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Initiation of Candidate

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                   

As the candidate for promotion has acquired from his Midē´ friends such new information as they choose to impart, and from his instructor all that was practicable, he has only to await the day of ceremony to be publicly acknowledged as a third-degree Midē´. As this time approaches the invitation sticks are sent to the various members and to such non-resident Midē´ as the officiating priests may wish to honor. On or before the fifth day previous to the meeting the candidate moves to the vicinity of the Midē´wigân. On that day the first sweat bath is taken, and one also upon each succeeding day until four baths, as a ceremony of purification, have been indulged in. On the evening of the day before the meeting his preceptor visits him at his own wig´iwam when, with the assistance of friends, the presents are collected and carried to the Midē´-wigân and suspended from the transverse poles near the roof. The officiating priests may subsequently join him, when smoking and singing form the chief entertainment of the evening.

By this time numerous visitors have gathered together and are encamped throughout the adjacent timber, and the sound of the drum, where dancing is going on, may be heard far into the night.

Early on the morning of the day of the ceremonies the candidate goes to the sudatory where he first awaits the coming of his preceptor and later the arrival of the Midē´ priests by whom he is escorted to the Midē´wigân. With the assistance of the preceptor he arranges his gift of tobacco which he takes with him to the sacred inclosure, after which a smoke offering is made, and later Midē´ songs are chanted. These may be of his own composition as he has been a professor of magic a sufficient lapse of time to have composed them, but to give evidence of superior powers the chief, or some other of the officiating priests, will perhaps be sufficiently inspired to sing. The following was prepared and chanted by one of the Midē´ priests at the third-degree meeting at White Earth, Minnesota, and the illustration in Pl. XIV, A, is a reproduction of the original. The words, with translation, are as follows:

Plate XIVa. Mnemonic Song.



My friend I am shooting into you in trying to hit the mark.
[The two arms are grasping the mī´gis, which he the Midē´ is going to shoot into the body of the candidate. The last word means, literally, trying to hit the mark at random.]
Me-kwa´-me-sha-kwak´, mi-tē´-wi-da´. 
While it is clear let us have it, the “grand medicine.”
The Midē´ arm, signified by the magic zigzag lines at the lower end of the picture, reaches up into the sky to keep it clear; the rain is descending elsewhere as indicated by the lines descending from the sky at the right and left.
Rest. During this interval a smoke offering is made.
Mi-sha´-kwi-tō-nĭ mī´-gĭs-sĭm´.
As clear as the sky [is] my mī´gis.
The figure represents the sacred mī´gis, as indicated by the short lines radiating from the periphery. The mī´gis is white and the clear sky is compared to it.
Sōn´-gi-mi-dē´ wi-ka´-ne, hē´,
Wi-nō´-a man´-i-dō´-wi-dzhī´-id-e´-zhi-wât.
     Take the “grand medicine” strong, as they, together with the “Great Spirit,”
     tell me.
[The candidate is enjoined to persevere in his purpose. The associate Midē´ are alluded to, as also Ki´tshi Man´idō, who urge his continuance and advancement in the sacred society. The arm reaches down to search for the sacred mī´gis of the fourth degree—designated by four vertical lines—which is, as yet, hidden from the person addressed.]
Hwa´-ba-mi-dē´, hwa´-ba-mi-dē´,
     He who sees me, he who sees me, stands on the middle of the earth.
[The human figure symbolizes Ki´tshi Man´idō; the magic lines cross his body, while his legs rest upon the outline of the Midē´wigân. His realm, the sky, reaches from the zenith to the earth, and he beholds the Midē´ while chanting and conducting the Midē´wiwin.]
Man´-i-dō´   wi´-ka-ni´ ni-mi-dē´.
To the spirit be a friend, my Midē´.
The speaker enjoins the candidate to be faithful to his charge, and thus a friend to Ki´tshi Man´idō, who in return will always assist him. The figure holds a mī´gis in its right hand, and the Midē´ drum in its left.

The greater number of words in the preceding text are of an archaic form, and are presented as they were chanted. The several lines may be repeated ad libitum to accord with the feeling of inspiration which the singer experiences, or the amount of interest manifested by his hearers.

