Huron

From The SpiritWiki

The Wyandot are an Iroquoian-speaking peoples who emerged in North America. The Wyandot (Huron) are initially believed to have settled around the St. Lawrence Valley, then based around the Northern areas near Lake Ontario. The Wendat were a horticultural people (mainly farmers who supplemented their diets with hunting and fishing, they also gathered berries and vegetables).

Related Terms

Huron > Arendiwane, Gonennoncwal, Oki, Ondinoc

Indigenous Spiritualities

Indigenous Spiritualities > Huron

Notes

The gods of the Wyandots were those of the Iroquois and the Hurons, but they were stamped with a strong Wyandot individuality, and in many respects differed in attributes from those of the nations named. The Wyandot was more Iroquois than he was Huron-Iroquois, and he was but little different from the Seneca. It need surprise no one if it is finally determined that the Wyandots were the oldest of the Iroquoian family. Their mythology makes clear some things left in uncertainty and obscurity by that of other tribes of the family. There are some things in it that are not found in the myths of any of the other tribes. Their myths, too, are clearer cut, more definite, and, I believe, more beautiful in form, than those of other tribes. [1]

"It is certain that no single "Supreme Ruler," or "Creator of the Universe," or of even the world, was believed in or conceived of by the ancient Wyandots. What is here said of God as a Wyandot concept applies with equal force to the Devil of the white man."[2]

The Huron do not worship spiritual beings, even the very important ones who created the Island (North America). They do hold them in high respect, however.[3]

There are important distinctions between Wyandot and Iroquois lore.[4]

"...the Wyandot conceptions are the originals from which were derived the ideas of the Hurons and other Iroquoian peoples." [5]

Before European contact, Huron lore was transmitted word of mouth, by authoritative male elders.[6]

Huron/Wyandot mythologies part of a larger mythological fabric common among North American Indigenous groups. "With regard to the subject-matter, it is safe to say that most of the fundamental or even accessory themes and episodes in the Huron-Wyandot mythology, with the exception of some of their traditions, belong to many other American mythologies as well."[7]

The Iroquoian family has been supposed to possess little imagination, and a mythology deficient in beautiful conceptions. This opinion is the result, I believe, of an imperfect acquaintance with the folk-lore of this strong and bold people. The myths of the woman who fell from heaven, the creation of the great island, the birth of the twins, the enlargement of the great island and the peopling of it with man and animals, the destruction of these and their re-creation, the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, and many others, are but little inferior in their bold originality and beauty of conception to the Greek myths.[8]

Summary of Huron-Wyandot Mythology

Cosmology

"In the beginning—so it is said in the cosmogony—there was nothing but an endless sea under the pristine sky-world. From among the semi-divine people dwelling in the sky an ill- fated woman fell into the lower water regions. Water-fowl rescued her; and human-like sea quadrupeds built an island for her on the Big Turtle's back out of some mud secured from the bottom of the sea. While the island was being enlarged into a continent, the Small Turtle was sent into the sky to create luminaries. She made the sun, the moon, and the stars out of lightning, and assigned them their course along various paths in the solid arched vault of the sky."[9]

Mythological Beings

The mythical beings of the Huron and Wyandot pantheon may conveniently be classified into three groups, namely: (i) The primeval deities and the races of giants and dwarfs of their cosmogonic myths about the origin of the world; (II) the less homogeneous group of sky gods (Hamendiju, the Sun and the Moon, the Thunderers), also belonging to the religions of many foreign tribes, and accounted for in various ways by the Iroquois and Huron; (III) and the multiplicity of good and bad monsters-the uki-said to dwell everywhere and mingle with the Indian folks for their benefit or detriment.[10]

Primeval Deities

Superhumans in the Sky-world before creation of "the Island" (North America) on ''Big Turtle's back''.

