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on natural remedies. Dreams, beating of the drum, songs, magic feasts and dances, and howling to frighten the female demon from his patient were his ordinary methods of cure. The prophet, or diviner, had various means of reading the secrets of futurity, such as the flight of birds, and the movements of water and fire. There was a peculiar practice of divination very general in the Algonquin family of tribes, among some of whom it still subsists. A small, conical lodge was made by planting poles in a circle, lashing the tops together at the height of about seven feet from the ground, and closely covering them with hides. The prophet crawled in, and closed the aperture after him. He then beat his drum and sang his magic songs to summon the spirits, whose weak, shrill voices were soon heard, mingled with his lugubrious chanting; while at intervals the juggler paused to interpret their communications to the attentive crowd seated on the ground without. During the whole scene, the lodge swayed to and fro with a violence which has astonished many a civilized beholder, and which some of the Jesuits explain by the ready solution of a genuine diabolic intervention.1 The sorcerers, medicine-men, and diviners did not usually exercise the function of priests. Each man 1 This practice was first observed by Champlain. (See " Pioneers of France in the New World," 351.) From his time to the present, numerous writers have remarked upon it. Le Jeune, in tlu Relation of 1637, treats it at some length. The lodge was sometimes of a cylindrical, instead of a conical form.
sacrificed for himself to the powers he wished to propitiate, whether his guardian spirit, the spirits of animals, or the other beings of his belief. The most common offering was tobacco, thrown into the fire or water; scraps of meat were sometimes burned to the manitous; and, on a few rare occasions of public solemnity, a white dog, the mystic animal of many tribes, was tied to the end of an upright pole, as a sacrifice to some superior spirit, or to the sun, with which the superior spirits were constantly confounded by the primitive Indian. In recent times, when Judaism and Christianity have modified his religious ideas, it has been, and still is, the practice to sacrifice dogs to the Great Spirit. On these public occasions, the sacrificial function is discharged by chiefs, or by warriors appointed for the purpose.1 Among the Hurons and Iroquois, and indeed all the stationary tribes, there was an incredible number 1 Many of the Indian feasts were feasts of sacrifice, — sometimes to the guardian spirit of the host, sometimes to an animal of which he has dreamed, sometimes to a local or other spirit. The food was first offered in a loud voice to the being to be propitiated, after which the guests proceeded to devour it for him. This unique method of sacrifice was practised at war-feasts and similar solemnities. For an excellent account of Indian religious feasts, see 1'errot, chap. v. One of the most remarkable of Indian sacrifices was that practised by the Hurons in the case of a person drowned or frozen to death. The flesh of the deceased was cut off, and thrown into a fire made for the purpose, as an offering of propitiation to the spirits of the air or water. What remained of the body was then buried near the fire. Br£beuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 108. The tribes of Virginia, as described by Beverly and others, not only had priests who offered sacrifice, but idols and houses of worship.
of mystic ceremonies, extravagant, puerile, and often disgusting, designed for the cure of the sick or for the general weal of the community. Most of their observances seem originally to have been dictated by dreams, and transmitted as a sacred heritage from generation to generation. They consisted in an endless variety of dances, masqueradings, and nondescript orgies; and a scrupulous adherence to all the traditional forms was held to be of the last moment, as the slightest failure in this respect might entail serious calamities. If children were seen in their play imitating any of these mysteries, they were grimly rebuked and punished. In many tribes secret magical societies existed, and still exist, into which members are initiated with peculiar ceremonies. These associations are greatly respected and feared. They have charms for love, war, and private revenge, and exert a great, and often a very mischievous influence. The societies of the Metai and the Wabeno, among the Northern Algonquins, are conspicuous examples; while other societies of similar character have, for a century, been known to exist among the Dahcotah.1 A notice of the superstitious ideas of the Indians would be imperfect without a reference to the traditionary tales through which these ideas are handed down from father to son. Some of these tales can be
i The Friendly Society of the Spirit, of which the initiatory ceremonies were seen and described by Carver (Travels, 2i I) ]itv . orves to this day its existence and its rites. TRADITIONARY TALES. 85 traced back to the period of the earliest intercourse with Europeans. One at least of those recorded by the first missionaries, on the Lower St. Lawrence, is utill current among the tribes of the Upper Lakes. Many of them are curious combinations of beliefs seriously entertained with strokes intended for humor and drollery, which never fail to awaken peals of laughter in the lodge-circle. Giants, dwarfs, cannibals, spirits, beasts, birds, and anomalous monsters, transformations, tricks, and sorcery form the staple of the story. Some of the Iroquois tales embody conceptions which, however preposterous, are of a bold and striking character; but those of the Algonquins are, to an incredible degree, flimsy, silly, and meaningless; nor are those of the Dahcotah tribes much better. In respect to this wigwam lore, there is a curious superstition of very wide prevalence. The tales must not be told in summer; since at that season, when all Nature is full of life, the spirits are awake, and, hearing what is said of them, may take offence; whereas in winter they are fast sealed up in snow and ice, and no longer capable of listening.1 1 The prevalence of this fancy among the Algonquins in the remote parts of Canada is well established. The writer found it also among the extreme western bands of the Dahcotah. He tried, in the month of July, to persuade an old chief, a noted story-teller, to tell him some of the tales; but, though abundantly loquacious in respect to his own adventures, and even his dreams, the Indian obstinately refused, saying that winter was the time for the tales, and that it was bad to tell them in summer. Mr. Schoolcraft has published a collection of Algonquin tales, under the title of Algic Researches. Most of them were translated It is obvious that the Indian mind has never seriously occupied itself with any of the higher themes of thought. The beings of its belief are not impersonations of the forces of Nature, the courses of human destiny, or the movements of human intellect, will, and passion. In the midst of Nature, the Indian knew nothing of her laws. His perpetual reference of her phenomena to occult agencies forestalled inquiry and precluded inductive reasoning. If the wind blew with violence, it was because the waterlizard, which makes the wind, had crawled out of his pool; if the lightning was sharp and frequent, it was because the young of the thunder-bird were restless in their nest; if a blight fell upon the corn, it was because the Corn Spirit was angry; and if the beavers were shy and difficult to catch, it was because they had taken offence at seeing the bones of one of their race thrown to a dog. Well, and even highly developed, in a few instances, — I allude especially to the Iroquois, — with respect to certain points of material by his wife, an educated Ojibwa half-breed. This book is perhaps the best of Mr. Schoolcraft's works, though its value is much impaired by the want of a literal rendering, and the introduction of decorations which savor more of a popular monthly magazine than of an Indian wigwam. Mrs. Eastman's interesting Legends of the Sioux (Dahcotah) is not free from the same defect. Other tales are scattered throughout the works of Mr. Schoolcraft and various modern writers. Some are to be found in the works of Lafitau and the other Jesuits. But few of the Iroquois legends have been printed, though a considerable number have been written down. The singular History of the Five Nations, by the old Tuscarora Indian, Cusick, gives the substance of some of them. Others will be found in Clark's History of Onondaga