Tuesday, July 24, 2007
©2007. Turtle Heart
Shamanism requires life and death awareness. The knowledge of suffering and pain (the underworld) overwhelms and destroys most good candiadtes for this work inside tribal culture. You must enter into and survive the dangerous journey into the underground. How many people do you know who have done that? There are no lawyers or 911 to come to your aid inside this underworld. It seems these days many modern people read a few books, beat on a drum they bought in a “shamans supply store”, take some “workshops” and they are ready to be “the chosen” to take away suffering and pain. Usually it is not suffering and pain they seek to relieve but something they call “personal power”. Many of them seem especially interested in this concept. Modern literature, when it talks about these practices romanticizes them with such seductive phrases.
One of the problems is that many people hunger to feel “chosen”...the one special “star” apart from the others. In a good shamanic Indian society everyone works together and there is no “chosen one”. In my culture we had a great society of people with many important skills in healing, philosophy, hunting, dreaming, seeking personal visions…... If someone was very sick, we might call on 44 shamans to look into this suffering. This “please let me be the Jesus” illusion seems to be one cause of this pretending to be shamans. This particular desire, you might say, is essentially an “underworld condition of Christianity” and not shamanism at all.
There is this from the Oxford Dictionary on my Mac laptop:
shaman |ˈ sh ämən; ˈ sh ā-| |ˌʃɑmən| |ˌʃeɪmən| |ˌʃamən| |ˌʃeɪm-|
noun ( pl. -mans |ˌʃɑmənz| |ˌʃeɪmənz|)
a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, esp. among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.
shamanic | sh əˈmanik| |ʃəˌmønɪk| |ʃeɪˌmønɪk| |ʃəˌmanɪk| adjective
shamanism |-ˌnizəm| |ˌʃɑməˈnɪzəm| |ˌʃeɪməˈnɪzəm| noun
shamanist |-nist| |ˌʃɑmənəst| |ˌʃeɪmənəst| noun & adjective
shamanistic |ˌ sh äməˈnistik; ˌ sh ā-| |ˈʃɑməˌnɪstɪk| |ˈʃeɪməˌnɪstɪk| |-ˌnɪstɪk| adjective
shamanize |-ˌnīz| verb
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from German Schamane and Russian shaman, from Tungus šaman.
Objects like dictionaries give credibility to language. but they are only meant to help us understand our words. Dictionaries are not law books. Some people may feel that if a word gets into the language then that word is validated and means what the dictionary says it means..
Take this “god and evil spirits”, a common reference used in literature discussing shamanism. This is a translation, or worse, his own spin, of what some researcher thought some shaman was telling him long ago. Many interpretations of so called shamanic events use this kind of language. Good and evil are Christian terms, Christian concepts. Good and evil are not distinct concepts in old tribal languages and certainly this christian duality thinking is not present inside of tribal and ritual behavior until very recently. The old original. ritual languages did not embrace Christian concepts of good and evil or heaven or hell. Yet Christian commentators on these people used Christian labels and language to write about these things.
Many modern people do what they want to do. No one shows the slightest interest in the hopes and wishes of the tribal people from whom they are just more or less stealing wholesale from. Plenty of people believe they have the freedom to do what they want without asking anybody anything at all. There is a lot of confusion over what is what, and it is a serious matter. Good people have the obligation to practice careful thinking and responsible language. Like the hissing of a leaky air pipe, there is a lot of unrelated noise being used as language to describe Indians and the Mystery Life of Indians.
My old mother used to say, “just because your lips are moving, does not mean you are saying anything.”
Good people, over time, will buy into accepting a word. I hear American Indians using this word more and more. I don’t buy it. I even use this word sometimes. I am embarrassed. There are no excuses. Sometimes it just takes to long and who cares?
Ask the shaman if they have gone to the Underworld and died there? If they cannot give an absolutely clear answer to this question, then they are liars, at best. Indian or or non-Indian. Many old Indians are unhappy with the modern language words used to describe their sacred life. Ceremonial language never uses fancy modern marketing words. It uses only the language of clarity and they may not sound like your language at all.
