the ashes of the fire, and by sometimes throwing
live coals about, and "eating" them.
From time to time during the "rests," or ceremonial pauses, one
of these katsa'tala would seize a cocoon rattle, run four times about
the fire and center pole, and throw the rattle at the chief singer, calling
upon him for a song. This must be at once forthcoming, and the
ghost dance itself was then resumed. If some one in the audience
wished to have the singing and dancing resumed, he threw a cocoon
rattle at one of the fire-tenders, who passed it to one of the katsa'tala,
who then ran about the fire and presented it to the chief singer as
Songs were sometimes sung independently and unaccompanied by
418 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
dancing. This was especially the case in what may be termed singing
contests. Upon receiving the rattle, a singer was obliged at once to
sing some song. He then passed the rattle to another singer, who did
likewise. Thus each of the renowned singers was given an opportunity
to prove his merit. Each man's song was accompanied by a parade
of the performers, which carried the party, including the singer, four
times around the dancing area.
Fire-eating was restricted, as above stated, to the ash-devils, and,
while sometimes practiced during intermissions in the regular ghost
dance, it was usually held as a separate ceremony in the evening and
was preceded by a short dance.
The dress of the ash-devils consisted of a coat of paint and a very
simple headdress.^" In addition, however, they carried special cere-
monial staffs called toa blla't ( E ) , kasa'usaua ( E ) , and kasa'lsala ( E ) ,
To one end of this ceremonial staff was fixed the head of a crane.
Grass was used to stuff the neck part, bits of abalone (Haliotis) shell
made the eyes, and bluejay feathers were made into a topknot. It
was permissible to use wands of slightly different forms, but all were
crooked in some way, and the crane-headed staff was the recognized
When this special ceremony commenced, the ash-devils became
supreme and took precedence over everybody. A guard was posted
at the foot of the side post to the east of the door, and no one was
permitted to leave the dance-house after the ceremony had begun
except upon payment of a certain sum of what was termed upon this
occasion "bead money" (cata'ne (E)). As a matter of fact, two or
three stems of rush, from four to six feet in length, were bound to-
gether and were given to the guard as payment. He took this
''money" and hung it on the wall near the drum, after having
danced a few quick steps upon the drum with it in his hands. These
rushes were legal tender during this ceremony; and if the dancers
asked a favor of any one else in the dance-house they paid him for
the service in this same legal tender. Their authority was especially
shown by their use of the crane-head wands, which no one else was
permitted to touch. They could be handled only after a long fast
involving complete abstinence from water and from meat or grease
in any form.
20 See below, p. 420.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 419
As soon as the ash-devils entered the dance-house absolute silence
fell upon all. Except the ash-devils, no one, not excepting the head
captain, was permitted to speak during the ceremony. The rule was
that the ash-devils themselves must consult one another in low tones.
Immediately upon entering the dance-house the main group of
ash-devils took up a position at the foot of the center pole and, in
case some one of the spectators did not almost immediately start a song
for their dance, they might jump into the fire and begin to throw
brands and live coals about among the spectators. This drastic action
quickly called forth a protest, and some one volunteered to sing.
The actual dancing lasted for perhaps half an hour, after which
the ash-devils sat down and began to "eat fire," jump into it, and
perform other miraculous feats with it. They, to all appearances,
actually picked up live coals, which they called bti (E), and devoured
them, preferring the coals of manzanita wood, as these were the
strongest and hottest. This term bu is translated by the Pomo as
"potatoes," a term applied to the many species of bulbs and corms
formerly an important part of their food supply. The word for coals
is raasi'k ( E ) .
During the progress of the dancing a fire-tender had been pre-
paring the fire for the special benefit of the ash-devils, and had selected
a considerable quantity of live coals, which he had piled at one side
of the main fire. Suddenly one of the fire-dancers put his hand into
these coals and scattered them out over the dancing floor. Then he
pretended to be burned and danced about as if in pain. Finally,
however, he struck the center pole with his hand and evinced great
satisfaction, for to him the center pole was as cold water. During
this fire-eating ceremony many other feats were performed, such as
catching with the mouth a live coal which had been thrown into the
air, then running back to the drum and dancing upon it. The dancer
usually turned toward the audience, opened his mouth, and exhaled
his breath in such a way as to cause the coal to glow between his teeth
or farther back in his mouth. Such comical antics would in ordinary
life provoke an outburst of merriment, but the rules of the ceremony
absolutely forbade a sound of any kind, mirthful or otherwise, from
the audience, and if the rule were violated a fine was exacted.
During this ceremony, and apparently as an initiation of novices,
little boys were thrown by the ash-devils back and forth a number of
times through the blaze of a large fire.
Finally, after about half an hour of this eating and handling of
420 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
fire, the ash-devils formed at the drum and danced over a course such
as that shown in figure 5. This was repeated four times, and as each
dancer stepped upon the drum he danced a few short, quick steps, as
did the regular drummer in producing music for an ordinary dance.
Upon completing this cycle of four, the dancers reversed their direction
and traveled over the same course four times. They next passed over
the course represented in figure 6, stopping at the four points marked
I, where each dancer waved his wand, which he held with both hands,
above and in front of his head in such a manner as to describe wdth
it a semicircle, while the spectators cried "hee' ..."
Fig. 5 Fig. 6
Fig. 5 — Course in first part of final fire dance.
Fig. 6 — Course in second part of final fire dance.
The dancers then returned to the drum, removed their head-dresses
and nets, and danced back and forth four times along the line indicated
in figure 7. At the end of each journey along this line, the dancers
blew their breath forcibly through their lips and waved their hands
from their mouths. At the end of this cycle they sat down and became
ordinary persons^^ once more. The spectators were then permitted
21 According to the above information, which was obtained from an Eastern
Pomo informant, the fire-dancers evidently did not make an attempt to hide
their identity. However, a Central Pomo informant was very specific in his
statements that the dancers of his locality were more particular in this respect,
Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians
to do as they wished. They could resume their normal ways, including
smoking, which had been prohibited because the fire and everything
pertaining to it belonged exclusively to the fire-dancers during this
THE PURinCATION EITE
During the first three days and nights of the ghost ceremony, either
the ghost dance itself or some other dance associated with it might
be held. On the fourth night it was necessary that the entire night
be spent in dancing, and near dawn there occurred a purification rite
Fig. 7 — Course in third part of final fire dance.
accompanied by special songs. Every ceremonial object about the
dance-house, whether it had been used during the preceding days or
not, had to undergo this purification, and in case the owner of such a
ceremonial object was not present, some near relative performed the
ceremony with it.
