“The Coniuerer.” Theodor de Bry’s engraving of an American Indian “conjurer,” published in Thomas Hariot’s 1588 book A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. In the foreground, the conjurer stands on his right foot with his left leg held at an angle behind him and his arms held in the air. His gaze is pointed up, and there is a bird at his right ear. He wears a string around his waist, from which an animal skin hangs in the front and a fringed bag hangs on the side. In the background is a body of water in which people are hunting from canoes. Behind the body of water is a wooded piece of land on which people are aiming bows and arrows at a leaping deer.
The text accompanying the image reads:
They have commonly coniurers or jugglers which use strange gestures, and often contrary to nature in their enchantments: For they be very familiar with devils, of whom they enquire what their enemies do, or other such things. They shave all their heads saving their crest which they wear as others do, and fasten a small black bird above one of their ears as a badge of their office. They wear nothing but a skin which hangs down from their girdle, and covers their privities. They wear a bag by their side as is expressed in the figure. The Inhabitants give great credit unto their speech, which oftentimes they find to be true.
Theodor de Bry was a Flemish-born engraver and publisher who based his illustrations for Hariot’s book on the New World paintings of colonist John White. These depictions of the landscapes and residents of North Carolina provided Europeans with some of their earliest notions of what the North American continent looked like. This engraving was based on White’s watercolor painting, “Indian Conjurer.”