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j. 6, 

The Sacrifice to the Morning Star 
by the Skidi Pawnee 


Assistant Curator of North American Ethnology 

■nYExsmr of hxihois umary 

JAM 29 u , 




U. g. 

Field Museum of Natural History 
Department of Anthropology 

Chicago, 1922 
Leaflet Number 6 

The Sacrifice to the Morning Star 
by the Skidi Pawnee 

The religion of the Pawnee was, in some ways, 
more highly developed than that of any of the other 
Plains tribes. At the head of their pantheon stood 
Tirawa, the creator of the universe, who seems to have 
been conceived of as a purely spiritual being. Below 
him there were a great number of gods of varying 
importance who were divided into two great classes, 
those of the earth and those of the heavens. The 
former were inferior in rank to the heavenly gods, and 
were the special guardians of individuals and secret 
societies. They were, for the most part, identified with 
animals. The latter were the guardians and helpers 
of the people as a whole and were, with a few excep- 
tions, identified with stars. The most important of the 
heavenly gods were the Morning and Evening Stars, 
who represented respectively the male and female prin- 
ciple. The first being on earth was believed to have 
sprung from their union. A fuller account of Pawnee 
mythology will be found in Leaflet 5 "The Thunder 
Ceremony of the Pawnee." 

The ceremonial side of Pawnee religion showed an 
equally high development. The worship of the heaven- 
ly gods centered around collections of sacred objects 
called by the whites sacred bundles. Each village 
possessed one of these bundles, and there were others 
which were the property of the tribe as a whole. It 
was believed that each bundle had been given to the 
people in ancient times by one of the heavenly beings, 


2 Field Museum of Natural History 

and therefore constituted a link between the people 
and its divine giver. In the ceremonies connected with 
these bundles two ideas were basic, — one the idea of a 
sacrifice or offering, and the other that of a repetition, 
either through dramatization or ritual, of the acts per- 
formed by the divine giver. The human sacrifice to 
the Morning Star combined both ideas to an unusual 

The Morning Star sacrifice was performed only 
by the Skidi band of the Pawnee. There seems good 
evidence that it was carried out somewhat unwillingly, 
and that the officiating priests always found it a sore 
trial. Its performance was considered a religious duty, 
and this ceremony must not be confused with the tor- 
turing of captives as practised by several of the east- 
ern tribes. The opposition to the sacrifice within the 
tribe itself increased until in about 1818 a young man, 
named Petahlayshahrho, rescued the victim in drama- 
tic fashion, untying her from the scaffold at the mo- 
ment of sacrifice and riding away with her. When 
safe, he gave her a horse, and sent her back to her own 
people. He then returned and declared that human 
sacrifices must cease. As he was a distinguished war- 
rior and the son of the chief's sister, which according 
to the Pawnee system gave him the hereditary rignt 
to succeed his uncle, many strong men in the tribe sup- 
ported his action. After this time, the ritual of the 
sacrifice was still regularly performed as a formal mat- 
ter, but no actual sacrifices are known to have taken 

The actual time of the performance of the sacri- 
fice is not fully known, but it seems to have been made 
in the late spring or summer of years when Mars was 
morning star. It was usually made as the result of 
a dream or vision in which the Morning Star appeared 
to some warrior and demanded it, but it might also be 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 3 

made as a result of some sign in the star itself, as when 
it appeared especially bright, or in years when there 
was a comet in the sky. It might also be performed 
without any direct intervention of the Morning Star, 
if some warrior had captured a suitable victim. 