In tribal culture, and in shamanic cultures, the principle rules of initiation and permission to use these sacred teachings comes from one source; the tribal elders. You must have their direction, permission, blessing and support. Period. If someone claims to be a shaman and cannot clearly and precisely offer convincing evidence of this involvement with tribal elders, they may believe what they are telling you, but they are most likely mistaken.. Throw stones at them. There have never in any tribal culture been any exceptions to this rule of the elders. The rule of the elders is the whole basis, or foundation, upon which this sort of teaching rests. One way or the other Grandfather and sometimes Grandmother must be in the picture of the life of anyone who claims to practice in this line of knowledge.
There are no “intellectual” Shamans. You cannot study hard and learn how to be one. It exists within a cultural context, not an intellectual one.
It is possible to proceed, in your relations with other people, on the basis of trusting your own senses. It is not always very respectful to blurt out intensely personal questions. I sometimes meet people who ask blunt questions about race, about who my elders are and I want to slap them…and I have slapped a few faces. Out of respect for yourself, you can discover ways to understand who is around you, who is teaching you. It is possible to not only behave with respect, it is possible to have enough respect for these sacred things to seek out good information from people you have clear feelings about. You test what you have experienced by trusting in your senses. It is in fact this education of the senses, this power to understand where in the real world you really are and what is true and what is not. Our tribal elders believed in this power. When I hear the elders talk about these many modern people who say they are shamans, they say they don’t believe them. Whom do I believe? Those talking heads or my elders?
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
©Copyright 2007, Turtle Heart
“Let us kill all the Indians, then we can use their drums and songs and feathers and then we will be The Indians. Or, wait, we can all be Shamans, so we don’t even need the Indians anymore.” (…anonymous)
At the beginning let me say that this word shaman is nothing. It is a manufactured word that comes from the dead world. Maybe we can call it a marketing word. It describes nothing. The common confusion over what is what in the world uses this word to describe something very few people know anything about at all. It is not a specific word, it is a general word. It means way to many things to far to many people to mean anything at all.
The old Indians had very few formal rules. Even so, a person was expected to speak clearly and use words in a very specific and accurate way. It is called being impeccable. The Sacred Life is an impeccable life. This word shaman is sloppy. It is a pretend word. Bad language clouds the air and leads to tension, and the need for corrections. When people behave well from the beginning, then there is no need for corrections.
Correction ceremonies. These days when we have the opportunity to bring the ceremonies to the people, we have to make corrections first. Most people do not understand that a ceremonial person is an intense specialist. It is important to try and do things clearly and do them right. Many of my ceremonies in the modern world become a series of corrections. Ceremonies that introduce the right way to talk about these ceremonies and these old Indians. Most people will not think about where the ceremonies they may find their way into are really all about…the back story as we say. For most of us, the initial ceremonies we do with people are “corrections”. These are ceremonies trying to get everybody on the first page. ceremonies that introduce the language and the breathing. Most of the time we do not get past doing correction ceremonies with people. Most people don’t know this. This includes many famous writers who have written about the fantastic ceremonies.
Those ceremonial leaders who follow the laws of the old clans know what they are doing. It will take, as it is now, 3 or 4 more generations of correction ceremonies because of all the bad information that is out there. Quite often I have believed the principle audience for this book is in the future. When this word was introduced, casually and almost by accident by one Michael Harner into popular culture, it added the need for even more correction ceremonies. This word is not and has never been an American Indian Word. Probably he had no bad intention, this man. Sadly, it appears he gave it no thought whatsoever. This situation is a good example of the dangers that exist on this path or Indian people and everybody else. Really strong bullshit can in fact be toxic.
Grandfather will say to you what he means and he means only what he says. There is no innuendo or hidden meaning. When it is clearly stated, the words mean only what they say. They do not mean anything extra or less. Perception is everything and clarity and being impeccable with your words is the key to perception.
Pretending to be something is not a new dimension in western culture.
