Native American Healing Traditions

Tools and Healing Practices

Medicine Man
Native American Medicine Man. MPI / 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.

 Native American healing arts and practices are earth-based, honoring and respectful of the Father Sky, Mother Earth, Grandfather Sun, and Grandmother Moon.

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 as a means 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 Spirits or Totems - 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. My first sweat lodge experience was Gaia themed, honoring the earth mother, and participants mothers and grandmothers.
     
  • Dreamcatchers - The earliest dreamcatchers (sacred hoops) were crafted for children as healing amulets to protect them from nightmares.
     
  • Fetishes - Sacred objects such as feathers, bones, sea shells, animal skins, etc. are used as  tools to facilitate an awakening into your whole self, used in prayer, or utilized for protection and healing. See Feather Fetishes
     
  • Prayer Flags -  Prayer ties or prayer flags made from fabric and tobacco are offered to The Great Spirit in exchange for blessings.
     
  • Smudging - Using a smoking smudge wand for purification is part of many Native American traditions. Common herbs used for smudging include sage, sweetgrass, yerba santa leaves and lavender.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Sacred Hoop / Medicine Wheel - Each direction of the medicine wheels offers its own lessons, color association, and animal spirit guide.
     
  • Talking Stick - Passing the talking sticks 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.
     
  • Healing Amulets - Amulets or talismans associated with Native American practices include shells, crystals and gemstones, rattles, feathers, animal skin and bones, and Zuni fetishes.