Shamanism and Native Spirituality


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 Red Race has understood and utilized many unspoken languages for centuries. We have been taught to read the signs in the faces of the Cloud People; the changes in the weather; the movement of the herds; the habits of our Brothers and Sisters, the Creature-beings, the cries and howls of the wild; the messages in our Medicine Dreams; and the language of the heart.

Smoke Signals are another universal unspoken language of Native Americans. The Sky Language is achieved through lighting a fire of mixed green and dry wood and using a wet blanket to smother and then release clouds of smoke. In times of battle, each Tribe used different signals to mark a path of action or to change their secret plans. This constant activity kept the enemy bewildered and confused.

Smoke Signals are the bridge between the Earth and Sky. The smoke from the Pipe is the essence of our prayers in visual form, traveling to the Great Mystery. In this manner, All Our Relations are put on notice that the prayers of the People are traveling to the Great Star Nation to be heard. The Smoke Signals used in communication between scouts sitting long distances apart are no different than the Smoke Signals sent through the Pipe to Great Mystery. Both are unspoken languages that signal the sender’s intent.

Few people know that the first revolution in the United States began with two unspoken languages. These were the knotted cord carried by various runners to various locations and Smoke Signals.

In 1680 the brave, yet peaceful, Pueblo Indians had been made a slave race by the invading Spaniards. The Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico was formerly known as Aztlan. It was the homeland of the Aztecs long before Cortez and Coronado began their quests for gold. Each Pueblo had a different set of laws and a different language; however, all had lived in peace with each other and in harmony with the Earth Mother for centuries.

After many years of cruel domination, a Pueblo Medicine Man named Popi united each Pueblo and helped to orchestrate the revolt that crushed the hold of the Spanish. This brilliant plan signaled the return to power by those who lived with the land rather than taking from it.

Runners were sent to the first Pueblo with cords knotted in a certain manner but were caught and killed by the Spanish. The Smoke Signals that told of revolution were issued forth three days later. The runners’ attempt was pure subterfuge and it worked. The Spaniards had tortured two young runners who had carried knotted ropes and were told that the revolt would take place on the fourth day after the runners were shot. The actual revolt begun on the third day was begun by Smoke Signals.

The possibility of victory for the peaceful Pueblo people struck a chord in the hearts of the raiding Apaches who had plagued the Pueblos for many years. The Apaches joined the fight in some areas and the Spanish were ousted from the mountains and valleys of Aztlan.

The intent of the Red Race was to reclaim their right to their own Knowing Systems and to use their own Medicine. The Masks, Kachina Dolls, Rattles, Drums, Eagle feathers, and other sacred objects had been burned by the orders of the Catholic Padres in an effort to force Christianity upon the Pueblos. The Smoke Signals sent the intent of the People to the Sky Nation as a resounding cry for freedom and they were victorious.

The unity of one heart and one mind among the different Tribes who could not speak each other’s languages was accomplished through the unspoken tongues of Smoke Signals and knotted ropes.

Smoke Signals are the language of the Sky Nation that relay the intention of the sender to those spirits who understand the heart’s whispers. The answers to the Smoke Signal’s questions can be read in the faces of the Cloud People. When Smoke Signals are sent to Great Mystery via the Fire or Pipe, a seeker is asking for an inner-knowing about some question.

Smoke-forms are one way in which spirit can be visually seen by humankind and the manifestation of these Medicine Helpers can bring serenity to the heart of a seeker. If, on a Vision Quest, a person lights a Fire to sent the heart’s intent to the Sky Nation, the answers may come to that person in forms created by the Cloud People.

~Jamie Sams

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