Archons of the Delaware

In EP Grondine’s odd and excellent book Man and Impact in the Americas (available here: he includes the full text of the Walum Olum: The Ancient History of Lenape, as preserved by Constantine Rafinesque in his equally odd book, Ancient Nations. Rafinesque, an explorer and amateur ethnographer, recounts receiving this document in 1820, at the annual Big House festival of the Lenape nation. The Lenape, or Delaware as commonly known, are quite a story. They first appear about 1000 CE, descending upon the Mississippian settlements of the midwest from the north like a Mongol horde. They evidently split into two streams, the eastern of which settled the lands around Chesapeake Bay. (The picture above depicts them in negotiation with William Penn, Quaker patriarch of Pennsylvania.)

Their sojourn had only begun. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Lenape, wanderers in their own land, were found in every state of the union. Francis Parkman records their presence in Kansas, in the 1840s, hunting the last of the bison. In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, it is Delawares who guide the ill-fated filibuster through the north of old Mexico.

In all this, the mixing of cultures is unavoidable, as witnessed by the opening lines in the Walum Olum, with their obvious influence: “In the beginning, the Great Mind was there in the heavens, at all times, above Earth, and the Earth itself was an extended fog.” But then the story describes how “the Great Mind gave the First Mother, the mother of beings,” and we realize we are veering away from a Christianized course. And then, this: “But very secretly an Evil Being [an Evil Lesser Mind], a mighty magician, came on the Earth; and with him he brought…bad weather, sickness, and death.”

We are face to face with the Demiurge, the master archon of Gnostic myth. Which raises the question: from where did this idea originate? Is this another borrowing, suggesting again that where we find Christianity, we will also find its Shadow?



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