All the members of the society not officially inducting the candidate have ere this entered the Midē´wigân and deposited their invitation sticks near the sacred stone, or, in the event of their inability to attend, have sent them with an explanation. The candidate, at the suggestion of the Midē´ priest, then prepares to leave the sudatory, gathers up the tobacco, and as he slowly advances toward the Midē´ inclosure his attendants fall into the procession according to their office. The priests sing as they go forward, until they reach the entrance of the Midē´wigân, where the candidate and his preceptor halt, while the remainder enter and take their stations just within the door, facing the west.

The drummers, who are seated in the southwestern angle of the inclosure, begin to drum and sing, while the candidate is led slowly around the exterior, going by the south, thus following the course of the sun. Upon the completion of the fourth circuit he is halted directly opposite the main entrance, to which his attention is then directed. The drumming and singing cease; the candidate beholds two Midē´ near the outer entrance and either side of it. These Midē´ represent two malevolent Man´idō and guard the door against the entrance of those not duly prepared. The one upon the northern side of the entrance then addresses his companion in the following words: I´-ku-tan ka´-wi-nad´-gĭ wa´-na-mâ´-sĭ ē´-zhĭ-gĭ´-nĭ-gĕd—“Do you not see how he is formed?” To which the other responds: O-da´-pĭ-nŏ´ ke´-no-wĭn-dŭng shkwan´-dĭm—“Take care of it, the door;” [i.e., guard the entrance.] The former then again speaks to his companion, and says: Ka-wīn´-nĭ-na-ga´ wâ´-ba-ma´-si-ba´-shĭ-gi´-ne-gēt´—“Do you not see how he carries the goods?” The Midē´ spoken to assents to this, when the preceptor takes several pieces of tobacco which he presents to the two guards, whereupon they permit the candidate to advance to the inner entrance, where he is again stopped by two other guardian Man´idō, who turn upon him as if to inquire the reason of his intrusion. The candidate then holds out two parcels of tobacco and says to them: O-da´-pin a-sē´-ma—“Take it, the tobacco,” whereupon they receive the gift and stand aside, saying: Kun´-da-dan—“Go down;” [i.e., enter and follow the path.] As the candidate is taken a few steps forward and toward the sacred stone, four of the eight officiating priests receive him, one replacing the preceptor who goes to the extreme western end there to stand and face the east, where another joins him, while the remaining two place themselves side by side so as to face the west.

It is believed that there are five powerful Man´idōs who abide within the third-degree Midē´wigân, one of whom is the Midē´ Man´idō—Ki´tshi Man´idō—one being present at the sacred stone, the second at that part of the ground between the sacred stone and the first part where the gifts are deposited, the remaining three at the three degree posts.

As the candidate starts and continues upon his walk around the interior of the inclosure the musicians begin to sing and drum, while all those remaining are led toward the left, and when opposite the sacred stone he faces it and is turned round so that his back is not toward it in passing; the same is done at the second place where one of the spirits is supposed to abide; again at first, second, and third posts. By this time the candidate is at the western extremity of the structure, and as the second Midē´ receives him in charge, the other taking his station beside the preceptor, he continues his course toward the north and east to the point of departure, going through similar evolutions as before, as he passes the three posts, the place of gifts and the sacred stone. This is done as an act of reverence to the Man´idōs and to acknowledge his gratitude for their presence and encouragement. When he again arrives at the eastern extremity of the inclosure he is placed between the two officiating Midē´, who have been awaiting his return, while his companion goes farther back, even to the door, from which point he addresses the other officiating Midē´ as follows:

Mĭs-sa´-a-shi´-gwa wi-kan´-da´-we-an´, mĭs-sa´-a-shi´-gwa
Now is the time  [I am] telling [—advising,] now is the time
wī´-di-wa´-mŏk wi-un´-o-bē-ŏg.
to be observed [I am] ready to make him sit down.

