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Wah-tib'-sah the Sign of Death

The Northern Mewuk of the Mokelumne River foothills say:

When a person feels the inner side of the calf of his leg twitch, as if some one were poking it with his finger, it is a sure sign that within three days somebody is going to die, and he must take care that he is not the one. The twitching is done by the person’s totem or guardian spirit, who comes and pokes his leg to warn him, of the danger. 27

[My informant, the chief of a small rancheria, told me that he had been thus warned several times by Mā’-wā the Gray Squirrel, who was his totem, and that each time some one had died. He told me also that an old blind woman who lived in the rancheria, and whose totem was a Yellow-jacket wasp, had more than once saved his life by whispering to him just as he was going somewhere, that she had felt Wah-tib'-sah and he had better not go. Her totem friend, Mel'-ling-i'-yah the Yellow-jacket, had come and poked her leg to warn her that somebody must die. He had always heeded her warning and stayed at home and was still alive, while some one else, in a neighboring rancheria, had died.]


Footnotes

222:27 For remarks on the prevalence and Significance of totemism among the Mewan tribes, see my article entitled “Totemism in California,” American Anthropologist, vol. x, 558-561, 1908.


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