2 First noteIt is hard to give a definition or a brief on the Cherokee Religion, because what one would have to consider their religion would be their entire culture. There is no separation between social life and religion, it all ties in together. I will do my best to cover some of the more important aspects of Cherokee life, but know there is much, much more to it than is represented.
3 Folklore is an important part of Cherokee religion. The tales represent important life lessons, as well as answers to the unanswerable. An example of the latter is why the redbird is red and how theworld came to be.
4 A Cherokee FableThe tortoise and the hare had a race.The tortoise got all her relatives to help on the day of the big race.She stationed them along the way. Each time the hare turneda bend in the path--there was a tortoise. The hare thought it was the same tortoise. Finally he just gave up.He wasn't outraced, he was outsmarted.My interpretation of this was that your physical abilities don’t matter if you are creative and sharp; and or it is better to think first before acting.
5 What the stars are likeThere are different opinions about the stars. Some say theyare balls of light, others say they are human, but most people saythey are living creatures covered with luminous fur or feathers.One night a hunting party camping in the mountains noticed two lights like large starts moving along the top of a distant ridge, They wondered and watched until the light disappeared on the other side. The next night, they saw the lights moving along the ridge, and after discussing the matter decided to go and see what was going on. In the morning, they went to the ridge and after searching some time, they found two strange creatures so large ( making a circle with outstretched arms ) , with round bodies covered with fine fur or downy feathers, from which small heads stuck out like the heads of terrapins. As the breeze played upon these feathers, showers of sparks flew out.The hunters carried the strange creatures back to the camp. They kept them several days, and noticed that every night they would grow bright and shine like great stars, although by day they were only balls of grey fur. They kept very quiet, and no one thought of their trying to escape when, on the seventh night, they suddenly rose from the ground like balls of fire and were soon above the tops of the trees. Higher and higher they went, while the wondering haunters watched, until at last they were only two bright points of light in the dark sky, and then the hunters knew that they were stars.This fable tells of something the Native Americans could not explain any other way.
6 Special NumbersThe numbers 4 and 7 are important to Cherokee culture, and you willoften see them used in folklore and rituals. 4 represents the fourcardinal directions. Each direction has certain characteristics:North: Blue - Winter, peace, and self reflectionSouth:White - Summer, corn, happy children, and plentiful gameEast: Red - Spring, Dawn, Rebirth, New beginningsWest: Black - Autumn, Death, The shadow life of the spiritThe number 7 represents the seven tribes, the topmost height of purity and sacredness, as well as direction. It includes the four cardinal directions plus three others, all together making the sacred directions.Sun: Yellow - Creator, Great Spirit, aka UpEarth: Brown - Mother Earth, and all of her bounty, aka downSelf: Green - Dedicates the heart to purity and honesty, aka center
7 The Seven TribesThe Wolf Clan (Ani-Wahya):The largest and most prominent clan,providing most of the war chiefs. They are the only clan who can killa wolf. The Clan color is Red and their sacred wood is Hickory.The Panther Clan or Wildcat Clan (Ani-Sahoni): This clan’s coloris Blue, and made blue medicine from a special blue plant(blue holly) to keep our children well. Their sacred wood is Ash.The Long Hair Clan (Ani-Gilohi): aka Twister Clan,Hair Hanging Down Clan and Wind Clan. Thosebelonging to this Clan wear their hair in elaboratehairdos, and walk in a proud and vain manner twistingtheir shoulders. Peace chiefs are usually from thisclan.Their color is Yellow and their sacred wood is Beech.The Deer Clan (Ani-Kawi) : They are the keepers and hunters ofthe Deer, and are known fast runners.Their color is Brown and theirwood is Oak.
8 The Bird Clan or Red-Tailed HawkClan (Ani-Tsisqua): The people of this clan are the keepers of the birds andour messengers. This clan was skilled in bird hunting. Their color is Purple and sacred wood is Maple.The Wild Potato Clan (Ani-Gatogewi): akaBear Clan, Raccoon Clan and BlindSavannah Clan. They were known togather the wild potato plants in swampsalong streams to make flour or bread forfood. The clan color is Green and the woodis Birch.Paint Clan (Ani Wo-di) :This is the clan ofthe Shaman (Di-da Ih-ne-se Is-gi), Sorcerers,Medicine Men, and Priests. It is also thesmallestand most secretive clan. They arethe Keepers of the Sacred Flame(Ka-ie-la At-si-la Hi-ne-yu). They are the onlyones that are allowed to make a special redpaint and dye that are used for warfare andceremonial purposes. Their color is Whiteand their sacred wood is Locust.
