What was the Shaking Tent Ceremony and How did Native Americans use animal bones to tell the future?

When Subarctic Native Americans became sick, lost a valuable object, or otherwise needed help, they hired a religious leader called a shaman to perform the Shaking Tent Ceremony.

After nightfall, the shaman entered a special round tent and sang and played the drum to call his helpers from the spirit-world. Suddenly, the tent began to shake back and forth wildly, and the voices of the spirit-helpers start speaking out.

To onlookers, the spectacle was fun and exciting. They could call out questions for the helpers, who would shout back answers. Sometimes, the spirit-voices would even tell jokes or pose riddles to entertain the crowd.

Some groups, such as the Innu, used the shoulder bones of animals to tell the future. After charring a bone in a fire, they studied the cracks in it. The cracks’ shapes and lengths were thought to contain messages about a person’s fate.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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