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The Sacred Medicine
By David M. Rountree. From: Native
- Trail Of No More Tears
Is the most holy of holies among all
the Native American First People of the plains and most of the
woodland and mountain tribes. Stewardship of these bundles is
usually vested in a member of a tribal clan or society, although
the power of the bundle is believed to be beneficial to the
entire tribe or band. The bundles are opened on specific occasions,
and according to precise ritual. Each bundle contains a varied
collection of objects and representations of spiritual significance,
from animal skins and effigies to ceremonial pipes. Most medicine
bundles have been passed down from one keeper to another over
such a long span of time that their origins have become shrouded
in mystery and myth.
A medicine bundle is a wrapped package
used by Native Americans for religious purposes. A package of
this type may also be referred to as a medicine bag. Medicine
bundles are usually employed as a ritual aid in the observance
of their religions. The size of a medicine bundle generally
varies from 12 to 14 inches in length, but could be larger.
It is usually a collection of various
items that might include seeds, pine cones, grass, animal teeth
or claws, horse hair, rocks, crystals, tobacco, beads, arrowheads,
bones, or anything else of relatively small size that possesses
spiritual value to the bundle's keeper. A shaman's bundle generally
contains more items than a warrior's or woman's bundle, and
may include such objects as bone rattles, skins from unborn
animals, and the shaman's hair and nail clippings.
The contents of a medicine bundle
are generally considered holy by the tribal community, and are
meant to be kept secret by the keeper. The contents of a medicine
bundle are not meant to touch the ground. This is why they are
to be securely wrapped. Prayers and rituals almost invariably
accompany the making and opening of medicine bundles, and women
rarely handle them, except in certain matriarchal clans. Of
course, women might have their own personal medicine bag. A
medicine bundle may be passed down as a generational inheritance.
A medicine bundle is considered a
very precious possession which represents a person's spiritual
life, and may possess powers for protection and healing. As
the owner grows older, more items may be added to it. Personal
medicine bundles are usually buried with the owner, or passed
on to a friend upon the owner's death.
Medicine bundles may also be maintained
for an entire tribe. A tribal medicine bundle is usually much
larger and contains special objects which may only be handled
by certain tribe members. It is only opened on special occasions.
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