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Medicine Bags

Posted: 12 Jan 2010, 08:05
by Avariel
Hello everyone,

At the start of the Ovate grade, I've felt the urge to a) gather a walking staff, even if it's a symbol for the journeying that I'm about to undertake and b) create a medicine bag. The latter, I would like some help with, although if anyone has any advice or comments on the walking stick then by all means lay those on me, too. So far I've done a little research on medicine bags but it mostly seems like "throw in a bit of your totem animal that you find and some feathers and rocks and you're set!" Which doesn't seem too insightful or too helpful.

The most helpful thing I've read so far is that the bag itself is a physical representation of yourself, so things that are deeply connected to yourself are best put in the bag. I have a "fake" tiger claw to place inside of it (since tigers are endangered and thus I can't get a bit of one because it's illegal to) and I've read that quartz is a good idea, as well, because of it's natural tuning to the human energy field, but after that I'm at a bit of a loss. Do I just chuck some things in there? Are there ceremonies or rituals involved, or dedications? When and how should I carry it and should it be attached to my walking stick or not? Etc.

I may be getting ahead of myself as I don't know whats in the rest of the Ovate grade, but as these urges and instincts to create these things came to me naturally I'm wondering if I'm simply being led to do this. So any guidance anyone has would be great.

Thanks everyone!

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 12 Jan 2010, 09:47
by Dathi

As a lifelong "collector of things" this thread resonates with me. In my case I have a small wooden trunk to keep my "stuff" in. Contents include small family heirlooms, trinkets from significant moments in my life, "stones and bones" gathered over time as well as the paraphenalia used in gwersi activities. The lid serves as a mini altar.

But it to the stave that I wanted to address this post. Much can be done with a stave to make it special. Firstly, best to cut it yourself. Done with a sustainability awareness and with appropriate restect, this is not a problem. Hazel, ash, oak or any tree that feels right is good. It must be a throwback to Boy Scout days, ... out-stave/ but it is a fun thing to do to embellish the stave with momento's of the journey. As wikipedia puts it "More ornate sticks are made for avid hikers, and are often adorned with small trinkets or medallions depicting "conquered" territory."
These pages have some great ideas: ... totems.htm

Otter Oonagh's blog has plenty of inspiration.

For some whimsical background, here is an eBook on the nature and history of walking sticks:

Have a look at these Nyaminyami sticks for examples of spiritual staffs: and and

Or these Masonic staffs: ... ne%22.html

More ideas here: ... page1.html and here: ... ticks.html and here: and here:

Have fun,


Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 12 Jan 2010, 18:58
by Donata
You may find an answer more in keeping with the Ovate Grade if you post in the Ovate Forum.


Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 12 Jan 2010, 21:28
by Avariel
Thanks Donata! I will do so, as well, to get more information, but I'd still like a Shamanic perspective of medicine bags, too :)

Thanks for so many resources, Dathi, I've got someone working a Hazel staff for me (there's only pine where I live, and I wanted some Hazel) but I knew I vaguely wanted to add things to it once it was finished; the little trinkets to represent conquered territory is an excellent concept!

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 13 Jan 2010, 16:56
by Donata
In my shamanic training, our bag is a Mesa, or portable traveling altar. We began it early in the training and added to it all during our work. Items were placed in it that we needed to use for different purposes. For example, we added stones for each cardinal direction as we worked our way around the Medicine Wheel. Also items of importance or meaning from our journeys, gifts from others in the program, etc. These could include more stones, crystals,feathers, acorns, leaves,sticks, whatever had meaning for us. Everyone's Mesa had some items in common, and many that are individual to each of us.

Near the end of the apprenticeship we dedicated and blessed our individual Mesas. Later we aligned or attuned them to our teacher's Mesa, and then did a group blessing to align/attune our individual Mesas to all the Mesas of our group.

