Peyote: The Comanche Ceremony


It would be impossible to thank suitably all of the people who contributed to the present paper.

In 1940 I was a member of the summer field party in the study of language and culture, under the guidance of George Herzog, sent by the Department of Anthropology of Columbia University to the Comanche Indians at Indiahoma, Oklahoma. It was there that the recordings of Comanche peyote music were made and I have to express my gratitude not only to the Indians, especially Itovic and Tekwaki, who were our chief informants on peyote material, but also to the other members of the Columbia group who shared the results of their special investigations most generously both in the field and in numerous "Comanche sessions" subsequently.

The interest and help of Ralph Linton were of the greatest value. I am especially indebted to him for access to his field notes and for the contacts with Comanche informants upon which the work depended.

In those who wrote me concerning various aspects of peyote, I have many collaborators, especially Margot Astrov, Weston La Barre, and Erminie Voegelin. Among those who helped very considerably in personal discussions of peyote and peyote music I must mention E. Adamson Hoebel, Carling Malouf, and Willard Rhodes. Specific acknowledgments are made in the course of the paper but they represent only a fraction of my debt to the many correspondents and advisers I have had.

I must thank the Department of Anthropology of the University of California for access to the recordings of the many peyote songs collected by Omer Stewart and Jane Richardson Hanks, and I must also thank Martha Huot and Willard Rhodes for the use of their recordings, texts and translations of Fox and Dakota songs, and for permission to publish them. Thanks are due to Emma Reh and D'Arcy McNickle of the Office of Indian Affairs from whom I obtained a copy of their article, "Peyote and the Indian."

And last, and most, I owe more than I can say to George Herzog. From the time-consuming spadework of musical transcription through the welter of vision and revision, I have relied heavily upon his interest and his patience.

D. P. McA.

Introductory Statement

The peyote cult, a religious movement nativistic in nature and often combining Christian and pagan elements, is active today and is spreading among many of the surviving groups of North American Indians. The cult is distributed mainly in the western Plains area of the United States with extensions northward as far as Canada and into the Southwest as far as the pueblo of Taos and the Navajo and Apache country. Groups of individuals ranging in number from two or three to thirty or forty gather in a night-long meeting. In the course of the ceremony they make ritually prescribed gestures, listen to the prayers and exhortations of older members and the leader, consume portions of a small fleshy cactus known as "peyote," and take turns singing peyote songs.

Studies of peyote practices have been made from various points of view. The use of the cactus (lophophora williamsii—"peyote" from the Aztec "peyotl"), which contains a number of alkaloids and is capable of producing a marked narcosis, has interested botanists, organic chemists, and physiologists. The function of the ritual has been of interest to students of cultural dynamics, particularly in the areas of cultural borrowing and acculturation. Administrators of Indian affairs have been concerned as to whether the cult has deleterious effects, physiological or psychological, upon its participants. Out of these interests an impressive body of literature has grown up around the use of peyote and the peyote ritual practiced by American Indians.

An aspect of the cult which has not received the attention it deserves, however, is music. During the ceremony a drum and rattle, both of special design, are passed, with other paraphernalia, clockwise around the circle of participants. When a member receives the rattle he is expected to sing a number of songs, usually four, after which he passes the rattle on to the next man. The rattle goes ahead of the drum so that, immediately after his turn to sing, each man is the drummer for the man on his left. Four times during the course of the ceremony the leader interrupts the progression to sing special songs which are always used at these times. At other times a participant sings whatever songs he chooses from the repertory at his command, or even extemporizes on the spur of the moment.

Fully half of the participating time, usually a good deal more, of the peyotist is spent listening to or performing this music.

What is it like? Is it different from other American Indian music? What is its place in the general picture of aboriginal music in America? Is there a definable "peyote style" in vocal technique, melodic structure, or textual pattern? If there is such a style the further question must be asked: where does it come from and what do we know of its history?

Besides these questions on the formal musicological level there is the question of peyote music with relation to the people who sing it. What do they feel about the songs? Under what stimuli do they feel the urge to create this music? What do we know of value and attitude with respect to the music of the peyote cult? Insight into some of these questions was obtained in conversations with the informants. I have assembled the record in the section, Comanche Comments on the Songs, where native feelings concerning the music are set forth as nearly in the words of the informants as was possible when working through an interpreter.

On the musicological level this paper will present a comparison of eighty-four peyote songs from various groups. In addition, the peyote music, wherever possible is compared with other music for a given tribe or area.

Since they do not require as much space as musical material, I have included translations of the seventy-two peyote song texts collected from the Comanche and the twenty-one texts collected by Martha Huot from the Fox. These, together with a few texts sent to me in personal communications and the texts reported in the literature, are discussed in a section on the textual content of peyote songs.

Within the limitations of the material available it has been possible to make a comparative study of peyote music and textual material. I have found that in a number of features in peyote songs there exists in general an individuality sufficient to define a "peyote style." I have also discussed briefly under Conclusions the influence of the Ghost Dance on the peyote cult and peyote music, the difference between the musical styles, and the question of European influence in peyote music.

As background for the musical material I have begun the paper with a brief historical sketch of the spread of the peyote cult followed by the Comanche origin story for peyote and a description by our informants of the Comanche form of the ritual.

Historical Sketch

The available historical data on the origin and spread of the peyote cult have been thoroughly treated by Shonle and La Barre and I shall give no more than a brief résumé here.

The use of the cactus in Mexico was associated with rituals apparently of long standing at the time of the first Spanish contacts. In the historical period we have good evidence of a flourishing peyote cult among the Cora-Huichol in Southern Mexico and of a less viable development among the Tarahumare, where the cult has been for many years on the decline. The use of peyote has spread northward across the Rio Grande by the early 18th century. "Velasco wrote in 1716 that many of the Indians in Texas drank 'pellote' in connection with their dances." According to Opler's informants the Lipan got peyote from the Carrizo before white contact and the Mescalero in turn learned the ritual from the Lipan. The Lipan and Mescalero Apache are the traditional links between Mexican and Plains peyote.

1870 is generally accepted as the base date for the establishment of the peyote cult as we know it today on the plains of the western United States. The first known use of peyote by a Kiowa was around 1868 or 1870, and by 1880 or earlier, meetings were being held, most features of which were already standardized among the Lipan and Mescalero. The first Comanche to use peyote is said to have learned it from the Mescalero. Quanah Parker, the outstanding peyote leader, learned about the cult "in Arizona, New Mexico, and old Mexico about 1868." One of the earliest Comanche meetings was held east of Fort Sill in 1873 or 1874.

