Native American Nations
                   Your Source for Indian Research
                   Rolls ~ History ~ Treaties ~ Census ~ Books

Dzhibai´ Midē´wigân, or "Ghost Lodge"


 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                    

A structure erected by Indians for any purpose whatever, is now generally designated a lodge, in which sense the term is applied in connection with the word dzhibai´—ghost, or more appropriately shadow—in the above caption. This lodge is constructed in a form similar to that of the Midē´wigân, but its greatest diameter extends north and south instead of east and west. Further reference will be made to this in describing another method of conferring the initiation of the first degree of the Midē´wiwin. This distinction is attained by first becoming a member of the so-called “Ghost Society,” in the manner and for the reason following:

After the birth of a male child it is customary to invite the friends of the family to a feast, designating at the same time a Midē´ to serve as godfather and to dedicate the child to some special pursuit in life. The Midē´ is governed in his decision by visions, and it thus sometimes happens that the child is dedicated to the “Grand Medicine,” i.e., he is to be prepared to enter the society of the Midē´. In such a case the parents prepare him by procuring a good preceptor, and gather together robes, blankets, and other gifts to be presented at initiation.

Should this son die before the age of puberty, before which period it is not customary to admit any one into the society, the father paints his own face as before described, viz, red, with a green stripe diagonally across the face from left to right, as in Pl. VI, No. 4, or red with two short horizontal parallel bars in green upon the forehead as in Pl. VI, No. 5, and announces to the chief Midē´ priest his intention of becoming himself a member of the “Ghost Society” and his readiness to receive the first degree of the Midē´wiwin, as a substitute for his deceased son. Other members of the mourner’s family blacken the face, as shown on Pl. VII, No. 5.

In due time a council of Midē´ priests is called, who visit the wig´iwam of the mourner, where they partake of a feast, and the subject of initiation is discussed. This wig´iwam is situated south and east of the Midē´wigân, as shown in Fig. 35, which illustration is a reproduction of a drawing made by Sikas´sige.

Fig. 35.—Indian diagram of ghost lodge.

The following is an explanation of the several characters:

No. 1 represents the wig´iwam of the mourner, which has been erected in the vicinity of the Midē´wigân, until after the
               ceremony of initiation.

No. 2 is the path supposed to be taken by the shadow (spirit) of the deceased; it leads westward to the Dzhibai´
               Midē´wigân; literally, shadow-spirit wig´iwam.

No. 3, 4, 5, and 6, designate the places where the spirit plucks the fruits referred to—respectively the strawberry, the
               blueberry, the June cherries, and the plum.

No. 7 designates the form and location of the Dzhihai´ Midē´wigân. The central spot is the place of the dish of food
               for Dzhibai´ Man´idō—the good spirit—and the smaller spots around the interior of the inclosure are places
               for the deposit of dishes for the other Midē´ spirits who have left this earth.

No. 8 is the path which is taken by the candidate when going from his wig´iwam to the Midē´wigân.

No. 9 indicates the place of the sweat-lodge, resorted to at other periods of initiation.

No. 10 is the Midē´wigân in which the ceremony is conducted at the proper time.

It is stated that in former times the Ghost Lodge was erected west of the location of the mourner’s wig´iwam, but for a long time this practice has been discontinued. The tradition relating to the Spirit’s progress is communicated orally, while the dramatic representation is confined to placing the dishes of food in the Midē´wigân, which is selected as a fitting and appropriate substitute during the night preceding the initiation.

This custom, as it was practiced, consisted of carrying from the mourner’s wig´iwam to the Ghost Lodge the dishes of food for the spirits of departed Midē´ to enjoy a feast, during the time that the Midē´ priests were partaking of one. A large dish was placed in the center of the structure by the mourner, from which the supreme Midē´ spirit was to eat. Dishes are now carried to the Midē´wigân, as stated above.

