Friday, May 20, 2016

Iroquois Indian's Belief in Witches and Witchcraft

Iroquois Indian's Belief in Witches and Witchcraft


The Iroquois belief in witchcraft was very strong, and the following tale is supposed to account for the origin of witches and sorcery. A boy who was out hunting found a snake the colours of whose skin were so intensely beautiful that he resolved to capture it. He caught it and tended it carefully, feeding it on birds and small game, and housing it in a little bowl made of bark, which he filled with water. In the bottom of the bowl he placed down, small feathers, and wood fibre, and on going to feed the snake he discovered that these things had become living beings. From this he gathered that the reptile was endowed with supernatural powers, and he found that other articles placed in the water along with it soon showed signs of life. He procured more snakes and placed them in the bowl. Observing some men of the tribe rubbing ointment on their eyes to enable them to see more clearly, he used some of the water from the bowl in which the snakes were immersed upon his own, and lo! he found on climbing a tall tree that nothing was hidden from his sight, which pierced all intervening obstacles. He could see far into the earth, where lay hidden precious stones and rich minerals. His sight pierced the trunks of trees; he could see through mountains, and could discern objects lying deep down in the bed of a river.
He concluded that the greater the number of reptiles the snake-liquid contained the more potent would it become. Accordingly he captured several snakes, and suspended them over his bowl in such a manner that the essential oil they contained dropped into the water, with the result that the activity of the beings which had been so strangely bred in it was increased. In course of time he found that by merely placing one of his fingers in the liquid and pointing it at any person he could instantly bewitch him. He added some roots to the water in the bowl, some of which he then drank. By blowing this from his mouth a great light was produced, by rubbing his eyes with it he could see in the dark, and by other applications of it he could render himself invisible, or take the shape of a snake. If he dipped an arrow into the liquid and discharged it at any living being it would kill it although it might not strike it. Not content with discovering this magic fluid, the youth resolved to search for antidotes to it, and these he collected.