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The Jingle Dress Dance
By Jennifer Whitefeather
Shared with us by FireStarter/Karen
The most beautiful tinkling sound,
like that of rain on a tin roof, can be heard at most powwows
these days. Thanks to the lovely Jingle Dress Dance, people
in attendance can be blessed by a healing ceremony of the Native
The Jingle Dress Dance originated
among the Ojibwe people long ago. According to one legend, a
medicine man of this tribe had a cherished granddaughter who
became rather ill. Of course, her grandfather was very concerned
and his spirit guides appeared to him in a dream one night about
the matter. They showed him several women wearing the Jingle
Dress and doing the Jingle Dance. In the dream, he was taught
how to make the dress, how the steps were to be performed, and
what sort of songs would be appropriate. He was told that the
dance was one of healing; that his granddaughter would be healed
if she did this dance.
In the morning, the medicine man
and his wife put the dress together according to the directions
given to him by his spirit guides. When the dress was finished,
the medicine man and his wife took the dress to their granddaughter.
She wore it into the Circle and had to be carried the first
time around. During the second time, she could walk a little
with assistance. The third time, she was walking on her own,
and by her fourth time around she was dancing the Jingle Dress
Dance!! She was healed. Ever
since, the Jingle Dress Dance has been known to be a medicine
Nowadays, whenever someone needs
healing of their physical, mental, or emotional self, the Jingle
Dancers are called upon. Many healings have taken place; therefore,
the dance is a respected and revered one.
Though frequently utilized for healing
ceremonies, the Jingle Dress is also done in competitions nationwide.
The regalia is a very colorful and bright one, decorated with
beadwork, ribbons, paint, or appliqués and worn with
matching barrettes, purse, leggings, and moccasins. The dress
itself gleams with row after row of jingles numbering into the
several hundreds. (In some versions of this story they say
365, one for each day of the year - Dragonfly)
The jingles are typically made of
the lids from snuff cans. The lids are rolled into bell shapes
and sewn very closely together onto the dress by ribbons. As
each cone is attached, a different prayer is spoken. The closeness
of the jingles results in the lovely tinkling sound that is
produced when the dancer is right in time with the drum.
As with all dances, it is very important
that the Jingle Dancer move her feet in exact time with the
drum and stop precisely when the drum stops. The footwork is
low to the ground and controlled, not high-stepping like that
of the Fancy Shawl Dance. Typically, the steps are done so that
the feet are making parallel movements in a zigzag pattern.
This pattern is said to represent one's zigzagging through the
journey of life.
Today, most Jingle Dancers also wear
Eagle plumes or other feathers on their heads and carry a feather
fan that is raised to reverence the drum during "honor"
beats. In older times, however, the dancers did not wear feathers
and didn't carry the fans; they would raise their hands toward
the drum during honor beats in order to receive healing. Both
styles can still be seen today, although the contemporary version
is the more frequent.
With either style utilized, the Jingle
Dress Dance is a prayer dance of powerful medicine and is a
true blessing to observe and take part in. Those needing healing
of any kind would benefit greatly from this revered form of
Native American curing ceremony.
Copyright: Cinnamon Moon & River WildFire Moon (Founders.)
All rights reserved.
constructed by Dragonfly