In this ceremony there was, coupled with the idea 
of sacrifice, an attempt to repeat the acts performed 
by the Morning Star in ancient times. These acts are 
recorded in a number of myths, not always consistent, 
of which the following is a good example: — 


A long time ago Tirawa made the stars and gave 
them great power. He gave most of his power to the 
Morning star, who had a younger brother, the Sun. 
The Morning Star helped the Sun to have light. When 
Tirawa placed the stars in the heavens, they were just 
like human beings. In the east he placed those stars 
which were like men and gave the Morning Star and 
the Sun rule over them. In the west he placed those 
which were like women, with the Evening Star and the 
Moon as their rulers. Each had their village in the 
heavens, and the eastern stars knew that the western 
stars were women. After awhile some of the eastern 
stars sought the western stars in marriage. When the 
women stars saw a man star coming, they would tell 
the Moon, and she would go out to meet him. She 
would ask him why he came, and he would say, "I come 
to marry one of the women." She would answer, 
"That is what we want, come with me." They would 
walk together till they came in sight of the village. 
Then the Moon would stop and make a motion, and the 
ground would open so that the man star fell through 
and was killed. At last the Morning Star decided to 
go. He took with him his younger brother, the Sun, 
who carried upon his back a sacred bundle with a war 
club. As they traveled, the Morning Star went before 


4 Field Museum of Natural History 

the Sun just as he still does. After a while they came 
within sight of the Evening Star village. They sat 
down and placed the sacred bundle in front of them. 
From where they sat, they could see the women stars 
playing all sorts of games outside their village. After 
a while the Moon came to them as she had come to the 
others. She asked, "Why do you come here?" The 
Morning Star said, "It is now time that we mingle and 
become one people. It is not right for part of us to be 
on the west and part on the east side." She said, 
"Good. I am glad you came and brought that bundle 
which you have in front of you. My thoughts are 
about that bundle." She invited them to come to the 
village, and they rose and followed. When they had 
gone a little way, she stopped them, and the Morning 
Star saw that the ground under them was cracking. 
The Moon called to them, "Come on! Are you afraid?" 
The Morning Star answered, "No. I am determined 
to have you." He took the war club from his younger 
brother and sang : — 

"I become myself when I become angry. 
With the war club I strike the earth. 
I strike the ground and undo the power of the Moon." 

Then he struck the ground, and the cracks closed up, 
and it became firm. The Moon cried, "These are pow- 
erful men. They have destroyed my mother." By her 
mother she meant the power which was her own. Her 
powers had been given her by the Evening Star. 

After the first obstacle, they went on until they 
came to a bed of flints too sharp to be walked over, 
then to a thick wood of locust trees, then to a place 
where it was very hot, then to a bed of cactus, then to 
a long stretch of sword grass. At each of these ob- 
stacles the Morning Star sang his song and struck the 
ground with his war club so that the obstacle disap- 
peared. When they had passed these dangers, they 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 5 

came to magic animals which attacked them, first 
snakes, then water animals, then buffalo, and last 
bears. Each of these in turn the Morning Star killed 
with his club. Then the Moon had no more powers 
left, and the Morning Star and the Sun entered the 
village of the women stars. The Morning Star married 
the Evening Star, and the Sun married the Moon. 
They took them back to their own village. After a 
time a child was born to each couple, and these children 
were placed en earth. They married, and from them 
sprang the human race. 

The Moon put all these obstacles in the way of the 
Morning Star, because she did not want the people on 
earth, in after times, to live forever. All these ob- 
stacles were sicknesses and troubles which would be 
brought down upon the people. But the Morning Star 
and the Sun can give power to men to destroy these 
ills just as they themselves destroyed the obstacles. 

It has already been said that the sacrifice was most 
commonly made as a result of a dream or vision in 
which the Morning Star demanded it. Immediately on 
waking in the morning, the man who had had the 
dream went outside his lodge and began crying and 
mourning, his cries gradually becoming a song. He 
sang: — 

"When he comes. 
When he comes. 
Father, I am seeking for you." 

By this song he let the people know that he had seen 
the Morning Star in a vision. 

It is said that the man who had had the vision 
sometimes did not obey the Morning Star, but more 
often he could neither sleep nor rest until he had cap- 
tured a maiden for sacrifices. As soon as possible 
after the vision he went to the keeper of the Morning 
Star bundle and received from him the warrior's cos- 


6 Field Museum of Natural History 

tume and sacred objects kept in the bundle for. such 
expeditions. Many warriors usually volunteered to go 
with him, for it was thought that the object of the ex- 
pedition insured its success. 

