In traditional Native American culture, one of the most revered objects is the medicine bag (or bundle). Seen in most tribes, the medicine bag is used in precise rituals for various purposes. The keeper of each tribe’s medicine bag is typically known as the medicine man, although anyone may possess a bag of his or her own. The bundles are opened only on special religious occasions and contain special stones, herbs, or any object of importance and meaning.
A common misconception is that a medicine bag contains remedies similar to the modern white man’s definition of “medicine.” In Native American culture, however, medicine refers to anything of spiritual or supernatural power. The medicine man in each tribe was responsible for keeping spiritual and physical life in harmony with nature.
Assembling a medicine bag
Traditional medicine bags were crafted using available materials, commonly tanned buckskin. The bags were made in a variety of sizes depending on the owner’s needs. Each bag was decorated using beads, quills or other natural materials and designs that fit the owner’s style.
The items in a medicine bag were gathered owing to their believed healing power or supernatural abilities. Procuring the items was a tribal custom known as a vision quest. The medicine man would perform acts of personal sacrifice such as fasting and isolation. Once the items were assembled, the bags held special powers for their owner.
Today, you can assemble your own medicine bag using the principles of ancient Native American wisdom:
The first step is to include an item from the plant kingdom. Seeds, nuts, flower petals, dried beans, or even a small bag of tobacco are all great to include. The items should have significance to you.
Next, choose a representative from the mineral kingdom such as a special stone, obsidian, flint, or crystal. This is where your medicine bag will gain a great source of energy. The animal kingdom can be represented by adding a feather, claw, fur, small skull, fetish, or another similar material. Native American belief is that the animal kingdom provides what you need, so keep your eyes open.
After assembling your items, smudging them with sweetgrass or sage smoke prepares them for their spiritual purposes. Expressing thanks and gratitude towards the items in your bag will keep them positive and effective. Your medicine bag will aid you in future challenges, but listen to your inner self. When the time is right to add new items to the bag or remove old ones, you will know.