After this song is ended the drum is handed to one of the members
sitting near by, when the fourth and last of the officiating priests
says to the candidate, who is now placed upon his knees:
|Now is the time
||that I hope of you
||that you shall
||the bead [mī´gis shell.]
This priest then grasps his Midē´ sack as if holding a gun, and,
clutching it near the top with the left hand extended, while with
the right he clutches it below the middle or near the base, he aims
it toward the candidate’s left breast and makes a thrust forward
toward that target uttering the syllables “yâ, hŏ´,
hŏ´,” rapidly, rising to a
higher key. He recovers his first position and repeats this movement
three times, becoming more and more animated, the last time making a
vigorous gesture toward the kneeling man’s breast as if shooting
him. (See Fig. 15, page 192.) While this is going on, the preceptor
and his assistants place their hands upon the candidate’s shoulders
and cause his body to tremble.
Then the next Midē´, the third of the quartette, goes through a
similar series of forward movements and thrusts with his Midē´ sack,
uttering similar sounds and shooting the sacred mī´gis—life—into
the right breast of the candidate, who is agitated still more
strongly than before. When the third Midē´, the second in order of
precedence, goes through similar gestures and pretends to shoot the
mī´gis into the candidate’s heart, the preceptors assist him to be
The leading priest now places himself in a threatening attitude and
says to the Midē´; “Mi´-dzhi-de´-a-mi-shik´”—“put your helping heart
with me”—, when he imitates his predecessors by saying, “yâ, hŏ´,
hŏ´,” at the fourth time aiming
the Midē´ sack at the candidate’s head, and as the mī´gis is
supposed to be shot into it, he falls forward upon the ground,
Then the four Midē´ priests, the preceptor and the assistant, lay
their Midē´ sacks upon his back and after a few moments a mī´gis
shell drops from his mouth—where he had been instructed to retain
it. The chief Midē´ picks up the mī´gis and, holding it between the
thumb and index finger of the right hand, extending his arm toward
the candidate’s mouth says “wâ! wâ! he he he he,” the last syllable
being uttered in a high key and rapidly dropped to a low note; then
the same words are uttered while the mī´gis is held toward the east,
and in regular succession to the south, to the west, to the north,
then toward the sky. During this time the candidate has begun to
partially revive and endeavor to get upon his knees, but when the
Midē´ finally places the mī´gis into his mouth again, he instantly
falls upon the ground, as before. The Midē´ then take up the sacks,
each grasping his own as before, and as they pass around the
inanimate body they touch it at various points, which causes the
candidate to “return to life.” The chief priest then says to him,
“O´mishga‘n”1—“get up”—which he does; then indicating to the holder
of the Midē´ drum to bring that to him, he begins tapping and
presently sings the following song:
Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an Mi´si-ni-en´-di-an Mi´-si-ni-en´-dian,
Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an, Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an,
Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an, Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an Mi´-si-ni-en´-di-an,
Ni-kan. Hĭū, Hĭū,
The words of the text signify, “This is what I am, my fellow Midē´;
I fear all my fellow Midē´.” The last syllables, hĭū´,
At the conclusion of the song the preceptor prompts the candidate to
ask the chief Midē´:
In response to which the Midē´ teaches him the following, which
is uttered as a monotonous chant, viz:
||are you asking,
||are you asking?
|I will give you
||you want me to
|| “grand medicine”
|always take care
received it yourself,
To this the candidate, who is now a member, replies,
ēn, yes, i.e.,
assent, fully agreeing with the statement made by the Midē´, and
||for giving to me
Then the priests begin to look around in search of spaces in
which to seat themselves, saying:
|Now is the time I look
||where we shall be [sit].
and all go to such places as are made, or reserved, for them.
The new member then goes to the pile of blankets, robes, and other
gifts and divides them among the four officiating priests, reserving
some of less value for the preceptor and his assistant; whereas
tobacco is carried around to each person present. All then make an
offering of smoke, to the east, south, west, north, toward the
center and top of the Midē´wigân—where Ki´tshi Man´idō presides—and
to the earth. Then each person blows smoke upon his or her Midē´
sack as an offering to the sacred mī´gis within.
The chief Midē´ advances to the new member and presents him with a
new Midē´ sack, made of an otter skin, or possibly of the skin of
the mink or weasel, after which he returns to his place. The new
member rises, approaches the chief Midē´, who inclines his head to
the front, and, while passing both flat hands down over either side,
||my colleagues, my
colleagues, my colleagues.