When the party had assembled, they set out for the 
country of the enemy, sending scouts constantly in ad- 
vance. If they killed any game on the way, they of- 
fered part of it to the Morning Star to remind him 
that they were on his business. The leader carried the 
sacred objects from the Morning Star bundle on his 

When the scouts returned with word that they had 
found an enemy village, the party retired to some 
sheltered place and prepared for a ceremony. A circle 
was cleared, and a fireplace excavated as for a lodge. 
The leader then opened his pack and put on the sacred 
warrior's costume, and laid out the other objects to the 
west of the fireplace. A fire was kindled, and smoke 
offered to the heavenly gods. All then sang a song 
symbolizing the overcoming of the Evening Star by 
the Morning Star and how, from their union, a girl 
was born. In the course of this song the leader rose 
and circled the fireplace, acting in pantomime the jour- 
ney of the Morning Star. At its conclusion he passed 
out of the circle, and standing facing the east addressed 
the Morning Star as follows : "I am praying to you as 
you directed, and we are seeking a sacrifice as you 
wished. I ask you to show yourself." In answer to 
this prayer the star was thought to shine with brighter 
light. The leader then addressed his party thus : — 

"Warriors, young men, we are now sitting in a 
place dedicated to the Morning Star. We are about 
to sing the song that the Morning Star himself sang 
when he was in search of a woman, who put obstacles 
in his way. I want you all to dance with all your might 
and to be brave. Whoever shall be so lucky as to catch 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 7 

the girl must call her Opirikuts as he touches her. 
Others must move away and not touch her. The life 
of anyone who touches her afterward will be in danger. 
Everyone must now dance toward the center. Let the 
fire be like the enemy." 

All then sang a song symbolizing the obstacles 
overcome by the Morning Star, the refrain being, "This 
is the way I did when I became angry." A red-painted 
stick like those used in the Thunder Ceremony had 
meanwhile been prepared, and this was now offered to 
the Morning Star by the leader with the words, "See, 
I offer you only this stick with tobacco. It is all I have. 
Help me to obtain a real sacrifice." 

By the end of this ceremony it was almost time for 
the Morning Star to rise, and the leader went outside 
the circle to the east and addressed a long invocation to 
him. He then returned, and all put on their war paint 
and ornaments. A fourth song was then sung in which 
four of the great heavenly spirits were called upon to 
give the warriors their powers. As they sang, the 
warriors danced around the fire, leaping upward and 
giving their war cries, while the leader ran about en- 
couraging them to dance harder. At the end of the 
dance the leader made a last prayer to the Morning 
Star, and all set out for the village. 

The war party surrounded the village quietly. 
The leader, who at this time was considered a personi- 
fication of the Morning Star, took his post to the east, 
with his back to the village, while a second man took 
his place at the southeast, and was directed to howl 
like a wolf, as soon as the Morning Star rose. As soon 
as his call was heard, the leader turned toward the vil- 
lage, and the attack began from all sides. The first 
man to capture a young woman touched her and called 
out, "I pronounce you Opirikuts." As soon as this was 
done, the attackers drew off and started toward home. 



JAN 30 l~v 

8 Field Museum of Natural History 

The word Opirikuts was both a dedication and a 
curse. As applied to the destined sacrifice, it was the 
former, and protected her from any mistreatment. 
From the moment it was pronounced she was sacred to 
the Morning Star, and any one touching her would 
die as from an infection. She was turned over by her 
captor to the. leader and the man who had howled like 
a wolf, who represented respectively the Morning Star 
and another star called Fools-the-Wolves. These men 
were responsible for her until the arrival of the party 
at the home village. 

