“A long time ago, there lived a human being who always went out of his way to help the people of his village.
“When the elders could no longer hunt for themselves, he would bring them food.
“A young couple getting married could count on him to help make their tipi poles and gather the hides needed to cover their lodge.
“If a child’s family was killed, he would take that child in and raise it as his own.
“And there were many more good deeds he performed that no one knew of, because he never sought praise or attention for his actions. Every day he remained alert to what he could do to help his tribe, and he did so with good humor and enthusiasm.
“Many years went by in this way and all the while the Creator watched this man and took note of his virtues.
“At long last, when the man’s hair had turned to snow, and the days ahead were becoming fewer, the Creator thought, ‘All these years I’ve watched him help my people. I could use someone like him to be helping out all the time. I’m going to immortalize him.’
“So the Creator turned the man into a cedar tree.”
Bear Heart continued:
“There are many uses for cedar — it stays green year round, so it can be gathered and dried at any time. Burning dried cedar on coals creates smoke and we can pray with that smoke — it carries our prayers up to the Heavens.
“When children are restless in a home, burning cedar calms them down.
“When you just don’t feel too good for hardly any reason at all, you can burn cedar in your home and you’ll feel better. The cedar already knows what’s needed to bring harmony because he was a man who knew how to help people.
“So that’s the story of cedar. He was a man once.”
From the Sacred Path Cards, we have this Dreamtime Smoke Signal story by Jamie Sams.
On a night years ago, I was floating in a natural hot spring looking up into the fullness of Grandmother Moon high above me in the starry night. I had built a Fire twenty feet in front of me where the ravine was flat and treeless. I had gone to this special place alone to seek some answers for my hungry heart.
The tears of frustration rolled from my eyes and sent silver circles into the effervescent waters of the pool. I sought the answers of how to return to the city and deal with the lack of substance I found in those who were trying to be “somebody” instead of being who and what they were.
Then, I saw an ancient Medicine Man walk to my Fire and lift an old red trade blanket. He walked toward me and dipped the blanket into the pool, wrung it out, and moved back toward the Fire. As he turned toward the Fire and began to sing, I recognized Grandfather Taquitz, who is one of the Ancestors who guides my path. Grandfather Taquitz beseeched the spirits of the Four Directions. The energy began to build as he sang the chant in which he called to the Great Star Nation to hear my prayers and speak to my heart.
Each time I spoke an internal prayer, Grandfather Taquitz would move the trade blanket over the Fire and then raise it, allowing the Smoke Signal that represented my prayer to rise in the indigo night. At first, a stray Cloud Person or two drifted by and then others came to see which Two-legged and which Ancestor spirit had called them.
The Chief Cloud Person was to the right of Grandmother Moon and began changing form as the Smoke touched his face, producing the faces of Buffalo, Wolf, Eagle, and Bear. My Allies had come to greet me and give me answers! I was overjoyed and nearly missed the exit of Grandfather Taquitz, who held a gleam in his eyes and a knowing smile traced across his mouth.
I floated in the warm waters of my Earth Mother’s womb and heard the messages of my Medicine Helpers with my heart. Buffalo told me that Two-leggeds who hurt one another were those deluded by the fear of scarcity. These humans had lost their trust in Great Mystery and the Field of Plenty. Their need to be important was based upon the fear that their talents were not equal to those of others.
Wolf spoke and told me that the Pathfinders of my world would never need to boast about who they were or where they were headed. Those who broke new ground for others to follow were to busy to be hurt by another person who claimed, out of envy, to be who they were not.
Eagle spoke to me and said that true freedom was only to be found by those that found illumination through the truth that lived inside their hearts.
Bear then appeared and spoke of the strength I needed to find inside of myself in order to Walk My Talk in the city, away from the womb of my Earth Mother. Bear said that the tomorrows are met when each person seeks strength in the truth of today.
Knowing that my intent had reached the Sky Nation through Grandfather Taquitz’s Smoke Signals and songs gave me new inspiration and purpose. I was ready to hold my truth high and to use my intent to touch the hearts of my fellow Two-leggeds. I no longer needed to be hurt by lies or to take on the pain of those that “talked their walk” instead of being the beauty that Great Mystery had created them to be.