For example, here on Pantelleria, the island at one time was incredibly rich in obsidian. Even today much of the island is composed of an ore blend of obsidian and basaltic stone...not so flashy as the pure obsidian. Answer...pretend. The only local man who is an artist here imports obsidian from Mexico and sells it as Obsidian of Pantelleria....because it is on Pantelleria I guess, he feels he is not saying anything incorrect and is quick to remind you that this good Mexican obsidian is very much like the obsidian found in the past on Pantelleria...etc. The dumb ass people who buy this obsidian from Mexico from Pantelleria have, like all of us the power to be informed about the nature and composition of this earth. I actually stayed awake through the geology classes at Eastmoor High School. By knowing nothing they allow the man of Pantelleria to pretend. It feels like being uninformed is a key ingredient in this whole process.
Movies: After I saw “Apocalypse Now” (1979); a movie about the adventures of one Special Forces Army Captain (Martin Sheen); for over a year I met way to many many men who told me they were “captains in the special forces”...(for example).
Recent studies in “false confessions” to crimes has revealed some intensely interesting ideas about the suggestibility of people. There is a whole personality configuration that lends itself to acting out perceived vs real information.
The cultures which actually contain Shamanism produced the urge by some within the culture to “help” the people. The strong and focused ability to try and help other people is the purpose of this line of work.... to help other people. That is, in the culture of Shamans, they try to help people. In general this word applies to a narrow group of indo-european people only. It is their word.
By the way, in my opinion the best source of understanding what this word actually means (something far more beautiful than the bullshit rodeo it now lives in) is a book called “Soma; Divine Mushroom of Immortality” by one R Gordon Wasson.
Here is an amazon link to that book. While discussing shamanism is not at all what the book is about, the author takes you deep into the histories of the Siberian peoples to whom this concept belongs.
Automationism (see Yeats, 1969);the industrial schedule of commerce which really rules the rhythm of modern western people’s lives.....this is a formidable force under which Shamanic consciousness is an almost impossible opposite.Modern people, even in small villages, have long ago left behind the rhythms of nature and now rely on the business clock for almost all human activity. Shamanic consciousness is impossible inside this matrix.
Part Two next week...
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Tobacco, before it became the most enslaved and abused plant in the world, was a sacred gift, a medicine, a prayer of the American Indian people.
Today, many tribal religious and spiritual/cultural leaders and teachers continue to honor the sacred traditions and values of tobacco. Though as a young man I had studied the stories and been to many ceremonies of the Sacred Pipe and Tobacco, it was first from an Elder of Taos Pueblo that I felt emotionally and spiritually the real power of tobacco. I first met him when I was just starting out traveling with the Sacred Pipe. This was around 1976 or so.
Strawberry Jim and the Sacred Tobacco
He was very welcoming of the sacred pipe into his home. On my very first visit to his house I stayed for nearly a month. It was right in the middle of winter and soon after I arrived there was a gigantic snow fall, several feet. This stranded me in the house. After a few days I started digging through the supplies in my old Chevy. I came up with a jar of homemade strawberry preserves. At the time I just called him “Grandfather” and it was an interesting surprise to see how much he relished these strawberry preserves. I think that jar of strawberries made me a lifelong friend on the spot. In the days that followed we had a warm and lasting friendship. Every day we had together a small and private ceremony with the sacred pipe. He really relished the meditation, as did I. We would sit in his small but outstanding kitchen, in his old, old adobe home and smoke together. It was only later that I learned everyone locally called him Strawberry Jim. He used to grow really good strawberries and bring them into town on his horse-drawn cart back many years ago.
He loved to share the smoke of the Sacred Pipe and his reverence and sweetness taught me the full emotional and spiritual meaning of sacred smoking. Even after all these years and so many ceremonies, Strawberry Jim smoked with great power, dignity and beauty.
When he smoked, the smoke itself would travel from his lips in a tiny, tight column, thin as a pencil and straight. It would come out of his mouth and climb straight up into the room like a snake, like a column of pure white light. It was very beautiful and something I only saw when Strawberry Jim smoked and prayed with the sacred pipe.
Jim spoke almost no english. He did speak Spanish very well, as well as his own Tewa language. I never found this to be a problem. Though I do not speak Spanish or his language we always managed to understand each other perfectly well. For many years, until his death, I came to visit him every year. This became a very important and much anticipated journey for me. When he was very ill and shortly before he died I gathered in his small bedroom with all the members of his family. There in the dark room, lighted by the old pueblo fireplace, I made his farewell song and pressed for the last time the long stem of the sacred pipe to his ancient lips.
