A casual account of intensely painful ceremonial rituals that provide pathways to the spiritual world of the Shoshoni and Lakota peoples. The usual picture of religious self-flagellation pales compared with what Twofeathers, a Native spiritual leader and craftsman, undergoes to achieve a higher understanding. Writing in a relaxed conversational prose, Twofeathers describes how, at urgings from the spirit world, he began to immerse himself in the yearly Sundance rituals held throughout the West. At first, his participation in the Shoshoni ritual merely required him to dance nearly continuously under a hot sun for four days, whthout food or water. Graduating to the Lakota ceremony, Twofeathers has his chest pierced with bones to which ropes are affixed, tying Twofeathers to a sacred tree; running backwards at full speed is the painful means of seaparating from the tree. But there's more. Twofeathers also has his back piereced to enable him to drag up to eight buffalo skulls four times around a sacred arbor. As a veteran of these practices, Twofeathers comes to regard himself as a healer (to the amazement of doctors, he dissolves his agonizing gallstones and somewhat alleviates his high blood pressure and diabetic problems through spiritual medicine), a seer, and a counselor, whose services are sought after within the Native American community. Paralleling his account of these rites is the tale of his success as a craftsman of ``medicine wheels'' and ``dream catchers,'' which are eagerly snapped up at craft fairs and New Age gatherings, and the saga of his unhappy family life, which is finally stabilized, thanks in large part to his flesh sacrifices. A modest and likeable narrator, Twofeathers avoids the self- righteous polemics sometimes found in this genre, and while the gorier sections are initially jolting, his aplomb in withstanding pain and coming back for more lends a certain normalcy to this ritual.
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