Shamanic Voices – North American (excluding Eskimo)


pp. 102-104 – 4.2 (Willlard Z. Park : Shamanism in Western North America. NY : Cooper Sq, 1975. pp. 24-5) [Paviotso]

pp. 103-104 shaman

p. 103

"In my dream I heard a song. It was coming from the south. It was coming just a few feet above the ground. ... The song came all night. ... In dreams after that I saw a horse coming from the east. ... He came toward me and when he got close, he made a big circle around me. ...

My father used to doctor. He had power from the otter. ... After I dreamed about the horse, the otter came to me in my dreams. ... I was ready to doctor then. When I doctored, the otter gave me my songs."

p. 104

"A long time ago, all the animals were Indians (they could talk)."

"When a shaman gets his power from the otter it means that the spirit is from many otters. The chief otter spirit ... is the one that makes a man a shaman. ... the shaman ... dreams about the otter and after a while he learns where the otter lives."


pp. 105-107 – 4.3 (Willlard Z. Park : Shamanism in Western North America. NY : Cooper Sq, 1975. pp. 30-1) [Paviotso]

pp. 105-106 shamaness

p. 105

"my father became a powerful shaman. His power told him to catch rattlesnakes. They did not

p. 106

bite him. He was told to put sage-brush in his nostrils so the snakes would not hurt him. ... Rattlesnake came to my father in dreams. ... Sometimes my father caught rattlesnakes and put them around his waist. He used to ride home carrying rattlesnakes that way. ... He had rattlesnakes with him all the time.

... My father died ... . later, when I was about fifty, my father began to come to me in dreams. He brought his power to me. He told me to doctor. ... After a while the power started to come to me when I dreamed. ... The rattlesnake told me what to do. The snake helps me doctor now. It comes to me when I dream."

p. 106 divine water-babies

"Some shamans get their power from the water-babies. ... These shamans can take the water-babies out of the lake. ... Some water-babies live in water-holes, and these holes never dry up. People call these water-babies the "breath of the water-holes." There is a cool breeze all the time in the mountains where they live. They have the power to cause wind to blow, even a very strong wind. ... There are also women in the lakes where the water-babies live. These women are like the water-babies."


pp. 148-156 – 5.5 (Stephen Larsen : The Shaman’s Doorway. NY : Harper & Row, 1976. pp. 188-99) [Dogrib]

pp. 153-155 initiation of a man visiting from Brooklyn

p. 153

"The initiation consisted of ordeals. ... I was bathed in ice water, I was whipped, ... and all the time being taught – being taught about the way of spirits, about how the world was ordered in a different way than I had imagined. ...

p. 154

I ate mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) and there was drumming and a seance. ... [The initiator] picked out each fear, each feeling, and he explained to me the spirit that controlled it. He told me spirit names, and what they did. ...

The next seance started with dancing and drumming. ... I started to dance wildly and more wildly,

p. 155

getting more ecstatic. And then I felt this wave going up my spine, exploding in my head, and then I hit trance. In trance I had a vision, I saw a bear. And the bear motioned for me to follow it. ... As I was following the bear it turned into a woman. And then there was a whole series of sexual imagery, buttocks, thighs, breasts, a whole swirl of sexuality, of flesh.

I was swirling and whirling, and I felt like I was falling to the center of the earth. And as I was going down there were creatures on all sides of me. And they would rip and tear, take pieces from me as I went down. And when I hit bottom they all descended on me and tore me up : a falcon on my eyes, a many-toothed dog pawing my backbone. I was torn and torn. ... And then I began to be put back together again And as I was coming together again I didn’t recognize what I saw coming together as me. ... Something was there that wasn’t there before, ... something had been added. ... My feelings were of high ecstasy, shock waves of energy traveling through me. I felt I could see through things, hearts, bones, souls. There was a sound and it was coming up from within me. I was singing a song, the song of my experience, and I felt the song gave me new strength and power. I knew I must remember that song. It is my medicine song."


pp. 175-180 – 6.6 (Paul Radin : Crashing Thunder. Englewood Cliffs (NJ) : Prentice-Hall, 1926. pp. 5-13) [Winnebago]

redincarnate shaman

p. 175

A shaman died. "Up above, ... he went. There in his new home, he lived and there he married. "After living there for some time, he prepared to come back to earth. ... And so, in the course of time, he was born again, born as a human being. ... Thus he became a holy man, a shaman, in fact the reincarnation of the North-Spirit." ... Among the Winnebago, only prominent people and members of the Medicine Dance could be reincarnated."

