Sheridan, Clare – The healing medicine of Conquered-by-Night and the NDE of Crazy Crow
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Clare Sheridan – Redskin interlude
The old man went off, smiling and cheerful as ever, but before he reached his tent he collapsed in the snow, and was carried into his tent in a dying condition. Esto and I found him lying on a mattress on the ground; he was unconscious, throwing himself about and rolling his head. His face was contracted, he gasped convulsively and moaned as if in pain.
We tried to do something to help, but Conquered-by-Night [his wife] had shaken herself out of her deaf and blind inertia and was transformed into an active and authoritative person. She had her own methods, which were those of a Medicine-woman. For an hour or more I was a helpless witness of a most extraordinary scene.
A handful of seeds thrown on the fire filled the tent with a sweet scent of aromatic herbs. Kneeling at her husband's side, she produced out of a bag a ‘black weasel’ skin (summer ermine) that had belonged to her famous father and brought him safely through his war-paths. With prayers and incantations she passed it several times round the sick man's head, his neck and wrists, and across his face and chest. Then she took red earth powder, which is the war-paint of the Indians, and with a rhythmic shout rubbed it into his chest, repeating this several times. She would blow into his open mouth, giving him her breath when his failed.
In his unconscious agony he called for smoke, for the sacred precious tobacco; she lit a cigarette and blew the smoke into his face, then removed one of his moccasins and painted the sole of his foot. At intervals she beat his bare breast with an eagle wing.
Their daughter, young, beautiful, sphinx-like, stood by, taking no part.
The final scene was when, all her ministrations having failed, Conquered-by-Night took the old man's head in her lap and began to sing. He had told her, far back, that if ever he were in danger of dying she was to sing his Medicine-song to him, and if he were able to sing it with her he would live.
They were a striking picture in the light of an unshaded lamp on the ground: the old woman in faded red, holding his head tenderly between her bony hands, her head thrown back in an attitude of invocation.
She was so full of courage, although her heart was breaking, she was able to sing. The effect was magic.
Hearing his war-song, Crazy-Crow opened his eyes.
They were glazed and could not focus, one saw the effort of a mind coming-to as though from anaesthetic. In a voice that was like a cracked bell he began to sing with her. Then he sank back exhaustedly, turned on his side and fell asleep. The fight was over, Conquered-by-Night had triumphed.
She covered her face with her hand and surreptitiously wiped away a tear. When the sleeping man stirred, her arm went round him, and at last she lay down by his side, her face close to his, oblivious of our presence.................
Crazy-Crow had slept for several hours and was undoubtedly better, but no White doctor would have allowed him to receive a visitor.
He welcomed me with a gaunt outstretched arm. As he spoke his voice rose and sank, at moments it was a hoarse whisper. The lamp which stood on the ground behind his pillow lit up his fine brow and the bridge of his nose, the rest of him was in shadow.
He was anxious to talk, there were things he wanted to tell.
" Last night, " he began, " when I was unconscious, I went on a long journey, oomey, oomey (far, far!)"- he made a gesture that suggested distance.
" I came to a place- but they sent me back. They said it was not time. "
This was followed by the cryptic statement that if he had gone that way he would never have
returned, but as he went the other way they sent him back.