The principal monuments of the once powerful Iroquois are their myths and folk-lore, with the language in which they are embodied. As these monuments are fast crumbling away, through their contact with European civilization, the ethnologist must hasten his search among them in order to trace the history of their laws of mind and the records of their customs, ideas, laws, and beliefs. Most of these have been long forgotten by the people, who continue to repeat traditions as they have been handed down through their fathers and fathers' fathers, from generation to generation, for many centuries. The pagan Iroquois of to-day (and there are still many) will tell you that his ancestors worshiped, as he continues to do, the "Great Spirit," and, like himself, held feasts and dances in his honor; but a careful study of the mythology of these tribes proves very clearly that in the place of one prevailing great spirit (the Indian's earliest conception of the white man's God) the Iroquois gods were numerous. All the mysterious in nature, all that which inspired them with reverence, awe, terror, or gratitude, became deities, or beings like themselves endowed with supernatural attributes, beings whose vengeance must be propitiated, mercy implored, or goodness recompensed by thank-offerings. The latter were in the form of feasts, dances, or incense.

 

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Myths of the Iroquois - E A Smith 1883

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