When the party had arrived at the Pawnee camp, 
the girl was given into the care of the chief of the 
Morning Star village. Several months sometimes in- 
tervened between the time of her capture and that of 
the sacrifice, and during this time she was well fed and 
made as happy and comfortable as possible. It was for- 
bidden, however, to give her any new clothing, as the 
giver would thereby become Opirikuts also and die. She 
was fed with a bowl and spoon kept in the Morning 
Star bundle for the purpose, and no one else might use 
these. If a man deliberately broke one of these taboos 
and died, he was thought to have taken the girPs place 
as a sacrifice, and she was released and sent back to her 
own people. If she escaped, it was thought a sign that 
the Morning Star had rejected her, and she was not 

When the proper season for the sacrifice had ar- 
rived, the chief of the Morning Star village had all 
the furniture removed from the interior of his lodge 
and sent two errand men to summon the participants 
in the ceremony. The priest of the village came, bring- 
ing his sacred bundle, and spread out its contents on 
the west of the lodge to form an altar. With him came 
his assistant, usually a relative, who would succeed to 
the office on his death. These men seated themselves be- 

[ 28 ] 

Sacrifice to the Morning Star 9 

hind the altar. The girl, who was constantly attended 
by a guardian, was brought in and seated on the south 
side of the lodge. The chief of the village took his 
place on the southwest, with the leader of the war 
party on his left, while the man who had actually cap- 
tured the girl sat on the northeast. 

The priest built two little fires of sweet grass, one 
to the east, and the other to the west of the fireplace. 
The girl was taken to the eastern fire, undressed, and 
her body bathed in the smoke. Her guardian then 
painted her whole body red and dressed her in a black 
skirt and robe which were kept in the sacred bundle be- 
tween sacrifices. The man who had captured the girl 
then went to the altar, and was dressed by the priest 
in another costume, also kept in the bundle. He was 
given black leggings and moccasins, his face and hair 
were painted red, and a fan-shaped head-dress of 
twelve eagle feathers was attached to his hair in such 
a way that it stood out straight over the back of his 
head at right angles to his body. This was the costume 
in which the Morning Star usually appeared in visions, 
and with its assumption the captor seems to have be- 
come a personification of that deity. 

After these ceremonies had been performed, the 
captor left the lodge and passed through the village, 
entering every lodge and warning those who were to 
take part in the ceremony to come to the chief's lodge. 
Each family gave him a little red and black paint and 
certain other objects which were needed in the cere- 
mony. When he had completed the circuit, he returned 
to the chief's lodge, and errand men were sent out 
to invite the chiefs and priests of all the villages to 
come to the ceremony. The Pawnee village was a so- 
cial as well as a geographical unit. Several villages 
might live together. Each of the priests and chiefs 
had his prescribed place in the circle, while the space 


10 Field Museum of Natural History 

behind them was packed with spectators. So great was 
the eagerness of the people to see the ceremony that 
many of them tore holes in the roof and walls of the 
lodge, leaving it a complete wreck. 

When all the invited guests had taken their places, 
the chief priest told the priests of the Four Direction 
bundles to go into the woods and bring back four thick 
poles about twelve feet long. The priest of the north- 
east was to bring an elm ; he of the northwest, a box 
elder ; he of the southwest, a cotton wood ; and he of the 
southeast, a willow. When they had returned, the four 
poles were laid on the fireplace with their ends to- 
gether so that they formed a cross whose arms pointed 
to the four directions. The poles had to be long enough 
to last for the entire four days of the ceremony, and as 
they burned, they were pushed in toward the center, 
the cross being always maintained. 

The ceremonies which followed are not fully 
known, but they consisted of many songs and dances, 
with feasting, and continued for three days and nights. 
During this time, and for the three days after the slay- 
ing of the sacrifice, the ordinary rules of conduct were 
set aside, and the priests announced to the people that 
if any man approached any woman during this period, 
she was to go with him willingly, that the tribe might 

