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Wintu

Worldview

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According to Jerry Rogers, Department of the Interior, The Wintu people considered Mount Shasta to be sacred ground:

Mr. [sic] Shasta is a commanding mountain that is visible over a wide area of Northern California and is important not only to American Indian tribes residing in the immediate area but also for those located considerable distances from the mountain... Mt. Shasta is mentioned frequently in Indian cosmology and is significant in creation myths, purification ceremonies and the pursuit of 'power'. It encompasses places used for healings and blessings, spiritual quests and ceremonies. Indian groups that attach spiritual significance to the property include Wintu, Pit River, Shasta and Modoc Indian tribes. (quoted in McLeod)

The Wintu believed in a supreme being. Many of their myths concerned the natural world: moon, stars, thunder, lightening, and animal behaviors. Origin myths referred to a time before humans when the first people, who were part human and part animal, existed. Charmstones, peculiar or small flat shaped rocks were important for bringing luck and affecting cures for illnesses. They were hidden or buried in places away from dwellings (Lapena 331).

Shamans were adept at curing illnesses and predicting the future. Illness could be brought on by soul loss, spirit possession, or a foreign object. Shamans were paid to exorcise evil spirits, suck out objects causing an illness, and capture wandering souls (Lapena 332). However, a shaman who repeatedly failed to cure patients might be accused of witchcraft and killed (Chase-Dunn, Clewett, and Sundahl).

Novice shamans were initiated during ceremonies held in the spring or fall. During the ceremonies the initiates attained a state of frenzy through dancing would eventually become unconscious, after which they underwent five days of instruction and fasting. The ceremony concluded with a shaman's dance (Lapena 332).

 

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