Condolence Ritual


"The New Mind has come to thee, namely Righteousness and Health and Power.'
Deganawidah
Seneca-Cayuga Logo This was the origin of the condolence ritual to comfort and relieve mourners of their sorrows.
    Hiawatha invented the wampum beads as a way of communication and to mark stories. Upon the death of his family, Hiawatha went to Tully Lakes were he picked up shells and threaded them onto three strings.

    Hiawatha, "If I found anyone burdened with grief even as I am. I would console them for they would be covered with the night and wrapped in darkness. This would I lift with words of condolence and these strings of beads would become words with which I would address them."

    Presenting the first string, Hiawatha said, "I would console them and say, When a person has suffered a great loss caused by death and is grieving, the tears blind his eyes so that he cannot see. With these words, I wipe away the tears from your eyes so thaat noe you may see clearly."

    Presenting the second strain he would say, "When a person has suffered a great loss caused by death and is grieving, there is an obstruction from your ears so that you may once again have perfect hearing."

    Presenting the third string he would say, "When a person has suffered great loss caused by death, his throat is stopped and cannot speak. With these words, I remove the obstruction from your throat so that you may once again have perfect hearing."

    Upon meeting Hawatha for the first time Deganawidah is said to have seen the deep grief Hiawatha was feeling from the loss of his entire family.

    Deganawidah heard Hiawatha mourning before a set of three strings of beads on a pole. He approached his friend and took the strings to console with him.

    "I wipe your tears from thy face using the white fawn-skin of pity ....I make it daylight for thee....I beautify the sky. Now shalt thou do thy thinking in peace when thine eyes rest on the sky, which the Master of All Things, intended should be a source of happiness to man."

    These are the basic "three words" of the condolence ceremony, observed by the Iroquois even to this day. The message called people to three principles: health of body and mind, righteous in conduct and equality and justice among people, and the maintenance of authority.

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