When Water Snake Tried to Outsmart the Great Spirit
There is an old story our Elders teach us about a Water Snake who lived in a pond up high at the base of a sacred mountain. He was a very healthy, wealthy, strong, and handsome man. He was on top of the world, you might say. He had the whole pond to himself and he had everything a person could ask for in life: plenty of natural resources, open space, lots of food, good weather, ample shelter, protection, a number of wives whenever he needed a woman, and a lot of free time to reflect on the meaning of life. Yes, the Great Creator had been very good to him.
But for some strange reason it just wasn’t enough for him. He didn’t know what to do with all that free time. Instead of using it for prayer, ritual, ceremony, and spirituality, he began to use it for mischief. Instead of using the free time to give thanks for his prosperity and as a way to help and share with others in his community, he began to use it in trying to impress others with how important he was. In his search for meaning in life, he forgot how to make life more meaningful. After all, he reasoned, he already had everything a person could ask for but it still just wasn’t enough.
One day he began to notice that he was starting to age. He wasn’t as strong and fast as he used to be. He had gotten too fat from overeating and from being lazy, and he had eaten all the food within his immediate range without practicing some form of conservation. So on this one morning he got up, surveyed his surroundings, and tried to figure out a way to find some food. There was no food in sight and he started to panic. “Now what am I going to do?” he said to himself.
He crawled from his house into the water and started a search. At first he looked close by, and then with a weaving pattern he went back and forth until he found that he was farther out, almost into the middle of the pond. He felt his strength leaving and got scared, so he headed straight back to shore, just barely making it before landing. For four days he tried this, all the time getting weaker from lack of food, age, and fear. Sometimes during the day he would cry and holler out to his neighbors for help but nobody would come. He had not been good to his neighbors all these years. He had not cared about them, so now the circle was going back; they did not care for him.
On the fifth day he devised a plan. He would find somebody stupid enough to help him. After all, he thought to himself, I am a very wise and important man here. He noticed a small group of Frogs sitting out on a large lily pad in the very middle of the pond. He knew they were probably the last of their bunch but he didn’t care; he was awful hungry. Thus, with the last bit of his strength he silently swam out to them.
Just as he was about to sneak up and grab one, the village headman of the Frog people saw the Snake and started to send out a warning, but the Water Snake had power; he managed to charm the Frog. Then he said, “My brother, the Great Creator has sent me to help you. But in helping you I will also be helping myself.”
“No!” the Frog reacted, “I don’t trust you. Nobody can trust you. You lie too much and you are a very greedy person. Just look at what you have done to this sacred pond. There is nothing left anymore.”
The Water Snake pleaded with the Frog. “Look at me, brother, I am an old man now. I am weak and tired. I have nothing left. I must redeem myself. That is why I have come out here to help you. I realize that I have been eating your people all my life and I never gave anything back. I realize now, after all these years that I have been greedy and I did wrong. So I had a vision. The Great Creator told me that in order to make my record straight I would have to come out here and use the last of my wisdom and strength to help you, to give something back.”
The Frog was just about ready to leap into the water and run off but he saw the tears in the old Snake’s eyes and hesitated. The Snake said, “I know where the biggest and best bugs are. There are still some left on the other side of the pond, hidden in a secret place. So if you and your family will hop onto my back I will carry you all there with the last of my strength.”
The Frog people had a big discussion and argument. Some wanted to go but others were apprehensive. They didn’t trust their enemy. But finally it was decided. The older and bigger Frog said, “Look at that pitiful old Snake. He can’t really hurt anyone anymore. Besides, we need food to live and survive and to continue our work here in the water for the pond and the rest of the community.”
So reluctantly they all climbed on the Snake’s long back. One by one they filed on in a row. They were so heavy that they caused the Snake to sink somewhat into the water, which in turn made it look like he was indeed weak. Then toward the other side of the pond they went. Slowly the Water Snake went, weaving in and out of the tules and marsh reeds. Slowly he sang his song, telling the Frogs that it was his death song. But as his long body weaved through the reeds he would sneak his head around to the back, and one by one he would snatch up and eat another Frog. Finally there was only one left, the large village headman Frog who had been so busy eating all kinds of the new bugs that he hadn’t really noticed what was happening to his family. Then before he knew it, the Snake opened up his large mouth and grabbed the last Frog, all the while laughing to himself.
But the Frog fought back. Around they thrashed, causing the currents to move them farther away from shore. They made such a ruckus that the Wind came up, and it too pushed against the water, moving them both farther from shore. In time the Snake had devoured the very last Frog in the pond, and feeling proud of himself decided to swim back home.