Just before sunrise each dancer, holding up his personal ceremonial
paraphernalia in his right hand, danced back and forth in time to the
songs. He danced four times looking toward each of the six cardintl
directions in the following order: east, north, west, south, up, down.
and instead of remaining in the dance-house after the ceremony they ran out
and returned to their respective places of seclusion, there to dress in daily attire
and return to the village.
422 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
All the ceremonial objects were then hung up in the dance-house and
later stored away secretly by the chief Gu'ksu doctor.
The ceremony ended during the following forenoon with a grand
feast, which differed materially from other feasts held at times during
the ceremony, in that each separate class of individuals dined by
itself in the order of rank — captains, fire-tenders, singers, drummers,
masters of ceremonies, ash-devils, ghost-dancers, and spectators. The
food served to each class was, however, of the same kind and quality.
Certain restrictions were imposed upon the dancers after the cere-
mony was over. The regular ghost-dancers were not allowed to eat
meat for eight days. Those who wore the chaplet of twigs upon the
head were obliged to abstain from meat for four days. The Gu'ksu
doctor who assisted a dancer in dressing might ask him for some article,
such as a powerful poison. This had to be given the Gii'ksu and, in
that case, the dancer was forced to abstain from meat for eight days.
A dancer who wore certain kinds of feather ornaments abstained from
meat for a month. The chief Gu'ksu doctor, who knew all about the
ghost dance and who was called yo'mtabate (E), was compelled to
abstain from meat for several months. It was his duty to care for
the ceremonial paraphernalia between dances. This had to be care-
fully hidden away in some lonely spot where no one could find it except
this chief Gu'ksu doctor and his two or three assistants.
Whenever any one of these individuals ate meat or fish for the
first time after this period of restriction had expired he was enjoined
to say a short prayer over it.
SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPAL FEATURES OF THE GHOST CEREMONY
The following are the most characteristic features of the ghost or
1. The ceremony is supposed to have had its origin in mythical
times and to have been instituted as an atonement for an offense
against the dead.
2. It lasted four days, ending with an all-night dance, and, on the
morning of the fifth day, a purification rite followed by a feast in
which each class of individuals dined by itself.
3. The participants were several ghost- or devil-dancers person-
ating the spirits of the departed and accompanied frequently, though
not always, by one or more ash-devils or ash-ghosts, who filled the
double office of clown and sergeant-at-arms, and who usually performed
their special fire dance and fire-eating ceremony.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 423
4. The officials particularly concerned with the ceremony were two
head singers, an indefinite number of burden-singers, a drummer, two
fire-tenders, and two masters of ceremonies. The village captains
retained their full authority in this ceremony except when the ash-
devils were performing.
5. The audience consisted of initiated men only, and silence was
the rule. Any exhibition of mirth was absolutely prohibited under
6. The attire of the ghost-dancer consisted of several pieces of
headgear, supplemented in some cases by a chaplet of leaves, a girdle,
and sometimes a neck-ring of leaves. The body was otherwise nude
except for very elaborate painting in black, white, and red. The
dancers dressed secretly in the woods and came to the village carrying
bunches of grass or twigs in their hands, behind which they at times
pretended to hide.
7. The ash-devils wore only a simple head-dress and a coat of
8. The special crane-head shaped wand of the ash-devil gave him
9. The dancers entered the village at the call of a crier stationed
on top of the dance-house, performed an elaborate ceremony in front
of the dance-house, and finally entered it backwards, groping their
way, using an inverted style of speech, and in every other manner
showing that the spirits of the departed were unaccustomed to the
ways of mortals.
10. The dancing was elaborate and was characterized by the occur-
rence of movements in cycles of four, followed by an elaborate cere-
monial disrobing at the drum, and then by swimming.
11. During the fire dance the ash-devils initiated novices.
12. The dancers were subject to certain restrictions for varying
periods of time following the ceremony.
THE GUKSU CEREMONY
Gu'ksu or ku'ksu, as he is called in the different Pomo dialects, was
a supernatural being living at the end of the world toward the south,
one of six supernatural beings living at the ends of the world in the
six cardinal directions. The term is also applied to a large mosquito-
like insect, called locally " gallinipper. "
424 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
Toward the east lived Ca'lnis, the only one of these deities who
was associated especially with Gu'ksii in the ceremonies of the Porno.
Toward the north lived Su'upadax (whirlwind).
Toward the west lived Xa'-matu'tsI (water-occupation). The con-
nection is here very readily seen when we know that the territory of
the Porno reached to the Pacific Ocean, and that this great body of
water formed an important element in certain phases of their myth-
ology. It was only toward the west that the world was supposed by
the Pomo to be bounded by water.
Above lived Kall'-matutsI (sky-occupation).
Below lived Ka'i-matu'tsl (earth-occupation).
Some of these terms really referred to groups of several deities
each. The deities of all six quarters were particularly concerned with
medicine practices. Healing was, however, especially the province of
the Gu'ksus, and the Pomo medicine-men, or "doctors," made their
prayers particularly to them, although all the remaining deities of the
cardinal points were invoked.
Nothing very definite seems to be known concerning the places of
abode or manners of living of most of these deities. Each was sup-
posed to dwell, at his own "end of the world," in a sweat-house or
dance-house of one kind or another. Each was also supposed to be
distinctly malevolent at times and to be a man-killer unless properly
placated. Under the proper circumstances they were regarded as
benevolent, as was indicated by the prayers of the medicine-men
invoking the aid of these dieties in curing the sick.
Concerning the personal appearance of Gu'ksu and Ca'lnis, more
was known than of the others. Gu'ksu himself was said to be of about
normal human size and his most characteristic feature was a very
long, large, sharp, red nose. He was usually very good natured.
Ca'lnis, on the other hand, while resembling Gu'ksu in most respects
except that of the abnormal nose, was at all times a testy individual,
and in the Gu'ksu ceremony his impersonator pursued people and
tripped them up.
