Early conflict of culture as native sorcerer disputes Catholic priest.
Previously in The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century.
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Le Jeune, a man of excellent observation, already knew his red associates well enough to understand that their rudeness did not of necessity imply ill-will. The rest of the party, in their turn fared no better. They rallied and bantered each other incessantly, with as little forbearance, and as little malice, as a troop of unbridled schoolboys.  No one took offence. To have done so would have been to bring upon one’s self genuine contumely. This motley household was a model of harmony. True, they showed no tenderness or consideration towards the sick and disabled; but for the rest, each shared with all in weal or woe: the famine of one was the famine of the whole, and the smallest portion of food was distributed in fair and equal partition. Upbraidings and complaints were unheard; they bore each other’s foibles with wondrous equanimity; and while persecuting Le Jeune with constant importunity for tobacco, and for everything else he had, they never begged among themselves.
[1 “Leur vie se passe ŕ manger, ŕ ire, et ŕ railler les vns des autres, et de tous les peuples qu’ils cognoissent; ils n’ont rien de serieux, sinon par fois l’exterieur, faisans parmy nous les graues et les retenus, mais entr’eux sont de vrais badins, de vrais enfans, qui ne demandent qu’ŕ rire.” — Relation, 1634, 30.]
When the fire burned well and food was abundant, their conversation, such as it was, was incessant. They used no oaths, for their language supplied none, — doubtless because their mythology had no beings sufficiently distinct to swear by. Their expletives were foul words, of which they had a superabundance, and which men, women, and children alike used with a frequency and hardihood that amazed and scandalized the priest.  Nor was he better pleased with their postures, in which they consulted nothing but their ease. Thus, of an evening when the wigwam was heated to suffocation, the sorcerer, in the closest possible approach to nudity, lay on his back, with his right knee planted upright and his left leg crossed on it, discoursing volubly to the company, who, on their part, listened in postures scarcely less remote from decency.
[1 “Aussi leur disois-je par fois, que si les pourceaux et les chiens sçauoient parler, ils tiendroient leur langage. . . . Les filles et les ieunes femmes sont ŕ l’exterieur tres honnestement couuertes, mais entre elles leurs discours sont puants, comme des cloaques.” — Relation, 1634, 32. — The social manners of remote tribes of the present time correspond perfectly with Le Jeune’s account of those of the Montagnais.]
There was one point touching which Le Jeune and his Jesuit brethren had as yet been unable to solve their doubts. Were the Indian sorcerers mere impostors, or were they in actual league with the Devil? That the fiends who possess this land of darkness make their power felt by action direct and potential upon the persons of its wretched inhabitants there is, argues Le Jeune, good reason to conclude; since it is a matter of grave notoriety, that the fiends who infest Brazil are accustomed cruelly to beat and otherwise torment the natives of that country, as many travelers attest. “A Frenchman worthy of credit,” pursues the Father, “has told me that he has heard with his own ears the voice of the Demon and the sound of the blows which he discharges upon these his miserable slaves; and in reference to this a very remarkable fact has been reported to me, namely, that, when a Catholic approaches, the Devil takes flight and beats these wretches no longer, but that in presence of a Huguenot he does not stop beating them.”
[“Surquoy on me rapporte vne chose tres remarquable, c’est que le Diable s’enfuit, et ne frappe point ou cesse de frapper ces miserables, quand vn Catholique entre en leur compagnie, et qu’il ne laisse point de les battre en la presence d’vn Huguenot: d’oů vient qu’vn iour se voyans battus en la compagnie d’vn certain François, ils luy dirent: Nous nous estonnons qua le diable nous batte, toy estant auec nous, veu qu’il n’oseroit le faire quand tes compagnons sont presents. Luy se douta incontinent que cela pouuoit prouenir de sa religion (car il estoit Caluiniste); s’addressant donc ŕ Dieu, il luy promit de se faire Catholique si le diable cessoit de battre ces pauures peuples en sa presence. Le vu fait, iamais plus aucun Demon ne molesta Ameriquain en sa compagnie, d’oů vient qu’il se fit Catholique, selon la promesse qu’il en auoit faicte. Mais retournons ŕ nostre discours.” — Relation, 1634, 22.]
Thus prone to believe in the immediate presence of the nether powers, Le Jeune watched the sorcerer with an eye prepared to discover in his conjurations the signs of a genuine diabolic agency. His observations, however, led him to a different result; and he could detect in his rival nothing but a vile compound of impostor and dupe. The sorcerer believed in the efficacy of his own magic, and was continually singing and beating his drum to cure the disease from which he was suffering. Towards the close of the winter, Le Jeune fell sick, and, in his pain and weakness, nearly succumbed under the nocturnal uproar of the sorcerer, who, hour after hour, sang and drummed without mercy, — sometimes yelling at the top of his throat, then hissing like a serpent, then striking his drum on the ground as if in a frenzy, then leaping up, raving about the wigwam, and calling on the women and children to join him in singing. Now ensued a hideous din; for every throat was strained to the utmost, and all were beating with sticks or fists on the bark of the hut to increase the noise, with the charitable object of aiding the sorcerer to conjure down his malady, or drive away the evil spirit that caused it.
