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Author Topic: Animal "Medicine"  (Read 5731 times)

Malkin

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Animal "Medicine"
« on: July 05, 2011, 11:04:46 pm »
I often see practitioners of Core Shamanism refer to animal "medicine," such as "bear medicine," "crow medicine," etc. This seems to refer to the wisdom or healing that particular animal guides can offer. Is this a Native concept? Who exactly does it come from?

monsnoleedra

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2011, 07:28:12 am »
Quote from: Malkin;1768
I often see practitioners of Core Shamanism refer to animal "medicine," such as "bear medicine," "crow medicine," etc. This seems to refer to the wisdom or healing that particular animal guides can offer. Is this a Native concept? Who exactly does it come from?


I tend to believe that it is something that was derived from the Native American practices.  Not the notion of Animal influences but the description of calling it "Medicine".  Yet even that is not competely true in the sense that various nations recognize or use that phrase but like "Shaman" it was another academic usage to describe a certain type of beliefs or practices.

You'd really have to look into the specifics of each Nation to see what words, phrases, etc that they use.  For instance the Lakota have a person who over see's the sacred relic, who is known as Keeper of the Sacred Relic pretty much.  Yet others would call it Buffalo Medicine as the sacred relic is a buffalo hide, skull and some other parts.

Then you also fall into the Warrior Clan's within a specific nation.  For instance one has the Bear Clan, Wolf Clan who call upon the medicine of those creatures.  Yet outside of the particular clan you get other names for them, such as "DOG Soldiers" who if I recall correctly were Cheyenne and members of the Wolf Clan.  Though don't quote me on the Cheyenne as I am not positive if that was the nation of the top of my head.

Other's do not use the notion of "Medicine" but the disclaimer they are allies.  Thus you hear of plant allies, spirit allies, etc.

Sage

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 09:03:59 am »
Quote from: Malkin;1768
I often see practitioners of Core Shamanism refer to animal "medicine," such as "bear medicine," "crow medicine," etc. This seems to refer to the wisdom or healing that particular animal guides can offer. Is this a Native concept? Who exactly does it come from?

 
Uggggh why did you have to ask this question JUST as I put all my Native American Religions class textbooks in storage for the summer?? (;))

The idea of "medicine" does seem to stem from certain Native groups. I remember watching one of the few videos ever made of a Sun Dance (a Navajo ritual, super important) wherein the buffalo head and eagle strapped to the center tree were petitioned for their "medicine". An actual participant used this word, but whether this is a word in common use today or if he was using it just while talking to the camera is something I can't answer.
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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 10:28:04 am »
Quote from: Malkin;1768
Is this a Native concept? Who exactly does it come from?

I really wish I got in more touch with Native American spirituality when I lived there, especially since one of my former room-mates in the Marines was an Apache from a reservation in Arizona who was still in touch with his traditions. I thought it was interesting hearing the differences in tribal beliefs, like one night when we were all drinking in front of a fire complaining about the smoke, he told me they believed whoever the smoke chased was a bad person, and I mentioned that it was purifying in Gaelic traditions.

 I've always been under the impression that animal medicine was attached to certain tribes that recognised totem, or power animals, which I did a fair amount of studying some years back when I was still in high school.

Malkin

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2011, 01:48:54 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;1861

You'd really have to look into the specifics of each Nation to see what words, phrases, etc that they use.  For instance the Lakota have a person who over see's the sacred relic, who is known as Keeper of the Sacred Relic pretty much.  Yet others would call it Buffalo Medicine as the sacred relic is a buffalo hide, skull and some other parts.

Then you also fall into the Warrior Clan's within a specific nation.  For instance one has the Bear Clan, Wolf Clan who call upon the medicine of those creatures.  Yet outside of the particular clan you get other names for them, such as "DOG Soldiers" who if I recall correctly were Cheyenne and members of the Wolf Clan.  Though don't quote me on the Cheyenne as I am not positive if that was the nation of the top of my head.