Then one of the Midē´ priests standing beside the candidate leads him to the spot between the sacred stone and the first-degree post where the blankets and other goods have been deposited, and here he is seated. This priest then walks slowly around him singing in a tremulous manner wa´, hĕ´, hĕ´, hĕ´, hĕ´, hĕ´, hĕ´, hĕ´, returning to a position so as to face him, when he addresses him as follows: Mĭs-sa´-a-shi´-gwa pŏ´-gŭ-sĕ-ni´mi-nan´ au´-u-sa´ za-a´-da-win´ man´-i-dō mī´-gis. Na´-pish-gatsh di-mâ´-gĭ-sĭ ĕ-nĕ´-nĭ-mi-an pi´-sha-gâ-an-da-i´ na´-pish-gatsh tshi-skwa´-di-na-wâd´ dzhi-ma´-dzhi-a-ka´-ma-da-mân bi-mâ´-dĭs-si´-an.

The following is a free translation:

  The time has arrived for you to ask of the Great Spirit this “reverence” i.e., the sanctity of this degree. I am interceding in your behalf, but you think my powers are feeble; I am asking him to confer upon you the sacred powers. He may cause many to die, but I shall henceforth watch your course of success in life, and learn if he will heed your prayers and recognize your magic power.

At the conclusion of these remarks three others of the officiating Midē´ advance and seat themselves, with their chief, before the candidate. The Midē´ drum is handed to the chief priest, and after a short prelude of drumming he becomes more and more inspired, and sings the following Midē´ song, represented pictorially, also on Pl. XIV, B.

Plate XIV.b. Mnemonic Song.
Man´-i-dō´ we-da´, man´-i-dō´ gi-dō´ we-do´-nĭng.
     Let us be a spirit, let the spirit come from the mouth.
The head is said to signify that of a Midē´, who is about to sing.
Nin´-de-wen´-don zha´-bon-dĕsh´-kân-mân´.
     I own this lodge, through which I pass.
The speaker claims that he has been received into the degree of the Midē´wiwin to which he refers. The objects on the outer side of the oblong square character represent spirits, those of the bear.
Ân´-dzhe-ho ĭ´-a-ni´ o-gēn´, hwe´-ō-ke´, hwe´-ō-ke´.
     Mother is having it over again.
The reference is to the earth, as having the ceremony of the “grand medicine” again.
Ni´-ka-nan ni´-go-sân, ni´-go-sân´
ni-ka´-ni-san´, man´-i-dō´ wi-dzhig´
nin-go-sân´ an-i-wa´-bi-dzhig ni-ka´.
     Friends I am afraid, I am afraid, friends, of the spirits sitting around me.
[The speaker reaches his hand toward the sky, i.e., places his faith in Ki´tshi Man´idō who abides above.]
Ya´-ki-no´-sha-me´-wa, ya´-ki-no´-sha-me´-wa,
ya-ki-no-si-ka-ne, ya-ki-no-si-ka-ne,
hē´, ki´-no-sha´-we-wa´.
     I am going, with medicine bag, to the lodge.
[The object represents an otter skin Midē´ sack, the property of the speaker.]
Ya´-be-kai´-a-bi, ya´-be-kai´-a-bi, hē´-ā´, hē´-ā´,
ya´-be-kai´-a-bi, ya´-be-kai´-a-bi, hē´-ā , hē´ā´,
wa´-na-he´-ni´-o-ni´, ya´-be-kai´-o-bik´.
     We are still sitting in a circle.
[A Midē´ sitting within the Midē´wigân; the circle is shown.]
A-ya´-a-bi-ta´ pa´-ke-zhĭk´, ū´, hū´, a´,
     Half the sky
The hand is shown reaching toward the sky, imploring the assistance of Ki´tshi Man´idō that the candidate may receive advancement in power. He has only two degrees, one-half of the number desired.
Ba´-be-ke´ o´-gi-mân nish´-a-we, hē´,
ne´-me-ke-hē´, nish´-a-we´-ni-mĭk o´-gi-mân.
     The spirit has pity on me now,
[The “Great Spirit” is descending upon the Midē´wigân, to be present during the ceremony.]
Nin-dai´-a, nin-dai´-a, ha´, we´-ki-ma´, ha´, wâ-no-kwe´.
     In my heart, in my heart, I have the spirit.
[The hand is holding the mī´gis, to which reference is made.]
I-ke´-u-ha´-ma man-ta-na´-ki-na ni-ka´-ni
     I take the earth, my Midē´ friends.
The earth furnishes the resources necessary to the maintenance of life, both food and medicines.
Wi´-a-ya´-din shin-da´, hān´,
man-da´-ha-ni´, o-hō´ ni-bĭ´.
     Let us get him to take this water.
[The figure sees medicine in the earth, as the lines from the eyes to the horizontal strokes indicate.]
Hŭe´-shĭ-shi-kwa´-ni-an nin-ga´-ga-mūn´.
     I take this rattle.
The rattle is used when administering medicine.
Wi-wa´-ba-mi´na hē´-na ko´-ni-a´-ni, ka´,
ko´-ni-a´-ho-nā´, nī´, kā´.
     See how I shine in making medicine.
[The speaker likens himself to the Makwa´ Man´idō, one of the most powerful Midē´ spirits. His body shines as if it were ablaze with light—due to magic power.]

