Religion and Native American Effigy Mounds

Although it may be hard to classify whether the Indian Mounds in Wisconsin have any religious link, one must consider the practices of many other ancient rituals. Firstly they are burial mounds and it has long been religious ritual to bury the deceased.

Secondly the mounds are shaped like animals, a grandiose burial ritual indicates perhaps an offering to the earth and natural order of things.  These effigies go hand in hand with Geertz’s definition of religion as a ‘set of symbols which acts to establish powerful, persuasive, and long lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.’ The effigies are the symbols; the burials formulate a’ general order of existence’ as other animals do not bury their dead and they seem to be (as previously stated) some kind of offering or homage to the deceased. As written accounts are lacking from the time the only assumptions we can make are based off the archaeological finds. Akin to Ancient Egyptian customs, the mounds contained many valuables of the buried to bring into a possible afterlife; another plausible reason for religion to be brought to the forefront of the discussion. An afterlife symbolizes going on to greater things to ease the passing.

From a birds-eye perspective there is clearly a connection between Geertz’s definition of religion and the Indian mounds. Despite the lack of written evidence to link it, there are clearly enough artifacts to presume a religious presence within the society.


About mikecrusoe

I am an international student at Lawrence University. I grew up in London, England and I rather enjoy tea and crumpets but that is for another forum.
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