Toward morning of each night, the representative 
of the northeast village danced around the fireplace, 
and taking the pole brought by the priest of that di- 
rection, pointed its glowing end toward the girl's body. 
This was repeated by the representative of the other 
directions in turn, but the girl's body was never touched 
with the brand. Indeed, the girl was treated with 
the greatest respect and consideration throughout the 
ceremony. She was told that the entire performance 
was given in her honor, and everything was done to lull 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 11 

her suspicions and keep her in a pleasant frame of 

On the afternoon of the fourth day, the chief priest 
selected four men from the Four Band village to secure 
the materials for the scaffold. Under the direction of 
the leader of the war party which had captured the 
girl, they went to the nearest thick timber and searched 
until they found a hackberry tree near the center of the 
grove. At this tree they made an offering of smoke to 
the gods, and then went northeast from it to find an 
elm, northwest to find a box elder, southwest to find a 
cotton wood, and southeast to find a willow. These 
were to serve for the lower cross-bars of the scaffold. 
They then went east until they found an elm and a 
cottonwood large enough to be used as uprights. Final- 
ly, they went west and cut a willow to serve as the top 

When the men had departed to search for the tim- 
ber, the priests sang a song describing their actions. 
At its conclusion the chief priest sent the two chiefs of 
the Morning Star village, accompanied by a warrior, 
to select the site of the scaffold. This had to be some 
place near the village which had, to the east of it, a 
depression or ravine large enough to conceal several 
men. When the chiefs had made their choice, the war- 
rior accompanying them gave his war-cry. An errand 
man had been stationed outside the lodge to listen for 
this, and as soon as he heard and reported it, the priest 
of the Skull bundle ran to the place, bearing the sacred 
bow and two arrows. The two chiefs had stationed 
themselves at the points where the uprights of the 
scaffold were to stand, and the priest shot an arrow 
into the ground in front of each of them, thus marking 
the place where the hole was to be dug. Between 
these arrows four priests then dug away the soil to a 
depth of about a foot, making a rectangular pit ap- 


12 Field Museum of Natural History 

proximately the size of the wrapper of a sacred bundle 
when fully unfolded. The floor of the excavation was 
then covered with white, downy feathers. This pit was 
called knsaru, and represented the garden which the 
Evening Star kept in the west, or, according to another 
account, the reproductive organs of the Evening Star. 
The white feathers with which it was lined symbolized 
the milk of women and animals and the juice of young 
corn. After the pit had been completed, the holes for 
the uprights of the scaffold were dug by two young 

While the digging was going on, the party sent 
after the timbers had returned. The two uprights of 
the scaffold were first erected, then each cross-bar was 
tied on by a warrior from the village of the direction 
which it represented. Before tying it, the warrior 
would recount some deed. One would say, "I made a 
sacrifice of meat and carried it to the priest on my 
back. After the ceremony was performed, the priest 
whispered to me, 'You, young man, have brought meat 
here by means of the pack string. You will have an 
opportunity before the summer is over to lasso a pony 
in the enemy's country. The gods now know you. Do 
not fear to go on the war path/ I went. We found a 
village, and others became afraid and ran. I went east 
by myself and found the enemy's horses. I went among 
them and found one with an eagle-wing fan tied to its 
tail. I captured it and rode home. Since then I have 
made many sacrifices." The top cross-bar was tied by 
two men each of whom had made a sacrifice, but these 
did not recount any adventures in war. 

It is probable that the scaffold was also painted 
at this time, although the ceremonies connected with 
the painting are not remembered. The two uprights 
were painted red and black, the former symbolizing 
day, and the latter, night. The lowest cross-bar was 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 13 

black, and symbolized the northeast; and its animal 
guardian, the bear. The second was red, symboliz- 
ing: the southeast and the wolf. The third was yellow, 
symbolizing the northwest and the mountain lion ; and 
the fourth white, symbolizing the southwest and the 
wildcat. The top cross-bar represented the west, and 
was painted blue or black and white, symbolizing clouds 
and rain. 

