Pawnee Morning Star Sacrifice

Now as the children died and their parents wailed among the huts, the Skidis knew that they had sinned; they were no better than apostates. So they decreed a tribal penance and a restoration of the apostolic church. They had a Sioux virgin and, in April, 1838, after their desperate winter, it was getting along toward planting time when the Morning Star must be worshipped. The victim must be kept in ignorance of her fate but she must be treated with unvarying kindness, venerated as an instrument of the supernaturals, and fattened by constant feasting — always eating alone since if anyone were her host another taboo would require him to protect and defend her. An extended ritual began at the time appointed, fasting, dancing, prophesying, singing, with all the riot and ecstasy these must eventually develop. On the morning of the last day the virgin was sent about the village to ask for wood and sticks. The priests took such of them as were ritualistically proper and consecrated them. Two posts were erected on a platform; two crosspieces joined them and a slow fire was built between them. At dusk after purifying her and themselves for the last time, the priests stripped their offering naked, painted half her body black and the other half red, and suspended her by wrists and ankles between the posts, over the smoky fire. Many boys who had also been ceremonially purified then shot the stiff stalks of joint-grass into her breast and body, scores of them. The reeds penetrated only a little way; some of them caught fire and burned. All this was done with an intricate accompaniment of sacred chants and dances, all supervised by the medicine men since to err in the sacrifice would be to make the god angrier, and all bringing on the frenzy. The holy incense billowed with the smoke, the firelight rose and fell, fat dripped into it from the pierced body of the shrieking girl — till at last the ordinance was fulfilled and a priest shot an arrow into her heart. He and his assistants then cut out the heart and burned it, and cut the flesh from her bones and buried it in the cornfields or gave it to the tribal dogs. They left the skeleton hanging there on its frame and the Morning Star was appeased …. Thus the Skidi Pawnees, trying to eradicate evil from the world.