Gu'ksii was impersonated by a number of dancers, while only a
single one represented Ca'lnis. Those personating Gii'ksii were dressed
as follows : They painted their entire bodies black, according to some
informants ; according to others, with horizontal red, white, and black
stripes. The feet were painted black and the under side of the chin
and the sides of the face were painted white. On their heads they
wore either a "big-head" headdress (a very bulky type of feather
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 425
bonnet) or a large feather tuft on top of the head, and a yellow-hammer
feather forehead-band. The large nose of Gu'ksu was represented
by one made of feathers and of such a size as completely to cover the
nose and mouth of the dancer. When painted red, this was said to
represent very well this characteristic of the deity as he existed in
the imagination of the Indians. The connection with the proboscis
of the gallinipper is especially apt. Each Gru'ksu-dancer carried a
cako'ik (E), or staff, about two inches in diameter and from six to
eight feet in length, on the top of which was a feather tuft. The
Gu'ksii-dancer, being supposedly a supernatural being, never spoke.
The only sound made by him throughout this ceremony was produced
by his whistle.
The Ca'lnis-dancer was painted entirely black and carried a black
staff very much like that of the Gu'ksu, except that it was somewhat
shorter and bore no feathers. On his head he wore an ordinary
feather cape so drawn together that it formed an immense feather
topknot which normally fell in all directions over his head. This
was held in place by means of skewers passing through a headnet.
Another point in which these two dancers differed was that while the
Gu'ksu-dancer was provided with a double bone whistle the Ca'lnis-
dancer had none.
The Gu'ksu ceremony itself, called gu'ksu xaikilga (E), gaxa'gaxaii
xaixilga (E), ktiksu haitcilau (C), and djaka'djakau (N), lasted for
six days, during the first and the last two of which there was cele-
brated the special ceremony called gaxa'gaxa (E), in which the
children of the village were scarified,
THE SCAEIFYING CEREMONY
Two or three days before the time appointed for the scarifying
ceremony the men of the village went into the woods and cut a pole,
perhaps from thirty to forty feet in length, which they trimmed and
peeled preparatory to its erection. A hole a foot or two deep and
large enough to receive the pole was dug directly in front of, and a
short distance from, the dance-house.
On the morning of the first ceremonial day a considerable number
of men went out from the village dressed in a special ceremonial attire.
This consisted of a body-painting either of black stripes or spots (no
particular number being prescribed), and of a head decoration com-
posed of a headnet, a down headnet, two trembler plumes, a yellow-
hammer feather forehead-band, and a small feather tuft.
426 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
They brought in the pole to the area directly in front of the dance-
house, and here the following ceremony was performed : To the upper
end of the pole a streamer was attached. The fastest runner among
the participants took the end of this streamer, and the other men,
arranged usually in the order of their ability as runners, grasped the
pole at different points down to its butt. Behind this line certain
women who participated formed a second line. The pole was then
carried, at the top speed of the runners, four times around in a contra-
clockwise direction, the pivotal point being the hole in which the pole
was to rest, and over which its base was held. As they ran the run-
ners swayed the pole up and down, and the women threw upon the
men handfuls of a small, parched, black seed called gehe' (E).
Upon the completion of the fourth round some one of the runners
shouted loudly " ha . . . u . . . " and at this signal all lifted the pole
vertically into place in the hole. The call was repeated as the pole
was about half way up. When in place, the pole was fixed by tramping
earth and stones about it.
Within a few minutes after the erection of the pole the Gu'ksii-
dancers appeared and stopped about two or three hundred yards away
from the dance-house. Some of the men had been attempting to climb
the pole, both men and women meanwhile throwing at them balls,
gala'l (E), of uncooked meal made of a certain grass seed.
As the Gu'ksu-dancers appeared in the distance the climbing
ceased, and the children who were to be initiated were collected about
the base of the pole. Boys who were to be thus initiated were called
yo'mta (E), while girls were called masa'nta (E). They ranged in
age from perhaps five to ten years. The dancers proceeded to the
foot of the pole, took the children in hand, and performed the following
ceremony, the object of which was to secure for the children good
health and to make them grow rapidly. The children w^ere first made
to lie down upon the ground and were covered with blankets. Then,
under the supervision of the dancers, each child had two cuts made
with a broken shell across the small of its back and about an inch
apart. The cutting was done by the gaxa' xale (E), an old man
selected for the purpose by the people of the village on account of
his long life, good health, and particularly his good heartedness. This
was one of the most important phases of the initiation, and upon it
depended the effect upon the life of the child. The children were
in each case covered completely with the blanket and were not per-
mitted, under any consideration, to look up during this part of the
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 427
ceremony. They might make any outcry they pleased, but if they
attempted to look up from the ground they were threatened and even
beaten with the staffs of the dancers. The cutting was done quite
deeply, so that blood was always drawn. The children were also
prohibited from looking up into a tree from under its branches until
after these scarifications had completely healed, else the tree would
bear no fruit.
The entire assemblage next entered the dance-house, the dancers
going directly to their positions in the rear without the preliminary
ceremony of entry which was required in most other ceremonies. The
children were made to lie on the floor and were again covered with
their blankets. The dancers then performed for their benefit, making
a greal deal of fun both of the children and of the scarification cere-
mony. They danced thus for a short time, then went on the west side
of the fire, where they turned their heads slowly to the left four times,
after which the people cried "ya . . ." The dancers then ran out
and into the brush, where they took off and left their dancing para-
phernalia. This ceremonial leaving of the dance-house was supposed
to remove all illness from the village, the dancers taking it with them
as they went out. The spirits which they represented supposedly
returned at that time to their supernatural home at the south end of
Another feature of the initiation in the Gu'ksu ceremony is de-
scribed by a Central Porno informant, who says that young men were
initiated by being ceremonially shot with the bow and arrow.
STEPHEN POWERS ON THE GUKSU CEREMONY
Powers describes what he terms a ' ' spear dance ' ' among the Galli-
nomero (which evidently refers to this same ceremony), as follows:-^
First they all unite, men and squaws together, in a pleasant dance, accom-
panied by a chant, while a chorister keeps time by beating on his hand with a
split stick. In addition to their finest deerskin chemises and strings of beads,
the squaws wear large puflfs of yellowhammers' down over their eyes. The
men have mantles of buzzards', hawks', or eagles' tail-feathers, reaching from
the armpits down to the thighs, and circular headdresses of the same material,
besides their usual breech-clouts of rawhide, and are painted in front with
terrific splendor. They dance in two circles, the squaws in the outside one; the
men leaping up and down as usual, and the squaws simply swaying their bodies
and waving their handkerchiefs in a lackadaisical manner. Occasionally an
Indian will shoot away through the interior of the circle and caper like a
22 U. S. Dept. of Interior, Contr. N. A. Ethn., ni, 179-180, 1877.
428 University of California PuNications in Am. Arch, and Etlin. [Vol. 12
harlequin for a considerable space of time, but he always returns to his place
in front of his partner.
