Tradition and Ceremony

The Morning Star sacrifice of the Skidi Pawnee was considered a dramatization of the overcoming of the Evening Star by the Morning Star and reflected the renewing of life on Earth. The ceremony combined the idea of an offering with the dramatized acts of the deity during a mythological age. The Pawnee had for some time found the sacrifice distateful, and were practicing it out of religious duty. In 1818 a young man named Petahlayshahrho finally put an end to it by riding off with the victim at the moment of her sacrifice.

The full description of the ritual can be found here and an abbreviated version with discussion here.

The sacrifice usually began with a visionary dreamer who set out with volunteers of other warriors to kidnap a suitable girl from an enemy village. The girl was treated with respect and kindness until the time of her sacrifice. The priests began the ceremony by singing a series of songs. As each song ended, a tally stick was laid down.

"Dr. G. A. Dorsey concludes that the idea underlying this part of the ritual was that the girl at first belonged to the world of human affairs but that, as each song was sung, she became farther removed from it until, when the last tally was laid down, she had been won from the people like a stake in a game and belonged to the supernatural powers."

After the singing the girl was undressed and her right half painted red and the left black. She was then redressed and led to a scaffold, onto which her wrists where bound. It was considered a good sign if the girl did not struggle and came of her own free will.

As the Morning Star rose, the girl was shot in the heart with an arrow, while another man struck her on the head with a war club. A priest then opened up her chest cavity, reached inside and smeared his face with her blood. Her original captor caught the falling blood on dried meat before each male member of the tribe shot an arrow into the body.

"The body was taken down and laid on the ground with the head to the east, and the blood-soaked meat was burned under the scaffold as an offering to all the gods. Finally, songs were sung describing the eating of the body by various animals and its final turning into earth."

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