Then, approaching the next in rank, he repeats the ceremony and
continues to do so until he has made the entire circuit of the
At the conclusion of this ceremony of rendering thanks to the
members of the society for their presence, the newly elected Midē´
returns to his place and, after placing within his Midē´ sack his
mī´gis, starts out anew to test his own powers. He approaches the
person seated nearest the eastern entrance, on the south side, and,
grasping his sack in a manner similar to that of the officiating
priests, makes threatening motions toward the Midē´ as if to shoot
him, saying, “yâ, hŏ´, hŏ´,
hŏ´,” gradually raising his
voice to a higher key. At the fourth movement he makes a quick
thrust toward his victim, whereupon the latter falls forward upon
the ground. He then proceeds to the next, who is menaced in a
similar manner and who likewise becomes apparently unconscious from
the powerful effects of the mī´gis. This is continued until all
persons present have been subjected to the influence of the mī´gis
in the possession of the new member. At the third or fourth
experiment the first subject revives and sits up, the others
recovering in regular order a short time after having been “shot
at,” as this procedure is termed.
When all of the Midē´ have recovered a very curious ceremony takes
place. Each one places his mī´gis shell upon the right palm and,
grasping the Midē´ sack with the left hand, moves around the
inclosure and exhibits his mī´gis to everyone present, constantly
uttering the word “hŏ´, hŏ´,
in a quick, low tone. During this period there is a mingling of all
the persons present, each endeavoring to attract the attention of
the others. Each Midē´ then pretends to swallow his mī´gis, when
suddenly there are sounds of violent coughing, as if the actors were
strangling, and soon thereafter they gag and spit out upon the
ground the mī´gis, upon which each one falls apparently dead. In a
few moments, however, they recover, take up the little shells again
and pretend to swallow them. As the Midē´ return to their respective
places the mī´gis is restored to its receptacle in the Midē´ sack.
Food is then brought into the Midē´wigân and all partake of it at
the expense of the new member.
After the feast, the older Midē´ of high order, and possibly the
officiating priests, recount the tradition of the Ani´shinâ´bēg
and the origin of the Midē´wiwin, together with speeches relating to
the benefits to be derived through a knowledge thereof, and
sometimes, tales of individual success and exploits. When the
inspired ones have given utterance to their thoughts and feelings,
their memories and their boastings, and the time of adjournment has
almost arrived, the new member gives an evidence of his skill as a
singer and a Midē´. Having acted upon the suggestion of his
preceptor, he has prepared some songs and learned them, and now for
the first time the opportunity presents itself for him to gain
admirers and influential friends, a sufficient number of whom he
will require to speak well of him, and to counteract the evil which
will be spoken of him by enemies—for enemies are numerous and may be
found chiefly among those who are not fitted for the society of the
Midē´, or who have failed to attain the desired distinction.
The new member, in the absence of a Midē´ drum of his own, borrows
one from a fellow Midē´ and begins to beat it gently, increasing the
strokes in intensity as he feels more and more inspired, then sings
a song (Pl. X, D), of which the following are the words, each line
being repeated ad libitum, viz:
Plate X.d. Mnemonic Song.
The spirit has made sacred the place in which I live.
The singer is shown partly within, and partly above his
wigwam, the latter being represented by the lines upon
either side, and crossing his body.
The spirit gave the “medicine” which we receive.
The upper inverted crescent is the arch of the sky, the
magic influence descending, like rain upon the earth, the
latter being shown by the horizontal line at the bottom.
I too have taken the medicine he gave us.
The speaker’s arm, covered with mī´gis, or magic influence,
reaches toward the sky to receive from Ki´tshi Man´idō the
divine favor of a Mide’s power.
I brought life to the people.
The Thunderer, the one who causes the rains, and
consequently life to vegetation, by which the Indian may
I have come to the medicine lodge also.
The Bear Spirit, one of the guardians of the Midē´wiwin, was
also present, and did not oppose the singer’s entrance.
We spirits are talking together.
The singer compares himself and his colleagues to spirits,
i.e., those possessing supernatural powers, and communes
with them as an equal.
The mī´gis is on my body.
The magic power has been put into his body by the Mide
The spirit has put away all my sickness.
He has received new life, and is, henceforth, free from the
disturbing influences of evil Man´idōs.
As the sun approaches the western horizon, the Midē´ priests
emerge from the western door of the Midē´wigân and go to their
respective wig´iwams, where they partake of their regular evening
repast, after which the remainder of the evening is spent in paying
calls upon other members of the society, smoking, etc.
The preceptor and his assistant return to the Midē´wigân at
nightfall, remove the degree post and plant it at the head of the
wig´iwam—that part directly opposite the entrance—occupied by the
new member. Two stones are placed at the base of the post, to
represent the two forefeet of the bear Man´idō through whom life was
also given to the Ani´shinâ´bēg.
If there should be more than one candidate to receive a degree the
entire number, if not too great, is taken into the Midē´wigân for
initiation at the same time; and if one day suffices to transact the
business for which the meeting was called the Indians return to
their respective homes upon the following morning. If, however,
arrangements have been made to advance a member to a higher degree,
the necessary changes and appropriate arrangement of the interior of
the Midē´wigân are begun immediately after the society has
1 The chief priest then says to him,
“Ō´mishga‘n”—“get up”—which he does
The backward apostrophe in Ō´mishga‘n
occurs nowhere else in the text; it may be phonetic (glottal stop?)
or an error.
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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891
| The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society