Powers of the Medicine Men, cap. 2 "Powers Conferred on the Medicine Men"

table of contents







Powers Conferred








Receiveth Healing Powers








Finding the Cure




cures of girl & of boy




Self-Remedy by emmets




Healing by a root




Instant Nautical Healing




Reviving the Dead








" "




" "




Healing Severe Wounds












Buffalo Medicine Men




Beyond Hope




Healing of Witchcraft




Healing Practices




Injury & Treatment Incidents




Discovery & Recovery








Horse Doctor




Locating Lost Objects
















Psychic Powers




Guardian Power Boards



(Br. Columbia)




(Br. Columbia)





Unusual Praedictions




for the French








Traders’ Arrival






[where (pp. 50-2) tribe is not specified, some variety of Sioux is intended]

p. 43 water-quaffing by a Duck-Dreamer (LSE, p. 52)

"The medicine-man happened to be a Duck Dreamer, so, of course, duck was helping him ... . The medicine-man asked me to bring him some water, ... two quarts or more. He drank every drop ... . In a moment or so he called for more water and that he drank, too."

pp. 44-45 power received from dream of ocean (RL&D, pp. 3-4)

p. 44

"I was carried up to the spirit village of those who live in the sky, a doctor’s village ... . ... I breathed on this log and the spirits in the lodge breathed on me. ... Finally the log ... was transformed into a young man, who arose and walked away. "Human being," said the spirits, "you are indeed a holy person!"

... from the middle of the ocean, the spirits came after me, from a shaman’s village situated there. ... They asked me to blow upon the waves they had created, ... and I blew upon them and they became quiet ... . ... Then the spirits created a choppy ocean, where the waves piled one upon the other furiously and I was told to blow upon it. I did so and that

p. 45

ocean of waves, mighty as it was, subsided and became quiet. "Human being," they said, "thus will you always act. There will be nothing that you cannot accomplish. ...""

pp. 45-47 the 3 kinds of diagnosticians

p. 45

There are three kinds of diagnosticians used by the Navajo :

1.) the Hand Trembler;

2.) the Star Gazer; and

3.) the Listener.

"... when it is a desire to learn if a past event has cast a malicious influence over a person or family, the Shaking Hand ceremony is generally employed.

... if an important decision is to me made ... whether ... the family should undertake a long journey, the Star-gazing or the Sun-gazing rite is often used to influence the decision and also to determine the proper time to start." ("NLR", p. 46)

p. 46

"the Listening Rite is considered most effective in locating lost animals or children and in obtaining information concerning distant relatives." (loc. cit.)


Shaking Hand rite : "the diagnostician sits with eyes closed ..., and as soon as the singing begins his extended hand usually begins to shake. ... White the hand is moving

the diagnostician thinks about various diseases or causes of diseases. When something happens that tells him that he is thinking of the correct one,

he then thinks of various chants which might cure the disease;

then, of what medicine man might be the best one to give the chant;

then perhaps of plant medicines or other therapeutic measure which might be used." ("ND", p. 240)


Star-Gazing rite : "the Star Gazer takes one person with him and leaves the house. Outside he prays the star-prayer to the star spirit, asking the star to show him the cause of the sickness. Then he begins to sing star-songs and while singing gazes fixedly at a star or at the light of the star reflected in a ... quartz crystal, which he holds in his hand. Soon, ... the star begins to "throw out a string of light and at the end of this the Star Gazer sees the cause of the sickness of the patient, like a motion picture.""

p. 47

"If these strings of light are white or yellow the patient will recover; if red, the illness is serious or dangerous. If the white light falls on the house and makes it light as day around it, the patient will get well." ("ND", p. 245)


Listener’s rite : "The dried and powdered ear-drum of a badger is used ...; the Listener ... places it in each ear. The cause of the sickness is determined from the characteristics of something heard ... . If someone is heard crying, the patient will die." (loc. cit.)

p. 48 finding the curative herb by eliminative divination through singing ("NChAC", p. 9)

"Now he sang songs about different medicines. The sang about one herb and then another. ... Then he stopped. His power had showed him that [the category of plant whereabout he was then singing] was good. "what kind of [plant in that category]," he asked. His power told him to name the [plants in that category]. [When, in the course of his naming them, he reached the right plant,] "You’ve got it," said the power."

