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Rituals & Ceremonies - Page 2

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Grass Dance of the SiouxPrayer feathers are often tied around the forehead of the deceased, and they are buried with favorite possessions and feathered prayer sticks. Traditional foods and special herbs are served and placed at the grave side.

 

The Navajo perceived that living to an old age was a sign of a life well lived, thus ensuring that the soul would be born again. Alternatively, they felt that if a tribe member died of sudden illness, suicide or violence, a “Chindi, or destructive ghost could cause trouble for the family of the deceased. After life rituals could last for several days with careful thought given to foods and herbs chosen for the celebration, a reflection on how the deceased lived their life. Common herbs used by the Navajo included Broom Snake Weed, Soap Weed, and Utah Juniper.

 

Many tribes who had been converted to Catholicism, also celebrated All Souls' Day, each November 1st, which celebrates the dead. Many believe, that on that day, the spirits return to visit family and friends. In preparation various tribes would prepare food and decorate their homes with ears of corn as blessings for the dead.

 

Green Corn DanceGreen 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 ceremony typically 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. Several tribes 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 Woodland Culture.

 

Healing Rituals - 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.

 

 

 

Hidatsa Medicine Man

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 others.

 

The healing process in Native American Medicine is much different than how most of us see it today. Native American healing includes beliefs and practices that combine religion, spirituality, 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.

In addition to 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.

 

 

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