The Medicine Bundle is a collection of items that has come to you in a variety of ways and that represent the Totems of your Power Animals or Allies among nature. In a Medicine Bundle you might find a seed pod, a Tobacco tie, a ball of dried sap from a Pine tree, a scalplock, an Elk tooth, Horse hair, a quarts crystal, an Otter tail, a Stone Person, a special string of beads, and/or any other item that represents Medicine to the Bundle’s owner.
In ancient times many of the items were of special significance among the Tribes and Nations of Native America. For instance, the Crow believed that an Elk tooth was Medicine that would bring abundance in a material manner to the owner. A piece of blue cloth meant good luck, Bear hair and claws would keep a Warrior’s Horse in prime shape, and a Swallow wing would give the power to evade enemies.
Medicine Bundles were used for many different things. There were bundles for personal Medicine, Tribal Bundles, Warrior Bundles, Sun Dance Bundles, Giving Birth Bundles, Hunting Bundles, Dreaming Bundles, and Vision Bundles. Some Bundles would be created by a Medicine Man or Woman for special needs, or people could create their own. Some were passed down before death to a family member or worthy Tribal Member. This passing of the Medicine was to ensure the proper use and Guardianship of the Medicine Bundle.
Each Medicine Bundle came with its own set of rules.
For instance: if the owner had a Warrior Bundle that gave him great strength in battle, his Allies connected to that Bundle may have forbidden him to eat female Deer meat and never paint his face with blue. The gentleness that is a part of the Doe could inhibit his actions in Counting Coup. Blue face paint could draw him toward the Road of Spirit and might bring an early death.
Every Bundle has a specific purpose, and must have regulations that will strengthen the Medicine of the Bundle’s Allies. Thoughtless actions can create havoc in the harmony achieved between the Medicine Helpers and the person seeking assistance if there is no respect for the Bundle’s natural sense of order. The same rules apply to a smaller Bundle worn on the person, which is called a Medicine Pouch.
Medicine Bundle Copies
Some Warriors purchased special copies of a Bundle from another Tribal Member whom they respected. If these Braves had no vision of what their own Medicine was, they were left with no protection. The Allies of nature had been called upon but for one reason or another, some Warriors could not receive their Medicine Dreams. Possibly the problem was that they were not in touch with their female receptive energy due to the rigors of having to prove their right to be Warrior Clan. In any case, to be an unprotected Warrior meant sure death at an early age.
To lie about having received messages from your Power Totem or a vision of your path was to invite disaster, and yet for a Tribe to have a Brave without a Medicine was worse.
The predicament was solved by wise Medicine Men, Chiefs, or great Warriors. These men would accept Horses or other valuable items for a copy of their Medicine Bundle. The Bundle’s maker never put every object that represented his total protection into the copy. The reason for this was that to Give Away all of your Medicine would leave your spirit at risk. No one should ever know all the items in a Personal Medicine Bundle. If someone was trying to use bad medicine to attack a powerful leader in a Tribe, they could harm that person by knowing their Medicine and using sorcery.
The penalty for stealing another’s Medicine Bundle was death. Unless invited, it was forbidden to touch any personal possession belonging to another Tribal Member – man, woman, or child.
Different Types of Medicine Bundles
Tribal Bundles, called the Grandmothers, were the oldest and most sacred. Next came the Sundance Bundles and then the Warrior Bundles. This order of sacredness reflected the Medicine and strength each Bundle had provided the Tribe over long periods of time. Every winter that passed successfully gave further strength to the Bundles.
Individual Sun Dance Bundles were made up by each Brave’s sponsor, who was already acknowledged through acts of courage. The sponsor placed Totem objects into the Sun Dance Bundles that had been passed through many lines of Ancestor Warriors.
No Bundles, however, were more sacred than the Tribal Bundles. These Grandmother Bundles ranked highest in the most ancient, tried and tested Medicines and represented the combined spirits of all Tribal Members – past, present, and future generations. The Grandmothers were so named because they were Tribal Bundles that carry the nurturing Medicine needed by all their children. Like every grandmother in humankind, these Grandmother Bundles seek only the best for their grandchildren.