pp. 53-54 shamanic soul-retrieval

p. 53

"A Saulteaux shaman (Lake Winnepeg area) ... was sent for to cure a girl who was very ill. She died shortly after his arrival. ... He lay down beside her, tying a piece of red yarn around the girl’s wrist. Then he went into a trance ... . His soul now followed the girl on her way to the land of the dead. There he found her,

p. 54

with the help of the red yarn, in the crowd of the dead, and brought her back to the land of the living. ... She was restored to life." (ShH&RD, p. 35)


cure of a boy : "When he fell sick and lost consciousness, his parents sent for the medicine man. ... All that was left for the medicine man to do was to :die" (go in a trance) and catch the lost soul in the realm of the dead. ... So he died, and lay dead on the ground. Half an hour later ... the medicine man regained consciousness, he told of his experiences in the land of the dead. He said that he had found the boy’s soul on the other side of the (western) mountains, playing with dead boys over there. The medicine man had great difficulty in persuading the boy to come back with him to his home again. At last the boy consented and went with the medicine man. ... The boy recovered and grew to be a man." (ShH&RD, pp. 92-93)

pp. 58-59 healing by buffalo medicine-man of a wounded boy ("OBMM", pp. 216-221)

p. 58

"The man who was first to try his charms and medicines on the patient began by telling him in a loud voice how he became possessed of them, how in a vision he had seen the buffalo which had revealed to him the mysterious secrets of the medicine, and of the charm song he was taught to sing when using the medicine. ... he started his song at the top of his voice, which the other doctors, twenty or thirty in number, picked up and sang in unison ... . In the midst of the chorus of voices rose the shrill sound of the bone whistle accompaniment, imitating the call of an eagle. After the doctor had started the song, he put bits of root into his mouth, grinding them with his teeth, and, taking a mouthful of water, he slowly approached the boy bellowing and pawing the earth, after the manner of an angry buffalo at bay. ... When within a few feet of the boy’s head, he paused for a moment, drew a long breath, and with a whizzing noise forced the water from his mouth into the wound. ... the man uttered a series of short exclamations, "He! he! He!" to give additional charm to the medicine. ...

p. 59

Four days the boy was treated in this strange manner. ... The medicine-men sang with good will the mystery song appropriate to the occasion".

pp. 63-64 removal of obstruction to spirits’ trail (ChI, pp. 126-127)





A man "built a cabin ..., and soon after moving into it, became sick, and for a long time was in bad health. ... the tribal doctors ..., however, discovered the cause of his illness. In the hills on the north side the [stream], standing out a little from the higher bluffs, is a peculiar conical peak odd in shape and color, and on the south side of the stream is another odd-looking peak. The [cabin] was in line between these two peaks, and thus was on the trail traveled by the spirits dwelling in them, when they went from one peak to the other to visit. Since the doors at the front and back of the house faced up and down the stream, it appeared evident that when the spirits passed to and fro they could not pass through the house, but were obliged to climb over it.

"In Ireland, people who had illnesses or other misfortune, or who suffered poltergeist activity, were said to live in houses that were "in the way" or in a "contrary place". In other words, they obstructed a fairy path." http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/mapas_ocultotierra/esp_mapa_ocultotierra_13.htm in western Ireland : "an extension the man had built to his dwelling "obtruded into a straight line between two neighboring fairy forts." This extension was demolished (FP&SR, pp. 46-47, citing MK, p. 104)


This obstruction in their trail annoyed them, and to punish [the patient] for troubling them, they made him ill. When [the patient] awoke to the situation, he at once move the house ..., ... turned it half {actually, ¼} round so that if they wished, the spirits might pass through the house, instead of climbing over it ... . He became better at once, and in a short time recovered his health."

"When the house happens to have been built on a fairy track, ... the fairies must [be allowed to] march through ... ." (F-FCC, p. 38) "fill in the two side doors (which were opposite each other) and open up a new one at the end of the house." (FP&SR, p. 47, citing IFC, vol. 36, pp. 197-200)

FP&SR = Paul Devereux : Fairy Paths & Spirit Roads. Chrysalis Books, London, 2003.

MK = Dermot MacManus : The Middle Kingdom. 1959.

F-FCC = Evans-Wentz : The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. 1911.

IFC = Irish Folklore Commission.

pp. 65-66 attempt by horse medicine-man to cure a sick man (A, pp. 44-45)

p. 65

"Once a shaman who had received supernatural revelations from a horse was treating a sick man. A lodge was erected, its entrance facing south. At some distance a lodge-pole ... was erected. A horse ... was tied to this pole. Paint was put on, beginning from his mane, and passing down the entire back, and the top of his nose was reddened. ... The shaman unpinned the front of the lodge, so that the horse could enter. At the next intonation of the song, the horse walked into the lodge, and began smelling the sick man ... . Whenever the horse drew a breath, smoke of various colors – blue, red, black – issued from his mouth. ...

p. 66

The shaman said [to the patient], "it is going to rain presently. When it rains, strip naked, go outside, and get washed by the rain. Before this, you must not touch your wife. ...""

