When the general public thinks of Native healers and "physicians", the words "Medicine Man" seems to naturally fall out of their mouths. Guess what? This is another situation where there was no gender bias, and there were just as many Medicine Women as Medicine Men.
Each Nation, tribe and village had medicine people; whether male or female was of no consequence. Children who were born with the gift of healing were taken by the medicine person as a young child and taught healing ways. They were taught to recognize the healing plants, trees, roots, berries and wild herbs. They were taught how to make poultices, teas and other healing foods.
Medicine Women were the local psychologists, therapists, physicians and marriage counselors. In some tribes, the Medicine Women were given the responsibility of making the warriors' shields for it was believed that she had special powers that would give those war shields added protection for the owners.
The practicing of medicine ways was a full time job for the responsibility for the well-being and emotional balance of the villagers belonged to the Medicine Woman. In return for her services, she was cared for by the members of the village. She always had food, shelter, her needs met, assistance when it was needed, and special spirit gifts that showed the honor and respect of her people. This was how the Medicine Women were "paid".
The art of being a Medicine Woman has not been lost. There are more practicing Medicine Women alive today than ever before using the same old natural ways combined with the new technology that has been developed. There are herbalists, naturalists, aroma therapists, massage therapists - those who teach spirituality, awareness, meditation skills - and on and on. The Medicine Woman continues to care for her family and loved ones with all the tools available to her so they can walk in balance, and live life in health and harmony. May it ever be so. Aho.
Books to read: