Top Navigation

Timucuan Spiritual Beliefs

Shamans and Spiritual Beliefs

Timucua owl totemTHE HOOT OF AN OWL — Many Americans see owls as wise or eerie.  Southeastern Indians often regarded these birds as omens of evil or bad luck.  Certain people still do, such as some inhabitants of Scotland, Ireland, Jamaica, and Africa.

If an owl looks you in the eye, according to the Timucua, ill fortune is coming your way.  Also unfavorable is hearing the cry of a startled owl or scaring one into flight.  However, suppose that you see or hear an owl that isn’t afraid: You will have good luck because the gods and demons are taking pity on you.  Running across a snake, on the other hand, is always a sign of upcoming trouble.  This made sense to the Timucua, for they felt that animals served as messengers for spiritual beings.

SPIRITUAL HEALING — Misguided individuals still use the expression “witch doctors.”  When referring to native spiritual healers, the proper term should be “shamans.”  Other correct terms for the healers in some cultures include “medicine men” or “medicine women.”

Many people, including the Timucua, have had faith in shamans.  The Timucua believed that the world is inhabited by spirits, demons, and gods.  These spiritual beings tried to influence people each day.  Because of this, the Indians turned to assistance from shamans.  These were certain men from high-ranking clans (families).

According to the Timucua, shamans could have their spirits leave their living bodies.  They would venture forth into the mystical realm.  The shamans served as go-betweens.  They let people and spiritual beings communicate with each other.

Shamans could use their powers for good or evil.  They could heal the sick and injured, guide the successful delivery of a baby, or help bring good luck with hunts and crops. They could put a curse on someone or make a person fall in love.

You could hire a shaman and pay for his services.  Because the Timucua didn’t use money, though, a shaman would be given such items as baskets or turkeys.

–written by Glenn Emery

Copyright © 2019 by Jacksonville Historical Society