“For me, the essence of a medicine man’s life is to be humble, to have great patience, to be close to the Earth, to live as simply as possible, and to never stop learning.”
~Archie Fire Lame Deer, Lakota
The Medicine people focus on their Being, not their doing. After all, we are human beings not human doings. The Medicine people are very patient and consciously trying to live a life of humility. Medicine people are servant leaders. Their main purpose is to serve the needs of others. By this service attitude, they become the leaders people listen to and the leaders the people want to follow.
The Medicine people say everyone is their teacher. Maybe we should try to live this way ourselves; humble, patient, honoring the Earth and listening to our teachers.
Grandfather, today, let me know all people are my teachers and I am the student.
“A long time ago, there lived a human being who always went out of his way to help the people of his village.
“When the elders could no longer hunt for themselves, he would bring them food.
“A young couple getting married could count on him to help make their tipi poles and gather the hides needed to cover their lodge.
“If a child’s family was killed, he would take that child in and raise it as his own.
“And there were many more good deeds he performed that no one knew of, because he never sought praise or attention for his actions. Every day he remained alert to what he could do to help his tribe, and he did so with good humor and enthusiasm.
“Many years went by in this way and all the while the Creator watched this man and took note of his virtues.
“At long last, when the man’s hair had turned to snow, and the days ahead were becoming fewer, the Creator thought, ‘All these years I’ve watched him help my people. I could use someone like him to be helping out all the time. I’m going to immortalize him.’
“So the Creator turned the man into a cedar tree.”
Bear Heart continued:
“There are many uses for cedar — it stays green year round, so it can be gathered and dried at any time. Burning dried cedar on coals creates smoke and we can pray with that smoke — it carries our prayers up to the Heavens.
“When children are restless in a home, burning cedar calms them down.
“When you just don’t feel too good for hardly any reason at all, you can burn cedar in your home and you’ll feel better. The cedar already knows what’s needed to bring harmony because he was a man who knew how to help people.
“So that’s the story of cedar. He was a man once.”
Hear me, four quarters of the world– a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth. Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only, can I face the winds.
Great Spirit…all over the earth the faces of living things are all alike. With tenderness have these come up out of the ground. Look upon these faces of children without number and with children in their arms, that they may face the winds and walk the good road to the day of quiet.
This is my prayer ~ hear me!
~Black Elk, Sioux Indian
The False Face Society is the best known of many medicinal societies among the Iroquois. The society is best known for its dramatic wooden masks, the “false faces.” The masks are used in healing rituals which invoke spirits and a dream world. Those cured by the society become members. Also, echoing the significance of dreams to the Iroquois, anyone who dreams that they should be a member of the society may join.
The masks are considered to be living and breathing. They are fed with cornmeal ‘Mush’ and they accept gifts of tobacco as payment for rituals. The design of the masks is somewhat variable, but most share certain features. The masks have long, black, reddish brown, brown, grey or white horse hair. Before the introduction of horses by the Europeans, corn husks and buffalo hair were used. The eyes are deep-set and accented by metal. The noses are bent and crooked. The other facial features are variable. The masks are painted red and black. Most often carry pouches of tobacco on their foreheads and/or nostrils. Basswood is usually used for the masks although other types of wood are sometimes used.
When making a mask, an Iroquois man walks through the woods until he is moved by a spirit to carve a mask from the tree. The spirit inspires the unique elements of the mask’s design and the resulting product represents the spirit itself. The masks are carved directly on the tree and only removed when completed. Masks are painted red if they were begun in the morning or black if they were begun in the afternoon. Red masks are thought to be more powerful. Masks with both colors represent spirits with “divided bodies.
A story about False Face can be found here: The Story of False Face
Words spoken by a mother to her newborn son as she cuts the umbilical cord:
I cut from your middle the naval string: know you, understand that your birthplace is not your home, for you are a server and a warrior, you are the bird called quechol, you are the bird called zacuan, you are the bird and warrior of the One Who Dwells in All Places. This house where you are born is but a nest. It is a way station to which you have come. It is your point of entrance into this world. Here you sprout, here you flower. Here you are severed from your mother, as the chip is struck from the stone.
