There were several ways explorers put the discoveries they were making into context with the popular beliefs and opinions for the the time–the status quo.  Exploration was done for the good of mankind, in particular for the good of mankind as it existed in Western Europe.  Any remnants of the Middle Ages philosophy that Western Europeans and Middle Eastern societies had was mostly left behind when the 15th century began.  But some of the symbols of this period remained.  Stories about sea dragons, unicorns, and the great monster of the ocean still managed to make their way into sailor’s stories, and people still believed in many of these legends and myths.

Even the captain of a large vessel on occasion had to embrace his own fear at times whenever the strong winds prevailed at sea, whenever the hull of the boat became tangled in the floating beds of algae in the Carribean ocean, whenever he came upon the Manitou in the southern shores close to New Spain and the southern edge of New France.

There were a few explorations taking place by countries other than those of Western Europe, but the sudden and rapid growth of Western European culture into its new societies gave its people the willingness and ability to consider their cultural beliefs and ways of living as God’s chosen people.  This meant that their life had to be unlike that which was elsewhere in the undeveloped parts of the world, those parts of the world worth exploring.

Supremacy ruled where ever technology and inventions made a particular country or nation “the best”, at least in the eyes and minds of western Europeans.  It was only a matter of answering the question ‘which of us is going to make it to the top first?’  that pretty much led to all of the chaos that Western Europe went through as fairly  one small part of the world decided that it was God’s decision that these few cultures that dominated in this part of the world could now go on to take over the rest of that which existed.

This way in which the fight for supremacy between countries was spread to the New World was first based on topography, and then economy, culture and religion.  Topography and the physical form of the land defined where battles could be won and lost.   The positions of mountains, ports, channels for ships were the landforms that helped establish the colonies and later help initiate many of the battles that ensued between the small countries trying to make claims to more land, in order to become the ruler of this region and perhaps some of the neighboring lands.   The horn of the narwhale made it clear where the unicorns lie.  Fossils (of dinosaurs) defined the natural history of the sea monsters and dragons.  Together, all of this tells is that it was essentially imagination that defined where everything in the myths, legends and Old Testament had to be.

The locations of the most valuable commercial goods were most important to where the first settlements were laid.  Natural resources like trees, metal ores, silk, and medicines–the elixir of life–were the commercial goods that guided many of the travels these leaders took in their local neighborhood.  Sassafras, the cure for Syphilis promoted by the Queen during the late 1500s and early 1600s made for some of the exploration attempts made of the Florida portion of New Spain and the island alll along the Massachusetts shoreline.  During this time, sociocultural beliefs systems, in particular those of a religious nature, impacted these attempts to progress by enabling the creation of new reasons for one political system and culture to take over another.  The sassafras leaf had three lobes of the largest of its three types of leaves, all signs of trinity.

It was the growing population density of certain parts of Europe that made it possible for different groups to develop their own followers and supporters, and their allies, making it increasingly harder over time for the leading culture for the time to maintain its supremacy.  For this reason religion was why particular groups, in need of a psychological and convincing reasons to dominate and take over the physical domains and social ties their neighboring competitors, had to move to the New World, to successfully establish themselves over the next few generations.

Well before the Dutch tried to claim North America, there was a turmoil in Dutch culture brought on by the Spanish successfully taking over parts of the land immediately adjacent to what later became the United Netherlands during the very late 1500s.  The attempts of the French, the English, the Portuguese, the Prussians, and even the Slavics to take over certain portions of the land next to their own provided some of the lessons later needed for the much larger goals these countries needed to develop.

When the notion of finding a new route to highly important countries for trade relations became the main reason for taking new journeys into unknown territories, this alone was not enough to convince others that such political actions had to be taken.  The possibility that very valuable goods and the rewards such a captain would get for finding these product also gave that captain and any potential sailors a real reason to engage in this type of exploration.  The opportunity to spread your belief system, culture and religion alone would not convince an investor to risk much of his finances, an owner of ships to risk his most valuable wares, or an individual to risk his life trying to appease someone with an idea just because he/she is of upper character, of noble upbringing.


Bartholomew Dias’s Voyage to Africa, and the route of Taenia solium — African intestinal worm or “tapeworm” — back to Western Europe

Nevertheless, it was these socially and culturally defined concepts that turn the idea of explorations into something that could obtain the support needed of all of these types of risk takers.  Unlike previously voyages across the ocean that involved much smaller fleets, this new voyage in the works would have to be able to endure longer periods away from the homelands.  Incrementally, the explorers on these European ships had managed to make their way to other countries without experiencing a complete failure in their efforts.  Other continents had been discovered that they knew about.  Like boys deciding whether or not to make their way into the dark forest, just to see if there is something on its other end that they know has to exist, so too did the most experienced explorers and travellers know that there had to be something on the other end of that great ocean.  Because no one they knew was able to make it to the other side, they could only speculate about what was there waiting to be found and taken advantage of.  Whereas myths and legends typically took the lead in the speculation about what could be found on the other side, rational reasoning and speculation told them there was something waiting to be discovered.  In the least it was the other side of a large place that everyone already knew about, but more than likely there was a place with undiscovered people and wares.  The “India” that the eastern coast of North America once was before Columbus’s time would immediately be interpreted as a missing continent in need of taming and European development.  The heathens of Europe’s past were no more, the heathens of the New World were still extant, in need of Western Europe’s assistance, guidance, lessons, and finally dominance.


With European dominance and control came European supression.  When indigenous philosophies were uncovered, they were described in the notes of the Captain and with time attempts were made to obliterate them from the local settings they sprang from.  When indigenous philosophies combined with indigenous attitudes about God and nature were uncovered, attempts were made to either obliterate these as well, or use them to convert a society into a more proper way of expressing this life practice, convert them to Christianity.

Throughout these excursions and attempts to convert the people of the New World, the explorers, captains, financiers, all had another goal in mind as well–to find some new resource that could be monopolized and used to improve society as they knew it back in the mother country.  This habit of improving upon a culture’s self-subsistence by incorporating other cultural goods into its daily living practices was typical for the Western European settings and is why so many American goods became what they are today.  For this review, plants are the emphasis.  There were certain plants with philosophies attached to them that Western European attitude and belief came to accept, of change so that it fit into the most current paradigm in European philosophy and traditions.  A plant perceived by a Native American group had one philosophy attached to it that had a basis non-existent in European philosophy.

There were similarities that may have existed between the American and European ideologies, but the foundations of these similarities were completely different.  An old medicine man did not think like Galen or some ancient Greek philosopher and imagine four humours running through the body.   Instead, he/she understood the body using his/her construct of reality based on such extracorporeal things as nature, weather, climate, and direction.  Animals and spirits played a role, but nothing like the unicorn, dragon, or serpents that each and every European believed in when the first European set foot  on the shores of the New World.  When the European explorer came to ask the indigenous people about dragons, and drew up an image of what one might look like, to those in conversation with Cortez about this the Manitou might be imagined, to the French Jesuit territory tribe leaders, it could be the Sturgeon of the large rivers traversing their distant hinterlands lands,. to the inuit, the unicorn and serpent that the Europeans believed in was equivalent to their animal manifesting itself in the upper arctic regions–the narwhale.

This same transformation of beliefs took place with the concepts of the cause for disease, and the reasons or philosophy provided as to how to treat these conditions.  There are several popular themes that are different between cultures, but are shared between cultures in that they are important to defining how one interprets disease and health, and how one determines how best to treat that health problem that exists.

  1. First, plants are grown where they are needed; this ecological take on medicines suggests a coexistence is necessary for both man and plants to exist in harmony, ecologically and metaphysically
  2. Second, plants and people adapt to their surroundings and react with the content of these surroundings.  In other words, plants that are in a region have some reason for becoming what they are; the snakeroot is there because the snake is there, and all areas with snakes more than likely have such a local snakeroot for use in case of need.
  3. Third, plants can be physical in their actions upon us, or they can be metaphysical, and sometimes perhaps both.  The mood changing plants, hallucinogens, sedatives and stimulants all have an ecological purpose related to these effects.  These purposes might have initially related to animals, but with time came to serve a more important role serving as a benefit for man.  Such a relationship between man and plants then improves upon their chances for survival, and ultimately leads to a co-evolution of man and plants together.
  4. Fourth, where much of philosophy can be static in its development, materialistic interpretations are not.  So a plant that has metaphysical meaning to a Native American culture retains that philosophy so long as the culture and society exist; once that culture and society change, and adapt some new ideologies proposed to them, the underlying metaphysical basis of plant medicine philosophy also changes.  In this way a once metaphysical medicine plant becomes a plant with physical or physiological cause for its uses.  In this way the snakeroot symbolic of snake spirits becomes a plant  considered physiologically active against something in the body that resembles a sign or symptom of the previous snake intrusion/extrusion related problem.  Instead of removing the animal spirit causing the illness, by providing a root medicine you believe you are providing the physical cure for whatever ailment you are treating.

Most of the earliest notes on plants discovered by early explorers lack the metaphysical explanation, focusing mostly on the physical and ideological reasons the Europeans were interested in learning about for taking advantage of these plants in the New World as new natural products to market.  In the examples and notes taken on these early explorations that follow, we see that there is an emphasis on value more than meaning.  When a topic like the medicine man is covered, it is the value of the medicine being practiced that becomes the focus, not the psychology and philosophy.  Understanding transcendence in another cultural setting is not one of the Western European explorers greatest philosophy skills.

Turkish Bulghur Wheat, and Maize, or Indian Wheat, Corn

To understand Western European philosophy, go to John deLaets early 1600s description of Indian Corn as Turkish Wheat, putting this New World product into perspective by comparing it with an Old World product many are already familiar with.  George Alsop in 1666 provides us with a unique rendering of the codes God left in plants; this is traditional and is believed in for generations to come by later colonial settlers (see the section on Jesuits in New France and their take on the Sassafras, notes on Josselyn’s journey of 1673, or my review of Jane Colden’s work, 1750-1760 for more on this).   Two years later, Gabriel Thomas provides insights into the ways in which European scholars interpreted the Native American plants and their uses; this ideology would repeat and is expected for nearly all descriptions of the explorations published out there.  In 1670, the spread of small pox due to these explorations is assigned philosophical meaning by Daniel Denton; similar beliefs are found in some of the early missionary writings of the New York region.

The following writings have been reviewed and notes taken on this period in the early ethnobotany history of plants.  Many documents unfortunately only refer to plants in passing.  Due to the amount of time taken to review these books, most with no success, I decided it was necessary to note even these resources here.   This is the reason for the “No Notes” entry that often appears in this annotaed Bibliography.  This particular listing of classic readings serves more as an example of the various meanings explorers first assigned to the New World, its exploration, and future habitation.  See also the New France section for more on the early explorers notes.


New World-North America [1600-1700]

Baron de Lahontan (1683-1694) [New France]

Local medicine worth noting: Castoreum.

In terms of the amount of writing Lahontan produced, it is a surprise that he did not detail too much about indigenous medicine.   By the period in history enough explorations had taken place to provide Lahontan with the background needed  to include a decent review of the local cultures and their medical philosophies and practices.  Still, he does not produce such a writing.

In many earlier voyages written about by Spanish and Portuguese (plus some early New France voyages), this basic anthropological knowledge is a standard for the recounts of these expeditions.  It would take a while for Europeans to grasp the essence of traditional native American philosophy and tradition in medicine.  For this reason, the most fascinating news comes out first, such as stories about mystical healing practices, beliefs in Manitou and other natural spirits, and the philosophical implications of their attire, musical instruments, weapons against natural spirits and for use in war, manners and practices engaged in for humanizing the animal spirit, making it a part of one’s body and energies.   These attention getting stories are then followed by unique claims about new medicines, a potential tree of life, miracle remedies and the like, findings akin to the philosopher’s stone or ens veneris.

Only the castoreum is noted, an animal, source of oil, fats, skin and medicine already well known due to the numerous industries for its pelts that already exist.  This sets the stage for how some people would interpret our natural resources from this point on.  Throughout history we find numerous natural products or resources (spings, mineral springs, suplhur extruding swamps, caves, tar pits, oil-rich holes, etc.) that mimic those already in use elsewhere in the world, especially in Eastern Europe, another region shrouded by a similar cloak hiding its mystery and fascinating tales yet to be told.  People tend towards assigning some personal meaning to places and things when they make discoveries–the discovery of North America was no different.  The castoreum symbolizes the unity some hoped for in the world, making newly explored regions not as scarey as they could be, only inhabited by a culture that we have yet to learn about, yet to convert to the more appropriate religion and lifestyle.  To Europeans the castoreum was a sign of new wealth, to indigenous peoples it symbolized nature and sustenance.


New Netherland [1610-1665]

Research Note:  See full text for “Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664.  J.F. Jameson, ed. ” at  Texts noted below that can be reviewed at this site are so indicated.

Robert Juet, 1610.

No notes.

Emanuel Van Meteren, 1610.

In his recount of Hudson’s Voyage in 1610, Emanuel Van Meteren, noted “white and red grapes.”   Upon initial inspection, the Bittersweet vine (Celastrus scandens) may have been viewed as grapes, if inspected from a distance.  The Moonseed (Menispermum canadense) (which has a toxic seed which usually passed through without poisoning the herbivore) resembled the edible Vitis, and must have been eaten by mistake by early explorers and settlers.  If so, it would have been described as having a bland taste (or for aged fruit very bitter), and tended to grow early in the year along the southern and middle parts of the Atlantic coast.

Corn was referred to in the earlier exploration years as “Turkish wheat.”   See for example Johan de Laet (1625-40), p. 48, Nicolaes Van Wassenaer (1624-30), p. 69, and David Pietersz De Vries (1633-1643 (1655), p. 218-220.  In his letter dated 1628, Isaack de Rasieres noted Maize.  In 1650, Cornelis Van Tienhoven mentioned Indian Corn.

Of the value of this newly discovered grain to the Europeans, as noted in A Relation of Maryland, 1635, is written: “The Indian Corne will yeeld a great increase of benefit…” making reference primarily to its use for feeding swine. (A Relation of Maryland, 1635, p. 97)

 “Henry Hudson . . . “

Nicolaes Van Wassanaer, 1624-1630.

