Ojibwe Medicine - Mshkiki
There are four sacred medicines traditionally used among the Ojibwe People: Tobacco, Sage, Sweet Grass and Cedar. Tobacco is the first and most fundamental medicine. It is used to communicate with the spirit world through offering. The other three medicines have many different uses. The teachings for each medicine go hand in hand with the Medicine Wheel Teachings.
Tobacco - Semaa:
Sacred tobacco was the first of the four medicines to be gifted to the Anishnaabe people by the creator. Tobacco is meant for the use of prayer and offering.
When praying to the creator, s/he can hear you when tobacco is held in the left hand because that is the hand that sits closest to the heart. Holding the tobacco close to the heart helps us to speak and think kind thoughts during our prayer. We then pass the tobacco to our right hand and release it under a tree, into a sacred fire or into water.
In any time that something is taken from the land, a spirit is being removed from its natural state and environment. This could be the smallest rock to the biggest animal. Because the spirit is being displaced, the Ojibwe people will offer tobacco to that spirit as a gift for the energy that that spirit will now share with them. The spirit will accept the gift and use it to communicate with the spirits around to relay the purpose and need of that spirit to the Ojibwe people.
In a time of need for wisdom or guidance from an Elder or spiritual leader, it is mandatory to offer tobacco to them first. If they accept the tobacco, s/he is then bound to honor that request.
Tobacco is also often used in ceremony in conjunction with the other three medicines. During ceremony is the only time tobacco may be smoked. This is only done with a piece pipe that is carried by a pipe carrier.
Sweet Grass - Wiingash:
Sweet grass is a gift from Mother Earth. It is said to be part of her hair and the use of sweet grass promotes strength and kindness. When braiding sweet grass each strand of the braid represents mind, body and spirit. It is also important to remember the teaching of the sweet grass braid and walk that way when wearing a braid in our own hair.
The aroma of burning sweet grass has a calming effect and thus promotes kind thoughts. When smudging with sweet grass it is important to honor the hair of mother earth by smudging our own hair with the smoke.
Prayer and Ceremony:
Since sweet grass promotes strength and kindness it is often used in healing circles and during ceremony to allow postive energy, kind thoughts and kind feelings to surface through any pain and suffering.
Sage - Mashkodewashk:
Sage is the most powerful medicine used in ceremonies due to it's strong aroma and many different healing purposes.
The use of sage during smudging is the cleansing or purification of negative energy and troubling feelings. Ceremonial bundles or objects, places and the body are often smudged by sage. Smudging the body consists of cleansing the five sensory organs, the head, the feet and the back.
Sage is the most common form of medicine used during ceremonies as it is considered to be the most powerful cleanser.
Sage is used for many different healing purposes. Sage can lift headaches and diminish the effects of allergies. Sage can be mixed with other medicines in teas to help with indigestion, menstrual cycle ailments or sore throats. Sage has also been proven to boost the immune system and is an active ingredient for relieving skin conditions such as eczema.
Cedar - Kiizhik:
Cedar is used for purification and bringing balance into yourself. It is also known for attracting positive feelings, energy, and emotions. Cedar is often hung around the home and laid out on the floor of ceremonial lodges to offer protection from bad or harmful energy.
Smudging and Ceremony:
When cedar is offered with tobacco into a fire it makes a crackling sound which is believed to call the attention of the spirits. the spirits will give a stronger passage for the message to be carried through into the spirit world. Cedar can be used in conjunction with smudging because of the properties of purification and balance it brings with its use.
Cedar is used medicinally either as a tea or within a bath as an internal cleanser. Cedar is known to assist in the healing of infection and the high vitamin-C content protects against scurvy and also boosts the immune system.
Each medicine is a gift from one of the four directions. Depending on the community the medicines may differentiate from the direction and teaching that represents it. The reason for this is that each of the medicines traditionally traveled its own path to each community. Both spiritually and physically, medicine would have entered each community through different methods. For example; Sweet Grass could have been carried from the great lakes to a northern community through trade, or sage could have begun to grow to the south of one community and west from another. When addressing the directional representation of each medicine, we must consider the geography, agriculture and traditions of the local communities.
Medicine Men and Women / Healers
Traditional healing methods were conducted by elders usually know known as Medicine Men, Medicine Women or Healers. These elders were the keepers of knowledge that was important to the nation and culture. They were also knowledgeable about plants, herbs and even animal parts that could be used for healing purposes.