After this is over, the coward or clown is provided with a long, sharp stick,
and he and his prompter take their places in the ring ready for performances.
A woman as nearly nude as barbaric modesty will permit is placed in the center,
squatting on the ground. Then some Indian intones a chant, which he sings
alone, and the sport, such as it is, begins. At the bidding of the prompter, the
coward makes a furious sally in one direction, and with his spear stabs the
empty air. Then he dashes back in the opposite direction and slashes into the
air again. Next he runs some other way and stabs again. Now perhaps he
makes a feint to pierce the woman. Thus the prompter keeps him chasing
backward and forward, spearing the thin air toward every point of the compass,
or making passes at the woman, until nearly tired out, and the patience of the
American spectators is exhausted, and they begin to think the whole affair will
terminate in ' ' mere dumb show. ' ' But finally, at a word from the prompter,
the spearman makes a tremendous run at the woman and stabs her in the
umbilicus. She falls over on the ground, quivering in every limb, and the blood
jets forth in a purple stream. The Indians all rush around her quickly and
hustle her away to another place, where they commence laying her out for the
funeral pyre, but huddle around her so thickly all the while that the Americans
cannot approach to see what is done. Thus they mystify matters and hold some
powwow over her for a considerable space of time, when she somewhow myste-
riously revives, recovers her feet, goes away to her wigwam, encircled by a
bevy of her companions, dons her robe, and appears in the circle as well as ever,
despite that terrible spear-thrust.
Men who have witnessed this performance tell me the first time they saw it
they would have taken their oaths that the woman was stabbed unto death, so
perfect was the illusion. Although this travesty of gladiatorial combat is intended
merely for amusement, yet all the Indians, these stoics of the woods, gaze upon
it with profound and passionless gravity. If they laugh at all it is only after
it is all over, and at the mystification of the Americans.
Eeferring to another phase of the same dance, as practiced in
another division of the Pomo, Powers says :
Their fashion of the spear dance is different from the Gallinomero. The
man who is to be slain stands behind a screen of hazel boughs with his face
visible through an aperture; and the spearman, after the usual protracted
dashing about and making of feints, strikes him in the face through the hole
in the screen. He is then carried off, revives, etc.23
The novices who were thus shot were called tco'ktcok (C) [plural
tco'ktcokau], and the person who did the shooting, at the direction
of the head captain, was called yo'mta (C). The informant did not
state just where the shooting was performed and was not explicit as
to its exact nature, but it appears probable that it occurred in the
dance-house. These novices were forbidden to eat fresh manzanita
berries and the flesh of the fawn, the gray squirrel, and the red-headed
woodpecker. After the shooting ceremony the novices were taken out
into the area directly in front of the dance-house, and here a ceremony
23 Op. cit., p. 194.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 429
of healing was performed over them by the one who shot them. He
told them that they would have long life and health, and that a feast
would be held for them in the course of a few days.
COMPLETION OF THE GUKSU CEREMONY
The Gu'ksu-dancers appeared only once each day in this Gu'ksu
ceremony, though various other dances might be held during the day,
and it was only upon the first morning that the ceremony about the
pole and the scarification above described were held. The ceremony
lasted, all told, six days. The ceremonies of the first day have just
been described. Those of the following three days consisted of one
appearance of the Gu'ksus each day, accompanied by a simple dance.
On the morning of the fifth day, however, the children who under-
went the scarification on the first day were again assembled and driven
by the dancers as rapidly as possible about the village and out into
the valley. The children held one another 's hands as they were driven,
making a continuous line. When they had become quite fatigued,
they were made to lie down and the dancers covered them with
branches. They remained here throughout the day and were again
driven about in the same manner just after sundow^n, being again
covered with branches, under which they stayed until morning. They
were then brought in by the dancers and made to perform a short
dance in a brush inclosure, called ma'le (E), which was built just
outside the dance-house for this special purpose. After this, an old
man, probably the same who performed the scarification, sang over
the children. During this dance each child carried a small willow
twig, which he threw onto a pile at the end of the dance, after which
he was free to go his way, and the entire . ceremony was ended. The
fire-tender bore these twigs away and deposited them at some distance
from the village.
A Gu'ksu-dancer appeared at other ceremonies, but only for the
purpose of removing sickness from the village. He was sometimes
called in, as were other dancers, but often he appeared unannounced.
He, however, always notified at least one individual, whose duty it
was to assist him and direct his movements. Apparently this indi-
vidual was not a particular official, but might be any friend of the
Gu'ksii-dancer. The ceremony was a very short one. The Gu'ksu
ran rapidly in and passed in a contra-clockwise direction four times
around the fire. He then hurried to a position directly in front of the
center pole and here ran swiftly back and forth four times over a
430 University of Calif ornic Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
short, straight course. He then ran around back of the center pole
and stopped on its west side. Here he turned his head slowly to the
left ; then ran a short distance toward the door, stopping and repeating
this motion, making in all four such stops. After this he ran swiftly
out through the tunnel and back to the woods, where he undressed
and returned as an ordinary civilian to the village. As he started to
run out of the tunnel, the people said, "ya . . . s . . . putsa'lkam"
( E ) , that is, ^^ya ... s .. . healthy make us. ' ' The prolonged " s "
was simply a hissing expulsion of breath, and as it was blown out in
this fashion any disease which might possibly have found lodgment
in the body of the individual was supposed to depart with it and to
be taken by Gti'ksu to his home in the south.
Before dressing, the Gu'ksu-dancers always chewed up and rubbed
UDon their bodies the very sweet-scented seed of a certain species of
conifer, kawa'cap (E), growing plentifully in the region of Clear
Lake. A Gu'ksti-dancer was forbidden to eat meat or drink anj^thing
before the ceremony or before doctoring a patient, as described below.
The Gu'ksii-dancer might, however, eat vegetable foods and drink
water after the ceremonial swim, which always occurred directly after
his dance. He could not eat meat or greasy food of any kind for four
days after a ceremony.
TREATMENT OF DISEASE
In addition to their part in the scarifying ceremony just described,
the Gu'ksu-dancers formed a class of medicine-men, and were often
called in to minister to the sick. These "doctors," when curing the
sick, dressed themselves in the costume of the regular Gu'ksti cere-
mony. As in the ceremony also, the Gti'ksu doctor had to be cere-
monially summoned, and he came in from the woods impersonating
the supernatural Gu'ksu. The latter was pictured, to all intents and
purposes, as coming from his home in the south to perform the
"medicine" rite and carry away with him the disease from the sick
person. A special call was used in this ease as follows: "hyo . . .
hyo' ..." repeated four times.
