Tales From a Shaman: The Mystical Shaking Tent

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The Shaking Tent is a very paranormal ceremony filled with unexplainable occurrences very few will ever see. A tall tubular structure is constructed using poles made from willow, averaging a height of around six feet; depending on the “ceremony holder,” the willow is cut to a particular height. The tent’s willow foundation is secured by burying the poles one foot deep into the earth. The tent frame is meticulously secured with rope and twine. The structure is then wrapped in blankets resembling a tall tent, roughly three feet in diameter; just enough space for a person to sit inside. However, the only way inside the tent would be to climb over the top, which would require a ladder if anything. Traditionally, one or two willow trees are left intact extending above; with their branches and leaves intact.

The attendees are situated in a circle in front of the shaking tent, while the Medicine Man’s position is usually a considerable distance in front of the tent. The Medicine Man is bound with leather rope in fetal position and placed on his side atop a bear skin rug; a rattle is then placed in his arms. The ‘co-pilot’ begins to chant, the others join in unison; all chanting the opening ceremony song to open the ‘doors’ of the four directions—And doors to other ‘realms’ are opened. But from where? Behind the sound of chanting and song, within the darkness, you can hear the slight whipping of rope and movements—the medicine man is being untied. But by whom or what? Then suddenly a small bluish white fireball hurls toward the shaking tent, leaving a long comet-like trail in the air behind it, as if a missile was launched. A bright white flash is emitted as the fireball hits the shaking tent and enters inside. The burst of light is so radiant you briefly see the outline of a man sitting cross-legged inside the tent; followed by darkness; the image of the man inside is burned into your vision. You then hear the rattle shaking from within the tent—the medicine man is now inside. What sorcery is this? What just happened and how?


I recall watching a series of videos on ‘Demon Magicians’ a few years back that was eerily similar to what I recognize in relation to ‘active ceremonies,’ including the ‘Shaking Tent Ceremony.’ These magicians evidently use black magic, witchcraft, and/or demonic entities to obtain their magical gifts and abilities. Much sacrifice is involved, much is given up, more than what is conceivable. Their souls are darkened in exchange for fame and ‘real magic.’ One of the featured magicians in question teleported from one location to another in what appeared to be a bluish white fireball, leaving behind a cloud of smoke. When the smoke cleared, the magician was standing proudly in a distant location, taking a bow as the audience in awe gave applause. I vividly remember thinking, “that is just like the Shaking Tent!’ I thenceforth began to wonder about the nature of the magic behind Native American Ceremony. I started to question the uprightness and origin of certain Native American ways.


The towering willow trees woven into the structure of the tent begin to tremble and sway as if alive. The sounds of the shaking leaves and branches fill the air; both eerie and unimaginable. The voices of the multitude of spirits in attendance begin to cry out from the throat of the medicine man, who is now operating as a medium. The chanting and songs usually cease after four are sung in succession­—the first round is over. The willow trees continue to tremble and sway. The co-pilot announces, “You may now begin to ask questions.” People eagerly raise their hands to be heard, some shout out for attention and to gain their place in line. You may ask for many things, such as blessings, healing, a cleansing of bad medicine, advice, spiritual protection, and a vision. But not all requests are granted or acknowledged, which leaves many people visibly disappointed.

The first person is chosen to make their request. The willows tremble and sway as if listening and as if in ponderance. A voice from the tent shouts “sing,” and the next medicine man in succession, chooses a song to sing. A song of their choosing is sung in absence of specifics, and usually all know the song and join in. When the song comes to an end, the medium answers, which is usually interpreted into English. The spirits communicate in an ancient dialect of Cree, which usually requires an Elder who is familiar with the ‘Old Cree.’ Upon answering the request, the next person is chosen; sometimes even chosen by the spirits. I remember one ceremony the voice of an elder spirit spoke, pointing someone out, “This person in the corner has a question but is too shy to ask. So, ask.” The willows continued to tremble and sway. I awaited my turn.

The Trickster arrives and starts conversing and joking around with the medicine men, he sounds like an old man with a high-pitched voice. The Trickster is comedic and will often ‘tell on’ the young men, if they are thinking of their girlfriends, or if they drank alcohol the day before, and other non-offensive general teasing. The Trickster tells the young children to go look for his ‘ride,’ and that he flew in on a ‘magic carpet,’ but crash landed in the bushes. The young children don’t believe but go out anyway; we wait. Minutes later, the children come in laughing, a young boy holds up a rug that is clearly burnt and still smoldering. Smoke rises off the rug and is seen wisping up into the air. The attendees of the ceremony all laugh and enjoy the spectacle. The boy who found the carpet gets to keep it, and his mother holds it close the entire ceremony. Perhaps for luck or a blessing?

One participant is told that their spirit guide, the Grandmother Owl, has come to visit and bring them blessings. We then hear an owl hooting nearby, signaling its presence. How is this possible? The medium calls out for an owl song. His request is answered as the next medicine man in line immediately breaks into song; the medicine men take turns singing in succession. The willows continue to tremble and sway. The next participant asks for protection against bad medicine and wants to know if they have been ‘hit’ with any bad medicine. When we are impacted by bad medicine or witchcraft, we call it ‘being hit.’ The spirits shout, “Sing!” and the medicine men start to chant. When it is over there is silence. The audience waits in anticipation. We hear many hushed voices conversing from within the shaking tent. Then an elderly voice starts speaking to the participant in the Cree language. He delivers very specific instructions on how to make a type of ‘Protection’ against bad medicine, evil spirits, and evil men. You can sense that everyone is taking mental notes. Receiving such medicine is a gift, one of the many secrets imparted by the unknown, remnants of an ancient world when the spirit realm and earth realm were one. The willows continue to tremble and sway.

I finally get the opportunity to present my question to the Ancestors, the Grandfathers, the Grandmothers, and my spirit guides­—whomever will listen. I ask for advice on my future, for blessings, and for spiritual protection. My Grandfather arrives, it is the ‘Great Grandfather Bear,’ his voice is gruff, deafening, and intimidating. He calls out for all to sing a ‘Bear Song.’ The willows continue to tremble and sway. The next medicine man in succession chooses a Bear Song to sing. We all join in unison—we know the song. Bear Songs are my personal fave. I enjoyed all the chants, I knew the words, I grew up with these songs. When the chanting of the Bear Song is finished, there is silence; we wait for the spirit to speak. The willows continue to tremble and sway. The Great Grandfather Bear speaks, his voice booms, and echoes; he always chastises me. He finishes his speech and disappears. I am told to stop worrying about everything in life, I’m too young for such troubles, and I must trust the Creator. He says that I am blessed, and that everything will work out. And then tells me to smarten up and be a righteous man. I am always in awe when they appear, even more so when they address me. I feel significant, protected, and safe. The next person is chosen to speak. The willows continue to tremble and sway.

After the fourth round is complete, the ceremony comes to an end, it is time for the final song—this will ‘close the doors.’ As the chant’s final verse is sung, as the sounds of the rattles become silent, and the last drumbeat is heard, the willow trees fall lifeless and still. It is over. The medicine men begin to take the shaking tent apart to free the lead medicine man inside. He rises and steps out. He looks weary and is only clothed in trunks. He is then wrapped in a blanket to provide warmth and given a short moment to rest. He lights a cigarette and reflects on what he remembers, what he was told, and observed as the medium. We all listen, we laugh, and we reminisce. In retrospect, I often wonder what I witnessed. Was this demonic? Was this witchcraft? Was it a sin to have partaken in this ritual?

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