The Comanche or Kiowa were the primary authors of the rapid spread of peyote after 1880 in the plains area north of the Rio Grande. The Comanche gave peyote directly to the Wichita, 1889-1890; the Pawnee and Shawnee, 1890; the Ponca in 1902; the Kickapoo in 1906; and the Kansa in 1907.

From the Kiowa, knowledge of peyote spread to the Oto in 1876, the Southern Arapaho in 1884, the Southern Cheyenne in the following year, and recently, in 1931, to the Creek.

From the Oto, Southern Arapaho, and Southern Cheyenne, the diffusion of the cult continued, reaching the Winnebago over the period 1893-1901, the Northern Cheyenne before 1900, the Northern Arapaho in 1903, the Omaha in 1906-1907, and Taos in 1907. These recipients in turn handed peyote on to the Crow, the Iowa, the Menomini, the Potawatomi, the Dakota, and the Southern Ute between 1908 and 1914.

This line of diffusion started by the Kiowa continued after 1914, reaching the Blackfoot, the Chippewa of Minnesota, the Gosiute, the Paiute, the Northern Ute, and others. The reader is referred to La Barre, to Newberne and Burke, and to Shonle for particulars.

That the spread of peyote has by no means come to an end is shown by its recent acquisition by some groups of the Navaho who have taken over the Ute version of the ceremony. Other newcomers to the cult are the Blood who acquired it in 1936 from the Cheyenne, the Seminole who have learned peyote only recently from Yuchi, Caddo, and Quapaw sources, the Canadian Chippewa who are learning from the Minnesota Chippewa, and the Canadian Cree, influenced by the Blackfoot.

Special developments, such as the John Wilson "Big Moon" ceremony which spread from the Caddo to the Quapaw, Osage, and others, and the Oto Chrisitianized version which spread to the Omaha, Winnebago, and other Siouan groups, are treated in La Barre's The Peyote Cult.

Comanche Peyote
Origin Story

It was from the Karisu [i.e. Carrizo Apache] that we acquired peyote in the beginning; they were enemies of our people. There was a Comanche leader who was so brave he went on raids by himself. On one occasion, however, he went on a raid with perhaps ten others. There was a fight with the Karisu and this man's companions were all killed. He himself was wounded but he gave the enemy a hard time. He used up all his arrows. He had only his hatchet left, a long knife-like sword, his lance, and a quiver and bow-case of striped mountain lion skin.

He was riding a paint mule but they surrounded him and killed him and they took all his belongings. They killed the mule there with him.

Some time after they had killed the young man and had taken all his belongings they held a peyote meeting and brought everything that had been his. It was all placed behind the leader on the ground and the bow was used for a sort of cane, a brace. When one is singing and shaking the gourd rattle in a peyote meeting, one often uses a bow, held in the other hand, for a brace.

While the meeting was going on, about midnight, they heard a sound outside the door, as if somebody had been hurt. That young Comanche who had been killed lifted the flap. He held his hand on his forehead: one could see that he had been scalped. He groaned again and crawled into the tipi. He placed himself in front of the fire just inside the door.

The people on his left and on his right were frightened. They moved away from him towards the back of the tipi. All the people moved away.

The leader said: "All you people keep your seats and behave. He has come for some reason. He would not come here without a reason. Go back to your places!"

After the people were quieted they sat for a few moments in silence. Then the newcomer spoke up:

"You people do not understand peyote power. I, a Ute, know its power."

He said to them, "You have no power, you do not understand it. After you wore me down completely you stung me to death and took everything I had and I just came to tell you that is how it happened. Now I will tell you something more. Look here, now you people. It is midnight." And he told them then:

"You people, smell the smoke—that is the smoke of Comanches coming to see you. They are coming to you. Smell their smoke. There are seven Comanche. It will be four days before they arrive here." And he instructed them:

"When those seven arrive you are to have a peyote meeting. When you have the meeting I command you to give them my bow and this peyote. They shall take these things from you with them."

One of the Karisu spoke up in good Comanche and answered him. "Yes, we will do for your people what you request."

Then that young man told them he was ready to go. "After I have taken seven steps from the door I will stop and yell several times. When I have taken the seventh step I will yell four times. On my fourth yell I want you to sing."

With the fourth yell the leader made ready to sing. His rattle sounded and he said: "I am going to repeat the song and from that we can gather the answer."

Song from the peyote Origin Story
I was lost, na ne yu wanai nu-u ha na ino
he ne
, etc.
My arrow, ne ne, my pipe,
hina long knife no haino
, etc.
My arrow na no ha Ute,
Tina etc.

That is the song the young Ute sang to the Karisus. They were to give it, along with the paraphernalia and the peyote, to the seven Comanches who were to come after the fourth day.

The Comanche arrived in four days. A day or two after they arrived, a tipi was put in order for a meeting and the Karisu and Comanche went in together.

The Comanche took the north wall because it was the shady side. The Karisu sat around the south side. Up to this time there was never a woman in a meeting: this time there was one woman with the men. The leader spoke to her and said:

"Tell them how we are going to handle this. Tell them, our cousins."

The woman spoke up in Comanche and said, "Relatives—" The Comanche were all startled and stared at her and she went on:

"Everybody watch. We are going to perform, in a moment, the way this man, standing here, carries out his ceremonies. That is all I am telling you now. When he is ready to have me say more I will tell you more."

Then after the meeting had gone on a while, the Karisu began to roll cigarettes. The leader said to the woman, "Tell the Comanche we are going to smoke this tobacco which our Father has given to us. I want them to go through these motions: to place their hands on the ground, to extend them upwards towards the sky, towards our Father, and then to smoke with us. Then we shall become as one, because our Father has said so."

He gave out cigarettes and they smoked. They smoked towards the ground, towards the sky, and towards the peyote. The leader prayed. Then he got ready to start the real meeting. He reached near him and took some sage. He bit off some, chewed it and rubbed it over himself. It was passed around, the others did the same, around the circle sun-wise, and it came back to him. He was notified that it had been around to everybody. Then they ate peyote. Some took two at first, but mostly they started with four. After he had taken four the leader said to the girl:

"Ask the Comanche whether they might not sing. If they do not know the songs and can not sing they may sit quietly. If they can catch the songs they are to sing along with the others."

The Karisu started in. They sang and ate peyote and sang again, and the Comanche did so too. The meeting went along through the night and the leader spoke up and said to his people:

"Before I have eaten too much, I want to tell them what I want them to know."

He told the girl about the young Comanche and his instructions and the girl told the Comanches. She said, "That leader there said this young man from your people came and told of your coming and gave us these instructions. Now you have arrived. He wants to tell you now. We might not all be together tomorrow and he wants to have you all know it. After we get through you are to take this bow and peyote and the songs, and go back home. From this time on all the Indian tribes to the north and the northeast will use this peyote."

This is the way peyote came to us. It is also how we have that song. When it was midnight the song of the young Comanche was sung and given. The leader said, "That is the song the young Comanche sang, the song you are to take from us when you leave."

When morning came the woman was told to tell them: "Now the leader will instruct you as to how peyote meetings should be held. This is what peyote says: 'When our Father made you he made me here on earth to grow with you.'"

The leader said, "Now where you are sitting here watching it, no matter what it looks like now, when it takes on power there is no knowing how it will look. Peyote says: 'I am the power of our Father. Here on earth I do as I please because of my power. I am a man. That is how I do anything that is asked of me and this here is a part of me. Even if I am in the shape of a woman she is only part of me. Take notice of the ground, of the grass that is growing on the ground, of the roots of the grass. I am like the grass. My roots are my children. They increase with me. When it is cut the peyote grows back in the same place. It is the same with grass on its roots.'"

Then the leader said, "Now tell them I am through, but they must remember that wherever they may carry it peyote must come back to us."

That is the female part of peyote. It stands for regrowth. The girl who spoke for the leader was a Comanche who had been captured by the Karisu. That is why in stories about the happenings of peyote a woman can appear. This woman brought us our knowledge of peyote. This happened a long time ago. I know this because I heard people talking about it.

It is clear that the origin story of peyote is, despite certain supernatural elements, more of an historical account than a myth. This marks a difference from certain of the other important rituals in the Plains area. The origin myths of the Sun Dance and of the Winnebago Medicine Dance, for example, both begin with the flood and the creation of the earth and go on to tell how the rituals were given at the beginning of the tribal history and are a necessity for harmonious relations with the universe. The peyote story begins, like a typical Plains Indian life history, with an account of a battle. Part, at least, of the peyote paraphernalia derives from weapons of war: the young Comanche's bow has become the brace used by each singer in turn during the ceremony. However, the conciliatory content of the peyote philosophy is foreshadowed by the suspension of hostilities between the Carrizo Apache and the seven Comanche who arrive as predicted, and our informant assumes that the prayers which begin the ceremony must include a prayer for peace.

A curious feature of the story is that, thought peyote is ascribed to the Apache, still the Comanches manage to receive a good deal of credit for the acquisition of the ritual. The transferral is at the command of the young Comanche who had been killed. And looking large in the story is the Comanche girl captive whose ability as an interpreter is essential to the transfer and whose femininity stands for the female aspect of peyote and for regrowth.

Boas noted the difference in the minds of native informants between "historical" accounts and myths which dealt with happenings lost in the distant past when the world "had not yet assumed its present form, and when mankind was not yet in possession of all the customs and arts that belong to our period." In the peyote story none of the familiar Plains themes, such as Blood Clot Boy, the rolling skull, the ladder of arrows, the star husband, the flood, and the making of the earth, are present. The transition from a mythological period to the age of modern man and modern ways, another feature of most origin myths, is also lacking in the peyote origin story. Though not a myth, the story is, however, in the Plains genre. Such elements as initiation, the transfer of power and the special power to be gained through association with the dead are familiar in Comanche tradition and in the tradition of other Plains groups.

Comanche Ceremony

The Comanche peyote ceremonies are held periodically either for curing, or when an individual or a group of individuals have the money and inclination to sponsor a general gathering. The latter, being the more usual type of meeting will be described first.

A peyote leader, a man known to be particularly well-versed in the ritual, is chosen by the sponsors. Certain individuals among those qualified become favorite leaders and such men often have enough of a following to support regular meetings called weekly at the initiative of the leader. The cost, for peyote "buttons" and food for the breakfast after the meeting, was about thirty-five dollars in 1940.

Some members of the peyote group make two or three trips a year by automobile to Texas or even across the border into Mexico where peyote may be gathered. Salt is tabu on the trip but no special behavior is prescribed on the way down. Sexual intercourse is not allowed during the trip but there is no tabu on intercourse before the journey starts. A woman may go along even if she is not a peyote eater, provided she is not menstruating.

Upon arrival the group appoints a leader who may, in turn, select an assistant. These two make cigarettes, smoke, and address prayers to Father Peyote. If they see an uncut peyote plant while preparing the smokes, the ritual will be addressed to this plant.

No peyote is gathered on the first day at the peyote fields. In the evening the group forms a circle in the open around a small fire and an abbreviated version of the regular ceremony, as described in the following pages, takes place. The group sleeps in the open this night and during the rest of the expedition. On the second day two men or two women gather enough fresh peyote for another short ceremony that evening. They are supposed to cut only enough for this purpose, but if any is left over it will be brought back with the rest of the newly gathered supply.

On the third day the general gathering begins. Each person is on his own, gathering for himself. It is customary to sing while cutting peyote; no special songs are required, not even peyote songs. The plant is cut with a knife, close to the ground, and thereafter no knife is supposed to touch the peyote button. When the button is eaten fresh, the tough outer skin is peeled off with the fingers. In a year or two a new plant will grow on the root of a peyote plant that has been harvested.

An expedition to the peyote fields may take a week or longer; there is no set time.

The usual night for a regular Comanche peyote meeting is Saturday night. It is convenient for the "morning after" to fall on Sunday since the social aftermath of the ceremony often takes all morning following the ritual and a period of rest is welcome after the night-long exercises. There is a suggestion that Saturday night meetings are an adaption to the modern working week in Tekwakï's remark, "When I was raised we did not know when it was Saturday. One day was just like the others."

A special tipi is used for the peyote ceremony; neither the tipi cover nor the poles are allowed to lie on the ground. When not in use, the latter are stacked on a special rack. During the day, before the ceremony, this tipi is set up with the door facing east. Inside the tipi an altar is constructed of earth or clay in the shape of a crescent, the open ends pointing toward the east.

The usual time for a meeting to begin is "at about sundown," or between seven or eight o'clock in the evening, though of course this varies with the time of year. After the leader, and his assistant, the members and visitors file into the tipi. The leader sits opposite the door on the west side, his assistant sits on his right. The other members are ranged about the tipi, friends often sitting together, and the fire-tender, who like the assistant has been appointed for the occasion by the leader, sits just north of the door. Women attend meetings but do not participate very actively. They eat peyote and help with some of the songs sung by the men, but do not sing songs of their own when it would be their turn.

There are women who sing very well. They never lead a song, though they sing with the men. I have never seen a woman beat the drum for some one. It is not customary. I heard of one case where a woman did that: she and her husband were alone having a peyote meeting just for the two of them. A woman does not sing at a peyote meeting. She sits in the circle and passes the rattle but she does not use the rattle. She may join in and help sing a song (Tekwakï).

When the members enter the tipi they turn south and move clockwise ("in the direction of the sun") about the circle until they find seats. They peyotists sit in various ways. Young people tend to sit cross-legged, old people often adopt a kneeling posture, sitting back on the heels. It is usual to rise up on the right knee when singing, the left foot being moved out in front for support.

The leader begins the singing with the opening song and three others to make a set of four. Like the other singers he holds the rattle in his right hand and accompanies his own songs. In his left hand together with four twigs of sage and an eagle feather fan, is held the brace, a decorated wooden staff four or five feet long. This is used as a support while the singer is in the upright kneeling position. His assistant, sitting on his right does the drumming. At the end of the leader's four songs he exchanges instruments with his assistant and drums while the latter sings. The rattle and drum then move on about the circle in the usual sunwise direction, the rattle always moving one step ahead of the drum. Before the instruments and paraphernalia are passed, they are held out toward the fire and a circular sunwise motion is made with them. "Everything in the tipi is handled that way." If other members want to join in on songs, they know they may do so but are expected to sing quietly.

The singing continues around the circle until midnight; throughout this period peyote buttons are consumed. Members are not supposed to leave the tipi for any purpose until the break at midnight but in an emergency the proper etiquette is to get permission from the leader, rise, turn clockwise in one's place, then move around the tipi clockwise until the door is reached. Some members, instead of turning the entire body after rising, may make a circular motion on the ground with the right foot.

If on the way out one comes to another member who is in the act of eating a peyote button, it is proper to stop and wait for him to finish. The feeling is that it is wrong to pass between the fire and a person engaged in this religious act. A person sitting on the south side of the tipi may leave in a counter-clockwise direction if a member is eating peyote in the path of his ritually proper route, but if he crosses the west point (where the leader is sitting), and then discovers that his way is blocked he must stand and wait. At midnight, during the general break in the ceremony, this problem is solved by a cessation in the eating of peyote buttons.

An emphasis is laid on human understanding in the observance of the formalities just described. Thus if a member is nauseated or needs to urinate or is dizzy from the effects of the peyote, others will keep him from making aux pas. "Everybody else is watching and will let you know if you don't see a man eating peyote. They just tell you: 'This man is eating, you'd better wait.'"

Often the request to the leader for permission to leave is in sign language. The advantage of speech by gesture is obvious in a ceremony where singing is often almost continuous. Here again, if the leader does not happen to notice a signal of distress, others will call it to his attention. Sign language is not necessary if one is sitting close to the leader.

During the ceremony a small fire is kept burning in the center of the tipi, between the altar and the door. The fire tender or "fire-chief" keeps the blaze burning steadily; he is free to step outside for firewood whenever it is needed. Elm and willow are favorites for fuel since they burn with a minimum of smoke and sparks. The fire tender is also the official time-keeper. He is asked the time, by the peyote leader, at four intervals, the first soon after the meeting is seated and the fourth at about midnight. He can tell when it is midnight by the position of the stars; one is also supposed to hear coyotes howling at midnight and at dawn. The position of the Corona Borealis (PamudyïKWIkaTï "they are sitting down for a smoke") is sometimes used for an indication of the time. Each time the fire-tender is asked the time he is supposed to step outside the tipi and look.

At midnight the leader interrupts the round of songs for prayer and the drinking of water. This is done even if some member is in the midst of his group of songs at the time. The leader prays and then calls the drum, rattle and other paraphernalia back to himself, and with his assistant drumming, sings the midnight song. He then prays again, after which the fire tender brings in the pail of water and sits at the door with the water before him and waits for orders from the leader. When he receives word, the fire tender carries the pail around the tipi in the usual sunrise direction until it comes to the leader's assistant. The assistant drinks, then the leader, after which the pail is passed from person to person around the tipi. Occasionally the pail is passed to the leader instead of being carried and some leaders drink first. By allowing the assistant precedence the pail can go sunwise without interruption. Rarely, the water may skip the assistant and finally reach him at the end of the entire circuit.

The period during which the water is being passed seems to be the most informal part of the midnight break. It is during this time that members feel free to go outside, stretch their legs and attend to body functions.

The fire tender has two stakes on which this water pail may be hung. These are fifteen or twenty yards from the tipi, one on either side, so that the water may be hung upwind from the tipi no matter what the wind's direction may be. This is apparently to safeguard the ritual purity of the water. Similarly a menstruating woman is not supposed to pass between a man and the wind. At a doctoring meeting the water is not supposed to be downwind from the patient. In most meetings this avoidance is "done anyway to guard against accidents." There is no special name for these stakes and a convenient tree in the right direction makes an equally fitting place to hang the water pail.

When the water has gone the rounds and all the members are back in their places, the fire tender takes the bucket back to its place and returns to the tipi. The leader now goes outside, taking with him a special reed whistle, or, if a reed whistle is not available, one made of an eagle bone. Outside the tipi the leader faces to the east and blows a sharp blast on the whistle. Then he walks to the south, to the west, and to the north of the tipi, stopping at each quarter of the compass to face in that direction and blow the whistle. He then enters the tipi, takes his seat, and a period of smoking and praying ensues.

The leader produces tobacco and asks the fire tender to roll a cigarette. For cigarette papers the Comanche prefer the dried leaf of the blackjack oak. When the cigarette has been prepared, the fire tender is ordered to light it and pray. A live coal is used for the light, two sticks being used to lift the coal from the fire. The cigarette is then brought to the leader, the fire tender returns to his seat, and the leader begins his prayer. He blows smoke to Mother Earth, the Sun, the Beings above the clouds, to "what is below the earth," peyote, to "what may be in the air," and to the eagle, the principal sacred bird in peyote. The following is a prayer that Tekwakï has often used:

Well! you, great Earth, may we live upon you in blessing. Well! You, Sun-bird, receive this smoke! May we live beneath you in blessing. Bless us, you our master, bless us! May we live in blessing. You also White Peyote, receive this smoke. May we continue living in blessing under you! And you also our Father, who created us, the earth, and everything that is on it.

The prayer is for guidance in this life on earth, for safety, for protection against enemies and disease. Recently a few leaders have included prayers to Jesus.

After the leader, other members smoke and pray. Those who do not wish to pray smoke in silence and meditate on the deity. During this midnight period green cedar twigs are put on the fire and the peyote members breathe in the fragrant smoke and purify themselves with it. After the prayers and purification the meeting goes on with singing as before until dawn.

"It seems everyone inside can tell dawn is coming even though the tipi door-flap is closed." As the members begin to sense the approach of daylight, the songs reflect this feeling. Although these are not formal dawn or morning songs, references are working into the texts concerning daylight, the rays of the rising sun, awakening, and getting up. Admonitions are heard in the songs to "sit straight," and "to arise." These are addressed to members who seem to be dozing. Herman Asenap, who was interpreting for Tekwakï said, "It is an awful sleepy ordeal to go through one of the meetings."

