Monday, June 23, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 2




To follow up the story about the use of Crystals in indigenous traditions, I wanted to share another lesson taught to me from a Grandmother. This involves the horned toad, a lizard that lives in the Southwestern United States. Called "Chei Yaazh" in Navajo, meaning "Little Grandfather," these little guys are sacred creatures. The ones in the photo are just little babies and just cute as can be. The photo is of my son holding them, we had found them while going on a walk. This is how we teach our children. he knows about Chei medicine because I taught him. He holds it in his hand, on that day and many other days. He knows how to use the medicine, he knows who they are. He knows because I know. I know because Grandma taught me. And no, this is not another "grandmother story." This is the truth, a real grandmother story, knowledge passed down the old way, via oral tradition.

One day, I was standing outside with grandma, we were enjoying the beautiful day. This grandmother did speak a little English. All of a sudden she said look ! Chei Yaazh naagha! meaning look, there goes Little Grandfather! I have always loved horned toads, lizards, snakes and reptiles in general, so I bent down and picked him up. he was an adult, bigger than the ones in the photograph. She told me to give him to her so I did. She whispered something to the little Chei and held him to her heart. Then she pulled out her medicine bag that contained corn pollen and she sprinkled a tiny amount onto the back of the little Chei set him on the ground and told him in Indian to go in beauty...hozhoogo nanina.

In the Indian way, we have to be careful about asking things of our elders. We are taught to observe, observe and you will learn. Speak and you only hear your own voice. Or as the Cherokee saying goes, "Listen or your tongue will make you deaf." I learned about that saying in a not very pleasant way at all, but I'll save that story for another time. Anyway, I looked at grandma with the question, i wanted to know what did she just do? what did she say to Little Chei?

She told me.

Horned toads, Little Grandfathers, are wish takers basically. Whenever you see one, you can pick it up and whisper your wish to it, say a prayer, give it an offering of corn pollen and send it on its way with blessings. Blessings to carry your wish to the Creator and make it manifest, and blessings for it for a safe journey in life.

How cool is that?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lessons from Our Elders Part 1





I have never shown this to anyone, but I decided to share it along with a little story in an effort to dispel the myths about crystals and indigenous religions. There was the questioned asked in my Facebook group whether or not crystals are used in Voudou and Hoodoo, and I responded by expanding the answer to include the African Diaspora religions as well as Native American traditional religions - all of which I include under the umbrella term indigenous traditions. I have been criticized before as adding Wicca or new age elements to New Orleans Voudou, which I have not. What HAS happened, is that those who have made the accusations are uninformed and assume that because they have not ever heard of it before, then I must be making it up. It's an old dynamic I am used to dealing with. I have even had people from other countries, less than half my age telling me what my tradition is and is not, which I find frankly, humorous at best.

Anyway, my response was this: Working with stones is not a new concept,,,it is as ancient as humankind. There is a similar misconception as it pertains to Native American traditions. For example, crystal scrying is an extremely old and traditional means of divination among the Cherokee and the Navajo among many other tribes. Different stones have different meanings and purposes ascribed to them according to culture. The use of crystals have been used in the African Diaspora traditions for eons...but because there has been a disconnect from Africa and the US due to the slave trade, and because of the disconnect from elders and the internet, people who learn primarily from online sources (which is a large driving force behind the renewed interest of the various traditions) this portion of the body of knowledge is not commonly known. The reclamation or reintroduction of them seems like it is new. But it is not. it is as old as the religions themselves.

Now, the crystal in the photograph was given to me by a medicine man who was 78 years old at the time. He used crystals similar to this one to divine events and inquiries, and interestingly to find lost things. At a particular hospital where I worked as a traditional counselor, we had elders on staff for the express purpose of passing on the traditional ways to the youngsters who were our patients. At the time i worked in the adolescent behavioral health unit. Because many of the children were frankly outcasts and throwaways, we were often crossed. Grandpa would consult the crystal to find out whether or not there was something buried in the ground, who buried it and where it was buried. Then he would go outside and dig it up. This medicine man did not speak English - not a word of English. He was Navajo. he did not really come to respect me until he knew I could speak at least some of my native language, and once he hear me speak and sing songs, then he shared some things with me. Then he showed me how to use the crystal.

He was around 78 years old at the time and this was nearly 18 years ago. That means he was born around 1918 or earlier. His teacher, another medicine man who also volunteered at the hospital was older than him, though I don't know how old he was.

Now there are many things we can take away from this story, but two things are important. One is that, even at 78 years old, he still had a teacher. In the Indian way, the medicine is not bought and paid for. It is not a destination. It is a journey. We spend our entire lives learning and honing our skills. Some medicine people spend their entire lives learning just one ceremony because of the complexities involved. They are specialists.

Second, do you think he got his knowledge from a new age book or course?

Third, in the South, Africans and Indians exchanged many ideas and practices. The use of rocks and crystals were common between them, and the practice continued among the elder folks. I happened to be lucky enough to have several elders in my life along the way that were willing to share the practice with me. And, this is what I share with you today, and this is what I share in my writings. Not something made up. Not something Wiccan. On the contrary, something real, something authentic and something not written about because it is passed down via oral tradition. That is why so many have not heard of it. It is something much older than Wicca, and something much older than New Age. This is the tradition of our ancestors, our elders. And I for one, honor them.