The mī´gis shell employed in
the second degree initiation is of the same species as those before
mentioned. At White Earth, however, some of the priests claim an
additional shell as characteristic of this advanced degree, and
insist that this should be as nearly round as possible, having a
perforation through it by which it may be secured with a strand or
sinew. In the absence of a rounded white shell a bead may be used as
a substitute. On Pl. XI, No. 4, is presented an illustration of the
bead (the second-degree mī´gis) presented to me on the occasion of
With reference to the style of facial decoration resorted to in this
degree nearly all of the members now paint the face according to
their own individual tastes, though a few old men still adhere to
the traditional method previously described (pp. 180, 181). The
candidate usually adopts the style practiced by his preceptor, to
which he is officially entitled; but if the preceptor employed in
the preparatory instruction for the second degree be not the same
individual whose services were retained for the first time, then the
candidate has the privilege of painting his face according to the
style of the preceding degree. If he follow his last preceptor it is
regarded as an exceptional token of respect, and the student is not
expected to follow the method in his further advancement.
A Midē´ of the second degree is
also governed by his tutelary daimon; e.g., if during the first fast
and vision he saw a bear, he now prepares a necklace of bear-claws,
which is worn about the neck and crosses the middle of the breast.
He now has the power of changing his form into that of a bear; and
during that term of his disguise he wreaks vengeance upon his
detractors and upon victims for whose destruction he has been
liberally rewarded. Immediately upon the accomplishment of such an
act he resumes his human form and thus escapes identification and
detection. Such persons are termed by many “bad medicine men,” and
the practice of thus debasing the sacred teachings of the Midē´wiwin
is discountenanced by members of the society generally. Such
pretensions are firmly believed in and acknowledged by the credulous
and are practiced by that class of Shamans here designated as the
In his history1 Rev. Mr. Jones says:
||As the powwows always unite witchcraft with the
application of their medicines I shall here give a short
account of this curious art. Witches and wizards are persons
supposed to possess the agency of familiar spirits from whom
they receive power to inflict diseases on their enemies,
prevent good luck of the hunter and the success of the
warrior. They are believed to fly invisibly at pleasure from
place to place; to turn themselves into bears, wolves,
foxes, owls, bats, and snakes. Such metamorphoses they
pretend to accomplish by putting on the skins of these
animals, at the same time crying and howling in imitation of
the creature they wish to represent. Several of our people
have informed me that they have seen and heard witches in
the shape of these animals, especially the bear and the fox.
They say that when a witch in the shape of a bear is being
chased all at once she will run round a tree or a hill, so
as to be lost sight of for a time by her pursuers, and then,
instead of seeing a bear they behold an old woman walking
quietly along or digging up roots, and looking as innocent
as a lamb. The fox witches are known by the flame of fire
which proceeds out of their mouths every time they bark.
Many receive the name of witches without making any
pretensions to the art, merely because they are deformed or
ill-looking. Persons esteemed witches or wizards are
generally eccentric characters, remarkably wicked, of a
ragged appearance and forbidding countenance. The way in
which they are made is either by direct communication with
the familiar spirit during the days of their fasting, or by
being instructed by those skilled in the art.
A Midē´ of the second degree has the reputation of superior powers on
account of having had the mī´gis placed upon all of his joints, and
especially because his heart is filled with magic power, as is shown
in Pl. III, No. 48. In this drawing the disk upon the breast denotes
where the mī´gis has been “shot” into the figure, the enlarged size
of the circle signifying “greater abundance,” in contradistinction
to the common designation of a mī´gis shown only by a simple spot or
small point. One of this class is enabled to hear and see what is
transpiring at a remote distance, the lines from the hands
indicating that he is enabled to grasp objects which are beyond the
reach of a common person, and the lines extending from the feet
signifying that he can traverse space and transport himself to the
most distant points. Therefore he is sought after by hunters for aid
in the discovery and capture of game, for success in war, and for
the destruction of enemies, however remote may be their residence.
When an enemy or a rival is to be dealt with a course is pursued
similar to that followed when preparing hunting charts, though more
powerful magic medicines are used. In the following description of a
pictograph recording such an occurrence the Midē´, or rather the
Wâbeno´, was of the fourth degree of the Midē´wiwin. The indication
of the grade of the operator is not a necessary part of the record,
but in this instance appears to have been prompted from motives of
vanity. The original sketch, of which Fig. 24 is a reproduction, was
drawn upon birch-bark by a Midē´, in 1884, and the ceremony detailed
actually occurred at White Earth, Minnesota. By a strange
coincidence the person against whom vengeance was aimed died of
pneumonia the following spring, the disease having resulted from
cold contracted during the preceding winter. The victim resided at a
camp more than a hundred miles east of the locality above named, and
his death was attributed to the Midē´’s power, a reputation
naturally procuring for him many new adherents and disciples. The
following is the explanation as furnished by a Midē´ familiar with
Fig. 24.—Midē´ destroying an enemy.
|No. 1 is the author of the chart, a Midē´ who was called
upon to take the life of a man living at a distant camp. The
line extending from the Midē´ to the figure at No. 9,
signifies that his influence will reach to that distance.
