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Midē´ Therapeutics

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                   

Anemone Pennsylvanicum, L. Pennsylvania Anemone. Pesī´kwadzhi´bwiko´kŏk.

     A decoction of the roots is used for pains in the lumbar region.

Viola (Canadensis, L.?). Canada Violet. Maskwī´widzhī´wiko´kŏk.

     The decoction made of the roots is used for pains in the region of the bladder.

Phryma leptostachya, L. Lopseed. Waia´bishkĕno´kŏk.

     The roots are boiled and the decoction taken for rheumatic pains in the legs.

Viola pubescens, Ait. Downy Yellow Violet, Ogitē´waguns.

     A decoction is made of the roots, of which small doses are taken at intervals for sore

Rosa (lucida, Ehrhart?). Dwarf Wild Rose. Oginī´minagan´mŏs.

     The roots of young plants are steeped in hot water and the liquid applied to sore eyes.

(Gen. et sp. ?) Mŏ´zânâ´tĭk.

     This plant could not be identified at the locality and time at which investigations were
               conducted. The root is boiled and the decoction taken as a diuretic for difficult

Actæa rubra, Michx. Red Baneberry. Odzī´bĭkĕns´—“Little Root.”

     A decoction of the root, which has a sweet taste, is used for stomachic pains caused by
               having swallowed hair (mythic). Used also in conjunction with Ginseng.

     This plant, according to some peculiarities, is considered the male plant at certain
               seasons of the year, and is given only to men and boys, while the same plant at
               other seasons, because of size, color of fruit, or something else, is termed the
               female, and is prepared for women and girls in the following manner, viz: The
               roots are rolled in basswood leaves and baked, when they become black; an
               infusion is then prepared, and used in a similar manner as above.

     The latter is called Wash´kubidzhi´bikakok´.

Botrychium Virginicum, Swartz. Moonwort. Ozaga´tigŭm.

     The root is bruised and applied to cuts.

Aralia trifolia, Gr. Dwarf Ginseng. Nesō´wakŏk—“Three Leafed.”

     The roots are chewed and the mass applied to cuts to arrest hemorrhage.

Echinospermum lappula, Lehm. Stickweed. Ozaga´tĭgomĕns—“Burr Bush.”

     The roots are placed in a hole in the ground upon hot stones, to cause the fumes to rise,
               when the patient puts down his face and has a cloth or blanket thrown over his
               head. The fumes are inhaled for headache. The raw roots are also sniffed at for
               the same purpose.

It is affirmed by various members of the Midē´ Society that in former times much of the information relating to some of these plants was not imparted to a candidate for initiation into the first degree, but was reserved for succeeding degrees, to induce a Midē´ of the first degree to endeavor to attain higher distinction and further advancement in the mysteries of the order. As much knowledge is believed to have been lost through the reticence and obstinacy of former chief priests, the so-called higher secrets are now imparted at the first and second degree preparatory instructions. The third and fourth degrees are very rarely conferred, chiefly because the necessary presents and fees are beyond the reach of those who so desire advancement, and partly also because the missionaries, and in many instances the Indian agents, have done their utmost to suppress the ceremonies, because they were a direct opposition and hindrance to progress in Christianizing influences.

When the preparatory instruction has come to an end and the day of the ceremony of initiation is at hand, the preceptor sings to his pupil a song, expatiating upon his own efforts and the high virtue of the knowledge imparted. The pipe is brought forward and an offering of tobacco smoke made by both preceptor and pupil, after which the former sings a song (Pl. X, A.), the time of its utterance being tediously prolonged. The mnemonic characters were drawn by Sikas´sige, and are a copy of an old birch-bark scroll which has for many years been in his possession, and which was made in imitation of one in the possession of his father, Baie´dzik, one of the leading Midē´ at Mille Lacs, Minnesota.

Plate X.a. Mnemonic Song.

