In the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, the homeland of the Cherokee, lie the secrets to ancient medicine. There was a time, according to legend, when there existed no sickness. The animals were tired of being hunted, and vowed for each animal that was killed, a disease would be released. The plants heard of this, and being friendly to humans, vowed that for each disease, a plant would offer a cure. And so until European contact, the Cherokee had a cure for every ailment.
When his grandfather hunted deer, Davy Arch recalls, he would pray to the entity “Little Deer” in song. He would then watch and wait. While the rest of the group would move, one deer would behave differently either by hanging back or facing a different direction. He would make the kill, and again pray through song for forgiveness of what he had done. The intestines were removed, the game then taken to the river and cleansed before the hide was ever cut: this elaborate ritual done so that a family might eat and survive. If the entity is not appeased before the journey begins, the meat will poison those who partake with rheumatism and arthritis.
To cure rheumatism and arthritis, a plant known as Queen of the Meadow or Jopai Weed offered a cure. Use the roots to create a tea. The tea’s medicinal properties are that of a blood cleanser. Cleanse the blood, the blood cleanses the body, removing chemical build up near the joints and along the bones. Science, of course, backs this knowledge, but in ancient times, it was simply logical.
To gather the plant for medicinal purpose, pass peacefully by the first six growths. If found in a patch, watch and wait with quiet purpose. One will offer itself by facing a different direction, stirring a leaf, etc. Leave a white bead in its place as an offering of peace, thanks, and forgiveness.
Davy Arch is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and may be contacted at the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, NC where he works as the Education Manager. Other sources include personal experience and history, Mooney’s Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and the Ethnology of American Indian by Professor Charles O. Noble, Ph.D. published in 1973.