Norman Allan
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Dr. Allan's Medicine Show

page 4


sweet grass, tobacco,
sagebrush, cedar...


the four great medicines of
native North America


As the Indians burn incense to cleanse and revere, so the native North American burn "medicines", and use the smoke/smudge for spiritual purposes. The four great medicines are: sagebrush and cedar, sweet grass, and tobacco. Commonly, when first nations speaker speak of "medicine", they are refering to these.

Cedar: the smoke of cedar is used for spiritual cleansing.

Sagebrush: the smoke/smudge of sagebrush/Artemisia ludoviciana is also used for spiritual cleansing. (Note that "sage", Salvia officinalis, is a european herb. However, it is now often used in native ceremonies.)

Sweet grass: for ceremonial use this a fragrent grass is dried and braided. It is used for a blessing, a harmonising.


to understand tobacco you must know the pipe.

the pipe is "the sacrament" (the wine and the wafer). the pipe binds the men and women
and the smoke ties to spirit, Manitou, the mystery, the creator - an intelligent dynamic in the
happening. so tobacco is a sacred offering of respect, for instance to the cedar when we
harvest/prune, to our teachers, elders,medicine people.

tobacco pervades the rituals, as an offering, and to consecrate (see ties)

when we smoke the pipe, we smudge (ourselves) and offer a puff to each of the four direction.

(the "ties" of tobacco, will be offered to a ceremonial fire. (see sweatlodge)



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I associate medicines with the four directions thus:

in the East


sage brush





Nando/Sac Balam honours the eagle in the east: the eagle's gift is vision...

the wolf in the south: the wolf's gift is kindness...

the buffalo in the west: the buffalo's gift is patience...

the bear in the north: the bear's gifts are clarity and healing...





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