The Shaking Tent Ceremony

Pen & Ink on Rag Paper – 22″ x 30″
The Shaking Tent Ceremony

The Ojibway Indians had what we call a jeesekun, a shaking tent, or wigwam, where a medicine man does conjuring. There were two kinds of shaking tents. One had its power from the water, the other from the wind or earth. Some Ojibway built their shaking tent in the water, in order to receive power from it. Eight poles were cut and placed in a circle, and each pole was driven about two feet into the ground to keep the tent firm. Two hoops were placed inside the wigwam to keep the poles in position and would be covered with deer hide, birchbark or canvas. Rattles of tin or cari­bou hoof were placed inside to make a rattling noise.

All the Ojibway would gather and sit in a circle facing the shaking tent. This took place at night. The conjurer would disrobe, have his hands tied up and crawl inside the wigwam. He would not speak but would have one Indian, or all, start asking questions, whatever each one wished to know. As the conjurer crawled inside, the tent itself began to shake and the rattles were heard. The Ojibway believe a medicine wind blows from heaven in the tent and that is how it shakes. All the dogs tied close by began to yelp and were afraid but the people were not, for it does not affect human beings. What come into the wigwam to sing or talk are the water god Misshipeshu and other spirits of bears, serpents and animals, thunderbirds, the evil Windigo, the morning star, the sky, water, earth, sun and moon, also female and male sex organs. Each speaks in his own lan­guage but we have an interpreter whom we call Mikkinnuk, a small turtle who is the Devil him­self, who interprets for all these beings. So let it be known now and then remain a secret; it is the Devil himself who is the interpreter.

The Ojibway were given this shaking tent to do both good and evil. A lot of people of the Ojibway tribe used this conjuring tent to conjure people but a lot also used it to cure people, to find lost things, to defend the people from evil sor­cerers, or bad medicine-men, and to know about the future.

Norval Morrisseau