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Black Hawk

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A painting of Native American Sauk leader Black Hawk
A painting of Native American Sauk leader Black Hawk

Black Hawk was a Native American Sauk and Fox tribe leader who lived from 1767 to 1838. In life he not only earned a reputation as a fierce and cunning warrior who resisted encroaching governmental oppression, but also as a man who could show mercy. He was introduced into Spiritualist and hoodoo practice in New Orleans sometime around or after the 1920s by the Spiritual Church Movement leader Mother Leafy Anderson, who had come to New Orleans from the upper Midwest. Mother Leafy Anderson grew up in Wisconsin where she probably became familiar with the local legends and stories of the historic Black Hawk, who lived and died in that area.

Within the Spiritual Church Movement and Spiritualist churches in general, it is common for mediums to form relationships with discarnate Indian spirit guides. Occasionally, after the death of his or her initial medium contact, a personal spirit guide may become a widely-acknowledged spirit who is accessible to many people, both within and outside the Spiritualist religion. As a Spiritualist, Mother Anderson accepted Black Hawk as her spirit guide, and upon her death, he became the spirit guide of her successor, Catherine Seals.

Venerating the spirits of Black Hawk and Bwete at a Spiritual Church Movement shrine.
Venerating the spirits of Black Hawk and Bwete at a Spiritual Church Movement shrine.

After the death of Mother Seals, Black Hawk made his presence known to many within the Spiritual Church Movement, and passed from the category of a personal spirit guide to that of a powerful working spirit who answers all who petition him for aid.

Black Hawk is often called on for spells for protection and warding off enemies and is called "a watcher on the wall" because he sends notice of breaches in one's spiritual perimeter defenses. Although he is most often called upon for protection and various types of control and defense work, and for justice in private matters and court cases, his spirit is also invoked by persons of partial or full Native American heritage as a way to connect with and honour their lost and missing tribal ancestors.

Root doctors within the Spiritual Church Movement who work with the spirit of Black Hawk traditionally place a bucket filled with earth or sand on his altar, within which stands a statue or statuette of an Indian. Offerings of fruit and of tobacco may be set before Black Hawk; his offerings do not generally include alcohol. He is given a special feast once a year, at which offerings of fruit figure prominently.

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