This song is sung ad libitum according to the inspired condition of the person singing it. Many of the words are archaic, and differ from the modern forms.

Then the officiating priests arise and the one lowest in rank grasps his Midē´ sack and goes through the gestures, described in connection with the previous degrees, of shooting into the joints and forehead of the candidate the sacred mī´gis. At the attempt made by the chief priest the candidate falls forward apparently unconscious. The priests then touch his joints and forehead with the upper end of their Midē´ sacks whereupon he recovers and rises to a standing posture. The chief then addresses him and enjoins him to conduct himself with propriety and in accordance with the dignity of his profession. The following is the text, viz: Gi-gan´-bis-sĭn dau´-gē-in´-ni-nân´ kish-bin´-bish-in dau´-o-ân-nĭn da´-ki-ka-wa´-bi-kwe ga´-kĭ-ne ke-ke´-wi-bi´-na-mōn ki-ma´-dzhĭ-zhi we´-bĭ-zi-wĭn´.

The translation is as follows: “You heed to what I say to you; if you are listening and will do what is right you will live to have white hair. That is all; you will do away with all bad actions.”

The Midē´ priest second in rank then says to the candidate: Ke´-go-wi´-ka-za´-gi-to-wa´-kin ki-da´-no-ka´tshĭ-gân kai-ē´-gi-gīt´ a-sē´-ma, kai´-e-mī´-dzĭm, which signifies: “Never begrudge your goods, neither your tobacco, nor your provisions.” To this the candidate responds ēn—yes, by this signifying that he will never regret what he has given the Midē´ for their services. The candidate remains standing while the members of the society take seats, after which he goes to the pile of blankets, skins, and other presents, and upon selecting appropriate ones for the officiating priests he carries them to those persons, after which he makes presents of less value to all other Midē´ present. Tobacco is then distributed, and while all are preparing to make an offering to Ki´tshi Man´idō of tobacco, the newly accepted member goes around to each, member present, passes his hands downward over the sides of the Midē’s head and says:

Mi-gwetsh´ ga´shi-to´-win bi-ma´-di-si-win´,
Thanks for giving to me life,

then, stepping back, he clasps his hands and bows toward the Midē´, adding: Ni-ka´-ni, ni-ka´-ni, ni-ka´-ni, ka-na´,—“My Midē´ friend, my Midē´ friend, my Midē´ friend, friend.” To this the Midē´ responds in affirmation, hau´, ēn´—yes.

The new member then finds a seat on the southern side of the inclosure, whereupon the ushers—Midē´ appointed to attend to outside duties—retire and bring in the vessels of food which are carried around to various persons present, four distinct times.

The feast continues for a considerable length of time, after which the kettles and dishes are again carried outside the Midē´wi-gân, when all who desire indulge in smoking. Midē´ songs are chanted by one of the priests, the accompanying, reproduced pictorially in Pl. XIV C, being an example. The lines, as usual, are repeated ad libitum, the music being limited to but few notes, and in a minor key. The following are the words with translation:

