"Divination in North American Indian Shamanic Healing"





"The request for a shamanic healing ceremony is always conducted in a culturally prescribed manner. Quite often the request can be ... bringing a ritual offering of tobacco to the shaman."



The "requester must follow the prescribed ritual procedures if the shaman is to be ritually engaged."


[Wailaki] "isnasta (seeing doctors) ... "who could see pains (the disease) in a patient but could not remove them" ([Nomland 1938:]96).

"In the case of powerful shamans it is sometimes reported that they know ahead of time that someone is coming to them for a healing (for example, ... [Tu:batulabal] ...) and what ails them."

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS IN ANTHROPOLOGICAL RECORDS, 2 (2):1-26 = G. A. Nomland : "Bear River ethnography". 1938.


["case in which psychometry was used to diagnose a patient" :] "A Creek specialist, the kila {cf. Inuit KILA, pp. 131-2, infra} (diviner or prophet), uses this technique. "His diagnosis consisted merely in the examination of an article of

ANNUAL REPORT OF THE BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, 42:473-672 = J. R. Swanton : "Religious Beliefs and Medical Practices of the Creek Indians". Washington (DC), 1928.


clothing belonging to the sick man. From this he [was] able to determine the nature of the disorder ..." (Swanton 1928:615). Diagnosis by examining a patientís shirt is also reported for the nearby Yuchi".


[diagnosis involving "the shaman consulting his or her helping spirit(s)" :] "(for example, ... [Yavapai]; ... [Clayoquot]; ... [Tsimshian])."


[modes whereby information concerning the patient cometh to the diviner :] "One common form is the shamanís ability to "see" into the patient with "supernatural," "x-ray," or "second-sight" type of vision (for example, ... [Wintu]; ... [Twana]; ... [Coos]). Some shamans cover their eyes in order to obtain such vision (... [Puyallup-Nisqually]). During this time the shaman is usually dancing ... and singing (spirit calling) about the patient." The Lakota shaman "reported, "I see on my mind-screen the full dimensions of a personís illness" (... Mails 1991:170). The Inuit shaman of the Cumberland Sound and Baffin Land area sees "through the back of his head" ... . The Alsea shaman ... "... could see everything, all over the world" (Drucker 1939:99). In more rare cases, such "seeing" is done via a sacred divinatory object. For example, the Walapai shamans have sacred gourds whose spirit "sees the sick person and knows everything about the sickness" (... Kroeber 1935:191)."

T. E. Mails : Fools Crow. Tulsa, 1991.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS IN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, 35 (7):81-102 = P. Drucker : "Contributions to Alsea Ethnography". 1939.

MEMOIRS OF THE AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGICAL SOCIETY, 42:1-293 = A. L. Kroeber : "Walapai ethnography". 1935.


The "Patvioso shaman ...



would begin to stagger ... Moaning and frothing at the mouth ... . In the visions that came to him, a patient picking flowers or seeing his footprints were indicators of recovery, while withered flowers or no footprints left meant the patient would die".


[diagnosing a patient by feeling with the hands :] "the Clayoquot shaman usually places his left hand on the patientís stomach while rattling with his right hand ... . The Luisen~o and Mohave shamans felt the patientís entire body ..., and the Pomo sucking doctor not only uses his hands but also tastes the skin to discover the nature of the disease ... . He also often sees a cloud of steam arising from the afflicted part of the body as soon at he sees his patient. A Cocopa shaman ... would lay the palm of his left hand on the area of the patientís body where the pain resided. If there was motion in the outer joint of his little finger, he knew that a cure was possible."

"a Wintu shaman[ess], would vigorously rub her hands together before she felt for a sickness. "Any place they are hurting I hurt. I become part of their body," she explained. Her diagnostic trance was a full possession trance in which the spirit spoke through her giving the prognosis (Knudtson 1975:12)."

NATURAL HISTORY, 84 (5):6-17 = P. H. Knudtson : "Flora, shaman of the Wintu". 1975.


"Among the Thompson ... "some shamans were able to ascertain the cause of sickness, only after their guardian spirits had entered their chests. If the first guardian spirit whom they called did not give the desired information, the shaman called another one. If the guardian spirit refused to enter the shamanís body, but jumped back as soon as he approached him, it was a sure sign that the patient would die" (Teit 1900:362)."

MEMOIRS OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, 2 (4):163-390 = J. A. Teit : "The Thompson Indians of British Columbia". 1900.


"In rare cases it is reported that the helping spirit enters the patientís body ... . The Walapai shamans often use a sacred gourd rattle that "sees" the illness. ... The (guardian) spirit goes into the sick body and discovers what dead relativeís spirit is in the body and tells the shaman, who names it" (... Kroeber 1935:190). The Tenino shaman also projects his diagnostic spirit into the patientís body, usually by blowing through a tube".


"Another common form in which diagnostic information comes is through the shamanís dreams (for example, ... [Gitksan]; ... [Hupa] ... [Walapai]; ... [Southern Ute]; ... [Thompson]). Among the Dieguen~o this included "the interpretation of his patientís dreams, categorized by type" as well as his own diagnostic dreams (Rogers and Evernham 1983:109).

... a Shoshoni shaman, received his diagnosis in a dream. If it became necessary ... to examine the patient, he would move "his beaver skin over the patientís body; when the fur became hot he knew where the disease was located" (Hultkranz 1992:89)."

S. L. Rogers & L. Evernham : "Shamanistic healing among the Dieguen~o". In :- Romanucci-Ross; Moerman; Tancredi (eds.) : From Culture to Method. NY, 1983. pp. 103-18.

Ao. Hultkranz : Shamanic Healing and Ritual Drama. NY, 1992.


[diagnosis by divination specialists :] "Among the Iroquois, ... the saokata ... would call on his oki (helping spirit), which would enter the body of the patient and locate the problem. Among the Tohono O>odham the sick person would first consult the siaticum. In turn, the siaticum would refer the patient to the shaman who knew the proper songs for curing the patientís illness once the diagnosis had been made. Among the nearby Pima the diagnostic specialist is known as the siatcokam (examining physician) ... . Among the Wappo the yomto hintcome



(dream doctor) performed the diagnosis ... . Among the Central Miwok it was the alini hiwe^yi who conducted the diagnosis ... .


In some cases these specialists received their diagnosis via dreams. The Menomini mit:wa:pe (seer) was approached with a tobacco offering and request. The mita:wa:pe then "will look into the trouble overnight, seeing clearly in a vision what is the matter" (Skinner 1920:130). ... Among the Cayuga ... a hadrauta (male dreamer) or a hodrauta (female dreamer) would be approached by a person carrying a tobacco offering wrapped in a piece of the sick personís clothing. That night the shaman drinks a special medicine and puts the offering under his pillow."

INDIAN NOTES AND MONOGRAPHS, 4:189-261 = A. Skinner : "Medicine ceremony of the Menomini, Iowa, and Wahpeton Dakota". 1920.


[2 diagnosticians :] "Among the Wailaki and the Pomo, "it was the sucking doctor who did the diagnosing and investigated the cause of the sickness, but it was the singing doctor who found out where the Ďpainí (disease object) was located. Thus the two worked hand in hand, and split their fees" (Loeb 1932:9, 35, 81, 101). However, among the Coast Miwok it was not the wakilapi (sucking doctor), but the walimitca (outfit doctor) who "always visited the patient first and made the diagnosis" (114)."



[3 diagnosticians :] "The Navaho have three basic types of diagnostic specialists : the ... star-gazer, the hand-tremblers (ndishniih), and the listener, with the latter being the most rare. ... In performing a diagnosis the ndishniih (literally, "with motion-in-the-hand" [Morgan 1931:390]) sits facing the patient ... . ...

AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, 33:390-402 = W. Morgan : "Navaho treatment of sickness : Diagnosticians". 1931.

J. E. Levy; R. Neutra; D. Parker : Hand Trembling, Frenzy Witchcraft, and Moth Madness. Tucson : U of AZ Pr, 1987.


"Then with his arm outstretched he closes his eyes and enters a trance state. Through the mind of a man with motion-in-the-hand runs a series of visualizations of the illness and of the cause of the illness, whereas the listeners (type of diagnostician) receive auditory manifestations. ..." (Morgan 1931:393). When the diagnostician thinks of the correct cause, it is indicated to him by an involuntary shaking of his arm. This shaking "may vary from a fine tremor of the hand to rather violent motions of the whole arm, and can become uncontrollable" (Levy, Neutra, and Parker 1987:41)."


"Members of the Shaker cult among the Northwest Coast cultures can also gain "an insight into the cause of the sickness that is being treated" when their shaking hands touch the patient during a healing (Barnett 1957:267)."

H. G. Barnett : Indian Shakers. Carbondale : Southern IL U Pr, 1957.


[stratified sickness :] "The Pima have two types of diagnostic ceremonies. The ku`lan~mada (the application of medicine) is a limited diagnosis, while the du`ajida (vitalization) is an extensive diagnosis (Bahr et al. 1974:122). The ku`lan~mada is conducted during the day, while the du`ajida is conducted at night. In the Pima classification of sickness, the limited diagnosis will only reveal the upper levels of a stratified sickness, while the du`ajida must be used for the "beneath sickness" (143)."

D. M. Bahr; J. Gregorio; D. I. Lopez; A. Alvarez : Pima Shamanism and Staying Sickness. Tucson : U of AZ Pr, 1974.


[shaking-tent diagnostic caerimony :] "the shaking tent ceremony of the Ojibway ... is ... used for diagnosing a patient ... . ... Among the Menomini it is the tshisaqka (the most powerful shaman) who conducts the shaking tent ceremony to diagnose a patient ... . The Menomini shaman ... uses the turtle spirit to diagnose during the ceremony. In addition, there is also "a special type of je>sako (shaman) who only carries medicines and okanu^k bones ..." (Skinner 1915:196)."

ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, 13 (2):167-215. = A. Skinner : "Associations and ceremonies of the Menomini Indians". 1915.


[diagnosis by special instrument :] "A Shoshoni shaman used a black muff stretched tightly on four sticks set in the ground, which caused the disease in the patient to glow in the dark (Hultkranz 1992:89). A Tolowa shaman had a special, plate-



shaped basket he would put on the floor, and if it danced about, the patient could be cured ... . Some Cherokee shamans used two needles afloat ... . Depending on how the needles drifted apart of together, a diagnosis was determined ... . A Lakota shaman ... used a mirror and could see the disease reflected in it ... . Crow shamans used the skull of a former shaman ... . ... The Wailaki use string figures ... for divination purposes."

"The Cherokee ... "examining the beads" technique is ... the instrument par excellence for determining a true diagnosis and prognosis ... . (Bead divination is also found among the Surprise Valley Paiutes ... .) The standard technique was to hold a black bead (representing death, calamity, failure) between the thumb and index finger of the right hand, and a red (or white) bead (health, happiness, success) in the right hand. ... "Besides rolling the beads in the fingers, they ... may be rolled on the ground, in which case the bead that rolls furthest will foretell whether or not a patient will recover" (Fogelson 1980:76-77)."

JOURNAL OF CHEROKEE STUDIES, 5 (2):60-87 = R. D. Fogelson : "The conjuror in eastern Cherokee society". 1980.


The Lakota shaman "also used a sacred stone in diagnosing a patient. He would roll the stone all over the patientís body while repeating finding song four times. ... "... In a little while, the stone starts to turn red and gets very warm. ... Then the stone begins to make a crackling and popping sound, which turns into Lakota, and it speaks to me, giving me information about the patient and what to do to cure them. ..." (... Mails 1992:129)."