Laughing and bragging to himself he swam, but slower and slower he swam, and then he noticed that he was beginning to sink. His strength was running out. He had gotten too fat from eating too many Frogs, and panic overcame him. He cried, begged, and pleaded with someone to help him. He cried and pleaded with the Great Creator to help him. He didn’t want to die this way, by drowning. After all, he was a Water Snake, and drowning would not be an honorable way to die. He told the Great Creator he would do anything to redeem himself, he made all kinds of promises, pleading for his life. He could hardly keep his nose above water while the rest of his body was sinking and beginning to pull him down.
It seemed as though it took forever for him to reach the other side of the pond. He was constantly fighting fear and impending death. With his last bit of breath and strength he finally made it, barely pulling himself up out of the water onto the mud and plants. “Whew, I did it, I actually did it!” he hollered and bragged to himself. “I knew I really had more power than anyone. I don’t have to follow the spiritual laws. Those laws are archaic. I can live by my own laws. See, I really didn’t need the Great Creator or anyone because I am so powerful and wise that I can do anything. Now I will just lie here for a while, eat my herbs, rest, and renew myself.”
Just when he thought he was safe, lying there in the warm sun, gloating, thinking that he could live a long time not needing anyone, or anything, and that he was even beyond the laws of Nature, he heard the most terrifying scream. His body froze in fear as the shadow of wings crossed over him. He knew what it was and wanted to hide as fast as he could but it was too late. He was just too stuffed, too tired, too weak, and too old, and before he knew it the Hawk swooped down and carried him off to his death, into her nest and into the mouths of newborn babes. Nobody can escape the Natural Laws of the Universe, no matter how important they think they are.
Years of ongoing shamanic and spiritual training have taught me many lessons. Such lessons can only be learned through suffering and sacrifice, commitment, and faith. Whether it be the shaman’s path or anyone’s, the quest for spirituality always involves trials, tests, and tribulations; there is no easy way no matter what society would have us believe. We have all been put here on the Earth for a reason, as has everything else in Creation. But for human beings it is a little different because we have also been put here on the Earth to learn, to improve ourselves from the mistakes we have made in this life and in many past lives, and to learn how to evolve as higher spiritual beings so we can become what we were in the beginning: spirit.
Perhaps the main lesson is that life is a never-ending learning process. Although we reach a certain level in our growth and development, there is always something new to learn, to experience, and to help us evolve to a higher level of spirituality—even if it means failing, backsliding, and hitting rock bottom, and having to start all over again. This includes medicine men and women or spiritual teachers and tribal leaders. We are all also human and therefore will make mistakes in life. Thus, we should not be so quick to judge and criticize those who are trying, or those who assume higher roles.
The secret to discovering this reality can be found in what my Elders have taught me to know as the Natural Laws and the Great Creator's Laws. There are many laws that, if learned and practiced, will promote peace, balance, harmony, good health, and prosperity. The Natural Laws and the Great Creator’s love for us all provide us with an opportunity to learn, redeem ourselves, and move forward in a positive spiritual way. This reality is the same in all traditional cultures and for all races; if you search deep enough, you can find it hidden behind all good religions, especially the religions that are based on Nature, not artificiality.
There have been times in my life when I worked hard, suffered and sacrificed tremendously, and made every concerted effort to get all the way to the top, not only to the highest mountain in our aboriginal territory as part of my shamanic training and ordainment, but symbolically and in terms of lifestyle by setting goals and achieving a good career, status, and recognition in Western society.
The world as we know it has drastically changed since primitive times and the days of my mentors and their spiritual mentors. In the olden days an Indian doctor, or medicine man or woman, was highly respected by the people. Indian doctors, ceremonial leaders, and village headmen were all given high status because they were so valuable to the tribe, community, and people. These spiritual leaders took care of the people by sharing their unique knowledge, powers, psychic abilities, and special relationship to the Great Creator, spirits, and Nature. The Indian doctor had a difficult and full life, and suffered a lot of worry and stress in caring for the people.
It takes a lot of time to continue one’s development, acquire and tame power(s), and do all the necessary work involved in the responsibilities of diagnosis, healing, teaching, ceremony, and ritual. It takes time to prepare for such things, study new bodies of knowledge, meditate, and seek visions as a means to solve new problems and cure new illnesses. As a consequence, the Indian doctor and spiritual leaders did not have the time to work and perform duties that are required of the common people, who are continually faced with the obligation to work at some kind of trade or career in order to support themselves and their families.