The Gii'ksii doctor never spoke and never sang over his patients,
but constantly blew a double bone whistle in a characteristic way, a
very short blast followed by a very long one. Upon reaching the
patient, who might be either in or out of doors, he ran around him
several times. He then inserted the point of his staff under the neck
of the patient and made motions four times as if prying upwards.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 431
He next inserted the staff under the shoulder and repeated this prying
motion four times. He did the same at the hips, and finally at the
He next tapped and pressed down with his staff; first upon the
forehead, then upon the chest, then upon the belly, and finally upon
the knees of the patient. After this he ran rapidly out of the village
and into the hills, where he stopped and turned his head toward the
left four times. He then disappeared and was supposed to have
returned to his supernatural abode in the south, carrying with him
the ailment of the patient.
While the above was the typical procedure of one of these doctors
in curing a patient, he had great latitude, and might, at his own
option, omit altogether certain of the above mentioned movements or
use others in their places. For instance, he might pry as above, or
he might press and pat the body of the patient. On the other hand,
he might simply pass his staff down over the body of the patient a
number of times, usually four or some multiple of four, or he might
omit the use of the staff entirely and ' ' doctor ' ' with his whistle only,
in which case he bent over or knelt beside the patient and blew his
whistle over the various parts of his body, particularly those recognized
by the patient as the seats of pain.
The dances either formed integral parts of the above ceremonies
or, as stated, might be incidental and entirely unrelated to them.
The word for dance is xe in the Eastern Porno dialect, and ke in that
of the Central and Northern Pomo. The following is a list of the
gllak ke kara'iya ke
hoho ke or ho'howa ke sawe't ke
cokin ke hi'we ke
dutuka ke i'dam ke
ya'ya ke xo'ke
y5 ke xahlu'igak ke
matco ke gu'ksu ke
lehu'ye ke ma'^a ke
kali'matoto ke or kali'matautau ke lo'le ke
iwi ke mo'mimomi ke
gunfi'la xe to'to ke
he'lehela ke taiigu ke
da'ma ke badju'ca ke
dja'ne ke sita'iya ke
432 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
In a large measure the various dances were very similar to one
another so far as the steps were concerned. The characteristic step
of the men was a rhythmic stamping of the feet, with the body held
in a half-crouching posture. Sometimes this dancing was done "in
place," that is, without moving from one situation. As a rule, how-
ever, the dancer moved over a definite course in each dance. The
movement was varied slightly in accordance with the songs. Some
songs were very lively and the steps correspondingly rapid, while
others were much slower. All were usually sung to the accompani-
ment of the large foot-drum, and split-stick, or cocoon rattle. Some-
times the dancers used single or double bone whistles.
The women usually danced in place, twisting the body about and
swaying slightly from side to side with little or no motion of the feet.
In some instances, however, they moved over a definite course as did
The dance paraphernalia of the men consisted of the following
1. The feather skirt.
2. The head-net, bolmaki (E).
3. The down -filled head-net, i'bolmaki (E).
4. The skewer, called kano (N, C, E), with which the feather headdresses,
tufts, etc., were pinned to the head-net.
5. The feather tuft, bi«erk (E), kaa'itcil (C).
6. The big-head headdress.
7. The yellow-hammer feather forehead-band, tso'lopa (N, C, E).
8. The trembler plume, ka/a's (N, C, E).
9. Loose down, te (E), which was sometimes scattered about over the freshly
10. A fillet of pepperwood leaves, behe'pmarit (E).
11. A small green twig or a bunch of shredded tule, used in certain dances.
Any object of this kind carried in the hand while dancing was called kato'hle (E).
Certain of these objects were prescribed for certain dances. In
addition, various items of ordinary personal adornment were worn
which do not specifically belong to dance paraphernalia — ear plugs,
pendants, necklaces of beads, etc.
The dance paraphernalia of the women was the same as that of
the men, though, as a rule, the men dressed much more elaborately than
the women. The latter had, however, one special type of forehead-
band which they alone used. This was a fur band or roll provided
with a number of beaded, yellow-hammer quill bangles.
An important part of the attire for any dance was the painting,
which varied greatly and was usually carefully prescribed for each
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 433
dance. The body, or a large part of it, might be covered with one
solid color, and longitudinal or horizontal stripes of various widths
and also dots of various sizes might be used.
Black paint, masi'k (E) (literally, coals or charcoal), w^as most
easily obtainable and most freely used. It consisted of ordinary
charcoal from the fire. If a large surface was to be painted, the
charcoal was pulverized in the palms of the hands and rubbed on.
If lines were desired, this powder might be applied with the finger, or
a piece of charcoal might be used as a pencil. Also stripes were some-
times produced by scraping off part of the paint with the fingernails,
leaving the skin exposed along these lines. In case a sticky surface
was required, as, for instance, when down was to be later applied, the
paint was mixed with saliva.
White paint, wala'lac (E), made from a whitish or very light blue
earth, was also considerably used. It was applied as was the black
Red paint, ohmaV (E), was made by pulverizing cinnabar, which
was a rather rare mineral in the Pomo region and was much prized
and used very sparingly.
For purposes of presentation it is simplest to divide the dances into
three classes: (1) those danced by men and women together; (2) those
danced by men; (3) those danced by women. Fairly full information
was obtained about some of these dances, while in other cases barely
the names were remembered. The following dances come under the
DANCES IN WHICH MEN AND WOMEN PARTICIPATED
Gi'lak. — The Gi'lak dance differed from most other Pomo dances
in that it consisted of two performances: one used for opening and
closing proceedings ; the other, or main dance, coming in between.
The men painted with a single color (black, white, or red) all of
the face below the eyebrows, after which they scattered eagle-down
upon it. This gave the face a white, fluffy appearance. They painted
the chest and shoulders black. The legs were painted either all black
434 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and EtJtn. [Vol. 12
or all white. Then longitudinal stripes were scratched through the
paint with the fingernails. The arms were painted with three bands,
each four fingers in width ; one about the middle of the upper arm,
one about the elbow, and one about the middle of the forearm.
