The natives in North America have descendants in various ancient nations. Every single one has its very own social structure, religion and language. Keetoowah spirituality is the Cherokee Nation’s spirituality. Cherokee was the largest of the native people when Europeans came to the continent, with a population of around 30,000 in the year 1650.
The Keetoowah religion came under a lot of attack since it was banned as Christianity was dominant. Natives actually practiced their beliefs while hidden as other religions were illegal. However, in 1978 this changed since the Freedom Of Religion Act appeared.
Keetoowah Spirituality Basics
Keetoowah people have strong beliefs. They see all life as being respected and creators have to receive love. Humanity needs to always be in balance with creators and the earth is seen as everyone’s Grandmother and teacher. Honoring elders is really important.
Keetoowah spirituality has eternal heavenly beings that created the universe, creating everything that exists and being present everywhere. Heaven has 3 tiers:
- Tree Tops – first tier
- Clouds – second tier
- Supreme Being abode
Cosmology for Keetoowah spirituality highlights that the Sun and the Moon govern and completed the earth, with Fire being appointed as caring for humanity, smoke being the messenger of Fire. Because of all this, Keetoowah worship is connected to fire, smoke, the moon and the sun. Water and Fire as seen as gods of the hunt. We have Corn being personified as goddess in religious rites and the eagle is always sacred. The person that kills an eagle needs to be trained and use proper prayers. Proper training is also necessary for handling quartz crystals since they are seen as being highly proper.
In Keetoowah spirituality we have spirit categories:
- Nanehi – found in water, mountains, rocks and ground
- Ukase – spirits that will behave frighteningly during the night
- Unutsilunehi – the spirits of those that died, hovering where the person that died lived
The afterlife is seen as 2 tiered:
- Those that are good will go to something similar to heaven, a place filled with pleasantness and light
- Those that are bad will be tortured for all eternity
The spirit of the person that died is believed to linger around where the person lived for a period that is equivalent to how much time was spent there. Then, the spirit will wander to previous residence places and so on until leaving this realm and going towards the afterlife.
Keetoowah Spirituality Practice
Keetoowahs performed rites that were sacred with formulas that were recited for many daily life aspects like life cycle events. The rituals do include crane feathers, eagle feathers, deerskin, quartz crystals, tobacco, gourds, drums and feathered wands, among others. Cherokee prayers will address four direction personifications.
There are also some ancient dances that have a religious purpose. Dances are performed together with sacrifices, thanksgivings and prayers. We see traditional dancing as always being circular, with the dancer’s left side being towards the circle’s center.
Keetoowah Spirituality Beliefs
The main beliefs are:
- Forgiveness and reconciliation – Atahuna
- Busk – Purification
- Priest’s festival – Uku
Festivals are really important in Keetoowah spirituality. They help practitioners rehearse community history and educate younger members. In most cases the festivals will last for many days. Traditional foods will be prepared and the entire community will gather to dance, pray and basically feast as one big family. Traditional preparations will include purification medicine, sweating, night-long dances, bathing, reciting formulas and fasting.
There is an ancient Keetoowah calendar that is respected and that is divided based on corn harvesting and planting. Many of the celebrations will be based on agricultural events or on the Creator’s role acknowledgment in people’s life. There are some major festivals in Keetoowah holidays:
- Selutsunigististi – Green Corn Festival
- Spring New Year
- New Year
- Ripe Corn Festival – Thanksgiving