Cicero Newell - Indian Stories – The Dakota belief concerning insanity
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Indian Stories – Cicero Newell
THERE is insanity among Indians just as there is among white people, but the Indians did not confine their insane in an asylum as we do. They said that when their people became insane they were possessed by evil spirits.
They believed that when a very bad man died his spirit did not go into the grave but that it went out of the flesh-body, where it had always lived, into the air, and that it was of such a nature that it could not be seen by the natural eye. Their Holy Men, however, could see these evil spirits.
Sometimes the evil spirit took possession of the body of a man or woman or even of a little child and drove out the good spirit, just as one person would drive another out of his house and then do anything he wished there while the rightful owner was away.
The Holy Men, who could see the bad spirit, would ask the Great Spirit to drive it out of the one who was possessed, so that the rightful owner could come back.
Sometimes when they drove the wicked spirit out of a good person, it went into the body of an animal and made it mad.
The Indians said that when a man passed into a trance, sometimes one of the evil spirits took possession of the man's body until his spirit came back from the trance. They thought that nearly all insane persons were only possessed by the spirit of some other person.