When the gray streak of dawn appears in the east, water is brought in again, this time by a specially appointed woman, often the wife of the sponsor of the meeting. Whether or not she is the sponsor's wife, the water woman is chosen on the basis of "respectability." She leaves the tipi to get water when told to do so by the leader who then tells the fire tender to clean up around the fire. The fire is replenished and the fire tender tells the leader when this task has been accomplished. The leader now calls for the drum, rattle, and other paraphernalia and tells the group, "We are going to sing the morning song." The woman returns to the tipi with the water and calls that she is outside. The leader replies and starts the morning song with the other members helping. At the conclusion of the song the woman steps inside and sits at the entrance, placing the water, in a bucket covered with a white cloth, directly before her.

Three more of the regular peyote songs are now sung by the leader and his assistant after which the woman rolls a blackjack cigarette. She puffs ceremonially and prays. When she indicates to the leader that she is through he requests the assistant to bring her cigarette to him. The assistant does so and the leader likewise smokes and prays. Then the butt of the cigarette is placed by the altar mound back of the fire and the water is passed. The water woman drinks first and the bucket is then passed around the circle. When it returns to the woman she takes it, makes a circuit of the entire tipi, and goes out.

By this time a frugal meal, the "peyote breakfast," has been prepared by the women of the sponsor's family. It is brought to the tipi and the leader is notified. He then sings a final group of four songs, the last of which is the closing song or "crow song." The sill pins of the tipi are loosened and the food pushed inside. The fire tender receives it and starts it around the circle, he being the last person to have any. A less common procedure is for the fire-tender to carry the food around to the leader, the eating thus starting at the west point in the tipi.

Roasted corn, corn mush, plums, and dried and pounded meat are the main fare of the breakfast. European food is avoided, particularly salt, but an exception is sugar which is used copiously. Fat and sugar are added to the pounded meat. Water and a towel accompany the food around the circle and each member washes before eating.

We do not eat breakfast until the close of the meeting. The food is always the end of the thing. Our closing song is an Apache song. Kayate is an Apache word. Then the ropes are taken off the drum, it is taken all apart. We all quit by that song.

The meeting is thus customarily over after the peyote breakfast, but Itovic added that here again the practice depends upon the leader. Occasionally a meeting continues until noon, about time for the singing to go around the circle twice more after breakfast. When the meeting does close with the meal, the members very often remain lying around in the tipi or under arbors made of brush. They chat informally, practice peyote songs, (it is at this time that novices do a good deal of their learning), or simply doze, making up for the sleep lost during the ceremony.

The Curing Ceremony

In certain ways the Comanche peyote meeting for curing differs from the regular meeting. It is usually smaller, consisting of the patient or patients, the family and a few close friends may be present even though they may not all be members of the peyote cult. The usual prayers for general welfare, long life, etc., are made, and in addition there are prayers specific to the needs of a particular patient. If the sick man is ambulatory he comes to a special tipi owned by the peyote leader but the meeting may take place in a sick man's home. Though curing meetings are often held on Saturday night they may be held on any evening in an emergency.

As stated above, the water, tipi cover and tipi poles are all handled with extreme care in a curing meeting.

The Officers

Rather than overload the running account of the regular peyote ceremony with too much detail, additional material has been reserved for the following pages concerning officers and paraphernalia.

The leader (Ka'PanaKarïgwapl: "west side sitting chief") is the central figure of the ceremony. Our informants considered that there were perhaps eight or ten men whose standing in the peyote group qualified them for leadership. Certain of these men are more popular than others.

Nearly every move, except for the regular progression of songs, the prayers, and the eating of peyote, is made at the request of the leader or only after his permission has been obtained. The steps of the ritual may vary according to the leader's own particular way of handling it, for example, as mentioned above, the ceremonial breakfast usually begins with the serving of the man just south of the door but may begin with the leader if he wishes it. The meeting may end with the breakfast or it may be continued until noon. Tekwakï attended a meeting that continued for four nights and three days. No meeting can be held without a leader; among the Comanche there is always a high degree of dependence upon his instructions.

The fire tender (Ko'Towapl, "fire chief") must see that the fire is in order, watch the passage of time, carry in water at midnight and help in the distribution of food and water at dawn.

The fire tender must not let the coals scatter out, he coaxes the coals close together. There is a special man just for that. He knows how to do this, he does not have to be told and he takes part in the rest of the meeting just like all the others. (Itovic)

He makes frequent trips outside the tipi to the wood supply which is stacked just south of the door, "towards the sun." When not engaged in his duties he sits in the first place north of the door.

The assistant (TïroyawapI, "cedar chief") like the other officers is chosen by the leader. He acts as the leader's drummer and assists in handling the paraphernalia.

It is interesting to note that both informants say the cedar chief or assistant acts throughout as the drummer for the leader and is seated on his right. They give the somewhat elaborate procedure for handling the water bucket with him in this position. In La Barre's account of the Kiowa-Comanche rite the leader's drummer is on his right and his cedar man, if there is one, is on his left.

The water woman who brings the drinking water in the morning is the fourth person who has an assigned function in the course of the peyote ceremony. Elderly female relatives are often chosen for this function, post-climacteric women being preferred.

The Paraphernalia

The drum in peyote is ideally a small iron kettle partially filled with water and with a canvas diaphragm. Small stones are placed under the covering material at intervals below the rim of the kettle, and around the knobs thus formed a rope is twisted. This rope is secured by strands passing under the kettle and the whole thing can be tightened by torsion of the vertical strands, using short pieces of sticks for the purpose. A pin—hole is usually made in the canvas, "so it will sound better."

A rubber diaphragm is sometimes made by stretching a piece of inner-tubing over the kettle and securing it with twine wrapped just below the rim. Some of our informants made serviceable and resonant drums with inner-tubing stretched over a #10 tin can. Here too the container was partially filled with water and a pin-hole was made in the diaphragm. Still another type of container used is an ordinary medium-sized earthenware bean pot. A small unpadded stick was used in all cases for a drumstick.

The rattle is made of a small round gourd on a straight handle, about eighteen inches long, which passes through the gourd and projects a little more than an inch beyond the top. The handle is usually beaded over its entire length and the distal end tufted with horsehair dyed red, yellow, or a pale pink. In beading the handle a favorite design is an alternation of dark and light color in twelve bands. Small stones inside the gourd sound against its dry shell when the instrument is shaken. It is smaller in the bowl and longer in the handle than the usual gourd rattle.

