Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Okee Devil and the Algonquin Indian Mummification Ceremony

The Okee Devil and the Algonquin Indian Mummification Ceremony

Following and in connection with cave burial, the subject of mummifying or embalming the dead may be taken up, as most specimens of the kind have generally been found in such repositories.

It might be both interesting and instructive to search out and discuss the causes which have led many nations or tribes to adopt certain processes with a view to prevent that return to dust which all flesh must sooner or later experience, but the necessarily limited scope of this work precludes more than a brief mention of certain theories advanced by writers of note, and which relate to the ancient Egyptians. Possibly at the time the Indians of America sought to preserve their dead from decomposition, some such ideas may have animated them, but on this point no definite information has been procured. In the final volume an effort will be made to trace out the origin of mummification among the Indians and aborigines of this continent.

According to Pinkerton, who took the account from Smith’s Virginia, the Werowance of Virginia preserved their dead as follows:
In their Temples they have his [their chief God, the Devil’s] image will favourdly carved, and then painted and adorned with chaines of copper, and beads, and covered with a skin, in such manner as the deformity may well suit with such a God. By him is commonly the sepulchre of their Kings. Their bodies are first bowelled, then dried upon hurdles till they be very dry, and so about the most of their joints and neck they hang bracelets, or chains of copper, pearl, and such like, as they use to wear. Their inwards they stuff with copper beads, hatchets, and such trash. Then lappe they them very carefully in white skins, and so roll them in mats for their winding-sheets. And in the Tombe, which is an arch made of mats, they lay them orderly. What remaineth of this kind of wealth their Kings have, they set at their feet in baskets. These temples and bodies are kept by their Priests.

For their ordinary burials, they dig a deep hole in the earth with sharp stakes, and the corpse being lapped in skins and mats with their Jewels they lay them upon sticks in the ground, and so cover them with earth. The burial ended, the women being painted all their faces with black cole and oil doe sit twenty-foure hours in the houses mourning and lamenting by turns with such yelling and howling as may express their great passions. ***

Upon the top of certain red sandy hills in the woods there are three great houses filled with images of their Kings and devils and the tombs of their predecessors. Those houses are near sixty feet in length, built harbourwise after their building. This place they count so holy as that but the priests and Kings dare come into them; nor the savages dare not go up the river in boats by it, but that they solemnly cast 
2me piece of copper, white beads or pocones into the river for fear their Okee should be offended and revenged of them.
They think that their Werowances and priests which they also esteem, when they are dead doe goes beyond the mountains towards the setting of the sun, and ever remain there in form of their Okee, with their besdspainted  red with oil, finely trimmed with feathers, and shall have beads, hatchets, copper, and tobacco, doing nothing but dance and sing with all their predecessors. But the common people they suppose shall not live after death, but rot in their graves like dead dogs.