Monday, March 26, 2012

The Shaman's Medicine Bag and Its Contents

Norman W Wilson, PhD
Author, Publisher

The Shaman's Medicine Bag
and Its Contents
by Norman W Wilson, PhD
Author of Shamanism: What It's All About, and the speculative fiction series, The Shamanic Mysteries.

A disclaimer is necessary. I am not an herbalist, healer or medical doctor, and as such I am not recommending that anyone reading this article should use any of the herbs discussed. As it is with any supplement, one should always consult a doctor.

Medicine Bag
A shaman's medicine bag can be something small enough that could be worn around the neck or large enough so it had to be carried over the shoulder. Generally, and depending upon the reputation of the healer, these bags were plain or had dyed images on them. A few had beaded work. Certainly, it predates the doctor's little black bag.

Shaman's rattles

What then, does the shaman carry in this bag? There will be a variety of amulets representing elements of the spirit world, most likely an eagle's feather, rattles, a hand drum, a soul catcher, and wide selection of herbs and roots. The shaman had many uses for his 'bag' of cures.


Several herbs rank very high on the shamanic list. First, is Angelica whose common name is Masterwort. This plant used as a hot tea breaks up the common cold. Arnica, called Leopard's Bane is used to stop pain of muscle injury, aching joints, and pain caused by arthritis. Barberry is used as a laxative. The common birch tree's bark and leaves are used for the treatment of diarrhea. Pigeon Berry or Poke Root is used in the treatment of syphilis. One more. Sassafras is used to give relief from the after pain of childbirth.

Spirit Healing
 Besides the medicinal use of plants, the shaman used them to ward off evil, to cleanse the soul, and to escort the deceased to the aether world. Sage is often used for this purpose. Sweetgrass, cedar, lemon grass, lavender, Kinnikinnick, Red Willow Bark, and miner's candlestick were pulled from the shaman's medicine bag and used in purification and healing ceremonies.

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Dr. Wilson was just seven years old when he met his first shaman. He and his parents were living in a log cabin in the Baskatong Reserve, Quebec, Canada. The only other humans in the area were a band of First Nation People who still lived in teepees, used canoes for transportation, and hunted with a pack of dogs. His second encounter was with a former college student who was a shaman in training. In writing this collection of essays, Dr. Wilson provides explanation of shamanism and its emphasis on healing.

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