This section is a continuation of The History of Hayehwatha.
Hayehwatha took sumac twigs, cored them, cut them into short lengths and strung them up, producing several short strands. Hayehwatha hung them on a horizontally suspended rod.
The Condolence Wampum
In some history books Deganawidah used these string objects to alleviate Hayehwatha’s grief by condoling him with a ritual.
With the first string Deganawidah said:
“When a person has suffered a great loss caused by death and is grieving, the tears blind his eyes so that he cannot see. With these words I wipe away the tears from your eyes so that now you may see clearly.”
With the second string:
“When a person has suffered a great loss caused by death and is grieving, there is an obstruction in his ears and he cannot hear. With these words I remove the obstruction from your ears so that you may once again have perfect hearing.”
With the third string:
“When a person has suffered a great loss caused by death, his throat is stopped and he cannot speak. With these words, I remove the obstruction from your throat so that you may speak and breath freely.”
The Fourteen Acts
This ritual was later expanded by Hayehwatha to include fourteen “burdens” or acts performed to bring condolence and healing to the mind and body of those mourning a death. This became the Condolence Council Ceremony and was used for mourning both the loss of a chief and the loss of other persons.
In the Condolence Ceremony there are five basic rituals, most of which include the exchange of Condolence Wampum (consisting of shell bead strings) between the condolers and the mourners and then back again. In the last two rituals, these exchanges occur for each burden, or act, and progress until completion and all the strings are returned to the condolers by the mourners.
These rituals include important spoken acknowledgements of the founding ancestors in addition to the removal of the symptoms of grief. Listeners are reminded of the structure of the Confederacy Council, the ways in which the members are related as participants, and the overriding value of cooperation.
The Condolence Ceremony
In this way, grief and healing were integrated into Iroquois culture as rituals for recovering back to normal life. At the same time, the Condolence Ceremony allowed many to share in rituals which brought together the moieties (clan groupings). This strengthened the bonds within the Confederacy and revitalized the values of peace, unification and cooperation.
The Condolence Council
In addition, it was structured that if the Condolece Council had been convened due to the death of a chief, then the ritual mourning and condolence is followed by the Installation Ritual for a new chief.
These traditions continue today among the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) people.
Image from Haudenosaunee Confederacy