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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 by the Spiritual Church Movement leader Mother Leafy Anderson, who had come to New Orleans from the upper Midwest.

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.

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.

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. 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 physical 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. He is called upon for justice in private matters and in court cases and his spirit may 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.

Leafy Anderson, a black American of partial Native descent, drew a parallel between the Black Hawk War against the United States Government and the events described in the Bible in the Book of Isaiah, for instance, Isaiah 21:5:

"Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield."

This explains why Black Hawk services in the Spiritual Church Movement include offerings of fruits set out on a banquet table, why Anderson called Black Hawk a "Watcher on the Wall," and why contemporary church songs celebrate him as such.

Root doctors who experience mediumistic contact with the spirit of Black Hawk are generally members of the Spiritual Church Movement. Those who call upon the spirit of Black Hawk for protection traditionally prepare a bucket filled with sand or earth as his altar, within which stands a statue or statuette of an Indian. Other items in the bucket may include arrows, spears, and American flags. Black Hawk buckets are often placed near doorways; rarely are they situated at the main altar-shrine of a church or home. Offerings of water, fruit, and tobacco may be set before Black Hawk; his offerings do not generally include alcohol unless one wishes to inflame him to a state of aggression in the service of justice. He is given a special table feast in the church once a year, at which offerings of fruit figure prominently.

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