Chapter 17

Of the manners, customs, religious opinions and ceremonies of the indians

Thus have I made a true and full narration of the state of our Plantation, and such things as were most remarkable therein since December, 1621. If I have omitted anything, it is either through weakness of memory, or because I judged it not material. I confess my style rude, and unskilfulness in the task I undertook; being urged thereunto by opportunity, which I knew to be wanting in others, and but for which I would not have undertaken the same. Yet as it is rude, so it is plain, and therefore the easier to be understood; wherein others may see that which we are bound to acknowledge, viz. that if ever any people in these later ages were upheld by the providence of God after a more special manner than others, then we; and therefore are the more bound to celebrate the memory of his goodness with everlasting thankfulness. For in these forenamed straits, such was our state, as in the morning we had often our food to seek for the day, and yet performed the duties of our callings, I mean other daily labours, to provide for after time; and though at some times in some seasons at noon I have seen men stagger by reason of faintness for want of food; yet ere night, by the good providence and blessing of God, we have enjoyed such plenty as though the windows of heaven had been opened unto us. How few, weak, and raw were we at our first beginning, and there settling, and in the midst of barbarous enemies! Yet God wrought our peace for us. How often have we been at the pit’s brim, and in danger to be swallowed up, yea, not knowing till afterward that we were in peril! And yet God preserved us; yea, and from how many that we yet know not of, He that knoweth all things can best tell. So that when I seriously consider of things, I cannot but think that God hath a purpose to give that land as an inheritance to our nation, and great pity it were that it should long lie in so desolate a state, considering it agreeth so well with the constitution of our bodies, being both fertile, and so temperate for heat and cold, as in that respect one can scarce distinguish New England from Old.

A few things I thought meet to add hereunto, which I have observed amongst the Indians, both touching their religion and sundry other customs amongst them. And first, whereas myself and others, in former letters (which came to the press against my will and knowledge), wrote that the Indians about us are a people without any religion, or knowledge of any God, therein I erred, though we could then gather no better; for as they conceive of many divine powers, so of one, whom they call Kiehtan,1

to be the principal and maker of all the rest, and to be made by none. He, they say, created the heavens, earth, sea and all creatures contained therein; also that he made one man and one woman, of whom they and we and all mankind came;2 but how they became so far dispersed, that know they not. At first, they say, there was no sachim or king, but Kiehtan, who dwelleth above in the heavens, whither all good men go when they die, to see their friends, and have their fill of all things. This his habitation lieth far westward in the heavens, they say; thither the bad men go also, and knock at his door, but he bids them quatchet, that is to say, walk abroad, for there is no place for such; so that they wander in restless want and penury.3 Never man saw this Kiehtan; only old men tell them of him, and bid them tell their children, yea to charge them to teach their posterities the same, and lay the like charge upon them. This power they acknowledge to be good; and when they would obtain any great matter, meet together and cry unto him; and so likewise for plenty, victory, etc., sing, dance, feast, give thanks, and hang up garlands and other things in memory of the same.

Another power they worship, whom they call Hobbamock, and to the northward of us, Hobbamoqui;4

this, as far as we can conceive, is the devil. Him they call upon to cure their wounds and diseases. When they are curable, he persuades them he sends the same for some conceived anger against them; but upon their calling upon him, can and doth help them; but when they are mortal and not curable in nature, then he persuades them Kiehtan is angry, and sends them, whom none can cure; insomuch as in that respect only they somewhat doubt whether he be simply good, and therefore in sickness never call upon him. This Hobbamock appears in sundry forms unto them, as in the shape of a man, a deer, a fawn, an eagle, etc., but most ordinarily a snake. He appears not to all, but the chiefest and most judicious amongst them; though all of them strive to attain to that hellish height of honour. He appeareth most ordinary and is most conversant with three sorts of people. One, I confess I neither know by name nor office directly; of these they have few, but esteem highly of them, and think that no weapon can kill them; another they call by the name of powah; and the third pniese.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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