The chief officiating Midē´ then instructs the father of the deceased boy the manner in which he is to dress and proceed, as symbolizing the course pursued by the spirit of the son on the way to the spirit world. The instructions are carried out, as far as possible, with the exception of going to an imaginary Ghost Lodge, as he proceeds only to the Midē´wigân and deposits the articles enumerated below. He is told to take one pair of bear-skin moccasins, one pair of wolf-skin, and one pair of birds´ skins, in addition to those which he wears upon his feet; these are to be carried to the structure in which the Midē´ spirits are feasting, walking barefooted, picking a strawberry from a plant on the right of the path and a blueberry from a bush on the left, plucking June cherries from a tree on the right and plums on the left. He is then to hasten toward the Ghost Lodge, which is covered with mī´gis, and to deposit the fruit and the moccasins; these will be used by his son’s spirit in traveling the road of the dead after the spirits have completed their feast and reception of him. While the candidate is on his mission to the Ghost Lodge (for the time being represented by the Midē´wigân) the assemblage in the wig´iwam chant the following for the mourner: Yan´-i-ma-tsha´, yan´-i-ma-tsha´, ha´, yan´-i-ma-tsha´ yan´-i-ma-tsha´ ha´, yu´-te-no-win´ gē´, hē´ nin-de´-so-ne´—“I am going away, I am going away, I am going away, to the village I walk”—i.e., the village of the dead.

The person who desires to receive initiation into the Midē´wigân, under such circumstances, impersonates Minabō´zho, as he is believed to have penetrated the country of the abode of shadows, or ne´-ba-gī´-zis—“land of the sleeping sun.” He, it is said, did this to destroy the “Ghost Gambler” and to liberate the many victims who had fallen into his power. To be enabled to traverse this dark and dismal path, he borrowed of Kŏ-ko´-kŏ-ō´—the owl—his eyes, and received also the services of wē´-we-tē´-si-wŭg—the firefly, both of which were sent back to the earth upon the completion of his journey. By referring to Pl. III, A, the reference to this myth will be observed as pictorially represented in Nos. 110 to 114. No. 110 is the Midē´wigân from which the traveler has to visit the Dzhibai´ Midē´wigân (No. 112) in the west. No. 113, represented as Kŏ-ko´-kŏ-ō´—the owl—whose eyes enabled Mī´nabō´zho to follow the path of the dead (No. 114); the owl skin Midē´ sack is also sometimes used by Midē´ priests who have received their first degree in this wise. The V-shaped characters within the circle at No. 111 denote the presence of spirits at the Ghost Lodge, to which reference has been made.

The presents which had been gathered as a gift or fee for the deceased are now produced and placed in order for transportation to the Midē´wigân, early on the following morning.

The Midē´ priests then depart, but on the next morning several of them make their appearance to assist in clearing the Midē´wigân of the dishes which had been left there over night, and to carry thither the robes, blankets, and other presents, and suspend them from the rafters. Upon their return to the candidate’s wig´iwam, the Midē´ priests gather, and after the candidate starts to lead the procession toward the Midē´wigân, the priests fall in in single file, and all move forward, the Midē´ priests chanting the following words repeatedly, viz: Ki-e´-ne-kwo-tâ´ ki-e´-ne-kwo-tâ´, ha´, ha´, ha´, nōs e´wi-e´, hē´, ki´-na-ka´-ta-mŭn´ do-nâ´-gan—“I also, I also, my father, leave you my dish.”

This is sung for the deceased, who is supposed to bequeath to his father his dish, or other articles the names of which are sometimes added.

The procession continues toward and into the Midē´wigân, passing around the interior by the left side toward the west, north, and east to a point opposite the space usually reserved for the deposit of goods, where the candidate turns to the right and stands in the middle of the inclosure, where he now faces the Midē´ post in the west. The members who had not joined the procession, but who had been awaiting its arrival, now resume their seats, and those who accompanied the candidate also locate themselves as they desire, when the officiating priests begin the ceremony as described in connection with the initiation for the first degree after the candidate has been turned over to the chief by the preceptor.

Sometimes the mother of one who had been so dedicated to the Midē´wiwin is taken into that society, particularly when the father is absent or dead.

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


Copyright 2000-2019 by and/or their author(s). The webpages may be linked to but shall not be reproduced on another site without written permission from NaNations or their author. Images may not be linked to in any manner or method. Anyone may use the information provided here freely for personal use only. If you plan on publishing your personal information to the web please give proper credit to our site for providing this information. Thanks!!!