Showing posts with label Cherokee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cherokee. Show all posts

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Lessons from our Elders: Listen or Your Tongue will Make you Deaf

I admit it. I used to be an arrogant little know-it-all, always had something to say about every damned thing...years ago. If someone had a problem, I had a fix. I didn't just have a fix though, my fix was better than anyone else's.  Even when in the presence of people older and wiser than didn't matter. I still had the better idea, the better advice, the better fix.

Then, one day that all changed.

I was with a group of friends and there were several elders among us. It was a typical day, someone was having an issue and I knew what to do. I knew what to do before the issue was even fully explained! Isn't that amazing? Surely everyone must have been impressed! I knew I was!

Uhh, no, they weren't. They were annoyed. And for the first time, I actually SAW that they were annoyed with my know it all arrogance. Because let's face it, that's what it was.

Then, one elder turned and looked at me and said, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change." Only being an Elder, and being Cherokee, he didn't say it in those words, instead he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf."

But we all know what he meant, and what he meant was, "you really need to shut the hell up and just listen for a change you little twerp of a know it all."

I shrank to about 2 inches tall that day and that moment in time is forever burned in my otherwise lousy memory. Fortunately.

Image: Coloured aquatint, ca. 1862, depicting a man covering his mouth with a handkerchief, walking through a smoggy London street – Source: Wellcome Library

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.