The Chief Above the Sky

The first name in Wyandot mythology is Hooh-mah'-yoohh-wah"- neh'. It is very difficult (if, indeed, it is not quite impossible) to make, at this time, an accurate translation of this name. The best renderings are "Our Big Chief up there," or "Our Big Chief Above," or "He is our Big Chief that lives above the sky." But all these renderings may be more nearly the ideas of what he is than correct translations of his name. H'oh-mah'-yohh-wah"neh' ruled the world above the sky, and was the father of the Woman who fell from Heaven.[11]

A traditional, patriarchal god? Hamendiju (in Wyandot), or Hawenniyu (in Iroquois), is the chief deity of the modern Huron and Iroquois. His name may be translated literally "His-voice-is big or powerful," and it may be interpreted "He is a great chief." There seems to be little doubt that this is a name coined by the natives for the God of the white man; although some of the present-day informants readily accept that "the Great Spirit," Hamendiju, is one of their aboriginal deities.' In fact, the name of Hamendiju or Hawenniyu is, so far as we are aware, unknown in the narrations of earliest missionaries and explorers. When they mention the highest or most popular Huron or Iroquois divinity, their terms refer, in most cases quite evidently, to the Good One, as described in the cosmogonic myths, or to the Sun and to Areskwi.[12]

"This God and Goddess live like themselves, but with- out form, make feasts as they do, are lustful as they; in short, they imagine them exactly like themselves. And still, though they make them human and corporal, they seem nevertheless to attribute to them certain immensity in all places."[13]

He did not conform to our idea of what the Wyandot is supposed to understand or wish to express by the term "Great Spirit." He ruled only as the " Head Chief." He had a family; and when any member of it was sick he called the medicine man, as we poorly translate the term. In fact, aside from his sup- posed magical powers, he was there in that land only what a mighty chief is hero in this world. And I have been able to discover little evidence that he ever interested himself in the affairs of this lower world or its people. I have found none at all that he exercised any power or influence whatever upon the souls of people after their death and departure from this world. [14]

This chief was, in a sense, the progenitor of the people of our world as known to the ancient Wyandots. But these people were " created " by his grandsons, the Twina1, the sons of his daughter, the Woman who fell from heaven. · By all that I have heard, he was surpassed in power by these grandsons, the Twins, and especially in matters pertaining to this world.[15]

Aataentsic

The Woman that fell from heaven is an important personage in the Wyandot mythology. No supernatural powers were attributed to her while on earth by any legend I ever heard from the Wyandots. She has no name, that I have been able to discover...The Animals devised the Great Isl- and and the lights in the sky for her convenience and comfort. [16]

God is female, Aataentsic. "The mythic structures of the Huron cosmology were complex and multifaceted. Aataentsic was regarded as the great progenitress of the "island" or natural world upon which all human beings lived. A primary source of life, she also manifested as the moon. She was a powerful, sacred figure reflecting the matriarchal structures of Huron social order and could reveal herself through dreams to a chosen woman; on one such occasion, she claimed to be the one who ruled over all the Huron."[17]

Aataentsic nurtured the earth on the back of Big Turtle, after is was created by the animals.

Aataentsic gave birth to a female child, followed by male twins, one of which killed the mother because of its violent birth. The mother's body enriched the Earth and from which grew the most important garden plants.

Sky Gods

The Great One of the Water and the Land

The Wyandots had a God of the Forest and all Nature. His name means " The Great One of the Water and the Land." He was the deification of the mythical Tseh'-stah, the Good One of the Twins born of the Woman who fell from heaven. His name is only a variation of the name of Tseh'-stah, with the attribute of greatness....He made the corn, tobacco, beam! and pumpkins grow; he provided fish and game for the people. I find, however, no evidence anywhere that the Wyandots worshipped him at any time, or at any period of their history. His place of abode was not definitely fixed by them, although he was supposed to live somewhere in the East. They thought that he often manifested him self to them, being seen in the forests, fields, lakes and streams. [18]

The War God

Skehn-rihc-ah-tah' was the War God of the Wyandots. The only translation of this name that I could ever get is "Warrior not afraid," or "Warrior not afraid of Battle."[19]

The God of Dreams

Tah-reh'-nyoh-trah'"-squah was the Wyandot God of Dreams. The name signifies "The Revealer," or "He makes the Vision," or "He makes the Dream." He was supposed to have something to do with the supernatural influences that acted upon this life, and he revealed the effects of these influences to the Wyandots in dreams. All visions and dreams came from him, for he had control of the souls of the Wyandots, while they slept, or were unconscious from injury or disease. The Hooh'"-keh' could detach his soul from his body, and send it to Tah-reh'-nyoh-trah'-squah for information at any time, and during its absence the Hooh'"-keh' was in a trance-like condition. No god of the ancient Wyandots had more influence upon their lives and social institutions than Tah-reh'-nyoh-tra.[20] Heh'noh was the Thunder God of the ancient Wyandots. They called him Grandfather. By some accounts he came into the world with the Woman who fell from Heaven."[21]

