Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Each Man Has His Own Friends: The Role of Dream Visitors in Traditional East Cree Belief and Practice

James Bay Cree Drum, Canadian Museum of Civilization

Regina Flannery, Mary Elizabeth Chambers
Arctic Anthropology
Vol. 22, No. 1 (1985), pp. 1-22 (22 pages)

Page 6:

Hunting songs were the ubiquitous gifts bestowed in dreams.  A man received a song when he dreamed he heard “someone” singing as he comes to him (an indirect reference to the powatakan).  On waking, he began “to sing just like he has been dreaming,” and might sing for several hours to fix it in his memory, but not after daybreak.  The content of the songs often consisted of brief phrases referring to the animals released to the hunter; for instance, one man’s song repeated, “Someone is walking around in the snow,” a reference to the caribou.  Because of their intimate nature, a man’s songs would never be repeated by others, even children, as long as the man was an active hunter.  Very old men, however, allowed young boys to sing their songs.

Since almost all daily activities in the bush are accompanied by singing, a good hunter might have had a large repertoire of songs, including those sung while making traps or stretching hides, for example.  While these, too, should not be sung by others, and the most important songs were those sung before and after a hunt.  Songs used in preparation for a hunt were sung only at night and were divinatory, as it was said "by his singing a man sees what he is going to hunt."

Whether the singer had a drum or a rattle, or both, or neither, to accompany his songs was again a matter of the individual dream experience.  A man had to dream the drum or rattle before he could make it, and dream the motifs for embellishing it.  The East Cree drum is doubleheaded with "snares" on both sides; the larger size drum, associated with the caribou, was often painted on both heads with a ring of red paint around the outer circumference and with varying designs composed of red dots in the center.  According to dream instructions, smaller drums, also doubleheaded, might have been decorated with a realistic depiction of a wavey [snow goose, Chen caerulescens], in flight or at rest, or a beaver.  These were said by Tommy Jacob to be "pictures" of the respective owner’s powatakan.  An individual’s drum had its own acahkw and ordinarily was never used by others except at a feast, when the host might pass his drum to other men to accompany the singing of their own songs.

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