Updated with New Stuff: 05/15/2013
In this Chapter:
Transcendent Peace from Below. There is a difference between religion and spirituality: Spirituality is hard. It is man’s curse and salvation to resolve the question of existence – to perimeter the vast, endless nature of consciousness - and free ourselves from ourselves. As far back as genetic memory spans we've strived to comprehend the universe and how we fit into it. Now, most of us are caught-up in the modern notion of how to fit it into us. It's because of this modern shift in perspective that Shamanism is often mistaken to be based upon the simplistic rite of Native American Indian medicine men getting jacked-up on hallucinogens to find the answer outside and separate from himself.
But such drugs taken without mindfulness training and the guidance of a trusted elder will cause more confusion than clarity and bury us ever deeper into our thinking "monkey mind". More likely, the ancient Native American Indian medicine man could alter consciousness at will. He (or she) would courageously spend days alone out on the desert or retreat into the vast wilderness without food, water or weapons. His main tool was probably his meditation technique given to him by his elder. The medicine man (most likely medicine women) would then either awaken from the dream of self-centeredness or have a vision that would be of great import to the people of his (her) clan.
Practiced by just a few selected Yaqui Indians of Sonora Mexico today and the Ural-Altaic peoples of northern Asia and Europe just a few hundred years ago, shamanism was also the ancient religion of Native Americans. Though the majority of Native Americans are offended by the word "shaman / shamanism" when used within the context of their religion, the similarities between their belief systems and shamanism proper are uncanny.
Thanks so very for the stacking photos! That was certainly a surprise! The statues defy gravity & time for that matter. It's unbelievable that these figurines were made when camels (favorite), horses, lions etc. roamed America. Richard, OH
Generally, shamanism is a world-scale faith of diverse sects and various practices. It has roots deep into the last ice age 40,000 years ago and possibly deeper into Africa, the cradle of man, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Its essence is the core of many global tribal systems even today. It was most likely also practiced by the Spoon River Illinois Ice Age Indian.
I feel very fortunate since your collection is really priceless! I know that you hate to break up your collection but at least others will be able to share in some of the Ice Age history of Illinois. I don't think there is another collection in the world like yours. Richard, OH
"Although a shaman can achieve religious status by heredity, personal quest, or vocation, the recognition and call of the individual is always an essential part of that individual's elevation to the new status. The shaman, usually a man, is essentially a medium, a mouthpiece of the spirits who became his familiars at his initiation, during which he frequently undergoes prolonged fasts, seclusion, and other ordeals leading to dreams and visions. Training by experienced shamans follows." 
"The main religious tasks of a shaman are healing and divination. Both are achieved either by spirit possession or by the departure of the shaman's soul to heaven or to the underworld. Shamans also divine the whereabouts of game, the position of the enemy, and the best way of safeguarding and increasing the food supply. Shamans may occupy an elevated social and economic position, especially if they are successful healers." 
Shamanism is based on an unseen universe of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to shamans or Native American Indian medicine men. The medicine man (or medicine woman) is a priest who uses magic to cure the sick, divine the hidden, and control events. Paleolithic Indians undoubtedly carried these beliefs from Asia and possibly Europe when they immigrated to the Americas. And indeed, in many parts of China the worship of ancestral spirits is still practiced. The ancient sect of Bön shamanism in Tibet still flourishing today, but with a strong Buddhist flavor, reflects just how widespread and adaptable this religion has been. This is why the figurines representing medicine men hold a special place in our collection.
There is strong evidence that meditation was practiced either by the shaman alone or by other members of the clan as well. “No one knows precisely when meditation began, but experts think it could have been practiced by hunter-gatherers many thousands of years ago. Like many other mystical practices, it might have been reserved for tribal shamans, who were believed to be in direct touch with the invisible spirits.”
The Native American nomads of the Midwestern Plains did not have chairs or convenient rocks to sit on, so everyone sat on the ground, usually cross-legged. These people were already in the meditation position. So it's reasonable to assume shamanism may have been the first mystic tradition involving meditation alone to still the mind and expand ones view in order to develop wisdom - or an ontological cosmology that works within that particular society.
