Sacred Texts  Native American  Iroquois  Index  Previous  Next 


"'Now another message for you to tell your people.

"'It is not right for you to have so many dances 4 and dance songs.

"'A man calls a dance in honor of some totem animal from which he desires favor or power. This is very wrong, for you do not know what injury it may work upon other people.

p. 40

"'Tell your people that these things must cease. Tell them to repent and cease.'"

So they said and he said. Eniaiehuk.

"'Now this shall be the way: They who belong to these totem animal societies 1 must throw tobacco and disband.' So they said." "Now in those days when the head men heard this message they said at once, in anger, 'We disband,' and they said this without holding a ceremony as the messenger had directed." 2



39:4 The Seneca had thirty-three dances, ten of which were acquired from other tribes. See p. 81.

40:1 Animal Societies and Totems. The Seneca firmly believe that by using the proper formula the favor of various animals can be purchased. The animal petitioned it is believed will make the person successful in any pursuit in which itself is proficient. The charm-animal was sometimes revealed in a dream, sometimes by a diviner of mysteries and was often sought directly. A warrior wishing to become a successful fisherman, for instance, might do any one of three things. He might seek for a dream that would show him what animal would make him an expert fisher, he might consult a "clairvoyant" or he might go directly to a stream of water and selecting some animal petition its favor.

The patron of the fisheries was the otter and there is a special society of those who have the otter for a "friend." The Society of Otters preserves the rites of invocation and the method of propitiation and also the method of healing afflicted members.

Other animals which are thought to be "great medicine" are the eagle, the bear, the buffalo and the mythical nia?gwahe: or mammoth bear that was alternately a man and a beast. To be ungrateful to these givers of luck is a sin that arouses the ire of the animal who will punish the offender by inflicting him with some strange sickness. The offense may be one of neglect or altogether unintentional and unknown. It is then the duty of the society to appease the offended animal by performing the rites on a grand scale that the individual has failed to do in the ordinary way. The ordinary individual ceremony consisted simply of going to the bank of some clear stream, in the case of the Otters for instance, and after smoking sacred tobacco, casting the pulverized tobacco into the water at intervals during a thanksgiving and praise chant. Then will the otters know that their human brothers are not ungrateful for the fortune they are receiving.

There were four societies, having as their genii the spirits of the bear, the birds (eagle), the buffalo and the otter, respectively, and taking their names from their guardian animal (Secret Medicine Societies of the Seneca, p. 113).

40:2 This was done at the suggestion of Cornplanter who is accused of endeavoring to upset the plans and prophecies of Handsome Lake in many sly ways.

Next: Section 30