I carry an item from my Mesa at all times. Some choose to carry their entire Mesas with them all the time. One man carries his in a brief case. For myself, mine is a bit too heavy to carry all the time. My complete Mesa is in my bedroom in my meditation area.


Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 19 Jan 2010, 22:01
by Moonshadow
Hi Avariel

I recently had the inspiration to aquire a "medicine bag" or "Crane Bag" as part of my journey. I asked a friend, who works in leather to make it for me but now find that I can't get in touch with him. This was making me a little annoyed 'til i realised that, of course, I have to make it myself and this is Spirit's way of telling me!

As Donata suggests, my plan is to put into it the bare bones of what it takes to create a "working space". Directional stones, elemental representations, tools etc. Also I plan to have in it some crystal healing tools and the things needed to make a fire.
After that I guess it will gather things I deem needed for my journey.....always limited by it's capacity or one day I'll be carrying around a large sack!
My own plan is to make it portable enough to carry anytime if I wish. It may be nice to experiment with carrying it all the time for a while to see how that works.
Let us know what form yours takes if it's appropriate to share, and I'll let you know how mine turns out.



Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 29 Jan 2010, 17:38
by Cannaid
I have had many medicine bags/bundles over the years. I appreciate the sacredness of the "responsibility" of the medicine bag/bundle to act as care takers of the items held within however the reality for me is that it is simply a bag/bundle. I have made most of mine in the Anishnabe way including painting and beadwork. It certainly is a spirit item in and of itself but is not the primary source of medicine-merely the holder of the helpers.

I also understand the value of the sacred items held in the bundle having the opportunity to visit with each other. We have a specific ceremony that entails everyone bringing their bundles and placing the bundles together for a few days so that they can visit with each other. It is a magnificent sight to see the mound of bundles chatting with each other.

I have carrried different bags/bundles for different reasons. When I was teaching about the culture my bundle was quite large (a suitcase) holding everything from the medicines to large skulls and pelts. My personal bag/bundle is worn about my neck.

I went on a four day fast ("sitting out" to our Asatru friends) and did not bring a medicine bag/bundle with me. During my prep days I just selected a few helpers and brought them on my person.

At Yule I made my oath to Bride and on that occasion(actually shortly after) my husband presented me with a crane bag. I plan to carry both personal and teaching elements within it.

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 29 Jan 2010, 18:06
by Aitrus
I've got one that holds a coin I earned during survival training as it represents for me a deep ability to live and thrive as one with the wilderness. I also have a small ferro rod and tinder as that represents the element that holds most sway over me: fire.

Avariel, I can make you a bag if you want. I've got the materials.

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 29 Jan 2010, 18:37
by Turtle
So far the idea of a crane bag hasn't really clicked with me. I am a for practical purpose-only kind of pagan it seems, I tend to discard faster than I collect. When out and about I take useful stuff with me like a gaslighter, a small bottle of water, my compass and maybe my journal and a pen. I may on occassion bring incense or a sage stick (home made) or a bit of fruit as an offering to the spirits. But everything else I use in ritual I gather on the location itself. That's my way of connecting with the spirits of the place.

I am just as minimalistic at home. I have very little stuff that is purely soulstuff or I feel to be near irreplacable.

And yet I know find myself making a sort of 'ritualistic' bag. It needs to be practical, the above mentioned objects need to fit. But also I want it to be not too big so it won't get in my way or be uncomfortable. I do put myself in there though; i've picked up knitting again and I find I am quite good making with my hands what appears to be in my minds eye. I found bits and pieces of fabric that I used in my bards cloack so it will match with my cloak which I think is rather a nice idea, building as an ovate on what I started as a bard. I consider this bag that is in the making as my soul piece and Imagine I will add more on more of myself in the design.


Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 29 Jan 2010, 19:08
by Aitrus
Sounds like you use a Possibles Bag. A bag that has a few necessities just in case you get stuck out overnight and need a shelter, fire and something to eat and drink, with a little room left over for the odds and ends you might come across.