pp. 70-71 sacred stones

p. 70

inducing return of stolen objects by means of a sacred stone : A shaman "in giving the performance held the stone in the palm of his hand, saying, "This will disappear." [A spectator] said that though he watched it very closely, it suddenly vanished from before his eyes. {This is leger-de-main (praestidigitation), which performed with the assistance of helper-spirits.} The length of time that a stone is absent depends on the distance it must travel in finding the lost object. In this instance the stone was gone a long time. At last a rattle was heard at the door. ... [The shaman] then opened the door, and the stone was found on the doorstep." [The missing items were subsequently returned.] (TSM&C, p. 238)

p. 71

obtaining information concerning military casualties by means of a sacred stone : After being unconscious through being injured by some of them, "he said that all the rocks and stones "were people turned to stone." After this he found some stones. He could talk to them and depended on them for help. [A Yuwipi caerimony was performed, at the conclusion whereof] there appeared a row of four or five small round stones ready to tell him what he wanted to know. ... At that time he proved his power to give information by the help of the sacred stones, and afterwards the stones always told him the names of those who were killed in war ... . This information was always correct." (TSM&C, p. 218)

pp. 72-74 power boards

p. 72

"In the Pacific Northwest, the Indians use what are known as power boards. These helpers are cedar boards about fifteen inches by a foot ... . {cf. planchette = oui-ja board}Two men hold the boards while their owner sings power songs. As the songs proceed, the boards begin to move in the hands of the two assistants {cf. the 2 assistants who hold the writing-beaker in a Chinese automatic-writing Phoinix Hall} and act out in ... pantomime the answers to questions asked by their owner. ... At first, they exhibit a rotary motion about chest high on the holders. they move in the direction where a missing person is. If the missing person is alive, they rise straight up. If he or she is dead, the boards go down and make a motion outlining a grave".

p. 73

"I got four men and made a guardian power board. Those men from the Nooksack tribe didn’t know how, but I had two Skagit with me. ... I made two guardian power boards ... . ... Those guarding powers knew. ... We made a fire in the middle and warmed up the guarding powers. ...

p. 74

That guarding power is a powerful thing. ... Guarding power knew". ("PDSCI", pp. 328-329)

pp. 74-75 locating missing persons and objects by hand-trembling

p. 74

"another medicine man ... in British Columbia ... was able to locate missing objects through the technique known as trembling – extending one’s arms, singing, and allowing the

p. 75

vibration of the lost person or object to attract the medicine man’s attention."

pp. 79-80 praediction of arrival of persons by means of a caerimony similar to Yuwipi (TIPNA, pp. 126-129)

p. 79

After being bound, "The priest began to mutter. ... however what he uttered was in such a mixed jargon of the Chipeway, Ottwaw, and Killisinoe languages, ... he ... praying, ... that he foamed at his mouth. After having remained near three quarters of an hour in place, ... in an instant he sprung upon his feet, ... shaking off his coverage".

p. 80

[He told of the forthcoming arrival of others, who would tell the date of the arrival of the expected traders.]

p. 81 other praeternatural knowledge of parties of persons at a distance ("IM", pp. 117-118)

"The medicine-man whom I knew best ... was simple, innocent, and harmless ... . His predictions were sometimes absolutely astounding. He has, beyond question, accurately described the persons, horses, arms, and destination of a party three hundred miles distant, mot one of whom he, nor any one in his camp, was before apprised."

bibliography :-

RL&D = Paul Radin : The Road of Life and Death. NY : Pantheon, 1945.

"NLR" = Franc Newcomb : "The Navajo Listening Rite". In :- EL PALACIO, vol. xlv (1938).

"ND" = Leland C. Wyman : "Navajo Diagnosticians". In :- AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST, vol. xxxviii (1936).

"NChAC" = Morris Opler : "Notes on the Chiricahua Apache Culture". In :- PRIMITIVE MAN, vol. xx, nos. i-ii (1947).

ShH&RD = Aoke Hultkranz : Shamanic Healing and Ritual Drama. NY : Crossroads Publ Co, 1992.

"OBMM" = Francis La Flesche : "Omaha Buffalo Medicine Men". In :- J OF AMERICAN FOLKLORE, vol. 3 (1890).

A = Robert H. Lowie : The Assiniboines. ANTHROPOLOGICAL PAPERS OF THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY, vol. iv, pt. i. Washington (DC), 1909.

"PDSCI" = June Collins : "The Personal Document of a Salish Coast Indian". In :- Marian W. Smith (ed.) : Indians of the Urban Northwest. NY : Columbia U Pr, 1949.

TIPNA = Jonathan Carver : Travels through the Interior Parts of North America in the Years 1766, 1767, and 1768. Minneapolis : Ross & Haines Inc, 1956.

"IM" = John Mason Brown : "Indian Medicine" In :- ATLANTIC MONTHLY, vol. 18, issue 105, July 1886.

Vine Deloria : The World We Used to Live in : Remembering the Powers of the Medicine Men. Fulcrum Publishing, Golden (CO), 2006.