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Observations placeholder

Lame Deer - Native American Indians - On rattles



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


Lame Deer Seeker of Visions – John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes

The gourds, the rattles called wagmuha, are most important for the ceremony [of yuwipi]. You put them at the sides of the altar. There should be two of them, though some medicine men use four for the different directions. In this case you put the one in the east last. The east side works with the Great spirit and with the morning star.

The rattles are made from a buffalo's scrotum. As far back as people can remember rattles have been used to cure the sick. Long ago we even had men who were specially designated 'keepers of the gourds'. Inside the gourds are the sacred, tiny yuwipi stones. In some cases, men or women cut little squares of skin from their arms and put these into the rattles to help a relative get well.

The sound from the rattles is not music and it does not represent a rattlesnake as some white men believe. These rattles talk to you. If the man who is putting on the ceremony gives you some of the holy herb and puts it in your ear, you will understand what the rattle is saying. This herb has no name in white man's language. It has no green stuff at the top; it is just a root.

When a spirit enters the room during the ceremony, he picks up the rattle and makes a noise with it and he may hit the body of a sick person to make a cure. That rattle travels so fast nobody could ever catch it. This has to do with takuskanskan – the power which moves.

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps