Native American View of Death

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Information and quotes provided here are from Healing Secrets of the Native Americans by Porter Shimer.

When Native American warriors prepared for battle, they dressed in their finest clothes and best headdress. They did this to prepare themselves in case they died. They wanted to be ready for their funeral. Rather than fearing death, they welcomed it.

While early Native Americans did not believe in heaven in the Christian sense, they did believe in an afterlife. They believed they were immortal and would go to a spirit world where they could interact with animal spirits, plant spirits, and earth spirits as well as human spirits. They were glad to leave their bodies behind because they believed they would be reborn onto earth in a future time. It was all part of a continuous cycle of life. Death was the end of the present physical life, a gateway to the spirit world, and eventually the way to rebirth on earth.

Native Americans buried their dead with their prized possessions because they wanted them to enjoy the spirit life. The spirit world was viewed as similar to our physical life, but mostly as a non-physical world in another dimension; one that is pleasant to inhabit.

To Native Americans, death was not an ending, but a gateway to the next world. Dying was as natural as being born and the two activities were interrelated; like two sides of the same coin. The author quotes Robert Blackwolf Jones: Everyone should yield to death and die gracefully, he says, because in some ways it is the most noble thing we’ll ever do.

Ancient Wisdom: The Heart

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The quotes which follow are from The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols (pages 566 and 567) by Adele Nozedar, published by Harper Collins, 2007.

“The heart symbolizes the very center of being, both physical and spiritual, and has been twinned with the soul since time immemorial – even before the Egyptian “heart-soul” was weighed by Maat, the Goddess of Truth. As the last organ left in the mummy, the ideal heart was meant to be as light as a feather – Maat wore the ostrich  feather that has equally-balanced fronds as a symbol of justice. The heart should not be weighed down by misdeeds or untruths.”

“In the Hindu faith, it is called the Brahmapura, or House of Brahma.”

“In the Jewish tradition we find that the Holy of Holies is the heart of the temple of Jerusalem, which is the heart of the world in Judaism”

“The idea of the heart containing the ‘home’ of God is symbolized by the Kabbalistic image of the inverted heart that contains the letters of the tetragrammaton, the secret name of God.”

“In Islam, the heart is symbolic of the inner life of a person, of meditation and contemplation.”

“To put your heart and soul into something is to invest a project with as much energy and commitment as can be mustered. When we make a vow and we put our hand on our heart, this shows our sincerity to keep the promise.”

“The heart became associated with love recently, in the Middle Ages, and today the stylized heart symbol is synonymous with both the word ‘love’ and the concept, and is most prevalent around the time of St. Valentine’s Day on February 14th.”

May we open our hearts not only to all human beings, but also to all the elements and other beings, spiritual and physical, who share the benefits and abundance of Mother Earth.    HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

Healing Secrets of the Native Americans

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Lately I have been reading more about Native Americans (and watching more First Nation Experience TV) and I have realized I know next to nothing about Native Americans except what I have seen in the movies. What a shame. I suspect that our European forefathers made a grave error when they pushed the Native Americans off Native American lands. Aside from the injustice, they ignored Native American wisdom, to their own detriment. My own error is that I haven’t tried to learn more of this wisdom myself. However, I am trying to correct that mistake.

In reading Healing Secrets of the Native Americans, by Porter Shimer, I came across a couple of interesting paragraphs which I share with you in this blog:

On page 19, “The earliest European settlers considered Native Americans essentially as pagan, but that was both inaccurate and unjust, for they were intensely religious. They believed not in the singular God of the Christian tradition, but rather in a spirit world embodied in animals, plants, and the physical elements of earth itself. They prayed to these spirits, gave them gifts of appreciation, asked for guidance, and appealed to them for good health when ill. Again, these prayers bore little resemblance to Christian worship. They were usually performed in elaborate group ceremonies involving song, chanting, and dance.”

And on page 21, “In their faith, they simply appealed to those higher powers and did so with additional belief in the strength of numbers. Traditionally, as many friends and relatives of the patient as possible would attend a Native American healing ceremony so that the power of their prayers would be compounded for greater effect. The communal aspect of their healing ceremonies was symbolic of the harmony between man and the natural environment that the Native Americans believed was so crucial. For them, religion and community life were inseparable.”

Close your eyes and imagine being part of that healing ceremony for a family or community member. Imagine a large group of supporters praying for the healing of one of their community. The healing power must have been awesome.

