MAD BEAR by Doug Boyd


Spirit, Healing, and the Sacred in the Life of a Native American Medicine Man
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 Boyd (Mystics, Magicians, and Medicine People, 1989) serves as traveling secretary and appreciative witness to the actions of Mad Bear, a Tuscarora medicine man, in this pedantic account of their travels in the late 1970s. The pair take a spiritual and geographical journey across the United States, attending lectures and conferences devoted to healing, spirituality, and ecological and political awareness in the company of swamis, rabbis, Tibetan lamas, holistic practitioners, Japanese monks, and a panoply of other equally ethereal characters. They even appear as guests of honor at Bob Dylan's ``Rolling Thunder Review''; later, Mad Bear's tribe fetes the entire cast on the Tuscarora reservation, where Dylan is assaulted by a mousetrap and huffily leaves. If at first it is not clear to the reader that the white man has despoiled the earth and has ``assured the end of contemporary civilization,'' Boyd and his mentor deliver enough homilies and polemicize so thoroughly that the point is soon made in spades. In this New Age-y document, the reader learns that spaceships, recorded in a petroglyph on a rock wall in Arizona, brought to earth the first Native Americans; that a miniature race of beings whom Mad Bear calls ``The Little People'' has evolved side by side with humans (he has a skull the size of a Ping-Pong ball to prove it); and that Mad Bear is unceasingly clairvoyant, forever reading Boyd's thoughts--conveyed, like the dialogue, in trashy prose. As a character, Mad Bear is something of a self-promoter, although before his death in 1985 he apparently earned widespread recognition in the Native American community for his political mediating powers and his font of traditional spiritual knowledge. With a more lucid tone, this account of a medicine man's unusual life might have attracted a readership beyond fans of Boyd's previous works.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-75945-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1994