Abenaki - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Supernatural beings included Pamola, a powerful monster who was believed to live atop Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. Gluskabe was a trickster and culture hero whose exploits were more humorous than frightening. Many living men and some women had their own shamanistic powers that allowed them to leave their bodies and enter the realm of the supernatural, usually in animal forms. Strange occurrences involving animals were customarily interpreted as being the acts of shamans in their animal forms.

Religious Practitioners. All shamans possessed at least one animal form into which they could transform themselves. Seven forms were attributed to John Neptune, the most powerful of the last shamans. Such men were virile and had strong personalities. Their powers were often expressed through polygyny and political leadership. The rare female shamans were especially feared and respected in this male-dominated society.

Ceremonies . Dancing was an important part of impromptu ceremonies, including the installation of sagamores, marriages, and occasions when visiting brought people together temporarily. Ceremonies appear to have been irregular compared to the periodic seasonal societies to the southwest. Death and mourning brought any current festivities to an abrupt end, and close relatives mourned for a year.

Arts . Elaborate stitching and curvilinear incised designs decorated prized bark artifacts. In recent centuries, ash splint basketry has been taken up, along with the use of metaltoothed gauges for splitting the splints. The use of tubular wampum was as important here as elsewhere in the Northeast in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and several Penobscot collars and belts survive. Later artisans favored glass seed beads sewn on trade cloth. Bead designs included floral and geometric motifs, as well as the well-known double-curve motif. Other crafts were the more standard ones shared by various Northeast Indian societies.

Medicine. Curers, a class of individuals separate from shamans, understood the medicinal characteristics of various plants, but did not necessarily possess shamanistic powers.

Death and Afterlife. The dead were buried in their best clothes in individual interments. Ideas about an afterlife were probably consistent with shamanistic beliefs, but centuries of Catholic missionizing have greatly modified traditional beliefs.

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User Contributions:

carolyn casali
A cousin found out that our grandfather was full-blooded Abenaki, so I want to find out more about the tribal people and my Gran'pa that I loved.
My great grandmother was full Abenaki. I want to find more info on the Abenakis.
MY grandfather is full Abenaki his mother and his grandmother where Abenaki Princess. They have a museum in Canada about both of them.
honestly, i believe more in native american religion than i do christian or catholic religions that my family practices, my great grandmother was married to an abenaki native so i figured hey, why not learn more about the religion and maybe begin to practice it.
My grandmother Julia Burl lived on her reservation in the early 1900's upstate New York, when herself 8yrs old and siblings and other children were brought to a Catholic Orphanage to be civilized. Shameful and cruel as she was also seperated from her siblings: Franklin Burl - James Burl - Clara Burl. They taught these native children their Catholic ways.
I'm 85% abenaki native american, I would just need to find one of my grandmothers in order to get a card stating I'm abenaki. I also wish to meet more from my tribe.
Peter Parsons
I found out that my grandfather, Charles Henry Parsons, from Hallowell, ME , had "Abenaki Blood". Is there any way I can confirm this?
this really helps me with my school work and my projects
My great grandmother was Abenaki and I want to learn more about their religion, as I am exploring different religions and am hoping to follow one, preferably one that is in my blood, such as the Abenaki religion

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