sacred (2a), snake

verb, noun spiritual


Proto-Siouan *wa•hką́

Proto-Mississipi-Valley *wahką́

Proto-Dakota *wakhą́

Lakota wakhą́ ‘spirit, sacred’ RTC

Sioux Valley wakhą́ ‘spirit, sacred’ PAS

Proto-Hoocąk-Chiwere *wakhą́

Chiwere wakhą́ ‘snake’ RR , wa•khą́da ‘god’ RR

Hoocąk waką́ ‘snake’ KM:3337 , waką ‘holy’ KM:3338 , wakąčą́k ‘witch’ KM:3348 , wakącąk , wakąwą́x , wakąwąx

Proto-Dhegiha *wahką́-

Omaha-Ponca wakką́da ‘sacred, god’ RR , wakką́dagi ‘water monster’

Kanza/Kaw wakką́da ‘holy, god’ RR

Osage wahką́ta ‘holy, god’ RR

Quapaw wakką́tta ‘spirit, god’ RR



Tutelo wageni; wagenī; wāgenī , †wa•kąnį• ‘snake’ H:1878, H:1883a, H:1879

General comment

This term, meaning ‘sacred’ originally, acquired the meaning ‘snake’ in several languages. The ‘snake’ extension of the term is found in Chiwere/Hoocąk with possible further intrusion into DH shown by the derived ‘water monster’ form in Omaha-Ponca (‘medicine man’ in other DH languages.) All of DH may once have been included since (a) the simple form *wahką́ is lacking, and (b) ‘snake’ has been systematically replaced with *wesʔá ‘one that drips or hisses (?)’ throughout DH. Possible extension of this ‘snake’ term to Virginia Siouan may ultimately tell us something about the chronology of movements of Tutelo and Saponi into the East. Tutelo apparently has a reflex of the present term while Saponi has a reflex of ‘medicine’ like Ofo and Biloxi. Proto-Siouan *wąhką, ‘medicine’, q.v., with its initial-syllable nasal vowel, is not derivationally related to wahką́ in any obvious way. Nevertheless, the two terms, perhaps because of their superficial similarity, have become intertwined semantically. Each has undergone specialization to ‘snake’ in certain languages. Ives Goddard (p.c.) reports that the sacred/snake mixture is found in adjacent Algonquian languages also. Paul H. Voorhis (p.c.) suggests that this mixture may be just euphemism. Snakes obviously have a large dose of mystic power, and one refers to them by this, rather than by their proper names so as not to attract them. Fox and Kickapoo have also merged ‘god’ and ‘snake’ in manetoowa, and then created new expressions to distinguish them, Fox (manetoowa) kiiyootaata ‘crawling manitou’ for ‘snake’, and Kickapoo (manetoowa) kiisihiaata ‘creating manitou’ for ‘god’. Throughout central Algonquian ‘bugs’ are literally ‘little gods’, a similar euphemism? Anyway, wakhą ‘snake’ and wakhą ‘sacred’ are surely the same word in origin. Chiwere and DH forms in *-ta are included to indicate the presence of the root *wahką́ in those languages. They properly occur in ‘sacred (2b), god’ q.v.

The DH replacement forms are to be found at ‘hiss (1)’ etc., q.v.

Language Cognate Phonetic Siouan Meaning Comment Sources