The Tribal Bundles have been passed down through a line of Guardians. At one time these Bundles had to have their own Tipi and were set up in the camp as a protection for that Tribe. These Grandmother Bundles were protected usually by Warrior Chiefs who had honored themselves and carried strong Medicine. The Tribal Bundles were considered living beings and were never left alone and unprotected.
Today the Grandmother Bundles have been secreted away and many are protected by Grandmother Elders as well as by some Medicine Men. These are among the most sacred objects of the Native American people and still hold the spirit of all the Native American Nations.
The Personal Medicine Bundles can be carried or worn on the person. These Bundles are called on when needed for strength and/or courage during daily activities. Some Medicine Pouches are worn around the neck and are smaller versions of the Medicine bundle. These Medicine Pouches are a reminder for the wearer of the talents, abilities, and Power Animals who will aid them in walking tall and in balance. They are also used for protection.
The Bundles carried by women are not spoken of very much in written history due to the secrets of the Medicine being reserved for the Sisterhoods. The Warrior Clan knew that the women were naturally more adept at receiving due to their female nature, and thus, the women were always honored for their inner-knowing and the Woman Medicine they carried.
These female Medicine bundles could be used to promote fertility, to aid the male Warrior who walked at the woman’s side, to seek new healing techniques with herbs, to aid in delivery of a child, to bring abundance to the lodge, or to maintain a happy family.
The women have always been separate in their use of Medicine and have honored their own societies. They have never had to go through the rigors of physical tests of strength to achieve vision. They are Mothers of the Creative Force of the Universe and naturally receive the messages of their Medicine Helpers to keep and maintain the strength of their Personal and Sisterhood Bundles.
Making and Giving Medicine Bundles
Each object that comes to you to be a part of your personal Medicine can be placed in a piece of hide and wrapped like you would cover a gift, folding all four corners of the hide to the center and then tying the Bundle four times with cords of buckskin.
Medicine Bundles vary in size from something that fits in the palm of your hand all the way up to the size of a newborn baby. Some Medicine Bundles are rolled and some are folded into the pieces of hide. You may want to put some of the smaller objects into a Medicine Pouch and wear it at your waist or around our neck.
If you want to make a Medicine Bundle for a special friend, you would need to look at what kind of Medicine you want to share. Then call on the Four Clan Chiefs (the Four Directions) to send you a dream or vision of what to include. This could be A Bundle for a young wife who fears her first pregnancy, a young man going into the armed forces, a newly-wed couple, someone buying land who would need a Guardian Spirit for the protection of that land, or a friend who is ill. Every kind of Bundle is a gift of Self and is only to be shared with those who will honor the sacred responsibility of the Bundle’s Medicine.
If you are an Elder, you may want to pass your Medicine to a younger person who you know will accept the responsibility with honor and courage. The Bundle may also be passed to another if you do not intend to Drop Your Robe (die). If a person should Drop The Robe before passing the medicine Bundle to someone else, that Bundle and all of the Sacred Medicine belonging to the deceased person should be burned so that the spirit will have no Medicine strings attached to this Wheel of Life and may be free to move on to the Blue Road of Spirit.
Accepting Medicine that has been passed from an Elder or another person with great strengths is not to be taken lightly. It is a great responsibility to respect the life and deeds of another person, carrying yourself in a manner that would allow the original holder of that Medicine to take pride in your action. If you dishonored the life of that Elder or the Medicine, you could receive your share of hard knocks from the Allies.
The Allies understand that all acts of physical life are sacred in their proper time. The allies teach us how and when to experience every act along the Sacred Path with beauty.
Learning to listen means distinguishing real Vision from your own dream voices of fear and memory and desire. Belief in the inevitability of nuclear destruction is a dream of this type, felt by people who can sense that the world they have known is no longer working, but who have not turned far enough to seek a vision beyond war.
