The Medicine-Men of the Apache
The Medicine-Men of the Apache
Hoddentin, the Pollen of the Tule, the Sacrificial Powder of the Apache; with Remarks Upon Sacred Powders and Bread Offerings in General
Table of Contents
"Trifles not infrequently lead to important results. In every walk of science a trifle disregarded by incurious thousands has repaid the inquisitiveness of a single observer with unhoped-for knowledge." 247
The taciturnity of the Apache in regard to all that concerns their religious ideas is a very marked feature of their character; probably no tribe with which our people have come in contact has succeeded more thoroughly in preserving from profane inquiry a complete knowledge of matters relating to their beliefs and ceremonials. How much of this ignorance is to be attributed to interpreters upon whom reliance has necessarily been placed, and how much to the indisposition of the Apache to reveal anything concerning himself, it would be fruitless to inquire, but, in my own experience, when I first went among them in New Mexico and Arizona twenty-three years ago, I was foolish enough to depend greatly upon the Mexican captives who had lived among the Apache since boyhood, and who might be supposed to know exactly what explanation to give of every ceremony in which the Apache might engage. Nearly every one of these captives, or escaped captives, had married among the Apache, and had raised families of half-breed children, and several of them had become more Apache than the Apache themselves. Yet I was time and again assured by several of these interpreters that the Apache had no religion, and even after I had made some progress in my investigations, at every turn I was met by the most contradictory statements, due to the interpreter's desire to inject his own views and not to give a frank exposition of those submitted by the Apache. Thus, an Apache god would be transmuted into either a "santo" or a "diablo," according to the personal bias of the Mexican who happened to be assisting me. "Assanutlije" assumed the disguise of "Maria Santissima," while ceremonies especially sacred and beneficent in the eyes of the savages were stigmatized as "brujeria" and "hechiceria" (witchcraft) in open defiance of the fact that the Apache have as much horror and dread of witches as the more enlightened of their brethren who in past ages suffered from their machinations in Europe and America. The interpreters had no intention to deceive; they were simply unable to disengage themselves from their own prejudices and their own ignorance; they could not, and they would not, credit the existence of any such thing as religion, save and excepting that taught them at their mothers' knees in the petty hamlets of Sonora and of which they still preserved hazy and distorted recollections. One of the first things to be noticed among the Apache, in this connection, was the very general appearance of little bags of buckskin, sometimes ornamented, sometimes plain, which were ordinarily attached to the belts of the warriors, and of which they seemed to be especially careful. 248
Fig. 433.-Bag containing hoddentin.
What follows in this chapter was not learned in an hour or a day, but after a long course of examination and a comparison of statements extracted from different authorities.
The bags spoken of revealed when opened a quantity of yellow colored flour or powder, resembling cornmeal, to which the Apache gave the name of "hoddentin," or "hadntin," the meaning of which word is "the powder or pollen of the tule," a variety of the cat-tail rush, growing in all the little ponds and cienegas of the Southwest.
I made it the touchstone of friendship that every scout or other Apache who wished for a favor at my hands should relate something concerning his religious belief. I did not care much what topic he selected; it might be myths, clan laws, war customs, medicine-anything he pleas