03 April 2013
The Moral Position: Truth in Reporting
The aboriginal temple was filled with images of kings and devils, scattered with tombs, and "In this--as the Grecian nigromancers psychomantie did use to call up spirits--eyther the priests have conference, or consult; indeed with the devill, and receive verbal answers " Indian reality was transposed into Greco-Latin terms, and judgments common to Christian polemicists of the early centuries were revived. As a consequence, understanding of the native religious reality and theology was carefully precluded.
Strachey wrote after the first English colony in Virginia, founded in 1585, had disappeared, having been destroyed by the natives. King Powhatan had been warned by prophets that he would be overwhelmed by an enemy coming from Chesapeake Bay, so he exterminated the people of that region. Later English colonists were thus able to land there without meetin any resistance. The promptness with which the Indians had followed the oracles (what's more, true to the facts) horrified Strachey, who did not hesitate to see in this the mark of the devil, when in fact Biblical stories fo the patriarchs could have offered him parallel instances of precisely the same behavior. The only person who showed some caution in accepting the thesis of Indian Satanism was a Catholic, Father Andrew White. In his report on Maryland he does not advance an opinion, alleging his lack of knowledge of the language and the little trust he puts in his Protestant interpreters.
And yet the view, so widespread among travelers, that the natives worshiped the devil was wholly imaginary, as is proven by the Algonquin mythology that Leland gathered at the close of the nineteenth century...
--Zolla, Elemire, The Writer and the Shaman, pp 17-8.
Posted by Douglas Storm