This morning I was walking the dog, and a hawk startled up from where she had been perched. I saw her feather fall, then went to find it where it had fallen. This hawk feather was a gift to me. I believe the Creek Woman inspired the hawk, the dog, and I to be at the right place at the right time. I offered thanks, and because I didn’t have any with me at the time, I will go down later and offer tobacco. The Creek Woman and the Norse God/desses have been teaching me a shamanic related path over the past four years.
I began blogging recently about questions I had within myself regarding the rebuilding of traditions, and Odin had given me the term “NEW OLD TRADITIONS.” He told me that of course the methods had to be learned from some place, because many of the traditions of our ancestors had disappeared over the flow of time. There is that other fact, too, that we cannot easily cast out of ourselves the conditioning we have received from the material-oriented Christian culture we have grown up in. As synchronicity happens often in my life, I was not surprised when a culmination of things I was thinking and reading about happened to sync.
This blog considers the topic of RIGHT RELATIONSHIP. I found this term in Buddhism, in the book Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power by Thomas E. Mails, and a book on the Huichol by Tom Soloway Pinkson, Ph.D., titled The Flowers of Wiricuta: A Journey to Shamanic Power with the Huichol Indians of Mexico. My Gurdjieff mentor Donald Petacchi frequently said that it is good to have good will with other people.
This series of meditations started when Odin chastised me last week for not being attentive enough to the Gods. I am admittedly a worry wart; I had some personal situations going on that I had not brought to prayer. I felt I was closed off from my usual open channel to the Gods, but I was not kenning why. Odin reminded me gently that when I get worried about something, I try to solve my own problems. He reminded me that I was forgetting to act with faith and trust. While the Gods expect us to work to solve the difficulties in our lives, They also like us to pray to them about our difficulties, and to ask for what we need – Nauthiz. The process itself is an exchange. There are things that we do for the Gods and the Goddesses to honor them and to be their agents in the world – Gifu.
Odin opened the door of my heart again, and I began paying attention to sacred reciprocity that I had neglected. I used to work daily with the Creek Woman, but I fell away from that when I accepted a day job an hour’s drive away from home. I keep a busy schedule, but I am home for the summer, so there has been no reason to neglect that relationship. Being a worry wart is really no excuse. When we had our floods here back in 2011, she taught me how to sing so that the rain would be diverted over a wider area and bring balance back to the local weather. She taught me more than that, but that is another topic. The point was that I had forgotten to honor RIGHT RELATIONSHIP.
Right relationship figures prominently into the old ways of thinking practiced by indigenous peoples. As a young college student taking an Anthropology class in 1977, my professor, Dr. Ferguson, loaned me a book that radically changed my life. The book was Black Elk Speaks about a Lakota (Sioux) Holy Man who lived at the time the white people were seeking gold in the west. I felt like I was reading my own story. As a twelve year old kid, our parents took us on a trip to the Badlands because they wanted to see Mount Rushmore. I wanted to see the statue of Crazy Horse. I wanted to go off on my own and explore the Badlands, as I somehow knew I would be okay. The landscape was familiar. I felt victorious at the Custer National Monument, and overwhelmed by grief at Wounded Knee. Reading Black Elk Speaks brought those feelings up again, and inwardly I felt like the lifestyle I was living did not fit me, yet I could not articulate why. Now, nearly forty years later, I have a better handle on it than I did as a kid.
We have values in the greater American culture that collide with values of cooperation and reciprocity that were common in pre-settlement America. Cooperation and reciprocity are values that are supported by communities who realize that helping each other is the manner of survival. American Indian peoples would share the hunt between the members of their communities. The poor always had food to eat. Communities would have Giveaways out of gratitude or life changing events, such as a death. It did not matter that the family gave away everything, because some other family would host another Giveaway.
It is true that we still find some of those values today. Small town communities will have a giveaway or a fundraiser for folks whose homes have burned down or who have a family member with cancer or other incurable illness. Schools and Volunteer Fire Departments remain social centers within communities. The Amish still hold their barn-raising and community-centered events. I am talking in general about values the larger culture honors, such as greed and corporate gluttony, the lust to own more things, and the tendency to blame the poor for being poor.
