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- Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 4/59 -


as they can imagine. In their Temples, they have his image euile favouredly carved, and then painted, and adorned with chaines, copper, and beades; and couered with a skin, in such manner as the deformity may well suit with such a God. By him is commonly the sepulcher of their Kings.

STRACHEY (Written, 1611-12).

But their chief god they worship is no other, indeed, then the divell, whome they make presentments of, and shadow under the forme of an idoll, which they entitle Okeus, and whome they worship as the Romans did their hurtful god Vejovis, more for feare of harme then for hope of any good; they saie they have conference with him, and fashion themselves in their disguisments as neere to his shape as they can imagyn. In every territory of a weroance is a temple and a priest, peradventure two or thrie; yet happie doth that weroance accompt himself who can detayne with him a Quiyough- quisock, of the best, grave, lucky, well instructed in their misteryes, and beloved of their god; and such a one is noe lesse honoured then was Dianae's priest at Ephesus, for whome they have their more private temples, with oratories and chauneells therein, according as is the dignity and reverence of the Quiyough-quisock, which the weroance wilbe at charge to build upon purpose, sometyme twenty foote broad and a hundred in length, fashioned arbour wyse after their buylding, having comonly the dore opening into the east, and at the west end a spence or chauncell from the body of the temple, with hollow wyndings and pillers, whereon stand divers black imagies, fashioned to the shoulders, with their faces looking down the church, and where within their weroances, upon a kind of biere of reedes, lye buryed; and under them, apart, in a vault low in the ground (as a more secrett thing), vailed with a matt, sitts their Okeus, an image ill-favouredly carved, all black dressed, with chaynes of perle, the presentment and figure of that god (say the priests unto the laity, and who religiously believe what the priests saie) which doth them all the harme they suffer, be yt in their bodies or goods, within doores or abroad; and true yt is many of them are divers tymes (especyally offendors) shrewdly scratched as they walke alone in the woods, yt may well be by the subtyle spirit, the malitious enemy to mankind, whome, therefore, to pacefie and worke to doe them good (at least no harme) the priests tell them they must do these and these sacrifices unto [them] of these and these things, and thus and thus often, by which meanes not only their owne children, but straungers, are sometimes sacrificed unto him: whilst the great god (the priests tell them) who governes all the world, and makes the sun to shine, creating the moone and stars his companyons, great powers, and which dwell with him, and by whose virtues and influences the under earth is tempered, and brings forth her fruiets according to her seasons, they calling Ahone; the good and peaceable god requires no such dutyes, nor needes be sacrificed unto, for he intendeth all good unto them, and will doe noe harme, only the displeased Okeus, looking into all men's accions, and examining the same according to the severe scale of justice, punisheth them with sicknesse, beats them, and strikes their ripe corn with blastings, stormes, and thunder clapps, stirrs up warre, and makes their women falce unto them. Such is the misery and thraldome under which Sathan hath bound these wretched miscreants.

I began by calling Strachey a plagiary. The reader will now observe that he gives far more than he takes. For example, his account of the temples is much more full than that of Smith, and he adds to Smith's version the character and being of Ahone, as what "the priests tell them". I submit, therefore, that Strachey's additions, if valid for temples, are not discredited for Ahone, merely because they are inserted in the framework of Smith. As far as I understand the matter, Smith's Map of Virginia (1612) is an amended copy, with additions, by Smith or another writer of that description, which he sent home to the Council of Virginia, in November, 1608.[1] To the book of 1612 was added a portion of "Relations" by different hands, edited by W. S., namely, Dr. Symonds. Strachey's editor, in 1849, regarded W. S. as Strachey, and supposed that Strachey was the real author of Smith's Map of Virginia, so that, in his Historie of Travaile, Strachey merely took back his own. He did not take back his own; he made use of Smith's MS., not yet published, if Mr. Arber and I rightly date Strachey's MS. at 1610-15, or 1611-12. Why Strachey acted thus it is possible to conjecture. As a scholar well acquainted with Virginia, and as Secretary for the Colony, he would have access to Smith's MS. of 1608 among the papers of the Council, before its publication. Smith professes himself "no scholer".[2] On the other hand, Strachey likes to show off his Latin and Greek. He has a curious, if inaccurate, knowledge of esoteric Greek and Roman religious antiquities, and in writing of religion aims at a comparative method. Strachey, however, took the trouble to copy bits of Smith into his own larger work, which he never gave to the printers.

[1] Arber, p. 444.

[2] Arber, p. 442.

Now as to Ahone. It suits my argument to suppose that Strachey's account is no less genuine than his description of the temples (illustrated by a picture by John White, who had been in Virginia in 1589), and the account of the Great Hare of American mythology.[1] This view of a Virginian Creator, "our chief god" "who takes upon him this shape of a hare," was got, says Strachey, "last year, 1610," from a brother of the Potomac King, by a boy named Spilman, who says that Smith "sold" him to Powhattan.[2] In his own brief narrative Spelman (or Spilman) says nothing about the Cosmogonic Legend of the Great Hare. The story came up when Captain Argoll was telling Powhattan's brother the account of creation in Genesis (1610).

