A Midē´ of the first degree
is aware of the course to be pursued by him when he contemplates
advancement into the next higher grade. Before making known to the
other members his determination, he is compelled to procure, either
by purchase or otherwise, such a quantity of blankets, robes,
peltries, and other articles of apparel or ornament as will amount
in value to twice the sum at which were estimated the gifts
presented at his first initiation. A year or more usually elapses
before this can be accomplished, as but one hunting season
intervenes before the next annual meeting of the society, when furs
are in their prime; and fruits and maple sugar can be gathered but
once during the season, and these may be converted into money with
which to purchase presents not always found at the Indian traders´
stores. Friends may be called upon to advance goods to effect the
accomplishment of his desire, but such loans must be returned in
kind later on, unless otherwise agreed. When a candidate feels
convinced that he has gathered sufficient material to pay for his
advancement, he announces to those members of the society who are of
a higher grade than the first degree that he wishes to present
himself at the proper time for initiation. This communication is
made to eight of the highest or officiating priests, in his own
wig´iwam, to which they have been specially invited. A feast is
prepared and partaken of, after which he presents to each some
tobacco, and smoking is indulged in for the purpose of making proper
offerings, as already described. The candidate then informs his
auditors of his desire and enumerates the various goods and presents
which he has procured to offer at the proper time. The Midē´ priests
sit in silence and meditate; but as they have already been
informally aware of the applicant’s wish, they are prepared as to
the answer they will give, and are governed according to the
estimated value of the gifts. Should the decision of the Midē´
priests be favorable, the candidate procures the services of one of
those present to assume the office of instructor or preceptor, to
whom, as well as to the officiating priests, he displays his ability
in his adopted specialties in medical magic, etc. He seeks,
furthermore, to acquire additional information upon the preparation
of certain secret remedies, and to this end he selects a preceptor
who has the reputation of possessing it.
For acting in the capacity of instructor, a Midē´ priest receives
blankets, horses, and whatever may be mutually agreed upon between
himself and his pupil. The meetings take place at the instructor’s
wig´iwam at intervals of a week or two; and sometimes during the
autumn months, preceding the summer in which the initiation is to be
conferred, the candidate is compelled to resort to a sudatory and
take a vapor bath, as a means of purgation preparatory to his
serious consideration of the sacred rites and teachings with which
his mind “and heart” must henceforth be occupied, to the exclusion
of everything that might tend to divert his thoughts.
What the special peculiarities and ceremonials of initiation into
the second degree may have been in former times, it is impossible to
ascertain at this late day. The only special claims for benefits to
be derived through this advancement, as well as into the third and
fourth degrees, are, that a Midē´ upon his admission into a new
degree receives the protection of that Man´idō
alleged and believed to be the special guardian of such degree, and
that the repetition of initiation adds to the magic powers
previously received by the initiate. In the first degree the sacred
migis was “shot” into the two sides, the heart, and head of the
candidate, whereas in the second degree this sacred, or magic,
influence, is directed by the priests toward the candidate’s joints,
in accordance with a belief entertained by some priests and referred
to in connection with the Red Lake chart presented on Pl. III. The
second, third, and fourth degrees are practically mere repetitions
of the first, and the slight differences between them are noted
under their respective captions.
In addition to a recapitulation of the secrets pertaining to the
therapeutics of the Midē´, a few additional magic remedies are
taught the candidate in his preparatory instruction. The chief of
these are described below.
“Bear’s Gall,” and Pi´-zhi-ki wī´-i-sŏp,
“Ox Gall,” are both taken
from the freshly killed animal and hung up to dry. It is powdered as
a small pinch of it is dissolved in water, a few drops of which are
the ear of a patient suffering from earache.
Gō´-gi-mish (gen. et sp.?).—A
plant, described by the preceptor as being about 2 feet in
height, having black bark and clusters of small red flowers.
1. The bark is scraped from the stalk, crushed and
dried. When it is to be used the
powder is put into a small bag of cloth and soaked in hot water to
virtue. It is used to expel evil Man´idōs which cause obstinate
coughs, and is also
administered to consumptives. The quantity of bark derived from
each 10 inches long, makes a large dose. When a Midē´ gives this
medicine to a
patient, he fills his pipe and smokes, and before the tobacco is all
2. The root of this plant mixed with the following is
used to produce paralysis of the
mouth. In consequence of the power it possesses it is believed to be
special protection of the Midē´ Man´idō, i.e., Ki´tshi Man´idō.
The compound is employed also to counteract the evil
intentions, conjurations, or other
charms of so-called bad Midē´, Wâbĕnō´,
After the cuticle is removed from the roots the thick
under-bark is crushed into a
powder. It is mixed with Go´gimish.
