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Good Newes from New England
Chapter 7, 1624

Caleb Johnson, a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, provides the following comments on this hypertext version:

Written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, Good Newes from New England was published in London in 1624.  It is a journal of events that occured between 1622 and 1623 at Plymouth Colony.  It includes information about Tisquantum's death (November 1622), the sickness of Massasoit, Thomas Weston's Wessagussett Colony, and much more.
This is a modernized-English version of the book as it was reprinted in the Mayflower Descendant, volume 25-26.  There really are no distinct chapters, but I have adopted the chapterization used in the recent Applewood Books edition of Good Newes from New England.

Our thanks to Mr. Johnson for presenting this hypertext version of Good Newes from New England. Go to Mr. Johnson's Mayflower History page.

Goode Newes, Introduction Goode Newes, Chap. 1 Goode Newes, Chap. 2
Goode Newes, Chap. 3 Goode Newes, Chap. 4 Goode Newes, Chap. 5
Goode Newes, Chap. 6 Goode Newes, Chap. 7 Goode Newes, Chap. 8

Chapter 7, Good Newes from New England

Thus have I made a true and full Narration of the state of our Plantation, and such things as were most remarkable therein since December 1621. If I have omitted any thing, it is either through weakness of memory, or because I judged it not material: I confess my stile rude, and unskillfulness in the task I undertook, being urged hereunto by opportunity, which I knew to be wanting in others, and but for which I would not have undertaken the same; yet as it is rude so it is plain, and therefore the easier to be understood; wherein others may see that which we are bound to acknowledge, viz. That if ever any people in these later ages were upheld by the providence of God after a more special manner then others, then we: and therefore are the more bound to celebrate the memory of his goodness, with everlasting thankfulness. For in these forenamed straits, such was our state, as in the morning we had often our food to seek for the day, and yet performed the duties of our Callings, I mean other daily labors, to provide for after time: and though at some times in some seasons at noon I have seen men stagger by reason of faintness for want of food, yet ere night by the good providence and blessing of God, we have enjoyed such plenty as though the windows of heaven had been opened unto us. How few, weak, and raw were we at our first beginning, and there selling, and in the midst of barbarous enemies? yet God wrought our peace for us. How often have we been at the pits brim, and in danger to be swallowed up, yea, not knowing, till afterward that we were in peril? and yet God preserved us: yea, and from how many that we yet know not of, he that knoweth all things can best tell: So that when I seriously consider of things, I cannot but think that God hath a purpose to give that Land as an inheritance to our Nation, and great pity it were that it should long lie in so desolate a state, considering it agreeth so well with the constitution of our bodies, being both fertile, and so temperate for heat and cold, as in that respect one can scarce distinguish New-England from Old.

A few things I thought meet to add hereunto, which I have observed amongst the Indians, both touching their Religion, and sundry other Customs amongst them. And first, whereas my self and others, in former Letters (which came to the Press against my will and knowledge) wrote, that the Indians about us are a people without any Religion, or knowledge of any God, therein I erred, though we could then gather no better: For as they conceive of many divine powers, so of one whom they call Kiehtan, to be the principal and maker of all the rest, and to be made by none: He (they say) created the heavens, earth, sea, and all creatures contained therein. Also that he made one man and one woman, of whom they and we and all mankind came: but how they became so far dispersed that know they not. At first they say, there was no Sachem, or King, but Kiehtan, who dwelleth above in the Heavens, whither all good men go when they die, to see their friends, and have their fill of all things: This his habitation lyeth far West-ward in the heavens, they say; thither the bad men go also, and knock at his door, but he bids them Quatchet, that is to say, Walk abroad, for there is no place for such; so that they wander in restless want and penury: Never man saw this Kiehtan; only old men tell them of him, and bid them tell their children, yea, to charge them to teach their posterities the same, and lay the like charge upon them. This power they acknowledge to be good, and when they would obtain any great matter, meet together, and cry unto him, and so likewise for plenty, victory, etc. sing, dance, feast, give thanks, and hang up Garlands and other things in memory of the same.