Pretty much what I thought - I know these ideas differ from Nation to Nation, hence the "who" in my question. Part of what I'm pondering is the fact that most North American tribes seem to have been concerned over just one or two animal powers/allies at a time for a given group (just like you describe), as opposed to the attitude I see in books where people are encouraged to explore many different animals. (I think I've only read of one instance where an Alaskan holy man gathered a handful of different animal allies to himself as part of his training/initiation.) If an average individual only ever needs one type of "medicine," then maybe these modern authors are totally misunderstanding the concept?
 
Quote from: Sage;1884
Uggggh why did you have to ask this question JUST as I put all my Native American Religions class textbooks in storage for the summer?? (;))


Haha, just your luck, eh? ;)

Quote from: Sage;1884
The idea of "medicine" does seem to stem from certain Native groups. I remember watching one of the few videos ever made of a Sun Dance (a Navajo ritual, super important) wherein the buffalo head and eagle strapped to the center tree were petitioned for their "medicine". An actual participant used this word, but whether this is a word in common use today or if he was using it just while talking to the camera is something I can't answer.

 
Ah, I'm willing to bet that footage is exactly where the Core Shamans get it from. Navajo + Sun Dance = instant New Age boner.

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2011, 06:51:33 am »
Quote from: Sage;1884
... a Sun Dance (a Navajo ritual, super important)

 
I didn't even notice this until Malkin commented on it, but... are you sure this is a Navajo custom?  I've usually seen it associated with the Plains Nations (particularly the Lakota Sioux - w/r/t which Malkin's point about Newage boners is even stronger), and a quick check of Wikipedia (non-ideal, but it looks okay if a bit sparse) shows a long list of Plains-and-neighboring-areas tribes and doesn't mention the Navajo.

I'm wondering if the video you mention might be the NFB film mentioned in this section of the Wikipedia article.

Addressing the OP, "medicine" seems to have largely been a term applied by Europeans - it is, after all, an English word - to refer sweepingly to various practices they (the Europeans) didn't distinguish among.  It may have originated as a good-faith attempt to render some particular tribe's conceptions into English, but I wouldn't bet on it.  So I'm inclined to say it's more like a European conception of what they thought NA/FN folks were doing, rather than a NA/FN concept per se.

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DragonDaughter

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2011, 08:44:30 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;3269
I didn't even notice this until Malkin commented on it, but... are you sure this is a Navajo custom?  I've usually seen it associated with the Plains Nations (particularly the Lakota Sioux - w/r/t which Malkin's point about Newage boners is even stronger), and a quick check of Wikipedia (non-ideal, but it looks okay if a bit sparse) shows a long list of Plains-and-neighboring-areas tribes and doesn't mention the Navajo.

Sunflower

 
I was wondering this myself when I read it. My NA studies teacher attributed it to the Crow (another Plains Nation), and not the Dineh.. But since it's quarter to six in the morning, my brain is very, very fuzzy.
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Sage

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2011, 10:23:47 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;3269
I didn't even notice this until Malkin commented on it, but... are you sure this is a Navajo custom?  I've usually seen it associated with the Plains Nations (particularly the Lakota Sioux - w/r/t which Malkin's point about Newage boners is even stronger), and a quick check of Wikipedia (non-ideal, but it looks okay if a bit sparse) shows a long list of Plains-and-neighboring-areas tribes and doesn't mention the Navajo.

 
*head thunk* No, you're absolutely right. That's my bad. My Native American professor would keelhaul me. The Navajo are a Southwest tribe and the Sun Dance is definitely Plains.
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2011, 10:30:10 am »
Quote from: Malkin;3229
Pretty much what I thought - I know these ideas differ from Nation to Nation, hence the "who" in my question. Part of what I'm pondering is the fact that most North American tribes seem to have been concerned over just one or two animal powers/allies at a time for a given group (just like you describe), as opposed to the attitude I see in books where people are encouraged to explore many different animals. (I think I've only read of one instance where an Alaskan holy man gathered a handful of different animal allies to himself as part of his training/initiation.) If an average individual only ever needs one type of "medicine," then maybe these modern authors are totally misunderstanding the concept?