The brace, according to the Comanche origin story for the peyote ceremony, derives from the bow of the scalped Comanche warrior. It is a staff by which a singer supports himself when he rises on one knee to sing. In the early days of Comanche peyote any stick could be used for this purpose:

…it did not make any difference what kind of stick it was. It was just for comfort in singing. For a long time we used just any straight stick too, in imitation of the old people. Now we prefer a bow of bow d'arc (bois d'arc—osage orange). These bows are not quite the same as a bow that would be used for hunting. There are no notches and no string. They are straight and there is just a little decoration above the grip (Tekwakï).

The Comanche word for the brace is náci•'To (cane). The word "bow" (é•to) is never applied to the ritual implement.

Sage and feathers are also part of the paraphernalia that is passed around the tipi from singer to singer as the meeting goes on and the members take their turns drumming and singing. Four twigs of sage and a feather fan are held with the brace in the left hand by each member as he sings. Peyote buttons to be consumed during the meeting are kept on a bed of sage twigs and sage is chewed and smeared over the body as one of the rituals of purification. Tekwakï mentioned that sage is much used in curing ceremonies.

The whistle used by the leader at midnight is called hú•Kumudyake (tree cry). It is made from a bamboo-like reed. When the reed whistle cannot be obtained an eagle-bone whistle may be used. In either case it is a simple one-block whistle with no stops.

It is not my intention to make a detailed comparison of the peyote ritual with other ceremonies in the Plains area but I should like to point out here that although the peyote ceremony has a distinct flavor of its own, many of its components may be found in other Plains rituals. There are a few features which are not at least approximated in the major ceremonies of long standing. The punctilio with respect to direction of motion and the use of the number four is familiar to anyone acquainted with Plains religion. Other similarities are listed below.

The Hako, for example, had special songs for dawn, elaborate care with water, a sacred journey, invocation of a plant, the eagle bone whistle and ritual circuits of the lodge. Nearly all of these features were much more highly formalized than in peyote but the familiar ideas were there.

The Sun Dance had a somewhat different roster of features reminiscent of parts of peyote practice and paraphernalia. The preparation of an altar, often with a dry painting, is an example. The use of eagle bone whistles blown in ceremonially prescribed directions, of sage as a ceremonial carpet and also carried by participants, and of cedar incense, may also be cited.

The Ghost Dance had the clockwise motion of participants, singing in connection with trance, stress on vision, and an ethical content in its teachings, again all features which may be found in peyote.

However, the particular form and combination of these elements is unique for peyote. Though there is singing in all three of the older Plains ceremonies mentioned above, it is nowhere else done in the peyote manner. In the Ghost Dance songs are unaccompanied and are first sung by the leaders, then by the entire assemblage of dancers. There are opening and closing songs; it is interesting that the latter are called "crow" songs and refer to this bird in the Ghost Dance and also in the Comanche peyote ceremony, but in the Ghost Dance we do not find solo singing by turns, the use of song cycles, the extemporization of songs during the ritual and the constant creation of new songs, often through visions.

In the Hako there is a great deal of singing as the ritual develops but each song, and in fact each stanza of each song, precedes some ceremonial act and is intimately connected with it. This is true for only four of the songs in peyote. In the Winnebago Medicine Dance there is singing by turns but it is the participating bands, not individuals, that alternate.

No other type of Plains ceremony uses the type of drum and rattle prescribed for peyote. The eagle bone whistles in the Sun Dance were used by all the dancers, not by a leader as at the midnight break in the peyote ritual. Though plants are revered and obtained in a ceremonial manner in the Sun Dance, and though corn is addressed by a kinship term in the Hako, no other major ceremony of the Plains carried the role of a plant quite so far as the peyote ritual where the cactus is a drug, a sacrament and a deity.

Comanche Peyote Songs

Perhaps the best evaluation of the nature of the material may be made from a description of the field situation. The trip was oriented primarily around the study of linguistics. Because of other interests we did not press the issue when then occasion to attend a peyote ceremony did not arise.

Itovic, a man of about fifty and the first informant on peyote, was a good member of the Post Oak (Lutheran) Mission and had been since he withdrew from the peyote group some thirty years before. Although he came to us as a linguistic informant, we discovered that he was willing to talk about peyote and that he had a remarkably fresh memory for a considerable number of the songs. He explained that for many years he had been teaching them to boys who came to him for this purpose. We recorded all the peyote songs he knew.

Naya, a man somewhat older than Itovic, who was sometimes a Lutheran and sometimes a peyotist, rendered the midnight song.

We were eager to check the information and song material with an actively participating peyote member and for one day we had the help of Pïcïa, also in his fifties, who fulfilled this condition. At the time Pïcïa was making pilgrimages to the peyote fields in Texas two or three times a year and bringing back "peyote buttons" for Comanche use.

Itovic often mentioned Tekwakï, a man of about Naya's age who was a well known peyote leader in the Indiahoma region, and we finally had the good fortune to engage Tekwakï's services as a regular informant concerning peyote usage and the music. All of our interviews and discussions with the four informants took place in the Indiahoma schoolhouse where there was a source of electricity for the recording machine.

Most of our information came from Itovic and Tekwakï. It is interesting that none of the songs recorded by Itovic were of his own composition. He himself stated that this was rather odd, that peyote members often do think of songs themselves or learn them from peyote, or seek them in a vision by going to some lonely place and fasting. Most of the songs he sang were, as he said, "handed down," and a large percentage of them he identified as Apache. "They came from the Apache, from whom peyote came to the Comanche." In most cases he was unable to give translations of the song texts.

The great majority of Tekwakï's songs were Comanche. Of a total of sixty-three songs, fifty-two were sung in the Comanche language and twenty-nine of these were designated by him as his own compositions. Eleven of his songs seem to have been Apache in origin; seven of these were explicitly identified as such.

It was Tekwakï who gave us, besides a wealth of song material, an unusual insight into the process of native song-making. And in telling us what he did of his feelings with respect to peyote and peyote songs, Tekwakï revealed himself to us as an admirable as well as devout person.

Instrumental and Vocal Technique

Detailed information was collected concerning instrumental and vocal technique among the Comanche, which is given below. Probably at most points these details hold for the performance of peyote songs in other tribes, but data are scarce. Where available they are mentioned under the tribal headings.

The Rattle

The rattle is held upright in front of the body, the elbow bent, and lower and closer to the body than the hand. The rattle is shaken from the wrist with comparatively little action of the shoulder and elbow. Violent action is to be avoided: if one moves the arm from the elbow when shaking the rattle, the saying goes, one may be struck by lightening.

