Sunday, July 17, 2022

Native American Plant Myths - Tobacco a Sacred Incense

Tobacco was used as a sacred incense or as the guarantee of a solemn oath in nearly every important function--in binding the warrior to take up the hatchet against the enemy, in ratifying the treaty of peace, in confirming sales or other engagements, in seeking omens for the hunter, in driving away witches or evil spirits, and in regular medical practice. It was either smoked in the pipe or sprinkled upon the fire, never rolled into cigarettes, as among the tribes of the Southwest, neither was it ever smoked for the mere pleasure of the sensation. 

Of late years white neighbors have taught the Indians to chew it, but the habit is not aboriginal. It is called tsâlû, a name which has lost its meaning in the Cherokee language, but is explained from the cognate Tuscarora, in which charhû', "tobacco," can still be analyzed as "fire to hold in the mouth," showing that the use is as old as the knowledge of the plant. 

The tobacco originally in use among the Cherokee, Iroquois, and other eastern tribes was not the common tobacco of commerce (Nicotiana tabacum), but was introduced from the West Indies, but the Nicotiana rustica, or wild tobacco, now distinguished by the Cherokee as tsâl-agayûñ'li, "old tobacco," and by the Iroquois as "real tobacco." 

Image from 1590 North American Atlantic Coast Natives by John White (c1540 – c1593). The village of Pomeiooc (Pomeiock) was a Native America settlement, designated on de Bry’s map of Virginia, Americae Pars Nunc Virginia Dicta, between today’s Wyesocking Bay & Lake Landing, North Carolina. John White called the settlement Pomeyoo.

For thousands of years, Earth's indigenous people from separate  ethnic groups inhabiting a variety of the planet's climates & terrains have searched for; and created oral myths about plants & animals; & often have used nearby plants as medicine to control ailments afflicting them & their domestic animals. Many of these myths were passed down from generation to generation as oral tales before written language.

Extracted from:  Myths of the Cherokee.  Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau  of American Ethnology. Washington Government Printing Office 1902  Recorded by James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who lived for several years among the Cherokee.