Micmac - Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. Traditionally, the Micmac had two major deities, Khimintu (Manitou) the creator, and Glooscap, a legendary hero of supernatural power who taught and protected the Micmac; only the former was an object of worship. (Kji)Mintu became the term for the Christian devil when the Micmac converted to Catholicism, and Glooscap presently awaits to appear to the Micmac when they are most in need. Micmac religious belief is highly syncretic, and other non-Christian supernatural beings also live on in tandem with Christian belief. These include Kukwes, a giant cannibal, Wiklatmuj, little forest people, Jenu, northern ice giants, and the Kinap, a person of extraordinary or supernatural ability, among others.
Religious Practitioners. The literature records no priests. There were and are, however, male and female sorcerers who used supernatural power to their own advantage. The sorcerer, puoin, traditionally healed or injured, and a male puoin used his powers to make himself or other men leaders. Presently, sorcerers use their powers primarily to bring misfortune or injury to others.
Ceremonies. Presently, Roman Catholic ceremonies are most important. In addition to the common ceremonies, the Micmac celebrate the feast day of St. Ann, the Micmac patron saint, at several central locations throughout their Territory. During most of the last 350 years, when priests were Usually unavailable, funerals and weddings were held during the St. Ann's Mission, a celebration of several days ending with the St. Ann's Day Mass.
Arts. Historically, the material arts have been important, including the incision of designs in birchbark baskets, the dyeing and weaving of porcupine quills in birchbark, as well as the sewing of Micmac motifs on clothing, especially the characteristic double-curve motif. Presently, Indian music, some Micmac and some not, is making a resurgence. A few painters, employing Indian motifs, have had much commercial success.
Medicine. In aboriginal culture, disease was attributed to the influence of malevolent spirits, which were removed by a puoin by blowing or sucking, and using medicinal herbs. The puoin was well paid for his or her services. Today, Canadian clinical treatment and prayer are the first lines of defense, and traditional herbal medicines are used when clinical treatment fails. Abortion is not acceptable to the Micmac. Recently, Micmac-oriented drug and alcohol treatment has become available.
Death and Afterlife. Traditionally, the Micmac believed that all things have souls, and that human beings have two types of souls, one connected with the body and one that held the life of the individual. At death, both souls were affected, the body soul perishing and the life soul becoming a skate:kmuj, which traveled to the land of the souls. The souls of grave goods traveled with the human soul to assist it in the afterlife. Presently, the house of the deceased must be inhabited until burial in order to prevent the skate:kmuj from Returning to it, and Micmac believe that to see a skate:kmuj signals one's own impending death. Catholic beliefs now exist syncretistically with Micmac beliefs.