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Observations placeholder

Rolling Thunder - Beyond Biofeedback by Drs Elmer and Alyce Green – Healing a man who had been kicked with a spiked shoe in a soccer game



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Beyond Biofeedback – Drs Elmer and Alyce Green

One of the conference participants had been kicked with a spiked shoe in a soccer game shortly before coming to Council Grove. The wound on his leg was now clearly infected-inflamed, swollen, and painful. During a discussion as to whether he should leave the conference to seek medical care in Topeka or Kansas City, someone suggested that Rolling Thunder was a healer-maybe he could help. He was asked, and he agreed.

Stanley Krippner introduced Rolling Thunder to the conference audience by telling us about his first meeting with Rolling Thunder and about watching him as he healed a young woman with an injured back. He expressed gratitude to Rolling Thunder for his willingness to share what he could with us and asked that all observe an Indian tradition of not interrupting or asking questions of a speaker until his talk is finished.

Rolling Thunder walked with slow, deliberate steps to the platform and stood for a moment looking at us as we looked at him. Then he said this was the first time he had spoken to a group of white people about spiritual things, that just ten years earlier it would have been impossible. Now things were changing, especially among the young white people who seemed to like Indians and want to learn more from them.

He told of his feelings as he walked among us during the three days he took to make his decision to speak to us. He said, "I felt much good will. You are spiritual people." And so he had told Stanley Krippner that he would speak to us and do a healing ceremony for the injured young man. But he added very firmly that he would reveal none of the medicine man's sacred secrets, they could not yet be revealed, but he would speak as clearly as he could about what he felt was proper for him to say.

Rolling Thunder told us something of the ritual of gathering herbs or any plant or part of plants for healing purposes (he called them "helpers"). It is a spiritual procedure, he said. The plants are not gathered indiscriminately. There are ways of knowing which are the right ones to take, and the plants are told what they are to be used for and that only those that are needed will be taken. The plants are thanked for being of service. In this way, harmony is maintained between the Indians and nature.

Their relationship to animals and to everything in nature is guided by similar attitudes and procedures. He would give us something we could take with us, Rolling Thunder said, and he told us how to make water into medicine. Sometimes Indians are caught without medicine when they need to cure a fever or some other illness.

They fill a glass of water and pray over it when the sun is coming up. Then the Great Spirit's power is strong for bringing forth new life. The prayer is begun when the sun begins to rise and ends when the bottom of the sun is seen. "Let the rays of the sun hit that water and you can make medicine out of it if you want to do that and you need the medicine."

I listened with surprise to Rolling Thunder's formula for making water into medicine. Swami Rama had told me an East Indian ritual for doing the same thing, and it also made me think of the Christian tradition of Holy Water and of Dr. Justa Smith's biochemical research on the effects on plants of water that had been blessed (Smith, 1972) .

People gathered quietly for the healing ceremony. Cameras and tape recorders had been put away. The patient, a young fellow with long hair and a beard, sat at the front of the room. The right leg of his trousers was rolled up to the knee. Those of us sitting in the front rows could see the wounded area. It looked swollen and discoloured. Several members of the conference, including Elmer, stepped up and examined the wound. They found the area surrounding it red and hot and hard to the touch.

Soon Rolling Thunder walked down the center aisle. He wore his old straw hat with the eagle feather in it and carried a small battered suitcase. He approached the patient and said something quietly. The young man removed his shoes.

Rolling Thunder kneeled down, opened his suitcase, and took out his pipe and tobacco and what looked like a part of an eagle's wing or several large eagle feathers fastened together. He took off his hat, placed it on the suitcase, and moved a bowl of raw meat (which had been brought at his request) toward his patient's feet. He stood up, filled his pipe and took out a match. Turning to us, he explained that when he is with his own people his assistants get things ready for him, even lighting his pipe, but here he must do it himself. He put the pipe to his mouth, struck the match, and took several deep puffs. When he was sure the pipe was well lit, he took it from his mouth and looked out over the audience. Everything was very quiet. Rolling Thunder began his healing ritual.

He drew deeply on his pipe; then, blowing smoke to the east and gesturing with his pipe, he said, "To the east, where the sun rises." Then he faced north, drew deeply again, lifted his pipe in that direction, and said, "To the north, where the cold comes from," and he continued the procedure to each direction: "To the south, where the light comes from"; "To the west, where the sun sets"; upward "to the Father Sun" and downward "to the Mother Earth."

Rolling Thunder turned toward his patient, handed him the pipe, and told him to take three deep puffs. The young man drew deeply on the pipe and handed it back. Rolling Thunder asked him why he wanted to be healed, what he was going to do, was there anything else he wanted to say? The young man explained about his injury and said he was worried about it.

Again Rolling Thunder asked him what he was going to do, why it was important that this infection should be taken away. This time the young man explained that he was involved in an important project and he needed to be well. It was evident that Rolling Thunder accepted the answer as sufficient. Turning his back toward the audience, he faced his patient squarely and began an odd, high-pitched cry. There followed a strange sequence of actions in which, with his mouth, he seemed to be symbolically drawing the infection into himself and dispelling it. Then he picked up the eagle wing and used it like a brush, as if sweeping something away from the patient's body, from his head to his feet, but without touching the body or the clothes. Occasionally he would stop to shake the brush vigorously over the bowl of meat, as if gathering something undesirable from a subtle body surrounding the man and casting it away.

Presently, the healing ceremony was over. Rolling Thunder picked up his suitcase and hat and walked out of the conference room. Again the people who had examined the wound before the ceremony went up to look at it. The consensus was that it seemed somewhat less swollen, some of the redness was gone, and the flesh around the wound was less rigid. The young man said the pain was gone. During the coffee hour following the evening meeting we noticed he was playing ping- pong.

The next day the wound seemed to be healing satisfactorily. What had seemed to be a serious infection the night before no longer appeared threatening. There was no pain, and the tissues surrounding the wounded were flexible and soft to the touch. Pain is notoriously controllable through suggestion (the healing ritual was a powerful suggestion), and the absence of pain may be explainable in that way. The rapid change in the tissues might seem more difficult to explain. Since we did not study Rolling Thunder's healing techniques in our laboratory, there is little we can say of a technical nature.

The source of the experience

Rolling Thunder

Concepts, symbols and science items



Activities and commonsteps



Being badly wounded