"The most common instrument used for divination is a quartz crystal, especially among cultures of the Southwest ... . The shaman usually holds the crystal between one eye and the body of the patient and can then see a disease object within the patientís body ... . In some cases, such as at Acoma, the crystal may first be dipped into a bowl of medicine water ... in order to achieve the needed "second sight." The Tohono O>odham shaman often carries hour quartz crystals for divination purposes (Underhill 1946:265, 271). He "placed it on the ground before him. It cast a ray of light on the patientís body, showing the seat of disease or the presence of an intrusive object. ..." (Underhill 1946:276). Among the nearby Pima the above-mentioned

R. Underhill : Papago Indian Religion. NY : Columbia U Pr, 1946.


siatcokam also uses clear crystals for divination of illness ... . The Navaho stargazer commonly uses a quartz crystal. ... Stephen (1936:213) reported : [The Hopi shaman] Taking the crystal between finger and thumb ... located the seat of the pain exactly. The Cherokee ulunsata ( sacred quartz crystal) was used for divination ... . This crystal is regarded as a person and is periodically fed drops of human or animal blood in return for the divinatory services it provides."

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY CONTRIBUTIONS TO ANTHROPOLOGY, 23 = A. M. Stephen (ed. by Elsie Clews Parsons) : "Hopi Journals of Alexander M. Stephen". 2 vols. 1936.


[Inuit diagnosis by the technique "kila (also krilaq ...)" :] " "the kila may be either the head or the foot of a patient, his clothes, or the clothes of the shaman himself" (Jenness 1922:217). Among the Inuit of Baffin Island and the Hudson Bay areas a substitute person (the keleyak) is used for such testing instead of the patient ... . In all cases the shaman calls upon his helping spirit to enter the

REPORT OF THE CANADIAN ARCTIC EXPEDITION, 1913-18, Vol. 12 = D. Jenness : "The life of the Copper Eskimoes". Ottawa, 1922.


bundle or person. Usually a special cord is attached to the personís head or foot for lifting purposes. ... Several malignant shades (soul of a deceased person) entered the kila and were driven off by the shaman."



[shamanís "lengthy account of his or her powers" to patient, in order to render patient receptive to divine curing :] "Densmore (1929:45) reports : "a djasakid (shaman), before beginning a treatment, narrated his personal dream as a guaranty of his success." ... [A Lakota shaman] talked with the (sick) person for a long time about the way of curing. ..."

BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY, Bulletin 96 = F. Densmore : "Chippewa customs". Washington (DC), 1929.


(Mails 1991:154)."

"The Yavapai would often call in a "ghost specialist" to divine whether a seriously ill person would recover or not. ...

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PUBLICATIONS IN AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOLOGY, 34 (4):247-354 = E. W. Gifford : "Northeastern and Western Yavapai. 1936.


Outside the house he [a shaman] would post a "fearless man with a big heart" (Gifford 1936:316) ... . The shaman summon a spirit by singing, and the audience could hear the approach of this spirit. The man posted outside would question this spirit and get answers from it. However, sometimes the ... spirit came, ... "... making sound like roadrunner, etc." (316)."


[disguise as "haunting spirit" :] "the Pomo ... doctor then prepares to test the patient by reproducing the vision as closely as he can. He may dress as a ghost, or may construct a model



of a monster ... (it) is suddenly revealed to the patient. If he reacts strongly, struggling and then fainting, the doctor regards his hypothesis as verified" (Freeland 1923:63). The cure is founded on the Pomo understanding that "seeing a thing again takes it off your mind" (72)."

Michael Winkelman & Philip M. Peek (eds.) : Divination and Healing. U of AZ Pr, Tucson, 2004. pp. 121-138 Ė 5. William S. Lyon : "Divination in North American Indian Shamanic Healing".