Strwaberry Jim was gracious. he was beautiful, calm and very well spoken. He was held in high esteem by every person who ever came in contact with him. Having his friendship was one of the great honors of my life. His gentleness and smiling face remains an endless teaching for me about what a real indian immersed in his sacred path really is all about.
It was interesting to have this experience there at Taos Pueblo. Traditionally it a handful of tribes in the north that follow the Sacred Pipe. The Sioux tribes, the Ahnishinabe, Cree and Algonquian and so forth. So much has been lost. Many tribes in the southeast had complex sacred smoking ceremonies that have all now been lost.
Tobacco as we know it today was the religious property of the Creek Indians, at the southern end of the Mississippi River. My people are at the north mouth of the same river. In a short version of the coming of sacred tobacco: a couple had gone into the forest to make love. They had a great time in a big meadow filled with a deep leafy plant they had never seen before. When they returned to the village after their day of making love, it turns out they had been gone many years and everyone thought they had died and disappeared into the deep old forest. They lead the elders to the meadow and this plant began its long ceremonial and sacred use among these fantastic old Creek Indian people. That tobacco plant is now called “Virginia Gold Leaf” and it is the finest tobacco in the world, in the history of the world. It was stolen from these tribal elders. They never gave their permission for its commercial enslavement and remains their legal property to this day. They have never been paid.
Smokin all alone the strange assortment of additives and the genetically altered tobacco of the modern tobacco industry is certainly dangerous and well should it be. Tobacco is one of the most powerful plants in the history of the world.
The old indians understood that the secret to its power was in smoking together. Smoking the sacred pipe it becomes a symbol and a ceremony for passing life through the body and the soul at the same time. We like to say, “in a visible manner” as we believe the smoke has a special power to be seen and understood by God, by the Mystery Life, by the Spirits of the Mother Earth.
Smoking together is everything. People do this with a marijuana joint. Getting stoned together with a joint is much more closely connected to the old sacred ceremonies than sucking on a Marlboro in a bar in the middle of the night.
Indian teachers know that there is a mysterious power that happens when a group of people with open hearts and well informed spirits gather together and make a ceremony of sharing the smoke. It is a power that works to bring something magical and sacred from the people when they do this together. This sacred experience of tobacco does not work when you smoke alone.
Try smoking your cigarette with your friends, pass it around. You will see the energy of what you are doing will change instantly. Where you were before isolated inside a compulsive habit, now something else entirely is happening. Try it.
Monday, July 02, 2007
©Copyright 2007, Turtle Heart
Why was the summer solstice so important to ancient people? Why did they labor at such great length to understand the precise moment of celestial events? Their labors of precision and complexity go well beyond simple agricultural needs. Why is this information, that was so important then, nearly unimportant now?
The very act of having to work so hard to have something makes it precious. Something that is precious has strong thoughts and many moments of time in the minds of those to whom it is so important. The ancient people knew something about the earth that we have forgotten. Though not so many people know about this place, Chaco Canyon in western New Mexico has some of the most advanced celestial alignments of any culture on earth. The basis of all their calculations is a sophisticated calculation device made of 3 large slabs of stone leaning against a bigger rock. It is absolute perfection of science laughing in the face of every machine ever made.
We know that nearly every pre-christian society had detailed information about the heavenly objects and alignments with stars and moments in time. Sophisticated movements of planets and stars. What was it about the Christian movement that made getting this knowledge out of people’s minds so important to them? All the early Christian nations were supported by aggressive armies and policies of intolerance for other religions. People forget that it was not only the old “pagan” religions that were suppressed and outlawed, but the symbols and knowledge they had acquired were erased as often as they could be found. What purpose does hiding something have in your mind? Do you destroy something because you don’t need it anymore? History tends to just treat these matters as “progress”, which only shows one of the great weaknesses of a society compelled to write its own history. The real facts can be discovered but you have to be prepared to go deep and think long. Who has time for that?