Upon the top of the head each wore a feather tuft. This was
parted from front to rear, and the yellowhammer-feather forehead-
band, which was attached to the hair so as to hang down to the eye-
brows, passed through the part in this and hung down the back to
about the hips. A feather skirt tied just under the arms, and entirely
covering the back, completed the costume, except for a few green twigs
Fig. 8 — Position of dancers in gVlaTc Tee.
which were held in both hands directly in front of the face while the
dance was actually in progress. No whistle was used by these dancers.
The women painted the upper part of the body in the same way
as the men and wore a feather tuft and the regular woman 's forehead-
band with bangles. They wore no feather skirt, but otherwise attired
themselves as did the men.
The men were divided into two groups at A, A (fig. 8) on both
sides of the rear of the dance-house, the women dancers being likewise
divided into two groups at F, F on each side of the drum.
When all was ready for the dance, the head singer started an air
and sang alone for several minutes. Then, at a given signal, the
burden-singers joined in with the chorus, all accompanying their
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 435
singing with split-stick rattles. This was the signal for the beginning
of the first or preliminary division of the dance. The men went to a
position about midway between the center pole and the drum, where
they formed a line BC, the women forming a group in the position G,
directly behind the line BC. Here was held the preliminary division
of the dance, called tehe'sbax (E), in which the participants danced
in place for a few minutes.
The men next moved to the position DE, passing on each side of
the center pole, the women following them to the position HI. They
thus formed two lines, facing the center pole. Here the principal
part of the dance was held. The chief singer again started the air,
being joined at the proper time by the burden-singers. Simultane-
ously with the latter, the master of ceremonies gave the signal for the
dancers to begin. During the dancing he repeated the proper dance
formula^* four times, finally saying, " i, I' . . . " and the dance stopped.
At the beginning of the dance, upon the signal from the master of
ceremonies, the dancers, both men and women, whirled around and
faced the fire, and as the dance stopped at the above signal they
whirled back again so as to face the center pole. The dancers moved
sidewise back and forth four times in all, along the lines DE and HI.
Standing in their original positions, they then performed for the
second time the movement first described, thus ending the dance.
This entire dance might be repeated as many times as desired, no
definite number being prescribed ; but when each set of three divisions,
as above stated, was finished, the dancers returned to A, A and F, F,
retracing as nearly as possible the courses which they had traversed
in coming from these two positions. After the last set of this dance,
they removed their dance costumes near the drum.
ho'ho he. — The hoh'o or ho'h5wa dance, which may be taken as a
type of many of those dances which follow, lasted from one-half to
three-quarters of an hour and could be danced at any time of year.
The men were dressed as follows: The lower part of the face (i.e.,
below a line running from just under the ear to a point just under
the nose) was painted black. A black band, about four fingers in
width, ran from each of the acromia to the sternum. Four similar
bands encircled each arm, two above and two below the elbow, while
four such bands were placed upon each leg. Upon the head each man
wore a feather tuft, a yellow-hammer feather forehead-band and a
pair of trembler plumes, and upon the back a feather skirt. Each
dancer carried a bone whistle also.
24 Any dance formula such as this was called tahu'mJmvaTcil (E).
436 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
Each woman wore a feather tuft and the usual woman's forehead-
band. In each hand she carried a small bunch of shredded tule.
These bundles, called kato'hle (E), were made by tying together at
one end several stems, perhaps six or eight inches long, and then
shredding the loose ends with a basketry awl. This dance was a very
lively one and took its name, as did several others, from some of the
words of the song accompanying it. Part of the burden of this song
is a high-keyed "ho, ho, ho, ho . . ." very rapidly spoken by the
burden-singers in unison.
The music was provided by a head singer, several burden-singers,
and a drummer. Each of the singers used a split-stick rattle.
co'kin ke. — The co'kin dance was very similar, in many respects, to
the ho'ho ke. One informant said that the dress and painting were
exactly the same, except that the upper arm and thigh bore one painted
band each, instead of two as in the hd'ho ke.
dutu'kake. — The same might be said of the dutu'kake (C), or
dutu'ga xe ( E ) . The dress of the men was identical with that of the
ho'ho-daneers. The men used no whistles. The women wore the
regular woman's forehead-band. From one to perhaps eight or ten
persons danced at once, and the dance had no stated duration. As
one informant expressed it, they simply danced uijtil they were tired.
ya'ya ke. — Little could be learned concerning the ya'ya dance, ex-
cept that it was danced by both men and women, and that the painting
and attire were the same as for the ho'ho. The feather skirt was Avorn,
but no whistle was used.
yd' ke. — The men decorated themselves for this dance as for the
ho'ho dance, except that there were three stripes around the arm
instead of four, and with the addition of some down scattered over
their heads and faces. Each woman had a narrow, black line running
down the chin and a similar line running out from each corner of the
mouth toward the ear. Otherwise her decorations consisted of a
feather tuft and a yellow-hammer feather forehead-band. A consid-
erable number of men and women sang, each keeping time with a split-
mated' ke. — In the matco' dance the music was provided by one
man, who accompanied his song with a split-stick rattle. The dancers
painted themselves as in the yo' dance. Each wore a feather skirt.
lehu'ye ke. — The lehii'ye dance was sometimes called the ka'tcaha.
The term lehu'ye is the correct one for this dance. In fact, the term
ka'tcaha has been applied to it only recently and was derived from the
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 437
fact that whenever certain of the Pomo men became intoxicated they
almost always sang the songs of this dance ; hence the name ' ' whiskey
dance," or ka'tcahake. If paint was employed it usually consisted
of a coat of black on the lower part of the face and three bands about
each arm and each leg. Other designs were used, however. Upon
the head the dancer wore a feather tuft, a yellow-hammer feather
forehead-band, and a very large trembler plume, worn erect at the
back of the head. Each man wore a feather skirt. The women painted
the lower part of the face and wore a feather tuft and a yellow-ham-
mer feather forehead-band.
kaU'matdtd ke. — The kall'matoto or kall'matatitau, the thunder
dance, was danced each morning and each evening during four suc-
cessive days. It could be danced at other times of the day in addition
if desired, and other dances might meanwhile be performed at any
time of the day except morning and evening. The men painted their
naked bodies with vertical stripes. Upon the face but one stripe
appeared, running from ear to ear and just below the nose. Upon
the head each man wore a down head-net, a feather tuft, and a pair
of trembler plumes. No yellow-hammer feather forehead-band, down,
or feather skirt was used. The women dressed very simply. They
wore the same stripe on the face as did the men, and upon the head a
head-net of down and a feather tuft. Both men and women had bone
whistles, and each man had a light staff-^ four or five feet long, with
one or more cocoons attached as a rattle at its upper end.