     My arm is almost pulled out from digging medicine. It is full of medicine.
The short zigzag lines signifying magic influence, erroneously designated “medicine.”
     Almost crying because the medicine is lost.
The lines extending downward from the eye signifies weeping; the circle beneath the figure is the place where the “medicine” is supposed to exist. The idea of “lost” signifies that some information has been forgotton through death of those who possessed it.
Me-shi´-âk-kĭnk mi-sui´-a-kĭnk.
     Yes, there is much medicine you may cry for.
Refers to that which is yet to be learned of.
     Yes, I see there is plenty of it.
The Midē´ has knowledge of more than he has imparted, but reserves that knowledge for a future time. The lines of “sight” run to various medicines which he perceives or knows of.
We´-a-kwĕ´-nĭnk pe-ĭ-e´-mi-wĭt´-o-wan´.
     When I come out the sky becomes clear.
When the otter-skin Midē´ sack is produced the sky becomes clear, so that the ceremonies may proceed.
We´-kwĕ-nĭnk´ ke´-tŏ-nĭnk´ e´-to-wa´.
     The spirit has given me power to see.
The Midē´ sits on a mountain the better to commune with the Good Spirit.
     I brought the medicine to bring life.
The Midē´ Man´idō, the Thunderer, after bringing some of the plants—by causing the rains to fall—returns to the sky. The short line represents part of the circular line usually employed to designate the imaginary vault of the sky.
Me´-ka-yē´-nĭnk te´-a-yĕ-am´-ban.
     I, too, see how much there is.
His power elevates the Midē´ to the rank of a Man´idō, from which point he perceives many secrets hidden in the earth.
     I am going to the medicine lodge.
The vertical left-hand figure denotes a leg going toward the Midē´wigân.
     I take life from the sky.
The Midē´ is enabled to reach into the sky and to obtain from Ki´tshi Man´idō the means of prolonging life. The circle at the top denotes the sacred mi´gis, or shell.
     Let us talk to one another.
The circles denote the places of the speaker (Midē´) and the hearer (Ki´tshi Man´idō), the short lines signifying magic influences, the Midē´ occupying the left hand and smaller seat.
Man´-i-dō-ye-na´-ni ni-kan´.
     The spirit is in my body, my friend.
The mi´gis, given by Ki´tshi Man´idō, is in contact with the Midē´’s body, and he is possessed of life and power.

From ten days to two weeks before the day of initiation, the chief Midē´ priest sends out to all the members invitations, which consist of sticks one-fourth of an inch thick and 6 or 7 inches long. The courier is charged with giving to the person invited explicit information as to the day of the ceremony and the locality where it is to be held. Sometimes these sticks have bands of color painted around one end, usually green, sometimes red, though both colors may be employed, the two ends being thus tinted. The person invited is obliged to bring with him his invitation stick, and upon entering the Midē´wigân he lays it upon the ground near the sacred stone, on the side toward the degree post. In case a Midē´ is unable to attend he sends his invitation with a statement of the reason of his inability to come. The number of sticks upon the floor are counted, on the morning of the day of initiation, and the number of those present to attend the ceremonies is known before the initiation begins.

About five or six days preceding the day set for the ceremony of initiation, the candidate removes to the neighborhood of the locality of the Midē´wigân. On the evening of the fifth day he repairs to the sudatory or sweat-lodge, which has, in the meantime, been built east of the sacred inclosure, and when seated within he is supplied with water which he keeps for making vapor by pouring it upon heated stones introduced for the purpose by assistants upon the outside. This act of purification is absolutely necessary and must be performed once each day for four days, though the process may be shortened by taking two vapor baths in one day, thus limiting the process to two days. This, however, is permitted, or desired only under extraordinary circumstances. During the process of purgation, the candidates thoughts must dwell upon the seriousness of the course he is pursuing and the sacred character of the new life he is about to assume.

When the fumigation has ceased he is visited by the preceptor and the other officiating Midē´ priests, when the conversation is confined chiefly to the candidate’s progress. He then gives to each of them presents of tobacco, and after an offering to Ki´tshi Man´idō, with the pipe, they expose the articles contained in their Midē´ sacks and explain and expatiate upon the merits and properties of each of the magic objects. The candidate for the first time learns of the manner of preparing effigies, etc., with which to present to the incredulous ocular demonstration of the genuineness and divine origin of the Midē´wiwin, or, as it is in this connection termed, religion.

Several methods are employed for the purpose, and the greater the power of the Midē´ the greater will appear the mystery connected with the exhibition. This may be performed whenever circumstances demand such proof, but the tests are made before the candidate with a twofold purpose: first, to impress him with the supernatural powers of the Midē´ themselves; and second, in an oracular manner, to ascertain if Ki´tshi Ma´nido is pleased with the contemplated ceremony and the initiation of the candidate.

