Religion and Folklore

Religion and Folklore

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Native American religious beliefs and practices display great diversity. As among other peoples, educated and philosophical persons may hold beliefs that differ from those of most people living in the same community; this was also true in the past.

The Mexican and Andean nations, the peoples of the North American Southwest and Southeast, and some Northwest Pacific Coast peoples had full-time religious leaders as well as shrines or temple buildings.

Peoples of other areas had part-time priest and generally lacked permanent temples. Part-time priests and shamans (faith healers, who often also used medicinal plants to cure) learned to conduct ceremonies by apprenticing themselves to older practitioners; in the larger nations priests were trained in schools attached to the temples.

In some regions religious leaders formed fraternal orders to train initiates and share knowledge; examples include the Ojibwa of the Eastern Woodland and the Pawnee of the Plains.

Most Native Americans believe that in the universe there exists an Almighty- a spiritual force that is the source of all life. Almighty of Native American belief is not pictured as a man in the sky; rather, it is believed to be formless and to exist throughout the universe.

The sun is viewed as a manifestation of the power of the Almighty, and Europeans often thought Native Americans were worshipping the sun, when, in fact, they were addressing prayers to the Almighty, of which the sun was a sing and symbol.

Ion northern and western North America, most boys and many girls were sent out alone to fast and pray until they thought they saw a spirit that promised to help them achieve the power to succeed in adult life.

Most Native American peoples have myths in which a time is described when the earth was not as it now appears, and during which it became transformed by the actions of legendary persons, or animals...