iwl' ke. — In the iwl' (C) or Coyote dance the men were nude ex-
cept for a coat of white paint over the entire body. Upon the head
there was a feather tuft, parted from front to rear to permit the
passage of a large yellow-hammer feather forehead-band from the root
of the nose over the head and down the back. The women were simi-
larly painted and attired, except that each wore an ordinary skirt of
shredded tule or other material. Each dancer carried a small bunch
of green twigs in the hand, so held as to obscure the face as much as
possible. This perhaps typified the crafty and slinking nature of the
coyote. The music was provided by one singer, who used a cocoon
gunu'laxe. — In the gunu'la xe (E) or Coyote dance the women
dressed as in the ho'ho dance. The men painted themselves as did
the performers in the ghost dance, and wore the parted feather tuft
25 The general term xe' dakoik (E), signifying anything held in the hand
while dancing, is applied to this staff.
438 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Ethn. [Vol. 12
with the yellow-hammer feather forehead-band passing through the
part and down the back. They also wore feather skirts, and used
he'lehela ke. — The painting for this dance was the same as for the
ho'ho. Each man wore upon his head a down head-net, a pair of
trembler plumes, and a yellowhammer-feather forehead-band. Each
had a bone whistle and a ke'clge. Neither whistles nor feather skirts
were used. Each woman wore a feather tuft and a down head-net.
A fairly high pole similar to the one employed in the initiation
rite of the Gu'ksu ceremony was erected in the area directly in front
of the dance-house. The participants gathered about its base and
each man attempted to climb it, while the women danced in a circle
about its base. The wife of the climber, and sometimes other women,
threw balls of "pinole" (grass-seed meal) at him as he ascended.
da'ma ke. — Concerning the da'ma dance, little could be learned
save that it was connected with some sort of esoteric organization and
was very rarely danced. There was but one woman who was said to
know all the details of this dance, but the opportunity did not present
itself to interview her. She is now deceased.
dja'ne ke. — The dja'ne dance was always danced by two men and
four women, the men forming the middle of the line, two of the women
being at each end. They wore similar costumes, which were very
simple. All that could be learned concerning the details, however,
was that the mouth was painted black with a short line running out
from each corner, and that each dancer wore a feather skirt upon his
back and used a whistle.
kara'iya ke. — The kara'iya dance was danced by two men and two
women, and only once during any given ceremony. Men and women
dressed alike, except that the women wore the ordinary woman's skirt.
No paint was used. Upon the head was a feather tuft, a yellow-
hammer-feather forehead-band, two trembler plumes and some down.
Each dancer carried a bone whistle.
sawe't ke. — No details were learned concerning this dance.
DANCES IN WHICH ONLY MEN PERFORMED
There are known among the Pomo at least five dances in which the
performers were always men. They are the hi'we, the i'dara, and the
x6 or fire dance and the ghost and the Gu'ksu dances mentioned above.
M'we ke. — While this was danced by men only, women were privil-
eged to witness it. The dancers first painted the entire body black
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of the Porno Indians 439
and then added many white spots irregularly placed all over the body.
Each dancer carried a staff six or seven feet long and similarly painted.
The face of the dancer was painted black, and each wore a large
feather tuft on his head. This was, however, not so large as that worn
by the Gu'ksu-dancer. The music for this dance was quite unusual
in that the drum was not used. The head singer also acted as master
of ceremonies. The dancers formed a straight line and danced in
place without any forward or lateral motion, and all joined in the
I' dam ke. — Little could be learned of the i'dam dance, except that
it was danced by men, with women participating in the singing. One
unique feature was that while it was in progress no one in the village
might keep water in his house. Also if any one ate meat during a
ceremony in which this dance was used he would become insane and
could be cured only through the ministrations of the chief dancer of
the i'dam. While no further evidence was obtained in substantiation,
these facts point to the existence of an esoteric society connected with
this dance. One informant maintained that the last man who knew
the details of this dance died some years ago.
xo ke. — The xo ke, or fire dance, was held at any desired time during
a ceremony. It usually followed the feast of welcome, as it may be
called, which was tendered the guests immediately after their arrival.
It required no special paraphernalia. In fact, it amounted to little
more than a regular sweat-bath, such as was taken in the sudatory,^"
except that it was on a larger and more elaborate scale.
xahlu'igak ke. — See under Ghost Ceremony, above.
gu'ksu ke. — See under Gu'ksu Ceremony, above.
DANCES IN WHICH ONLY WOMEN PERFORMED
Two dances are still remembered which come under this heading.
They are the ma'^a and the lo'le.
ma'ta ke. — One man acted as master of ceremonies and another
sang to the accompaniment of a cocoon rattle. The dancers painted
the cheeks and lower part of the face black and then scratched vertical
lines in the paint. The only headdress worn was the yellowhammer-
feather forehead-band. In each hand was held a small green branch.
The arms hung down, but with a flexure at the elbow which brought
these green sprigs directly in front of the dancer. The dancers
formed a line and danced back and forth sidewise over a short, straight
2c See the article on ' ' Pomo Buildings, ' ' in the Holmes Anniversary Volume,
440 University of California Publications in Am. Arch, and Etlin. [Vol. 12
course. This is one of the very few dances which may yet be seen,
though in a modernized form, at Fourth of July celebrations.
lo'le ke. — As before, a man acted as master of ceremonies and
another man sang, accompanying himself with the cocoon rattle. The
informant was not certain just what kind of costume was worn, but
knew that no paint was employed.
The names of several other dances are remembered, but nothing
in regard to detail. These are mo'mimoml, toto, ta'iigu, badju'ca, and
sita'iya. The last of these was said by one informant to make up,
along with the gl'lak and ho'ho and dtitu'ka dances, a special ceremony,
about which nothing further is known.
THE MESSIAH CULT
During the latter years of the nineteenth century a "Messiah"
cult has been introduced among the Pomo by the Wintun of the
Sacramento Valley. In comparatively recent times the "prophets"
of this cult acquired great importance and, while the cult flourished,
to a certain extent superseded the leaders of the old ceremonies. This
cult first appeared among the Pomo at Upper Lake, then at Sulphur
Bank, then at Long Valley, and finally in the Ukiah Valley. The
function of the prophet, or dreamer, as he is commonly styled by the
Indians, was to have dreams or waking visions concerning dances and
other matters in which the people were interested. The prophets
were supposed to receive through these visions direct revelations from
presiding spirits, and the people formerly gave much credit to their
teachings. They virtually formed a priesthood which replaced the
old "captains" in the direction of all ceremonial matters.
