Healers on the Mountain, and Other Myths of Native American Medicine

Healers on the Mountain, and Other Myths of Native American Medicine by Teresa Pijoan. Little Rock: August House, 1993.219 pp. ISBN 0-87483-269-1 $10.

Teresa Pijoan is uniquely qualified to produce this book. At age seven, she was the only girl selected by the women elders of the San Juan Pueblo to become a story holder. In this collection she shares some sacred stories which were traditionally hidden from strangers to protect the sacred way of life. "They are shared now," she says, "with the understanding that through belief or religion comes the warming of the heart. Healing through ceremony is brought about from the knowledge of creation which is the finest gift of all."

Pijoan's collection begins with an explanation of the elements of the Native American healing process. Central to Native American medicine is the belief that each person has a different spirit and a different perception of his disease, and is therefore a unique case. Healers use ritual fasting, feasting, dancing, meditation and chanting to open the door of the spirit land. Spirits are then summoned to tell of the illness, to secure proper remedies, and are often commanded to leave at the end of the ceremony.

Healers On The Mountain offers traditional stories for cleansing, healing, testing, and preserving the old ways. It is divided into Dreams and Medicine; Myths; Chants; Vision Quests; and Healing Myths. All of the stories show the importance of spiritual harmony, and speak to the power of the spirit to heal the wounded body.

These are not straightforward folktales with simple plot lines and obvious lessons. The myths are sacred stories from the religion of ancient peoples and they speak in mythic terms. The chants which are used to evoke emotions, the vision quests which encourage meditation, and the healing myths whose purpose is to restore balance to the universe, have messages that must be sought out, and then allowed to lodge in the heart.
These are powerful stories, some of them stunning in their images and simplicity, yet at the same time complex in the ways in which they speak to the spirit. The publisher's press release recommends the book to cultural anthropologists, New Age practitioners, Native Americans and Native American aficionados. I recommend it to anyone who seeks to explore the wisdom of ancient ways and who has the patience to learn how those ways can help to heal the the wounded and reconnect us to ourselves and our world.

The Second Story Review, Vol 2, No 3 December 1997
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