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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Besides there is a generall Custome amongst them, at the apprehension of any Excellency in Men, Women, Beasts, Fish, etc., to cry out Manittoo, that is, it is a God, as if they see one man excell other in Wisdom, Valour, Strength, Activity etc., they cry out Manittoo, A God.

With these words, written from New England in 1643, Roger Williams introduced the Algonquian concept of Manitou to the world. It is one of those words that is very difficult to translate into English because our language doesn't contain proper categories to express American Indian thought. Manitou means "God," but that is not enough.

Perhaps the closest we can get to it is to trace the developing theology of Siberian shamanism, developed on the shores of Lake Bikal and transported thousands of miles across the wilderness where it was deposited in what would one day be called New England. There it awaited the coming confrontation with the Pilgrims' Christianity.

The people who would one day be called "Indians" believed in the Creator. They called him Kichtan or Kitchi-Manitou (the "Great Mystery"). Over a lot of time and across two continents they developed the belief that the Creator inhabited mountains and lakes, trees and animals, with a divine presence. Specific effigies or medicine bags were understood to be the home of spirits. The forest and sky, Turtle Island in North America—indeed, all of creation was the habitation of various Manitous, which were, in turn, an expression of the Great Mystery.

This three-fold realm of God—transcendent, immanent, and specific—is Manitou. People interact with Manitou because they are part of the creation. They are not separate from nature, as the Pilgrims believed. The Algonquians did not even believe humans were the crowning expression of the Creator's work. "Four-leggeds" and "two-leggeds" were equally a part of the whole. When a rock was removed from the seashore, something else was put in its place. When an animal was killed for food, an offering was returned. Balance and wholeness were the watchwords of Algonquian thought. When this wholeness was experienced or visualized, when an example of essential religion was seen in life, it was Manitou. With Manitou, the sacred fused with the secular.



the name given to a mysterious magical force and also to personal spirit-protectors.

According to the superstitions and customs of the North American Indians, each man—warrior and hunter—had to acquire a manitou by means of special ordeals and “visions.” Christian missionaries attempted to develop among the Indians faith in a heavenly god (“the great manitou”) on the basis of the manitou concepts; this was reflected in H. Longfellow’s narrative poem Song of Hiawatha.


supreme deity of Algonquin and neighboring tribes. [Am. Indian Religion: Collier’s, X, 91]
See: God
References in periodicals archive ?
Manitou UK Ltd has appointed Bendigo Mitchell as the Manitou Industrial dealer for Warwickshire.
Through Waluwetsu, Billy is reconnected with Manitous, the Great Creator, and he also tells him about the coming apocalypse: "There is little left of what once was.
47-54) and that unusually shaped large rock outcrops, rocky hills and boulders with crevices and holes were the "dwelling-places of the manitous and mythical creatures such as the Maymaygwayshi" (ibid.
These "dreaming rocks," where manitous spoke in dreams and visions, were the portals to a complex landscape of spirits and myth that merged with the temporal world.
Power is connection to Manitous - the invisible - and it is spiritual efficacy.
Manitou" comes from the Ojibwe word manidoo, meaning "god, spirit, manitou.
causes of events in the Algonquian world only meant that heads of animals once offered to the manitous at feasts were now offered to Christ.
For northeastern tribes immersed in relationships of obligation and mutual reliance among kin as well as with the manitous, or spiritual beings, that inhabit the natural world around them, a stance of neediness and even powerlessness had a very different significance than in societies like the United States that stressed social and economic independence.
35) Nineteenth century reports of Indian storytelling specifically note the area around Niagara Falls as the "local habitation" of manitous.
When confronted with an Indian group acting in ways understood by the French as spiritual, the French missionaries believed that the Illinois would be an ideal group to convert, a people who would easily transfer their devotion from their manitous to the Christian God and would discard their "traditional" spiritual practices.
protected by the thing in the lake or by the other Manitous who lived in
To the reader the sharing, giving and empowerment by manitous that characterizes the lives of Brown Otter and others is a refreshing change from Christianity, a breath of air from a truly different world.