Handsome Lake (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Handsome Lake was the Seneca (Iroquois) prophet whose visions became the basis for the Longhouse religion, or the Gaiwiio, the Good Word. This Seneca traditional religious movement is still practiced in Canada, New York, and Oklahoma, where the Seneca people are concentrated.
Handsome Lake was born at the Seneca village, Canawaugus, near Avon, New York. He was a recognized Seneca chief. In June, 1799, Handsome Lake was seriously ill and fell unconscious. He reported having a vision during this state. In this vision he saw three men holding berry bushes, who then offered berries to Handsome Lake. The berries had a healing effect, and as he recovered, he began to talk with the men. It was understood that there was one man missing, a fourth whom Handsome Lake later identified with the Great Spirit, who would come again at a later time. During his conversations with the three men, Handsome Lake heard them condemn alcoholism, pronounce a death sentence on a witch, and condemn witchcraft generally. Handsome Lake himself was told not to drink anymore. Furthermore, he was given to understand that his sins were not unforgivable and that he was to teach his people the proper way to live.
Handsome Lake had many such visions after the initial one, and over more than sixteen years of activity, a code of teachings was gathered and became a part of Seneca oral tradition. The code, which sounds very similar to apocalyptic...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
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