“Of ther servis to ther gods”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613)


In a section of “Relation of Virginia, 1609” titled “Of ther servis to ther gods,” the Jamestown colonist Henry Spelman describes Virginia Indian religion, including possibly the huskanaw ceremony, as he encountered it living with the Algonquian-speaking Powhatan and Patawomeck Indians from 1609 until 1611. His account was probably written in 1613 but not published until 1872.


To give sum satisfaction to my frends and contentment unto others, which wish well to this viage, and are desirus to heare the fashions of that cuntrye: I have set doune as well as I can, what I observed in the time I was amonge them. And therefore first concerninge ther gods, yow must understand that for the most part they worship the divell, which the conjurers who are ther preests, can make apeare unto them at ther pleasuer, yet never the less in every cuntry they have a severall Image whom they call ther god. As with the great Pawetan he hath an Image called Cakeres which most comonly standeth at Yaughtawnoone or at Oropikes in a house for that purpose and with him are sett all the Kings goods and presents that are sent him, as the Cornne. But the beades or Crowne & Bedd which the Kinge of England sent him are in the gods house at Oropikes, and in their houses are all the Kinge ancesters and kindred commonly Buried, In the Patomecks cuntry they have an other god whom they call Quioquascacke, and unto ther Images they offer Beades and Copper if at any time they want Rayne or have to much, and though they observe no day to worshipe ther god: but uppon necessitye, yet onc in the yeare, ther preests which are ther conjurers with the men weomen and children doe goe into the woods, wher ther preests make a great cirkell of fier in the which after many observanses in ther conjurations they make offer of 2 or 3 children to be given to ther god if he will apeare unto them and shew his mind whome he desier. Uppon which offringe they heare a noyse out of the Cirkell Nominatinge such as he will have, whome presently they take binding them hand and footte and cast them into the circle of the fier, for be it the Kinges sonne he must be given if onc named by ther god, After the bodies which are offered are consumed in the fier and their cerimonees performed the men depart merily, the weamen weaping.

Colonist Henry Spelman describes life in Virginia in 1609 in "Relation of Virginia, 1609."
APA Citation:
Spelman, Henry. “Of ther servis to ther gods”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Spelman, Henry. "“Of ther servis to ther gods”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 20 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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