Want to learn more about Native American symbols on shields? Read our guide for facts and info on Native American shield symbols…
The Native Americans had a unique concept known as the medicine shield. This shield was not the kind that is used in battles. Rather it was something far more symbolic and was often decorated with many different kinds of symbols.
Every warrior was to have a medicine shield. However he would not use this shield for protection during battles. Rather this shield reflected the personal vision of the warrior. The bearer of the shield would depict his sacred intentions on the shield along with the inherent power that he had. The inherent power was often referred to as the medicine. The shield with its symbolism was one of the most treasured items by Native Americans.
These medicine shields are very difficult to obtain. Even museums have very few shields on display. This is because the medicine shields would be buried along with the warrior to whom it belonged. Hence the only way to retrieve these shields would be to dig up their graves which is not considered to be ethical.
The Power of Shield Symbols
The shields were meant to depict the vision quest of the warriors. This happened to be one of the most important periods of a man’s life. The shield was developed when a man was in pursuit of his spiritual name which was something that each individual had to acquire. Or on the other hand it was developed when the individual was ready to go on a spiritual quest. This would last for up to three days.
The individual would have a vision in which the guardian animal would be revealed to him. This would inform him of the particular symbols that were sacred to him. The individual would then inform the medicine man about his visions who would then interpret them for him. The interpretation according to the medicine man would then be transferred onto the shield. This is why it was known as the medicine man shield.
Hence the medicine shield served the dual purposes of providing both physical and spiritual protection. For the native Americans spirituality was a fundamental force that came into play on a daily basis. The medicine shield was in this respects one of the most important possessions of a man who had undergone the spiritual journey.
Although the warriors did not make use of these shields during battles they would still carry it with them. This would either attach them to their riding animal or hoist them up on a pole and carry them with honor in order to gain spiritual protection.
The owner of the shield is responsible for crafting it out in the perfect shape and applying the perfect “medicine” so as to say. When off duty the warrior would hang the medicine shield with its symbols outside his door. The shield was most commonly made out of animal skin stretched over a wooden hoop. The emblems and symbols would be painted on the surface showing the special qualities of the individual and what he achieved out of his spiritual quest.