Another power they worship, whom they call Hobomok, and to the Northward of us Hobbamoqui; this as far as we can conceive is the Devil, him they call upon to cure their wounds and diseases. When they are curable, he persuades them he sends the same for some conceived anger against them, but upon their calling upon him can and cloth help them: But when they are mortal, and not curable in nature, then he persuades them Kiehtan is angry and sends them, whom none can cure: in so much, as in that respect only they somewhat doubt whether he be simply good, and therefore in sickness never call upon him.  This Hobomok appears in sundry forms unto them, as in the shape of a Man, a Deer, a Fawn, an Eagle, etc. but most ordinarily a Snake: He appears not to all but the chiefest and most judicious amongst them, though all of them strive to attain to that hellish height of honor.

He appeareth most ordinary and is most conversant with three sorts of people, one I confess I neither know by name nor office directly of these they have few but esteem highly of them, and think that no weapon can kill them: another they call by the name of Powah, and the third Pniese.  The office and duty of the Powah is to be exercised principally in calling upon the Devil, and curing diseases of the sick or wounded. The common people join with him in the exercise of invocation, but do but only assent, or as we term it, say ten to that he saith, yet sometime break out into a short musical note with him. The Powah is eager and free in speech, fierce in countenance, and joineth many antics and laborious gestures with the same over the party diseased. If the party be wounded he will also seem to suck the wound, but if they be curable (as they say) he toucheth it not, but a Skooke, that is the Snake, or Wobsacuck, that is the Eagle, sitteth on his shoulder and licks the same. This none see but the Powah, who tells them he cloth it himself. If the party be otherwise diseased, it is accounted sufficient if in any shape he but come into the house, taking it for an undoubted sign of recovery.

And as in former ages Apollo had his temple at Delphos, and Diana at Ephesus; so have I heard them call upon some as if they had their residence in some certain places, or because they appeared in those forms in the same. In the Powahs speech he promiseth to sacrifice many skins of beasts, kettles, hatchets, beads knives, and other the best things they have to the fiend, if he will come to help the party diseased: But whether they perform it I know not. The other practices I have scene, being necessarily called at some times to be with their sick, and have used the best arguments I could make them understand against the same: They have told me I should see the Devil at those times come to the party, but I assured my self and them of the contrary, which so proved: yea, them selves have confessed they never saw him when any of us were present. In desperate end extraordinary hard travel in childbirth, when the party cannot be delivered by the ordinary meals, they send for this Powah though ordinarily their travel is not so extreme as in our parts of the world, they being of a more hardy nature; for on the third day after child-birth I have scene the mother with the infant upon a small occasion in cold weather in a boat upon the Sea.

Many sacrifices the Indians use, and in some cases kill children. It seemeth they are various in their religious worship in a little distance, and grow more and more cold in their worship to Kiehtan; saying in their memory he was much more called upon. The Narragansetts exceed in their blind devotion, and have a great spacious house wherein only some few (that are as we may term them Priests) come: thither at certain known times resort all their people, and offer almost all the riches they have to their gods, as kettles, skins, hatchets, beads, knives, etc. all which are cast by the Priests into a great fire that they make in the midst of the house, and there consumed to ashes. To this offering every man bringeth freely, and the more he is known to bring, hath the better esteem of all men. This the other Indians about us approve of as good, and wish their Sachems would appoint the like: and because the plague hath not reigned at Narragansetts as at other places about them, they attribute to this custom there used.

The Pnieses are men of great courage and wisdom, and to these also the Devil appeareth more familiarly then to others, and as we conceive maketh covenant with them to preserve them from death, by wounds, with arrows, knives, hatchets, etc. or at least both themselves and especially the people think themselves to be freed from the same. And though against their batters all of them by painting disfigure themselves, yet they are known by their cottage and boldness, by reason whereof one of them will chase almost an hundred men, for they account it death for whomsoever stand in their way. These are highly esteemed of all sorts of people, and are of the Sachems Council, without whom they will not war or undertake any weighty business. In war their Sachems for their more safety go in the midst of them. They are commonly men of the greatest stature and strength, and such as will endure most hardness, and yet are more discreet, courteous, and humane in their carriages then any amongst them scorning theft, lying, and the like base dealings, and stand as much upon their reputation as any men.

