Power objects, or medicine objects, are tools which can help you in ceremonies, or can help you to communicate with the spirit realm. Smudging equipment and also the pipe are, of course, very important medicine objects. Some people also wear or carry medicine pouches or bags which contain personal power objects that bring them spiritual energy. I have several medicine bags that have come to me from other medicine people. One of them was carried on a whaling ship for a period of time; it was used by the Northwest Coast Indians when they went to sea to hunt whales.
These medicine pouches which have come to me from other people are sometimes called pledges, which means that the gift of them binds us together; that when one of us is in spiritual or physical trouble, the other one is pledged to make medicine, or to actually come to the side of the person who needs help. We’ve pledged our power to each other, and we’ll use it whenever it becomes necessary.
In my own personal medicine bag I keep the pledges that have been given to me. I have four gold coins from some Bronco Apaches. They said they brought the coins to me because I was the only medicine person they knew at that time who they felt really strongly about. They said that they’d seen other medicine people, who seemed locked into their own trips so much, that they didn’t believe in them. So I have those four gold coins, along with many other pledges from different medicine people of many traditions in my pouch, and I carry them with honor. There are other things, too, in my medicine pouch, that I’ve put in there over the years.
Our medicine pouches contain a little bit of sage, a little tobacco, a kernel of corn, a bean, and a squash seed. The last three represent the Three Sisters; they symbolize the beginning and the continuation of the life cycle, and they’re very important to our life path because they’ve provided us with food for thousands of years. I encourage my apprentices, and anyone else who wants to prepare a medicine pouch, to include those items along with their personal power objects.
The medicine pouch is something that you carry with you and work with much of the time. As you work with it, you’ll find that people will bring you gifts of power, and you’ll find many of your own. You might come across a particular stone, or a shell, which feels really strong. We say, it speaks to you. You purify it, make prayers over it, give it away to the Universe, and then place it in your pouch.
If you’re going to do a ceremony, or going to a place where there is a sacred altar, you can place your pouch there if it is alright with the person running the ceremony. For example, you might place it on the altar outside of a sweatlodge. During the time of that ceremony, your pouch will absorb the energy that is coming from the ceremony, the Earth, and the spirits. This will help to make your pouch more powerful.
When you’re going out to cry for a vision, you can hold your pouch and make your prayers, and it will help you to center your energy and be strong.
The medicine pouch may become part of what’s known as a medicine bundle. The bundle can be wrapped in hide or cloth, and may contain, besides your pouch or pouches, your pipe if you have one and want it in there, and whatever other objects you feel are important for making good medicine. It’s really a matter of personal choice; I have one pipe in my most sacred bundle, but I have other pipes which are not included in it. You might put your sage, sweetgrass and smudge bowl into your medicine bundle. You might have a little figure of a bear, or a frog, maybe a crystal … anything which feels powerful to you, with which you make your prayers. I know of many medicine people today who use different kinds of suitcases as their medicine bundles. They have work to do in many places, and their medicine objects are safer travelling in a hard, rather than soft, pouch.
The medicine pouch is rarely opened in front of other people… unless you feel you have a strong reason to open it and share it. You might open your bundle when you are performing ceremonies. For instance, we open the Bear Tribe bundle when new members make their oath to the trible. It is not good to show your bundle casually. You can give away the power of your objects if you do that.
234-236 The Path of Power (Sun Bear, Wabun, and Barry Weinstock) 1983,1987