What is a Medicine Bag?
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You might think that a medicine bag should only be carried by a Native American Medicine Man or Healer. That was one type of medicine bag - quite large as it would contain many herbs and articles, sometimes as many as fifty items.
But there is a personal type of Medicine Bag carried by most Native American men. It can range in size from a small pouch to a long bag. A personal Medicine Bag was not for healing others but to maintain personal harmony with the physical, spiritual, and supernatural. A youth might have a small Medicine Bag but as he added experiences, he also added things to his bag over the years, so he might need to replace the bag with one larger in size. Things that were added would include items related to a vision quest, stones, fetishes, sweet grass, sage, bones, hair or fur, roots, leaves or feathers. Each of the items had a special significance in the life of the owner of the bag. As life went on the bag could get quite heavy.
Today, non Native Americans also use Medicine Bags. They are symbols connected to personal protection and power. Some wear a small medicine bag around the neck, under the clothing, or on a belt or saddle or carry it in a purse, pocket, knapsack or briefcase. Some people sleep with their medicine bags under their pillows.
What the bag contains is sacred and good medicine for that person. It can be traditional items or anything else - a locket, photo, key, bullet, or coin, for example.
Traditionally a medicine bag contains something from the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms and from the life of man. Here are some ideas:
Why does Horsekeeping have medicine bags on its site?
"When Zinger, Sassy and Zipper passed away, I knew their spirits would live on but I wanted to celebrate their lives in a commemorative way. For each horse, I hung one of my favorite framed photos in my tack room along with a medicine bag. Inside each bag, I placed some sage from the pasture, a hand carved rock horse fetish and other items personal to each horse. This helped me with closure on the loss of my horses yet was a reminder of what a special part of my life they were."
Why sage in my medicine bag?
"One of my favorite smells is that of sage on the breath of my horses when I bring them in from pasture. That's why I lined the bottom of each medicine bag with sage and put the horse fetish in face down."