To me, these figurines are evidence meditation as practiced by the River Owl, or by their medicine men. Meditation in the truest sense of the word is an empirical experience. Since writing was undeveloped during this time, and language was probably limited, much communication may have occurred through bodily expressions and sensations. (Up until recently, many historic Native American Indians expressed themselves with their hands and arms while they spoke.) Our body is the hub of the universe, though not the center - without the wheel there can be no hub. In the meditative traditions of Japanese Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Tantra, emphasis is placed on living in the body (the hub) as opposed to the modern way of living in the head (the "center"). We humans used to live in our bodies.
Quite simply put, Paleolithic man may have been much more intuitive and sensitive 13,000 years ago. There was little random thinking to short-circuit the senses. He had little to think about other than survival so he must have felt much more in-touch with his environment than we do with ours today. After all, one cannot stay alert for danger in the wilderness if one is tied-up in thought. With iPods and Net Phones occupying 3 of our 5 senses while we walk down the street, it's little wonder more of us aren't grill work for city buses: If early man had been caught-up in as much discursive thought as we are today, our species would have long gone extinct.
Was this peaceful society a collection of enlightened beings or were medicine men and their apprentices the only ones permitted to practice meditation? We may never answer that question. Is it coincidence these stones are in the sitting position or is it because they stack more easily than standing figures?
We have recovered in equal numbers both male and female figurines in cross-legged posture. (In many ancient cultures however, women, including the Shawoman, were allowed to sit only on their knees. See 74. Mother & Child and 92. Buffalo Woman above.) Certainly medicine women existed around the globe during this time. They probably existed within the River Owl clan as well.
All ancient Shamanistic sects had their female fire principle. For example, in Tantric Buddhism, Vajrayogini (or "fire goddess" of the ancient Bon tradition of Tibet) symbolizes the innate passion in all life (especially human life) to merge with the cosmos - the universe within and without oneself. It has no logic, which is the invention of monkey mind - that busy thinking process that enchants modern man. It burns through deception and reveals the god and goddess within - without judgment. It is a mirror that reflects good and bad, happy and sad with equal intensity and with no bias.
Medicine men were probably one of the first paid on-call professionals: hunters could rest between kills but Native American Indian medicine men (or more likely the medicine women) were always on duty. Aside from being consul to the chieftain, the local Indian medicine man was the tribal doctor. The world was still a nasty place to live in and he was there to patch you up. Medicine men worked on collecting prickly plants, illusive seeds, shady mushrooms, bear-attracting berries, suspicious insects, mossy antler, and slippery "organ stones" from the river. These would be placed in amulet pouches with other pungent herbs. He may have even polished organ stones, or had his apprentice do it. Medicine men may have had the responsibility of performing surgery and blessing special events. The medicine man was revered (and maybe even feared) so probably lived outside the edge of camp, where we find some of the more esoteric items.
The fringe of camp was also where the chieftain lived. Indian artifacts from a recent excavation near Jamestown, the first white man settlement in North America 400 years ago, and written accounts by John Smith details that Pocahontas's father, Chief Powhatan, had his lodge east of his subjects campsite. This corresponds with Buddhists and many other Shamanists traditions wherein the belief is that East, where the sun rises, is a sacred direction and symbolizes the awakening of the day. Indeed, the hill is east of the main campsite where a flint surgical blade and most of the esoteric (and many of the red jasper) figurines in our collection were found.
Medicine Dream: Most hunts were organized by a group of men from the clan sometimes accompanied by a young novice or apprenticed hunter. It will be his first taste of blood and a time to share in the ancient rite of joining with the animal’s spirit. It’s generally accepted that stone age man had great respect for the animals he hunted. The hunter would apologize to the animal for having taken its life so that he and his family will have life. He would then ask the animal’s spirit to go to Great Grandfather’s hunting ground and join his ancestors among the sun, moon, and stars. Animals played a major role in Paleolithic life. Many Native American and Yaqui Indian traditions suggest Paleo man may have also taken on animal spirit guides and practiced "lucid dreaming".
