The Importance of Medicine Bags & Indigenous Knowledge

The Importance of Medicine Bags & Indigenous Knowledge

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I wanted to highlight South Texas Native American author, artist and activist Larry Running Turtle Salazar and the knowledge he shared with me about medicine bags.


Born in San Antonio, Texas to a Cherokee mother and Apache father, Larry now resides in Corpus Christi and devotes his time to Native American activism and sharing his artistry and wisdom with the locals. 


I recently visited Larry’s booth at the Corpus Christi Trade Center, where he sells various herbs, crystals, artwork, dreamcatchers, medicine bags, etc. Larry cautioned me to wear my protections & medicines with a medicine bag, eluding to the precarious times we're in right now. 


Traditionally medicine bags should carry an item from every kingdom- the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, the mineral kingdom & the human kingdom. These items represent your power to heal, to guide and to protect yourself as well as others, by creating a spiritual link between you and the energetics of each kingdom. 


You can also use medicine bags to manifest what you desire. It is possible to have several medicine bags, each created for a specific purpose, all depending on which items you decide to put in your bag and what they represent to you.


Medicine bags are typically worn around the neck, under clothing and close to the heart. But they can also be carried in your pocket, on your belt, in a purse, in your car or by your bed. Keep it close, this is your direct and tangible connection to your spiritual self.


Here are some examples for each kingdom:

Plant Kingdom

  • Herbs
  • Corn Kernels
  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Flowers
  • Roots


Animal Kingdom

  • Bones
  • Teeth
  • Hair
  • Feather
  • Claw
  • Shells


Mineral Kingdom

  • Crystals
  • Gems
  • Stones
  • Fossils
  • Dirt
  • Clay
  • Salts


Human Kingdom

  • Photo
  • Key
  • Charm
  • Totem
  • Coins
  • Personal Items


Because the items you add to your medicine bag are deeply personal, they are usually kept secret. But I will share one item from the mineral kingdom for each of the three bags I'm creating. These items are dirt, dust and salt.


Certainly you could add these loose to the bag, but I chose to encase them in a tiny witch's bottle, sealed with wax.



For my main medicine bag I'm using Crossroads Church Dirt. As I've said before, my spirituality is a crossroads of sorts- blending witchcraft and manifestation with my roots of curanderismo, which is heavily steeped in Catholicism. Crossroads Church Dirt seems like a perfect fit for this new path. 



Red Brick Dust is a powerful protective ingredient in American folk magick but I chose to mix it with ground cinnamon and brown sugar for its money-drawing properties.



Salt is the one universal ingredient almost everyone has in their home. It’s not only accessible, it’s also versatile. Use black salt to banish negativity. Use pink salt for self love and purification. It’s also a great base for various herbal blends. The possibilities are endless!


Based on the world's current condition, we need our medicines now more than ever. Just leaving my home gives me a twinge of anxiety, but I feel much better with a medicine bag in my purse or hanging on the rearview mirror of my car. It reminds me we are not helpless on our journey through life. We are the architects. We are the magicians. All we need to do is align with our highest spiritual self.


I thought I’d end this article with my thoughts on whether a non-indigenous person can create medicine bags. Some argue people outside Native American culture should not use the term medicine bag, and instead call it a talisman or amulet bag. Others say that taking Native American culture and calling it something else is also a form of appropriation. I realize this is a much bigger topic and deserves a much longer conversation, but I’d like to leave this quote below from Larry-


“We are spirits having a human experience.”


Larry believes, at the core we are all spirits living a human experience. And as spirits of the Earth, we are all deserving of protection, good health and healing. 


I urge you to honor your Native brothers and sisters by supporting them- lifting up their voices, buying their books, purchasing their goods and listening to their stories and knowledge with an open heart.


I also recommend checking out Larry’s book The Pipe and the Pen. This book “emphasizes the importance of loving each other as brother and sister, opening our heart to the Creator and honoring Mother Earth as well as her children, the stars, the trees, and the land.” (Available on Amazon)

Happy Native American Heritage Month!


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