In the past, the people understood this situation, and according to the Law of Reciprocity, they took good care of the shaman; it was a natural arrangement according to spiritual and Natural Laws. It was an exchange for privileges. So the local people, community, and sometimes even neighboring tribes made sure that all the basic needs were met for the shaman and his or her family. They probably did not know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and how it all relates to self-actualization, but they certainly understood and applied the same basic principles, perhaps intuitively realizing that a sick society makes a sick person, and a healthy society makes a healthy and balanced person. Hence the community made sure that the shaman’s family had the best house to live in, the best canoe(s) or horse(s) to use in transportation, the best clothes, plenty of utensils, ample food, and protection by the warriors in the event of conflict and danger.
But as I said earlier, such is not the case today, because a lot of Indians and non-Indians have lost their values system, or they don’t really know about the true shamanic part of their heritage and culture. So I have always had to work for a living plus carry out the duties and responsibilities of my sacred profession, a profession that, for the most part, is no longer supported and appreciated by the people, tribe, or community. In order to support my family and take care of our own basic needs, I had to become educated in the Whiteman’s world. I had to get a job, pursue a career, and make money in order for us to survive. I studied hard, worked full-time while attending college, kept trying to get more degrees, achieve higher status, and learn how to compete in a modern system for recognition and reward. I learned to use my spiritual strengths and ongoing shamanic training and techniques in this endeavor, while pursuing higher goals and being tested for higher knowledge, experience, and powers. Eventually I went as high as I probably could in both worlds and cultures: I became a full-fledged and bona fide Native healer via evaluation, confirmation, and ordainment by my tribal Elders, the spirits, and the Great Creator; and I became a full professor, department chair, acting assistant dean, and acting associate dean after many tests, evaluations, and confirmations. I therefore tried to blend the best of both worlds, and to synthesize the spiritual with the physical, the Native with the Western, in order to survive and live.
But life sometimes takes a strange turn. Just when we think we have made it to the top of the world, that we “own the pond,” so to speak, and that we are now safe, secure, and prosperous, we get a strange kind of reality check and lose everything we have. Granted, it doesn’t happen to everyone in the world who has achieved status and recognition, but it does happen quite often to spiritual people. So there came times in my life when I ended up flat broke with no job, no money, no domestic or worldly possessions, and separated from my family. I became deserted by everyone and totally stripped of everything except my basic doctor regalia, spiritual tools, and power objects. I had no place to turn except to the Great Spirit, the ancestors, and Nature for help. And it was during severe hardships like this that Tela, the children, and I packed up what little we had left and went into the sacred High Country to seek a vision, to heal ourselves, to find the spiritual support and strength to start over.
Fortunately there are a few pristine, unspoiled, and holy places still left in the country where we, as Indians and Indian doctors, can go to pray in privacy. But these few remaining places are hidden in the wilderness areas and very difficult to access. Sacred places within our aboriginal territory provide some sanctuary for us to fast, pray, seek visions, and talk to the Great Creator and all of Creation in privacy. In those ancient and holy places known to us as the sacred High Country can be found old prayer altars that date back thousands of years—the same altars that our forefathers used when they needed help, or when they needed to call upon higher powers as a means to help the people. So on this particular occasion, once again we went back home to the source of our Creation, to the center of the world for our people.
We sat there by the prayer altar at the base of Turtle Rock, constantly praying, occasionally singing, but mostly meditating and staying still to let the natural powers, energy, and spirits of the Earth in this holy place work a healing on us and the children. This was an opportunity for the children to also be quiet, listen, and learn; it was an opportunity for them to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. We taught them how to pray, where to bathe, what to learn, and how to conduct themselves in a respectful and religious way while being bonded with Nature. It is important that children learn how to bond with the Earth matrix at a young age because they can draw upon vital life energies needed to establish a solid spiritual foundation for their lives; but it is also important that this process be continued periodically as they become adults.
It is important that we teach our children, all children, how to pray, and teach them that the ancient rituals and ceremonies with the Earth, for Nature, and to the Great Spirit are essential to our survival as human beings. We must teach our children, all children, and we must remind the adults that Nature is not our enemy, nor simply a resource to be exploited for our own needs and greeds. We must all take time in our lives to reconnect and bond with the Earth and Nature in order to maintain the sacredness in our lives. Without some form of sacredness we are not living a full life. Without spirituality we will never know the meaning of life. As adults, we have the responsibility to let our children learn that Nature is a teacher and a healer, and that it is always there for us when we need help.