Ancient Wisdom: Healing Secrets of the Native Americans

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I am reading Healing Secrets of the Native Americans by Porter Shimer. All quotes in today’s blog are from his book.

Today we look to pharmaceutical companies for our medicine. Native Americans looked to nature, especially the plant world, for remedies and cures. Nature was (and is) their pharmacy. Do you know that a large percentage of modern pharmaceutical products derive their healing abilities from plants common to our environment? One example is aspirin. The ingredients in aspirin are chemically similar to pain relieving compounds found in the bark of the willow tree. For centuries, “Tribes in California used a willow bark  to make tea that relieved back pain (page 116).”

It’s not that early settlers were unaware of Native American use of plants for medicinal purposes. In 1650, Dutch explorer Adrian van der Donck wrote, “The Indians know how to cure very dangerous and perilous wounds and sores by roots, leaves and other little things (page 10).” And in 1714 John Lawson wrote in his History of North Carolina: ” Among all the discoveries of America by the French and Spaniards, I wonder why none of them was so kind to the world as to have kept a catalog of the illnesses they found the natives able to cure (page 10).”

So why didn’t the early (or later) settlers keep track of this information, or at least adopt Native American remedies? Unfortunately it was because most of them incorrectly and rashly viewed Native Americans  as ‘ignorant savages’. What a tragic mistake! They would have benefitted, even on a personal level, from learning this Native American wisdom. It was left to our later scientists to re-discover what Native Americans had known for thousands of years. It makes me wonder, what other ‘Ancient Wisdom’ have we not yet re-discovered?

Ancient Wisdom: Wisdom from the Blackfeet Nation

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By late November, 2012 I decided to cancel my cable TV. I had the cheapest package available, $30.00 a month for about thirty-some channels. So I bought a digital antenna and connected it to my TV. I now have access to over twenty channels and, much to my surprise, four of them are associated with WTTW, my all time favorite. Sometimes signals fade, but I patiently wait until the station comes back. Most of the time it is not a problem.

So one day I was checking out my new line of digital channels when I came across a new one, FNX. At first I confused it with FX, but this was FNX. As I watched I realized that every show was oriented toward American Indians and other indigenous cultures. The light dawned! FNX stood for First Nation Experience. It features indigenous cultures exclusively. I watch it periodically and I can tell you it has expanded my awareness of indigenous issues and taught me much about cultures I knew nothing about. If you get it, I highly recommend it. The subject of this blog is based on a segment of one of those programs.

Not long ago I was watching FNX and a woman who is the Chairperson for the Blackfeet Nation in Montana came on. The host of the show exchanged pleasantries with her and then asked her to explain the importance of the Circle in terms of family life in her tribe. Her comments follow:

At the center of the circle is the child. There are many helpful circles around this child. The inner circle is the mother. The mother is responsible for the health and welfare of that little child. If the child needs attention and the mother is not around, the second circle takes over. In the second circle are the aunts and older cousins. Likewise there is a third circle consisting of the grandmothers. The fourth circle is made up of uncles. The fifth circle belongs to the grandfathers. The outer circle belongs to the father. While each inner circle ultimately supports the child, the father protects all of the family members within his circle.

As the child grows, cousins an aunts help educate the child in regard to customs and the child’s responsibility to the family and the tribe. In the teen years the grandmothers take over, making sure the child becomes more responsible and well behaved. Ultimately the uncles, grandfathers and father help educate the child as well. Of course this is true for all children in the tribe, girls as well as boys, and creates a wonderful network of family support for each of them. This is a wonderful family concept. It’s more intricate than any family structure I have heard of.

Next Blog: Journey – The ancestry of my heart TLC issue

Ancient Wisdom – Spirit Guides

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Like shamanism itself, the idea of communicating with spirit guides dates back at least 40,000 to 50,000 years. While this idea has fallen out of favor in Western civilization, it has persisted in various places throughout the world even to this day.

When I went to grammar school I learned that each of us have a Guardian Angel. As the prayer to the Guardian Angel stated, they were there “to light, to guard, to rule and to guide” us. Over the years I noticed that I got good ideas from my inner voice, but I never focused on my guardian angel as much as I should have. In fact I sometimes ignored the good ideas, and later regretted it.