The spore-dust of the ball is carefully reserved to add
to the above mixture.
O-kwē´-mish—“Bitter Black Cherry.”
The inner bark of branches dried and crushed is also
The reptile is crushed and the blood collected, dried,
and used in a pulverulent form.
After partially crushing the body it is hung up and the drippings
dried. Other snakes may be employed as a substitute.
It is impossible to state the nature of the plants mentioned in the
above compound, as they are not indigenous to the vicinity of White
Earth, Minnesota, but are procured from Indians living in the
eastern extremity of the State and in Wisconsin. Poisonous plants
are of rare occurrence in this latitude, and if any actual poisonous
properties exist in the mixture they may be introduced by the Indian
himself, as strychnia is frequently to be purchased at almost any of
the stores, to be used in the extermination of noxious animals.
Admitting that crotalus venom may be present, the introduction into
the human circulation of this substance would without doubt produce
death and not paralysis of the facial muscles, and if taken into the
stomach it quickly undergoes chemical change when brought in contact
with the gastric juice, as is well known from experiments made by
several well known physiologists, and particularly by Dr. Coxe
(Dispensatory, 1839), who employed the contents of the venom sack,
mixed with bread, for the cure of rheumatism.
I mention this because of my personal knowledge of six cases at
White Earth, in which paralysis of one side of the face occurred
soon after the Midē´ administered this compound. In nearly all of
them the distortion disappeared after a lapse of from six weeks to
three months, though one is known to have continued for several
years with no signs of recovery. The Catholic missionary at White
Earth, with whom conversation was held upon this subject, feels
impressed that some of the so-called “bad Midē´” have a knowledge of
some substance, possibly procured from the whites, which they
attempt to employ in the destruction of enemies, rivals, or others.
It may be possible that the instances above referred to were cases
in which the dose was not sufficient to kill the victim, but was
enough to disable him temporarily. Strychnia is the only substance
attainable by them that could produce such symptoms, and then only
when given in an exceedingly small dose. It is also alleged by
almost every one acquainted with the Ojibwa that they do possess
poisons, and that they employ them when occasion demands in the
removal of personal enemies or the enemies of those who amply reward
the Midē´ for such service.
Plate XII. Invitation Sticks.
|When the time of ceremony of initiation
approaches, the chief Midē´ priest sends out a courier to
deliver to each member an invitation to attend (Pl. XII),
while the candidate removes his wig´iwam to the vicinity of
the place where the Midē´wigân has been erected. On the
fifth day before the celebration he visits the sweat-lodge,
where he takes his first vapor bath, followed on the next by
another; on the following day he takes the third bath, after
which his preceptor visits him. After making an offering to
Ki´tshi Man´io the priest sings a song, of which the
characters are reproduced in Pl. XIII, A. The Ojibwa words
employed in singing are given in the first lines, and are
said to be the ancient phraseology as taught for many
generations. They are archaic, to a great extent, and have
additional meaningless syllables inserted, and used as
suffixes which are intoned to prolong notes. The second line
of the Ojibwa text consists of the words as they are spoken
at the present time, to each of which is added the
interpretation. The radical similarity between the two is
Plate XIII.a. Mnemonic Song.
||Hi´-na-wi´-a-ni-kan. (As sung.)
We´-me-a´ ni-kan mi´-sha man´-i-dō
I am crying
my colleague great spirit.
He sees me
[The singer is represented as in close relationship or
communion with Ki´tshi Man´idō, the circle denoting union;
the short zigzag lines within which, in this instance,
represent the tears, i.e., “eye rain,” directed toward the
esh´-i-ha´-ni. (As sung.)
I hear you, colleague, what you say
[The singer addresses the Otter Spirit, whose figure is
emerging from the Midē´wigân of which he is the chief
a-ni´-me-ga´-si. (As sung.)
He will tell you
[of] my migis.
He it is who will tell you.
[The reference is to a superior spirit as indicated by the
presence of horns, and the zigzag line upon the breast. The
words signify that Ki´tshi Man´idō will make known to the
candidate the presence within his body of the mi´gis, when
the proper time arrives.]
||Rest, or pause, in the song.
|During this interval another smoke offering
is made, in which the Midē´ priest is joined by the
He tells us he is [one] of the Man´idōs.
[This ma´nido is the same as that referred to in the
above-named phrase. This form is different, the four spots
denoting the four sacred mi´gis points upon his body, the
short radiating lines referring to the abundance of magic
powers with which it is filled.]
I get it from afar
The “grand medicine.”