The Medicine Bundle is a collection of items that has come to you in a variety of ways and that represent the Totems of your Power Animals or Allies among nature. In a Medicine Bundle you might find a seed pod, a Tobacco tie, a ball of dried sap from a Pine tree, a scalplock, an Elk tooth, Horse hair, a quarts crystal, an Otter tail, a Stone Person, a special string of beads, and/or any other item that represents Medicine to the Bundle’s owner.
In ancient times many of the items were of special significance among the Tribes and Nations of Native America. For instance, the Crow believed that an Elk tooth was Medicine that would bring abundance in a material manner to the owner. A piece of blue cloth meant good luck, Bear hair and claws would keep a Warrior’s Horse in prime shape, and a Swallow wing would give the power to evade enemies.
Medicine Bundles were used for many different things. There were bundles for personal Medicine, Tribal Bundles, Warrior Bundles, Sun Dance Bundles, Giving Birth Bundles, Hunting Bundles, Dreaming Bundles, and Vision Bundles. Some Bundles would be created by a Medicine Man or Woman for special needs, or people could create their own. Some were passed down before death to a family member or worthy Tribal Member. This passing of the Medicine was to ensure the proper use and Guardianship of the Medicine Bundle.
Each Medicine Bundle came with its own set of rules.
For instance: if the owner had a Warrior Bundle that gave him great strength in battle, his Allies connected to that Bundle may have forbidden him to eat female Deer meat and never paint his face with blue. The gentleness that is a part of the Doe could inhibit his actions in Counting Coup. Blue face paint could draw him toward the Road of Spirit and might bring an early death.
Every Bundle has a specific purpose, and must have regulations that will strengthen the Medicine of the Bundle’s Allies. Thoughtless actions can create havoc in the harmony achieved between the Medicine Helpers and the person seeking assistance if there is no respect for the Bundle’s natural sense of order. The same rules apply to a smaller Bundle worn on the person, which is called a Medicine Pouch.
Medicine Bundle Copies
Some Warriors purchased special copies of a Bundle from another Tribal Member whom they respected. If these Braves had no vision of what their own Medicine was, they were left with no protection. The Allies of nature had been called upon but for one reason or another, some Warriors could not receive their Medicine Dreams. Possibly the problem was that they were not in touch with their female receptive energy due to the rigors of having to prove their right to be Warrior Clan. In any case, to be an unprotected Warrior meant sure death at an early age.
To lie about having received messages from your Power Totem or a vision of your path was to invite disaster, and yet for a Tribe to have a Brave without a Medicine was worse.
The predicament was solved by wise Medicine Men, Chiefs, or great Warriors. These men would accept Horses or other valuable items for a copy of their Medicine Bundle. The Bundle’s maker never put every object that represented his total protection into the copy. The reason for this was that to Give Away all of your Medicine would leave your spirit at risk. No one should ever know all the items in a Personal Medicine Bundle. If someone was trying to use bad medicine to attack a powerful leader in a Tribe, they could harm that person by knowing their Medicine and using sorcery.
The penalty for stealing another’s Medicine Bundle was death. Unless invited, it was forbidden to touch any personal possession belonging to another Tribal Member – man, woman, or child.
Different Types of Medicine Bundles
Tribal Bundles, called the Grandmothers, were the oldest and most sacred. Next came the Sundance Bundles and then the Warrior Bundles. This order of sacredness reflected the Medicine and strength each Bundle had provided the Tribe over long periods of time. Every winter that passed successfully gave further strength to the Bundles.
Individual Sun Dance Bundles were made up by each Brave’s sponsor, who was already acknowledged through acts of courage. The sponsor placed Totem objects into the Sun Dance Bundles that had been passed through many lines of Ancestor Warriors.