No notes.  See

Reverend Jonas Michaelius, 1628


A shamanics/religion related note appears on page 5 (

“How these people can best be led to the true knowledge of God and of the Mediator Christ, is hard to say. I cannot myself wonder enough who it is that has imposed so much upon your Reverence and many others in the Fatherland, concerning the docility of these people and their good nature, the proper principia religionis and vestigia legis naturae which are said to be among them; in whom I have as yet been able to discover hardly a single good point, except that they do not speak so jeeringly and so scoffingly of the godlike and glorious majesty of their Creator as the Africans dare to do. But it may be because they have no certain knowledge of Him, or scarcely any. If we speak to them of God, it appears to them like a dream; and we are compelled to speak of him, not under the name of Menetto, whom they know and serve–for that would be blasphemy–but of one great, yea, most high, Sackiema, by which name they–living without a king–call him who has the command over several hundred among them, and who by our people are called Sackemakers; and as the people listen, some will begin to mutter and shake their heads as if it were a silly fable; and others, in order to express regard and friendship for such a proposition, will say Orith (That is good). Now, by what means are we to lead this people to salvation, or to make a salutary breach among them? I take the liberty on this point of enlarging somewhat to your Reverence.”

And from page 8 of this site:  “The country yields many good things for the support of life, but they are all too unfit and wild to be gathered.”

Isaack de Rasieres to Samuel Blommaert, 1628.

See or  A biography of Blommaert is at

The following ethnobotany notes are provided:

“For this reason they are obliged to watch the season for sowing. At the end of March they begin to break up the earth with mattocks, which they buy from us for the skins of beavers or otters, or for sewan. They make heaps like molehills, each about two and a half feet from the others, which they sow or plant in April with maize, in each heap five or six grains; in the middle of May, when the maize is the height of a finger or more, they plant in each heap three or four Turkish beans, which then grow up with and against the maize, which serves for props, for the maize grows on stalks similar to the sugarcane. It is a grain to which much labor must be given, with weeding and earthing- up, or it does not thrive; and to this the women must attend very closely. The men would not once look to it, for it would compromise their dignity too much, unless they are very old and cannot follow the chase. Those stalks which are low and bear no ears, they pluck up in August, and suck out the sap, which is as sweet as if it were sugar-cane. When they wish to make use of the grain for bread or porridge, which they call Sappaen, they first boil it and then beat it flat upon a stone; then they put it into a wooden mortar, which they know how to hollow out by fire, and then they have a stone pestle, which they know how to make themselves, with which they pound it small, and sift it through a small basket, which they understand how to weave of the rushes before mentioned. The finest meal they mix with lukewarm water, and knead it into dough; then they make round flat little cakes of it, of the thickness of an inch or a little more, which they bury in hot ashes, and so bake into bread; and when these are baked they have some clean fresh water by them in which they wash them while hot, one after another; and it is good bread, but heavy. The coarsest meal they boil into a porridge, as is before mentioned, and it is good eating when there is butter over it, but a food which is very soon digested. The grain being dried, they put it into baskets woven of rushes or wild hemp, and bury it in the earth, where they let it lie, and go with their husbands and children in October to hunt deer, leaving at home with their maize the old people who cannot follow. In December they return home, and the flesh which they have not been able to eat while fresh, they smoke on the way, and bring it back with them. They come home as fat as moles. “


Johan de Laet, 1625, 1630, 1633, 1640.


Johan de Laet or Johannes de Laet (1593-1649) was director of the Dutch West India Company.  His description of the New World included mention of “Lonen poplar woods” [“Loonen poplar woods” = “soft poplar woods (Dutch)].  His 1633 book Novus orbis (Amsterdam, 1633) contained a fanciful depiction of the fauna and flora of North America.

[J. de Laet, 1625…1640, p. 29]


For “Turkish wheat,” see Johan de Laet (1625-40), p. 48, and Van Meteren notes above.

[J. de Laet, 1625…1640, p. 48]

David Pietersz De Vries, 1630-1633, 1643, (1655).

Corn.  For “Turkish wheat,” see David Pietersz De Vries (1633-1643 (1655), p. 218-220.

Reverend Johannes Megapolensis, Jr., 1644

Reverend Megapolensis had his European experiences and the Old and New Testaments to base his interpretations upon.  The scholarly European aspect of his writings pertain to the anthropology of the indigenous lifestyle.  The cultural anthropology-like writings during this time in history of course were riddled with cross-cultural prejudice.  Whereas the prejudice of some of these writers was minimized in some of the interpretations, we can still find examples of misinterpretations of meaning added to the text by most early writers trying to describe the American Indian culture.  Middle to late nineteenth century historians and anthropologists tried to remove some of the prejudice from their interpretations of the past, but due to the financial value of many of the physical evidence that existed, and even some of the artifacts of culture yet to be considered old or antique, prejudice and money remained some of the major impetuses for these writers and researchers, many of whom were engaged in these ventures due to a personal goal of proving various Biblical writings.

The religious teachings form the second part of Megalopolensis’s philosophy.  The majority of interpretations he and later missionaries would make were for the most part based on the Book of Moses and Old Testament.  A discussion of Jesus Christ was very infrequent during the pre-1800 Colonial and post-Colonial missionary writings about the New Countries being claimed and settled.  Megalopolensis was no different.

That part of Megalopolensis’s work pertaining to the theory of Creation, which would later become a fairly commonly retold story in the missionary writings, illustrates this cultural disconnect between Christianity and the Native religious philosophy quite well:

“They have a droll theory of the Creation, for they think that a pregnant woman fell down from heaven, and that a tortoise, (tortoises are plenty and large here, in this country, two, three and four feet long, some with two heads, very mischievous and addicted to biting) took this pregnant woman on its back, because every place was covered with water; and that the woman sat upon the tortoise, groped with her hands in the water, and scraped together some of the earth, whence it finally happened that the earth was raised above the water.”

Continuing this focus on the religious aspects of Megalopolensis’s writings, in the following sentence there is a possible reference to Jesus, as “a Genius”:

“They are entire strangers to all religion, but they have a Tharonhijouaagon, (whom they also otherwise call Athzoockkuatoriaho,) that is, a Genius, whom they esteem in the place of God; but they do not serve him or make offerings to him.”

The following section delves into the worship of God versus the Devil.  This is one of the most commonly appearing statement made in Christian writing about Native American culture and philosophy.  To the outsiders coming in, the shaman is possessed by demons or is in communication with the Devil, even though many of the same processes that were engaged in as part of a communication by Shamans with a higher power tended mimic those of many missionaries and the dreams and visions they so strongly believed in, or their claims for visitations by past spirits and angels.

“They worship and present offerings to the Devil, whom they call Otskon, or Aireskuoni. If they have any bad luck in war, they catch a bear, which they cut in pieces, and roast, and that they offer up to their Aireskuoni, saying in substance, they following words: “Oh! great and mighty Aireskuoni, we confess that we have offended against thee, inasmuch as we have not killed and eaten our captive enemies;–forgive us this. We promise that we will kill and eat all the captives we shall hereafter take as certainly as we have killed, and now eat this bear.” Also when the weather is very hot, and there comes a cooling breeze, they cry out directly, Asorunusi, asorunusi, Otskon aworouhsi reinnuha; that is, “I thank thee, I thank thee, devil, I thank thee, little uncle!”