One of the characteristic features of this cult was the painted
designs upon the interior of the dance-house. The last truly primitive
dance-house of this type in the Pomo region was photographed by the
author in 1901, 1902, and is described and illustrated elsewhere.-'
Another important feature was the erection before the dance-house
of a pole bearing banners and streamers decorated with the particular
designs which the priest had seen in his vision.
27 "Pomo Buildings," Holmes Anniversary Volume.
1917] Barrett: Ceremonies of tlie Pomo Indians 441
Pomo ceremonies were in general quite simple and the ceremonial
life was characterized by an absence ( 1 ) of any fixed ceremonial season
or sequence of ceremonies, and (2) of any extensive priesthood or
secret order controlling ceremonial matters. Some of the ceremonial
performances possessed certain esoteric features, such as initiation rites
and special restrictions on the part of the uninitiated.
We note the presence of a few fairly elaborate ceremonies and a
considerable number of dances, some of which were employed as in-
tegral parts of certain ceremonies, others as merely incidental to them.
These dances usually followed one another without any definite order
or relation, though in certain cases definite dances were prescribed as
parts of given ceremonies.
One ceremony has a definite mythological background, but this
has been lost elsewhere. No myths are told today to account for the
In most of the dances an indefinite number of both men and women
might participate. In two dances the number of performers of each
sex was definitely prescribed. In five, only men might participate, and
two were strictly women's dances. In other words, there is patent
in Pomo ceremonies a rather thorough going democracy regarding the
positions of the sexes.
Transmitted September SI, 1916.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS- (CONTINUED)
Vol 7. 1. The Emeryville SheUmound, by Max UMe. Pp. 1-106, plates 1-12, with
38 text figures. June, 1907 ..._ „ _ 1.2B
2. Becent Investigations bearing upon the Question of the Occurrence of
Neocene Man in the Auriferous Gravels of California, by WilUam
J. Sinclair, Pp. 107-130, plates 13-14. February, 1908 ..._ .36
3. Porno Indian Basketry, by S. A. Barrett. Pp. 133-306, plates 15-30,
231 text figures. December, 1908 _... 1.76
4. Shellmounds of the San Prancisco Bay Hegion, by N. 0. Nelson.
Pp. 309-356, plates 82-34. December, 1909 JSO
5. The Ellis Landing SheUmound, by N. 0. Nelson. Pp. 357-426, platei
36-50. April, 1910 „ „„ .78
Index, pp. 427-443.
Vol. 8. 1. A Mission Becord of the California Indians, from a Manuscript In the
Bancroft Library, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp. 1-27. May, 1908 ..._ 26
2. The Ethnography of the Cahuilla Indians, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp. ag-
es, plates 1-15. July, 1908 _ 76
5. The Beliglon of the Luiseflo and Dieguefio Indians of Southern Cali-
fornia, by Constance Goddard Dubois. Pp. 69-186, plates 16-19.
June, 1908 ...„ „ „ 1.26
4. The Culture of the Luiseflo Indians, by Philip Stedman Sparkman.
Pp. 187-234, plate 20. August, 1908 _ ^ .60
6. Notes on Shoshonean Dialects of Southern California, by A. L. Goo-
ber. Pp. 235-269, September, 1909 .36
6. The Beligious Practices of the Dieguefio Indians, by T. T. Waterman.
Pp. 271-358, plates 21-28. March, 1910 80
Index, pp. 359-369.
VoL 9. 1. Tana Texts, by Edward Sapir, together with Yana Myths collected by
Boland B. Dixon. Pp. 1-235. February, 1910 2.50
2. The Chumash and Costanoan Languages, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp. 237-
271. November, 1910 „ 35
3. The Languages of the Coast of California North of San Francisco, by
A. L. Kroeber. Pp. 273-435, and map. April, 1911 1.50
Index, pp. 437-439.
Vol. 10. 1. Phonetic Constituents of the Native Languages of California, by A.
L. Kroeber. Pp. i-12. May, 1911 10
2. The Phonetic Elements of the Northern Paiute Language, by T. T.
Waterman. Pp. 13-44, plates 1-5. November, 1911 46
3. Phonetic Elements of the Mohave Language, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp.
45-96, plates 6-20. November, 1911 — .65
4. The Ethnology of the Salinan Indians, by J. Alden Mason. Pp. 97-
240, plates 21-37. December, 1912 1.75
6. Papago Verb Stems, by Juan Dolores. Pp. 241-263. August, 1913 25
6. Notes on the Chilula Indians of Northwestern California, by Pliny
Earl Goddard. Pp. 265-288, plates 38-41. April, 1914 30
7. Chilula Texts, by Pliny Earle Goddard. Pp. 289-379. November,
Index, pp. 381-385.
Vol. 11. 1. Elements of the Kato Language, by Pliny Earle Goddard. Pp. 1-176,
plates 1-45. October, 1912 2.00
2. Phonetic Elements of the Dieguefio Language, by A. L. Kroeber and
J. P. Harrington. Pp. 177-188. April, 1914 „ 10
3. Sarsi Texts, by Pliny Earle Goddard. Pp. 189-277. February, 1915.... 1.00
4. Serian, Tequistlatecan, and Hokan, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp. 279-290.
February, 1915 .10
6. Dichotomous Social Organization In South Central California, by Ed-
ward Winslow Giflford. Pp. 291-296. February, 1916 05
6. The Delineation of the Day-Signs in the Aztec Manuscripts, by T. T.
Waterman. Pp. 297-398. March, 1916 1.00
7. The Mutsun Dialect of Costanoan Based on the Vocabulary of De la
Cuesta, by J. Alden Mason. Pp. 399472. March, 1916 70
Index, pp. 473-479.
Vol. 12. 1. Composition of California Shellmounds, by Edward Winslow Gifford.
Pp. 1-29. February, 1916 30
2. California Place Names of Indian Origin, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp.
31-69. June, 1916 40
8. Arapaho Dialects, by A. L. Kroeber. Pp. 71-138. June, 1916 70
4. Miwok Moieties, by Edward Winslow Gifford. Pp. 139-194. June,
1916 „ 56
5. On Plotting the Inflections of the Voice, by Cornelius B. Bradley. Pp.
195-218, plates 1-5. October, 1916 25