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Ojibwa Shaman's Ritual Material

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Ojibwa Shaman's Ritual Material
AN OJIBWA SHAMAN'S RITUAL MATERIALc. 1880 consisting of ceremonial regalia and associated artifacts, including a hand drum, several rattles, pipes, charms, herbal medicines, weasel skins, and a series of native pen drawingsThis collection was acquired in the 1920s by Alfred A. Allorecht from Johnny Martin at the Plains Ojibwa community of Swan Lake in southern Manitoba. This was during a period when the Canadian government suppressed native religious ceremonials, and when many elderly Indians discarded their ceremonial regalia. This collection consists of at least two groups of objects, each associated with a different religious cult. The heavily fringed costume and the mask with its long crooked nose is the typical outfit of a Windigokan, aka Cannibal, Clown, or Fools dancer. The Windigokanek was a society of masked dancers who represented cannibalistic ice giants, believed to live in the far north, and prominent in Plains Ojibwa folklore. The leaders of this cult were people who had dreamed of these giants or of thunderbirds, the latter referred to by the large crooked nose of their masks. By means of their dance this cult group was believed to exorcise the demons of disease, who used to invade the Indian camps in wintertime. The Windigokan also used their herbal medicines in curing sick people. The many small moccasins attached to this particular costume may refer to success in curing children. This costume, made of tanned and smoked hide, may pre-date the late nineteenth century, since when Windigokan costumes were commonly made of old pieces of canvas. Part of this group of objects is an additional long-nosed mask made of canvas, the drum with its cloth cover, the bulbous rattles, and perhaps some of the herbal medicines. The second group of artifacts consists of some beadwork decorated charms or scapulars, the weasel skins, pipes, a pouch filled with sticks, a roll of birchbark, the flat circular rattle, and perhaps the roots. These objects were associated with the Metawin (Midewiwin) or Grand Medicine Lodge, the most important religious institution of the Ojibwa, with branches or "lodges" from Wisconsin westwards as far as Saskatchewan. This organization instructed its members in herbal and shamanistic knowledge, used in the securing of a healthy life. The Plains Ojibwa ascribed the origin of theMetawin to Nanapus a legendary culture hero who interceded between human beings and the spirits. The organization consisted of four degrees, each with increasing levels of esoteric knowledge transmitted to its members. The beadworked black cloth panels in this collection have small pockets at the back, each containing a small cowrie shell, and each shell referring to magical power transferred to the owner during the rituals of this society. These scapulars were worn on the breast by the initiated members. On one of these scapulars a human figure is pictured with its elbows and knees indicated. This is the scapular of a Metawin member of the second degree, on account of having had magic shells placed on his joints, thereby giving him clairvoyance in hunting. The beadwork on the large scapular pictures the spirits of bear and underwater monster, two of the most important manitos in the Metawin rituals. The two thunderbirds pictured on the strap most probably indicate that the owner of this scapular in his dreams had been adopted by a married couple of thunderbirds.Provenance:Acquired from Johnny Martin by Alfred A. Allorecht at Swan Lake, Manitoba in the 1920s. Arnold Alderman Collection, Hamden, Connecticut.References:Howard, James H. The Plains Ojibwa or Bungi. Vermillion: South Dakota Museum, University of South Dakota, 1965.Skinner, Alanson. "Political Organization, Cults, and Ceremonies of the Plains Ojibway and Plains Cree Indians." Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History Volume XI. New York, 1914.Ted Brasser Peterborough, OntarioJune, 2006Shipping: Clothing, Costumes & Jerseys (view shipping information)