One occasional belief that appears at times (although I cannot recall another for the time being), is seen especially in the New France Jesuit documents.  This is a discussion in which the writer is trying to answer the question–‘has God also conversed with heathens?’   The possibility that God may be able to communicate with Native Americans was hard for most missionaries to accept–after all they were “heathens”.  Still, on occasion certain parallels are made between American Indian oral history and tradition and the Old and New Testaments.  Father Louis Hennepin of the Jesuit Missions for example believed that the Natives of the New World were the missing tribe of the Jews.  The question was obviously raised socially quite a lot during the early 19th century, enough to enable one individual very interested in the possibility that the Indians knew their traditional God, but forgot the character of God or had another interprtation of His character other than that believed in by European old time traditions.  This popular culture attitude about heathen versus Christian religious practices and beliefs led one religious leader to even propose a new story of the Native American tradition with God and Jesus.  Of course, this “story” is not considered a tale written by the imagination of its author Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, but rather a story told through him by the Creator Himself–according to Smith and his followers, God visited the Azteca and Middle American cultures first by sending Jesus to their settlements, long before Jesus made his way to Euope and the Middle East.

Evidence for the possibility that some meaning was assigned to some of the traditional Native America stories in relationship to Old Testament teachings is noted briefly in the following knowledge-based assumption Megalopensis makes–he assumed the story of Cain and Abel is so tradition that even the local Natives must have known and taught it to some extent:

“The other day an old woman came to our house, and told my people that her forefathers had told her “that Tharonhij-Jagon, that is, God, once went out walking with his brother, and a dispute arose between them, and God killed his brother.” I suppose this fable took its rise from Cain and Abel.”

Regarding one important ritual–the Killing of the Bear, the goal is to engage in ‘Animal Spirit conjuring’ (my term), with Bear’s Fat used to associate the initiator of this shamanic event with the ‘Animal spirit.’   The following additional use for “Bear’s Fat”, this time preventive, is noted:

They likewise paint their faces red, blue, etc., and then they look like the Devil himself. They smear their heads with bear’s-grease, which they all carry with them for this purpose in a small basket; they say they do it to make their hair grow better and to prevent their having lice. When they travel, they take with them some of their maize, a wooden bowl, and a spoon; these they pack up and hang on their backs. Whenever they are hungry, they forthwith make a fire and cook; they can get fire by rubbing pieces of wood against one another, and that very quickly.

Foodways is a common cultural experience discussed in many of the writings by explorers and missionaries.  In the beginning of Megalopolensis’s work there is a brief listing of fruits provided: 

    • “chestnuts, plums, hazel nuts, large walnuts of several sorts, and of as good a taste as in the Netherlands, but they have a somewhat harder shell”
    • ” bushes of bilberries or blueberries”
    • “the ground in the flat land near the rivers is covered with strawberries, which grow here so plentifully in the fields, that one can lie down and eat them”
    • “Grapevines . . .  in great abundance along the roads, paths, and creeks, and wherever you may turn you find them. I have seen whole pieces of land where vine stood by vine and grew very luxuriantly, climbing to the top of the largest and loftiest trees, and although they are not cultivated, some of the grapes are found to be as good and sweet as in Holland.” 
    • “also a sort of grapes which grow very large, each grape as big as the end of one’s finger, or an ordinary plum, and because they are somewhat fleshy and have a thick skin we call them Speck Druyven.”

As for meats, he writes about:

    •  turkies, as large as [those] in Holland, but in some years less than in others.
    • deer
    • many partridges, heath-hens and pigeons 
    • a great number of all kinds of fowl, swans, geese, ducks, widgeons, teal, brant, which sport upon the river in thousands in the spring of the year,
    • elks, which were very fat and tasted much like venison;
    • country lions, bears, wolves, foxes, and particularly very many snakes, which are large and as long as eight, ten, and twelve feet.
    • In the spring, they catch vast quantities of shad and lampreys, which are exceedingly large here; they lay them on the bark of trees in the sun, and dry them thoroughly hard, and then put them in notasten, or bags, which they plait from hemp which grows wild here, and keep the fish till winter. When their corn is ripe, they take it from the ears, open deep pits, and preserve it in these the whole winter. They can also make nets and seines in their fashion; and when they want to fish with seines, ten or twelve men will go together and help each other, all of whom own the seine in common.

The skill of fishing was a necessity of Indian culture, a supplement to European traditions.  The following note details the availability of fish, both boney and cartilaginous:

“In this river is a great plenty of all kinds of fish–pike, eels, perch, lampreys, suckers, cat fish, sun fish, shad, bass, etc. In the spring, in May, the perch are so plenty, that one man with a hook and line will catch in one hour as many as ten or twelve can eat. My boys have caught in an hour fifty, each a foot long. They have three hooks on the instrument with which they fish, and draw up frequently two or three perch at once. There is also in the river a great plenty of sturgeon, which we Christians do not like, but the Indians eat them greedily.”

This diet has an impact on their health.  In particular the consumption of “vast quantities of shad and lampreys” results in a heavy and seasonal consumption of gadoleic acid and the GLA’s (Omega fatty acids).  Longevity is a trait this nation bears due to this nutrition habit typical of east coast “Woodlands Indians” (if we use the old cultural method of defining particular living styles).  They reside inland during the cold months and along the shorelines or close to large water bodies during the warmer months.

Like we see with nearly every other description penned about the New World and God’s offerings, there is also the story of the Rattlesnake.  This story tends to have a number of different versions, some just focused on the description of the rattlesnake and its unique tail anatomy, and other focused on the ability of the snake to “charm” its prey using these rattles.  Yet another type of tale commonly seen for rattlesnakes pertains to the story of how the rattlesnake venom poisons its victims, resulting in various signs described in numerous ways throughout the colonial literature.  The most important part of this story pertains to the differecens between the indigenous philosophy and the European philosophy.  This is covered extensively elsewhere, numerous times, and along numerous different historical and story telling avenues, but the most important concept to understand regarding the rattlesnake natural history is that the Indigenous people believed in something akin to invasion of animal spirit, whereas the Europeans interpreted the ability of snake venom to take a life as a result of humoral imbalances.  Whenever the ability of the snake to chamr its prey came into the story, there was also this belief that the snake and/or its venom had some unusual metaphysical power that made it able to charm its prey and be so deadly with just such small amounts of poison or venom.  This even led Cadwallader Colden to believe in the mostly metaphysical parts of this story, to such an extent that even non-venomous snakes were able to charm their pray according to some of his writings–the prime example of which was the Black Snake residing on his farming lands in Coldenghamiae, NY, around 1735.

A century earlier, Megalopensis penned the following about the Rattlesnake:

“Among others, there is a sort of snake, which we call rattlesnake, from a certain object which it has back upon its tail, two or three fingers’ breadth long, and has ten or twelve joints, and with this it makes a noise like the crickets. Its color is variegated much like our large brindled bulls. These snakes have very sharp teeth in their mouth, and dare to bite at dogs; they make way for neither man nor beast, but fall on and bite them, and their bite is very poisonous, and commonly even deadly too.”