Today nearly one half of the world’s 6 billion people live in urban space. Alignment in urban space is all about business time, rather than natural time. Business time really means nothing so much as the time for making money and spending money. Most dates in the modern world have little to do with the natural world. There is a sort of nodding recognition of the orbit of the earth around the sun (year), day and night and the month is loosely, very loosely a half-assed awareness of the moon.
The internet has now become a new factor in business time as it is not limited by schedules at all and goes all day and all night. However, now billions of people are regulated by the hours and schedules of the working man’s week. Guess the solstice means nothing to these guys. It is getting harder and harder to find calendars, especially free business calendars that even list the quarters of the moon. This used to be information on just about every calendar you would see. Most newspapers seem to still have the little almanac page which shows quarters, and tides and sometimes other important events. If you ever go to a good newsstand, many still sell the Farmers Almanac. This is a great little book to keep in the toilet and thumb through whenever you can. It shows the rich history of what and when people used to line up with in nature, in the seasons, winds and rains.
We have shifted from a complex gathering of societies that monitored with great passion and interest the natural time to one regulated by the commerce needs of business. Why has business time replaced natural time?
I try to always do a good ceremony on the days of the natural earth, like the solstice of summer. In my work I call the equinox and solstice “gateways”. I see them as doors that open for a moment, a few breaths, and then close. I have always believed that these gateways are activated at those precise moments: and all you have to do is pass through. You do not have to look for the door. You are the door. I have heard some elders talk about the four directions as the four gates. This idea is worth some thought. The idea that particular moments in time may harmonize, or align, with opportunities in consciousness is typical of the thinking of the old indians.
I was made at one time into a keeper of sacred pipes. I have learned that really this means I am the keeper of a moment in time when the people are together. It is the moment of time that is where the work takes place. The moment in time is where the opportunity rests. A good ceremony is about a proper moment in time, not about the personality of a teacher or person. If the teacher is correct, if the students are correct, then the idealized moment is made possible. This advanced alignment is a very ancient and sacred way to think. Alignment might also be termed elevation. As in thinking. The discipline of the circle and the moment shared in a formal way, this energy elevates consciousness. Maybe only a few degrees, but sometimes great progress is possible. No matter how correct and good the ceremony and the ceremonial leader is, that is only half way. The others have the responsibility to know how and be pepared to come the other half of that journey. The subtle and quiet forces which are behind this idea are possibly beyond language to explain very well.
Like most real things in the educational system, this idea has been ignored. This question about alignments has never really been tested. People talk about being “connected” but this is not the same thing.
The old indians may have felt that from within the ceremonial life, the effort made to be in alignment with multiple points of the cycles of nature and time produced results. Usually great devotion from large groups of people to shared ideas is something that happens because it works.
Navigation still relies upon points and moments in nature. If you want to go somewhere in the universe, you have to know about the alignments and orbits of everything around you. We know that matter itself is arranged to be constantly in just the right alignments for harmonious cohesion of the universal quantum to even exist. In nature, even opposing forces can be productive because the alignments are so precise.
For some reason (business), the forces that have guided the development of modern civilizations have abandoned nature in favor of arbitrary schedules of automationism, that is, industrial society and business. Why have we allowed this to happen? At what point did we all agree that business schedules would be become the rule of society and nature would be ignored as much as possible? How many of you, knowing nothing about trees, think you are (however) smarter than a tree?
Automationism has allowed us to accomplish what appear to be astonishing achievements. But gadgets and fancy machines have not taken us very far. Society remains generally impoverished, selfish, plagued with illness and starvation, and of course relentless violence and judgement, mostly between religious cultures.
Something happened which turned future generations of people away from the very idea of alignment with nature. That something appears to be the church. It is not easy to look back and figure out where and when this great divide took place. We also know that in this world there are countless numbers of people who would do anything, say anything to make money and have personal power. Have these people, the punks of the universe become the bosses because we were just to busy to notice? Social custom and accepted social norms are conditional reflexes that guide society in many ways, but which are automated responses coming from the least developed area of our psyche. It is like letting the craziest person in the room define the agenda.
