The two meanings of wakan.

Greer, Jill Greer-J at MSSU.EDU
Wed Nov 6 02:33:49 UTC 2013

thanks, Bob!  Actually,  I only have the old print-out version  of the Comparative Dictionary that you made for Louanna and me in the early 90's.  How would I go about getting the recent real thing?  There may be others on the List who also would enjoy the wealth of data there…


On Nov 1, 2013, at 5:09 PM, "Rankin, Robert L." <rankin at KU.EDU<mailto:rankin at KU.EDU>> wrote:

Yes, waxobriN is a derived form shared with Mandan and some other languages.  The root is *xo:pe 'sacred'.  *Waxope 'something sacred' plus *riN 'be of class membership'.

Most Siouanists received a copy of the Comparative Siouan Dictionary.  If you have one, you can check all these forms out by looking up the various entries for SACRED.  There are several terms under this meaning and they will explain much.

Jill is right, These changes in meaning likely relate to the interesting mounds found in formerly Algonquian- and Siouan-speaking regions along the Ohio River.  This is probably verified by the fact that there is an apparent Tutelo 'snake' cognate, "wageni", from the far-eastern end of the area.  You can see this in the appropriate cognate set.

Please feel free to consult the dictionary.  Its use is not limited to me, you know.  David's NSF and NEH grants, all the collections and editorial work were intended for all of us to use.  Enjoy.


From: Siouan Linguistics [SIOUAN at<mailto:SIOUAN at>] on behalf of Greer, Jill [Greer-J at MSSU.EDU<mailto:Greer-J at MSSU.EDU>]
Hi, All!
Sky,  there is also a waxobriN I believe,  (stress on second syllable)  meaning sacred/mysterious/even frightening in connotation,  and the name of the famous Mr. FawFaw who had started the 19th century Dance Society/religion came up in discussions of the meaning of this word, since he was a rather unique and spiritually powerful person.

Trying to relate a waxo- to wakhaN seems like a bit of a stretch to me.  I would think that there could be many roots that relate to different senses of being holy or sacred,  rather than trying to relate them phonologically.  That being said,  it does make me wonder if the sound symbolism of stops in words related to color and noise might also apply to the spiritual realm.  Has anyone found a parallel for that semantic domain in any other Siouan languages?

Think also about concepts like awe and awe-full >awful in English,  great snakes do inspire awe (fear, dread, etc) in me,  and according to some recent scientific studies,  there may be a genetic component to that fear!  Venomous snake bites can still cause permanent nerve damage today, even when people have anti-venom available.

Relating to what Bob said about the Otoe, Ioway, and Sac & Fox…  It’s not so far to the Great Serpent Mound of Adena/Hopewell times in Ohio comes to mind,  as well as rattlesnake iconography in the SE ceremonial artifacts.  War bundles might include rattlesnake rattles, too.  (Remember the NMAI, Sky?).

Interesting stuff!

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