As I ‘matured’ I learned the value of paying attention to that voice. The more you listen for it, the more likely you are to hear it. As you know, in shamanic practice that inner voice may represent a message from a power animal as well as a human-form spirit teacher, or perhaps our guardian angel as well. Yet most Western people today think of spirit guides as something that are imaginary. It’s unfortunate. As human beings we have predispositions to make decisions in a certain way, limiting the variety of our choices. When we listen to spirit guides, we open our hearts and minds to a greater variety of possibilities and therefore a greater number of positive outcomes.

Sometime after Marilyn died in 1998, I read a book about souls, reincarnation and the time between lives. I read it again recently. Titled Journey of Souls, by Dr. Michael Newton, it was based upon his experience using hypnotherapy and life regression techniques to help his patients. He accidentally discovered patients who described previous lifetimes in great detail, and sometimes the past life contained answers to their current problems. He decided to specialize in past life regression and as a result wrote the book which was based on hundreds of such cases.

One chapter is titled “Our Guides”. On page 107 Dr. Newton states, “I have never worked with a subject in trance [past life regression] who did not have a personal guide.” He went on to write that most people have more than just one guide and that different guides possess different attributes, each of which are useful to the person they are helping. The doctor found that each guide has a name and that while some names are ‘ordinary’ by our standards, some are whimsical sounding or even unusual. I can personally attest to the unusual name because one of my guides, whom I refer to as the Ancient One, told me his name once and I had to ask him to repeat it a couple of times before I could figure it out. It’s not like any other name I know.

The doctor’s conclusions were that guides are highly helpful beings; none of his clients ever feared their guide. The guides also give us a positive outlook on Self that helps us in our mundane world. He says that it is easiest for us to hear the guides ‘voice’ if we are relaxed but focused and open to hearing the message.

While not associated with any form of shamanic practice, the doctor’s statements affirm my personal experiences with spirit guides. I also find it interesting to note that the shamanic journey itself provides us with a relaxed but focused method of communicating with our spirit friends. As with any practice, the more frequently we journey to the spirit world, the more worthwhile our experiences will be.

Next blog – I don’t know what it will be yet. I’m waiting for inspiration. Come on, helpful spirits!

Ancient Wisdom: “What Plants Talk About” (from PBS Nature Series)

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Plants are not animals but behave like them: they have no eyes or ears but find their own food; they have the ability to defend themselves; they have no brain but cooperate with, communicate with or compete with their neighbors; and they nurture their young.

All plants are complex and have complex feeding behaviors. They hunt with their roots – 80% of their nutrients are below ground. They forage, feeding on delicacies they discover. This is the plant version of hunting.

The wild tobacco plant, when attacked by hornworm caterpillars, emits chemicals to attract caterpillar predators. In one case they produce daytime flowers which attract hummingbirds that eat the caterpillars. When one tobacco plant is attacked, nearby plants ramp up their protective chemicals even through they have not yet been attacked.

Competition. We know that plants vie with each other to get sunlight. But one, spotted nap weed, fights underground by emitting chemicals that kill nearby native plants. In turn, lupin grass launches chemicals that kill nap weed but protects the native plants.

Animals use kin recognition. So does the plant called the sea rocket. It sends out fewer roots when its siblings are starting to grow nearby, but grows many more roots when other plants invade their area. This kin recognition is accomplished through chemicals emitted by their roots.

The Douglas fir tree can grow for approximately 1,000 years if left undisturbed, and it nurtures its young, even young which may be growing beyond the reach of the mother’s roots. The mother tree sends nourishment to the saplings through a network of roots and organic material that surround the mother as well as the saplings. Fungi colonize the tree’s roots and unite many trees in an organic feeding system. The nutrients are passed from the roots to the fungi which passes them to other fungi and eventually the roots of the saplings. Carbon is one of the elements passed in this manner.

The existence of this system was proven by scientists who covered the branch of a mature Douglas fir in a plastic bag. Then they injected radioactive carbon into the bag. The next day they returned with a geiger counter. They found that the system of roots and fungi around the injected tree were radioactive. They traced the radioactivity to the trees nearby and found that the branches of these trees, especially the younger ones, were now radioactive.

The question scientists are working on now is “How can plants do this without a brain?” Their theory is that the plants are interconnected by a neural highway that we have not yet discovered.

If you believe in the ancient saying, “As Above, So Below and As Below, So Above”, the findings of these scientists point to an interconnection of all life that has been spoken of by spiritual and religious leaders for thousands of years. This raises the question of whether plants and humans can communicate. Can we tap into the plants’ theoretical’ neural highway? We’ll look into this issue in a future blog.

Next blog: Day #2 of Shamanism and Creation

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