Legends of Prairie Plants and Flowers & Free E-Book Give-Away

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Today I’ll be giving away another two free e-books to a couple of lucky bloggers.  So come on in and leave a message.  Please see our guidelines for free give-aways — and notice that you must come back either tomorrow or Thursday to see if you are the winner.  Okay?  That said, let’s get on with the blog.

Spring, plants, fresh grass, the smell of good earth and food gathering, and the reminder that the earth refreshes itself every  year.  Many years ago I did a series on preparedness and different plants that one could eat, use for medicine and that sort of thing — in truth, one can never be prepared enough in my consideration.  That said, let me take the time to say that there is much to be considered when talking about herbs, plants, food and medicine.  It is a good idea to know what is okay to eat and what is poisonous — especially in this day and age of high tech  — where governments are less than kind, and are certainly not loyal to the people whom they are supposed to represent.

Much of what I’m going to blog about today comes from the book by Fances Densmore, HOW INDIANS USE WILD PLANTS FOR FOOD, MEDICINE, & CRAFTS.  But let me start by quoting this section, because I found it fascinating:  From page 323 (the book starts on page 285):

 “In the old days the Indians had few diseases, and so there was not a demand for a large variety of medicines.  A medicine man usually treated one special disease and treated it successfully.  He did this in accordance with his dream.  A medicine man would not try to dream of all herbs and treat all diseases, for then he could not expect to succeed in all nor to fulfill property the dream of any one herb or animal.    He would depend on too many and fail in all.  That is one reason why our medicine men lost their power when so many diseases cam among us with the advent of the white man.”    This was said by a Sioux and is quoted in the book.

And one more quote from the book:  “It is a teaching of the Midewiwin that every tree, bush, and plant has a use.”

This is the legend of Winabojo and the Birch Tree.  Winabojo was a human being who was mysterious and had many powers.  As the legend goes, Winabojo was taken by the Thunderbird to his nest, where Winabojo became a play object of the Thunderbird’s children.  However, the Thunderbirds didn’t realize their power and Winabojo became afraid that they would kill him with their play.  In order to escape them, he hid inside a fallen birch tree.  It saved his life because the Thunderbirds could not get to him so long as he hid beneath the “king-child,” so called because the birch tree is their own child.  Winabojo stayed there until the Thunderbirds drifted away and Winabojo said, “As long as the world stands this tree will be a protection and benefit to the human race.  If they want to possess anything, they must wrap it in birch bark and it will not decay.  The bark of this tree will be useful in many ways, and when people want to take the bark from the tree, they must offer tobacco to express their gratitude.”  — From the book, HOW INDIANS USE WILD PLANTS FOR FOOD, MEDICINE & CRAFTS.  Now here’s the interesting part:  Did you know that it is the birch tree that will stand off lightning during a storm?  If you stand beneath a birch tree during a storm, you will not be struck by lightning.  And did you know that the little “pictures” on the bark of the tree are pictures of the little thunderbirds?  Some localities contain more distinct pictures of these children — but the next time you see a birch tree, look for these pictures right there on the bark of the tree.

Over to the left here is Indian hemp or dogbane.  In the old days dogbane was used to ward off evil spells or “bad medicine.”  It was also used as a remedy for headaches.

Interestingly, although the Bible talks about witches, many people don’t believe that they existed.  But the American Indian knew that they did, and had many remedies to counter-act the spells cast by those of evil intentions.

Wild fruits and berries abounded on the Plains.  There were wild strawberries, the wild cherry, red currant, chokecherry, blackberry, raspberry, Juneberries — “Take some Juneberries with you,” is a saying with the Chippewa Indians.  There were wild grapes and blueberries, wild plum trees.  Most fruits and berries were either eaten raw or dried and often were eaten with fat and/or pounded dried buffalo and stored in bags — this is what we know as pemmican.

And did you know that the common milkweed was used as a vegetable.  The flowers were stewed after being cut up — it’s even reported that sometimes a man might eat this “preserve” before a feast, that he might be able to eat more.

We live in a land full of food, if we could only know it — and one must really, really know it well because there are also plants and fruits in nature that are poisonous and one must be able to distinguish between the two.  But for the American Indian, who was trained from birth to know what was edible and what wasn’t, the world was full of mystery, food, and adventure.  Is it any wonder, then, that the American Indian would venture out into the world with nothing on him but the clothes on his back and his weapons.  When one knows what to look for in Nature, Nature does provide.

