“…everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission…”
~Mourning Dove, Salish, 1888-1936~
All people throughout history have struggled to understand the root cause of disease. Attributions included angering the gods or falling foul of evil magic. Bad spirits could bring illness or death. Native American tribes are not alone in once holding such beliefs. Ancient Egyptians wore charms to ward off evil magic. Ancient Greeks made offerings to their gods at temples erected for that purpose. In the Middle Ages physicians were less important that holy relics in healing the afflicted by prayer and pilgrimage.
Native Americans relied on prayer and spiritual leaders to heal. But they also had a vast knowledge of medicinal herbs and roots. Some medicinal plants were traded over long distances. Many native peoples believed that spirits, ghosts and witches could cause illness. I spent time researching how a Native Americans of this period would determine if an illness was caused by ghosts, spirits or a witch. I admit I borrowed from some of the southwestern tribes as I stitched together my world. The term ‘Moth Madness’ was Navajo, for example because I could find nothing on epilepsy in historic record or reference from my research of the Plains Indians.
I sympathized with my hero and heroines struggle to understand what was causing Night Storm’s falling episodes. I had decided that his illness would be a form of ongoing seizures, similar to epilepsy, based on the head injury he suffered in battle. As the injury heals, his symptoms abate. But I just could not resist adding a slight supernatural element in the form of his visions. I feared that my editor would request that I removed this part and I almost did not write it, but I try not to edit myself until after I have heard the input of my editor. If I had, then Night Storm would never have had his prophetic dreams.
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