So as I sat there by the sacred fire, I had plenty of time to fast, pray, meditate, and think. Tela and the children also had plenty of time to think, listen, and learn. By the use of an ancient and sacred fire, by the offering of tobacco and angelica root, we sent our prayers up to the Great Creator and all of Creation. Then we waited for a return communication that would come physically and spiritually. During the day Flickerbirds came around and sang to us. A few Pileated Woodpeckers visited, and they hammered away on old cedar trees, an ancient form of communication similar to drumbeats. The constant rhythm and sound serve to put one into a hypnotic state, into a higher level of consciousness, hence enabling one to become more receptive to spiritual contact and to receive visions. Nature is full of many different songs, and with the songs come knowledge and a healing. If a person listens carefully, he or she might receive a song from Nature as a gift. I have many such songs that I have learned to use in healing. When I was young, my grandfather told me, “As long as you have even one song, you will never be poor.” It took me more than twenty years to finally realize what he meant by that teaching.
Every once in a while a Hummingbird would come and fly around our heads. In a circular motion it gathered the negativity and illness from our minds, and the illness in our bodies caused by stress and the contamination of living in a modern world. With its tiny but colorful and vibrant power, it took the negativity straight up to the Grandfather Sun.
There were other forms of healing we received in this sacred place. The tiny fish and salamanders in the small stream, springs, and alpine lakes also did their job; they nibbled away at our sicknesses while the spirit of the holy water purified and regenerated us body and soul. Occasionally the Redtail Hawks and Falcons came in for protection and as messengers, swooping down on the currents of Wind, and the ancient purifiers (Wind gusts) came and blew away our worries, problems, and bad luck. Before we left from the ten days of fasting and vision seeking we were fortunate to be visited by the ancient ones who manifested in the form of Ravens, and who came to teach and let us know our prayers were being answered. At least once a day the other doctor spirits would come into the camp and visit; they took the form of the old Black Bear, rare White Deer, Golden Eagle, or even Coyote. Grizzly Bear, Wolf, Bigfoot, and the Little People are thought to be extinct, but they too will let themselves be seen if it is meant to be, and if one is truly connected, in this sacred and holy place. One thing we have surely learned after all these years of shamanic training is the fact that the Great Creator can take the form of anything at anytime, if He so chooses, including the Lightning and Thunder that came to visit us on the last day as we prepared to leave. Such natural forces and powers of Nature serve to regenerate the soul.
It became apparent to Tela and me before we left that the bad luck, hardship, and difficulty we had been experiencing were of our own making. We couldn’t blame anyone else; sometimes people, even shamans, get out of balance in life. As spiritual people we needed to reconnect. We had become weak and sick from living in the city and from the constant influences of Western society.
Although we didn’t like what we had been experiencing, we needed a new lesson. We needed a reminder of who and what we were, and where our knowledge, power, and spirituality came from. We had to be reminded that in order to carry out the Great Spirit’s work and teachings we had to come back and reconnect with Him; we had to be recharged and strengthened in order to go forward in a positive way.
Thus, herein lies another teaching we can share with others as a result of our own learning: All human beings do, indeed, have a soul, and that soul is encased with spirit. That soul needs a spiritual healing, a spiritual recreation, and a spiritual connection with the Great Spirit every so often; otherwise it will get out of balance. It will become weak. It will begin to attract problems and bad luck if it is not kept clean and vibrant. A lost soul, or a soul that has become weak and does not receive spiritual cleansing and regeneration, can eventually become sick and die. A polluted soul can become a dead soul, and it is of no use to the Great Creator or Creation. So the questions here become, what do you know about your own soul? What kind of soul do you want to be in this life? What can you do to spiritually protect and strengthen your own spirit and soul? To find the answer to such questions a person must go out into Nature and seek a vision.
I honestly don’t believe that the Great Creator wants any human being, race, culture, group, nationality, or country to be poor, sick, miserable, ignorant, and spiritless. He has given us everything we as humans need to live and survive, but we must learn to live life in peace, balance, and harmony. We must learn to live a spiritual way of life, which means to have respect for the Great Creator, for Nature, and for all that He has created—including all those who walk, crawl, fly, swim, seen and unseen—and this includes human beings of different racial and cultural backgrounds.
This means living a life with good spiritual principles and practices that are consistent with the Natural Laws and the Great Creator's Laws. Human laws or religious laws cannot replace or suppress the Great Creator's Laws on the pretense that such laws are ancient, therefore archaic and obsolete. Humans can’t change the laws whenever it is convenient to do so, or make the laws fit changing social ideas or popular concepts. The spiritual laws and the physical laws are very similar, and sometimes one and the same, as in the law of physics: for every action, there is a reaction.