By the time the scaffold was completed, it was 
about sunset, and the people dispersed. All spectators 
were sent out of the lodge, and the door was closed. 
The chief priest then drew upon the floor of the 
lodge four circles, one for each of the world quarters, 
and outlined them with white downy feathers. Each 
of these circles represented a region penetrated by the 
Morning Star in his search for the Evening Star and 
also the magic animal which he had overcome there. 
The white feathers symbolized the foam about their 
mouths when they attacked him. When the circles had 
been made, the spectators were re-admitted, and the 
priests sang a song descriptive of the journey of the 
Morning Star, while the chief priest danced around 
the lodge with a war club, destroying the circles one 
by one. When the song was finished, he straightened 
up and said, "Chiefs, priests, warriors, old men, I have 
destroyed the regions once controlled by the mysterious 
woman who wanted darkness forever. These animals 
were under her control, when the Morning Star 
traveled in darkness looking for her. She placed an 
obstacle in the southeast, which was controlled by the 
wolf. The Morning Star destroyed this obstacle, but 
preserved the mysterious animal. He continued his 
journey, traveled to the southwest, and again met an 
obstacle which he destroyed, but preserved the animal, 
a wildcat. He continued his journey, and when he came 
to the northwest, he again met an obstacle. He des- 


14 Field Museum of Natural History 

troyed it, but preserved the animal, a mountain lion. 
He went on to the northeast, and again destroyed an ob- 
stacle, but preserved its guardian, the bear. In the cen- 
ter of the earth in darkness he found the woman, con- 
quered her, touched her with his war club, and turned 
her into the earth. The Morning Star then called the 
mysterious animals to him and said, "You beings are 
now under my control. Stand in the places where I 
found you, and watch over the people who shall be 
placed upon the earth and guard them. All powers you 
have you shall keep. You shall exist as long as the earth 
lasts. You are now placed as upright posts so that you 
will always hold up the heavens. Priests, chiefs, war- 
riors, old men, I have this night followed the journey 
of the Morning Star. We will not forget these beings 
which he placed in the four directions, for he promised 
that they should partake of all offerings which the 
people made to the heavens. Let us begin singing the 
songs given to us by Mother White Star in the west 
(the Evening Star) ." 

When the chief priest had finished his speech, all 
began to sing the prescribed songs, resting and smok- 
ing informally after each. Like most ceremonial songs, 
these were long, with many repetitions, and were often 
obscure in meaning. As each song was finished, a tally 
stick, taken from a bunch kept in the sacred bundle, 
was laid down. The idea underlying this part of the 
ritual seems to have been that the girl at first belonged 
to the people and to the world of human affairs, but 
that, as each song was sung, she became more removed 
from them until, when the last tally was laid down, she 
had been won from the people, like a prize in a game, 
and belonged to the gods. 

The singing usually lasted until about two hours 
before dawn. A priest then climbed on the roof of the 
lodge and announced to the people that the girl was 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 15 

about to be prepared for the sacrifice, and that it was 
time for everyone to set out for the scaffold. The chief 
priest undressed the girl, went through the motions of 
washing her and combing her hair, and painted the 
right half of her body red and the left half black. Her 
skirt was then replaced, black moccasins were put on 
her feet, and a black robe fastened around her should- 
ers. Lastly a head-dress of twelve black-tipped eagle 
feathers, arranged like a fan, was fastened on her 

When the girl had been dressed, all resumed their 
seats and sang another song at the conclusion of which 
she was told to rise ; and two men, chosen to lead her to 
the scaffold, came forward and placed thongs around 
her wrists. All then passed out of the lodge, with the 
girl in the lead and the priests following behind chant- 

The rate at which the procession moved toward 
the scaffold depended largely upon the disposition of 
the girl. Everything was done to conceal the truth 
from her, and force was not used unless absolutely nec- 
essary. If she mounted the scaffold of her own free 
will, it was considered an especially auspicious omen. 
The procession was timed to reach the scaffold a few 
minutes before the Morning Star rose, so that the men 
who tied her to it could complete their work and leave 
her alone when the star appeared. 

While the girl was being tied to the scaffold, the 
men chosen for the last rites had assembled in the 
ravine to the east of it, where they were concealed from 
her view. A small fire was kindled there, and they 
prepared their paraphernalia. At the moment the 
Morning Star appeared, two men came forward bear- 
ing firebrands. They were dressed as priests, and had 
owl skins hung from their necks, showing that they 
represented the messengers of the Morning Star. 