With the advent of robotic technology, more and more machines are replacing jobs once held by human beings. With the event of computers, video games, cell phones, and television, people no longer seek their entertainment from nature, and their attention spans get shorter. If I were a historian, I might write a thesis as to the entire involution of this process, but I am not a historian. I am a simple human being who thinks deeply about things and wishes the world that people have created is better than it is and people better than they are.
So it is in thinking about these things that has me in this introspective mood this week. I talk to Odin, the Norns, Hela, Loki, or Sigyn about the feelings that are troubling me, and the answer is some version of “Live from the inside out. Talk to people. Share what you know. Share what you are.” Easier said than done sometimes. I was the “weird one,” the odd person out so often in life, that I have grown far more comfortable with my own company. There have been walls to take down, but I have done that work. Living in Right Relationship demands community. The Holy Men and Women of the Lakota Sioux say they give their lives for the people, like the buffalo. To this end they have their sacred pipe and the story of White Buffalo Woman. I was raised by devout Christians, who had great love for Jesus who laid his life down for the people. It was hard for me to come to this attitude; I have been so angry much of my life.
One of the things that I have often been sensitive to is the fact that people in groups are so familiar with one way of looking at things that they believe that is the only way to look at things. There was a moment in Fools Crow when he was talking to Tom Mails, and he said that if only they could get the Catholic priest out there to look at things, the Catholic priests would understand that their God and Wakan-Tanka was the same being. What Fools Crow did not understand was that the Church had only one way of looking at things. People don’t really think, and they ought to think. The same sun shines on everything. The moon too. The planet circles around our sun, sharing its light with the other planets in its orbital field. Our solar system is one of many in this galaxy. We are finite beings upon this planet that so graciously provides for all of our needs. Yet human beings with their big egos and corporate greed rob not only the planet, but other living beings of the sustenance they need for life. I will not even begin to comment on the atrocities of colonialism; or the mindless hatred of genocide. In a way this thinking of Right Relationship is a property of our Rune Raidho. Raidho is a rune for right ritual, and reflective of the journey the stars, suns, moons, and planets make across the sky – in right relationship. We humans likewise rotate around each other in the activity of our days.
What is really needful is a shift of human consciousness. And that can only come one person at a time, as individuals feel with open hearts the misfortunes of others and seek to do what they can to equalize the reality of life here on Earth. I think that an animistic view of the universe is needful as part of this shift of consciousness. The Lakota also have a saying, “Mitayuke oyassin,” which means “All my relations,” and refers to the two-leggeds, four-leggeds, winged ones, fishes, trees, plants, rock and stone people, and all beings of Earth. It is a more humble way of looking at the world, and a higher way, to realize that we are equal to everything else. If I am caught up in my ego, and someone in the Wal-Mart line does something that I don’t like, I might take my stand, say words that aren’t flattering, and in general behave just as poorly as that other individual. If I am in my center, and that person is doing the same thing, I might walk away, find another line, or choose to hold my patience then and there as another way to practice holding my center. The Gods and Goddesses support this work of self-change. Loki, for example, is great at finding the prank to knock me out of my ego and into a place of humility, and I thank him for that. He originally came into my awareness out of his curiosity at the work I was doing with his daughter, Hela, and ended up introducing me to Sigyn. The two of them have been most kind in helping me with attitude shifts in my own marriage.
Odin taught me another thing a couple of weeks ago. We live in the country, a really rural area of the country, where the wilderness is still wilderness and the bears can be met in the berry patches when we go to pick our own. And we are okay with this. But this year the ticks have been almost endemic, and the first time I walked Dolly in the spring field I literally was pulling eighteen and twenty off my pants. Yuck! Finally my anger at the ticks had grown so large that I was killing every one that I saw. Where I live we all know someone suffering from Lyme disease, and no one wants to get that. I eventually had the insight that my anger was attracting the very thing I wanted to avoid. I try to practice the insights of the Lakota saying quoted above. Odin reminded me that I was not living from a center of trust and faith, but from fear – fear of what might happen with the ticks. He said, “When you live that way, you close your heart. You close your heart to Me.” So, with genuine contrition, I prayed “Help me to live with trust and faith. Help me to open my heart that I might better hear You.” He did, and the balance of my inner world fell back into place. And He taught me a prayer, “Thank you for all of the lives that live here in my valley and that make up the world. Thank you for both the joys and the challenges, the love and the fear. I will live with trust and faith. Please do not let those other beings who could harm my physical body hurt me.” And I say that now whenever I walk the dog, and I have not been bothered by ticks since.