Also note the following, regarding “bear spirit”:

“When he opened his budget he had in it a dried head of a bear, with grinning teeth. I asked him what that meant? He answered me that he fastened it upon his left shoulder by the side of his head, and that then he was the devil, who cared for nothing, and did not fear any thing.”

The relationships between the sexes are noted as follows:

They are obliged to cut wood, to travel three or four leagues with the child; in short, they walk, they stand, they work, as if they had not lain in, and we cannot see that they suffer any injury by it; and we sometimes try to persuade our wives to lie-in so, and that the way of lying-in in Holland is a mere fiddle-faddle.

The men have great authority over their concubines, so that if they do anything which does not please and raises their passion, they take an axe and knock them in the head, and there is an end of it. The women are obliged to prepare the land, to mow, to plant, and do everything; the men do nothing, but hunt, fish, and make war upon their enemies. They are very cruel towards their enemies in time of war; for they first bite off the nails of the fingers of their captives, and cut off some joints, and sometimes even whole fingers; after that, the captives are forced to sing and dance before them stark naked; and finally, they roast their prisoners dead before a slow fire for some days, and then eat them up. The common people eat the arms, buttocks and trunk, but the chiefs eat the head and the heart.

Pregnancy and childbearing are reviewed very briefly in the following statement pertaining to women:

The women, when they have been delivered, go about immediately afterwards, and be it ever so cold, they wash themselves and the young child in the river or the snow. They will not lie down (for they say that if they did they would soon die), but keep going about.

Other notes regarding certain medical or health conditions, illness or sickness were made as well, but not in any orderly fashion.  The following are examples of these:

“They will not come into a house where there is a menstruous woman, nor eat with her. No woman may touch their snares with which they catch deer, for they say the deer can scent it”

“If they are sick, or have a pain or soreness anywhere in their limbs, and I ask them what ails them they say that the Devil sits in their body, or in the sore places, and bites them there; so that they attribute to the Devil at once the accidents which befall them; they have otherwise no religion.”



Vander Donck’s portrait – a Dutch style house

Adriaen Vander Donck, 1650.

 Adriaen VanderDonck wrote a fairly lengthy story about his first travels along the Hudson River in 1650.  He was exploring land he was about to obtain a Patent for, from the mouth of the Hudson River to a section of the river are far north as the Mohawk.  His land is currently known as Yonkers, a modification of the Dutch rendering of the names for this land as Doncker’s Land and the like.  Vander Donck provided one of the best lengthy reviews of the local flora for this time, and the names he at times provides to these plants imply a transfer of common names for Old World plants to New World plants due to visual resemblances.  A number of these herbs noted appear to be first time discoveries, but due to questionable identifications we cannot be certain of this.  Adriaen Vander Donck’s writing and method for interpreting the landscape, the local landschappen, is very similar to to that of the Livingstons one century later.

Botanical materials are to be reviewed elsewhere on a separate page at this site.

Cornelis Van Tienhoven, 1650.

Corn.  In 1650, Cornelis Van Tienhoven mentioned Indian Corn.  See

For more on Tienhoven see  Legal battles related to   dominated Tienhoven’s later years in Manhattan.

Also known as “Cornelius”, “Cornelis”, “Lucasz”, and “Lucassen” he was born in 1611, in Breukelen, Sticht Utrecht, Holland, Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden; he  purportedly died 1656 in New Amsterdam, New Netherlands .

Serving under Kieft in 1641, he was associated with two attacks upon local Raritan Indian villages, blaming them for steeling hogs.  The later became known as the Hog War.  In 1643, he assisted Director Kieft initiate a massacre  in Shrovetide against the Weckquaesgeeks.  This initiated two years of war between the Dutch and local Indians, leading the Dutch to replace Kieft with Peter Stuyvesant.  Kieft was also assocaited with several events which today might be considered rapes.  Most involved the local Indians, but at least one involved a local resident basketmaker’s daughter, whom he had seduced through a conversation.

In 1656, his hat and cane were found in the Hudson River, which some interpreted as a death due to drowning.  This may have simply been done to avoid the judge and courts.  Some historians suggest he absconded to Barbadoes with a supply of coinage embezzled from local residents, businessmen and politicians.  :

Seneca Indian Basket sections, ca. 1620-1660, and more recent basket weave

New York [1666-1700]

see also and LOC site

Daniel Denton, 1670.

Provides a short but detailed listing of herbs (p. 4).

      Describes the Medicine Man (p. 10).

      Epidemics (pp. 6-7)

Denton gives the Christian View of the Hand of God and the epidemics which struck the natives soonafter the Christians were settled nearby:

“…it hath been observed that where the English come to settle, a Divine Hand makes way for them, by removing or cutting off the Indians, either by Wars one with the other, or by some raging mortal Diseases.”


East New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware [1640-1700]

Governor Johan Printz, 1644, 1647

      No notes.  See

Governor Johan Rising, 1654.


In 1654, Governor Johann Rising made mention in passing of an ale house in his township.  [See William Penn, 1681…, for more on beer and similar beverages.]

[J. Rising, 1654]

William Penn, 1681, 1683, 1685

  • Beer, Punch and Mault.
  • Flax industries.
  • assorted trees and shrubs.
  • Sassafras and Pine.
  • “divers Plants” for medicine.
  • “bear’s-fat clarified”
  • medicine men, conjurers, etc.

“Our drink has been Beer and Punch, made of Rum, and Water: Our Beer was mostly made of Molasses, which well boyld, with Sassafras or Pine infused into it, makes very tolerable drink; but now they make Mault, and Mault Drink begins to be common, especially at the Ordinaries and the Houses of the more substantial People.”

[William Penn, 1685, p. 267]

William Penn notes in his 1685 Account to the Lords Rape, Hemp, and Flax industries.  Notes fruits and melons.   The “Weeds of woods” he felt would serve as excellent cattle feed.  In the swamps were planted graminae to later in the year produce hay: “English Grass Seed takes well.” (p. 264, 265, 268)

“There are divers Plants that not only the Indians tell us, but we have had occasion to prove by Swellings, Burnings, Cuts, etc., that they are great Virtue, suddenly curing the Patient: and for smell, I have observed several, especially one, the wild Mirtle; the other I know not what to call, but are most fragrant.”

[William Penn, 1683, p. 229]

Noted black Walnut. Cedar, Cyprus, Chestnut, Poplar, Gumwood, Hickery, Sassafrax, Beech, Swamp Chestnut, Spanish Chestnut and Red, White and Black Oak.

[William Penn, 1683, p. 217]

Penn made several important detailed notes about religion and dances, and states: “I am ready to believe them of the Jewish Race.”

[William Penn, 1683, p. 234,236]

Notes the natives grease themselves with “bears-fat clarified.” [See related Bear entries for Megapolensis and Grant, referred to above.]

