Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Manitu and you

man·i·tou or man·i·tu (măn'ĭ­tōō') also man·i·to (-tō') n., pl. man·i·tous or man·i·tus also  man·i·tos. 1. In Algonquian religious belief, a supernatural power that permeates the world, possessed in varying degrees by both spiritual and human beings. 2. A deity or spirit.

hum·mock (hŭm'зk) n. 1. A low mound or ridge of earth; a knoll. 2. Also ham·mock (hăm'зk). A tract of forested land that rises above an adjacent marsh in the southern United States. 3. A ridge or hill of ice in an ice field. --hum'mock·y adj.

Okay, I closed out the computer before composing myself and the blog to talk about Algonquian religious beliefs.  So, who can blame me, I would not want to offend any Native Americans (or American Indians as many prefer since white man put that in the treaties) who might read this.  Anyway, I thought maybe I'd pass and move on to the next word that  might popup, perhaps even linking the two in some way.

And "lo, and behold" (a bit of redundancy), it might be easier than I thought.  Since numerous tribes used terms based on the same roots for the word manitou/u/o, it seems that just about anything can have a spirit since all was created by the "Great Spirit."  This includes plants and inanimate objects -- such as a forest rising from a swamp, or a hummock (aka, hammock).

So, the natives of these parts may have venerated the "hammock manitou" -- though they probably had a different name for the hammock.  According to Wikipedia, the southern "hammock" is not to be confused with the "hummock" that is composed of soil on top of permafrost (def. #3).  "Hammock," it seems came first, in the 1550's, to describe tree-covered islands rising out of the sea.

The article on the icy "hummock," however, does admit that an "earlier" use of the word was used to refer to the warmer woody areas:

"[T]his term also refers to lumpy terrain; or land that has an irregular shape; or a fertile, wooded area that is at a slightly higher elevation (less than 2 m or so) than nearby marshes or swamps. Hummocks are often made by decaying plants."

It is this quote that makes me think that the natives may have been on to something.  If theses woodland areas were composed of decaying plants, then "swamp gas"  (methane) would be present.  Such a "spirit" would be very evident whenever anyone was around.  These spirits were connected with rocks, dirt, plants and animals - maybe even spontaneous combustion for all I know!  Who wouldn't respect such awesome forces!

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