The first test is made by laying upon the floor of the wig´iwam a string of four wooden beads each measuring about 1 inch in diameter. See Fig. 16. After the owner of this object has chanted for a few moments in an almost inaudible manner the beads begin to roll from side to side as if animated. The string is then quickly restored to its place in the Midē´ sack. Another Midē´ produces a small wooden effigy of a man (Fig. 17), measuring about 5 inches in height. The body has a small orifice running through it from between the shoulders to the buttocks, the head and neck forming a separate piece which may be attached to the body like a glass stopper to a bottle.

A hole is made in the ground deep enough to reach to the hips of the effigy, when the latter is put into it and the loose earth loosely restored so as to hold it in an upright position. Some magic powder of herbs is sprinkled around the body, and into the vertical orifice in it, when the head is put in place. A series of inarticulate utterances are chanted, when, if everything be favorable, the figure will perceptibly move up and down as if possessed of life. Fig. 18 represents another figure used in a similar manner. It consists of one piece, however, and is decorated with narrow bands of dark blue flannel about the ankles and knees, a patch of red cloth upon the breast and bands about the wrists, each of the eyes being

Fig. 16.

indicated by three white porcelain beads.

Fig. 17.

Fig. 18.

One of the most astonishing tests, however, and one that can be produced only by Midē´ of the highest power, consists in causing a Midē´ sack to move upon the ground as if it were alive. This, it is confidently alleged, has been done repeatedly, though it is evident that the deception is more easily produced than in the above-mentioned instances, as the temporary retention within a bag of a small mammal could readily be made to account for the movements.

In most of these private exhibitions the light is so obscured as to prevent the deception being observed and exposed; and when public demonstrations of skill are made the auditors invariably consist of the most credulous of the uninitiated, or the confréres of the performer, from whom no antagonism or doubt would be expected.

The preceptor then consults with the Midē´ priests respecting the presents to be delivered by the candidate, and repeats the following words, viz:

Mis-shai´-ĕ-gwa tshi-dĕ-bŏg-in-de-mung´. gi´-she-gŏ-dung´
Now is the time that we shall fix the price of everything pertaining to the sky,
ka-mi´-nĕ- nŏngk gi´-she-goy-dŭng´   di´-bi-ga-dōnk´ gai-yé´.
that has been given to us from the day [and] the night also.
A-pē´-gĕ-dá´wŭnk i´-wa-pī ge-bin´-de-ga-yŏngk´,
When it shall come to pass and at the time that we shall enter,
he who wishes to become a Midē´.

When the four vapor baths have been taken by the candidate, and the eve of the ceremony has arrived, he remains in the sudatory longer than usual so as not to come in contact with the large crowd of visitors who have arrived upon the scene. The woods resound with the noises incident to a large camp, while in various directions may be heard the monotonous beating of the drum indicating the presence of a number of dancers, or the hard, sharp taps of the Midē´ drum, caused by a priest propitiating and invoking the presence and favor of Ki´tshi Ma´nido in the service now so near at hand.

When the night is far advanced and all becomes hushed, the candidate, with only the preceptor accompanying, retires to his own wig´iwam, while the assistant Midē´ priests and intimate friends or members of his family collect the numerous presents and suspend them from the transverse and longitudinal poles in the upper part of the Midē´wigân. Watchers remain to see that nothing is removed during the night.

At the approach of day, the candidate breakfasts and again returns to the sweat-lodge to await the coming of his preceptor, and, later, of the officiating priests. The candidate puts on his best clothing and such articles of beaded ornaments as he may possess. The preceptor and Midē´ priests are also clad in their finest apparel, each wearing one or two beaded dancing bags at his side, secured by a band of beaded cloth crossing the opposite shoulder. The members of the Midē´wiwin who are not directly concerned in the preliminaries resort to the Midē´wigân and take seats around the interior, near the wall, where they may continue to smoke, or may occasionally drum and sing. The drummer, with his assistants, takes a place near upon the floor of the sacred inclosure to the left of the eastern entrance, i.e., the southeast corner.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

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