The Thunder God

Heh'-nijh was the Thunder God of the Wyandots. By some accounts he came into the world with the \Voman who fell from heaven. The thunder is only the voice of this God, and it is called heh'-noh. Heh'-noh was a God much in esteem with the \Vyandots; he was always rendering them some service 01· showing them some favor-fighting for them--slaying snme monster-or sending rain. He liked to dwell about the streams and lakes, and especially about the cataracts or waterfalls which " had a loud voice," i. e., which made a continuous and deafening roar. He lh·ed for ages in the caverns behind Niagara Falls. When he left that place he is supposed to have gone to some un- known point in the far Northwest to seek a permanent home. For this reason the West Wind is defied by the Wyandots; they believed it was sent them by Heh'-noh directly from his dwelling-place; and that he r?de in the thunder-heads which it wafted along the sky.[22]

Aataentsic/Arewskwi. In Huron cosmology,

Aronhaite, Sky, controlled the seasons of the year, winds, waves on lakes, ,

The sky gods, Hamendiju, Sun and Moon, and the Thunderers, occupy a prominent place in the pantheon of all the Iroquoian tribes, and, indeed, with the exception of Hamendiju, they appear in some form or other in the mythology of a large number of American peoples.[23]

Anthropomorphic Animals

The anthropomorphic animals of the inferior water-regions who made the Island for the Indigenous

  • Little Turtle: Made the sun and moon.
  • Big Turtle: Upon whose back the earth was created
  • Mud Turtle, made the hole through which the sun and moon pass back to the east.
  • Otters, Muskrats, Beavers, and birds who could live in water (later Deer, Wolf, Bear, Hawks, etc.). Formed a council that made decisions about the Underworld.

Turtles

The Big Turtle made the Great Island, as North America was called by the Wyandots, and he bears it. on his back to this day. The Little Turtle made the sun, moon, and many of the stars. The Mud Turtle made a hole through the Great Island for the sun to pass back to the East through after setting at night, so he could rise upon a new day. While making this hole through the Great Isl- and the Mud Turtle turned aside from her work long enough to fashion the future home of the Wyandots, their happy hunting-grounds, to which they go after death.[24]

These animals take part in councils. "Some time after the making of "the Island" and the luminaries, a number of land animals and birds-the Deer, the Wolf, the Bear, the Hawk, and others-are mentioned as taking part in the animals' councils. Nobody now can tell where they were from.4 It is also believed that, after memorable adventures, during the early ages, they were led by the Deer into the sky, where they still have their abode."[25]

The Wyandot mythology endowed the ancient animals with great power of the supernatural order. This is especially true of those animals used by them as totems or clan insignia, and from whom they were anciently descended. Of the animals, the Big Turtle stands in first place. He caused the Great Island (North America) to grow on his back, for a resting-place and home for the Woman who fell from Heaven. He is supposed to carry the Great Island on his back to this day.

The Little Turtle is second in rank and importance in the list of animals. By order of the Great Council of these animals, he made the Sun; he made the Moon to be the Sun's wife. He made all the fixed stars; but the stars which "run about the sky" are supposed to be the children of the Sun and Moon. The Sun, Moon, and stars were made for the comfort and convenience of the Woman who fell from Heaven. To do this it was necessary for the Little Turtle to go up to the sky, and this difficult matter was accomplished by the aid of the Thunder God. The Deer was. the second animal to get into the sky; this he did by and with the assistance of the Rainbow. And afterwards all the other totemic animals except the Mud Turtle went up to the sky by the same way, and they are supposed to be living there to this present time. The animals seem to have governed the world before the Woman fell from heaven, and for some time after that important event.[26]

Among the Ani- mals mentioned by the Wyandots as living here before tlw Woman's advent are the Big Turtle, the Little Turtle, the Toad, the two Swans, the Otter, the Beaver, the Snake, the Bear, the Wolf, the Hawk, the Deer, the Porcupine, the :Muskrat, and many others. Where and how the land animals lived when all was covered with wateJ is not ex- plained. [27]

The Races of Giants and Dwarfs.