And to the end they may have store of these, they train up the most forward and likeliest boys from their childhood in great hardness, and make them abstain from dainty meat, observing divers orders prescribed, to the end that when they are of age the Devil may appear to them, causing to drink the juice of Sentry and other bitter herbs till they cast, which they must disgorge into the platter, and drink again, and again, till at length through extraordinary oppressing of nature it will seem to be all blood, and this the boys will do with eagerness at the first, and so continue till by reason of faintness they can scarce stand on their legs, and then must go forth into the cold: also they beat their shins with sticks, and cause them to run through bushes, stumps, and brambles, to make them hardy and acceptable to the Devil, that in time he may appear unto them.

Their Sachems cannot be all called Kings, but only some few of them, to whom the rest resort for protection, and pay homage unto them, neither may they war without their knowledge and approbation, yet to be commanded by the greater as occasion serveth. Of this sort is Massasoit our friend, and Conanacus of Narragansett our supposed enemy.

Every Sachem taketh care for the widow and fatherless, also for such as are aged, and any way maimed, if their friends be dead or not able to provide for them.

A Sachem will not take any to wife but such an one as is equal to him in birth, otherwise they say their seed would in time become ignoble, and though they have many other wives, yet are they no other then concubines or servants, and yield a kind of obedience to the principal, who ordereth the family, and them in it. The like their men observe also, and will adhere to the first during their lives; but put away the other at their pleasure.

This government is successive and not by choice. If the father die before the son or daughter be of age, then the child is committed to the protection and tuition of some one amongst them, who ruleth in his stead till he be of age, but when that is I know not.

Every Sachem knoweth how far the bounds and limits of his own Country extendeth, and that is his own proper inheritance, out of that if any of his men desire land to set their come, he giveth them as much as they can use, and sets them their bounds. In this circuit whosoever hunteth, if they kill any venison, bring him his fee, which is the fore parts of the same, if it be killed on the land, but if in the water, then the skin thereof: The great Sachems or Kings, know their Own bounds or limits of land, as well as the rest.

All travelers or strangers for the most part lodge at the Sachems, when they come they tell them how long they will stay, and to what place they go, during which time they receive entertainment according to their persons, but want not.

Once a year the Pnieses use to provoke the people to bestow much come on the Sachem. To that end they appoint a certain time and place near the Sachems dwelling, where the people bring many baskets of come, and make a great stack thereof. There the Pnieses stand ready to give thanks to the people on the Sachems behalf, and after acquainteth the Sachems therewith, who fetcheth the same, and is no less thankful, bestowing many gifts on them.

When any are visited with sickness, their friends resort unto them for their comfort, and continue with them oft-times till their death or recovery. If they die they stay a certain time to mourn for them. Night and morning they perform this duty many days after the burial in a most doleful manner, insomuch as though it be ordinary and the note musical, which they take one from another, and all together, yet it will draw tears from their eyes, and almost from ours also. But if they recover then because their sickness was chargeable, they send come and other gifts unto them at a certain appointed time, whereat they feast and dance, which they call Commoco.

When they bury the dead they sow up the corps in a mat and so put it in the earth. If the party be a Sachem they cover him with many curious mats, and bury all his riches with him, and enclose the grave with a pale. If it be a child the father will also put his own most special jewels and ornaments in the earth with it, also will cut his hair and disfigure himself very much in token of sorrow. If it be the man or woman of the house, they will pull down the mattes and leave the frame standing, and bury them in or near the same, and either remove their dwelling or give over house-keeping.

The men employ themselves wholly in hunting, and other exercises of the bow, except at some times they take some pains in fishing.

The women live a most slavish life, they carry all their burdens, set and dress their come, gather it in, seek out for much of their food, beat and make ready the come to eat, and have all household care lying upon them.

