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For other uses, see Orenda (disambiguation).

Orenda /ˈrɛndə/ is an Iroquois name for a spiritual power inherent in people and their environment.,[1][2] Activities of nature were seen to be a "ceaseless struggle of one orenda against another, uttered and directed by the beings or bodies" in the environment.[3] Orenda was deemed a motive force behind miracles, soothsaying, divination, prophesy, blessing, cursing, prayer, worship, and superstitions.[4] Orenda is not a collective power and does not have a personification.[5] 19th and 20th century scholars compared the concept of orenda to that of mana.,[6][7]

Anthropologist J. N. B. Hewitt notes intrinsic similarities between the Iroquoian concept of Orenda and that of the Siouxan wakd or mahopa; the Algonquin manitowi, and the pokunt of the Shoshone. Across the Iroquois tribes, the concept was referred to variously as orenna or karenna by the Mohawk, Cayuga, and Oneida; urente by the Tuscarora, and iarenda or orenda by the Huron. A related term, otgon, denoted a specifically "malign, deadly, lethal, or destructive use" of orenda.[8] Hewitt notes that orenda was regarded by Iroquoian peoples as distinct from concepts of life, soul, ghost, and mind.[9]

For the Iroquois, a shaman was considered to be "one whose orenda is great, powerful", while a hunter's orenda determined whether he was successful in overcoming the orenda of the game, and in conflicts between nations, orenda determined the outcome.[10] Orenda was also present in nature: storms were said to possess orenda. A strong connection existed between prayers and songs and orenda: through song, a bird, shaman, or rabbit put forth orenda.[11]


  1. ^ Hewitt 1902.
  2. ^ "orenda". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  3. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 41.
  4. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 42.
  5. ^ nature worship. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  6. ^ mana (Web ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Rose, Herbert Jennings (1951). "Nvmen and Mana". Harvard Theological Review 44 (3): 109–120. 
  8. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 37.
  9. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 44.
  10. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 38.
  11. ^ Hewitt 1902, p. 40-43.


Hewitt, J. N. B. (1902). "Orenda and a Definition of Religion". American Anthropologist 4 (1): 33–46. Retrieved 12 April 2015.