Mohican/Lenape Beliefs

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Posted by Elaine on September 28, 1998 at 22:07:30:

In Reply to: Re: Inuit Philosophy and Spirituality posted by Kathy S on September 28, 1998 at 00:30:25:

: : : Do you (or anyone else) know if this belief in reincarnation was common among Native People? ...
And do you or anyone know what the Mohican customs were pertaining to honoring the dead?

: Thanks,
: Kathy

Hi Kathy,

As Rebecca said, belief in reincarnation wasn't very common. Of course, the Algonquians in the east were vastly different from the Inuit or northwestern coastal people and cultures.

The Lenape (Delaware) were so similar to the Mohicans that the beliefs and customs of one were often the beliefs of the other. Though generally neither believed in reincarnation, the Lenape thought it could occur in rare situations (though I don't know why.) For this reason, women would check the ear lobes of newborns for any indentations, believing it may be a mark of having been previously pierced. They would then watch the child for several years to see if there was any real sign of a reincarnated soul. (Lenape lore doesn't tell of any occurring, though they expected their folk hero "We`hixamukes" to *return* one day.)

The soul of the deceased would go to the Creator/God after crossing a bridge guarded by dogs. If the person had mistreated dogs, his journey would be prevented. Needless to say, Lenape children were taught to never mistreat dogs.

If a person had lived a sinful life, his soul would go to where the Mahtantu (evil spirit) lived and be tormented.

The grieving was begun with a one day wake, followed by a morning feast, a procession, and burial. The entire community participated in this. Burials had to be completed by noon. The deceased person's face was painted red and turned towards the east. A one year grieving period was then begun by the immediate family. After the year was over, a "Wihunge" (annual feast) was held if the family desired it. Once begun, the person who held the Wihunge was obliged to do so once a year for the remainder of his life. Favorite foods would be prepared for the deceased during the Wihunge which must be eaten by a non-relative.

The Lenape and Mohicans both held to the tabboo against speaking the name of the deceased (though among some Delaware, the name could be spoken before noon, never after).

This is too long, Kathy! Sorry ...


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