16 Field Museum of Natural History 

They took their places on either side of the girl, and 
with their brands touched her lightly in the groin and 
armpit. They then returned to the ravine, and a third 
man ran out, carrying the bow from the Skull bundle 
and a sacred arrow made for the sacrifice. As he 
came, he gave his war cry, and the people called to him 
and encouraged him as though he was attacking an 
enemy. Coming close to the girl, he sent his arrow 
through her heart, and ran back to the ravine. This 
part was usually taken by the man who had captured 
her. A fourth man then came forward with the club 
from the Morning Star bundle and struck the girl on 
the head. 

A fire had been kindled to the southeast of the 
scaffold, and as soon as the girl was dead, her guar- 
dian came forward with a flint knife, and her captor 
with the dried heart and tongue of a buffalo. The 
guardian mounted the scaffold and cut open the body, 
while the captor held the meat below and caught the 
blood. The guardian thrust his hand into the thoracic 
cavity and painted his face with the blood. Sometimes 
he is said to have removed her liver and given it to the 
members of the Bear Medicine Society, who cut it into 
small pieces and ate it to acquire magical powers. The 
blood-soaked meat was burned on the fire near the 
scaffold as an offering to all the gods. 

When these rites had been performed, the men 
among the spectators gave their war cries and crowded 
forward to shoot arrows into the body. It was thought 
desirable that as many arrows should be shot as there 
were males in the tribe, and boys too young to draw a 
bow were helped by their fathers or mothers. When 
each man had shot his arrow, the spectators dispersed 
and returned to the villages where feasting and danc- 
ing continued for three days. 

The priests, the guardian, and those intimately 


Sacrifice to the Morning Star 17 

connected with the ceremony remained at the scaffold. 
When the crowd had gone, the guardian removed the 
arrows from the body one by one and handed them to 
an assistant who divided them into four bundles and 
laid these bundles northeast, northwest, southeast, 
and southwest of the fireplace. The body was then 
taken down and carried a short distance to the 
east of the scaffold, where it was laid face down. The 
sacred arrow was drawn from its heart and laid upon 
it. All then returned to the village, and the place was 
avoided for some time. 

It was believed that the soul of the girl left her 
body at the moment she was struck with the club and 
went straight to Tirawa, who sent it to the Morning 
Star. The Morning Star clothed it with flint from his 
fireplace in the dawn and placed it among the stars in 
the heavens. Her body was thought to be not like or- 
dinary bodies. Even after her death it possessed life. 
Things would be born from it, and the earth would be 
fertilized by it. 

The sacrifice as a whole must be considered as a 
dramatization of the overcoming of the Evening Star 
by the Morning Star and their subsequent connection, 
from which sprang all life on earth. The girl upon 
the scaffold seems to have been conceived of as a per- 
sonification or embodiment of the Evening Star sur- 
rounded by her powers. When she was overcome, the 
life of the earth was renewed, insuring universal fer- 
tility and increase. 

Human sacrifices were rare among the North 
American Indians. The practice is known to have 
existed among the Natchez, who lived in the present 
state of Mississippi, and possibly in Arizona and New 
Mexico. In Mexico, on the other hand, the idea was 
highly developed, and under the Aztec rule large num- 
bers of victims were immolated every year. It may be 


18 Field Museum of Natural History 

significant that several of the practices and concepts 
connected with the Pawnee sacrifice find Mexican para- 
llels. Early Aztec manuscripts show victims fastened 
to scaffolds like that used by the Pawnee and shot to 
death with arrows. In both places the body of the vic- 
tim was cut open, and the blood offered. The idea that 
the sacrifice was more acceptable if the victim mounted 
the scaffold willingly was .common to both, together 
with the still more striking idea that the victim was a 
personification of a deity. Among the Aztecs this con- 
cept reached its highest development, the victim in at 
least one ceremony being treated as a god for a year 
before his sacrifice. Finally, in both places there seem 
to have been astronomical beliefs connected with the 

This account has been compiled from the unpub- 
lished notes of Dr. G. A. Dorsey and from articles by 
several other authors. 

Ralph Linton