The way I look at my medicine bag is that it contains things that resonate personally to me, and that resonance is felt by those that know how to feel for it, and kind of gives them a small insight into who I am and what I'm about.

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 31 Jan 2010, 11:56
by Avariel
Thanks everyone so far, I'm sort of getting an idea of what a medicine bag "is" and what it represents.

Reading all of your responses has given me multiple definitions so far, LOL (of course, what was I expecting ;) you lot are such a bunch of druids sometimes). So far I have:

- A portable, travel sized altar or insta-working space
- A Collection of momentos that are important or mark important moments, like markers on a road or journey
- A symbol of the wearer in their spiritual entirety or as close as a tiny bag can get to being a symbol of a person/spirit
- All of the above

Taking bits and pieces of long hikes, for example, makes sense, and I did something of the sort when I went to the scottish highlands last summer (nicked a small stone from Glencoe, oops) just to have a "piece" of that place with me, so I seem to have a natural tendancy for this anyway, just no way of organizing these pieces and carrying them. Even throughout the bardic grade my altar was very functional, aesthetically pleasing and not very organized (completely me) I mostly just carved a design into the altar top, resanded and restained it and placed objects on it, but as far as having 50 bits and pieces to represent each element, god, and goddess, and spirit, etc, I just didn't go that way. I have a cup from Edinburgh, some candles, a pine flute, and a stone green man (water, fire, air, and earth.)

So throughout reading everyone's responses I'm trying to figure out...what I would "need" in my bag. I know that if I wanted to do a dedication/ritual/etc in the middle of nowhere the elements are all there, anyway. I like using dirt for earth instead of a dirt-colored rock, or etc, for example, so if I'm "out there" I'll take what I find there to represent my elements in my work. So the travel altar space would make sense, but I'd only need to put in maybe a few pieces that I couldn't find out in the wild (a lighter or a book of matches, or maybe just one match for example) What's making sense to me as I read this is that I'd have to carry something in in that I might not be able to find there, things that resonate with me that are brought into nature because of it's tie to me (which is why getting the replicated tiger's claw made sense to me, I don't find that anywhere where I live.)

So what I've gotten so far is that with a medicine bag, it's a piece or pieces of yourself that you bring with you into your travels that represents things that have...happened before, like a portable altar to represent my work through the bardic grade, or pieces of places that I've travelled to. A reminder not to forget what you've already learned when you begin seeking new things. This is the conclusion I've arrived at so far from what everyone's posted and it sits pretty well with me. So now my task is to look for small things that capture as well as they can, the lessons that I've learned so far in my life (I'll have to focus on the main ones because EVERY lesson would result in a medicine bag the size of a small house.) so that when I venture out to add more things to it I'm carrying what I've already learned with me.

It sounds good. I really appreciate this thread a lot; I think being able to see everyone's thoughts on my wee laptop and then writing mine down while I mull over them helped immensely.

Aitrus, I would love that; i was thinking a bag slightly bigger than the normal sized bags that are worn around the neck, simply because the tiger claw I have to fit in it is the size of the bag itself, lol!!! Why is my animal spirit friend such a beefcake? :shrug: I'd like to put it together physically myself, though, because I think what Moonshadow says makes sense, so even if we met and had a medicine bag party (So cheesy! :yay: ) or something, and you can show me how to do it?

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 01 Feb 2010, 17:11
by Aitrus
PM on the way.

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 08 Mar 2010, 23:47
by Arth Seren
I've always liked the idea of having a medicine/crane bag but I never know what size to look for or consider making, so thanks for posting this thread guys, its very interesting reading.

Re: Medicine Bags

Posted: 04 Nov 2015, 01:30
by daniellevie
My cranebag simply contains my smaller set of hand carved ogham fews. It began with a set of the forfedhs, yet I wanted, or felt the need to have a full set always, and so I have carried a leather Crane bag with a hand made ogam set for the last decade. It is my most personal and utilitarian possession. Slainte.