[William Penn, 1683, p. 229]

“They are great Concealers of their own Resentments, brought to it, I believe by the Revenge that hath been practised among them…A Tragical Instance fell out since I came into the Country; A King’s Daughter thinking her self slighted by her Husband, in suffering another Woman to lie down between them, rose up, went out, pluck’t a Root out of the Ground, and ate it, upon which she immediately dyed…”

[William Penn, 1683, p. 232]

“In Sickness, impatient to be cured, and for it gave anything, especially for the Children, to where they are extreamly natural; they drink at those times a Teran or Decoction of some Roots in Spring Water; and if they eat any flesh, it must be the Female of the Creature.”

[William Penn, 1683, p. 233]

Thomas Paschall, 1683.

Notes Polar, Beach (sic), Ash, Lyme-trees, Gun-trees (sic), Hickary-trees, Sassafras, Wallnuts, Chestnuts, Hazel and Mulberries.

[Thomas Paschall, 1683, p. 253]

Doctor Nicholas More, 1686.

Penn, William, 1644-1718., More, Nicholas, d. 1689.  A letter from Doctor More : with passages out of several letters from persons of good credit relating to the state and improvement of the province of Pennsilvania : published to prevent false reports.   [London : s.n.], 1687

A Letter of Doctor Nicholas More, 1686, noted crops, peach trees, etc., and served to dismiss claims of famishment lately reported. (p. 279)

Gabriel Thomas, 1698.


Around the Susquehanna region, after an account of some fruit bearing trees, Thomas noted:

“There are also many curious and excellent Physical Wild Herbs, Roots and Drugs of great Vertue, and very sanative, as the Sassafras, and Sarsaparilla, so much us’d in Diet-Drinks for the Cure of the Venereal Disease, which makes the Indians by a right application of them, as able Doctors and Surgeons as any in Europe, performing celebrate Cures therewith, and by the use of some particular Plants only, find Remedy in all Swellings, Burnings, Cuts, etc.  There grows also in great plenty the Black Snake-Root (fam’d for its sometimes preserving, but often curing the plague, being infused only in WIne, Brandy or Rumm) Rattle-Snake Root, Poke-Root, called in England Jallop, with several other beneficial Herbs, Plants and Roots, which Physicians have approved of, far exceeding in Nature and Vertue, those of other Countries…”

The numerous Garden Plants listed by Thomas included Grains, Hemp, Flax, Root-Vegetables, fruit, Mustard, Rye, Mint, Sage, Tanzy, Wormwood, Penny Royal, and Purslane.

[G. Thomas, 1698, p. 323, 324]


Notes the “False Diety or Sham-God” of the Pennsylvanian Indians.

[G. Thomas, 1698, (W.N.J.), p. 340]


Western New Jersey [ca. 1630-1700]

David Pietersz De Vries, 1633-1643.

      Corn.  David Pietersz De Vries (1633-1643 (1655), p. 218-220.

Most of these notes are from the LOC version at  This is a translated rendering of the following: Korte historiael, ende journaels aenteyckeninge van verscheyden voyagiens in de vier deelen des wereldts-ronde, als Europa, Africa, Asia, ende Amerika gedaen, door D. David Pietersz. de Vries … waer in verhaelt werd wat batailjes hy te water gedaen heeft: yder landtschap zijn gedierte, gevogelt, wat soorte van vissen, ende wat wilde menschen naer ‘t leven geconterfaeyt, ende van de bosschen ende ravieren [sic] met haer vruchten . . . Vries, David Pietersz. de, fl. 1593-1655.

For Maize, see page 57-58 in LOC version:

There is a species of large wheat, called maize, or Turkey wheat, like that of Virginia, which grain is a peculiar provision for this country, and is very productive, yielding a thousand or fifteen hundred for one, and frequently more. It makes very good flour for bread, and good malt for beer or ale, and serves various necessary purposes for the support of man. Of the before-mentioned cassava bread, and of this Indian corn, they make a liquor, which they call passiauw, which must be used in four or five days. They make also another beverage of cassava, … which they prepare in large pots, and boil it, as they do beer in Holland. It foams, and is as good and strong as the beer of Breme, but it is somewhat hot; it has, also, as high a colour as Breme beer, and can be kept good ten days.

“There is a great abundance of honey, and although it is found wild in trees and holes in the earth, it is as good as any in the world. Good mead can be made of it. There are no vines, but as the land is fertile and rich, and the climate warm, they would grow there, if they were planted, and furnish fine wines ; which, for this region, would be very wholesome ; though I would be afraid of their becoming sour from the heat.”


p. 50 [LOC version]: notes

The fruits are of various kinds: pineapples, plantains, potatoes, medlars, plums of different sorts, nuts of curious shape. The pineapple, or ananas, is as excellent and as large as that of the East Indies ; no better fruit can be found ; the flavour is like that of a strawberry and a ripe pippin ; the potato is well known ; the medlars are very large ; the plums are not to be praised, because, when plentifully eaten, they cause a diarrhoea, which in this country, is very dangerous according to my observation ; and so of the common greens of the country, napi, which are not unlike the eastern reuven. There is a tree, which grows here, as large as a pomegranate tree, with pale-green downy leaves, and white flowers, but of more leaves, and of no scent; from the blossom, first comes only a large bean, like the kidney of a rabbit, from which grows a fruit in the shape of a pear, and the bean remains hanging below it ; there is a pit in it, which tastes like a hazel-nut, and under the skin is an oil, which is good for inflammation in the face.

Of the Commodities of the Country.

The most important production of this country is the sugar-cane, of which there are immense quantities. The land is as well adapted to it as any in the world. It grows very large in a little time; and by cultivating, and the erection of proper buildings for extracting the sugar, which would cost a good deal at first, great wealth would be realized, as we can see has been done by the Portuguese, in Brazil and elsewhere.

Cotton is a general article of merchandize, and is very useful for merchants and for us, to make fustians and bombazines and other goods, and also to make hammocks which are the beds of the Indians, and very necessary in this region and calicoes. There is, besides, a kind of hemp or flax, of great value, almost as fine as silk, and can be used like it; it makes very excellent linen.

They have here peculiar dyes, one of which is called Au-noto [Annato], which grows on trees as large as cherry-trees. These trees bear large nuts, which burst open when they are ripe, and within the kernels of which are small berries of a red colour. These, well prepared by the Indians which they do with palm-oil produce a perfect dye of a fast orange colour ; but the Indians cheat much by mixing cassava with it. There is another berry, which dyes a blue colour ; and a certain gum of a tree, which makes a perfectly fast yellow ¦ colour in cloths ; and leaves of trees, which, properly prepared, give a deep red colour. There is also a wood which dyes purple, and is of great value ; and another, which yields a yellow dye ; besides many others, undoubtedly, which are as yet unknown ; but which, by careful search, will some time or other be discovered.

Many aromatic gums are found here ; but as I have no experience in the science, I know not what virtues they possess. Cassia fistula and senna-leaves grow here, and the earth yields Armenian bole.

There is a tree, with which they catch their fish, worthy of special consideration. It grows generally near their dwellings ; and when they wish to go a-fishing, they carry some branches of it to the creeks, which at high water are for the most part full of good fish. They take the sticks and beat them upon the stones until they become as soft as flax; and running up the creek, which they had previously stopped up at high water with the branches of other trees, they throw this wood, which they had by beating made like flax, into the water when it is half run out. When the fish come swimming to the surface of the water, they become intoxicated [*]; and, finding the creek stopped up at its mouth, they leap upon the land. Some come floating belly upwards, and are scooped up out of the water ; or, if they still swim, they are shot with arrows through the body, so that any one can catch as many as he wishes.

[*] footnote–a mode of intoxicating the fish by the natives of Guiana was throwing into the water the bruised root of Hiarra


Pages 107-108:  3rd Voyage:

We will now speak of the Productions of the Country, and other things which serve for the support of the life of Man.
The productions are various. The principal one is maize, which is their corn, and which is called by us Turkish wheat. They pound it in a hollow tree, as may be seen in the plate. “When they travel, they take a flat stone, and press it with another stone placed upon the first, and when it is pressed, they have little baskets, which they call notassen, and which are mad_e of a kind of hemp, the same as fig-frails, which they make to serve them as sieves, and thus make theif meal. They make flat cakes of the meal mixed with water, as large as a farthing cake in this country, and bake them in the ashes, first wrapping a vine-leaf or maize-leaf around them. When they are sufficiently baked in the ashes, they make good palatable bread. The Indians make use of French beans of different colours, which they plant among their maize. When the maize (which is sown three or four feet apart, in order to have room to weed it thoroughly) is grown one, two, or three feet high, they stick the beans in. the ground alongside of the maize-stalks, which serve instead of the poles which we use in our Fatherland, for beana- 4o grow on. In New Netherland, the beans are raised on the maize-stalks, which grow as high as a man can reach, and higher, according to the fertility of the soil. There are also pumpkins, water-melons, and melons. They (the Indians) dry the nuts of trees, and use them for food. There are also ground-nuts and white ground-nuts, which are poisonous to eat a mason of the Company having died ‘n consequence of eating one of them. There also grow here hazel-nuts, large nuts in great quantities, chestnuts, which they dry to eat, and wild grapes in great abundance. Our Netherlanders raise good wheat, rye, barley, oats, and peas, and can brew as good beer here as in our Fatherland, tor good hops grow in the woods; and they can produce enough of those things which depend on labour, as everything can be grown which grows in Holland, England, or France, and they are in want of nothing but men to do the work. It is a pleasant and charming country, which should be well peopled by our nation only. Medlars grow wild and reversely from what they do in our country, as they grow in Holland open and broad above, but here they grow up sharp, the reverse of those in Holland. Mulberry trees there are too, so that silkworms could be raised, and good silk made; and good hemp and flax, but the Indians use a kind of hemp, which they understand making up, much stronger than ours is, and for every necessary purpose, such as notassen, (which are their sacks, and in which they carry everything) ; they also make linen of it. They gather their maize and French beans the last of September and October, and when they have shelled the corn, they bury it in holes, which they have previously covered ¦with mats, and so keep as much as they want for the winter and while hunting. They sow the maize in April and May.

Medical Notes:

On page 37 of the text, as part of a late July entry (several days of the week were not dated), the following climate based philosophy for illness is written by De Vries:

“They say that during the months of June, July, and August, it is very unhealthy ; that their people, who have then lately arrived from England, die during these months, like cats and dogs, whence they call it the (sickly) season. When they have this sickness, they want to sleep all the time, but they must be prevented i’rom sleeping by force, as they die if they get asleep. This sickness, they think, arises from the extreme heat that exists there. Then, again, when it has been a half-an-hour very hot, if the wind shifts and blow from the northwest, it immediately becomes 80 cold, that an overcoat may be worn. Thus, this country appears to lie in the dividing line between the heat and the cold, while New Netherland is beautifully tempered.

The 28th, weighed anchor, and set sail with a good south-west wind, along the coast north-easterly.”

On page 56:

“The quality of the land is various in this region. On the sea-coast, the land is low, and the heat would be very vehement there, were it not moderated by the fresh and cool breezes, or easterly winds; which, at the hottest time of the day, blow very strong. In many places, this low land is very unhealthy, and little inhabited, on account of the overflowing of the water ; but it has, for the most part, very fine rivers, fertile soil, and many inhabitants, and is healthy for habitation.”

pp. 64-65 has the following small pox note:

“Whilst we were ashore here, a Netherlander came to us, who had left the ship in which he  had come, on account of the Indian-pox, and as he was now better, he requested that he might go to Holland with me, and came aboard our ship. Any one who has this disease must be cured here ; even though he may have it in Holland, he must return here to be cured ; for it is like the Amboyn-pox in the East Indies. Young children of a month old can here be afflicted with it. There came with him to us two Frenchmen, who had run away from Gaptain Schanbou ; they resided at Ounama, and all three lived in an Indian village.”

 More on Bear Fat and animal spirits:

MY THIRD VOYAGE [TO] AMERICA AND NEW NETHERLAND,  Page 94.  “They will also eat up a piece of bear’s fat as large as1 two fists, without bread, or anything else. It is natural for them to have no beards, and not one among a hundred has any hair around his mouth. They also have a great conceit of themselves, and in praising themselves, they say, ” I am the devil,” meaning that they are superior men.”

Note: Some of the stories on page 91 appear to be almost direct copies of stories found in at least one other book cited on this page.   The follow sequence of sentences in particular appear to mimic an earlier reading involving Megapolensis’s writings:

“These woods are full of animals, bears, wolves, foxes, and especially of snakes, black snakes and rattlesnakes, which are very poisonous, and which have a rattle at the end of the tail, with many rattles, according to their age. As to what, the land produces, the soil, which on the mountains is a red sand or cliffs of stone, but in the low plains, often clay-ground, is very fertile, as Brand-pylen told me that he had produced wheat on this island for twelve years successively without its lying fallow. He also told me that here the Indians put their enemies to death, as horribly as this plate shows, and had for some time past done justice to their enemies in this place. They place their foe against a tree or stake, and first tear all the nails from his fingers, and run them on a string, which they wear the same as we do gold chains. It is considered to the honour of any chief who has vanquished or overcome his enemies, if he bite off or cut off some of their members, as whole fingers. Afterwards, the prisoner is compelled to sing and dance, entirely naked, before them ; and finally when they burn the captive, they kill him with a slow fire, and then eat him up ; the commoners eating the arms and buttocks; and the chiefs eating the head. When these Indians fasten their enemy to the stake, he is compelled to sing, and accordingly begins to sing of hia friends, who will avenge his death. They inflict a cruel death upon him, pricking his body with hot burning wood in different parts, till he is tormented to death. They then tear his heart out of his b&dy, which every one eats a piece of, in order to embitter themselves against their enemies. Along this land runs an excellent river, which comes out of the Maquas county, about four miles to the north of Fort Orange.”

and also note on pp. 95-96 the reference to “genius”

“From religion, and all worship of God, they are entirely estranged; they have indeed one whom they call by a strange name, who is a genius, whom they regard instead of God, but they do not serve him or make offerings to him. They serve, revere, and make offerings to the devil, whom they call Osikon, or Ayreskuoni; for when they have any misfortune in war, they catch a bear, which they cut into pieces and burn, and offer it to their Ayreskuoni, saying the following words in their language, ” Oh great and powerful Ayreskuoni, we know that we have sinned against thee, because we have not killed and eaten up the enemies we took captive. Forgive us this. We promise that we will kill and eat up all those whom we shall hereafter take prisoners as heartily as we have killed and eaten up this bear.” So when it is hot weather, and there comes a cooling wind, they immediately cry out, ” Asoronusi,” that is, ” I thank you, devil, I thank you Oonike;” and when they are sick, and have any sore or pain in the limbs, and I ask them what ails them, they say that the devil is in the body, or is sitting in the sore places and bites them there. They attribute to the devil whatever happens to them; otherwise they know of no worship of God. They ridicule us when we pray ; some of them, when it was told them what we prayed, stood in wonder, and asked me whether I had seen in our country Him whom I worshipped. They will not enter any houses where there are women who have their terms upon them, nor eat with them; and who must not touch any snare in which they catch deer, saying that the deer can scent them. These Maeclcquase Indians are divided into three tribes, one of which takes its designation from the bear, another from the wild tortoise, the third from the wolf; and of these that of the tortoise is the greatest and most celebrated, and claims to be the oldest.”


