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Initiation by Substitution

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                   

It sometimes happens that a sick person can not be successfully treated by the Midē´, especially in the wig´iwam of the patient, when it becomes necessary for the latter to be carried to the Midē´wigân and the services of the society to be held. This course is particularly followed when the sick person or the family can furnish a fee equivalent to the gift required for initiation under ordinary circumstances.

It is believed, under such conditions, that the evil man´idōs can be expelled from the body only in the sacred structure, at which place alone the presence of Ki´tshi man´idō may be felt, after invocation, and in return for his aid in prolonging the life of the patient the latter promises his future existence to be devoted to the practice and teachings of the Midē´wiwin. Before proceeding further, however, it is necessary to describe the method pursued by the Midē´ priest.

The first administrations may consist of mashki´kiwabūn´, or medicine broth, this being the prescription of the Midē´ in the capacity of mashki´kike´winĭ´nĭ, or herbalist, during which medication he resorts to incantation and exorcism, accompanying his song by liberal use of the rattle. As an illustration of the songs used at this period of the illness, the following is presented, the mnemonic characters being reproduced on Pl. XVI, C. The singing is monotonous and doleful, though at times it becomes animated and discordant.

Plate XVI.c. Mnemonic Song.
In´-do-nâ-gât in-da´-kwo-nan
     That which I live upon has been put on this dish by the spirit.
Ki´tshi man´idō provides the speaker with the necessary food for the maintenance of life. The dish, or feast, is shown by the concentric rings, the spirit’s arm is just below it.
Mo´-ki-yan tshik´-ko-min´.
     I bring life to the people.
The speaker, as the impersonator of the sacred Otter, brings life. The Otter is just emerging from the surface of the water, as he emerged from the great salt sea before the Âni´shi-nâ´beg, after having been instructed by Mi´nabō´zho to carry life to them.
Ni´-no-mūn´ mash-ki´-ki
     I can also take medicine from the lodge, or the earth
The Midē´’s arm is reaching down to extract magic remedies from the earth. The four spots indicate the remedies, while the square figure denotes a hole in the ground.
Rest. During this interval the Midē´’s thoughts dwell upon the sacred character of the work in which he is engaged.
Ni´-nin-dē´ in´-dai-yo´.
     It is all in my heart, the life.
The concentric circles indicates the mī´gis, life, within the heart, the former showing radiating lines to denote its magic power.
     The spirit saw me and sent me medicine from above.
The figure is that of Ki´tshi man´idō, who granted power to the speaker.
Dōn´-de-na mi-tĭz´-kŭnk.
     It is also on the trees, that from which I take life.
The tree bears “medicine” which the speaker has at his command, and is enabled to use.

When the ordinary course of treatment fails to relieve the patient the fact is made known to the Midē´ priests and he is consequently taken to the Midē´wigân and laid upon blankets so that part of his body may rest against the sacred Midē´ stone. Associate Midē´ then attend, in consultation, with the Midē´-in-chief, the other members present occupying seats around the walls of the structure.

The accompanying lecture is then addressed to the sick person, viz:

  Mi-shosh´-yâ-gwa´ ga´-a-nin-nan´ gi´-de-wēn´-du-nŭn ne´-tun-ga´-da-da-we´-in man´-i-dōmī´-gis. Kit´-ti-mâ´-gĭ-si ē´-ni-dau´-â-ya-we´-yĭn o-ma´-e-nâ´-sa-ba-bĭt bī-ĭ-sha´-gaban´-dĕ-a gi-bi´-sha-ban-da´-ĕt na-pĭsh-kâ-tshi-dŏsh ke´-a-yū´-ĭn-ki-go gŏt-tâ-sō-nĕn´, mi´-a-shi´-gwa-gō-dĭn´-na-wât dzhi-ma´-di-a-kad´-dŏ-yōn bi-mâ-di-si-wĭn´.

 The following is a free translation of the above:

  The time of which I spoke to you has now arrived, and you may deem it necessary to first borrow the sacred mī´gis. Who are you that comes here as a supplicant? Sit down opposite to me, where I can see you and speak to you, and fix your attention upon me, while you receive life you must not permit your thoughts to dwell upon your present condition, but to support yourself against falling into despondency.

Now we are ready to try him; now we are ready to initiate him.

The reference to borrowing a mī´gis signifies that the patient may have this mysterious power “shot into his body” where he lies upon the ground and before he has arrived at the place where candidates are properly initiated; this, because of his inability to walk round the inclosure.

The last sentence is spoken to the assisting Midē´. The following song is sung, the mnemonic characters pertaining thereto being reproduced on Pl. XVI, D.

Plate XVI.d. Mnemonic Song.
O-da´-pi-nŭng´-mung oâ´-ki-wen´-dzhi man´-i-dō
     We are going to take the sacred medicine out of the ground.
[The speaker refers to himself and the assistants as resorting to remedies adopted after consultation, the efficiency thereof depending upon their combined prayers. The arm is represented as reaching for a remedy which is surrounded by lines denoting soil.]
We-a´-ki man´-i-dō we-an-gwĭs´.
     The ground is why I am a spirit, my son.
The lower horizontal line is the earth, while the magic power which he possesses is designated by short vertical wavy lines which reach his body.