9 Seven Nights of Creation It is believed that the Great Spirit told all the animals and plants, who were made before humans, to stay awake for seven days and nights. This time is referred to as the seven nights of creation.None of the plants or animals could stay up that long,none but the owl, cougar, pine,cedar*,spruce,holly, and laurel.The Great Spirit rewarded these creatures for their vigilance: The animals became nocturnal for staying up all night, and the plants would never lose their leaves to the winter.* Considered the most sacred of all, distinguished red and white wood.
10 Cherokee M ns AniTsalagi Svnoyihi Each of the months had a different moon, each representing it’s own thing.Month Moon Cherokee WordJanuary Cold Moon UnolvtanFubruary Bony Moon KagaliMarch Windy Moon AnvyiApril Flower Moon KawoniMay Planting Moon AniSgutiJune Green Corn Moon TihaluhiyiJuly Ripe Corn Moon GuyegwoniAugust Fruit Moon GaloniSeptember Nut Moon DuliidsdiOctober Harvest Moon DuninudiNovember Trading Moon NudadequaDecember Snow Moon Usgiyi
11 Each month held special meanings, many simplified by the name of its moon. January"Cold Moon Dance" is held to signify the ending of one cycle of seasons and welcoming the beginning of the new cycle. Old hearth fires are put out and replaced by specialThis time is the same as the appearance of Venus (Sun’s daughter) on the horizon.February"Medicine Dance“is during this moon, and the medicine man (Didanawiskawi) presides during this ritual. Family meals are made with places set for those deceased in remembrance.MarchFirst New Moon of the new seasons. This is the traditional start of the new cycle of planting seasonsApril"Knee Deep Dance" of the Spring or Water Frog was done at this time, to honor Long Man, who just now is beginning to let the rivers flow again. New births, first greens,first medicinal herbs to deliver man from winter sickness and evilspirits also occur during this month.May"Corn Dance“ is a tradition during this time. It is also when crop preparationbegins. Corn, beans, squashes, tomatoes, potatoes, yams and sunflowersare planted now.
12 Months (cont.) June July August September First signs of the "corn in tassel", and many other plants sown are popping up. No big festivals in this month, but preparations for those of the next month. Help is given to the needy and elderly, and town renovation begins.July"Green Corn Dance" or festival is a tradition. First foods or the new planting and the roasting ears of corn are ready. Towns begin the cycle festivals, with thanks to Mother Earth abundant. Stick ball games are common entertainment. Today it’s known as Lacrosse, then called AniStusti, "Little War".AugustGreen Corn festivals are held during this moth also. The Wild Potato Clans start their harvests along the waterways, and the Paint Clans gather their herbs for medecine. Fruits of the trees and bushes are also gathered now.September"Ripe Corn Festival” is held to honor the spirit of the corn, also considered the first woman, Selu. The "Brush Feast Festival" also happens now. All the fruits there once and nuts are gathered and hunting begins.
13 More Months… October November December "Harvest Festival" Nowatequa when the people give thanks to all the living things that help them to survive. Cheno i-equa or "Great Moon" Festival is traditionally held at this time.November"Friendship Festival" Adohuna , which means "new friends made". All sins except murder are forgiven, and reminisces of a time without selfishness and greed. All needy in the town get what they need for the coming winter. Most of the trading takes place now amongst the tribes.DecemberThe spirit being, "Snow Man", brings cold and snow to high places while the Earth lies in wait for the rebirth of the seasons. Storing food and telling of stories from old to young are some of the activities.
14 WitchcraftWitchcraft to the Cherokee is a bit different than English beliefs. A witch is someone who uses medicine for evil purposes, and it is the actions of one that cause some of the unexplainable events.There are two types of witches, ordinary and killer. Though the latter may sound more of a threat, the ordinary witches are actually more dangerous. This is because you can not tell them apart from regular humans, and their magic is harder to resist.Raven Mocker: This is the most well-known and dreaded of thekiller witches. When a person is sick or dying, theRaven Mocker will come to take their life.
