Posts Tagged ‘shaman’

Native American Ghosts

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
Navajo Shaman Ceremony

Navajo Shaman Ceremony

Native Americans believed in ghosts–spirits who were not at peace. This could happen because someone who died had not been at peace, personally. Unrest could also occur because a person was not buried properly or respectfully.

Disturbing or desecrating a grave could also cause spirits to become active. The Navajo believed that restless ghosts would torment the living, causing “ghost sickness.” Ghost sickness caused nausea, fever, fatigue, nightmares, and other worrisome symptoms, as well as unexplained misfortune.

The best way to avoid ghost sickness is to first perform burial rituals properly, like obliterating footsteps from around a grave and disposing of the dead person’s belongings appropriately. After that, everyone should stay well away from burial grounds, since lingering ghosts who did not vent their anger on people at the time of their death can still do so once newcomers arrive.

Navajo Hogan

Navajo Hogan

Some archeologists have hired Navajo religious figures to perform protective rituals (the Evil Way or Enemy Way when disturbance was through non-Navajo means) when burial grounds are disturbed.

Black Triangles on Dress are Juniper Berries

Black Triangles on Dress are Juniper Berries

Ghost beads are another way to protect a person from ghosts. These are made from juniper berries after ants have nibbled off one end and eaten the inside of the berry. The berries are dry, and may be preserved further by smoking them.

A person then makes a hole in the other end of each berry and strings them together.

Because these beads create an interconnection between the earth, people, trees, and animals, they can bring peace and protection to the wearer.

 

 

 

Prepariing Sand Paintings

Prepariing Sand Paintings

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Related Posts:

All in the Blood

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Chippewa Medicine Man, circa 1900, courtesy University of Minnesota, Duluth

Chippewa Medicine Man, circa 1900, courtesy University of Minnesota, Duluth

Older methods of curing illness often included bloodletting, the practice of purposely lancing a patient’s flesh in order to get blood flowing. Quantities extracted could be quite small or surprisingly voluminous, depending upon the individual doctor’s beliefs about its effectiveness. Many doctors nearly bled their patients to death, and this type of aggressive, “heroic” medicine fell out of favor during the nineteenth century.

The idea behind bloodletting was that the practice allowed the cause of an illness to get out of the body through the blood flow. Like other cultures around the world, Native Americans also believed in bloodletting. The Chippewa thought that doing so would remove “bad blood” and relieve a number of conditions. A shaman or other practitioner would make a small gash in the patient, with a knife or sharpened piece of porcelain. A gash in the elbow could treat a strained back or arm, while a small incision in the temple could treat headache or non-violent insanity.

Rather than being the traumatic experience many patients experienced at the hands of European or American doctors (who often took from 16 – 30 ounces of blood), Chippewa bloodletting only allowed about a teaspoonful of blood to escape. The small wound could then be closed by placing a poultice, chewed bark, or chewed tobacco over it.

Bloodletting Tool, circa 1850, courtesy Kansas Historical Society

Bloodletting Tool, circa 1850, courtesy Kansas Historical Society

Bloodletting, circa 1850

Bloodletting, circa 1850

facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Related Posts:

Medicine Women

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Blood Medicine Woman, Calgary, circa 1900

Native American women gathered herbs and created various healing preparations from them in probably every tribe. Some women had a special ability to heal, and became medicine women. Their knowledge went beyond the ordinary, and they devoted a considerable amount of time to perfecting their skills in recognizing and using herbs for curing illness and treating injuries. Women who were successful healers would be rewarded for their efforts with presents, food, and the like, and could become wealthy and respected within their tribes. Europeans were often astonished at how effective Native American medicines were in healing the ills of the day.

Some women went beyond healing with herbs and developed a deeper alliance with the spirit world. These women were differentiated as shamans; they studied under a practicing shaman and eventually took over her position. Shamans used the information passed on to them from their mentors, but also developed their own rituals, songs, or formulas for healing and for practicing other spiritual skills like interpreting dreams, finding buffalo herds, or calling out the wind. Their powers were mystical and magical, and though they could heal, they had a different role than medicine women.

Medicine Woman Seeking Solitude, 1915, courtesy Library of Congress

Menominee Medicine Woman

______________________________________________________________________________________

m4s0n501
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedintumblr

Related Posts: