Saturday, November 22, 2014

Departing from the Rubrics

The prayers of the Algonkins are not mere formulae to be recited only by the lips.  The seriousness, the deep meditation, and inner concentration of mind with which they are performed are attested by all writers.  The strong inner commotion of the soul might, even with the bravest warriors, go so far as to break out into weeping and sighing, as is illustrated for example, by the West Cree.  Even in solemn public ceremonies, in which every motion of hand and foot is strictly regulated by an ancient ritual, men, compelled by the strength of their individual impulse, may transgress these regulations.

In the great creation ceremony of the Arapaho it has occurred that the principal officiant, representing the first ancestor of humanity, overcome by internal commotion and fervour, left the place rigidly assigned to him by the ancient ritual, approached the central post of the sacred house, which represents the Great Spirit, entwined his arms around it and called loudly and affectionately, praying to the Father above and to the Old Men of the the four cardinal points to help him and his fellow dancers in their efforts to purify themselves.

Not only the public or common, but also the individual prayer, for which they retire to solitude, is practised freely by many Algonkin tribes, for instance the Ottawa, the Cheyenne, and others, and it is was employed for all possible individual needs.

— H. Schmidt, The High Gods in North America, Oxford, 1933, p. 81, quoted in Daniel Sargent, Catherine Tekakwitha,, NY, 1936. p. 15–16.