Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who are the #Shawnee: Shamans and #religion

The Shawnee Shaman

Welcome back to the "Who are the Shawnee" series. Last week, I introduced you to the village leadership duality of the Shawnee peace and war chiefs. Another important person in the Shawnee village was the medicine man or healer. The Shawnee were considered by many of their neighboring tribes as the best healers on earth. In fact, many neighboring tribes believed the Shawnees had been blessed with magical healing abilities because they were able to heal many wounds and ailments whose cures alluded outsiders. 

The most powerful of all healers among the Shawnee were the shamans. It was very rare for a Shawnee to ever encountered one. Most of the neighboring tribes believed Shawnee shamans were the most powerful shamans to walk the earth. 

The Shawnee shaman was believed to be specially created by Our Grandmother (the feminine deity believed by the Shawnee to have created everything) to remind her people how to live by her creeds or laws. Our Grandmother, the guides and spirits had pity upon the Shawnee because they were believed to be like children who needed constant reminders of how to live their lives. If the Shawnee faithfully followed the creeds then their lives would be good. If they did not then something bad would happen to them such as illness, mistakes and natural disasters. It was the shaman's job to remind the Shawnee how to behave according to Our Grandmother's will. 

Despite how important they were to the people some Shawnee divisions did not fully support
shamans. Shawnees were very conservative. So much so that they were rarely influenced by their neighboring tribes. The Shawnee were very superstitious people who believed in witchcraft. A Shawnee witch was able to transform into the image of someone or something to influence their victim and was able to cast spells. The Kishpoko division believed shamans were not the creator's messengers but were witches. Thus, it was rare for a Kishpoko to follow a shaman. They were not opposed to following a medicine man or healer, though.  Some Shawnee warriors did possess shamanic powers. These warriors were able to transform into large, ferocious beasts who could win any battle or they would become tiny insects in order to escape from dangerous situations.

There were different organizations within the Shawnee culture. Each organization had their own membership requirements and served an unique function within the Shawnee culture. The shaman of the Shawnee were members of the Juggling Society. Membership into the Juggling Society could be quite deadly if the initiate was not a shaman. An eight year boy was clubbed unconscious then his body would mutilated.  Afterwards his head would be removed and set aside. The shaman would carry the boy's head back to the sacred lands while wild dogs fed on the rest of the boys body in the wilderness. The shaman would lay the boy's head on leaves inside the lodge. The wild dogs, full of the child' remains would gather next to the head then vomit everything they had consumed. The remains and the head sat in the leaves. The shamans would dance around and chat until the boy's body was renewed as if nothing had happened to him and his spirit once again dwelled with his body.

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