In Native American Indian religions, when an individual reached puberty, or when there were older children in a family close to puberty, or the entering into adulthood, there was a vision quest, often deep into a forest; wilderness. This creature was to interact with a guardian spirit; that was generally an animal, in the belief to obtain advice and protection. As a spirit in animal form, it also served as a personal good luck mascot to the vision searcher and as a symbol of the success of the supernatural operation. In some cases, the animal spirit would ‘talk” as in the incident of ravens and crows. Ravens and crows really do not talk as humans do, but like parrots, use their syrinx, on occasions, to mimic words and sounds they hear, and then repeat them. Despite not always being so close to humans, such birds are very loud at mimicking human speech without any mutilating thereto.
In regards to animal spirit protectors, there are many stories recorded about animals, un-associated with humans that have saved humans from harm and death. A few examples include porpoises that protect swimmers from sharks, the sea lion that saved a San Francisco, California Golden Gate Bridge suicide jumper from drowning in the Pacific Ocean, and the beavers that saved a boy from freezing in Ontario, Canada. All of these true stories, and more such stories, can be viewed on the internet. But, there are, of course, tales of wild animals, such as bears (especially grizzly) and mountain lions; cougars, etc. that have attacked humans without provocation, and wild animal predators that have killed humans for food to eat. There are also poisonous snakes that can injure or kill if accidentally stepped on or encountered too closely. Children, alone and especially if they are unarmed, can experience great danger deep in a forest; wilderness.
In certain instances, a benefactor human met in the forest, as a gentleman who offers food and caring comfort to a vision searcher, can be mistakenly believed to be a spirit in human form. Vision quests were mostly found among the native peoples of North America and South America. These spiritual journeys marked the transition from childhood to adulthood. In some Indian tribes, the vision quest was performed only by males; other tribes had both males and females participating, but the males seem to participate considerably more so.
Native American Indians believed that visions would produce various supernatural phenomena, such as foretelling future events, the showing of spirits that are normally invisible, verbal communication with spirits that gives warnings, advice, or special solutions to serious problems,etc., etc. At times, the spirits would reveal what profession or type of physical performance in life the spiritual searcher was destined for; to become; to do.There were young male Native American Indians who became inspired to be shamans and medicine men for their tribe from a vision quest.
How the vision ritual was undergone, its length and intensity, and the age of the partakers varied greatly from tribe to tribe.The quest consists of a series of religious ceremonies led by the Elders of the tribe, and supported by the young person’s family and community. The rite often times would include a complete fast for four days and four nights while usually trying not to go to sleep but to stay up as much as possible during the four days and nights while alone in a sacred area in nature which was chosen by the Elders of the tribe for this spiritual goal.Some communities have used the same visionary site for centuries.Some tribes had their sacred sites,instead of a forest, for the spiritual seeker to take a long walk or to be confined to a small special room to attune with the spirit world.
The young person prays, asking the spirits for a vision that will help to determine their purpose in life, their role in society, and the best way for them to serve their tribe. By being in such a weakened physical state from a few days of fasting and sleep deprivation, there was a belief a person would be receptive to the spiritual forces. Here, a person could communicate with the spirits language to language or be able to at least receive some sort of sign from the spirits.There can also be instructive dreams from the spirits when a person is finally overtaken by sleep. Also, there can be forces of nature that occur which indicate special; informative symbolism that is hard to generally understand and must be interpreted by the Elders. As part of this spiritual contact, the seeker would realize his or her true path or direction in life, and then he or she would return to the tribe to pursue such a personal purpose and eat and sleep normally again. The young person can even become an apprentice or a student of an adult who has mastered their supernatural spiritual vision quest position in life.
There were young Native American Indians who tried going on a vision quest for four days, and did not experience any spiritual visions and then quit.With some native American Indian tribes, especially those in South America and parts of Central America, the vision quest did not involve fasting nor sleep deprivation, but the partaking of hallucinogens as well as chanting prayers and singing sacred songs. In certain cases, but not so common in the North America, there were vision searchers who took what are known hallucinogens to induce visions. Over a century ago, the vast majority of Native Americans did not know scientifically what hallucinogens really were.
Over the centuries, there have been religious groups in the Americas highly opposed to the native American Indian vision quests, as Christians and Churches. These religious groups did not believe in fasting nor sleep deprivation nor the taking of powerful drugs to produce visions and spoke against their practice. Also, in the Americas where states and countries have adopted laws against parental child abuse of fasting, sleep deprivation, and the use of hallucinogens of any person of any age.