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Weeng The Spirit Of Sleep

Source: The Myth Of Hiawatha

Sleep is personified by the Odjibwas under the name of Weeng.[88] The
power of the Indian Morpheus is executed by a peculiar class of
gnome-like beings, called Weengs. These subordinate creations,
although invisible to the human eye, are each armed with a tiny
war-club, or puggamaugun, with which they nimbly climb up the forehead,
and knock the drowsy person on the head; on which sleepiness is
immediately produced. If the first blow is insufficient, another is
given, until the eyelids close, and a sound sleep is produced. It is
the constant duty of these little agents to put every one to sleep whom
they encounter--men, women, and children. And they are found secreted
around the bed, or on small protuberances of the bark of the Indian
lodges. They hide themselves in the Gushkeepitau-gun, or smoking pouch
of the hunter, and when he sits down to light his pipe in the woods,
are ready to fly out and exert their sleep-compelling power. If they
succeed, the game is suffered to pass, and the hunter obliged to return
to his lodge without a reward.

In general, however, they are represented to possess friendly
dispositions, seeking constantly to restore vigor and elasticity to the
exhausted body. But being without judgment, their power is sometimes
exerted at the hazard of reputation, or even life. Sleep may be induced
in a person carelessly floating in his canoe, above a fall; or in a war
party, on the borders of an enemy's country; or in a female, without
the protection of the lodge circle. Although their peculiar season of
action is in the night, they are also alert during the day.

While the forms of these gnomes are believed to be those of ininees,
little or fairy men, the figure of Weeng himself is unknown, and it is
not certain that he has ever been seen. Most of what is known on this
subject, is derived from Iagoo, who related, that going out one day
with his dogs to hunt, he passed through a wide range of thicket, where
he lost his dogs. He became much alarmed, for they were faithful
animals, and he was greatly attached to them. He called out, and made
every exertion to recover them in vain. At length he came to a spot
where he found them asleep, having incautiously ran near the residence
of Weeng. After great exertions he aroused them, but not without having
felt the power of somnolency himself. As he cast his eyes up from the
place where the dogs were lying, he saw the Spirit of Sleep sitting
upon the branch of a tree. He was in the shape of a giant insect, or
monetos, with many wings from his back, which made a low deep
murmuring sound, like distant falling water. But Iagoo himself, being a
very great liar and braggart, but little credit was given to his

Weeng is not only the dispenser of sleep, but, it seems, he is also the
author of dulness, which renders the word susceptible of an ironical
use. If an orator fails, he is said to be struck by Weeng. If a warrior
lingers, he has ventured too near the sleepy god. If children begin
to nod or yawn, the Indian mother looks up smilingly, and says, "They
have been struck by Weeng," and puts them to bed.

[88] This word has the sound of g hard, with a peculiarity as
if followed by k.

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