What Are Some Details About the Seneca Indian Religion?

The Seneca people have several traditional religious beliefs and practices. There is a belief in an “Earth Holder” and other natural elements and forces. Historically, the people held festivals to honor strawberries and maple sap. They also held a celebration in the winter to give thanks and practice forgiveness. People believed that illness was the result of spiritual influences, and shamans used as many as 200 herbs to treat and heal sick people.

In contemporary times, many Seneca people follow the Longhouse Religion, Catholicism and other Christian denominations. The Longhouse Religion started as a religious movement called “The Code of Handsome Lake.” Handsome Lake is the name of a Seneca prophet who started the religion in 1799. The religion combines some traditional Iroquois beliefs with elements of Quakerism and Christianity.

Preachers in the religion recite the revelation of Handsome Lake twice per year. The full recitation takes three mornings. This occurs before sunrise. The preacher stands at a fireplace and sings a Sun Song for good weather. During the recitation, congregants sit on benches, and women cover their heads with shawls.

The atmosphere resembles a Christian revival meeting. The emotional atmosphere becomes contagious and moves people to publicly declare allegiance to the religion.