Anthropology 232 Mid-term II

Winter Term February 24, 2012

So this is my essay for Anthropology 232 mid-term number two.  I took a little more time with this one so hopefully it results in an A.

Update: I received an A on this paper.  The higher grade was a result of more time spent on the paper, and by not rushing through it I accomplished my goal of an A grade.

Seeking Medicine

In his autobiography, Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior, Two Leggings tells of his pursuit of medicines and medicine bundles throughout his story.  His pursuit of these medicines and medicine bundles was a big part of his early life, and this pursuit takes him on several vision quests in attempt to obtain medicine from the spirits.

The Crow vision quest is a sacred ritual in which a warrior would set out on a journey by himself, or sometimes with other warriors, to a location where he would fast and pray to the Great Above Person.

Before he would take part in this fasting and prayer to the Great Above Person the warrior would soak himself in a sweat bath lodge, and then purify his body with smoke.  The warrior would build a fire and then burn sage or sweet grass over the coals, producing the purifying white smoke that he would then waft over his body.  The warrior would then paint his entire body white with clay, before finally ascending the highest hill or peak around.  This was done to get as close as possible to the Great Above Person, because it was thought that the higher up a warrior was then the louder his prayers would be to them.

Once the warrior reached the spot that he had chosen, he would dig out a comfortable spot in the soil or perhaps place flat stones covered in tree boughs for a resting spot.  He would also build a small shelter out of rocks approximately two feet high to partially protect him from the elements.  The warrior would remain at that site for up to four days, depending upon if he received a vision before those four days had passed, or sometimes depending upon the warriors will to endure the torture he was putting himself through.  He would pray and weep to the spirits looking for them to take pity upon him.  If the spirits took pity upon him then the warrior would be given a vision.  Through these four days of fasting without food or water, the warrior would usually stay awake, but when he did sleep he curled up in his resting spot facing the east and covered himself with a white painted buffalo robe or blanket.

Sometimes the warrior would make a flesh sacrifice to the spirits by cutting off a piece of his flesh or part of his finger.  He would then place the flesh on a buffalo chip, where it was offered to any animal that wanted to eat it.  This was done in hopes that the animal would return after consuming the flesh and be the warrior’s spiritual helper.

Whatever spirit or animal that he saw in his vision was said to be his spirit helper.  When receiving his vision the spiritual helper would give him instructions on where to go and what to do, so that he would be successful in the future.  This spirit helper would give him his medicine and a medicine song that was to be sung when using the medicine.

Once a warrior has received a vision and a medicine from his spiritual helper, he would then return to his people and talk to a medicine man.  The warrior would tell a medicine man of his vision, and the medicine man would interpret the vision as what it meant.  If the medicine man thought the vision strong enough then a medicine bundle would be made.  The medicine man would create the medicine bundle in accordance with instructions that the warrior received during his vision.  He would send the warrior out on the land to find items that represented parts of the vision so that they could be included in the bundle.  The power from the medicine bundle came from the vision received, and the more powerful the vision was then the more powerful the medicine that the bundle possesses.

There were three other ways that a warrior could acquire a medicine bundle.  Those were through heredity, purchasing, or receiving one as a gift.  Medicine bundles could be bought and sold as well as copied.  A warrior may own one medicine bundle or many, although it seems that only was used at any given time.

The warrior would use the bundle that he thought the most powerful or most appropriate, depending upon the raid that he was going on.  Researchers have found that there were eleven different categories of medicine bundles.

Those categories are:
1) Sun Dance Bundles                                    2) War Medicine Bundles

3) Shield Medicine Bundles                           4) Skull Medicine Bundles

5) Rock Medicine Bundles                             6) Medicine Pipe Bundles

7) Love Medicine Bundles                             8) Witchcraft Bundles

9) Healing Medicine Bundles                         10) Hunting Medicine Bundles
11) Society Bundles

Some of these medicine bundles were taken into the field and used on raids, but some were not to be taken into the field or as personal property, and belonged to the group as a whole.

Before a warrior such as Two Leggings would go on the warpath or on a horse raid, he would go through a ritual to put the medicine bundle into use.  He would gather his accomplices if he had any, form a circle, and pass the pipe around for everyone to smoke.  Once the pipe was smoked, He would then purify his hands and face in sweet grass, sage, or bear root smoke.  After purified he would open the bundle and spread the contents over the cover.  As this ritual was being performed, the warrior would sing the medicine songs associated with the bundle.  Usually this would be four times, but sometimes more.  Two leggings believed that it was possible to sing a medicine song too much, which would bring bad luck.  Again, these medicine songs would either be given to him from his spiritual helper during a vision, bought, or be given to the warrior with the bundle.  The contents of the bundle would be used in accordance to tradition, and also be prayed to which was thought to awaken the medicine attached to them.  The contents would then be wrapped back up and put away, and the warrior would go on a raid or on the warpath protected from whatever enemies that he would face.

In his autobiography, Two Leggings and other Crow used these medicine bundles often when going on the warpath or on horse stealing raids; however, Two Leggings often did not possess proper medicine or medicine bundles as a young warrior.  So often he was venturing out unprotected from his enemies.  In fact, he made a couple of false or improper medicine bundles himself, to which he attributes some of his misfortune and failures.  Once outfitted with proper medicine bundles, Two Leggings would go through the sacred ceremony of opening and using them prior to going on the warpath or on a raid.

Medicine and medicine bundles were a big part of Two Leggings’ life, as well as the life of the Crow in those days.  In fact, medicine bundles are still produced and used today by the Crow tribe.

Works Cited

Gondara, Brooke. “Medicine Bundles.” Chief Plenty Coups Electronic Field Trip. Chief Plenty Coups Museum State Park, 2001. Web. 22 Feb. 2012. <‌educate/‌content/‌ssocstudies.html&gt;.

Nabokov, Peter. Two Leggings: The Making of a Crow Warrior. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1967. Print.


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