National Geographic : 1947 Sep
"Att Their Great and Solemne Feastes . . They Dance and Sing" Several times a year members of the Virginia Algonquian tribes gathered in one of their villages to spend hours singing and dancing, as illustrated here by John White. A great feast climaxed the festival. Since many of the Indians brandish or are adorned with parts of plants, most ethnologists agree that they were either praying for a boun tiful harvest or giving thanks for crops already gathered. The same scene appears in the picture of the town of Secota (Plate II). The festivities began after sunset, with the men "attyred in the most strange fashion they can devise, having certayne marks on the back to declare of what place they bee." The dry rattle of seeds or pebbles in gourds accompanied their singing and dancing. When dancers dropped out of the circle because of exhaustion, others took their places. In the center of the ring enclosed by the carved posts stood "three of the fayrest Virgins of the companie," who embraced each other and turned around and around as the dance proceeded. In dian maidens customarily played important parts in crop festivals. To White, the carved heads on the posts re sembled those of veiled nuns. They are assumed to represent minor deities. © National Geographic Society Engraving by Theodore de Bry, 1590 XIV '