He had an enemy, a rival sorcerer, whom he charged with having caused by charms the disease that afflicted him. He therefore announced that he should kill him. As the rival dwelt at Gaspé, a hundred leagues off, the present execution of the threat might appear difficult; but distance was no bar to the vengeance of the sorcerer. Ordering all the children and all but one of the women to leave the wigwam, he seated himself, with the woman who remained, on the ground in the centre, while the men of the party, together with those from other wigwams in the neighborhood, sat in a ring around. Mestigoit, the sorcerer’s brother, then brought in the charm, consisting of a few small pieces of wood, some arrow-heads, a broken knife, and an iron hook, which he wrapped in a piece of hide. The woman next rose, and walked around the hut, behind the company. Mestigoit and the sorcerer now dug a large hole with two pointed stakes, the whole assembly singing, drumming, and howling meanwhile with a deafening uproar. The hole made, the charm, wrapped in the hide, was thrown into it. Pierre, the Apostate, then brought a sword and a knife to the sorcerer, who, seizing them, leaped into the hole, and, with furious gesticulation, hacked and stabbed at the charm, yelling with the whole force of his lungs. At length he ceased, displayed the knife and sword stained with blood, proclaimed that he had mortally wounded his enemy, and demanded if none present had heard his death-cry. The assembly, more occupied in making noises than in listening for them, gave no reply, till at length two young men declared that they had heard a faint scream, as if from a great distance; whereat a shout of gratulation and triumph rose from all the company.
[“Le magicien tout glorieux dit que son homme est frappé, qu’il mourra bien tost, demande si on n’a point entendu ses cris: tout le monde dit que non, horsmis deux ieunes hommes ses parens, qui disent auoir ouy des plaintes fort sourdes, et comme de loing. O qu’ils le firent aise! Se tournant vers moy, il se mit ŕ rire, disant: Voyez cette robe noire, qui nous vient dire qu’il ne faut tuer personne. Comme ie regardois attentiuement l’espée et le poignard, il me les fit presenter: Regarde, dit-il, qu’est cela? C’est du sang, repartis-ie. De qui? De quelque Orignac ou d’autre animal. Ils se mocquerent de moy, disants que c’estoit du sang de ce Sorcier de Gaspé. Comment, dis-je, il est ŕ plus de cent lieuës d’icy? Il est vray, font-ils, mais c’est le Manitou, c’est ŕ dire le Diable, qui apporte son sang pardessous la terre.” — Relation, 1634, 21.]
There was a young prophet, or diviner, in one of the neighboring huts, of whom the sorcerer took counsel as to the prospect of his restoration to health. The divining-lodge was formed, in this instance, of five or six upright posts planted in a circle and covered with a blanket. The prophet ensconced himself within; and after a long interval of singing, the spirits declared their presence by their usual squeaking utterances from the recesses of the mystic tabernacle. Their responses were not unfavorable; and the sorcerer drew much consolation from the invocations of his brother impostor. [See Introduction. Also, “Pioneers of France,” 315.]
Besides his incessant endeavors to annoy Le Jeune, the sorcerer now and then tried to frighten him. On one occasion, when a period of starvation had been followed by a successful hunt, the whole party assembled for one of the gluttonous feasts usual with them at such times. While the guests sat expectant, and the squaws were about to ladle out the banquet, the sorcerer suddenly leaped up, exclaiming, that he had lost his senses, and that knives and hatchets must be kept out of his way, as he had a mind to kill somebody. Then, rolling his eyes towards Le Jeune, he began a series of frantic gestures and outcries, — then stopped abruptly and stared into vacancy, silent and motionless, — then resumed his former clamor, raged in and out of the hut, and, seizing some of its supporting poles, broke them, as if in an uncontrollable frenzy. The missionary, though alarmed, sat reading his breviary as before. When, however, on the next morning, the sorcerer began again to play the maniac, the thought occurred to him, that some stroke of fever might in truth have touched his brain. Accordingly, he approached him and felt his pulse, which he found, in his own words, “as cool as a fish.” The pretended madman looked at him with astonishment, and, giving over the attempt to frighten him, presently returned to his senses.
[The Indians, it is well known, ascribe mysterious and supernatural powers to the insane, and respect them accordingly. The Neutral Nation (see Introduction, “The Huron-Iroquois Family” (p. xliv)) was full of pretended madmen, who raved about the villages, throwing firebrands, and making other displays of frenzy.]
Le Jeune, robbed of his sleep by the ceaseless thumping of the sorcerer’s drum and the monotonous cadence of his medicine-songs, improved the time in attempts to convert him. “I began,” he says, “by evincing a great love for him, and by praises, which I threw to him as a bait whereby I might catch him in the net of truth.”  But the Indian, though pleased with the Father’s flatteries, was neither caught nor conciliated.
[“Ie commençay par vn témoignage de grand amour en son endroit, et par des loüanges que ie luy iettay comme vne amorce pour le prendre dans les filets de la verité. Ie luy fis entendre que si vn esprit, capable des choses grandes comme le sien, cognoissoit Dieu, que tous les Sauuages induis par son exemple le voudroient aussi cognoistre.” — Relation, 1634, 71.]
Nowhere was his magic in more requisition than in procuring a successful chase to the hunters, — a point of vital interest, since on it hung the lives of the whole party. They often, however, returned empty-handed; and, for one, two, or three successive days, no other food could be had than the bark of trees or scraps of leather. So long as tobacco lasted, they found solace in their pipes, which seldom left their lips. “Unhappy infidels,” writes Le Jeune, “who spend their lives in smoke, and their eternity in flames!”
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapter 4 by Francis Parkman
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.