[1] Strachey, p. 98-100.

[2] "Spilman's Narrative," Arber, cx.-cxiv.

Now Strachey's Great Hare is accepted by mythologists, while Ahone is regarded with suspicion. Ahone does not happen to suit anthropological ideas, the Hare suits them rather better. Moreover, and more important, there is abundant corroborative evidence for Oke and for the Hare, Michabo, who, says Dr. Brinton, "was originally the highest divinity recognised by them, powerful and beneficent beyond all others, maker of the heavens and the world," just like Ahone, in fact. And Dr. Brinton instructs us that Michabo originally meant not Great Hare, but "the spirit of light".[1] Thus, originally, the Red Men adored "The Spirit of Light, maker of the heavens and the world". Strachey claims no more than this for Ahone. Now, of course, Dr. Brinton may be right. But I have already expressed my extreme distrust of the philological processes by which he extracts "The Great Light; spirit of light," from Michabo, "beyond a doubt!" In my poor opinion, whatever claims Michabo may have as an unique creator of earth and heaven--"God is Light,"--he owes his mythical aspect as a Hare to something other than an unconscious pun. In any case, according to Dr. Brinton, Michabo, regarded as a creator, is equivalent to Strachey's Ahone. This amount of corroboration, valeat quantum, I may claim, from the Potomac Indians, for the belief in Ahone on the James River. Dr. Brinton is notoriously not a believer in American "monotheism".[2]

[1] Myths of the New World, p. 178.

[2] Myths of the New World, p. 53.

The opponents of the authenticity of Ahone, however, will certainly argue: "For Oke, or Oki, as a redoubted being or spirit, or general name for such personages, we have plentiful evidence, corroborating that of Smith. But what evidence as to Ahone corroborates that of Strachey?" I must confess that I have no explicit corroborative evidence for Ahone, but then I have no accessible library of early books on Virginia. Now it is clear that if I found and produced evidence for Ahone as late as 1625, I would be met at once with the retort that, between 1610 and 1625, Christian ideas had contaminated the native beliefs. Thus if I find Ahone, or a deity of like attributes, after a very early date, he is of no use for my purpose. Nor do I much expect to find him. But do we find Winslow's Massachusetts God, Kiehtan, named AFTER 1622 ("I only ask for information"), and if we don't, does that prevent Mr. Tylor from citing Kiehtan, with apparent reliance on the evidence?[1]

[1] Primitive Culture, ii. p. 342.

Again, Ahone, though primal and creative, is, by Strachey's account, a sleeping partner. He has no sacrifice, and no temple or idol is recorded. Therefore the belief in Ahone could only be discovered as a result of inquiry, whereas figures of Oke or Okeus, and his services, were common and conspicuous.[1] As to Oke, I cannot quite understand Mr. Tylor's attitude. Summarising Lafitau, a late writer of 1724, Mr. Tylor writes: "The whole class of spirits or demons, known to the Caribs by the name of cemi, in Algonkin as manitu, in Huron as oki, Lafitau now spells with capital letters, and converts them each into a supreme being".[2] Yet in Primitive Culture, ii., 342, 1891, Mr. Tylor had cited Smith's Okee (with a capital letter) as the "chief god" of the Virginians in 1612. How can Lafitau be said to have elevated oki into Oki, and so to have made a god out of "a class of spirits or demons," in 1724, when Mr. Tylor had already cited Smith's Okee, with a capital letter and as a "chief god," in 1612? Smith, rebuked for the same by Mr. Tylor, had even identified Okee with the devil. Lafitau certainly did not begin this erroneous view of Oki as a "chief god" among the Virginians. If I cannot to-day produce corroboration for a god named Ahone, I can at least show that, from the north of New England to the south of Virginia, there is early evidence, cited by Mr. Tylor, for a belief in a primal creative being, closely analogous to Ahone. And this evidence, I think, distinctly proves that such a being as Ahone was within the capacity of the Indians in these latitudes. Mr. Tylor must have thought in 1891 that the natives were competent to a belief in a supreme deity, for he said, "Another famous native American name for the supreme deity is Oki".[3] In the essay of 1892, however, Oki does not appear to exist as a god's name till 1724. We may now, for earlier evidence, turn to Master Thomas Heriot, "that learned mathematician" "who spoke the Indian language," and was with the company which abandoned Virginia on 18th June, 1586. They ranged 130 miles north and 130 miles north-west of Roanoke Island, which brings them into the neighbourhood of Smith's and Strachey's country. Heriot writes as to the native creeds: "They believe that there are many gods which they call Mantoac, but of different sorts


Myth, Ritual, and Religion, Vol. 1 - 4/59

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