In the end it comes down to what this may mean to you and what you can do about it. At the present moment in historical time, many people have the power and the opportunity to educate themselves in new ways. There is enough evidence and technology to examine the evidence of the past and see the differences. More than ever I encourage people to search for and seek alternative educational paths. We are overlooking answers contained in some simple subjects that we just refuse to study collectively: like dreaming, solstice and moon movements. Alignment, like old indian dreaming, is something done best by being together with other people. Dreaming is something we do together, but no one remembers this anymore. Alignment with multiple geometries and celestial mechanics is a way for the group to receive something from the natural forces. How do you receive a blessing from the mystery life? Doesn’t it make sense that if you do something very precisely, then something very precise may result. The ancient ceremonies all took place in collective social (ceremonial)situations. They were never the privilege of the isolated chosen few. The ceremonies don’t work at all, so to speak, if you try and do them by yourself. Real knowledge of the universe cannot be held by one mind alone. Real alignment is likewise something that it is impossible to do alone.
You don’t hear about famous prophets, kings, and mythical gods with dramatic names in tribal culture. Some people point to this as an absence of culture and history. The church sure looked at it that way. These people have written no books or formed no governments so they must be empty of their souls!! What people miss in looking at tribal culture is the massive calculation of natural mathematics that went into the complex ceremonial dances, rituals, objects and organization into specialized clans and societies. You don’t hear about these great leaders because indian people were well informed. They could all sing and dance and work and teach themselves what they needed to know. They had no fascination to put one person above another. In indian culture your most famous teacher would be you.
Ancient tribal people lived diverse social experiences. There were many tribes, essentially from several great language and ceremonial groupings and of course a handful of exceptions to that general rule. Some tribes lived in very small, moving bands. Some tribes built structures for homes. Some tribes built no structures for homes but many for rituals. They lived together in small groups usually. There were only rare occasions were huge numbers of indian people were all present together. The largest cyclic gather places were the Mojave Desert and Chaco Canyon. Some tribes had simple needs and so reflected simplicity in ceremonial life. Other tribes became quite large and developed complex layers and sub layers of societies and clans which continued generation after generation. We make an impressive nod towards Buddhism, for example, with its 15th and 16th generation teachers and teachings. Some tribal teachings may go back 1,000 generations or even more. Society is not ready at all to know how very interesting these ancient old indians really were. Everyone would realize what a mistake it was to allow outraged, hysterical armies controlled by the church kill and smash everything in sight. Ooops. Maybe these people had something going on.
If you look at a treaty map of the USA showing the names and locations of the tribes you see more than 500 different names on that map. If you draw the same map showing the distribution of the tribes by the method of their ceremonies, you get about eight different names.
Multi Generational Alignment
I have a stone object in my group of ceremonial objects. It is very beautiful. It was made sometime in the stone age. It was made before there were any kind of metal tools. The stone is impossibly hard and the actual method of sculpture very refined. The best ideas about this object indicate it may have taken up to 100 years to make it. Think of that. We live in an age where complex gadgets are made in seconds. Here is something one group of people wanted and were willing to work together over a period of generations to make it happen. What stories and teachings and secrets did they say to each other as the work was passed from hand to hand, old to young?
We know that many of the ancient stone structures of the old civilizations took more than one lifetime to make. One of the reasons I think we do not understand the nature of stonehenge, the great pyramid and so forth is that we have no experience at all in moving so slowly and calculated and we have no experience thinking much past the end of the day, much less 7 generations ahead.
In their directed consciousness, modern people may have a greater investment in automationism than in nature, which requires direct consciousness. This is particularly true of people who live in modern cities. This amounts to billions of people with an automated mind set and habit of behavior. Quite a formidable force for one human person looking for the truth to find their way. Inside this atmosphere of automationism, each individual in theory has a possibility that we call “free will”. Contemporary western thought has not evolved or changed significantly since it was formed, several thousand years now. However, generation by generation we are further and further away from nature. We are people with gadgets and free will and opportunity, but the same old people we have been all along.
I have learned from the old indians that ancient people do not have this same thought process, do not assimilate and present ideas in the typical western model. The contents of their subconscious are entirely different. One of the important secrets in understanding the study of the sacred pipe has to do with shifting the way in which you think about the details of life. If, when you are there, you think about things the way you do in New York City, when you are on the lands of the mystery life, you will learn and see nothing. This is true even in New York City.
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