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The Origin of the Curing Ceremony

Bringing medicine into the world

[T]he One Who Made the Earth…planned for each person to have a piece of land that he could live on and call his own. Our people were living in one such place, but they didn’t like that particular spot. So the One Who Made the Earth told them to move to a new location, and when they did, they slept well, and liked it, and lived in a good way. Then two men among them became sick and grew weaker by the day…. The One Who Made the Earth said, “Why don’t you do something for those two men? Why don’t you say some words over them?” But the people had no knowledge of curing ceremonies. Four men among the people happened to be standing, one to the east, one to the south, one to the west, and one to the north. The One who Made the Earth spoke to one of these men, telling him, “Everything on earth has power to cause its own kind of sickness, make its own trouble. There is a way to cure all these things.” Now this man understood that knowledge was available.

— from “The Origin of the Curing Ceremony” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

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The curing ceremony is a practice among the White Mountain Apache, which the Creator bestowed upon them to bring medicine into the world. The above version is based on a version reported by Grenville Goodwin (1907–1940), a largely self-taught ethnologist who in the 1930s worked with and, for nearly a decade, lived among the Apache.

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[T]he One Who Made the Earth…planned for each person to have a piece of land that he could live on and call his own. Our people were living in one such place, but they didn’t like that particular spot. So the One Who Made the Earth told them to move to a new location, and when they did, they slept well, and liked it, and lived in a good way. Then two men among them became sick and grew weaker by the day…. The One Who Made the Earth said, “Why don’t you do something for those two men? Why don’t you say some words over them?” But the people had no knowledge of curing ceremonies. Four men among the people happened to be standing, one to the east, one to the south, one to the west, and one to the north. The One who Made the Earth spoke to one of these men, telling him, “Everything on earth has power to cause its own kind of sickness, make its own trouble. There is a way to cure all these things.” Now this man understood that knowledge was available.

— from “The Origin of the Curing Ceremony” in American Indian Myths and Legends (Pantheon 1984), Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

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The curing ceremony is a practice among the White Mountain Apache, which the Creator bestowed upon them to bring medicine into the world. The above version is based on a version reported by Grenville Goodwin (1907–1940), a largely self-taught ethnologist who in the 1930s worked with and, for nearly a decade, lived among the Apache.

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