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III. On the belief of a God who regulates the affairs of men, and of a future state of rewards and punishments, all religion is founded; and from these principles, all religious rites are ultimately derived. But there is an obvious distinction to be made, between the tradition of doctrines, and the tradition of those outward observances with which the doctrines were originally connected. The tradition of doctrines is oral; the tra. dition of ceremonies is ocular. The relation of the most simple fact, as it passes from mouth to inouth, is discoloured and distorted. Atier a few removals from its source, it becomes so altered as hardly to have any resemblance to its first form. But it is not so with regard to actions. These are retained by the sight, the most faithful and accurate of our sense ;-they are imitated;—the imi. tation becomes habitual.--and habits, when once formed, are with difficulty eradicated. No fact is more certain, or falls more within the experience of every attentive observer of our nature, than that of customs prevailing among nations, for which they are totally unable to account. Even among individuals, habits exist, long arter the causes have ceased, to which they owed their origin. The child imitates the actions of the parent, without inquiring, in all cases into the motives which lead to the observance; and even if inforıned of the motives, he may either misconceive or forget them. Here then is the difference between oral and ocular tradition. The doctrine may be lost in the current of ages, while the ceremony is transmitted unim. paired.
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem
HoR. A. P. 180.*
In endeavouring, therefore, to trace the affinities which a corrupt religion may bear to the pure, if we
- That which strikes the eye Lives long upon the mind: The faithful sight Engraves the image with a beam of light.
wish to be successful, we must confine ourselves to its outward observances. This remark applies with peculiar force to the religion of the Indian tribes. They have never possessed the knowledge of letters, and all their religious doctrines have been trusted to the uncertain conveyance of oral tradition. The wild and roving life of the Indian, is at variance with the reception of regular instruction; and though the parents may be very careful in relating their traditions to their children, they must, of necessity, be confused and imperfect.
But supposing them to be ever so exact, we have no certainty that the accounts given of them by travellers are correct. The Indians, it has before been observed, are not communicative on religious subjects; and they may take pleasures in bafiling, or misleading, the curiosity of white men, whom they, in general, look upon with no friendly eye. And with regard to oral traditions, there is greater room, also, for the imagioation of the traveller to draw wrong conclusions, and to be influenced in his report by the power of a preconceived system. On the other hand, with regard to religious ceremonies, he has only to give a faithful relation of what be sees; and even if the force of some favourite theory, leads him to mingle his comments with his de. scription, a judicious reader is able to separate the one from the other. The application of these principles will save much labour, and give certainty to a subject, which has hitherto been considered as affording nothing but conjecture. We will proceed, then, to consider the external part of the religion of the Indians, and we shall soon see, not only that there is a great uniformity among the rites of nations who are radically different, but, if I am not mistaken, that connexion with the patriarchal religion which might naturally be supposed
See Heckewelder, Hist Acc. p. 99, who mentions the great pains which the Indians také to instil good principles into the minds of theic children.
to exist, if the one be considered as a corruption of the other.
All who bave been conversant with the worship of the American tribes, unite in the assertion, ibat they offer sacrifices and oblations, both to the Great Spirit, and to the subordinate or intermediate Divinities.
To all the inferior deities, whether good or malevolent, the Hurons, the Iroquois, and the Algonquins, make various kinds of offerings. “To propitiate the God of the Waters," says Charlevoix, “they cast into the streamps and lakes, tobacco, and birds which they have put to death. In honour of the sun, and also of inferior spirits, they consume in the fire a part of every thing they use, as an acknowledgment of the power from which they have derived these possessions. On some occasions, they have been observed to make libations, invoking at the same time, in a mysterious manner, the object of their worship. These invocations they have never explained; whether it be, that they have in fact no meaning, or that the words have been transmitted by tradition, unaccompanied by their signification, or that the Indians themselves are unwilling to reveal the secret. Strings of wampum, tobacco, ears of corn, the skins, and often the whole carcases of animals, are seen along difficult or dangerous roads, on rocks, and on the shores of rapids, as so many offerings made to the presiding spirit of the place. In these cases, dogs are the most common victims; and are of ten suspended alive upon trees by the hinder feet, where they are left to die in a state of madness."*
What Charlevoix thus affirms, with regard to the Hurons, Iroquois, and Algonquins, is mentioned by Mackenzie, as practised ainong the Knisteneaux. “There are stated periods," says he, “such as the spring and antumn, when they engage in very long and solemn ceremonies. On these occasions, dogs are offered as sacrifices : and those which are-fat and
* Charlevoix, Journal, p. 347-8;
milk-white are preferred. They also make large offerings of their property, whatever it may be. The scene of these ceremonies, is in an open enclosure, on the bank of a river or lake, and in the inost conspicuous situation, in order that such as are passing along, or travelling, may be induced to make their offerings. There is also a particular custom among them, that on these occasions, if any of the tribe, or even a stranger, should be passing by, and be in real want of any thing that is displayed as an offering, he has a right to take it, so that he replaces it with soine article he can spare, though it be of tar inferior value; but to take or touch any thing wantonly is considered as a sacrilegious act, and bighly insulting to the great Master of life, who is the sacred object of their devotion.” At the feasts made by their chiefs, be further observes, “a small quantity of meat or drink is sacrificed before they begin to eat, by throwing it into the fire, or on the
A similar account is given by Adair of the practice among the Creeks, Katábahs, Čberokees, Chocktaws, and other southern Indians. “The Indian women," gays he, “always throw a small piece of the fattest of the meat into the fire, when they are eating, and frequently before they begin to eat. They pretend to draw omens from it, and firmly believe that it is the mean of obtaining temporal blessings, and averting temporal evils. The men, both in their summer and winter hunt, sacrifice in the woods a large fat piece of the first buck they kill, and frequently ihe whole carcass. This they offer up, either as a thanksgiving for the recovery of health, and for their former success in hunting, or that the Divine care and goodness may still be continued to them."of
The song of the Lenapé warriors, as they go out to
* Gen. Hist, of Fur Trade, 4to. p. c. ci.cii. civ. 8vo. vol. i. p. 123.4. 128 + Adair, Hist. of North American Indians, p. 116, 117,
meet their enemy, concludes with the promise of a vic. tim if they return in safety.
O! Thou Great Spirit above!
Accordingly, “after a successful war,” says Heckewelder, “they never fail to offer up a sacrifice to the great Being, to return him thanks for having given them courage and strength to destroy or conquer their enemies."*
Loskiel, who has given a minute account of the sacrifices offered by the Lenapé or Delawares, and who is said, by Heckewelder, to have almost exhausted the subjert, affirms that they are offered upon all occasions, the most trivial, as well as the most impora tant. “They sacrifice to a hare,” says he, “because, according to report, the first ancestor of the Indian tribes bad that name.”+ To Indian corn, they sacri. fice bear's flesh, but to deer and bears Indian.corn; to the fishes, small pieces of bread in the shape of fishes; but they positively deny, that they pay any adoration to these subordinate good spirits, and affirm, that they only worship the true God, through them: “For God," say they,“ does not require men to pay offerings or adoration immediately to him. He has, therefore, made known bis will in dreams, notifying to them, what beings they have to consider as Marittocs, and what offerings to make to them,"I_When a boy
:'* Heckewelder, Hist. Acc. of Ind. p. 204, 20%.
+ This may account for the following statement by Charlevoix: “ Presa que toutes les Nations Algonquines ont donné le nom de grand Lievre an premier Esprit Quelques ans l'appellent Michabou ; d'autres Alanas .can.” Journal, p. 344.
Joskiel, p. 40.