Plate XIV.c. Mnemonic Song.
He´-ne-wi´-a ni´-na mi´-si-man´-i-dē-ge´
     Their bodies shine over the world
     unto me as unto you, my Midē´ friend.
This refers to the sun, and moon, whose bodies are united in the drawing.
Ma´-na-wi-na´ hai´-e-ne-hā´ be-wa´-bik-kun
     Your eyes see them both eyes made of iron,
     piercing eyes.
The figure is that of the crane, whose loud, far-reaching voice is indicated by the short lines radiating from the mouth. The eyes of the crane Man´idō are equally penetrating.
Ta-be´-nĕ-wa´ he-shi-wa´, hā´ ma´-si-ni´-ni-he´-shi-wa´, hā´.  
     Calm it leads you to guides you to your food.
Knowledge of superior powers gained through familiarity with the rites of the Midē´wiwin is here referred to. The figure points to the abode of Ki´tshi Man´idō; three short lines indicating three degrees in the Midē´wiwin, which the candidate has taken.
Ha-nin´-di he-bik´-kĭn-he´ man´-i-dō ni-kan´
     Whence does he rise spirit Midē´ friend
wa-ba-nŭnk´, mi-dē´-man´-i-dō wa-ba-nŭnk´.
     from the east, Midē´ Man´idō from the east.
[The hand reaches up as in making the gesture for rising sun or day, the “sky lines” leaning to the left, or east; one making signs is always presumed to face the south, and signs referring to periods of day, sun, sunrise, etc., are made from the left side of the body.]
Wa-dzhi-wan´, wa-dzhi-wan´-na,
Wa-dahi-wan´ ni-ka´-na-hē´.
     There is a mountain, there is a mountain,
     There is a mountain, my friends.
[The upright outline represents a mountain upon which a powerful Midē´ is seated, symbolical of the distinction attainable by a Midē´.]
Wa´-bĕ-ku´ĕ-be-a´, wa´-bĕ-ku´-ĕ-be-a´,
     Shot it was, shot it was
na´-bĕ-ku´-ĕ-be-a´ man´-i-dō´-´a nĭn-dē´.
     and it hit body, your Man´idō your heart.
man´-i-dō´-a nĭn-dē´.
     Man´idō your heart.
[The mī´gis is represented in the illustration by the small rings; the arrow indicating that it was “shot” with velocity.]
Hwe´-kwo-nin´-na-ta, ki-wī´-kash´-ka-man;
En-do´-ge-mā´ wesh´-in-ē´.
     What am I going around?
     I am going around the Midē´wigân.
[The oblong structure represents the Midē´wigân. The otter-skin Midē´ sack is taken around it, as is shown by the outline of that animal and the line or course indicated. The Makwa´ Man´idō (bear spirit) is shown at the left, resting upon the horizontal line, the earth, below which are magic lines showing his power, as also the lines upon the back of the bear. The speaker compares himself to the bear spirit.]
Nen´-do-ne´-ha-mān-ni´ nī´-ŏ,
     What am I looking at.
The figure denotes a leg, signifying powers of transporting one’s self to remote places; the magic power is indicated by the three transverse lines and the small spots, the mī´gis, upon it.
Ba´bin-ke´-en non´-do-wa-wē´, hī´,
     I soon heard him, the one who did not listen to them.
[The Midē´, as a superior personage, is shown by having the horns attached to the head. The line of hearing has small rings, at intervals, indicating that something is heard.]
Hin´-ta-na´-wi ni-ka´-na-gi´, ē´, hē´,
pī´-na-nī´, hin´-ta-na´-wi ni-ka´-na-ga´ na´-ge-ka-na´ ē´, hē´.
     The Nika´ni are finding fault with me, inside of my lodge.
[The arm at the side of the Midē´wigân points to the interior, the place spoken of.]
Onsh´-konsh-na-nā´ pi-na´-wa nin-bosh´-i-na´-na.
     With the bear’s claws I almost hit him.
The Midē´ used the bear’s claw to work a charm, or exorcism, and would seem to indicate that he claimed the powers of a Wâbĕnō´. The one spoken of is an evil Man´idō, referred to in the preceding line, in which he speaks of having heard him.

At the conclusion of this protracted ceremony a few speeches may be made by a Midē´, recounting the benefits to be enjoyed and the powers wielded by the knowledge thus acquired, after which the chief priest intimates to his colleagues the advisability of adjourning. They then leave the Midē´wigân by the western door, and before night all movable accessories are taken away from the structure.

The remainder of the evening is spent in visiting friends, dancing, etc., and upon the following day they all return to their respective homes.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society


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