What’s a Native American Medicine Bag?

A Native American medicine bag is a small leather bag or pouch that contains various healing objects. They are often painted or beaded with designs specific for the wearer. This is done to entice or invoke the spirit of the animal, figure or symbol.

What’s inside is another story. A medicine bag can contain innumerable objects. These objects are as unique as the person wearing it. Many people add their own “medicine” or healing objects. Although, most often a medicine person or indigenous healer will make the bag and add the contents. Common medicine bag objects are stones, ash from a ceremony fire, roots and barks, herbs, feathers, dirt from a ceremonial ground, or wood from a tree struck by lightening.

Many people like their medicine bags very ornate and fancy, but in reality the bag should be downplayed. This is especially true when a medicine bag is made for protection, for instance, protection from jealousy, enemies, negativity, bad spirits, illness and the list goes on and on. A medicine bag is kind of like an “ace up your sleeve”. Or maybe like a spray can of mace or another self defense weapon. You keep it handy, but you don’t wave it around or threaten folks with it.

Medicine bags or pouches last a long time. They are made of leather and are extremely durable. But there comes a time when the medicine bag just wears out. The neck cord has broken so often it may look like a string of knots. The leather has worn down and looks like it’s been left out in the rain too long. What do you do with it at this stage? You can take the contents of the bag out and put them into another bag or you can leave the contents in the bag. You take the bag to a remote location. Somewhere that people seldom go to. Then hang the medicine bag or pouch in a tree where it’s barely visible.

The helping birds such as ravens, crows, eagles, or hawks and the “invisible beings” such as angels or guardians will disassemble the bag and remove all traces of it. Some people have been known to bury their bags. But this isn’t recommended. In the earth the bag will continue to exist and the special medicine belonging to it could be dug up and innocently or not so innocently misused. There are stories of ancient medicine pouches that were found, taken home or put in a museum and then all sorts of terrible things began to happen. Anyway, it is much better to let the angelic beings and our helper birds take care of something as precious as a medicine bag.

A Look at Native American Medicine Bags

You would think that because it is called a medicine bag that it has actual medicine inside. Well technically, it holds natural elements and healing herbs that are important to the wearer. In Native American culture, these items offer holistic cures and protection both physically as well as spiritually. Can modern medicine do that for you?

Those who claim to possess healing powers are not the only people who use Native American medicine bags. They hold specially chosen items such as herbal plants and stones. Worn by most Indians for personal uses, these bags are a normal part of the Native American culture. The most popular size of a medicine bag is very small and can be worn around the neck. To maintain personal harmony which consists of the spiritual, physical and the supernatural, many people choose to wear a medicine bag. The contents of a medicine bag will change throughout life as the needs of an individual change. Items of importance to the wearer are placed in the bag such as various herbs. Some of these can be found in nature and the everyday experiences of men. They could be classified into the plant kingdom, animal kingdom, mineral kingdom and the things seen in the world of man.

The appeal of Native American medicine bags has become widespread and it is being used now by non native Indians as a form of protection and a source of power. Not only worn, many people place them wherever they want and even under the pillow while they sleep. The common material used for the creation of these bags is very soft leather.

To enhance the supernatural and spiritual abilities of the wearer, healers often use the contents to perform the ritual known as vision quest. It would then promote an increase in physical strength, agility, skills in fighting as well as healing. The intense spiritual connections and beliefs in the supernatural make Native Americans really interesting and the use of various kinds of herbs in a specialized pouch makes the experience more grounded because for Native Americans, the connection between nature and spirituality are very tightly knit. To enhance the quality of life of the individual, every herb or item used responds to a certain kind of spiritual euphoria to attain something desired.

The allure of the Native American medicine bag is still present although modern medicine and practical knowledge is available to everyone now days. Having a Native Indian medicine bag is something of homage to the beautiful culture as well as hand craftsmanship of the great American Indians of the United States.