David Carson,
Crossing into Medicine Country: A Journey in Native American Healing
(Council Oak, 2007)

Crossing into Medicine Country: A Journey in Native American Healing is exactly what the title implies: it is the story of David Carson's personal introduction to the world of Native American healing -- referred to in this book as powwowing -- with the conjure Mary Gardener, who grew up near New Orleans where root doctoring is still respected.

You should clearly understand that this is not the story of a powerful medicine man coming into being, but the story of a man who wisely realized that the medicine path was not for him and chose to walk away from it. Instead, he focused his energies on animals and telling their stories. Obviously, that was the path he meant to walk.

Carson openly discusses how he became addicted to the vision-state produced by fasting and ultimately starved himself into collapse. He was frustrated because his apprenticeship was taking so long. He wanted to do something that he could master quickly and he points out that it was this lack of self-discipline that caused him to walk away from the conjure life.

This word-by-word rendition of his training was a bit boring to me. I understand that many people are fascinated by shamans and cannot get enough of their words. But there has to be a middle ground between too little and waxing descriptive every time the shaman's expression changes. This is a lengthy book that could have been shortened without losing any of the meaning. I really feel that this was an overkill.

Carson explains he has omitted the teachings about things that are dangerous or extreme. He also chose to leave out the parts using animal ingredients because "too many animals are endangered and abused" and he didn't "want to add to the problems facing animals already."

David Carson grew up in Oklahoma Indian country and has lived on Sioux, Crow and Cheyenne reservations. He has studied with shamans from Hawaii to Siberia and has given lectures, card readings and animal consultations to people around the world.

book review by
Alicia Karen Elkins

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