Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": THE 'GREAT SPIRIT' OF THE LENAPE


The Lenape (or Delaware) Indians, an important Algonquian tribe, occupied a large area from Ontario southward into the middle Atlantic region, and westward principally in Oklahoma.

All the Lenape so far questioned, whether followers of the native or of the Christian religion unite in saying that their people have always believed in a chief Mani 'to, a leader of all the gods, in short, in a Great Spirit or Supreme Being, The other mani 'towuk for the greater part being merely agents appointed by him. His name, according to present Unami usage is Gicelemu 'kaong, usually translated 'great spirit,' but meaning literally, 'creator.' Directly or through the mani 'towuk his agents, he created the earth and everything in it, and gave to the Lenape all they possessed, 'the trees, the waters, the fire that springs from flint,--everything.' To him the people pray in their greatest ceremonies, and give thanks for the benefits he has given them. Most of the direct worship, however is addressed to the mani 'towuk his agents, to whom he has given charge of the elements, and with whom the people feel they have a closer personal relation, as their actions are seen in every sunrise and thunderstorm, and felt in every wind that blows across woodland and prairie. Moreover, as the Creator lives in the twelfth or highest heaven above the earth, it takes twelve shouts or cries to reach his ear.


M.R Harrington, Religion and Ceremonies of the Lenape (New York, 1921) pp 18-19

Bibliography for this page:

More on American Indians:

More on Supernatural Beliefs:

Books by Mircea Eliade:

Gods, Goddesses and Supernatural Beings | Main Menu | Keyword Search