The Swimmer Manuscript


The enlightened James Mooney didn’t exactly see eye to eye with “ignorant and prejudiced writers” when he wrote The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees in 1891.

These formulas furnish a complete refutation of the assertion so frequently made by ignorant and prejudiced writers that the Indian had no religion excepting what they are pleased to call the meaning less mummeries of the medicine man.

This is the very reverse of the truth.

The Indian is essentially religious and contemplative, and it might almost he said that every act of his life is regulated and determined by his religious belief.

It matters not that some may call this superstition.

The difference is only relative.

The religion of to-day has developed from the cruder superstitions of yesterday, and Christianity itself is but an outgrowth and enlargement of the beliefs and ceremonies which have been preserved by the Indian in their more ancient form.

When we are willing to admit that the Indian has a religion which he holds sacred, even though it be different from our own, we can then admire the consistency of the theory, the particularity of the ceremonial and the beauty of the expression.

So far from being a jumble of crudities, there is a wonderful completeness about the whole system which is not surpassed even by the ceremonial religions of the East.

The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees – James Mooney – 1891


James Mooney (1861 – 1921) was an American ethnographer who lived for several years among the Cherokee.

He did major studies of Southeastern Indians, as well as those on the Great Plains.

His most notable works were his ethnographic studies of the Ghost Dance after Sitting Bull’s death in 1890, a widespread 19th-century religious movement among various Native American culture groups, and the Cherokee: The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees (1891), and Myths of the Cherokee (1900), all published by the US Bureau of American Ethnology.

Artifacts from Mooney are in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and the Department of Anthropology, Field Museum of Natural History.

Papers and photographs from Mooney are in the collections of the National Anthropological Archives, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution.

So it’s no surprise the mainstream collectively breathed a sigh of relief when it came to honouring the horizontal man.

Mr. Mooney‘s attitude toward the subjects of his study was not merely scientific.

He took an intense personal interest in them, was always ready to listen to their troubles, to lay their difficulties before those who might be able to adjust them, and to spend time and money in aiding them to obtain any and all advantages which he believed to be their just due.

When he had once reached a conclusion he maintained it with unfaltering courage and clung to it with a tenacity which not infrequently seemed to his friends to be carried to extremes, but of the honesty of his intentions there could be no doubt.

This attitude was oftenest in evidence in defense of a subjugated race or an oppressed class, for which the circumstances of his ancestry were no doubt largely responsible.

But beneath all was an intense emotional attitude which was a part of himself and was the secret both of his success as an ethnologist and his influence as a man.

From this particular point of view he has had few equals among ethnologists and certainly no superiors.

In consequence of it he had a wide acquaintance among peoples other than the Indians and those of his own race and among classes other than that to which he naturally belonged.

At the time of his death he was recognized as the leading authority on the Cherokee and Kiowa Indians, as well as a foremost authority upon the Indians of the entire Plains area, while no one was probably as well read on the earlier history of the tribes north of Mexico taken as a whole.

American Anthropologist – Volume 24 – 1922

Let us honour if we can
The vertical man
Though we value none
But the horizontal one.

Dedication to Christopher Isherwood – Poems 1930 – W. H. Auden

The “invaluable” original manuscripts of the “sacred formulas” that were “written by the shamans of the tribe” were entrusted to the Bureau of Ethnology for safe keeping by James Mooney.

The sacred formulas here given are selected from a collection of about six hundred, obtained on the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina in 1887 and 1888, and covering every subject pertaining to the daily life and thought of the Indian, including medicine, love, hunting, fishing, war, self-protection, destruction of enemies, witchcraft, the crops, the council, the ball play, etc. . and, in fact, embodying almost the whole of the ancient religion of the Cherokees.

The original manuscripts, now in the possession of the Bureau of Ethnology, were written by the shamans of the tribe, for their own use, in the Cherokee characters invented by Sikwa’ya (Sequoyah) in 1821, and were obtained, with the explanations, either from the writers themselves or from their surviving relatives.

It is impossible to overestimate the ethnologic importance of the materials thus obtained.

They are invaluable as the genuine production of the Indian mind, setting forth in the clearest light the state of the aboriginal religion before its contamination by contact with the whites.

The Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees – James Mooney – 1891

But, as Frans Olbrechts observed in 1932, Cherokee manuscripts and material “have a most uncanny propensity to get lost” and that the invaluable Swimmer Manuscript obtained by James Mooney was “true to the tradition” because it “disappeared without leaving a clue”.


Cherokee manuscripts and material on the Cherokee language have a most uncanny propensity to get lost.

The “dictionary” of Christian Priber has never been heard of since it reached Frederica, Ga., probably in 1741.

The bulky material of the Rev. S. A. Worcester, including a grammar and a dictionary, went down on the Arkansas about 1830.

The manuscript contributions to Cherokee linguistics by Col. W. H. Thomas have ”unfortunately (been) mislaid.”

