Medicine – A term that is particularly common in discussions of Native American religious traditions and practices. In part, it draws attention to the doctoring or healing powers and abilities of medicine people (e.g., Thomas Yellowtail, Nicholas Black Elk, and Pretty Shield). It also refers to power provided in initiatory and respectful ongoing relationships between holy people and the other-than-human persons who elect and help them. There is considerable debate about whether indigenous terms such as wakan (Lakota), manitou (Ojibwe), and baaxpee (Crow) refer to “metaphysical energies” (which might be tapped somewhat like a “mystical electricity”) or to persons who teach and provide the required abilities and social position for an initiated leader or healer to do his or her work. Clearly these words have rich and resonant ranges of meaning and should certainly not be limited by their translation as “power,” as is commonplace among neo-shamans.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007


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