Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Conversations with the High Priest of Coosa

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Conversations with the High Priest of Coosa

Article excerpt

Conversations with the High Priest of Coosa. By Charles M. Hudson. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Pp. xx, 222. Introduction, acknowledgments, maps, illustrations, note on spelling, sources, credits, and index. $34.95, cloth; $17.95, paper.)

More than any other recent ethnohistorian or anthropologist, Dr. Charles Hudson, Franklin Professor emeritus of anthropology and history at the University of Georgia, has brought the richness of sixteenth-century southeastern Indian culture to both academic and general audiences. Drawing upon primary Spanish documents, archaeological research, and ethnographic accounts, Hudson and his colleagues have successfully traced the route of the de Soto expedition in the Southeast, provided accounts of specific chiefdoms, analyzed social and political organizations of native polities, and written general overviews of traditional southeastern Indian culture.

Conversations with the High Priest of Coosa is a "fictionalized ethnography" written for a general audience. A fictionalized ethnography is an imaginary account of a culture, in this case of the religious worldview of a high priest of the chiefdom of Coosa. It is based on archaeology, historical accounts, and anthropological studies of southeastern Indians. The scenario is that in 1560, during the Luna expedition to the chiefdom of Coosa in what is now northwestern Georgia, Domingo de la Anunciacion, a Spanish priest, recorded conversations about Coosa worldview, philosophy, and religion with Raven, a Coosa high priest, through Teresa, a native Coosa translator. Anunciacion, an ethnocentric, steadfast but rational Christian, reflects on the information and eventually grants what Raven imparts as coherent and rational, if based on false assumptions. The bulk of the book is a series of fourteen conversations (chapters) which reveal how the priests of Coosa understood things. These chapters include creation and origin accounts, animal stories, explanations of the sexual division of labor, disease and curing, divination and witchcraft, and discussions of major rituals such as the ball game and Posketa, the Busque ceremony. The narrative is well written and fun to read, because both Raven and the Anunciacion are given interesting personalities. Drawings and maps accompany the text.

The people of Coosa were Muskogean speakers, ancestors of people of the Creek confederacy. …

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