A Look at Apache Spirituality

The Apache are a diverse group of Native American people who traditionally resided in southwestern areas of the United States and northern areas of Mexico. This was a large geographical area which consisted of mountains, valleys, deserts, and plains. The Apache spoke at least seven different languages and had many unique customs and spiritual belief.

Nevertheless, the Apache did share several cultural and religious elements which served to tie them together. Let’s take a look at some of these shared spiritual ideas and practices.

Apache Creation Stories

Apache creation stories varied from group to group, with unique elements depending on the specific tribe. Below are two stories which should give you an idea of these similarities and differences.

Creation Story of the White Mountain Apache

The creation story of the White Mountain Apache states that, in the beginning, the earth would not remain still because of winds that blew from the four directions. A gopher who lived under the earth tied it down with ropes. Once this was done, a black cloud came and sprinkled the earth with water, making life. The sun also began to walk about.

At this time there was only one woman alive in the world. She went to the place where the sun first shone in the morning and became pregnant. She gave birth to a son who could walk after only four days. Soon after, the woman gave birth to a second son.

native american Apache Creation Story of the San Carlos Apache

The San Carlos Apache version of the creation story begins with no earth and no sky. There were only four primordial persons in existence. The four had nowhere to live, so they decided to create a place where they could dwell.

The four persons created the earth and moved it into its proper place. They fixed the earth with supports and then set about creating living creatures. In this version of the creation story there was also a woman who became pregnant by the sun in order to populate the earth with human beings.

Apache Spiritual Practices

The Apache worldview was one in which everything was imbued with spirits. Much like how the sun had the power of procreation in the creation stories, the Apache saw spirits living all around them in the natural environment, and considered each person to have their own spirit within them as well. This belief was reflected in their spiritual traditions concerning “medicines.”

Medicine Bags and Medicine Men

The Apache, like many other Native American people, referred to objects imbued with sacred powers as “medicine.” These objects were used by medicine men, who are more commonly referred to in popular discourse as “shamans.”

Medicine bags were a typical form of medicine. These were buckskin sacks filled with powders, berries, seeds, and, most commonly, cotton-flag pollen. These bags would be kept somewhere on the body of a medicine man, who would use the powders inside to heal the sick or to perform ceremonies. For example, the pollen would be sprinkled into the water of a stream before one was to cross it.

Other Sacred Medicinal Objects

Aside from these medicine bags, the Apache medicine men also considered many other objects to be sacred. Different objects corresponded to different parts of life, and so the Apache had a wide array of objects which could be considered “medicinal.”

For example, there were medicine hats, staffs, hoops, bows, arrows, and miniature wooden carvings of gods which came from parts of trees that had been struck by lightning. Animal parts such as feathers, skins, shells, teeth, claws, and even fossils were also sacred and often worn somewhere on the body.


Despite this vast array of sacred medicinal objects, it was the cotton-flag pollen which was perhaps considered to be the most important of all. This pollen would frequently be sprinkled over the top of altars because it was believed that it was capable of carrying prayers up to the gods.

The altars were usually simple piles of stones in front of which people would pray to the gods of the four winds and the gods of the zenith and nadir. They either made offerings of thanks or beseeched the gods to bring about some desire of theirs.

Ceremonies Surrounding Death

The potent spiritual power of the gods and of medicinal objects was the same spiritual power that filled human beings and gave them their life force. Therefore, when a person died, it definitely didn’t mean the end of their spirit and essence. It was believed that the spirits of deceased people were taken away into the afterlife by owls.

After a loved one was buried, the sacred pollen would be sprinkled in a circle around their grave. This was considered to be a prayer for the soul of the departed, so that it could safely traverse the afterlife and find its way to heaven.

Should you be interested in chatting live with experts in spirits and spirit guides, check out Spirit Guides Chat. You may also enjoy talking with Psychic Marchelle, or give her a call at 1-800-888-5523, toll free USA and Canada.

Sources for Apache Spirituality:

Goddard, Pliny Earle. “Myths and Tales from the San Carlos Apache.” Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 24.1 (1918).

Goddard, Pliny Earle. “Myths and Tales from the White Mountain Apache.” Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 24.2 (1919).

Reagan, Albert B. “Notes on the Indians of the Fort Apache Region.” Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 31.5 (1930).