Maryland [ca. 1630-1700]

George Alsop, 1666.

See  Also George Alsop, A Character of the Province of Maryland, (1666; reprint Cleveland, OH: The Burrows Brothers Compay, 1902), 55.

[Maryland] George Alsop in 1666 wrote an extensive paragraph on Native herbology (p. 344-5), followed by a brief note on Nicolas Culpeper. (p. 362).  Of “Herbes and Roots with their several effects and operative virtues,” he writes:

“The Trees, Plants, Fruits, Flowers, and Roots that grow here in Mary-Land, are the only Emblems of Hieroglyphicks of our Adamitical or Primitive situation, as well as for their variety as odiferous smells, together with their vertues, according to their several effects, kinds and properties, which still bear the Effigies of Innocency according to their original grafts; by which their dumb vegetable Oratory, each herb speaks to the Inhabitants in silent acts…I shall forbear to particularize those several sorts of vegetables that flourishingly grows here, by rason of the vast tediousness that will attend upon the description, which therefore makes them much more fit for an Herbal, than a small manuscript or History.”

A few pages later (p. 361-2) he writes about Culpeper’s herbal and states,

“And I am certainly confident, that England would as soon feel her feebleness by withdrawment of so great an upholder; as well as in reference to the internal and healthful perservative of her Inhabitants, for want of those Medicinal Drugs that are landed upon her Coast every year, as the external profits Glory and beneficial Graces that accrue by her.”

George Alsop, 1666 (Susquehanock Indians): “The World had a Maker, but where he is that made it, of whether he be living to this day, they known not.  The Devil, as I said before, is all the God they own or worhip.”  Alsop then makes reference to “the Oracle at Delphas and the Magic-spells of the Devil.”  The “Manner of Worship to the Devil” appears on page 377, as “A Letter to a much-honoured friend, Mr. T.B. at his house.”

[G. Alsop, 1666, p. 369, 370, 377]

John Hammond, 1656

Noted by John Hammond in 1656, various “rootes, herbs and Garden stuff.”

[J. Hammond, 1656, p. 291]

Ritual–Killing of the Bear.  John Hammond in 1656 wrote “Beare is indeed in some place constantly drunken, in other some, nothing but Water or Milk and Water or Beverage.”

[J. Hammond, 1656, p. 292]

Harmen Meyndertsz Van Den Bogaert , 1633

Lord Baron of Baltimore listed the following trees: Pine, Laurel, Fir, Sassafras and other trees, along with mentioning Balsams and Fragrant Gums.  Other uses for trees noted included ship-building (i.e. use of wood, pine sap for tar and turpentine), sinegma (?), perfumes and plasters.  Various fruits also noted.

[Lord Baron, 1633, p. 8]

For more outside this blogsite, see, and a reprint with notes from the editor at this Google Books link.   Other links:;  Empire State: A History of New York by Milton M. Klein;

Father Andrew White, 1634, 1635.


Chap V. Of the Natural Disposition of Indians which inhabite the parts of Maryland where the English are seated: And their manner of living.”  “These People acknowledge a God, who is giver of all the good things, where with their life is maintained.”  For sacrificial rites, they sacrifice corn by burning it.

[Rev. A. White, 1635, p. 88]

      Palm Christi

Religious/Ceremonial herb.  Used to make an “excellant Oyle.”

[Rev. A. White, 1634, p. 35]

FOOD.  Southern Fruit noted by Rev. Andrew White, or maryland, include Oranges, Limes, Lemons, Peaches, Guava, “Charybbian Pineapple,” Plantain (fructus platani), “Avato” (Avacado?), and “Wilde figg tree.”  Other trees noted include “Rope Trees” (Ficus sp.?), Monkey tree, Cinnamon Tree (White Cinnamon?), and “Maw forest” tree.

[Rev. A. White, 1634, p. 35-37]

FOODS.  Foods noted in 1635: meal, oatmeal, pease, oyle, vinegar, aqua vitae, bay salt, sugar, spice and fruit.  (Various household implements and other necessities are also noted.)

[Rev. A. White, 1635, p. 93-96]

HERBS. Herbs noted by Rev. Andrew White in 1634: saxafras, and “sallad-herbes.”  (Rev. A. White, 1634, p. 35-37,40).  In 1635, the Relation sent to England noted the trees and timber, “rootes in the woods, doe feede the swine very fat,” and “In the Spring, there are severall sorts of herbes, as Corn-sallet, Violets, Sorrell, Purslaine, all which are very good and wholsome, and by the English, used for sallets, and in broths.”  He also notes “Earth fitt to make Allum, Terra lemnia, and a red soile like Bole armoniacke.”  Other products: pitch, tarr, flax, woad, aniseed, saffron, and Mulberry to feed the silk worms.  Various typical garden vegetables are noted.(Rev. A. White, 1635, pp. 79-82).

[Rev. A. White, 1634, 1635]

TREES.  Trees noted include “Rope Trees” (Ficus sp.?), Monkey tree, Cinnamon Tree (White Cinnamon?), and “Maw forest” tree.  Other plants noted: Pokiberries, “a little wild walnut hard of shell, but with a sweet kernel,” ackornes, cedar, vines, black walnut, saxafras, and “sallad-herbes.”

[Rev. A. White, 1634, p. 35-37,40]

      Cotton Tree

“…a little bude in bigness liek a wallnut, which at full time opening in the middle in to fower quarters, their appearnaces a know of cotton…with six seede in the middle of the bigness of vetches which with an invention of wheeles they take out and soe keep it till the merchants fetch it for them.”

[Rev. A. White, 1634, p. 35]


Under Review

Harmen Meyndertsz Van Den Bogaert .  A Journey Into Mohawk and Oneida Country, 1634-1635: The Journal of Harmen Meyndertsz Van Den Bogaert [ed. General James Grant Wilson], 1634-5.

Has important Medicine Man-related entries: i.e. Sucking.  (See J.G. Wilson, 1634-5, p. 152.)  The use of Sulphur soaked in Sulphur (perhaps used by medicine man to perform “Magic”?) (p. 143)

Other Links

New Spain (esp. Brazil) –