No. 2, the applicant for assistance.
Nos. 3, 4, 5, and 6, represent the four degrees of the
Midē´wiwin (of which the operator, in this instance, was a
member). The degrees are furthermore specifically designated
by short vertical strokes.
No. 7 is the Midē´ drum used during the ceremony of
preparing the charm.
No. 8 represents the body of the intended victim. The heart
is indicated, and upon this spot was rubbed a small quantity
No. 9 is the outline of a lake, where the subject operated
War parties are not formed at this time, but mnemonic charts of
songs used by priests to encourage war parties, are still extant,
and a reproduction of one is given on Pl. XIII, D. This song was
used by the Midē´ priest to insure success to the parties. The
members who intended participating in the exhibition would meet on
the evening preceding their departure, and while listening to the
words, some would join in the singing while others would dance. The
lines may be repeated ad libitum so as to lengthen the entire series
of phrases according to the prevalent enthusiasm and the time at the
disposal of the performers. The war drum was used, and there were
always five or six drummers so as to produce sufficient noise to
accord with the loud and animated singing of a large body of excited
men. This drum is, in size, like that employed for dancing. It is
made by covering with rawhide an old kettle, or wooden vessel, from
2 to 3 feet in diameter. The drum is then attached to four sticks,
or short posts, so as to prevent its touching the ground, thus
affording every advantage for producing full and resonant sounds,
when struck. The drumsticks are strong withes, at the end of each of
which is fastened a ball of buckskin thongs. The following lines are
repeated ad libitum:
Plate XIII.d. Mnemonic Song.
||Hu´-na-wa´-na ha´-wā, un-do´-dzhe-na´ ha-we´-nĕ.
I am looking [feeling] for my paint.
[The Midē’s hands are at his medicine sack searching for his war
||Hĭa´-dzhi-mĭn-de´ non´-da-kō´, hō´,
They hear me speak of legs.
Refers to speed in the expedition. To the left of the leg is the arm
of a spirit, which is supposed to infuse magic influence so as to
give speed and strength.
||Hu´-wa-ke´, na´, ha´,
The Turtle man´idō will lend his aid in speed. The turtle was one of
the swiftest man´idōs, until through some misconduct, Min´abo´zho
deprived him of his speed.
||Wa´-tshe, ha´, hwē, wa´-ka-te´, hē´, wa´-tshe, ha´, hwē´.
Powder, he said.
[The modern form of Wa´-ka-te´, he´, hwa´, is ma´-ka-de´-hwa; other
archaic words occur also in other portions of this song. The phrase
signifies that the Midē´ man´idō favors good results from the use of
powder. His form projects from the top of the Midē´ structure.]
||Rest. A smoke is indulged in after which the song is resumed,
accompanied with dancing.
||Sin-go´-na wa-kī´ na-ha´-ka
I made him cry.
The figure is that of a turkey buzzard which the speaker shot.
||Te-wa´-tshi-me-kwe´-na, ha´, na-ke´-nan.
They tell of my powers.
The people speak highly of the singer’s magic powers; a charmed
arrow is shown which terminates above with feather-web ornament,
enlarged to signify its greater power.
What have I killed, it is a wolf.
By aid of his magic influence the speaker has destroyed a
bad man´idō which had
assumed the form of a wolf.
||Sun´-gu-we´-wa, ha´, nīn-dēn´, tshi´-man-da´-kwa ha´na-nĭn-dēn´.
I am as strong as the bear.
The Midē´ likens his powers to those of the Bear man´idō, one of the
most powerful spirits; his figure protrudes from the top of the
Midē´wigân while his spirit form is indicated by the short lines
upon the back.
||Wa´-ka-na´-ni, hē´, wa´-ka-na´-ni.
I wish to smoke.
The pipe used is that furnished by the promoter or originator of the
war party, termed a “partisan.” The Midē´ is in full accord with the
work undertaken and desires to join, signifying his wish by desiring
to smoke with the braves.
I even use a wooden image.
Effigies made to represent one who is to be destroyed. The heart is
punctured, vermilion or other magic powder is applied, and the death
of the victim is encompassed.
The bear goes round angry.
[The Bear man´idō is angry because the braves are dilatory in going
to war. The sooner they decide upon this course, the better it will
be for the Midē´ as to his fee, and the chances of success are
greater while the braves are infused with enthusiasm, than if they
should become sluggish and their ardor become subdued.]
1 History of the Ojebway Indians, etc., London
(1843?), pp. 145, 146.
This site includes some historical
materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language
of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the
historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in
any way endorse the stereotypes implied.
The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891
The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society