Thursday, April 12, 2012

Alfred Cave Describes Handsome Lake's 2nd Vision

Alfred Cave's Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American Revitalization Movements in Eastern North America is a remarkable book. I also found it to be readable.

According to Cave, Native Prophets transformed their communities and essentially created new religions that were somewhere between their tribe's traditional religion and Christianity. Each prophet was unique, of course, but - in the Indian way - their movements began with some kind of a vision.

Of particular interest for me was Cave's description of the Seneca Prophet, Handsome Lake. It was Handsome Lake's second vision that became "the core of the new religion's theology" (page 195).
The vision came to Handsome Lake when he was in the midst of a deep trance that lasted seven hours. Here is what happened in the vision (all from page 195):

1. The Milky Way descended from heaven and Handsome Lake and his guide walked up it.
2. They passed a jail and saw handcuffs, a whip and a hangman's rope inside, symbolizing the severity of the white man's law.
3. A church with no doors or windows was very hot inside and the people confined to it were "crying in distress."
4. Further up the road "they met Jesus, who showed them the nail scars in his hands and feet and his bloody spear wound. Whites did this to me, Jesus cried, and then warned Handsome Lake that Indians must not trust white people."

There is a lot more in Cave's book about Handsome Lake and about many other prophets.