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Traditional Cherokee Belief System

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Every culture has some superstitions and beliefs of the supernatural The most well known in many cultures the world over is the Medicine Man.

Traditional Cherokees believe that after a person dies, his soul often continues to live as a ghost. Ghosts are believed to have the ability to materialize where some people can see them, although some can not.

Very basic to the Cherokee belief system is the premise that good is rewarded, while evil is punished. Even though the Cherokee strictly believe in this type of justice, there are times when things happen that the system just does not explain. It is often believed that some events that are unexplainable are caused by someone using medicine for evil purposes. Witchcraft among the Cherokee is not at all like that of the non-Indian cultures. To understand and respect the beliefs of traditional Cherokees about using medicine, conjuring, and witchcraft, you must first consider the early types of Indian societies, and consider how this has remained an integral part of Cherokee culture.

Today, many Cherokees still consult with medicine people regarding problems, both mental and physical. Some believe in using both Cherokee medicine and licensed medical doctors and the health care systems. Some Cherokee today, however, will not see a medicine man for any reason and refuse to acknowledge their powers.

The knowledge held by the medicine men or women is very broad in spectrum. They work for years committing to memory the syllabary manuscripts passed to them by the ones who taught them. Many formulas have been documented in Cherokee syllabary writing in books ranging from small notebooks to full-blown ledgers. If the words are not spoken or sung in the Cherokee language, they will have no affect. Until the words have been memorized, the medicine person will refer to his book. This does not compromise his abilities, as modern medical practitioners often refer to reference books, too. The writings in these books are strictly guarded and anyone who is not in training is strictly forbidden to study or read the books. The words are usually accompanied by a physical procedure, such as the use of a specially prepared tobacco, or drink. Medicine people must be, and must remain, in perfect health for their powers to be at peak. Their breath and saliva contain the powers of their life-force, and are used in their medicine.

As far as the witches referred to above, there are ordinary witches and killer witches. Ordinary witches are considered more dangerous since a person can never be sure he is dealing with one, and they are more difficult to counteract. They may deceive a medicine person, and cause them to prescribe the wrong cure if not guarded. One killer witch who is still spoke of often in the Cherokee Nation is the Raven Mocker.

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