The superstitions and religious extravaganzas of ancient times have almost disappeared. Lingering fancies as to witches and witchcraft crop out from time to time among these Indians, but in no more unreasonable forms than among their neighbors. The church organizations are in a languishing condition. While the people as a whole are Christian in theory
The fundamental religious concept of the Indian is the belief in the existence of magic power in animate and inanimate objects. This gave rise to their idea that there are men who possess supernatural power. This magic power is called Man’una (Earth-maker)1 by the Winnebagoes, and corresponds to the Gitchi Manito of the Central Algonquian
Ethnological information regarding the Cusabo is scanty and unsatisfactory, the interest of the colonists having been quickly attracted to those great tribes lying inland which they called “nations.” Such material as is to be had must be interpreted in the light of the fuller information to be gathered from larger southern tribes like the Creeks,
The following synopsis, referring by figures to the hieroglyphic devices, exhibits the words of the chants and incantations in their simplest forms, together with the key-sign or ideographic terms of pictorial notation. Synopsis of Wabeno Songs. Plate 52 (see below) It is manifest from this examination, that there is no clue given to the words
Pictorial Signs used in the Society of the Wabeno; A Description of the Character and Objects of this Institution; Etymology of the term; The Season favorable for this, and other Ceremonial observances; Vicissitudes of Indian Life; Fallacy of the Indian Theology; Interpretation of the Pictorial Mnemonic Signs of the Wabeno, with the text of the Nuga-moon-un; Synoptical Table, showing the Ideographic value of the Symbols.
Where such a race can be supposed to have had their origin, history may vainly inquire. It probably broke off from one of the primary stocks of the human race, before history had dipped her pen in ink, or lifted her graver on stone
Medawin: The Meda, or Meda-wininee, is in all respects a (priestly) magician. He is distinct from the Muskekewininee, or medical practitioner. They assemble, not to teach the art of healing, but the art of supplicating spirits. They do not rely on physical, but supernatural power.
Kekeenowin: This class of signs is devoted to the forest priesthood. There are two institutions among the North American Indians, which will be found to pervade the whole body of the tribes from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean, however the terms by which they are denoted differ, or the minor rites of the institutions themselves may be modified. They are called in the language from which we adopt most of the aboriginal terms in this treatise, the Medawin, and the Jeesukawin. In other terms, they are the art of medical magic, and of prophecy. Both are very ancient in their origin, and very generally diffused, practiced and believed in. It is impossible duly to consider the pictorial art as existing among them, without some prior notice of these leading and characteristic institutions. For, a very large proportion of both the simple representative and symbolic signs they employ, derive their force and significancy from the relation they bear to these institutions.
The Sacred Jeesukawin: The art of prophecy, or the Jeesukawin, is practiced alone, by distinct and solitary individuals, who have no associates; who at least do not exist, and are never known as societies. Prophets start up at long intervals, and far apart, among the Indian tribes. They profess to be under supernatural power, and to be filled with a divine afflatus. It is, however, an art resembling that of the Medáwin, and founded on a similar principle of reliance, differing chiefly in the object sought. The meta seeks to propitiate events; the jossakeed aims to predict them. Both appeal to spirits for their power. Both exhibit material substances, as stuffed birds, bones, &c., as objects by or through which the secret energy is to be exercised. The general modes of operation are similar, but vary. The drum is used in both, but the songs and incantations differ. The rattle is confined to the ceremonies of the meda and the wabeno. The jossakeed addresses himself exclusively to the Great Spirit. His office, and his mode of address, are regarded with greater solemnity and awe. His choruses are peculiar, and deemed by the people to carry an air of higher reverence and devotion.
The sacred beliefs of these Indians are largely formulated and expressed in sayings and narratives having some resemblance to the legends of European peoples. There are available large collections of these tales and myths from the Blackfoot, Crow, Nez Perce, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Arapaho, Arikara, Pawnee, Omaha, Northern Shoshoni, and less complete series from the