Thursday, January 19, 2017

Observations on American Indian Beliefs

Lakota hide count
Although American Indian cultures are often presented as homogeneous, they are not. For example, Coyote is usually presented as The Trickster who teaches harsh lessons to people. However, different cultures have other Tricksters who serve various purposes.

 For the Lakota, the Heyoka is their Sacred Trickster. If a person dreamed of the Thunder Beings, then it was thought that they were chosen by the Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery) to be the sacred clowns of the people. The Heyoka possesses such sacred energy that they can turn things upside down and backwards. The duty of the Heyoka is to speak the truth and shake up people’s perceptions through laughter. 

Meanwhile for the Chinook of the Northwest, Blue Jay is the Trickster. He is helpful but foolish at the same time. For the Mi’kmaq of New England, Rabbit and Otter are light-hearted beings who entertain people. 

Beside Tricksters, Culture Heroes are also included in several belief systems of various tribes. Glooscap of the Wabenaki (New England) is their Transformer. One thing He did was to change the landscape to be kind to the people. When the White People came, Glooscap left but promised to return when the Wabenaki needed Him. In contrast, Shikla of Northwest Coast is more focused on bringing balance to the world. He is less involved with the affairs of humans.

 Some Nations had prophets similar to the Abrahamic religions. One was Handsome Lake of the Seneca, who received visions in 1799.  His teachings became the Longhouse Religion of the Iroquois, which is also known as Gaihwi:io – God’s Message, or the Code of Handsome Lake. This Code was in response to the on-going wars and pressures by the British and Americans on his people in the 1700s. Some of the tenets of the Longhouse Religion have elements of the Abrahamic faiths such as the focus on sins. For example, whiskey, witchcraft, love magic, and abortion are considered evil. During the Midwinter Thanksgiving Ceremony, a white dog (or a non-living stand-in) is sacrificed to convey the sins of the people to the sky. Afterwards, tobacco is offered to the Creator to sustain the order of the world.

Discovering these differences in the beliefs of the various Nations demonstrates to me that there is no monolithic faith of American Indians. Many people have the tendency to distill various elements of the differing faiths into a “universal religion” consisting of the Great Spirit, Medicine Wheels, Totems, etc. As a Roman Polytheist, I have experienced this impulse of outsiders to the religion. Roman Gods are not Greek Gods with Latin names. Understanding how outsiders can lump things together helps me tolerate mistakes people make about Roman Gods. It helps me to teach people in a kind manner what the differences are and why they matter. Faith is rooted in the people who practice it, and in their perceptions.

 Works Used:

Favell, Ian, “The Code of Handsome Lake,” Overview of World’s Religions. Web.
 Native American Spirituality, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Web.
 Native Languages of the Americas: Native Cultures. Web. 2015.
 North American Religions, Overview of World’s Religions. Web.
 Wambli Sina Win, “The Thunderbird’s Echo,” Native American Times. Web. 21, June 2011.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Orca (Killer Whale): Unbroken Traditions

In January 2017, two notable orcas died – Granny (also known as J2) and Tilikum. Both lived tragic lives in different ways. Granny, captured and released because of her age, saw the gradual extinction of her pod due to pollution and overfishing. Tilikum, captured as a calf, killed three people arising from his torment at being a performing killer whale. Both animals were the impetus for humans to reconsider the ethics of using animals for entertainment. The result was an ending of orca shows at major marine parks.

Called Orca (“Sea Devil”) by the Romans, Killer Whale is the only member of the Whale Family (Cetacea) to hunt other Mammals. The largest Dolphin of the sea, Killer Whales uses stealth and trickery in hunting. Her original scientific name, Dephinus orca, meant “demon dolphin.” In recognition of her size and complex social life, Killer Whale’s current scientific name is Orcinus Orca, after the Ancient Roman God of the Netherworld.

Ruled by an old Matriarch, Killer Whale’s Pod travels throughout the oceans in search of food. (Some pods may reside in one area, while others travel about.) Like Wolves on land, She hunts with her “wolf pack”. Because of this, Killer Whale is called the “Wolf of the Seas”. Her tightly knit pod hunts and drives Blue Whale into areas where He cannot escape. Killer Whale works with her Pod Mates biting and harassing Blue While until He dies. Then They share in their meal.

In Killer Whale’s Pod, They assist each other in raising Calves. Killer Whale and her mates learn their dialect of Orca language from their Mothers. In addition, Mother Killer Whale also teaches her Calf proper pod behavior. Meanwhile, the ancient Matriarch ensures that All learn their pod’s history and culture.

When She is not busy learning or hunting, Killer Whale likes to play. She pops out of the water (spy hopping) or spouts loudly to surprise her Friends. She likes to ride the wakes formed by boats and whales. Sometimes, Killer Whale forcefully slaps her flukes against the water while remaining partly underwater (lob tailing). She plays for the sheer joy of it.

