A Glimpse of the Lenape

The night before (page 5 of 7)

And there are the stories of the manëtuwàk. In a landscape this changeable, this charged with beauty and danger, everything has a spirit: plants, animals, the rock bluffs.
Mesingw, Keeper of the Game

The creator, Kishëlemienk, made the world with his thoughts, then assigned spirit beings to keep it in order. Mahta'ntu is the evil one, who causes mosquitoes and stinging wasps. Mësingw, the keeper of the game, maintains the balance of nature, letting people feed themselves without destroying animal and plant populations. His half red, half black face watches over the campsite. And then there is each man's guardian spirit, which comes to him as boy of twelve or so when he goes off into the woods alone on a vision quest.

Mesingw, Keeper of the Game

Image courtesy Seton Hall University Museum, photography by John Stokes

Human effigy face tobacco pipe, 1000 – 400 years ago

Human effigy face tobacco pipe, 1000 — 400 years ago

Photo courtesy of Lenape Lifeways, Inc.

During the long winter months, there's time to make images of these spirits. The lip of a clay beaker is turned into the beak of a turtle. A stone pestle, used for grinding corn, is chipped and smoothed till it has the head of a bear. And the bowl of a pipe, filled with tobacco and smoked during long hours of meditation, has been carved into a solemn spirit face that stares at the smoker and calls on him or her to consider the powers beyond.

The First People Slideshow

A Glimpse of the Lenape

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