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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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3931. INDIANS, Priesthood.—
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3931. INDIANS, Priesthood.—

You ask
if the Indians have any order of priesthood
among them, like the Druids, Bards or Minstrels
of the Celtic nations? Adair alone, determined
to see what he wished to see in every
object, metamorphoses their conjurers into an
order of priests, and describes their sorceries
as if they were the great religious ceremonies
of the nation. Lafitau called them by their
proper names, Jongleurs, Devins, Sortileges;
De Bry, præstigiatores; Adair himself sometimes
Magi, Archimagi, cunning men, Seers,
rain-makers; and the modern Indian interpreters
call them conjurers and witches. They
are persons pretending to have communications
with the devil and other evil spirits, to foretell
future events, bring down rain, find stolen
goods, raise the dead, destroy some and heal
others by enchantment, lay spells, &c. And
Adair, without departing from his parallel of
the Jews and Indians, might have found their
counterpart much more aptly among the soothsayers,
sorcerers and wizards of the Jews, their
Gannes and Gambres, their Simon Magus, Witch
of Endor, and the young damsel whose sorceries
disturbed Paul so much; instead of
placing them in a line with their high-priest,
their chief-priests, and their magnificent hierarchy
generally. In the solemn ceremonies of
the Indians, the persons who direct or officiate,
are their chiefs, elders and warriors, in civil
ceremonies or in those of war; it is the head of
the cabin in their private or particular feasts
or ceremonies; and sometimes the matrons, as
in their corn feasts. And even here, Adair might
have kept up his parallel, without ennobling his
conjurers. For the ancient patriarchs, the
Noahs, the Abrahams, Isaacs and Jacobs, and
even after the consecration of Aaron, the Samuels
and Elijahs, and we may say further,
every one for himself offered sacrifices on the
altars. The true line of distinction seems to be,
that solemn ceremonies, whether public or private,
addressed to the Great Spirit, are conducted
by the worthies of the nation, men or
matrons, while conjurers are resorted to only
for the invocation of evil spirits. The present
state of the Indian tribes, without any public
order of priests, is proof sufficient that they
never had such an order. Their steady habits
permit no innovations, not even those which
the progress of science offers to increase the
comforts, enlarge the understanding, and improve
the morality of mankind. Indeed, so
little idea have they of a regular order of
priests, that they mistake ours for their conjurers,
and call them by that name.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. vi, 60. Ford ed., ix, 357.
(M. 1812)