Even when you get beyond your fears, sometimes your expectations will get in the way. Somehow you expect your Vision to be spelled in lightning across the sky. But while you watch the sky, you may miss the tiny drama of butterfly upon leaf happening at your feet.
The Vision itself can come in many forms, through a clear visual impression or visitation of spirit, physical contact and communication from an animal, a song or a dream.
Very often in completely unexpected fashion, out of the darkness of a Vision Quest will come an awareness of a Guardian Spirit, a force or energy that provides a clear channel for greater wisdom. Many cultures have believed that such guardians, like saints or angels, protect and guide us even when we are unaware of them. Conscious acknowledgment of a Guardian Spirit offers the possibility of communication and a ready source of strength and counsel.
Awareness of the guardian could come when you see a hawk fly and are uplifted by a sense of strength and freedom, when an oak tree drops its leaves at your feet, when the Northern Lights dance overhead, when you hear words whispered by the wind. Or a guardian might communicate itself as an intellectual concept, a particular energy that is understood to be a source of strength and direction, such as innocence or bravery, or love.
From: A Voice From The Earth
In their traditional system, Ojibwa children are guarded by a spiritual vision they acquire after their births. Their first names are taken from a vision or dream their mothers have during pregnancy, some event of spiritual significance that happens during their early lives or through a medicine person’s intercession with the spirits who seeks a vision and a name on their behalf.
But at adolescence, children are free to search on their own for a vision and a name to serve them through their adult lives. All boys are urged to quest for their names and girls are free to do so as well, though it is not required.
Children are separated from their people for a period of time and left alone upon the land, very often fasting, sometimes journeying, sometimes lying still, but all praying and waiting for a touch from spirit. They seek to learn what dogma cannot tell them, what not even the wisest one among their people can give them: an understanding of their innermost self and an awareness of the greater purpose for which they were born.
Girls may, if they choose, accept the vision of the Earth mother as Guardian Spirit and take their power from her through their capacity to bring forth life. The occasion of their first menstruation would then be an important rite of passage.
Both boys and girls who choose to seek their own visions are isolated from their people, consciously entering the world of the spirits with a willingness to release what they have believed about themselves in the past, while they fast and pray. At the end of three or four days, the elders or medicine people help to translate the visions.
Those who have returned from their fasts very often are named for the Guardian Spirit which revealed itself through their vision, some energy or spirit of nature that is believed to be each person’s personal access to strength and wisdom. The Ojibwa believe that every animal and plant has both a physical and a spiritual purpose in the Earthly ecology. The guardian is often closely associated with purpose, so those whose guardians are involved with healing might become aware of their own healing gifts through the contact.
The name and the vision are shared or kept secret, depending on the nature of the individual vision. But the acquisition of a name from the spirits is a cause for public celebration. Traditionally, this ritual made sure that all adolescents entered adulthood with some vision or purpose to which they were responsible. This was practical psychology, helping to ease the transition period for the young from the dependency of childhood to the responsibility of adult life.
Out of the context of its significance as a specific cultural drama, the ritual of the Vision Quest is a potent reflection of the rite of passage into spiritual maturity that can come at any physiological age.
When we were children, along with the protection and sustenance that we required, we allowed the world to create our contexts and our environments. We were given identities by our parents, our religions and our schools and we tried to match what we had been given. We were rarely encouraged to question or outgrow the visions that had been bequeathed to us, often being rewarded for accepting and staying within the structures, censored for our opposition.
But for many of us these visions just don’t work and we fall into confusion or despair. The moment we begin to grow is the one in which we question the identities we have been given and wonder who we are apart from our relationships with others and the work we do, and what our purpose is for being on the Earth at all.
The first impulse in seeking vision is thus an admission of ignorance. Whenever we release a definition of ourselves which served us for one period of our lives in search of a deeper, more powerful understanding, whenever we question the majority view or leave a group with which we have been an active part, we are beginning a Vision Quest.
With the release of the past and the willingness to leave the people behind and to go on alone, we lose both security and certainty. Fear, depression and confusion are all emotions evoked by the beginning of the quest, symbolized by going alone into the woods and into the night.
~From: A Voice From The Earth
- Khetani Machangana: Learn To See