I know the number's I've seen for how many totem's a person may have varies greatly.  I've seen everything from 1 to as many as 7.

I do think it gets confusing when you start speaking on "allies" though.  In many of the tribes or nations the "Medicine person" had many allies to assist them in their practice.  Yet an allie was any spirit that the person called upon to aide them in what ever endeavor they were undertaking at the time.  Granted it seem's the most prolific allies were from the plant kingdom and used for healing.
 
Quote
Ah, I'm willing to bet that footage is exactly where the Core Shamans get it from. Navajo + Sun Dance = instant New Age boner.


I still believe a lot of the Sun Dance stuff was inspired by the old Duston Hoffman movies A MAN CALLED HORSE and its sequel.  His character undergoes a Sun Dance and ritual hanging that was pretty graphic in the movie.  Eagle claws into the flesh and being hung became a thing I vaguely recall being spoken of after that came out.

Though I do not recall the Navajo being associated to the Sun Dance though they were really connected to the Kachina dancer's is what I think they were called.

Sage

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2011, 10:33:28 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;3301

I still believe a lot of the Sun Dance stuff was inspired by the old Duston Hoffman movies A MAN CALLED HORSE and its sequel.  His character undergoes a Sun Dance and ritual hanging that was pretty graphic in the movie.  Eagle claws into the flesh and being hung became a thing I vaguely recall being spoken of after that came out.

 
Roots of the Sun Dance have been around since before Dustin Hoffman was alive. It's an actual native practice that, apparently, some less-than-scrupulous folks have been co-opting.
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monsnoleedra

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2011, 11:11:14 am »
Quote from: Sage;3303
Roots of the Sun Dance have been around since before Dustin Hoffman was alive. It's an actual native practice that, apparently, some less-than-scrupulous folks have been co-opting.


Oh I understand that it's just that as far as public awareness of the event it didn't really take hold until after the movies.  Well unless one wants to dig into the Wounded Knee stuff and other battles that occured as the practice was trying to be brough back.

One might equate it to the sudden arrival of Kung Fu upon the scene after many of the Kung Fu movies of the 70's arrived.  After that suddenly every person you ran into was Kicking.  Well that and the song Kung Fu Fighting around the same timeframe.

DragonDaughter

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2011, 11:29:36 am »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;3301


Though I do not recall the Navajo being associated to the Sun Dance though they were really connected to the Kachina dancer's is what I think they were called.

 
No, Kachina's are part of the Hopi traditions, not Dineh.
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Nyktipolos

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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2011, 08:48:57 pm »
Quote from: monsnoleedra;3307
Oh I understand that it's just that as far as public awareness of the event it didn't really take hold until after the movies.  Well unless one wants to dig into the Wounded Knee stuff and other battles that occured as the practice was trying to be brough back.

 
Well, the Sun Dance ritual was illegal in the States until '78 (which was 8 years after this movie was made; in Canada it became legal in '51), so I'd also attribute it's legality to becoming more wide-spread.

However, just because it was illegal doesn't mean it wasn't being practices, just that chances are that non-Native peoples didn't hear about it. When it became legal, of course there is going to be more press and information on it, because the people who are doing it can talk about it with being prosecuted for it.

Although, I'm not saying the movie didn't do anything. I just don't think it's the sole reason. :)
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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2011, 08:51:30 pm »
Quote from: Sage;3303
Roots of the Sun Dance have been around since before Dustin Hoffman was alive. It's an actual native practice that, apparently, some less-than-scrupulous folks have been co-opting.

 
Do you mean non-Native people taking the ritual for their own use, or do you mean similar rituals involving hooks and suspension?
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Re: Animal "Medicine"
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2011, 12:15:11 am »
Quote from: DragonDaughter;3312
No, Kachina's are part of the Hopi traditions, not Dineh.


That makes sense.  I know only the Hopi make offical Kachina's but have heard of Navajo Kachina's so though both had them.

I suppose for me I associate the two together as one reservation (Hopi) lies within the confines of the other (Navajo).  But that mostly comes from a lack of formal knowledge of the two peoples.

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