p. 176

"My ghost was taken to the place where the sun sets. ... The land of the spirits is an excellent place and the people have the best of times. If you desire to go anywhere all that you have to do is to wish yourself there and you reach it. ... Then I was brought down to earth. ... One day I heard the noise of little children so I thought I would go outside. Then it seemed to me that I was going through a door but I was really being born from a woman’s womb. ... There I lived until I died of old age. ... This time I was buried in the manner used then. ... I watched the people as they buried me. As I was lying there some one said to me, "Come, let us go away." So then we went toward the land of the setting sun. There we came to a village where we met all the dead. I was told that I would have to stop there for four nights, but, in reality, I stayed

p. 177

there four years. The people enjoy themselves there. They have all sorts of dances of a lively kind. From that place we went up to where Earthmaker lives and I saw him and talked to him, face to face ... . I saw the spirits too ... . Thence I came to this earth ... and here I am."


"All the various spirits who live up above in the clouds, in a doctor’s village, came after me and instructed me in what I was to do. ... There from the middle of the ocean, from the shaman’s village, they came after me. They blessed me, all the spirits in the middle of the ocean. ... As many waves as exist, ... as I blew on them ... became very quiet again. ...

Now at Blue Clay Bank (St. Paul) there lives one who is a dancing grizzly-bear spirit. ...

p. 178

This grizzly bear gave me songs ... . Then the grizzly bear danced and performed while he danced. He tore his abdomen open and ... healed himself again. This he repeated. One grizzly bear shot claws at the other ... . ... They ... pulled out a prairie turnip. Finally they grabbed hold of a small plum tree, breathed upon it and shook it, and many plums began to fall."

pp. 178-180 prayers to the spirits, asking them to help to cure a patient


spirit to whom prayed

days’ fast





"Buffalo" ("of four different colors")



"Grizzly Bear" (of "ceremonial lodge’)



"Chief of the Eels" (to bless saliva)



"Turtle" (at "home of birds of prey")



"Rattlesnake" ("white", for rattles)



"Night Spirits" (for flute)









"grandmother Earth"


{ought one of the two 4-days’ fasts to have been of 3 days instead?}


pp. 180-183 – 6.7 (Willlard Z. Park : Shamanism in Western North America. NY : Cooper Sq, 1975. pp. 17, 27-8, 54) [Paviotso of Pyramid Lake, NV]

p. 180

"The shaman ... said that one who is ready for power must go alone to a cave that is known to be the locus for the acquisition of knowledge. ... Upon entering the cave, ... the aspirant asks simply and directly for the particular kind of power that he desires. ... [The shaman]’s power to heal came from the primordial Spirit of the Night. ... The nocturnal curing ceremonies that he and other Paviotso shamans undertook occurred

p. 181

only in the blackness of the night, for only then does the "second night," the invisible night of the universe of spirits, appear to the shaman."


"When I was a young man I had dreams in which I doctored people. ... Finally, I decided to go to the cave near Dayton. I was about fifty then. ... I went to the cave in the evening. As soon as I got inside, I prayed and asked for power to doctor sickness. ... This is a prayer to the night. ... After I went to sleep I could hear people at a doctoring. ... I could hear their voices and songs. ... A woman with a sage-brush shoot in her hand danced. She moved around the fire jumping at every step. ... After a while the rock where I was sleeping {so, this is a dream of "false awakening"} began to crack like breaking ice. A man appeared in the crack. He was tall and thin.

p. 182

He had the tail-feather of an eagle in his hand. ... Then I woke up. ...

The Indian doctor gets his power from the spirit of the night. This spirit is everywhere. ... Eagle and owl ... are ... messengers that bring instructions from the spirit of the night. ... When shamans get power it always comes from the night.

p. 183

They are told to doctor only at night. ...