Some of the Natural Laws might seem dogmatic, or be considered sexist, or appear to be unfair, but once again I caution human perception as it relates to Truth. It is not my intention to force my personal or cultural beliefs and practices upon other people. Truth is universal, and can be found in the teachings of other cultures by great spiritual leaders of the past, including Mohammed, Buddha, and Jesus. It can also be found in the teachings of our past and great Native American spiritual leaders, such as Handsome Lake, Ben Black Elk, Sword, Chief Seatl, and Chief Joseph; the Hopi spiritual leaders; other Native spiritual teachers from the past few decades; and even contemporary leaders such as the hereditary Six Nations sachems (Iroquois term for religious leaders) and chiefs, or Wallace Black Elk, Charlie Red Hawk Thom, and Corbin Harney. Respect these special people, learn from them while you can, and help support them, because they are becoming an endangered species. In fact, the role, function, status, knowledge, and the much needed spiritual healing practices of the traditional Native healers (that is, Indian doctors, medicine men, and medicine women) are on the verge of extinction because they are all dying off.
A lot of people have asked me what the Natural Laws are, and how a person can use this knowledge as a form of preventive medicine, or as a guide for spiritual development, or as a code for living a spiritual life. What I am about to share here should not be considered comprehensive or as representing all Native tribes and people; it is simply a listing of the spiritual principles that I have been taught by my Elders, that I have learned through communication with the Great Spirit and through my years of spiritual quests and training, and that I acquired while performing Native healing.
1.The worst sin of all is not murder; it is having sexual intercourse with animals. Just for the record, the majority of venereal diseases and a number of other diseases originated from having sex with animals. Such diseases are a spiritual form of punishment. Venereal diseases and many other diseases, including small pox, measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis, and so forth, were brought over from the European countries where they had sheep, goats, pigs, and cows. The Native people did not have these diseases because they considered the animals sacred, and they would have considered such an act repulsive and sacrilegious.
2.It is an offense to harm, hurt, torment, experiment upon, or destroy any living thing, human or otherwise, without just cause and fair compensation. Every living thing was put here on the Earth for a reason, purpose, and function; all aspects of Creation have power. Power should be respected and not played with. Remember the law of physics: for every action, there is a reaction. (Today we see a lot of modern diseases and viruses coming from birds, animals, bugs, reptiles, and fish, and in the air, soil, and water as a result of experimentation, desecration, and pollution of the life forces. It will get worse if we do not start correcting our malicious actions.)
3.It is against the Natural Law for women on their menses to cook, prepare, eat, or share certain foods, especially meats that come from four-legged wild animals. It is against the law for women on their menses to participate in sacred dances, rituals, sweat lodge ceremonies, or funeral rites, or to trespass upon cemeteries, burial grounds, ceremonial grounds, sacred sites, and certain places in Nature. The Great Creator has given women a universal ritual to use during this time in a sacred and spiritual way to release negative energy and replenish themselves with positive energy from the Mother Earth and Grandmother Moon. Menstrual power and energy do not mix with other kinds of natural energies and forces, and different spirits in Nature find it offensive. The ancient, Natural, and Universal Law has nothing to do with sexism. It is a realistic understanding of the spiritual power, both positive and negative, inherently connected to the process of menstruation and the potentials of blood. If you want to learn more about this in a positive and meaningful context, then please refer to Tela Starhawk Lake, Hawk Woman Dancing with the Moon (New York: M. Evans, 1996).
4.It is against the Natural Law for men to hunt, fish, and gather natural resources while intoxicated from alcohol, while under the immediate influence and smell of sex, or while under the influence of drugs. It is considered an offense to hunt, fish, and gather without making proper ritual and payment according to the Law of Reciprocity. Remember, everything that is in Nature has a spirit in it, and we should therefore learn to respect these spirits and their codes for living, and not try to impose negative energy upon positive energies; they don’t mix.
5.It is against the Creator’s Law for all human beings to participate in sacred dances, rituals, ceremonies, or healings, such as healing ceremonies performed in the sweat lodges, while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, sex, or while unclean physically and spiritually. This also includes funeral rites and childbirth rituals. By the same token, all “offerings” made to the Great Creator and the good spirits, such as food, tobacco, herbs, and teas, should be “clean” and not contaminated with alcohol or toxins.
6.It is an offense for human beings to have sexual intercourse with each other during the woman’s last two weeks of pregnancy, during childbirth, and for one full moon cycle after childbirth. Such an act can be injurious and contaminating to the mother and baby. Women’s blood, afterbirth, dead cells, and “negative” discharge can have a negative and unhealthy effect on the male’s energy, spirit, and body; for that reason men did not traditionally participate in childbirth ceremonies and activity.
7.It is against the Great Creator’s Law and Natural Laws for any human to rape, molest, sodomize, or abuse another human being, or to commit incest. It is a violation for men to have sexual intercourse with women during menses because it is a form of molestation and disrespect; it is unhealthy, and it robs a woman of her power and spirit needed to regenerate herself during this phase of her cycle.