According to Tekwakï some singers shake the rattle away from the body, some towards the body, and some across and downwards at each beat. It is not unusual for a singer to extend his arm gradually in the course of a song and to draw it back towards the body at the end. Although Tekwakï does not do this he mentioned it as a stylistic feature in the rattle technique of some singers.

The singer sets the pace of the song and may signal with the little rattle to indicate the end. Tekwakï sometimes slowed his tempo in the course of a song, listening for some word from peyote. "When I slow up I listen so that maybe I hear something. When I speed up it is because I have heard it." In a case like this the drummer must follow the lead of the singer.

Since a song may be sung through once or repeated as many as three or four times, the singer may indicate which is the last time by raising the rattle at the end. "Sometimes, when two men haven't been to a meeting for quite a while, and one likes a song, and wants to make sure the other is coming along, he signals for the end by raising the rattle." This practice is a stylistic constant with some players and may be done rarely or not at all by others. Itovic stated explicitly that there is no symbolism involved, such as a reference to the eagle, or the sun, in raising the rattle. The idea of such symbolism was suggested by Herman Asenap, the interpreter.

Singers are particular about the rattle. The one provided by the peyote leader for the ceremony should not be too heavy to allow quick sensitive beating. Too much weight in the bowl made Itovic unhappy on one occasion. In song 10 he missed several beats in the course of the song and complained that the rattle was not satisfactory for this reason.


T.: Even though you say that, if some one would beat the drum for you, you would go about from place to place singing.

I.: With drumming it is only good when a good sound is heard. It comes not from hard beating but from a putting sound like this (he shows it on the table). Then it catches the stride well. (Fragment of conversation between Tekwakï and Itovic, accidentally recorded at the beginning of a song.)

Before playing, the drummer shakes his instrument so that the diaphragm is thoroughly moistened by the water in the body of the drum. In the case of the canvas diaphragm this treatment undoubtedly increases the tension and improves the tone. Moisture invades and thickens, thereby shortening, vegetable fiber. However, the unusual pinhole is made in a rubber drum head as well, and the instrument is shaken until a small amount of water appears on the outside. Albert Asenap, Herman's son, who was drumming for Tekwakï, maintained that this procedure improved the tone here too. Either type of drum is played with a rapid sustained beat; droplets of water are thrown off in a fine haze by the vibrating drumhead.

Occasionally, while playing, the drummer may alter the pitch of his instrument by the pressure of the thumb of his free hand on the diaphragm. As the pressure is increased the pitch of the drum tone rises. The new tone is held for a few beats, then the pressure is relaxed and the tone drops back to its original level. This variation in playing is employed when trying out a newly assembled drum; it does not occur during the accompaniment of the peyote songs.

The drum beat is usually in time with the rhythm of the vocal melody, the great majority of which are in duple meter. Occasionally the drum runs ahead of the singer, evenly and by intention. Tekwakï in singing sometimes slowed his tempo markedly and at such times the drummer is supposed to adjust his beat to that of the singer.

Because signals are given with the rattle for song endings and for variations in tempo such as the one noted above, Tekwakï ceased to act as drummer for other singers when he became blind. He now asks his assistant to move from his right to his left side and substitute for him in drumming for the next man. At the close of this man's four songs the assistant goes around the tipi sunwise until he is back in his original position on Tekwakï's right.

All exchanging of drummers is made with the leader's permission. A man who is a poor drummer is glad to be relieved of his turn; after he has sung, he hands the rattle and singer's paraphernalia on to the next man and moves over to make room for a substitute drummer. Usually the substitute is directed by the leader to make the sunwise circuit of the tipi until he comes to his place on the right of the singer. Sometimes, however, two members who like to sing and drum for each other sit side by side and hand the instruments back and forth. In this case the man on the right sings first after handing the drum across to his partner. Then the drum moves back one step; the first man drums while the man on the left sings. When he has finished singing, he will be drummer again as the singing moves on in the usual manner.

The drumming is felt to have more effect than a mere statement of rhythm. Itovic said:

It seems the drum just raises the voice up in the air.... What I want when I sing is to go up high with my voice and come down. I like to sing high but now I am old and start low, though it gets a little higher. The drum forces the voice up higher.


The usual peyote song begins with a rattle and drum introduction. After a few measures of very rapid playing during which the rattle is often shaken tremolo the instruments slow to the rhythm which will be maintained throughout the song. At this point Tekwakï sometimes makes a short announcement, saying something about the song. When he sang the opening song even in the informal recording situation, Tekwakï made the announcement that he felt should always precede this particular melody: "Now this day, that one (Tekwakï), is going to sing the song that has helped bring him through life so far."

There were differences of voice production among our four informants. Naya, Pïcïa, and Tekwakï sang in a buoyant, lusty, somewhat rubato manner. Itovic sang much more quickly and sometimes, as an ornamental technique, with his throat constricted so that for a few notes the tone was decidedly fricative. These were always repeated notes somewhere in the middle of phrases and pitched low in the range of the song.

Other characteristics of the Comanche singing of peyote songs were the frequent fairly strong accents, the occasional break of the voice into the falsetto register, and the use of vocal pulsations particularly on the notes held for two or more beats. These ornamental devices were used more frequently in the songs of widest range.

The accents are used more often, as in European singing, to mark the beginning of rhythmic units or "measures." It is a stylistic feature in Comanche peyote singing that the attack is almost always strong and is sometimes very strong. The "robust" quality of the songs owes much to this feature: even in the milder singing of Itovic the attacca is often more pronounced than in most European singing. These accents occur characteristically at the beginning of a downward movement in the melodic line.

The break into falsetto occurs in a few songs in the cases of both Tekwakï and Itovic. As with the accent, the break comes before a descent in pitch; it is very brief in duration and is best written as an appogiatura connected with either the preceding or the following note depending on the stress.

A mildly pulsating tone is a common feature in these songs. Pulsations beyond the ordinary vibrato of the voice are given most frequently to the longer notes in the melody, especially when these notes follow one another on the same tone as in the he ne ne ne of an introduction or coda.

A feature that should be mentioned in connection with Comanche singing is throat clearing. In a large number of the songs both Itovic and Tekwakï cleared their throats during the drum introduction or, often, after the vocal introduction had begun. In nearly all cases the singer goes right on singing noisily clearing his throat at the same time. The tempo is not interrupted. Less frequently our informant cleared their throats in the course of the main body of the song. It was done in the same way, the tone of the melody being interrupted but not the rhythm.

A word change at the end of a stanza may be another cue for the drummer that a song will repeat. Thus in one song the phrase háyaKimayó is repeated with only slight variations until the end of a musical phrase is reached. But four times in the song the text changes to háyakiniyá followed by the vocables he no yo wa. This, Tekwaki said, was a sign for a repetition.