The manuscript of John Pickering’s grammar of the Cherokee language, the printing of which was interfered with, or was thought to have been interfered with, by the invention of the Sequoya syllabary, has never been found.

To reach a climax: The manuscript which is edited in the following paper has been true to the tradition, and has disappeared without leaving a clue.

The manuscript is described by Mooney, who discovered it and brought it to Washington, as “a small daybook of about 240 pages, . . . about half filled with writing in the Cherokee characters,” and elsewhere as “an unpaged blank book of 242 pages, 3½ by 12 inches, only partially filled; 137 (formulas) in all.”

Mooney started work on it in 1888; he transliterated and translated the formulas with the assistance of native informants, cherokee-swimmer , the writer, himself taking a conspicuous part in the work.

The Swimmer Manuscript : Cherokee Sacred Formulas and Medicinal Prescriptions
James Mooney and Frans Olbrechts – 1932

However, through the diligent efforts of Frans Olbrechts, the invaluable Swimmer Manuscript was “reconstituted” so that a complete edition of the Cherokee Sacred Formulas and Medicinal Prescriptions could be published in 1932.

I consider it an obvious act of piety to dedicate this paper to the memory of the scientist who devoted so much of his erudition and enthusiasm to the ethnological study of the North American Indians, and particularly of the Cherokee; to a man without whose previous intelligent research and publications the following pages could not now be offered to the public.

The glowing tribute paid to him in the name of his colleagues and friends by Dr. John R. Swanton in the American Anthropologist, volume 24, No. 2, April- June, 1922, pages 209-214, has done him justice from one quarter only.

Doctor Swanton was the eloquent spokesman of James Mooney’s white friends.

When I went to live with the Cherokee of the Great Smoky Mountains to continue the work of Mooney I found that his departure had been felt as cruelly by his Indian friends as by his white colleagues.

The mere statement that I came to stay with them with the same purpose in view as had cherokee-moon (Mooney’s Cherokee name, meaning “moon”) served as the best introduction I could have desired.

People who looked askance, and medicine men who looked sullen when first approached, changed as if touched by a magic wand as they heard his name and as I explained my connection with his work.

From all that I heard I concluded that his life and his dealings with our mutual friends, the Cherokee, were a stimulating example for me, and I was well satisfied whenever I heard my conduct and my person not too unfavorably compared with that of my sympathetic predecessor.

The line of research which Mooney had started in the Cherokee field was too interesting not to be followed up ; the results he had obtained demanded still a considerable amount of further study, both in the field and at the desk.

It is sad indeed that he did not have the satisfaction of seeing this manuscript published before he passed away from his beloved Cherokee studies.

But the life of a scientist and a pioneer like Mooney is not of threescore and ten only.

He continues to live for generations in his splendid and altruistic work, in monuments more durable than stone.

I consider it a great honor and an enviable privilege to link my name with his, and at the same time to be able to contribute something more to the memory of James Mooney, by offering to the public the results of our joint work contained in the following pages.

Frans M. Olbrechts.

The Swimmer Manuscript : Cherokee Sacred Formulas and Medicinal Prescriptions
James Mooney and Frans Olbrechts – 1932


Not only does the mainstream have an “uncanny propensity” for losing artefacts but they also have an uncanny propensity for declaring artefacts to be hoaxes and frauds based upon Reverend Peet’s Prejudicial Principle.

Wikipedia and “professional archaeologists” still cling to Reverend Peet’s Prejudicial Principle of 1892 whereby “frauds” are [by definition] any ancient American artefact with an inscription in “Hebrew, Phoenician, Hittite” or “some ancient alphabet”.


Unfortunately, the battle against “ignorant and prejudiced writers” continues to this day…

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4 Responses to The Swimmer Manuscript

  1. malagabay says:

    A timely talk by Steve Pieczenik regarding the ignorant and prejudiced history of the American Civil War

  2. malagabay says:

    Miles Mathis investigates the Lincoln Assassination

    The third red flag was this kind of statement, which I found over and over in my research:

    “Very few academic historians have studied Lincoln’s assassination in any depth.”

    I think you will agree that is astonishing.

    It is the indication of a successful cover-up, and a cover-up is of course indication that what we have been told is not true.

    Why would historians avoid studying or writing about the assassination?

    Isn’t that what historians are supposed to do?

    Apparently not.

    My research has solidified an impression I have long had, that being that historians are mainly paid to tell the accepted story, to flesh it out, and – if they are really creative – to add somewhat to the lie.

    I have not found that historians are especially interested in the truth, and the most famous ones seem the least interested.

    Of course, this isn’t limited to historians.

    It applies to everyone in all fields.

    There is an incredible amount of top-down control, and there appear to be standing orders to avoid all truths at all times.

    How else to explain the current state of history, science, education, art, literature, and so on?

    Lincoln’s Assassination – Miles Mathis – 2016

  3. Pingback: Myths of the Cherokee: The Lost Tribes of Israel | MalagaBay

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