I smoke before I go into the trance. While I am in the trance no one makes any noise. ... When I see a whirlwind I know that it caused the sickness. Sometimes in a trance I see the patient waling on the ground. If he leaves footprints I know that he will live, but if there are no tracks, I cannot cure him. When I am coming back from the trance I sing. I sing louder and louder until I am completely conscious."


pp. 183-191 – 6.8 (NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CANADA, BULLETIN 152 = Marius Barbeau : Medicine Men of the Pacific Coast. 1958.) [Gitksan]

p. 184

how "I began to be a swanassu (medicine-man)" : "a loud noise broke out over me, ... and a large owl appeared to me. The owl took hold of me, ... and ... I lost consciousness. ... I stood up and went down the trail ... . On my way, the trees seemed to shake and to lean over me; tall trees were crawling after me ... . .. I thought that flies covered my face completely. I looked down, and instead of being on firm ground, ... I was drifting in a huge whirlpool. ...

p. 185

Another time, ... I saw an owl, at the top of a high cedar. ... I heard the noise of a crowd of people ..., as if I were being chased away, pursued. ... There was no one in sight, only trees. A trance came over me once more, and I fell down, unconscious. When I came to, ... my heart started to beat fast, and I began to tremble ... . ... My body was quivering. While I remained in this state, I began to sing. A chant was coming out of me without my being able to do anything to stop it. Many things appeared to me presently : ... I saw a meskyawawderh (a type of bird) and a meqagweeuk (bullhead fish). ... Such visions occur when a man is about to become a halaait ... . ...

p. 186

One day a year later, my father summoned the halaaits in the village to come down ... . ... That was the time when I became a swanassu (medicine-man). ... As soon as I was able to go out by myself, I began to diagnose the cases by dreaming (wawq : sleeping, or ksewawq : dreaming) ... . I acquired charms, that is, things I would dream of : the Hogwest (snare for the bear), Hlorhs (the Moon), and Angohawtu (Sweat-house). And besides, I had also dreamed of charms : the Mink (nes’in), the Otter (watserh), and Canoe (‘mal). ... I used a charm (aatirh) and placed it over me first, then over the body of the person from whom I was to extract the disease or illness. ...

p. 187

My canoe came to me in a dream, and there were many people sitting in it. The canoe itself was the Otter (watserh)."

pp. 188-190 swanassu songs & their explanations







"The chief of the Salmon is floating in the canyon ... . The She Robin has flown away with me."

"The huge Salmon appeared to me in my vision, although he was way down deep in the canyon. The She Robin came to me, and she lifted me out of my sickness."



"The Grizzly shall go a long way from here behind the sky."

"While they [ghosts of dead uncles] were singing, the Grizzly ran through the door, and went right round. Then he rose into the air behind the clouds, describing a circle, and came back to the house. Each of my uncles took a rattle and placed it into one of my hands."



"My feet are held fast ... . It is the mussel-shell that is holding my feet."

"I dreamt of a lake or large pond, and I put my feet into it. I sank down, way over my knees, and I was unable to get out."



"The bee-hives’ spirit stings my body."

"In my vision, ... I saw huge bee-hives, out of which the bees darted and stung me all over my body."



"The mountains were talking to each other ... . I went into the river where it makes the noise of the canyon."

In my vision ..., I was standing on the brink of the canyon, and ... behind me stood the steep mountain. A great noise was rising out of the canyon. I fell into the water, but I landed in the canoe that was there. ... Two mountain peaks ... made a noise like bells, and I knew that they were speaking to each other."



"Whose canoe is it where I stand ...? It floats about among the whirlpools."

"In my vision, I was taken in my canoe to ... among the trees where I was left ... . My canoe kept floating about".

p. 190 use of charms

"I put on a bear robe, I use a bear-claw head-dress, and I pass a snare (hogwest) around my neck. ... That is, ... I would be tied by this collar, and the cord would be held in hands by the people present. ... The chief halaait would take water and throw it over my head. Then the four of us stand over the pool and hold a consultation among ourselves; this is called silin. ... If the patient is very weak, the chief doctor captures his spirit into his hands and blows quietly on it to give it more breath. If weaker still, the halaait takes a hot stone from the fireplace and holds the spirit over it. ... After this is done, the halaait sits the spirit, then places it on the patient’s head.

When a halaait is himself the patient, ... A cedar collar (luirh) is placed around the neck of the sick medicine-man. ... In the middle of their songs, they raise the sick man, pulling him by the luirh (red cedar-bark collar)."


Joan Halifax (ed.) : Shamanic Voices. E. P. Dutton, NY. 1979.