There are two varieties of dwarves, the Tike'a and the Kahinq'a, both of which are said to have aided Tse'sta in his battle with his brother and the giants.[28]

The dwarfs were extremely small and old beings, and their bodies resembled those of human creatures. They are stated by some to have now become invisible.1 Although powerful and witch-like, they are good-natured and are not known to have ever done any harm to the Huron or Wyandot. Their ways of living are those of human beings. They are dressed with clothes made of hide and woven hair, carry their children on tiny cradle-boards, and especially enjoy singing and dancing ...These little beings are said to have left marks and traces of all kinds on rocks, and are believed sometimes still to be heard singing and dancing in caverns or under the ground. Footprints may still be seen on rocks at Lorette (Quebec), which the Huron ascribe to dwarfs. And a number of Oklahoma informants speak of several localities either near Kansas City, or near Wyandotte, Oklahoma, where they have recently heard the dwarfs singing and dancing, and the beating of their water-drums, or have seen on rocks marks of their feet, arms, hands, and bows and arrows [29]

The giants, or Strendu, the averred enemies of the Wyandot...were dreaded on account of their extraordinary size and powers. Some' describe them as being half-a-tree tall and large in proportion. Their bodies were covered all over with flinty scales, which made them almost invulnerable. When the Wyandot, perchance, surprised one asleep, they would kill him with linn-wood pillows, or shoot their arrows in the monster's arm-pit....These monsters were cannibals...[30]

Other supernatural beings are said to have made their appearance soon after the creation of the island. The leading characters among them are: the giants, the dwarfs, and the good and bad monsters or uki. While the flinty giants were made by the evil twin to assist him in his war against his brother, the dwarfs were brought forth by the good one, to stand with him. Almost until our epoch these dreaded cannibal giants, the enemies of mankind, have wandered on the island; and the mere rumour of their approach would set whole Indian villages to flight. The giants' raids and wars are the subject-matter of many tales. Rabid female giants are said often to have chased people, some of whom, especially children, they captured. For detecting further victims, they would use human fingers which, when stood upon the palm of their hand, indicated the people's hiding-places.[31]

The Uki

With regard to the omnipresent uki, or common deities constantly mingling with man, they are of various kinds. Some are the magnified 'souls' of animals and plants; others are dreaded monsters and supernatural agents. While good uki, or supernatural helpers, tender their protection to individuals or to collectivities, many bad ones are either propitiated or occasionally overpowered, while others are avoided. This topic being one of the most important to the natives, a consider- able portion of Wyandot mythology bears thereon. The uki are essentially supernatural beings endowed with 'powers' either harmful or useful to man. A magnified personal 'double', it is believed, exists at the head of almost every species of animals and plants, the main external features of which it retains. Rivers, rocks, and other natural objects, moreover, possess similar personal souls or spirits. Held in reverence or dreaded on account of their 'powers', they are not all con- sidered as enjoying the same standing. Most of the uki dwell- ing in rivers, plants, and rocks are considered as benevolent or harmless; and they are only occasionally propitiated or given offerings. The animal uki and the monsters are either the friends or the enemies of the Wyandots. Most of the animals, according to some cosmogonic accounts, were created by the good twin. But his evil brother made some of them wild and fierce; and he infested the island with all kinds of monsters—the bad uki. The friendly animal uki are, as a rule, the supernatural guardians of individuals, clans, and societies. They seem to belong to several unfederated groups. The uki whose function it is to appear to individuals during their puberty seclusion are classified by some informants into approximately the fol- lowing hierarchy: the Eagle, the Raven, the Otter, the Buz- zard, the Lion, the Snake, the Wolf, the Beaver, and others down to the wild fowl. In the following recorded myths, taken at random, appear the names of the Snake, the Lion, the White Otter, the Eagle, the Wolf, the Beaver, the Bear, the Buzzard, the Frog, the Horned Serpent, the Flying Lion, the Thunderers, the Sky Old Man, the Maple, and a dwarf woman. These supernatural helpers extended their good offices usually to their proteges individually or, in some cases, to a group of people who thereby became a new clan or a society. Dreaded monsters —the Ground-squirrel, the Spotted Snake, and the Lizard are said in some myths to have been overpowered after a long struggle, slain, and their remains made into charms for good luck. Such monsters are often destroyed by the Thunder gods, whose mission it is to cast their thunderbolts at them. Although not often spoken of in the tales, the clan totems and other animals are also considered as good uki; these are the Turtles, the Deer, the Bear, the Porcupine, the Hawk, the Beaver, and the Skunk.[32]

The Sky World

The pristine Sky-world, the ultimate origin of which remains unexplained, was the very picture of North America with its native inhabitants. Human-like people, to whom life and death were still unknown, were leading a peaceful existence in their villages, distributed all about the solid sky-land. At the head of their society were chiefs, seers, and shamans; and they depended mainly upon their fruit trees and the yield of their Indian corn patches for their subsistence.[33]

The Interior/Underworld

Created when a a chief's daughter fell through a hole into the interior world, just a sheet of water with no land. Various reasons are given, punishment for destroying a crop, guilt and shame, etc.

