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The Medicine Man Illustration

The Story of the Medicine Man

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All day long the young Indian boy had been standing on top of a high mountain meadow looking at the sun. In back of him sat an old man who watched the boy as carefully as the boy watched the sun.

Occasionally the old one made passes over a round pottery vessel that contained a combination of many herbs. These herbs were the old man's medicine for the boy. The boy was his, so to speak; the boy had been given to the old man when he was just a small baby and the old one had raised him as a medicine man. He was now in the process of giving the boy the final training that would allow the boy the full privileges and rank of medicine man.

All the young boy's life he had been in training for work he would soon be doing. It had started long before he could recall. The woman he was turned over to for the first years of his life had been given detailed orders about the things he would be allowed to do and the things he must not do. He was never allowed to play as ordinary children played. He was taught from the first to lie still and not to cry, then to listen and not talk, and last, when his mind began to work, he was taught to remember and not to forget.

He spend endless hours by the side of the old man listening to stories about the past of the great Indians and about the things to come. He tended the sacred fire for weeks at a time and sat without moving until at times the bones of his body grew stiff and cold. Always after listening to the stories of how the world came to be and how all things were made and why these things were, the old man made the boy repeat them until they were right in his mind.

The training went on all the time, from the early morning until the council fire was allowed to burn down to live ashes at night.

Such was the preparation of a boy's life who would one day be a Medicine Man.


The Making of a Medicine Man: The place and ritual differed in different tribes and areas of the continent, but to most tribes the gathering and preparation of herbs for medicines was entrusted to the skills of the well-trained few.


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