The summer season began about the middle of April. The sap of in
the maple trees had begun to flow and sugar had been made, now all the
signs of spring were coming to pass. Then the preparations were made
for the sacred Spring Bread Dance that inaugurated the beginning of the
ceremonial calendar that would continue until about mid-October.
Then the Fall Bread Dance served both as a harvest festival and
the beginning of the hunting season when family bands dispersed
to temporary winter camps for hunting. In late winter, trapping
would replace the hunting until it was time once again for the Spring
The division into two seasons was reflected in
the roles of men and women in the Bread Dance Festivals. In the Spring,
the leading roles were played by the women as befitted their part in
planting and growing throughout the summer season. In the Autumn,
the men took the leading roles since their occupation as hunters during
the long winter moons was the major concern. The sacred Bread Dance
Festivals thus brought harmony not only to the cosmos, but to society
as men and women and the clans found a new beginning that harkened back
to the creation of the world, renewing the covenant with the Creator
and giving meaning and substance to life.
This division into two seasons is seen in the
tendency to translate the word for what Europeans called
Spring as Summer and the word for Autumn as Winter. When
pressed, the Shawnee have often indicated the Spring, Melo'kami, as something like the 'coming' of summer. Early summer would probably be a more appropriate free rendering. Likewise, Takwaaki -- what Europeans might see as 'Autumn' -- might better be expressed as Early Winter. The two terms for Summer and Winter, Pelaawi and Pepooni then refer the fullness of these seasons.
The Shawnee give great deference to the
'grandfathers' of the four winds who are shown in the four corners of
the image shown above. The Creator, shown in the center,
handed down these grandfathers to provide mankind with the
necessities of life. The circle shows a rough correlation of the moons
with the months of the Julian lunar-solar calendar, as well as
the words for the moons in the annual cycle of life. The circle with
the names of the month might
be seen as spinning one way or the other by a half a month or so,
depending on weather conditions, the part of the country the Shawnee
lived in at the time, or a lack of synchronization between the moons
and the seasons.
In the 19th century the famous collector of
Indian tales, Jeremiah Curtin, preserved for us the tale of the
adventure of the grandson of the grandmother of the South, Shawaki.
The grandson and eleven companions in pursuit of twelve lovely maidens
north to the mountain of ice where the grandfather of the North, Pepoonki, was the chief -- and the father of the twelve maidens. In their travels all of his companions froze to death, but Shawaki's grandson had been given power to summon his grandmother to his aid. At the crucial moment, he used this power and Shawaki came to his aid, bringing the warm winds of the South from which the North Wind, Pepooki,
fled. The grandson, however,
grasped the hair of the
youngest maiden to prevent her flight and he took her back South with
him to be his spouse. This is the reason that there is sometimes
a cold wind from the South -- it is caused by the wife of Shawaki's
grandson. Read this tale here.
The name of this grandmother, Shawaki, is related to the word shawani
'it (the weather) is warm', and other similar words.
While the Shawnee no longer have this word for the South,
it is preserved in the name of the tribe,
the Shawanwa (individual or tribe) or the plural Shawanooki (also Shawanwaki)
'the Shawnee people'. The other tribes recognize this word
as meaning Southerners, because the Shawnee lived south of all the
other Algonquian people to whom they were related by languge and
culture -- south of the Kickapoo, Sauk and Fox, Miami and other
Algonquians of the Great Lakes area, and south of the Delaware,
Mohegans, and other Algonquian tribes of the Eastern seaboard --
and many of these tribes had this word for South and the related
word for Southerner -- the place from which the warm comes.
In Shawnee itself, however, word for south is Lawa'kweeki,
meaning 'halfway', alluding to the position of the sun in
the middle of the day. It is probable that the word for
Southerner, derived from the word for warm, was the word from which the
term South developed in some Algonquian languages. In
Potowatomie, I have seen the word for South translated something like
the place from which the warmth comes. Although the Shawnee know
that other tribes have the meaning of Southerner for their name, the
Shawnee in the past century had no native recollection of the meaning
of their tribal name.
Nevertheless, the stem shawa-
is preserved as a word for 'warm' (with reference to the weather), and,
in their most sacred myths of creation and the
Shawnee Laws, as well as in prayers given at the Shawnee Bread Dance,
this root remains in the word for the South Wind -- the ruling
deity of the Southern half of the earth. In addition, it is used
in these contexts with a directional meaning without the formative -n. That is, it occurs as shawaki 'Southerner, South Person' or South-wind person.
A NOTE ON 'MOONS'.
The Shawnee did not reckon the year strictly according to a lunar
calendar. A lunar calendar is based on the number of
days between full moons. Astronomically, this period (called a "synodic
month") has roughly 29.5 days (29.530588 or about 29 days, 12 hours, 44
minutes and 2.9 seconds). A strictly lunar calendar therefore will go
through 12 cycles in about 354 days. As it does not correspond with the
approximately 365 days of a solar year, the same moons would not occur
at the same time each year. For example, when the moons are
continued one after another in unbroken sequence the April moon (Half
Moon) will occur just a bit earlier each solar year -- about one-third
of a moon.
way to adjust the moon with the seasons would have beens to add an
extra month every second (as the Creeks apparently did) or third year.
We do not have a record of this being done by the Shawnee in
ancient times, though other tribes did have this practice. Since
the Sap Moon (roughly March) might be delayed (that is, when it is time
for the sap to flow and it doesn't, this would signal that the moons
were out of phase with the season), then it might have been the case
that moon between the Crow Moon and the Sap Moon was given
different name. (The Shawnee Prophet had a moon called "Hauhtaa
Pukeneethar" which might have served this end (This name was not
translated, but it night come from ha't- 'ripening' plus paka 'moist'; perhaps Ripening Moon).
way would be to do this would be in the autumn since the Bread Dance
that ended the summer season and inaugurated the winter hunt was held
at this time. The signs of fall, such as the rutting season of the deer
or the first frost, might not occur by the end of the Papaw Moon
or be in evidence with at the beginning of the Wilted Moon, so another
month could be intercalated at this point between
the Papaw Moon and the Long
Moon or something of this sort. Voegelin had a Deer Moon in the Autumn
that would fit the bill for an autumn intercalation.
while we do have some extra moon names, they may have been
variations due to the practices of different Shawnee divisions, or due
to their use in different periods of time. We just have no record that
either of these possibilities, or something like them, were put into
practice. This being the case, the most attractive possibility is
signalled by the name of the "Long Moon" itself; perhaps this
moon was allowed to continue longer so that two full moons actually
occurred it every two or three years. This would make sense of the name
itself and this practice would bring the
moons into line with the seasons, thus solving the problem.
If anyone has any additional information about Shawnee Moons, please drop me a line at email@example.com