8.It is against the Great Creator’s Law to deliberately commit abortion without just cause and ceremony. Life is considered sacred. Thus, it is also against the Great Creator’s Law to experiment upon deceased people, including fetuses, or to desecrate the dead or “sell” dead people’s body parts for profit.
9.It is against the Great Creator’s Law to steal or covet another person’s material possessions or personal religious regalia, or to kidnap family members.
10.It is against the Natural Laws and the Great Creator’s Laws to harm, desecrate, or destroy Nature or any part of Creation without just cause, spiritual request, or payment according to the Law of Reciprocity. Natural resources are in reality also natural spirits, powers, and forces put here on the Earth for a reason and purpose. As humans, we must “relearn” to respect such gifts, and to live in harmony with the natural resources according to Natural Laws—not according to humans’ laws, avarice, and exploitation. If we respect the Earth, love the Earth, pray for the Earth, and care for it in a right and proper way, then it will share with us, take care of us, and help us survive as it survives.
As a spiritual teacher and healer I recognize the value of various beliefs, teachings, and practices. There are many laws that exist and operate in the Universe, and some of these laws may differ from culture to culture, place to place, and religion to religion. Identifying the spiritual laws that appear to be held in common could reduce possible confusion and provide a basis for greater understanding among people from a variety of belief systems.
As seen in the examples from the case studies provided in chapter 10, a number of different things can make a person sick. I don’t want to give the impression that every sickness, injury, accident, disease, streak of misfortune, or ailment is a direct result of violating a Natural Law or the Great Creator's Laws. Some sicknesses and problems, however, can indeed be attributed to spiritual transgression. As a consequence, many potential illnesses, diseases, accidents, and ailments might be prevented, averted, or allayed by knowing the spiritual laws and trying not to violate them. A clean, strong, and healthy spirit is in better condition to fight off the sicknesses and diseases caused by the pollutants, viruses, and industrial mistakes and ignorance of in modern society.
Becoming spiritual and living a spiritual life also sometimes require common sense. For example, the moontime laws that are universal have a practical side worth understanding. A woman at that time is weaker and more vulnerable, hence more receptive to attack by wild animals, domestic animals, bugs, germs, diseases, viruses, psychic forces, negative energies, and bad spirits.
That is why in most traditional cultures and religions women isolated themselves, fasted, prayed, worked on developing their dreams and creative faculties, and utilized the menses as a blessing. They knew it was a source of power, both positive and negative, and anything that powerful required a ceremony.
Intuitively women know this. Nature has favored women with a stronger instinct and greater psychic powers than men. Re-creating female rituals, ceremonies, and spiritual activities would allow women to develop these innate gifts, abilities, and natural powers. Western society has devastated the female psyche to the point that women often have a worse identity crisis than a lot of our Indian people. Without strong, healthy, and spiritual women, we cannot have a strong, healthy, and spiritual family, tribe, or society. That is a reality.
When women violate the Natural Laws and the Creator's Laws, they violate themselves and cause sickness and problems for others. I don’t say this to insult women; I state it with compassion, special knowledge, and higher expectations. I have doctored many women and helped get them well when Western physicians failed. In the majority of the cases the female patient was sick because she had made a spiritual offense related to her menses.
It takes time to transform a society, but Western society needs to support the spiritual development of both men and women. Women need to insist upon salaried time off from work to handle pregnancy and childbirth in a spiritual way, as well as paid time off to use the menses as a time for re-creation, healing, and creativity. Women are worth the investment; and in the long run it would probably save companies a lot of money that is now being paid out for health-related problems and loss of work time.
Men should respect women more and leave them alone while they are on their menses, while they are pregnant, and when they are recuperating from childbirth. A long time ago women had their mothers, aunts, sisters, and other women to help them with domestic duties and work, but today they don’t have this natural type of support system. Therefore husbands, male mates, or the children should assume more responsibility and take the stress off women during these times. Men should spiritually cooperate with their women and learn how to pray for their women.
By the same token, men need to learn that they too can be held accountable for their violations of the Natural Laws and the Great Creator's Laws. For example, when men try to be macho, get drunk, and go out hunting for trophy catches rather than for subsistence and survival, or when they abuse and offend a sacred animal such as a Deer, it will hurt the entire family. (Refer to my teachings about this subject in Native Healer and Spirits of the I once doctored a mother and her baby who became sick simply because the woman picked up and moved her husband’s rifle and knives. Now, that might seem superstitious to some, but the cause of sickness can be attributed to symbols, power objects, and negative influences. In another situation I doctored a woman who had been diagnosed for a mental illness and yet the Western physicians couldn’t cure it. They simply pacified her with drug therapy. I found out while doctoring that the woman was being tormented by stuffed Rattlesnakes, birds, and animals in her house, all trophies that belonged to her husband.