The Melodies

Within the group of thirty Comanche examples comparisons may be made. It happened that those rendered by Itovic represented older songs dating from at least as far back as 1910 when he left the peyote movement. He remarked himself that he did not know the later songs. Tekwaki, on the other hand, currently active in the cult, was not only familiar with the old songs still in use but was still learning and composing songs. He had considerable pride in not repeating himself or other singers in a ceremony

There are differences between these two groups of Comanche songs that become apparent at once. One of the most noticeable differences is in the textural pattern. The songs of Itovic tend to ramble on with rather long, full content while those of Tekwakï are more choppy. In twelve songs out of fourteen the text consists of short phrases as "It is coming," or "Wings beating," repeated over and over. Of songs of this type, Itovic sang five in a total of thirteen melodies.

In the melodies collected from the two singers the range provides another contrast.

In Tekwakï's songs the range is usually small, often over a distance of only a fifth while the scale frequently consists of but three notes. Itovic also sings songs of this pattern but more often sings songs ranging from an octave to an octave and a half. All of the songs are sung with at least one complete repetition, and often more. An analysis of the melodic phrase pattern usually reveals before the first full repetition a sequence such as |ABCD|BCD|. Variations of this are |ABC|BC|; |AABCD|-BCD|. The full song would then be |ABCD|BCD| repeated two or more times. This is the predominant pattern in Tekwakï's songs: there are nine of this type and five with a straight |ABC| or |ABCD| and repeat. Itovic also sings five songs with straight repeats, but only four which employ the partial repeat. The other four are more complex, as |ABCDE|CDE|ABCDE|.

The use of paired patterns which is so marked in Ghost Dance melodies occurs to a lesser degree in much of the Comanche peyote music. Here another marked contrast between the songs of Itovic and Tekwakï may be noted. In three songs of the former the pairing principle is strong but in the rest it is quite absent, whereas eight of Tekwakï's songs contain more or less pairing.

There is a rhythmic difference between the songs of Itovic and those of Tekwakï. In the former a large number are irregular in the smaller divisions of the phrases, some "measures" containing two beats, others three, and still others four or five. This in a large phrase of twelve beats there may well be four measures of three, two, three, and four beats respectively. Accompanying this irregularity there is often a lively use of syncopation.

The song from the origin story and the four set songs (Opening, Midnight, Dawn, and Closing) were said to be Carrizo Apache, as were others. In addition there are two "imitation" Apache songs. Tekwakï said of one "I learned an Apache song something like this," and "I was trying to sound like an Apache."

The main difference between the straight Comanche and the "Apache-Comanche" songs is in the texts. The ranges of the "Apache" songs are intermediate on the whole and paired patterns are infrequent. However, both Tekwakï's imitation Apache songs do have paired patterns.

After a consideration of these differences one might wonder why, after all, these songs sound so similar to the ear. Of course the fact that they are all performed with a somewhat similar vocal technique accounts for some of this impression. But more significant musicologically are the many structural similarities to which we now turn.

In general all of these songs have a similar pattern of instrumental introduction and accompaniment. The drum and rattle begin quite fast, sometimes even tremolo. After a few beats they slow down and fall into a duple or undifferentiated rhythm which is maintained throughout the song. At the end, near the beginning of the final phrase, there is an interruption of several beats in the accompaniment which is then resumed accelerando and the voice and accompaniment together hurry to the end of the song.

In almost all of the songs there is a vocal introduction on vocables such as he ne ne ne ne for from six to twelve beats, a slight pause, and then the song proper is begun. This introduction is usually sung on the "tonic" or base note of the song scale and the singer then jumps up to the fifth, sixth, or octave for the beginning of the main body of the song. A jump up of a fifth is most frequent in the Comanche songs and longer intervals are common in the melodies which our informants said came from the Apache.

The tempi are always quite fast—between a metronome speed of 130 for a quarter-note and 140 for the most part, though some are slower and a few are as fast as 150.

The number of different phrases and the lengths of these phrases show further similarities in most of these songs. There are usually from three to five different phrases in a song and the lengths in general run around nine, ten, or eleven beats with a tendency to lengthen out in final phrases where coda-like vocable formulae on the tonic are often added.

Phrase compasses are similarly variable in all these songs. Phrases may be one note in compass, two, three, and on up to an octave. There is a unique example of a phrase extending in range to the fifth beyond the octave. The fifth is by far the most frequent phrase compass but there is a liberal use of octaves, sevenths, and sixths; many songs lean heavily on thirds.

An unusual feature in a number of these songs is that they are constructed on a scale of a "broken triad." Thus the scales of songs if transposed to the key of C would all be either C-E-G or C-E-flat-G, the major or minor triad. It is no accident when it is found in approximately a third of the examples.

The melodic line shows a general similarity in all the songs considered. After the introduction it begins high and moves down to a base note which has a strong feeling of the tonic.

The melodic movement is active with strong accents and pulsations. The movement downward tends to be smoother, with shorter jumps, then the movement upward. There is much more movement downward in steps of seconds or, particularly, thirds. Intervals of fifths, sixths, or octaves occur in jumps upward between phrases before the downward movement begins again.

The tabulation of the final notes in each phrase of a melody gives the analyst a pattern which reveals much of the inner structure of the song. Thus a numerical series such as 8, 5, 3, 1 indicates that in each of the four phrases of the melody the final note is on a successively lower pitch, moving from the eighth to the tonic or base note.

In the Comanche examples the pattern of "finals" varies from a formula indicating gradual descent such as 10, 8, 8, 8, 5, 3, 1 to a pattern which shows that all phrases, from the first to the last, end on the tonic: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. The latter type, which is frequently associated with songs of limited range, indicates a "collapsing" type of melodic descent.

The prevalence of the collapsing type of phrase pattern is clear for the Comanche melodies. Only one song reserves the tonic for the last phrase. Moreover, the fact that this pattern appears in songs of wider range indicates that this feature may often be independent of considerations of compass. There is virtually no transposition of phrases in these songs nor is there a great deal of variation.

Another similarity throughout these songs is in the syllabification. There is one syllable to a note for the most part, though in perhaps half the songs an occasional "yo" or "ne" or "na" may be sung on two eighth notes, almost always on a descending third.

And lastly, the notes themselves are almost always either eighth or quarter notes. This feature does much to give all of these songs a feeling of regularity even though there is syncopation and considerable variation in measure lengths. The absence of dotted notes and notes held for two or more beats is striking to any one who is accustomed to Western European musical tradition.

The overall effect of these similarities is to create in the listener an impression of a unity in style for these Comanche songs in spite of the differences given above. Whether this "style" may be observed in the peyote songs of other groups will be the subject of the following pages.

David P. McAllester, Peyote Music, 1949