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Preparation of Candidate

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                    

It is customary for the period of one year to elapse before a second-degree Midē´ can be promoted, even if he be provided with enough presents for such advancement. As the exacted fee consists of goods and tobacco thrice the value of the fee for the first degree, few present themselves. This degree is not held in as high estimation, relatively, as the preceding one; but it is alleged that a Midē´’s powers are intensified by again subjecting himself to the ceremony of being “shot with the sacred mī´gis,” and he is also elevated to that rank by means of which he may be enabled the better to invoke the assistance of the tutelary guardian of this degree.

A Midē´ who has in all respects complied with the preliminaries of announcing to the chief Midē´ his purpose, gaining satisfactory evidence of his resources and ability to present the necessary presents, and of his proficiency in the practice of medical magic, etc., selects a preceptor of at least the third degree and one who is held in high repute and influence in the Midē´wiwin. After procuring the services of such a person and making a satisfactory agreement with him, he may be enabled to purchase from him some special formulæ for which he is distinguished. The instruction embraces a résumé of the traditions previously given, the various uses and properties of magic plants and compounds with which the preceptor is familiar, and conversations relative to exploits performed in medication, incantation, and exorcism. Sometimes the candidate is enabled to acquire new “medicines” to add to his list, and the following is a translation of the tradition relating to the origin of ginseng (Aralia quinquefolia, Gr.), the so-called “man root,” held in high estimation as of divine origin. In Fig. 3 is presented a pictorial representation of the story, made by Ojibwa, a Midē´ priest of White Earth, Minnesota. The tradition purports to be an account of a visit of the spirit of a boy to the abode of Dzhibai´Man´idō, “the chief spirit of the place of souls,” called Ne´-ba-gi´-zis, “the land of the sleeping sun.”

Fig. 3.—Origin of Ginseng.

There appears to be some similarity between this tradition and that given in connection with Pl. V, in which the Sun Spirit restored to life a boy, by which act he exemplified a portion of the ritual of the Midē´wiwin. It is probable therefore that the following tradition is a corruption of the former and made to account for the origin of “man root,” as ginseng is designated, this root, or certain portions of it, being so extensively employed in various painful complaints.

  Once an old Midē´, with his wife and son, started out on a hunting trip, and, as the autumn was changing into winter, the three erected a substantial wig´iwam. The snow began to fall and the cold increased, so they decided to remain and eat of their stores, game having been abundant and a good supply having been procured. The son died; whereupon his mother immediately set out for the village to obtain help to restore him to life, as she believed her father, the chief priest of the Midē´-wiwin, able to accomplish this.

When the woman informed her father of the death of her son, her brother, who was present, immediately set out in advance to render assistance. The chief priest then summoned three assistant Midē´, and they accompanied his daughter to the place where the body of his dead grandson lay upon the floor of the wig´iwam, covered with robes.

The chief Midē´ placed himself at the left shoulder of the dead boy, the next in rank at the right, while the two other assistants stationed themselves at the feet. Then the youngest Midē´—he at the right foot of the deceased—began to chant a Midē´ song, which he repeated a second, a third, and a fourth time.

When he had finished, the Midē´ at the left foot sang a Midē´ song four times; then the Midē´ at the right shoulder of the body did the same, after which the chief Midē´ priest sang his song four times, whereupon there was a perceptible movement under the blanket, and as the limbs began to move the blanket was taken off, when the boy sat up. Being unable to speak, he made signs that he desired water, which was given to him.

The four Midē´ priests then chanted medicine songs, each preparing charmed remedies which were given to the boy to complete his recovery. The youngest Midē´, standing at the foot of the patient, gave him four pinches of powder, which he was made to swallow; the Midē´ at the left foot did the same; then the Midē´ at the right shoulder did likewise, and he, in turn, was followed by the chief priest standing at the left shoulder of the boy; whereupon the convalescent immediately recovered his speech and said that during the time that his body had been in a trance his spirit had been in the “spirit land,” and had learned of the “grand medicine.”

The boy then narrated what his spirit had experienced during the trance, as follows: “Gi´-gi-min´-ĕ-go´-min mi-dē´-wi-wĭn mi-dē´ man´-i-dō´ 1’n-gi-gĭn´-o-a-mâk ban-dzhi´-ge´-o-we´-ân ta´-zi-ne´-zho-wak´ ni-zha´-nĕ-zak, kĭ-wi´-de-gĕt´ mi´-o-pi´-ke´-ne-bŭi´-yan ka-ki´-nĕ ka-we´-dĕ-ge´ mi´-o-wŏk-pi´ i-kan´-o-a-mag´-ĭ-na mi-dē´ man´i-dō wi-we´-ni-tshi mi-dē´-wi-wĭn, ki´-mi-mâ´-dĭ-si-win´-in-ân´ ki-mi´-nĭ-go-nan´ ge-on´-dĕ-na-mŏngk ki´-mi-mâ´-di-si´-wa-in-an´; ki-mi´-nĭ-go-nan´ ge-on´-dĕ-na-mŏngk ki´-mi-mâ´-di-si´-wa-in-an´; ki´-ki-no´-a-mag´-wi-nan´ mash´-kĭ-ki o-gi´-mi-ni´-go-wan´ o-dzhi-bi´-gân gi-me´-ni-na-gŭk´mash´-kĭ-ki-wa´-bon shtĭk-wan´-a-ko-se´-an o-mash´-kĭ-ki-wa´-bon shtĭk-wan´-a-ko-se´-an o-ma´-mâsh´-kĭ-ki ma´-gi-ga´-to ki´-ka-ya-tōn.”

The following is a translation:

  “He, the chief spirit of the Midē´ Society, gave us the “grand medicine,” and he has taught us how to use it. I have come back from the spirit land. There will be twelve, all of whom will take wives; when the last of these is no longer without a wife, then will I die. That is the time. The Midē´ spirit taught us to do right. He gave us life and told us how to prolong it. These things he taught us, and gave us roots for medicine. I give to you medicine; if your head is sick, this medicine put upon it, you will put it on.”

The revelation received by the boy was in the above manner imparted to the Indians. The reference to twelve—three times the sacred number four—signifies that twelve chief priests shall succeed each other before death will come to the narrator. It is observed, also, that a number of the words are archaic, which fact appears to be an indication of some antiquity, at least, of the tradition.

The following are the principal forms in which a Midē´ will utilize Aralia quinquefolia, Gr., ginseng—Shtĕ´-na-bi-o´-dzhi-bik:

1. Small quantities of powdered root are swallowed to relieve stomachic pains.

2. A person complaining with acute pains in any specific part of the body is given that part
               of the root corresponding to the part affected; e.g., for pleurisy, the side of the
               root is cut out, and an infusion given to relieve such pains; if one has pains in the
               lower extremities, the bifurcations of the root are employed; should the pains be
               in the thorax, the upper part of the root—corresponding to the chest—is used in
               a similar manner.

1 Gi´-gi-min´-ĕ-go´-min mi-dē´-wi-wĭn mi-dē´ man´-i-dō´ ’n-gi-gĭn´-o-a-mâk
The apostrophe in ’n-gi-gĭn´-o-a-mâk occurs nowhere else in the text; it may be phonetic (elision?) or an error.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society


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