Nish´-u-we-ni-mi´-qu nish´-u-we-ni-mi´-qu we´-gi ma´-ŏ-dzhig´.
     The spirits have pity; the spirits have pity on me.
The Midē´ is supplicating the Midē´ spirits for aid in his wishes to cure the sick.
Kish´-u-we-ni-mi´-qu ki´-shi´-gŭng don´-dzhi-wa´-wa-mĭ
     The spirits have pity on me; from on high I see you.
The sky is shown by the upper curved lines, beneath which the Midē´ is raising his arm in supplication.
Man´-i-dō´-â ni´-o.
     My body is a spirit.
The Midē´ likens himself to the Bear man´idō, the magic powers of which are shown by the lines across the body and short strokes upon the back.
Pi-ne´-si-wi-ân´ ke-ke´-u-wi-an´.
     A little bird I am: I am the hawk.
Like the thunderer, he penetrates the sky in search of power and influence.
Man´-i-dō´ nu´-tu wa´-kan.
     Let us hear the spirit.
The Ki´tshi man´idō is believed to make known his presence, and all are enjoined to listen for such intimation.
Ka´-nun-ta´-wa man´-i-dō´ wi´-da-ku-ē´, hē´, ki´-a-ha-mī´.
     You might hear that he is a spirit.
The line on the top of the head signifies the person to be a superior being.
Ka´-ke-na gus-sâ´ o´-mi-si´-nī´ na´-ēn.
     I am afraid of all, that is why I am in trouble.
The Midē´ fears that life can not be prolonged because the evil man´idōs do not appear to leave the body of the sick person. The arm is shown reaching for mī´gis, or life, the strength of the speaker’s, having himself received it four times, does not appear to be of any avail.

Should the patient continue to show decided symptoms of increased illness, the singing or the use of the rattle is continued until life is extinct, and no other ceremony is attempted; but if he is no worse after the preliminary course of treatment, or shows any improvement, the first attendant Midē´ changes his songs to those of a more boastful character. The first of these is as follows, chanted repeatedly and in a monotonous manner, viz:


I have changed my looks, I have changed my looks.
[This refers to the appearance of the Midē´ stone which it is believed absorbs some of the disease and assumes a change of color.]

Nish´-a-we´nī´, hū´, gū´, mi-dē´, wug, a-ne´-ma-bī´-tshig.
     The Midē´ have pity on me, those who are sitting around, and those who are sitting from us.
[The last line refers to those Midē´ who are sitting, though absent from the Midē´wigân.]
The following illustrates the musical rendering:


     A-si-na-bi-hŭ-i-ya, A-si-na-bi-hŭ-i-ya, A-si-na-bi-hŭ-i-ya hĭa,
     A-si-na-bi-hŭ-i-ya, A-si-na-bi-hŭ-i-ya hĭa.

     Nish-a-wi-in-hu gū, O-ko-mi-dē-wog hē, A-ne-ma-bi-tshig hē,
     Nishawiinhu gū, O-ko-mi-dē-wog hē,
     Nish-a-wi-ni-hu gŭ O-ko-mi-dē-wog hē.

As the patient continues to improve the song of the Midē´ becomes more expressive of his confidence in his own abilities and importance.

The following is an example in illustration, viz:

Ni-ne´-ta-we-hē´ wa-wâ´-bâ-ma´ man´-i-dō, wa-wâ´-bâ-ma´.
     [I am the only one who sees the spirit, who sees the spirit.]

Nin´-da-nī-wĭ-a,     nin´-da-nī´-wĭ-a.
     I surpass him,         I surpass him.

[The speaker overcomes the malevolent man´idō and causes him to take flight.]

Na´-sa-ni-nēn´-di-yan a-we´-si-yŏk´ no-gwe´-no´-wŏk.
     See how I act, beasts I shoot on the wing.

[The signification of this is, that he “shoots at them as they fly,” referring to the man´idōs as they escape from the body.]

The following is the musical notation of the above, viz:

Ni-ne-ta-we-hē wa-wâ´bâ-ma man-i-dō wa-wâ´-bâ-ma man-i-dō,
Ni-ne-ta-we-hē wa-wâ´-bâ-ma man-i-dō, wa-wâ´-bâ-ma man-i-dō.

Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a,
Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a,
Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, Hen-ta-ne-we-a, hō.

Na-sa-ni-nen-di-ya, Na-sa-ni-nen-di-ya, Na-sa-ni-nen-di-ya,
Awasiyōk, Nogwenowōk.

If the patient becomes strong enough to walk round the inclosure he is led to the western end and seated upon a blanket, where he is initiated. If not, the mī´gis is “shot into his body” as he reclines against the sacred stone, after which a substitute is selected from among the Midē´ present, who takes his place and goes through the remainder of the initiation for him. Before proceeding upon either course, however, the chief attendant Midē´ announces his readiness in the following manner: Mi´-o-shi´-gwa, wi-kwod´-gi-o-wŏg´ ga-mâ´-dzhi-a-ka´-dŭng bi-mâ-di-si-wĭn´—“Now we are ready to escape from this and to begin to watch life.” This signifies his desire to escape from his present procedure and to advance to another course of action, to the exercise of the power of giving life by transferring the sacred mī´gis.

The remainder of the ceremony is then conducted as in the manner described as pertains to the first degree of the Midē´wiwin.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society


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