Initially, only water-fowls and quadrupeds lived in the water. No land. These rescued the falling women. A council of animals decided they'd make land on Big Turtle's back for the woman. " Otter, Muskrat, Beaver, and all the best Divers perished in their futile attempts to secure some of the earth clinging to the roots of the sky-tree lying at the bottom of the sea. The obscure and ridiculed Toad was the one that finally succeeded and brought back a mouthful of earth, with which "the Island" (North America) was made. It is believed by some that the Little Turtle3 made "the Island" by rubbing and spreading the earth around the edge of the Big Turtle's shell until it had become a large island."[34]

In the dark regions of the Underworld there was no land any- where. At first, the only inhabitants of that vast sea were human- like water-fowls and quadrupeds that lived in the water. Some water-fowls2 rescued the falling Sky-woman and held her above the waters, while a council of the animals assembled and decided that a land should be made on the Big Turtle's back for the Woman to live upon. Otter, Muskrat, Beaver, and all the best Divers perished in their futile attempts to secure some of the earth clinging to the roots of the sky-tree lying at the bottom of the sea. The obscure and ridiculed Toad was the one that finally succeeded and brought back a mouthful of earth, with which "the Island" (North America) was made. It is believed by some that the Little Turtle made "the Island" by rubbing and spreading the earth around the edge of the Big Turtle's shell until it had become a large island. The Woman, according to others, sprinkled the grains of earth at arm's length on the Turtle's back and soon found that land was growing about her.[35]

No light on turtle island so the Little Turtle went into the sky to create luminaries, fashioning "the sun out of flashes of lightning and, having made him a living being, she gave him the mood to wife." These had many children (stars).[36]

The Nature of the Soul

According to Huron ontology, the soul is independent of the physical body and exists before and after. [37]

The soul had various powers and ability.[38]

Khiondhecwi the soul power which animates the body. Remains with body until it dies.

endionrra the ability to think and delibrate

oki andaerandi - paranormal perception

gonennoncwal - innate attraction to a variety of specific objects

esken a soul separated from the body, can move around in dreams and visions, connect with others

atisken part of the soul that remains with the bones

"The souls of the living were vulnerable to the powers of the master shamans (arendizuane) through both rites of healing and through acts of witchcraft."[39]

All living beings have souls, including animals, which can be communicated with after death [40] through speech and ritual behaviour. [41]

Patriarchal and Abusive God

In original form, there is no "great spirit" or "almighty" God. This came later.

The conception of the Great Spirit, which has been attributed to the Indians, was given them by early missionaries. No Indian tribe ever had such a conception until after contact with Europeans. It is certain that no single "Supreme Ruler," or "Creator of the Universe," or of even the world, or any "Manitou" or "Great Spirit'' was believed in or conceived of by the ancient Wyandots. This is true also of all the North-American Indians.[42]

In the modern Wyandot beliefs, Hamendiju (also Hawenniyu or Rawenniyu) is the "Almighty" or "Great Spirit" dwelling in the sky' and controlling the whole world. "He is the Great Man above," explained an old informant;2 "He has all the powers, and he rules over many spirits who obey his commands." His chief assistant is Hinq, the Thunderer. In recognition of his benevolent nature and of his daily favors to mankind he is prayed to and worshipped, in the course of periodical and special rituals, performed in public, and accompanied with the burning of Indian tobacco as incense, and certain motions of the hand toward the sky. [43] The Handsome Lake doctrine[44]-which has swayed most of the unchristianized Iroquois, during the last century-accepts Hawenniyu as the "Almighty" and also lays much emphasis on the existence of an Evil Spirit, along the lines suggested by Christian theology.[45]

Good versus Evil

The Huron have no conception of good versus evil. The closest they get in in the conception of the male twins, Iouskeha/Tijuska'a/Tse'sta, (the good twin) and Tawiscaraon/Taweskare (the bad twin). The bad twin kills his mom in the sky. From her body grow cereals, pumpkins, maize, beans, etc.[46]

