Indigenous Medicine

Four BlessingsThe ‘medicine’ from indigenous peoples has been passed on by traditions for hundreds and thousands of years.  These traditions include appropriate ritual, ceremony, earth-based healing compounds, as well as interceding in the spiritual world on behalf of another for guidance and information.  Learning about these four pieces will significantly alter how you move through your life, the challenges and transitions, as well as how you sit with no movement and know yourself as your own best friend.

Ritual – These are much like the rituals that we are familiar with from church experiences which use the elements in a sacred way, for instance blessed water or lighting a candle.  Before the advent of paper and the art of ‘journaling’, one might make a cloth bundle of herbs and blow negatively charged emotions into the bundle and bury or burn it to symbolically let go of the feelings.  In all these ways, there is recognition of Nature’s inherent power to transform and heal by using the elements of earth, air, fire and water.  These are simple but profound ways to utilize extraordinary tools through the ordinary. Learning how to use ritual is a basic part of one’s tool kit for connecting life experiences and transitions to the mysteries of the elements.

Ceremony – Similar to today’s graduation or holiday fest, native people’s around the world know the importance of ceremony to acknowledge life’s special times through rites of passage, such as leaving adolescence to become a young adult, or being officially recognized as an elder.  Ceremony is used to hold people accountable within their community as they step up to claim their new empowerment.  For example, this is a primary purpose in making a wedding public – to affirm the married couple’s commitment to their world.  Calling on the God of one’s forefather’s is an integral part of ceremony, as it binds the individual and community in allegiance to a declared plan for the future, and often asks for spiritual help for those involved on a new life journey. Learning how to create ceremony to observe special times is important.  This functions to honor all participants and the earth that holds our lives as well as recognize the spiritual component that holds it all together.

Earth-based Healing Compounds – Herbs, minerals and animal by-products are all important in the world of allopathic pharmacopeia and native people’s historical contexts provide that foundation.  Indigenous people everywhere live close to the land and as such look to the earth for their ‘medicine’.  All aspects of nature can be used for both their direct healing capacity as well as spiritual properties.  Everyone understands how scientific components found in plants can help cure dis-ease. Also for instance, frankincense and myrrh were not used by accident – they are known for their ability to influence the spiritual world.  There are many substances from the earth which modern people have forgotten that can be used in this way. Learning from the earth as a teacher provides a direct line to remember this valuable knowledge.

Spiritual World Guidance – Indigenous people assume that a combined role of physician and priest is present when they go to see their ‘medicine’ man or woman.  There are as many ways as there are people when one calls upon the world of spirit for help.  The underlying premise is that one is interceding in the world of spirit on another’s behalf gaining otherwise unavailable information from the world of the unseen.  This all sounds rather mysterious but is as natural as a dream offering symbolism of daily life for example. These are both visually and sensually providing information to our mind-body; one is during sleep and the other primarily when awake.

Utilizing a system of symbols whether, bones, shells, cards, rocks, etc. are often used to assist in gathering information on behalf of someone needing assistance.  A system of divination is best used to gain insight rather than used to predict a future.  These ‘readings’ can be extremely helpful to understand the big picture.

A modern psychological concept is that of disassociation, or post traumatic stress disorder.  In ancient times this was called ‘soul loss’ and is referring to the idea that during a trauma, a ‘piece’ of one’s self splits off, or fragments off from the whole.  These pieces are like balloons on a string and can be brought back.  Sometimes this occurs spontaneously, and other times, they need help to return.  The fragments hold the healing power, the memories, and the special gifts or talents of that part of our being.  There is much to learn about returning those fragmented pieces to help make us whole and this is a high priority on the personal healing path.  It should only be undertaken when you have a safe haven within which to nurture your self throughout the integration process.

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