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Initiation of Candidate

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                  

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:

Mis-sa´-a-shi´-gwa ki-bo´-gis-se-na-min tshi´-ma-mâd
Now is the time that I hope of you that you shall
bi-mâ´-di-si-win, mi-ne´-sid.
take life 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´, hŏ´, hŏ´, 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 violently agitated.

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´, hŏ´, hŏ´, 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, apparently lifeless.

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, 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´, are meaningless.

At the conclusion of the song the preceptor prompts the candidate to ask the chief Midē´:

Ni-kan´ k´kĕ´-nō´-mo´, man-dzhi´-an na´-ka-mō´-in.
Colleague instruct me, give me a song.

In response to which the Midē´ teaches him the following, which is uttered as a monotonous chant, viz:

We´-go-nĕ ge-gwed´-dzhi-me-an´, mi-dē´-wi-wĭn ke-kwed´-dzhi-me-an´?
What are you asking, grand medicine are you asking?
Ki´-ka-mi´-nin en-da-wĕn´-da ma-wi´-nĕn mi-dē´-wi-wĭn
I will give you you want me to give you  “grand medicine”
tshi-da-si-nē´-ga´-na-win´-da-mōn; ki-ĭn´-tshun-di´-nĕ-ma´-so-wĭn,
always take care of; you have received it yourself,
tsho´-a-wa´-nin di´-sĕ-wan.
never forget.

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 adds:

Mi-gwetsh´ a-shi´-wa-ka-kish´-da-win be-mâ´-di-si´-an.
Thanks for giving to me life.

Then the priests begin to look around in search of spaces in which to seat themselves, saying:

Mi´-a-shi´-gwa ki´-tshi-an´-wâ-bin-da-man tshi-o´-we-na´-bi-an.
Now is the time I look around 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,

Mi-gwetsh´, ni-ka´-ni, ni-ka´-ni, ni-ka´-ni, na-ka´.
Thanks, 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 Midē´wigân.

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´, 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´, 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.

We´-nen-wi´-wik ka´-ni-an.
     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.
En´-da-yan´ pi-ma´-ti-sŭ´-i-un en´-da-yan´.
     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.
Nin´-nik-ka´-ni man´-i-dō.
     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 sustain life.
Be-mo´-se ma-kō-yan.
     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 priests.
Ni man´-i-dō ni´-yăn.
     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 adjourned.

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

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