Tools & Crafts

Page 8

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Medicine Shields
© Cinnamon Moon

Shields in the physical sense take on many forms as a tool be it private or ceremonial. The ceremonial shield will more often than not be adorned with symbols that represent the purpose of its use relative to the ceremony it is designed to serve. Here you will find the adornments to vary not only due to the ritual use but as to tribal custom as well. While this tribal custom can impact the adornment of a personal shield it is not always the case. Shields tell of their Medicine, and of the individual's Medicine Story. Some are designed for protection while others are designed as working tools to serve a multitude of purposes. They are symbolic of the individual that owns them and reflect many things. Masculine and feminine shields exist as well, and while the familiar shield of the warrior is well-known to us all, the bead-belt shield of women is also found among many different tribal nations. The adornments of these shields depend on their use and will include such things as painted images, painted scenes, feathers, teeth, hooves, pieces of bone, shells, fur, and other items to depict the Medicine of the Shield and the individual that it belongs to.

Let me share an overview of the story behind one of my sacred Shields. Some of you may recall that a friend of mine is a spirit painter and does some amazing work. As a gift to me she offered to paint me a Medicine Shield telling the story of some of my Medicines and pathwork. As I shared stories of things and events that took place in my life she began composing the images she would incorporate into the Shield as we went. One story at a time, one portion at a time, and piece by piece, image by image it began taking form. I shared with her about Cougar and told her what mine was like. On the lower portion there she is, reclining against a hollow standing tree trunk and across her hindquarters is the image of a Medicine Woman in a Dreaming state as Cougar keeps watch. It's a night sky and the full *cinnamon moon* hovers big and bright in the sky overhead. The woman is draped in a blanket trimmed out with Ravens in flight and she wears an earring of a raven. Over her shoulder is a Medicine Pouch with the paw print of a Cougar and four white feathers that hang from the flap. (My friend made me a pouch like this as a surprise to go with the Shield. I have my Sacred Pipe in it.)

To the left and just in front of the sleeping Medicine Woman is a gnarled tree with the face of a Dragon and a root that is it's claw. From behind the tree and at the top of the knoll rise the figures of the Spirit Elders, Ancient Ones, who have come to teach me Women's Medicine. Behind the head of Cougar at the top of the hill to the right, standing beneath an outstretched tree branch stands Coyote watching. As I told her my Medicine Stories, one by one my Guides and Totems began showing themselves to her, letting her become acquainted with them well enough to capture their essence without trapping them in the Shield. It's a fascinating journey just in the way it came about and a lot of time went into the design and painting. There is much I can't say about it but I can tell you that much of my Medicine Story is here and it is a powerful tool. There are two hollow trees through which I can journey both for different purposes and directions. The images shift and take different posed expressions as the light reflects from what she calls her magic paints (luminous oils) and it is alive. I love it and work with it all the time. There are many spirits that work with me from this tool that is a story and a portal and more. It is sacred and it is huge. It is round and 36" across. Painted on canvas, I have not adorned it. It needs nothing more.

Later she gifted me with a second Shield, this one is much smaller, about 8" across, and it has adornments hanging from it for another 8-10" or so. It is meant to be used for protection and my Medicine Work with the Thunder Beings. My shamanic horse has spirit hands on his flanks and withers, down his legs are lightning bolts, he is a black and white Appaloosa who travels from East to West at the moment for that is the way it is hung, but if I want to ride with him in another direction I need merely move the shield and turn it within the Medicine Wheel. He moves from left to right, clockwise, and is very versatile in this way. Above him fly 4 Ravens as he is in the foreground of a dust storm arising from his hooves. He trots atop the curve of Mother Earth beneath a night sky. This shield is adorned with fringe, a mirror, White Sage, beads, and feathers all representing aspects of the Medicine it holds. It's journey story is unusual, as it had work to do before it came to me, went through some cleansings and alterations and came as a gift I had not expected to receive. When it arrived I saw it for what it was, and we had a good laugh for I had such a horse, in the spiritual sense and in the physical sense. The Thunder Beings were symbolized in the painted markings of the horse and she didn't even know what they stood for at the time. She felt she was to paint them and did. It was a round-about way of coming to me but it was certainly guided through the inspiration she received and I have certainly been blessed by it.

In painting my Dreaming Woman Shield my Totems and Guides appeared to her. She described their personalities or would ask me questions that I would clarify issues on and we did a lot of work with the Totems as I would validate the visions she was getting as she painted. It was a fascinating process, and there is such love, such spirit in them that they are indeed sacred treasures. I learned a great deal from her work, and there is a bond between us that grew even deeper through this process. But they are only a sampling of what a shield can represent. If a Healer were to have a shield painted it might depict herbs, Spirit Allies, Totems, and different aspects of their Medicine in ways that tell others what their capabilities are. Warriors would have a shield of battle stories or the Medicine they carry to fight with. A Medicine Chief might have a shield depicting that he or she were a Pipe Carrier, a Sacred Hoop Dancer, a Singer, a Storyteller, a Heyokah, a Spirit Keeper (guardian of the spirits of those who had Dropped their Robes), or some other sacred holy role in the tribe. In the days when the tipi stood at the river banks or out on the prairie such shields were hung outside the door to signify who dwelled inside. Up near the smoke hole, on a forked stick at the edge of the lodge, or attached near the door, the Shield was always in view for all to see.

All of these shields are Medicine tools in one fashion or another depending on the intent by which they are fashioned, and all of them are considered sacred. In some tribes women bead belts depicting their Medicines and wear them around the waist or keep them in a sacred place as part of their ceremonial regalia as a belt Shield while others beaded their dresses. The Shields are Mirrors of Medicines. There are many kinds: Men's Shields, Women's Shields, Children's Shields, Peace Shields, and Sacred Shields to mention a few. In the tradition of the Plains tribes there were originally 12 Sacred Shields that were each in the care of a Shield Keeper and brought together for union at the annual Renewal Ceremony. They were placed inside the Sun Dance Lodge to hang from 12 forked Poles and afterward their Keepers took them home, each to a different Tribe. They were known as the Shields of Light and their Keepers were the most powerful and respected among their own Peoples. They were Medicine People such as the Healers, Diviners, and Teachers of all kinds. They would carry the Shields from camp to camp, to teach the stories. Each Shield represented the 12 Tribes of the Earth, 2 of which were Indian, 10 were of other cultures. Hence the Sacred Shields represented all of humanity.

The Chief Shields (44 in number) are tied to these 12 Sacred Shields, each telling a part of the story. And from there each person was a keeper of their own Shield that told their story, their Medicine. Often such Shields hold the symbol or Clan sign to which that person belongs. They tell of who the person is, what they strive to become, their loves, fears, and dreams combined in a visual story form through the pictures painted on them and the things that adorn them. The name of the person usually is reflective of their Medicine and the story of their Shield holds that too. In this way anyone who sees the Shield "knows" the person it belongs to. In this way others learn who the person is and they need not ask unless they wish to be taught more. It is a way of mirroring yourself to the world, and it is a way of honoring each person for who they are. Perhaps in exploring the use of Shields this far, you will find you would like one for yourself, I know I cherish mine and love working with them as more than just my story, they are also part of my Medicine and as I said earlier, they are powerful tools as well.

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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