The Woman lived with her Grandmother. She is well no"·, her sickness having disappeared. To her were born the Two Children-The Brothers--The Twins. Of these Children, one was Good-the other Bad. [47]

On the island the woman gave birth to mysteriously begotten boy-twins, or—according to another tradition—to a daughter who died at the birth of her own children, the Twins. Of the Twins one was good, the other bad. Their mission was to prepare the island for the coming of man. All the good things came into this world through the good twin, and all evil through his wicked brother...The bad twin was slain by his more powerful brother, who restored the island and called the Indian man forth. As the good one could not entirely blot out the traces of his brother's works, evil has survived to this day, to the greatest detriment of mankind. Death, so far unheard of, for the first time appeared at the downfall of the evil twin or, according to other versions, when the mother of the Twins died.[48]

The twins create the Earth. One creates a garden paradise while the other strives to make things difficult for humans.

Thus the Good One made the surface of the earth smooth or with slight undulations, with park-like woods, rivers with a two-fold current running in opposite directions, so that the Indians might travel without paddling. He lavishly created berry patches loaded with berries, trees with large and juicy fruits, the maple, the sap of which was like syrup, Indian corn with a hundred ears on each stalk, and bean-pods growing on trees and long as the arm.' The Bad One following his brother, sadly damaged all these things. He tore up from every river its returning current, remarking," Let them at least have to work one way up stream."2 He covered the surface of the earth with flints, boulders, and rocks, pulling up huge mountains here and there, and obstructing the land by means of marshes and thick forests strewn with vines, thorns, and brambles. He also spoiled the fruit trees by scattering them far apart and making the fruits and berries small, stony, and sour. The Good One had brought forth gentle game animals for the people, and large fishes without scales; but his wretched brother covered the fish with hard scales, and imprisoned the animals in a cave, frightening them and making them wild. Besides, he made fierce animals that were to be the enemies of mankind, and monsters of all kinds with which the earth has ever after been infested. He made an immense Frog that drank all the fresh water of the earth. The only thing that the Good Twin could do was to reduce the extent of such evils. He released the animals from the cavern, and drew the water forth by cutting the frog open, or simply making an incision under her arm- pit, after having overcome her.[49]

The bad twin isn't so much evil as just an asshole who tries to make things difficult for humans.

Also, there are the Uki which are "good and bad monsters" created by the twins which can help or hinder the Huron.[50]

Again, the concept of evil typically refers to unfortunate events and circumstances that occurs as a natural part of life.

There is no conception of the devil or satan.[51]

The trickster is not evil

Heaven and Hell

There existed two worlds, then, when he begins,- the one we now inhabit. and heaven. Heaven is, of course, not a Wyandot term. This old Wyandot word means " The world beyond the sky," and has always meant just that, but the Christian has taken it to represent his heaven. In this sense the ancient Wyandot did not use it. To him it did not represent a country in which he was to sojourn after death, in a state of bliss, if he was a good Indian here. In his belief this upper world was then precisely what the Great Island was before the coming of the white man, except that it was peopled with Wyandots only. The lower world was a watery waste, so far as Wyandot knowledge extends. If we can believe Morgan, the same thing can be affirmed of the Senecas. There was no sun, no moon, no stars. But the animals dwelt here.[52]

Justice, Judgment, and Punishment

Does not exist. These ideas where introduced by Jesuit priests.

The Jesuit myth of heaven and hell made a strong impression on the Huron because it introduced an idea of judgment that was wholly alien to their own beliefs. As Le Jeune recorded in 1635: "They make no mention either of punishment or reward, in the place to which souls go after death. And they do not make distinction between the good and the bad, the virtuous and the vicious; and they honor equally the interment of both." The preaching of the doctrine of heaven and hell, one of the primary catechizing techniques of the Jesuits, reflected a Christian ontology of guilt (original sin) which was utterly foreign to the Huron. The Huron were called "head- strong" when they refused to believe and responded with perhaps one of the first statements of cultural relativism to be found in the New World, saying to Le Jeune that "this [doctrine of heaven and hell] is good for our Country and not for theirs; that every Country has its own fashions." When told that "the souls of reasonable beings" descended into hell if they failed to accept baptism and the sacraments of the Church, many Huron remained silent and continued to follow their own beliefs. The failure of the Jesuits to emphasize the benefits of paradise and its pleasures and their overemphasis on the fires of hell was sharply criticized by Huron elders. Threat was not part of the process by which the young were to be taught according to Huron values. [53]

And there is no word in the Wyandot language equivalent to our word "hell" as used to describe a place of punishment for the soul after death. [54]

They had no conception of a land of punishment aft'}r death, to which they went if they were wicked here. Such a conception as the devil of the white man no Indian tribe had until after the missionaries came. They had no word that could be used for swearing oaths. They could not swear in their own language, but soon acquired a choice assortment of profanity from the Christians.[55]

Only the Chosen

No conception that some people are more worthy than others.

