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An essay donated by Linde Knighton

Native spirituality in the U.S. Southeast:

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Native spirituality in the American southeast exhibited many unique features that differed from that elsewhere on the continent. Southeast Natives were influenced by many beliefs picked up as a result of trading with many other groups, including the Mayans, other cultures around the Caribbean, up and down the Mississippi, and along the Atlantic coast.

Every Native religion is dependent on the local Land Spirits. However, those of the Southeast are different. Creator is not only the Creator, but the sum of all Creation. The land spirits, nature spirits and so on are recognizable in their influence on Natives' daily lives. They are not considered to be Gods, but they are recognized as having strong influences within Creation. Who in the Southeast will ignore the power of a hurricane?

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Clans are named for animals for a number of reasons. The original story is that there came a great darkness over the land, and in their mutual fear, animals became tame. Humans joined with the animals in groups, holding hands, or claws. Later, the wind came from the east and blew the darkness away. Those who were in the east were the first the see the light, and were thereafter known as the Wind Clan. As the darkness left, the people took the name of the majority animal in their circle. They pledged never to hunt or eat the animal whose name they took for their clan.

There are people who misunderstand this, and believe this means that the clans worship their clan animal. This is not true. What it does mean is that they know they can learn from that animal and must respect their teacher.

Rabbit is the trickster, but is not worshiped. He too is a teacher. Sometimes he teaches us what not to do. Other times, he teaches how to get out of a bad situation without really hurting anyone.

The Green Corn festival he most important of all the festivals. It is a harvest festival, with ritual dances and songs. It is a joyous occasion. This is when the Stomp dance is done. There are other festivals through out the year.

Women have a high place among the Southeastern peoples. Mistreatment of women is thought of as very bad behavior, and young men especially may find themselves in trouble for treating women badly.

In the old days, women were thought to be very powerful, especially during their menses. They took that time off to live in a segregation hut, and left childcare to the father.

Marriage does not take place between clans.

Elders are honored as a source of history and wisdom. When they have something to say, the group is gathered together to listen attentively.

There is much more than I have presented, but this should give you a good idea of the basic beliefs of the tribes of the Southeastern U.S.

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Original posting: 2015-SEP-15
Latest update : 2015-SEP-15
Linde Knighton
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