This society seems rather loosely organized among the Seneca, but its chief members act as water doctors. They endeavor to cure certain diseases by spraying and sprinkling water on the patients. Two Husk-faces are admitted with the False Faces in their midwinter long-house ceremony, and act as door-openers. As a company they also have a ceremony in which the Grandfather's Dance is featured. The grandfather is attired in rags, and, holding a cane stationary, dances in a circle about it, using the cane as a pivot. The company dance is one in which all the members participate. Non-members may partake of the medicine influence of the ceremony by joining in the dance at the end of the line when the ceremony is performed in the council house at the midwinter festival.
That the foregoing so-called societies are in fact organizations, and that their rites are not merely open ceremonies in which anyone may engage, is apparent from the following considerations:
1 The organizations have permanent officers for the various parts of their rites.
2 They have executive officers.
3 They have certain objects and stand for specific purposes.
4 They have stable and unchangeable rituals.
5 Those who have not undergone some form of an initiatory rite are not allowed to enter into their ceremonies.
6 They have legends by which the origin and objects of the rites are explained.
7 It is not permissible to recite the rituals or to chant any of the songs outside of the lodge to anyone who has not been inducted into the society.
Some of the societies have other features, such as stated meetings and officers' reports, but the foregoing, characteristics apply to all the Seneca secret or semisecret ceremonies and entitle them to the name of societies.
When an Indian is afflicted with some disorder which can not be identified by the native herb doctors, the relatives of the patient consult a clairvoyant, who names the ceremony, one of those above described, believed to be efficacious in treating the ailment. Some times several ceremonies are necessary, and as a final resort a witchdoctor is called upon.
As to the influence of these organizations on the people, while it must be confessed that they foster some "superstitions" inconsistent with the modern folk-ways of civilized society, they serve more than any other means to conserve the national life of the people. The strongest body of Iroquois in New York today are the two bands or divisions of the Seneca, and the Seneca have the largest number of "pagans." They are perhaps likewise the most patriotic, and struggle with greater energy to retain their tribal organization and national identity.
The customs of these adherents of the old Iroquois religion react on and influence the entire body of the people, "pagans" and Christians alike.