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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Native American

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Connect with your Taíno ancestry, Abuela said when I complained about my stomach ache.   

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Elemental Spirits and Lore: The Thunderbird

Only those who have had visions of the thunder beings of the west can act as heyokas. They have sacred power and they share some of this with all the people, but they do it through funny actions. When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the west, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier, for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm.” – Black Elk Speaks, as told through John G. Neihardt, 1932

The thunder beings and the thunderbird(s) are synonymous throughout Native American lore and cultures. This powerful spirit associated with water, storms, holy powers and the West is known and revered among tribes from the Pacific northwest to the plains to the Eastern coasts, including the Sioux, Arapaho, Lenape, Cherokee, Iroquois, Ojibwe, Salish, Menominee and many others.

To me, the Thunderbird represents a veritable symphony of all elemental powers. To Native Americans he was and is at once that embodied force of nature as well as a mighty cryptid creature, even if that creature only exists in our imaginations and hearts, without which we may manifest nothing. Why then must “imaginary” be inherently exclusive of reality? There is often a very fine line between the two.

There are theories that the earliest ideas for the Thunderbird were inspired by discoveries of pterosaur fossils (not pterodactyl, which only applies to a specific genus of pterosaur), if not perhaps by sightings of late-existing actual pterosaurs or some similar megafauna.

Thunder beings of various kinds are known in cultures the world over, most of which are anthropomorphic e.g. Thor-Donar of Norse and Germanic lore, and Zeus-Jupiter of Greek and Roman mythology. However, speaking of Norse cosmology, there is also a great hawk or falcon named Veðrfölnir  (Old Norse for “storm pale”, often Anglicized as Vedfolnir and roughly pronounced as VETH-fol-neer) who sits between the eyes of an unnamed eagle perched atop Yggdrasil, the world tree. 

From its three great roots the tree attained such a marvelous height that its topmost bough, called Lerad (the peace-giver), overshadowed Odin’s hall, while the other wide-spreading branches towered over the other worlds. An eagle was perched on the bough Lerad, and between his eyes sat the falcon Vedfolnir, sending his piercing glances down into heaven, earth, and Nifl-heim, and reporting all that he saw.” – Myths of the Norsemen by Helene A. Guerber

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    I see. Yeah I definitely know what multimedia is, just wasn't sure what exactly you meant in context! Thanks for clarifying, good
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think the thunder beings and possibly the birds of prey are trying to transmit a story through you. Humans are story telling cr
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    The Foundation for Shamanic Studies website had some articles on it. In one of them the author described going to meet a thunder
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    I don't think I am either, as I said. Actually I know I'm not. That is a very specific and very powerful role that few have been o

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Two Spirits, Two Sexes, Many Genders

 

Z Budapest once stirred up strong feelings, ending in a demonstration, by holding a biological-women-only ritual at Pantheacon.  The previous year another group had also excluded trans-women from an all women ritual.  Some people decided it was time to challenge the legitimacy of such practices. It was quite the kerfluffel for a while. I was one of Z’s defenders. 

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My complete argument criticizing 'cultural appropriation,' and offering a more interesting alternative, is now up.

For those of you interested in examining the complete argument criticizing the entire idea of 'cultural appropriation' and describing a far better, and much more interesting, alternative view, I have now posted it up on my web site.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hiawatha_M._L._Kirk_-_1910.jpgThe people of standing rock North Dakota won a victory this week. The Army Corps of Engineers denied access to the Dakota pipeline. The pipeline, which is already 90% built, will be rerouted. Although exactly where it will be rerouted is still open to question. The pipeline route now being protested does not go through the current boundaries of the reservation, but the old reservation boundaries. And of course that change of boundary has also been contested, and rightfully so.

What is it like to have the land that was declared to be yours seized out from under you? People who have been affected by eminent domain could give you some answer to that. Although they could not speak to the cultural destruction that has been experienced by Native Americans.

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  • Rianna Stone
    Rianna Stone says #
    Please tell me where you got your information from because I would love to know. You said, and I quote, "Reservations are owned by
  • Selina Rifkin
    Selina Rifkin says #
    My source is Naomi Schaefer Riley who wrote The New Trail of Tears She spent years visiting reservations and speaking with actual

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

Sometimes you don't realize the power that energy carries.  I have been teaching my girls about energy, you know, how everything around us has a type of energy attached to it.  It's almost funny watching them as they discover this and the thought process clicks and they realize that there are reasons why they feel the way they do about things around them.

We talk about residual energy and how every person and thing that comes into our house leaves an energetic imprint of some sort.  As well, our emotions leave imprints of energy.  I explained that this is why we need to cleanse the house of energy as well when we vacuum, dust, and clean the house in the normal way that most people think about cleaning houses.  Intention plays a large part in this cleaning.  Most people who do not do energy work can still clear the energy out of their house through simple cleaning, as it is their intention to clean and make their space feel clean, feel fresher, feel better.  They seem to watch, pay attention as things change around them and us.  They are mindful of the people we meet and who come to visit.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Drumming

A drum appeared in front of me out of the darkness. Someone stood behind me as I sat singing along with the jamming fiddlers, guitarists, and autoharpist by the snapping campfire. I took the drum. Someone's hands showed me how to hold the drum, and how to play the three notes of the dumbek: dum, tek, ee. I put my hands on the hairy hide. I started to play, and magic welled up inside me. When I drum, I feel the vibration of the universe, I hear the music of the spheres, and my hands thump out the rhythm of the heartbeat of mother earth.

