Saturday, January 07, 2012

Hobbomock from "A discourse on the religion of the Indian tribes of North America"

By Samuel Farmar Jarvis, New-York Historical Society

In Winslow's " Good News from New-England; or a relation of thins? remarkable in that plantation," anno 1622, occur Ihe following remarks on the subject of the Indian Religion:

" A few things I thought meete to adde here unto, which I have observed amongst the Indians, both touching their religion, and sundry other customes amongst them. And first, whereas myselfe and others, in former letters, (which came to the presse against my wille and knowledge,) wrote that the Indians about us are a people without any religion or knowledge of any God therein I erred, though wee could then gather no better; for as they conceive of many divine powers, so of one whom they call Kiehtan, to be the principal! maker of all the rest, and to be made by none : Hee, (they say,) created the.Heavens, Earth, Sea, and all creatures contained therein. Also, that hee made one man and one woman, of whom they say wee, and all mankind, came : but how they became so farre dispersed that know they not. At first, they say, there was no Sachem or King, but Kiehtan who dwelleth above the Heavens, whither all good men goe when they die to see their friends, and have their fill of all things : This, his habitation, lyeth westward in the Heavens they say; thither the bad men goe also, and knocke at His doore, but he bids them Quachel, that is to say Walke abroad, for there is no place for such ; so that they wander in restlesse want and penury. Never man saw this Kiehtan ; onely old men tell them of him, and bid them tell their children; yea, to charge them to teach their posterities the same, and lay the like charge upon them. This power they acknowledge to be good, and when they obtain any great matter, meet together and cry unto him, and so likewise for plenty, victory, &etc, sing, dance, feast, give thankes, and hang up garlands, and other things in memory of the same.

" Another power they worship whom they call Hobbamock, and to the northward of us Hobbamoqui; this as farre as wee can conceive is the devil), him they call upon to cure their wounds and diseases. When they are curable, hee perswades them hee sends the same for some conceited anger against them, hut upon their calling upon him, can and doth help them; but when they are mortall, and not curable in nature, then he perswades them Kiehtan is angry and sends them, whom none can cure ; insomuch, as in that respect onely they somewhat doubt whether hee bee simply good, and therefore in sicknesse never call upon him. This Hobbomock appears in sundry formes unto them, as in the shape of a man, a deare, a fawne, an eagle, tyc., but most ordinarily as a snake.-" fyc. Purchas's Pilgrim, lib. x. chap. v. vol. 4. p. 18ii7

This Hobbomock, or Hobbamoqui, who " appears in sundry forms," is evidently the Oku or Tutelary Deity, which each Indian worships; and Mr. Winslow's narrative affords a solution of the pretended worship of the devil, which the first settlers imagined they had discovered, and which has since been so frequently mentioned on their authority, without examination. The natives, it was found, worshipped another being, beside the Great Spirit, which every one called his Hobbomock, or Guardian Oke. This, the English thought, could be no other than the Devil, and accordingly they asserted, without further ceremony, what they believed to be a fact. Hence, in a " Tractate, written at Henrico in Virginia, by Master Alexander Whitaker, Minister to the Colony there," (anno 1613,) we find the following ap count of the worship of the Kevms, or Tutelary Deity of the Virginian Indians :

"They acknowledge that there is a Great Good God, but know him not, having the eyes of their understanding as yet blinded : wherefore they serve the devill for feare, after a most base manner, sacrificing sometimes, (as I have here heard,) their owne children to him.* / hare sent one image of their God to the eounsell in England, which is painted upon one side of a toadstoole, much like unto a deformed monster. Their priests, (whom they call Quiokosoughs,) are no other but such as our English witches are," he. Purchas, lib. ix. vol. 4. p 1771.

Hobbamocke is spelled many ways (Hobamock, Hobbomok, Hobbomock, etc.), and is also known by different names, like Abbomocho, Chepian, Chepi, and Cheepi. His multiple names reflect his slippery nature - he's elusive and hard to pin down.

Hobbomok appears in dreams in many forms, including a deer, a man, or an eagle, but his favorite forms are the eel and the snake. Terrifyingly, Hobbomok also sometimes appears as a European, as John Josselyn recorded in 1674:"Another time, two Indians and an Indess, came running into our house crying out they should all dye, Cheepie (Hobbomok) was gone over the field gliding in the air with a long rope hanging from one of his legs: we askt them what he was like, they said all wone Englishman, clothed with hat and coat, shooes and stockings."

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