Furthermore, a lot of the sicknesses and diseases we have today are caused by ignorance, avarice, irresponsibility, and apathy. We are poisoning ourselves by using bug sprays around the house, strong detergents in our laundry, herbicides on our lawns, insulation in our homes, harsh chemicals in the carpeting, and from carelessness in cleaning the mold from the bathroom or changing the filters in the forced air heating system. Obviously the chemicals we let society dump into the air, water, and ground have a profound effect upon our health.
We also poison ourselves when we make restaurants out of funeral parlors and don’t tell anyone, when we build stores and apartment houses on top of old cemeteries and Indian burial grounds, when we buy artifacts that were robbed from ancient tombs and burial grounds or used in sorcery, when we build churches and cemeteries side by side, when we allow schools to be built next to gigantic transformers, and when we build houses on top of radon deposits. We are causing sickness when we allow hospitals, nursing homes, convalescent homes, and clinics to become contaminated from dead people. (In the olden days housing structures were burnt down and purified whenever somebody died in the building, and that approach was consistent with the Natural Laws.) The medical establishment might try to disinfect the premises physically but they never disinfect it spiritually, as in the case of purifying the premises with cedar, sage, or some other herbal medicine designed for that purpose. Hence, the contamination from the dead people and the negativity from the ghosts serves to create sickness, disease, and more death.
A former patient, whom I doctored for breast cancer and cured, brought me an interesting book that in turn helped her understand the cause of her disease. Spiritually she was a fairly clean person; she had very few offenses. The book, entitled Diet for a Poisoned Planet, by David Steinman, offers more concrete information and evidence about the ways chemicals contaminate our foods.
For example, the author states how one grape can have more than 15 different poisonous chemicals in it, or an apple might carry more than 25; milk has more than 20 chemicals, collard greens and spinach can contain as many as 87, and peanuts alone might have as many as 183 different chemicals in them. And he gives many more examples in his research, reporting that the worst foods to eat include hot dogs, salami, pizza, bacon, and so forth. Cigarettes and alcohol can contain as many as 150 different chemicals. In addition, we are also making ourselves sick with poor eating habits and the fast-food syndrome of modern living. We are all guilty of eating foods saturated with fats, high in cholesterol, and low in natural vitamins. But even worse, less than 1 percent of the total population ever takes the time to clean out their colons or purify their organisms via fasting and herbs; Western society pays more attention to changing the oil and filters of the automobile than it does to caring for the human body. And yet we wonder why the human vehicle breaks down so much.
In conclusion, there are a number of spiritual techniques you can use in your life as forms of preventive medicine without offending the Native religions. Some of these techniques are universal and were used in all cultures at one time; for example, all cultures once had a women’s moontime ceremony. All cultures had some form of a sacred sweat lodge or purification system, such as a sauna, steam bath, hot springs, or hot tub. Air, fire, earth, and water are the four natural elements and powers from the Earth. We can use them for protection, purification, and healing; and they are found in the sweat lodges, saunas, steam baths, and women’s moontime huts or ceremonial lodges.
All cultures once used sacred herbs for healing, in the form of teas or soaps, as prayer offerings and for invocation, or for bathing and cleansing. All cultures and most religions used herbs and medicines from the trees to smudge with (to smudge means to purify with smoke made from burning cedar, sage, mugwort, or other herbs); for purification of themselves, their homes, and their religious sites; to ward off bad spirits, ghosts, and negative energies; and as a tea for disinfectant.
In traditional Native healing we are taught by our Elders to purify and protect ourselves before going to a funeral and to smudge our clothes, home, and family after we return. Some of us still use a purification ritual in the sweat lodge with herbs to finalize the process and as a means to eliminate death contamination.
We are taught to pray and offer tobacco, herbs, or food to anything in Nature, under the Law of Reciprocity, as a means to ask permission and give thanks before we hunt, fish, or gather food, herbs, and natural resources. Everything has a spirit and power in it; we don’t have the right to take it and use it without permission and just cause. Our relationship to Nature is an ancient agreement, and if people violate that spiritual contract they will get punished—for every action, there is a reaction.
We don’t have the right to desecrate the dead, experiment upon deceased people, and abuse skeletons, even if we try to justify it under the concept of education and science. I have seen a lot of physicians, nurses, medical practitioners, chiropractors, college professors, and even students get hurt and sick because they didn’t know the Natural Law or because they refused to accept it, treating it as superstition. Hence, if you find yourself in that predicament, learn to smudge yourself before and after the contact; bathe in a hot tub full of salt, mugwort tea, or sage tea for a cleansing.