Confidence in his belief system was important to early Paleo hunters and medicine men: Each Native American Indian medicine man identified with the animal that appeared most frequently to him in his dreams. As children we all had a nightmare, at least once, of being chased by a wild animal. It is a primal fear genetically embedded and carried for countless incarnations. Young hunters or medicine men initiates of the Paleolithic period however, may have been trained by the local senior medicine man on how to practice lucid dreaming or “Little Death” to break this chain of primal fear.
In the Tibetan Buddhist Tantric tradition, initiates would wake immediately after a dream and repeat out loud three times what he had dreamed and go back to sleep. (The modern technique is to simply jot down a few keywords, and fall back into the dream. Then write out the whole dream in a journal upon waking in the morning. After a month of this practice one will start to recognize dreams.) The initiate would try to fall back into the lucid dream without losing consciousness so that he would have volition with the events occurring in the dream. This may be accomplished by closing the eyes, but gazing outward through closed eyelids at the object that dominated the last scene in your dream. Then quietly count your out-breaths and try not to lose consciousness. A more passive but equally effective method is to observe while dreaming small details that give the dream state away such as clocks that don't tell the right time when one gives it the double-take. Or text that reads nonsensical or changes while reading. Dream signs such as re-occurring themes, objects, or people are often good triggers for dream waking. (Mine are tornadoes and the flooding Spoon River. With tornado dreams, I have come to enjoy them and prefer to remain within the dream scenario to see how it plays out: To see multiple tornadoes form and dissipate while I stand among them is truly awesome.)
In waking life, the dream mastering aspirant may have been instructed to put himself into harms way such as standing on a precipice or facing a charging animal (don’t try this at home). He would then jump into the air and shout the phrase “This is a Dream! This is a Dream!” The initiate would abstain from sex for psychic potency and repeat the above phrase softly to himself whenever he encountered a dream sign – an object or event that has also occurred frequently in his dreams. He would visit and meditate at places that are frequently in his dreams and survey the landscape reciting the mantra "This is a Dream" over and over. The modern technique is to carry a small card with the phrase "Are you dreaming?" and look at it frequently during the day.
Becoming aware while dreaming allows the medicine man initiate to eventually awake consciously within the dream with complete control over time and space – inner and outer. The apprentice would then be instructed to turn and confront the charging beast in his next nightmare. Once accomplished, all fears of any beast – asleep or awake – are subsided and that animal becomes his friend, companion, informant, and guide. In the very next lucid dream, the initiate would then supplicate his great ancestors and ask for their blessings to practice their magic.
Having awakened at the threshold of a mystical world, the practitioner would then turn himself into a famous warrior or medicine man and perform grand acts of courage and great compassion. He would then enter the realm of Complete Joy because for esoteric shamans, he who controls dreaming conquers death and rebirth. See Medicine Man waking dream catchers next page.
Clan of the River Owl: Because two small owl figurines (the first, 100. Winking Owl, below) were recovered shortly after finding 74. Mother and Child, we’ve named these people the River Owl clan. Since then we've found more owl figures. In early Indian folklore, owls represent wisdom and helpfulness, and have powers of prophecy. Owls were especially helpful in that they killed mice and other rodents that invaded food stores at night. Owls are also fearless - even around humans, possible making them the most bold of the raptors. Some figurines suggest the River Owl buried their dead and had domesticated dogs.
Aside from the occasional rogue male mammoth or mastodon, they also hunted deer, elk and bison. Younger hunters brought in rabbit, beaver, turkey and the now endangered prairie chicken. Eventually they became increasingly dependent on fish, frogs, mussels, clams, crawfish, turtles and their eggs. They foraged for plants, roots, berries, nuts, mushrooms and herbs – both edible and medicinal.