Oki were believed to be accessible to any individual through dreaming and visionary experience.[56]

Elder Brothers, the highest authority amongst all members of a particular animal species. [57]

Etiological Myths

Big Turtle (Strong, sturdy, dependable. Hold all others upon its back)

Connections

Note below under sacred powers, it is the union with oki that results in the manifestation of sacred Arendi.

"The mythic structure of the Huron world was such that the intrinsic powers of that world freely interacted with every individual through dreaming and the medium of that interaction was conceptualized as a distinctive, experiential aspect of the identity of the individual."[58] (Deloria Vine quotes)

No mind/body dualism. Fluid connection with all things!!

Dreaming

Dreaming is a central feature of the "formation and dynamics of the Huron religious worldview..." Indeed, amongst the Huron, dreams are "regarded as a religious phenomenon." Dreams are an essential aspect of communication with the spirit world (see Huron cosmology)[59]

"Dreams provided one of the most fundamental means by which communication was maintained with the various sacred beings, either mythic or animal, that constituted the ultimate sources of spiritual empowerment in the Huron cosmology. Through dreams traditional values and teachings were validated and functioned to sanction the immediacy of a mythically defined cosmology. Dreams also3 provided a basis for ceremonial enactment and social interactions that reinforced the sacred character of the Huron world order." [60]

Dreaming provides transfer of Oki powers of healing. Dreams are recognized as direct form of communication with spiritual world.

Shamans possessed a special knowledge of the symbolic significance of dreams.

Equality and Sharing

The Harmony of Reciprocity [61]

Huron dreaming emphasized reciprocity and sharing. "the Huron practice of dreaming involved the continual redistribution of wealth among members of the community...Such actions expressed reciprocity on the human plane that in turn reflected the cosmological order which also involved the giving of "gifts" by the sacred beings. Such "gifts" also helped to balance social inequality and the dynamics of such redistribution grounded the social world in a dynamic pattern of sacred relations that had the highest religious sanctions..." [62]

Power and Authority

"Authority was a matter of personal empowerment through greater intimacy with the sacred powers, manifested paradigmatically as esoteric knowledge and the demonstration of consistent and mysterious ability by the master shaman." [63]

"The Huron religious life was not constrained by either dogma or a systematized theology, but proceeded through precedent, example and sacred narrative to illustrate the appropriate use of power, primarily for the benefit of others. " [64]

Sacred Powers

Arendi "Sacred power, or arendi, given by the oki, was manifested as any unusual or extraordinary ability or as the power to heal through the use of rituals and sacred objects obtained in dreams or visions. Because the dream was believed to be the medium through which power and success was revealed, a dream oki manifested as a specific figure which acted as a validating presence of the mythically defined cosmos. Dreaming was framed in an interpretive context of religious experience that attributed a sacred knowledge and authority to the oki which in turn inspired the dreams that revealed the means by which dreamers might actualize their power. In such a case, the power of the oki and the power of the individual were regarded as one in the same and the union of the individual with the sources of empowerment represented the strongest possible affirmation of the sacred character of the world" [65]

Reincarnation

The Huron believe in reincarnation[66] and have a complex view of the soul as having multiple powers and abilities..

Government

The government of the ancient Wyandots was, m its highest functions, a pure democracy. While it rested upon the system of clans1 for the execution of its details, anything affecting the interests of the whole people was decided in a mass convention com·cned according to well- defined custom or law. In this convention women had as much voice as the men. The tribe was anciently divided into twelve clans, or gentes. Each of these had a local government, consisting of a clan counsel presided over by a clan chief. These clan counsels were composed of at least five persons, one man and four women, and they might contain any number of women above four. Any business pertaining purely to the internal affairs of the clans was carried to the clan councils for settlement. An appeal was allowed from the clan council to the tribal council. The four women of the clan council regulated the clan affairs and selected the clan chief. The office of clan chief was in a measure hereditary, although not wholly so. The tribal council was composed of the clan chiefs, the hereditary sachem, and such other men of the tribe of renown as the sachem might with the consent of the tribal council call to the council-fire, In determining a question the vote was by clans, and not by individuals. In matters of great importance it required a unanimous vote to carry a proposition.[67]

Further Reading

Barbeau, C. M. 1914 "Supernatural Beings of the Huron and the Wyandot." American Anthropologist, Vol. 16: 288-313.