That was how I acquired Mr. Hairy Goat, the gourd drum. That was how a long-dormant connection to the Native spirituality I had grown up with. Although the drum was a Middle Eastern style, and I had been an Asatruar for decades, and the festival I was attending was not even a pagan festival but a folk dance and folk music festival I went to because my mom wanted to go, somehow drumming connected me to a note of Native American spirituality; the rhythms that came to me naturally sounded Native. I had largely stopped trying to pursue Native spirituality (except for relating to the land spirits as my father had taught me) after events of the year after I left college. Now it came to me. Mom and I were camping in my truck at a folk music, dance, and storytelling festival in California. Mom was doing the dance program. I sometimes dance with her and her folk dance group, but at this event I had signed up for the singing program. It turned out, the someone in the dark was a drum vendor at the festival.

As a child, I had tried to learn the violin, even though the teacher said I was too old to start (I was about 10 I think.) Maybe she was right, because I never got very good at it. I had played my grandfather's violin, and had given it up when braces gave me jaw pain so bad i just couldn't hold it properly. I had hung onto the violin itself for years. I had planned to pass it on to my future child, and had even pre-planned an entire ceremony for calling my grandfather's musical talent into my future progeny, which I intended to do as part of the naming ceremony. I gave up the dream of ever having children in order to receive medical treatment that solved a decades-long on-again-off-again disability. One of the things I did to let go of that dream was to sell grandpa's violin. Shortly after that, the drum came into my life. I think that by letting go of the violin, I then had my interior music-place open and ready to connect with a new instrument, and that is why the drum came to me.

I got so into drumming that I was asked to become the conductor of a drum circle I participated in, SageWomen. I felt the need to have a Native American style drum as well as Mr. Hairy Goat, and I made my own frame drum from white oak and elk rawhide, and named her Grandmother Elk. I sang and played the drum in a short-lived Celtic folk-rock band named North Wind, which once played at Las Vegas Pagan Pride Day. I led the drum circle at Unity Center, a local interfaith-friendly church.

I drummed for a Native American flute maker who was performing in a Las Vegas art gallery to promote his double flutes, which they carried. The next time I went to a powwow, he was there, and from then on I felt welcomed and connected with the Native community in the local and greater Southwest area. I dug out my old powwow regalia, which was now too small, untied the seams and put in extra panels to expand it to my new size, and wore it to powwows to dance the intertribal dances. I danced at the Las Vegas Honoring Veterans' powwow. I danced at Snow Mountain.

One day at a drum circle, some of the other women were doing reiki healings on each other. I was apparently the only person there who was not a reiki healer. They asked me to try doing a blessing with my drum, so I did. Magic flowed. I had never had any powers or talents for healing before, though I had attempted various systems. This was utterly natural. I just directed the open end of Mr. Hairy Goat at my target person and drummed. They all said they could feel their own energy lifted up into the drum, changed, healed, and then put back inside them at a higher level of energy. The next time the drum circle met, some of them said I had improved their conditions. People started asking me to perform drum healings every time. I learned that I couldn't do it too often, and I also eventually learned that I had to turn the drum on myself when I was done performing healings for the day or I would have a low-energy hangover with achy sleepiness the next few days. I learned through trial and error that to do a healing with the greatest chance of success and least personal energy expended, I had to wait until the drum circle had already done a few drum songs and raised energy and entrained with each other and then have them do a simple rhythm that I could follow along with doing a simple one-beat heartbeat rhythm, just a plain dum dum dum dum dum, and that while I was doing the healing it would work best if I did a slow beat regardless of how fast the rest of the circle was going. I learned to pull energy from the rest of the circle and direct it. All this, I learned entirely by doing it, sometimes doing it wrong, and doing better next time. I also learned that although he didn't mind if someone else played him, I couldn't have someone else drum for me with Mr. Hairy Goat and try to get any of the healing effects for myself; it just didn't work right, even though I felt like I wasn't really the one doing the healings, I was just the legs that carried the drum around, I was apparently necessary in some way to make the energy flow right.

Mr. Hairy Goat is a sacred healing drum, but Grandmother Elk is a sacred drum, too. She is a drum for leading a drum circle and getting everyone to entrain on each other and find a common rhythm, and to do conductor things like making everyone louder or softer and getting everyone to stop at the same time. She has a loud voice. Last year, I led the drum circle at my local Pagan Pride Day. I invited attendees to drum, provided instruments, collected their energy, and channeled it to the healers performing the ceremony. The leader of the healers said she could feel me throwing major energy. All this, because I went alone for the ride when I had the opportunity, and took what was literally put right in front of me.

Photo caption: me with my drum Grandmother Elk, at the labyrinth at St. Rose. The activities organizer of the local Catholic hospital asked me to drum for their Labyrinth Walk.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    Thank you! That's really cool.
  • Molly
    Molly says #
    Loved this! It was giant powwow drum at the Gaea Goddess Gathering in KS that called my heart several years ago. I want to work mo

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