15 Raven MockerA Raven Mocker can be either male or female, and is usually old and wizened because of all the lives they’ve added onto their own.The Raven Mocker comes at night, like many others of their kind, to steal the life of the ill. When they enter the victim’s home, they are invisible.To get to their victim, they fly through the air, making the wind howl and sparks trail behind them. They often emit a loud cry like a raven as they dive. Those who hear this cower away, because they know someone’s life will soon end.They will torment the victim until they die. To any average person, it looks like the patient is fighting for breath. They will then take out the heart and eat it, hence adding on as many days to their life as they have taken from the ill. No scar is left, but upon examination, the heart is clearly absent.The only person who frightens killer witches are certain shaman, who know the right kind of medicine that can drive them away. These are also the only people who can recognize the Raven Mocker, and once this has happened, they must die within 7 days.Other witches are jealous of the Raven Mocker, and are also afraid to enter the same house as one. As revenge, they will often dig up the body after burial and abuse it.
16 The Little PeopleThere are many spiritual beings in the Cherokee religion that are a part of everyday life. Most people have an encounter with one of these beings at least once in their life.When they choose to be seen (otherwise invisible) the Little People look just like regular Cherokee, but smaller and with very long hair.While they are kind and helpful to lost children (lost physically or emotionally by the hardships of growing up), they can also be very mischievous.They live in such places as rock shelters, thickets, and mountain caves.Do not go looking for them though; because they do not like to be disturbed. Anyone who does has been caused to be ‘puzzled’ for life.There are more rules to follow when dealing with the Little People. For example, if any one of them chooses to be seen, or is seen by accident, it must not be spoken of for at least seven years It is also a custom not to talk about them after nightfall.The Little People love drumming and dancing. It is important that, if you think you hear this, you do not investigate.In other folklore, they are called Brownies.
17 Keetoowah's BibleThe Cherokee people do not follow a book, like the Bible or Torah, per say. What you could consider their holy text is the Keetoowah’s Bible. It is a belt made of shell beads and pearls, woven with seaweed fiber. It was originally one belt; but a long, long time ago, it was cut into seven pieces by the priests. You see, the tribe was going to war, and they had foreseen which warriors would survive, so they gave a piece of the belt to each. The pieces were scattered, hidden, and some disappeared.The Keetoowah’s Bible is an un-detailed reminder of ancient traditions, and not a long story or creed like the major religious texts of today. The belt is very sacred, and is only brought out on extremely rare occasions.
18 Ceremonial PipesWhenever guidance was asked of the Great Spirit, a difficult decision needed to be made, or something needed to be purified the pipes were smoked.The head of the pipe was carved into the shape of an animal, usually representing the clan, out of stone.They were filled with tobacco and aromatic herbs, then lit from the sacred fire.After offering the smoke to the seven sacred directions, the pipes were passed around the council circle, and once you had taken a puff, you heart would lead you straight.
19 Sacred Things and Symbols Long Man-the rivers and other bodies of movingwater. Water is used as purificationand many other important things indifferent ceremonies.Circles- represents family. Many ceremonies and dancesmove in a circular pattern or motion. The sacredfire was built in the shape of an ‘X’ always, so thatit would burn in a circular direction.Fire- a gift from the Great Spirit, can be lit only by priestsand made only from oak, otherwise there will soon bebad luck. This is what separates man from animal. Along tale of the creation of fire will be saved foranother time.
20 LocationThis is the area of the Cherokee when the split from the Iroquois Tribe was complete.Before the Cherokee were forced to move by the U.S. onto the Trail of Tears, this is where they lived.Today the Cherokee people are scattered all over the U.S., many are still on reservations. Wherever the Cherokee are, there is their religion.
21 Work Cited"Cherokee Clans." Wikipedia. 12 Jan 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee Clans# The Seven Cherokee Clans>."Cherokee Religion." Internet Sacred Texts Archive. Open Source for the Human Soul. 16 Jan <http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/cher/index.htm>.Vann, David. "Folklore." Cherokee By Blood. 16 Jan 2007 <http://www.cherokeebyblood.com/cherostories.htm>.Vann, David. "Religion." Cherokee By Blood. 16 Jan 2007 <http://www.cherokeebyblood.com/religion.htm>.