Rituals & Ceremonies - Page 2
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Corn Festivals - Also called the Green Corn Ceremonies, this both
a celebration and religious
ceremony, primarily practiced by the peoples
of the Eastern Woodlands and the Southeastern
tribes including the Creek,
Cherokee, Seminole, Yuchi, Iroquois, and others. The
coincides in the late summer and is tied to the ripening of the corn
crops. Marked with dancing, feasting, fasting and religious observations,
the ceremony usually lasts for three days. Activities varied from tribe to
tribe, but the common thread is that the corn was not to be eaten until
the Great Spirit has been given his proper thanks. During the event,
tribal members give thanks for the corn, rain, sun, and a good harvest.
Some tribes even believe that they were made from corn by the Great
Spirits. The Green Corn Festival is also a religious renewal, with various
religious ceremonies. During this time, some tribes hold council meetings
where many of the previous year's minor problems or crimes are forgiven.
Others also signify the event as the time of year when youth come of age
and babies are given their names. Severaltribes incorporate ball games
and tournaments in the event. Cleansing and purifying activities often
occur, including cleaning out homes, burning waste, and drinking emetics
to purify the body. At the end of each day of the festival, feasts are
held to celebrate the good harvest. Green Corn festivals are still
practiced today by many different native peoples of the Southeastern
- Symbolic healing rituals and
ceremonies were often held to bring
participants into harmony with themselves, their tribe, and their
environment. Ceremonies were used to help groups of people return to
harmony; but, large ceremonies were generally not used for individual
healing. Varying widely from tribe to tribe, some tribes, such as the
Sioux and Navajo used a medicine wheel, a sacred
hoop, and would sing and dance in
ceremonies that might last for days.
Historic Indian traditions also used many plants and herbs as remedies or
in spiritual celebrations, creating a connection with spirits and the
after life. Some of these plants and herbs used in spiritual rituals
included Sage, Bear Berry, Red Cedar, Sweet Grass, Tobacco, and many
The healing process in
Medicine is much different than how most of us see it today.
Native American healing includes beliefs and practices that combine
herbal medicine, and rituals, that are used for both medical
and emotional conditions. From the Native American perspective, medicine
is more about healing the person than curing a disease. Traditional
healers worked to make the individual “whole,” believing that most
illnesses stem from spiritual problems.
herbal remedies, purifying and cleansing the body is also
important and many tribes used sweat lodges for this purpose. In these
darkened and heated enclosures, a sick individual might be given an herbal
remedy, smoke or rub themselves with sacred plants, and a healer might use
healing practices to drive away angry spirits and invoke the healing
powers of others.
Sometimes healing rituals might involve whole communities, where
participants would sing, dance, paint their bodies, sometimes use
mind-altering substances to persuade the spirits to heal the sick person.
Peyote Worship -
tribes have historically practiced Peyote
were connected with eating or drinking of tea made of peyote buttons, the
dried fruit of a small cactus, officially called Anhalonium or Laphophora.
Native to the lower Rio Grande River and Mexico, the name "mescal" was
wrongly applied to this fruit by many white observers. The
held for specific reasons including healing, baptism, funerals, and other
special occasions. Though many have the impression that peyote was smoked,
this was not the case, as the peyote button will not burn. Instead, the
buttons, either fresh or dried, were eaten or ground into a powder and
drank in a tea.
Rites for these
ceremonies would generally begin in the evening and
continue until the following dawn and were restricted by some tribes
only to men. Like other Indian ceremonies, a fire and incense were also
used to to cleanse the mind and body. The ceremony
also utilized bird feathers, which represented bird power, preferably
those from predator birds, which were strong and thought to protect the
The ceremonies were guided by healers, also known as road men, as they
were thought to guide a person's journey through life. Most often small
drums and rattles were also utilized. The experience is almost identical to
taking lysergic acid dyethylamide, better known as LSD.
Called the "sacred medicine," peyote
ceremonies are still practiced today by various tribes who believe that it
counters the craving for alcohol, heals and teaches righteousness, and is
useful in combating spiritual, physical, and other social ills. Concerned
about the drug's psychoactive effects, between the 1880's and 1930's, U.S.
authorities attempted to ban Native American religious rituals involving
peyote, including the Ghost Dance. Today, the Native American Church is
one among several religious organizations to use peyote as part of its
Pow-Wows - A relatively
modern word, the term derives from the Narragansett word “powwaw,” which
means "spiritual leader." Before the term “pow-wow” became popular, other
words were used to describe these gatherings, such as celebration, doing,
fair, feast, festival, and more. The closest English translation is
“meeting.” Today, it exemplifies all of these events and a modern pow-wow
can be any kind of event that both Native American and non-Native American
people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor American Indian culture.
These events might be specific to a certain tribe or inter-tribal.
Planning for a
pow-wow generally begins months in advance of the event by a group of
people usually referred to as a pow-wow committee and may be sponsored by
a tribal organization, tribe, or any other organization that wishes to
promote Native American culture. These events almost always feature dance
events, some of which are competitive and can last from hours to several
Edward S. Curtis, 1927.