Did you know that my books are filled with little bits of the American Indian culture and wisdom as told to me by elders of the tribe, and also from books? My latest book, BLACK EAGLE, is on sale now — you can purchase it here:  http://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5640/black-eagle

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Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.

26 Comments

  1. Wow Karen, that is really interesting, informative with an added bit of wit, wisdom and fun. They used bark of the willow I knew for medicinal purposes, it is used for fevers too I believe. Anyway I like all you post on the blogs about the life and times of the real Native Americans, their diverse history, culture and more. Thanks for the info.

    1. Hi Elaine!

      Thank you for very much. You know, I found the information on the birch tree to be fascinating. I didn’t know about the willow and its medicinal purposes, but since it was so numerous on the plains, I can imagine that it was used, also. : )

  2. What an intriguing post. I always learn so much. I studied some of the European remedies using herbs. Modern medicine is taking a look at them as well in some cases.

    1. Hi Debra!

      So interesting. Before the advent of drugs, it was herbs, food and nutrition (as well as perhaps some help from the medicine man) that produced healing. So it would be no wonder that modern medicine is looking at it also, but I doubt that modern medicine would ever use nothing but the natural herb due to the fact that it cannot be patened — I think that’s how you spell it.

  3. Kay, I always enjoy your posts. You present so much interesting and useful information! This post is particularly helpful. Thank you for the treat. 🙂

    1. Hi Kathleen!

      Thank you so much. That’s so very kind. : )

  4. Interesting post today. Too bad we aren’t trained these days as to what is safe to eat in nature.

  5. Hi Janine!

    It’s true, but it can still be learned — there are books out there on the subject and that sort of thing. But I don’t think I’d ever rely on a book — I think I would want to be trained in it. : ) — Just for safety.

  6. Hi Karen! Enjoyed learning more of the first people here and their culture. I especially liked the idea that a person can’t get struck by lightning under a birch tree. I wonder what phenomenon causes that! Just fascinating.

    1. You know, I really liked that, too. I thought — how unusual and I was wondering, too, about why this would be. Interesting…

  7. Considering I have seen more than one birch tree which has been struck by lightning (and even one that was felled by lightning), I really don’t think I would stand under one during thunder storm.

    1. Now, that’s interesting, too. I was always taught to never stand anywhere near a tree during a lightning storm — but I did find this info interesting, nonetheless.

  8. Thank you, Karen. Your post was fascinating. There were so many different tribes from so many different locations in this country alone. I can’t help wonder if the medical practices with their individual cures were ever shared between tribes. Probably doubtful because of the enemy statuses between tribes. I appreciate the knowledge you have shared with us today.

    1. What you say is true. But there was so much adoption of people from enemy tribes, that one does wonder if the info were shared, after all.

  9. Very interesting read, as always!

    1. Hi Vickie!

      Thanks so much. : )

  10. Hi! This was really informative. The only native american healing stuff that I have learned is from watching Walker Texas
    Ranger reruns. lol They have lots of episodes about native american stuff. Your article was really interesting.

    1. Hi Laurie!

      Thanks so much, Laurie! : )

  11. Very interesting info… especially the birch tree… thanks for sharing!

  12. I thought so, too, but Minna posted here that she has seen many birch trees felled by lightning. So not sure how true this info is. : )

  13. Love watching when pbs has a show about the natives in other countries and how they still use plants as medicine. THanks for sharing

  14. I always enjoy reading your post! I learn alot about the Native American ways! Hope to win this e-reader book to add to my collection of your books I’ve read! Thank you for doing the giveaways!

    1. Hi Arlene!

      Thanks so much for your compliments. : ) Does this heart of mine some good. : )

  15. We have numerous birch trees in our yard in Wisconsin. I never really looked at the bark. I will!

    I was also taught never to go near any trees during a lightning storm. Our yard also has many pine trees. We’ve had lightening hit and destroy a couple of them over the past 30 years. They are a lot taller than the birch trees so maybe that’s why it’s safer under the birch trees.

    My son works for the park service. He says to curl up on your tiptoes and get as low to the ground as you can get.

  16. Hi Laurie!

    Interesting info. One of the bloggers mentioned that she has seen birch trees felled by lightning and so I think that it’s mainly legend — not sure I would want to test it. I, too, have been taught to never go under a tree in a thunder storm. : )

    I think your son probably has a good handle on it. : )

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