They may have had organized medicine, probably based on symbolic association such as homeopathy (which has been proven quite effective in past and present cultures) and practiced by the local shaman: Many “organ” stones (river-polished pebbles shaped like human organs with appropriate colors) were found just feet from projectile points indicating they too, are ancient Pre-Columbian Native American Indian art antiquities. Stones representing the brain (usually white, oblong geodes with nicks exposing sparkling crystals), heart, lung, liver, kidney, bladder, and even a milky quartz tooth-shaped stone were recovered.
Sympathetic magic also may have been practiced to enhance the five senses. Organ stones of the nose, tongue and finger (touch) were also found. (The eye and ear have yet to be recovered.) Such stones may have been steeped with an herbal tea then drank, or worn with aromatic herbs and flowers in a talisman bag around the neck by the afflicted. We found mushroom-shaped jasper stones, some are collapsed geodes, but one was worked. Most rare, a red flint surgical-like blade was also found in the immediate vicinity of these ancient Pre-Columbian Native American Indian art antiquities.
Medicine stones also hint at the behavior of these people: Some of these ancient Pre-Columbian Native American Indian art antiquities suggests thunderbird worship (or appeasement). In summer months though, life was good for these people - working only 8 hours a week - as fish, game and edible plants were bountiful. It was a lost Eden.
Much of the River Owl’s ancient art conveys an appreciation of nature’s grandeur. Some of these figurines present profound philosophical concepts. Others reflect deep spiritual meaning. Still other pieces are comic or just plain cute. Some are morbid, stoic or imposing.
Like points, these ancient Native American Indian figurines may have been a form of barter. Some of the stones contain clear quartz crystals and the artist would oftentimes chip a corner or even cleave off a sizable chunk just to reveal them. It’s possible these people believed the shiny crystals to be the rock’s life-force and thought of them as alive. Single quartz crystals were also collected and prized by the clan for jewelry or trade.
The River Owl left behind sophisticated tools such as millstones, mortar and pestles for mixing paint and medicines, comfortable-to-hold hammers and hand axes for chopping wood and meat. Smaller ornate fossil-rich hand axes were used to break open bone for the fat-rich marrow. They used a variety of hand- and finger-held personal steak knives of beautifully colored flint, including a smoky quartz crystal knife.
Aside from arrowheads and spear points, high-grade hematite tools were also found near the figurine recovery site suggesting these innovative people may have prematurely started the Iron-Age with the use of "virgin' iron. The concept may not be so preposterous considering that in nearby Ohio, iron furnaces dating back 2,000 years have recently been found.
It appears that later, Early Archaic Indians (9,500 to 8,000 BP) visited this site and employed stone sledgehammers to drive stone wedges and to pound and grind smooth the inside of dugout canoes and wooden bowls. Other canoe building tools such as awls, chisels, wedges, drills, planers and sanding stones were picked up. (As far we know this is the first documented case of canoe building tools found with early Early Archaic points, quite possibly because no one has previously looked for such stone tools. Most collectors just go for the projectile points and step over hand tools because they look like ordinary stones, until you pick one up and feel its utility. If it fits comfortably in the hand and also has an edge or blunt face for pounding, and found in the vicinity of points, it's a tool.)
The nomadic River Owl would summer camp just above floodplain at site 2601.B, possibly weaving baskets and fish traps from river bottom reeds. Animal-hide wigwams built with strong, flexible willow poles made temporary but sturdy dwellings: Each season, the hides were canoed up and down rivers and re-used. Then one spring a very long time ago the clan failed to return.
Next Page: Medicine manikins to inspire lucid dreaming...
 In the Buddhist Tantric tradition, such “psychic” potency
entails transforming sexual desire into spatial discrimination awareness by not
acting upon the impulse – to allow the internal energies to evolve and direct
them upwards through the “central channel”. This also means maintaining
restraint in the presence of sexual stimuli - a "wait and see" policy.
Click below for more Prehistoric Native American Indian Artifacts...