Mississippian religious traditions


Mississippian religion was a distinctive Native American belief system in eastern North America that evolved out of an ancient, continuous tradition of sacred landscapes, shamanic institutions, world renewal ceremonies, and the ritual use of fire, ceremonial pipes, medicine bundles, sacred poles, and symbolic weaponry. Mississippian people shared similar beliefs in cosmic harmony, divine aid and power, the ongoing cycle of life and death, and spiritual powers with neighboring cultures throughout much of eastern North America. Although similarities in religious practices and rituals existed throughout the Mississippian world, individual polities possessed divergent trajectories of religious thought that over time resulted in differing paths of belief and ritual. Above all, Mississippian people were logical, pragmatic, and rational in their religious beliefs, and their observations and thoughts about the world around them were reflected in their views of the spiritual world. Their rituals and sacred narratives embodied abstract meanings, archaic language, complex symbolism, and esoteric metaphors. The numerous and widespread Mississippian polities gave rise to a remarkable tradition of religious beliefs and practices. Their religious system flourished for more than half a millennium as a meaningful and vibrant set of beliefs. Identifying the circumstances, complexity, and nature of Mississippian religion is a major focus of current research among a number of scholars, including anthropologists, archaeologists, ethnohistorians, folklorists, and historians. Although scholars debate various points of religious belief, there is general agreement on the overall religious traditions.

Publication Title

The Cambridge History of Religions in America Volume I: Pre-Columbian Times to 1790