Learn to pray to the Great Spirit and Nature on a daily basis, at least once a day, preferably at Sunrise or at Sunset. Give thanks to the Sun, Moon, Stars, Wind, Rain, Fog, Snow for their gifts; pray and give thanks to the spirit of the water every time you drink it, bathe in it, and use it, because otherwise we might lose it. Talk to the natural things around you—the trees, plants, birds, animals, bugs, reptiles, Snakes, rocks, and all of Nature; thank them for their gifts and ask them to protect and watch over you. Put tobacco in your hand if you don’t smoke, or use cornmeal or oatmeal and blow the offering to Nature in a gesture of gratitude.
Learn to take time in your life to perform a smudging ceremony on your home. Make sure you open the doors and windows and let out all the negativity, and pray with your mate or family; pray for one another. I have even prayed to the Great Spirit and Nature right downtown in New York City or Los Angeles, because something from Nature is always around us to hear and witness the prayer.
There is no excuse for people to pollute their mind, body, and soul with alcohol and drugs. Try to stay off that kind of poison, and if you are addicted get professional therapy. Even coffee is a drug. I have been fighting it for years, so I have tried switching over to decaf and herbal substitutes. Coffee is a real killer to men’s prostate glands. And any form of sugar, except certain natural sweeteners, is a real poison to the human organism. White flour, candy, cakes, pies, milk, soda pop, and numerous other kinds of Western starchy foods are destroying our Native American people, generation after generation. Historically, genetically, and physically, we have been primarily meat and fish eaters; our diets were high in protein and very low in carbohydrates. We need to get back to that “natural” type of diet if we want to become healthy and survive in the future! In this sense our tribal and traditional foods are, indeed, medicine.
It is always best if you can grow or gather your own foods, but if not, then try using health food stores or co-ops where the food doesn’t have chemicals. Be sure not to eat fruits and vegetables together at the same meal: their natural chemicals and energies don’t agree with each other and can cause sickness. Another way to maintain spirituality is to always pray over your food, put good thoughts in it, and give thanks to the Creator and Nature for the food. Don’t cook food or eat it when you are angry and upset. The negativity will cause sickness.
I eat meats, although I know all the valid arguments against it. I have learned from all these years of doctoring that the human organism needs some kind of meat, at least on a periodic basis. I try to eat the natural meats from animals in Nature when I get the opportunity. Otherwise I have learned to cleanse my intestines and organism by fasting for three to four days, a few times a year, or at least once a year. I use natural laxatives to purge my system. Chickweed, sage, red clover, and burdock teas are good herbs to use for purifying and strengthening the organism along with the laxatives and fasting. I also try to use my sacred sweat lodge as much as possible to remove stress, mental negative energies, and body toxins. Good common sense and instinct should tell us: the more the world around us becomes polluted, the more ways we will have to find to deal with it, and clean ourselves.
In conclusion, if you would like to become more spiritual and clean up your mind, body, and soul, you can do the following. Review the section on Natural Laws and make a list of any offenses you may have committed. Use vacation time or make free time to perform a healing ceremony on yourself. Take along a friend or family members. All cultures at one time used confession as a form of healing, and all cultures used Nature and the natural elements for purification. Our Native tribes were using confession as a part of the healing ritual long before Christianity came to North
You can go out into the wilderness and build a small sacred fire to pray with, or use the privacy of your home, beginning with a smudging ceremony. Fast at least one day, and abstain from drugs, alcohol, and sex for a few days to prepare for the prayer ceremony. Make an invocation to the Great Creator, the four sacred powers and directions of the Universe, and to all of Nature; offer clean tobacco, herbs, or food to the fire and spirits, and to the Great Creator. State your name, race, and why you are praying, and what you are asking assistance for.
Tell the Great Spirit and the good spirits of the Earth that you want to purify yourself of your sins and violations. Read each offense separately, confess that you made the violation, state that you didn’t know any better, plead for forgiveness, and promise that you won’t commit the same violation again.
Then have one of the other participants blow and smudge you three times; a cedar or sage smudge stick is a good spiritual tool to use for this purpose, or blow tobacco from a pipe. You can finalize the healing ceremony by bathing in a hot tub full of cedar, juniper, sage, or mugwort tea. (Boil a big batch of it in a two-to-three-gallon pot for fifteen minutes, strain, and pour the herbal tea in the tub full of water. Soak, relax, meditate, and feel the essence of the herbs while healing.) Better yet, use a sweat lodge, if you can, to finalize the cleansing.