No Bundles, however, were more sacred than the Tribal Bundles. These Grandmother Bundles ranked highest in the most ancient, tried and tested Medicines and represented the combined spirits of all Tribal Members – past, present, and future generations. The Grandmothers were so named because they were Tribal Bundles that carry the nurturing Medicine needed by all their children. Like every grandmother in humankind, these Grandmother Bundles seek only the best for their grandchildren.
The Tribal Bundles have been passed down through a line of Guardians. At one time these Bundles had to have their own Tipi and were set up in the camp as a protection for that Tribe. These Grandmother Bundles were protected usually by Warrior Chiefs who had honored themselves and carried strong Medicine. The Tribal Bundles were considered living beings and were never left alone and unprotected.
Today the Grandmother Bundles have been secreted away and many are protected by Grandmother Elders as well as by some Medicine Men. These are among the most sacred objects of the Native American people and still hold the spirit of all the Native American Nations.
The Personal Medicine Bundles can be carried or worn on the person. These Bundles are called on when needed for strength and/or courage during daily activities. Some Medicine Pouches are worn around the neck and are smaller versions of the Medicine bundle. These Medicine Pouches are a reminder for the wearer of the talents, abilities, and Power Animals who will aid them in walking tall and in balance. They are also used for protection.
The Bundles carried by women are not spoken of very much in written history due to the secrets of the Medicine being reserved for the Sisterhoods. The Warrior Clan knew that the women were naturally more adept at receiving due to their female nature, and thus, the women were always honored for their inner-knowing and the Woman Medicine they carried.
These female Medicine bundles could be used to promote fertility, to aid the male Warrior who walked at the woman’s side, to seek new healing techniques with herbs, to aid in delivery of a child, to bring abundance to the lodge, or to maintain a happy family.
The women have always been separate in their use of Medicine and have honored their own societies. They have never had to go through the rigors of physical tests of strength to achieve vision. They are Mothers of the Creative Force of the Universe and naturally receive the messages of their Medicine Helpers to keep and maintain the strength of their Personal and Sisterhood Bundles.
Making and Giving Medicine Bundles
Each object that comes to you to be a part of your personal Medicine can be placed in a piece of hide and wrapped like you would cover a gift, folding all four corners of the hide to the center and then tying the Bundle four times with cords of buckskin.
Medicine Bundles vary in size from something that fits in the palm of your hand all the way up to the size of a newborn baby. Some Medicine Bundles are rolled and some are folded into the pieces of hide. You may want to put some of the smaller objects into a Medicine Pouch and wear it at your waist or around our neck.
If you want to make a Medicine Bundle for a special friend, you would need to look at what kind of Medicine you want to share. Then call on the Four Clan Chiefs (the Four Directions) to send you a dream or vision of what to include. This could be A Bundle for a young wife who fears her first pregnancy, a young man going into the armed forces, a newly-wed couple, someone buying land who would need a Guardian Spirit for the protection of that land, or a friend who is ill. Every kind of Bundle is a gift of Self and is only to be shared with those who will honor the sacred responsibility of the Bundle’s Medicine.
If you are an Elder, you may want to pass your Medicine to a younger person who you know will accept the responsibility with honor and courage. The Bundle may also be passed to another if you do not intend to Drop Your Robe (die). If a person should Drop The Robe before passing the medicine Bundle to someone else, that Bundle and all of the Sacred Medicine belonging to the deceased person should be burned so that the spirit will have no Medicine strings attached to this Wheel of Life and may be free to move on to the Blue Road of Spirit.
Accepting Medicine that has been passed from an Elder or another person with great strengths is not to be taken lightly. It is a great responsibility to respect the life and deeds of another person, carrying yourself in a manner that would allow the original holder of that Medicine to take pride in your action. If you dishonored the life of that Elder or the Medicine, you could receive your share of hard knocks from the Allies.
The Allies understand that all acts of physical life are sacred in their proper time. The allies teach us how and when to experience every act along the Sacred Path with beauty.
- Khetani Machangana: Learn To See