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Native American Healing Traditions

Tools and Healing Practices

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Native American Shaman with Pipe

Native American Shaman with Pipe

Archive Photos: Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Many healing practices and spiritual ceremonies that are being practiced today by healing practitioners and metaphysical groups have been adopted from traditions that originated from various Native American tribes. History indicates that each tribe would have one or more elders who were groomed in the healing arts. These individuals would serve as herbalists, healers, and spirit communicators. The duties and types of healing arts and spiritual ceremonies performed would naturally vary from tribe to tribe.

Tribal Leaders Disapprove of Shamanism Workshops

Today's tribal leaders often frown on terms such as Shamanism, Shaman, and even Medicine Man being used so freely to lure students to learn Native American practices. Disapproval is warranted when seminars and workshops commercially touted as "Native Shamanism" are not purely traditional teachings, but are a packaged blend of studies which include bits of Native American ceremonies along with Wiccan spells, New Age spirituality, and Eastern medicine.

Native American Tools and Traditions

  • Animal Totems: The appearance of birds and animals, either in reality or dreamtime, are considered to be totem messengers offering spiritual guidance.

     

  • Sweat Lodges: The Native American sweat lodge or purification ritual cleans and heals the body, mind, and spirit.

     

  • Dreamcatchers: The earliest dreamcatchers (sacred hoops) were crafted for children to protect them from nightmares.

     

  • Feather Fetishes: Fetishes are sacred objects used as a tool to facilitate an awakening into your whole self, used in prayer, or utilized for protection and healing.

     

  • Prayer Ties: Prayer ties are offered to The Great Spirit in exchange for blessings.

     

  • Smudge Sticks: Using a smoking smudge wand for purification is part of many Native American traditions.

     

  • Ceremonial Peace Pipes: The Native American pipe is smoked in a ceremonial or ritual to call upon the four elements and give an offering to the Great Spirit.

     

  • Curanderismo: Blending and evolution of Native and Hispanic healing techniques involving herbs, sweats, diet, and magick.

     

  • Medicine Wheels: Each direction of the medicine wheel offers its own lessons, color association, and animal spirit guide.

     

  • Talking Sticks: Passing the talking stick from speaker to speaker is a respectful way to communicate and share opinions. This tradition is especially helpful in keeping disagreements from getting out of hand.
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