The younger sort reverence the elder, and do all mean offices whilst they are together, although they be strangers. Boys and girls may not wear their hair like men and women, but are distinguished thereby. A man is not accounted a man till he do some notable act, or show forth such courage and resolution as becometh his place. The men take much tobacco, but for boys so to do they account it odious.

All their names are significant and variable, for when they come to the state of men and women, they alter them according to their deeds or dispositions.

When a maid taken in marriage sue first cutteth her hair, and after weareth a covering on her head till her hair be grown out. Their women are diversely disposed, some as modest as they will scarce talk one with another in the company of men, being very chaste also; yet other some light, lascivious and wanton.

If a woman have a bad husband, or cannot affect him, and there be war or opposition between that and any other people, she will run away from him to the contrary party and there live, where they never come unwelcome: for where are most women, there is greatest plenty.

When a woman hath her monthly terms she separateth herself from all other company, and liveth certain days in a house alone: after which she washeth her self and all that she hath touched or used, and is again received to her husbands bed or family.

For adultery the husband will beat his wife and put her away, if he please. Some common strumpets there are as well as in other places, but they are such as either never married, or widows, or put away for adultery: for no man will keep such an one to wife.

In matters of unjust and dishonest dealing the Sachem examineth and punisheth the same. In case of thefts, for the I first offense he is disgracefully rebuked, for the second beaten by the Sachem with a cudgel on the naked back, for the third he is beaten with many strokes, and hath his nose slit upward, that thereby all men may both know and shun him. If any man kill another, he must likewise die for the same. The Sachem not only passeth the sentence upon male-factors, but executeth the same with his own hands, if the party be then present; if not, sendeth his own knife in case of death, in the hands of others to perform the same. But if the offender be to receive other punishment, he will not receive the same but from the Sachem himself, before whom being naked he kneeleth, and will not offer to run away though he beat him never so much, it being a greater disparagement for a man to cry during the time of his correction, then is his offense and punishment.

As for their apparel they wear breeches and stockings in one like some Irish, which is made of Deer skins, and have shoes of the same leather. They wear also a Dears skin loose about them like a cloak, which they will turn to the weather side. In this habit they travel, but when they are at home or come to their journeys end, presently they pull off their breeches, stocking, and shoes, wring out the water if they be wet, and dry them, and rub or chafe the same. Though these be off, yet have they another small garment that covereth their secrets. The men wear also when they go abroad in cold weather an Otter or Fox skin on their right arm, but only their bracer on the left. Women and all of that sex wear strings about their legs, which the men never do.

The people are very ingenious and observative, they keep account of time by the moon, and winters or summers; they know diverse of the stars by name, in particular, they know the North-star and call it maske, which is to say the bear. Also they have many names for the winces. They will guess very well at the wince and weather before hand, by observations in the heavens. They report also, that some of them can cause the wince to blow in what part they list, can raise storms and tempests which they usually do when they intend the death or destruction of other people, that by reason of the unseasonable weather they may take advantage of their enemies in their houses. At such times they perform their greatest exploits, and in such seasons when they are at enmity with any, they keep more careful watch then at other times.

As for the language it is very copious, large, and difficult, as yet we cannot attain to any great measure thereof; but can understand them, and explain our selves to their understanding, by the help of those that daily converse with us. And though there be difference in an hundred miles distance of place, both in language and manners, yet not so much but that they very well understand each other. And thus much of their lives and manners.

Instead of Records and Chronicles, they take this course, where any remarkable act is done, in memory of it, either in the place, or by some path-way near adjoining, they make a round hole in the ground about a foot deep, and as much over, which when others passing by behold, they inquire the cause and occasion of the same, which being once known, they are careful to acquaint all men, as occasion serveth therewith. And least such holes should be filled, or grown up by any accident, as men pass by they will oft renew the same: By which means many things of great Antiquity are fresh in memory. So that as a man travelleth, if he can understand his guide, his journey will be the less tedious, by reason of the many historical Discourses will be related unto him.

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