Barbeau, C. M. 1915 Huron and Wyandot Mythology. Department of Mines and Geological Survey, Anthropological Series #11. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb

Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog

Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785.

Hewitt, J.N.B. 1885 "The Iroquoian Concept of the Soul." Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 8:107-116.

Kinietz, W. V. 1940 "The Indian Tribes of the Western Great Lakes." Michigan University, Museum of Anthropology, Occasional Contributions, Vol. 10:1-160.

1939 The Long Journey to the Country of the Hurons. G. M. Wrong, ed. and H. H. Langton, trans. Champlain Society, Pub. 25. New York: Greenwood Press. [Orig. 1632]

Tooker, Elizabeth. 1964 An Ethnography of the Huron Indians, 1615-1649. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bull. 190. Washington: Smithsonian Institute.

Trigger, Bruce G. 1976 The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, 2 Vols. Montreal: McGill University Press.

Footnotes

  1. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 36.
  2. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 117.
  3. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313.
  4. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313.
  5. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 39.
  6. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb.
  7. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb. p. 18.
  8. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 116.
  9. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb. p. 7.
  10. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 288.
  11. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 117.
  12. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 301.
  13. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 39.
  14. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 40.
  15. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 40.
  16. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 46.
  17. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  18. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 40-1.
  19. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 118.
  20. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 118.
  21. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 118.
  22. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 44.
  23. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 301.
  24. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 31.
  25. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 291
  26. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 119.
  27. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 45.
  28. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 298
  29. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 299-
  30. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 300
  31. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb. P. 8
  32. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb. P. 9-10.
  33. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 289.
  34. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 290.
  35. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 290.
  36. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 290.
  37. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403.
  38. The following from Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403. p. 416-7.
  39. The following from Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403. p. 416-7.
  40. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. p. 419. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403.
  41. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403. p. 419.
  42. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 38.
  43. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 302.
  44. Morgan, loc. cit., p. 217ff., and A. C. Parker, "The Handsome Lake Code," Bulletin New York State Museum, No. 163
  45. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 303.
  46. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 292.
  47. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 74.
  48. Barbeau, Marius. Huron and Wyandot Mythology, with an Appendix Containing Earlier Published Records. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1915. https://archive.org/details/huronwyandotmyth00barb. P. 7-8
  49. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 292-3.
  50. Barbeau, C. M. “Supernatural Beings of the Huron and Wyandot.” American Anthropologist 16, no. 2 (1914): 288–313. p. 288.
  51. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 117.
  52. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 48.
  53. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403. p. 423-4.
  54. Connelley, William E. “Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Wyandots. I. Religion.” The Journal of American Folklore 12, no. 45 (1899): 116–25. https://doi.org/10.2307/533785. p. 117.
  55. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 38.
  56. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403.</r

    Mythological Figures

    Aronhiaté, or Sky who controlled the seasons of the year, the winds, the waves of the great lakes, and assisted them in times of need or danger (JR 10:161; 33:225). Many of the animals also gave special abilities to human beings through dreams and each species had an "elder brother" who was the highest authority among all other members of that species (JR 6:158). The earth, rivers, lakes and rocks contained powerful spirits which might aid or hinder human beings. All of these sacred beings were called oki and those who had communication with such beings or who had power from such beings might also be addressed as oki.<ref>Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.

  57. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  58. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  59. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  60. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  61. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70.
  62. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70.
  63. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70.
  64. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70.
  65. Irwin, Lee. “The Huron-Jesuit Relations: Contesting Dreams, Confirming Worldviews.” Religion 22 (1992): 259–70. p. 260.
  66. Irwin, Lee. “Myth, Language and Ontology among the Huron.” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 19, no. 4 (December 1, 1990): 413–26. https://doi.org/10.1177/000842989001900403.
  67. Connelley, William Elsey. Wyandot Folk-Lore. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/wyandotfolklore01conngoog. p. 24-5.