Weeng The Spirit Of Sleep

: 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
he 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.