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Preparation of Candidate

 Native American Nations | The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society                  

Under ordinary circumstances it requires at least one year before a Midē´ of the third grade is considered eligible for promotion, and it is seldom that a candidate can procure the necessary presents within that period, so that frequently a number of years elapse before any intimation by a candidate is made to the chief priest that the necessary requirements can be complied with. The chief reason of this delay is attributed to the fact that the fee to the officiating priests alone must equal in value and quantity four times the amount paid at the first initiation, and as the success in gathering the robes, skins, blankets, etc., depends upon the candidate’s own exertions it will readily appear why so few ever attain the distinction sought. Should one be so fortunate, however, as to possess the required articles, he has only to make known the fact to the chief and assistant Midē´ priests, when a meeting is held at the wig´iwam of one of the members and the merits of the candidate discussed. For this purpose tobacco is furnished by the candidate. The more valuable and more numerous the presents the more rapidly will his application be disposed of, and the more certainly will favorable consideration on it be had. It becomes necessary, as in former instances of preparation, for the candidate to procure the service of a renowned Midē´, in order to acquire new or specially celebrated remedies or charms. The candidate may also give evidence of his own proficiency in magic without revealing the secrets of his success or the course pursued to attain it. The greater the mystery the higher he is held in esteem even by his jealous confrères.

There is not much to be gained by preparatory instruction for the fourth degree, the chief claims being a renewal of the ceremony of “shooting the mī´gis” into the body of the candidate, and enacting or dramatizing the traditional efforts of the Bear Man´idō in his endeavor to receive from the Otter the secrets of this grade. One who succeeds becomes correspondingly powerful in his profession and therefore more feared by the credulous. His sources of income are accordingly increased by the greater number of Indians who require his assistance. Hunters, warriors, and lovers have occasion to call upon him, and sometimes antidoting charms are sought, when the evil effects of an enemy’s work are to be counteracted.

The instructor receives the visit of the candidate, and upon coming to a satisfactory agreement concerning the fee to be paid for the service he prepares his pupil by prompting him as to the part he is to enact during the initiation and the reasons therefor. The preparation and the merits of magic compounds are discussed, and the pupil receives instruction in making effective charms, compounding love powder, etc. This love powder is held in high esteem, and its composition is held a profound secret, to be transmitted only when a great fee is paid. It consists of the following ingredients: Vermilion; powdered snakeroot (Polygala senega, L.); exiguam particulam sanguinis a puella effusi, quum in primis menstruis esset; and a piece of ginseng cut from the bifurcation of the root, and powdered. These are mixed and put into a small buckskin bag. The preparation is undertaken only after an offering to Ki´tshi Man´idō of tobacco and a Midē´ song with rattle accompaniment. The manner of using this powder will be described under the caption of “descriptive notes.” It differs entirely from the powder employed in painting the face by one who wishes to attract or fascinate the object of his or her devotion. The latter is referred to by the Rev. Peter Jones1 as follows:

  There is a particular kind of charm which they use when they wish to obtain the object of their affections. It is made of roots and red ocher. With this they paint their faces, believing it to possess a power so irresistible as to cause the object of their desire to love them. But the moment this medicine is taken away and the charm withdrawn the person who before was almost frantic with love hates with a perfect hatred.

It is necessary that the candidate take a sweat-bath once each day, for four successive days, at some time during the autumn months of the year preceding the year in which the initiation is to occur. This form of preparation is deemed agreeable to Ki´tshi Man´idō, whose favor is constantly invoked that the candidate may be favored with the powers supposed to be conferred in the last degree. As spring approaches the candidate makes occasional presents of tobacco to the chief priest and his assistants, and when the period of the annual ceremony approaches, they send out runners to members to solicit their presence, and, if of the fourth degree, their assistance.

1 Hist. of the Ojebway Indians. London [1843?], p. 155.

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The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society, 1891

The Midē Wiwin or Grand Medicine Society


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