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North-american Indian Superstitions

( Originally Published Late 1800's )

Being greatly pleased with the extract [on Harwood's edition of the Greek testament] from Mr. Granville Sharp's late "Tract on the Law of Nature, etc.," in pp. 215, 216 of your May magazine, I was induced to procure the book ; in consequence of which I must also beg a place in your next miscellany for the following passages copied from it, containing very curious and striking observations, which will be highly acceptable, unless I am strangely mistaken, to many of your numerous readers. You will at least oblige

Your constant reader,

HUMANUS.

I have been informed by an Englishman who lived many years amongst the Indians in the internal parts of North America, very far to the westward (and who is himself tattooed with all the marks of distinction common with the nations with whom he has had any connections), that he once saw a party of Indians, who had taken some prisoners in war, tattoo a couple of their unfortunate captives with the most curious marks they could devise, and afterwards hang them up upon a tree as a sacrifice to that infernal Being which they worshipped, saying at the same time in their language that they hoped these two fine men (viz., finely tattooed) whom they presented would be acceptable to him; for though the Indians in general acknowledge that there is a God, whom they call the great and good Spirit, yet through the delusions of the Devil, they think it more profitable to worship evil spirits, by way of propitiation, lest they should hurt them.

" Outre l'idée du premier Estre qu'ont les sauvages " (says Father Lafitan, speaking of the American savages), " et qu'ils confondent avec le soleil, ils reconnoissent encore plusieurs Esprits ou Genies d'un Ordre inferieur, que Ies Iroquois nomment Hondatkon-sona, c'est-âdire, Esprits de toutes sortes. Le nombre n'en est point determiné ; leur imagination leur en fait voir dans toutes les choses naturelles, mais encore plus dans celles, dont les ressorts leur sont inconnus, qui sont extraordinaires, et qui ont quelque air de nouveauté. Qoiquils leur donnent en general le nom d'esprit, d'Okki, ou de Manitou, qui leur sont des noms communs avec le premier Estre, ils ne les confondent pourtant jamais avec cet Estre superieur, et ne leur donnent jamais certains noms particuliers, qui le designent lui seul, tel que sont les noms chemün, areskoui. Ces Esprits sont tous des genies subalternes; ils reconnoissent même dans la plûpart un charactere mauvais plus porté a 'faire du mal que du bien; ils ne laissent pas d'en etre les esclaves, el de les honorer plus que le grand Esprit, qui de sa nature est bon ; mais ils les honorent par un effet de cette crainte servile, qui a le plus contribué à maintenir la superstition et .l'idolatrie, que l'ecriture Sainte appelle pour cette raison une Servitude; ainsi ils sont veritablement idolatres."—" Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains," tom. i., pp. 145, 146.



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