But this process, being equal to those beings that disgust me or that I have cause to fear, can be challenging, because I have that social conditioning that says I have the right to kill whatever is in my way or crosses my path. This same ego sometimes allows me to feel that it is okay to express anger at my loved ones, or other people just because I am in a bad mood. This is not being equal to anything or anyone. In fact if I stomp on an ant yet fear the bee, it makes me something of a bully to pick on those that are smaller or more innocent than I just because I can. Rather in being equal to a thing, or another being, I have to practice an act of humility, one that recognizes that being’s life is just as important to it as mine is to me. So I walk by the ant and let him about his business, and I step respectfully by the bees fascinated actually with their hard work and grateful for their pollination of the plants in my garden. My teaching by Odin reminded me of another thing that I often am forgetful of. When we are confronted by the Higher Powers, an act of surrender is needful. When I have exhausted my own will and done all I can in a situation where things just are not working, I have to surrender. This does not mean I have quit. Rather the Higher Powers that guide my life are putting in an appearance and letting me know that my way is not the way that will work. Instead, this surrender is really an acceptance, and when I bow my head to the inevitable, it is an act of trust and faith that the Higher Powers have a plan in mind for me and that things will work out better in the long run if I humbly listen.
I believe that Right Relationship also has to do with one’s sense of Place. After all when we work with the spirits of land and water, we are working with a sense of place. The synchronicity I spoke of earlier was this: Fools Crow was talking to Tom Mails about mythology versus origin stories. This struck my attention because I have been studying the Norse Mythology and asking my questions concerning Tradition. Fools Crow said that his people practiced ritual traditionally because it is a thing that works for healing and ceremony. He commented on the reality of mythology, and stated that the deeper those archeologists dig, the more they find those origin stories to be true. I grinned to myself, because I understand that one of the reasons Jesus talked in parables, and among the reasons that our own ancestors taught about life through Myth, is because there is a wisdom inherent in story and poetry that is missing in any literal, intellectual interpretation of a thing. You can know one thing with your heart, and that knowing will be wiser than your head. Fools Crow inferred something else, I felt, that Tom Soloway Pinkson, Ph.D. had recorded in his book on the Huichol. Tom was on a trip with the Huichol to collect the peyote that is at the heart of their shamanism, and he had a vision. He saw the spirit enter the land, and the spirit of the land entered the peyote, and the peyote grew into human beings who saw things in a certain way that manifests the spirit of the land. Even their language reflects the spirit of the land. This was pointed out equally powerfully by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) in his self-illustrated book Sound: Native Teachings and Visionary Art. Joseph Rael learned these in his grandfather’s kiva at Picuris Pueblo more than sixty years ago. At the start of his book, he says, “Everything observable and non-observable in this sphere of perceptual reality is the result of the breath of God, moving in the space-time continuum, creating matter, creating life. …all these things, the flesh, bones, chair, grass and earth, are artifacts of one great collective act of perceiving in which all beings participate.” The entire book is a good read for many reasons, including that language is a form of the vibratory frequencies that sing life into being. What comes to my mind as I write this is the Australian Aborigine Songlines, where every tribe had a song that they knew to sing that kept the world in form.
If these things are true, and they are certainly true from a dreamer’s perspective, then what happens when a people leaves their homeland, and brings their language and their ways to new shores? If we are open, we learn to sing our ancestral songs in a new way related to the land we have come to. The Creek Woman has taught me a song of joining. A time I needed to do ritual for the dead of indigenous peoples the Norns advised me to make a sacred mixture of tobacco, corn meal, and sea salt to honor my traditions and the traditions of this continent. It seems that it is indeed a NEW OLD TRADITION.