[The character represents a leg, with a magic line drawn
across the middle, to signify that the distance is
accomplished only through the medium of supernatural powers.
The place “from afar” refers to the abode of Ki´tshi Man´idō.]
I place you there “in the grand medicine” (among the “Midē´
Half way (in the Midē´wigân).
[The Midē´ priest informs the candidate that the second
initiation will advance the candidate half way into the
secrets of the Midē´wigân. The candidate is then placed so
that his body will have more magic influence and power as
indicated by the zigzag lines radiating from it toward the
Ni-go´-tshi-mi, hē´. (As
They have pity on me those who are sitting here.
[This request is made to the invisible Man´idōs who
congregate in the Midē´wigân during the ceremonies, and the
statement implies that they approve of the candidate’s
Another smoke offering is made upon the completion of this song,
after which both individuals retire to their respective habitations.
Upon the following day, that being the one immediately preceding the
day of ceremony, the candidate again repairs to the sudatory to take
a last vapor bath, after the completion of which he awaits the
coming of his preceptor for final conversation and communion with
Man´idōs respecting the step he is prepared to take upon the morrow.
The preceptor’s visit is merely for the purpose of singing to the
candidate, and impressing him with the importance of the rites of
the Midē´wigân. After making the usual offering of tobacco smoke the
preceptor becomes inspired and sings a song, the following being a
reproduction of the one employed by him at this stage of the
preparatory instruction. (See Pl. XIII, B.)
Plate XIII.b. Mnemonic Song.
||Man´-i-dō´, hē´, nē,
man´-i-dō´, hē´, nē´.
I am a spirit (is) the reason why I am here.
[The zigzag lines extending downward and outward from the
mouth indicate singing. He has reached the power of a
Man´idō, and is therefore empowered to sit within the sacred
inclosure of the Midē´wigân, to which he alludes.]
ha´, hē´, An´-nĭn,
Drifting snow, why
do I sing.
[The first line is sung, but no interpretation of the words
could be obtained, and it was alleged that the second line
contained the idea to be expressed. The horizontal curve
denotes the sky, the vertical zigzag lines indicating
falling snow—though being exactly like the lines employed to
denote rain. The drifting snow is likened to a shower of
delicate mi´gis shells or spots, and inquiry is made of it
to account for the feeling of inspiration experienced by the
singer, as this shower of mi´gis descends from the abode of
Ki´tshi Man´idō and is therefore, in this instance, looked
upon as sacred.]
||Rest, or pause.
Your body, I believe it is a spirit.
[The first line is sung, but the last word could not be
satisfactorily explained. The first word, as now pronounced,
is Ki´tshi Man´idō, and the song is addressed to him. The
curved line, from which the arm protrudes, is the Midē´wigân
and the arm itself is that of the speaker in the attitude of
adoration: reaching upward in worship and supplication.]
The bird as I promise
the reason he is a spirit.
[The second word is of archaic form and no agreement
concerning its correct signification could be reached by the
Midē´. The meaning of the phrase appears to be that Ki´tshi
Man´idō promised to create the Thunder-bird, one of the
Man´idōs. The falcon is here taken as a representative of
that deity, the entire group of Thunderers being termed a-ni´-mi-ki´.]
Makes a great noise the bear.
the reason I am of
[The character of the bear represents the great bear spirit
of the malevolent type, a band about his body indicating his
spirit form. By means of his power and influence the singer
has become endowed with the ability of changing his form
into that of the bear, and in this guise accomplishing good
or evil. The reference to flame (fire) denotes the class of
conjurers or Shamans to which this power is granted, i.e.,
the Wâbeno´, and in the second degree this power is reached
as will be referred to further on.]
||Ni´-a-wen´-din-da-sa´, ha´, sa´, man´-i-dō´-wid.
In your body I put it
[The first line is sung, and is not of the modern style of
spoken language. The second line signifies that the arm of
Ki´tshi Man´idō, through the intermediary of the Midē´
priest, will put the spirit, i.e., the mi´gis, into the body
of the candidate.]
The singer accompanies his song either by using a short baton of
wood, termed “singing stick” or the Midē´ drum. After the song is
completed another present of tobacco is given to the preceptor, and
after making an offering of smoke both persons return to their
respective wig´iwams. Later in the evening the preceptor calls upon
the candidate, when both, with the assistance of friends, carry the
presents to the Midē´wigân, where they are suspended from the
rafters, to be ready for distribution after the initiation on the
following day. Several friends of the candidate, who are Midē´, are
stationed at the doors of the Midē´wigân to guard against the
intrusion of the uninitiated, or the possible abstraction of the
gifts by strangers.
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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891
The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society