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Balance in the body and within the community cannot be reached without remembering and respecting ancestral forces that dwell in other realms. Ancestors and spirits are natural members of the Ojibwe community who are summoned in ceremonial treatment within the walls of the Cass Lake Hospital and in other spaces. Ancestral forces serve as actors in the healing treatment and modify the dualistic relationship of patient and medical provider.
Dr. Meness humbly prepares herself to communicate with the ancestors who preserve the authority of the sacred Ojibwe heritage. Guided by the energies of the body, Dr. Meness listens and consequently asks the ancestors to reinstate the balance that they experienced when they lived closer with the Earth and worlds.
The Megis Shell
The Megis Shell and the sacred breath of life inform the origin story and the Ojibwe migration narrative. In the Ojibwe origin story, the Creator united the Four Sacred Elements of the Earth and used the Megis Shell to cast the perfect breath of life that formed Original Man. The Megis Shell reveals itself to guide the community in times of disharmony.1 Dr. Meness alludes to the Megis Shell in traditional medicine because this sacred shell serves as a symbol of the “perfect health” that the patient, healer, and ancestral forces want to restore.
Dr. Meness has the capability to transcend time through essential guideposts in the body and in the natural world, known as seams. These timeless junctures guide Dr. Meness to the origins of the tribe and through the patient’s lifetime. These seams serve as meeting places that connect the spirit world with the human world. They are doorways between temporal dimensions that span to the origin of the Ojibwe and to pre-colonial times. Essential to healing, seams facilitate the exploration of the roots of disruption in the body.
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Traditional medicine uses seams to incorporate ancestral heritage in the healing process. Medicine bridges the biomedical etiology of disease with extensive temporal dimensions that connect the patient to the origins of the Ojibwe.
1. Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. (St. Paul: Indian Country Press & Publications, Inc., 1979).