Art & Literature

GIS & Mapping


Base Camp

The Delight Makers

Chapter II. Excerpt on Native spirituality and healing

The Native "believes that nature is pervaded by spiritual essence individualized into and infinite number of distinct powers. Everything in nature had a soul according to him, and it is that soul which causes it to move or to act upon its surroundings in general. This the medical properties of animals, of plants, or minerals, are due to spiritual manifestations. His medical art therefore does not consist merely in eliminating the physical cause of he disease. As soon as any disease is stubborn there must be at the bottom of it some spiritual source, and this source, and this source can be discovered and removed only by magic.

Incantations therefore are an important part of Native medicine. The formulas therefore are the special property of the medicine men, whom we shall hereafter designate with the much more appropriate name of Shamans. The shaman is wizard and physician at the same time. He is also a prophet, augur, and oracle. His duty is not only to protect from evil, but to counteract it. He has charms and incantations which he offers for the production of beneficial natural phenomena.

Magic for such purposes is regarded by the Natives as essential to the existence of man. Magic, however, as a black art is the most heinous crime which he can conceive. The difference between the two consists mainly in their purpose; the manipulations are substantially the same, so are the objects. To know those details is one of the attributes of the shamans.

The latter constitute a circle of their own, - a cluster of adepts, nominally in the arts of healing, but really in the arts of magic. That circle is wide, and whoever stands outside of it has no right to infringe upon the duties of its members by attempting to follow their example. In order to become a member (of a secret healers society) secrecy is required and long apprenticeship. The novice rises slowly from one degree of knowledge to another, and only few attain the high positions."