Even in her flamboyant black and white colors, Killer Whale blends into the ocean. Every pod member has a different pattern on their bodies to identify each other and stranger Killer Whales. Her Mate has a high dorsal fin to tell Him apart from Female Killer Whale. Together in the pod, They roam the seas in search of adventure.

Killer Whale raises her Calf to know their language and culture. She passes on their pod’s history to Him. Because Killer Whale lives a long life, the pod reflects the culture and traditions of many generations. Pay attention to your cultural traditions says Killer Whale.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Judgement and the World

 Judgement: This card is set in a mangrove swamp. The swamp is a liminal place, with the day being the noontime. Sitting on a mangrove tree root is a crocodile holding a staff. Perched in his open mouth is a red plover. Crocodiles and plovers live in a partnership, instead of being predator and prey. The plover gets a meal picking leeches off the reptile’s gums, and the crocodile gets his gums cleaned. The card gives the sense of balance and discernment. The scene captures a moment standing in time which I see as Judgement. 

 The World: A dolphin couple dance under the trees on a beautiful summer day. They are dancing on the world, itself. Surrounded by the signs of each suit, the pair seem happy and contented. They have reached the end of their arduous journey. Eventually, The World will open up more journeys for them to go on. In the meantime, the two are happy that they have come to the end of this particular one.

Previous Cards:
Star, Moon, and Sun 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dragons of the Fields: Guardians of the Dancing Light

I first became aware of Field Dragons from reading about “fire-lizards” in Anne McCaffrey’s books about Pern. They enjoyed being around humans and were rather noisy. After reading about “guardian dragons” in D.J. Conway’s books, I realized that McCaffrey’s “fire-lizards” were Conway’s dragons. And They were the same dragons who liked to play hide-n-seek among the wildflowers.

As I wrote in my blog post about dragon families, I encountered the Dragons of the Fields while on my wildflower walks. (These dragons can also be found frolicking in gardens and orchards.) Sometimes, an odd butterfly will suddenly flit by you. At other times, you glimpse something colorful out of your eye. And on waning summer afternoons, you may hear singing in the waving grass. These are the Dragons of the Fields at play.

Field Dragons are usually brightly colored like the flowers They play in. The ones who are colored golden brown enjoy bouncing on squirrel tail grass. Dancing in the sunlight, Field Dragons like to sing along with the cicadas. They enjoy having a good time.

Because Field Dragons are friendly to humans, They will adopt a kind family. Field Dragons do enjoy gamboling about with children and pets. However if any family member acts uncivilly towards anyone, these dragons will leave. Field Dragons only stay where everyone is welcomed and appreciated.

To entice Field Dragons to adopt your family, make your home and garden, a welcoming place. Since I do not have a garden, I put out pretty stones for Them to play with on my window sills. (Field Dragons especially like moss agate) Also, you can place pictures and little statues of dragons around your house. But remember the family needs to be considerate of each other for these dragons to come.

People who have gardens in North America could plant daises, tulips or squirrel tail grass. For other areas, these Dragons like brightly colored flowers that wave in the breeze. Fruit trees and berry bushes entice Field Dragons to come and feast on the fruit. If you leave out food for the birds, they will tell the Dragons to come by for a visit.

As with all Dragons, Field Dragons expect courtesy from humans. Do not speak or stare at Them. Let the Field Dragons decide how They wish to interact with you. The ones who I meet on my walks simply like to play hide n’ seek.

The Dragons of the Fields are the Guardians of the Dancing Light. Their wisdom is to delight in small things and live in wonder. These Dragons encourage people to embrace the rainbow and know joy.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: The Star, The Moon, and The Sun

The Star: The Tarot of the Animal Lords refers to this card as The Stars, indicating that a multitude of stars can guide people. Under a starry sky dominated by one bright star, a seahorse, dressed as a clown, pours water into a mountain lake. As he kneels on a lily pad, a grebe nests on another pad nearby. The substantial size of the lily pads indicate security in navigating the unknown waters. The pair is serene and calm for The Stars will guide both to their purpose in life, although neither will know exactly how. They trust in The Star.

 The Moon: Climbing up a ziggurat stairway, a cat with a staff steps out onto a nebulous quarter moon. Perched on the staff is an owl and dangling from the perch is a crab. The scene is of a dream, an elusive wispy illusion. The whimsy of the owl contrasts with the nightmare of the crab. The cat has the owl to show him the way, while the crab urges him to rely on his intuition. In the space between reality and dreams lies the illusion of The Moon. 

 The Sun: In the glare of the enveloping sun, two hares grasp hands. Surrounded by briars and flowers, the pair dance together on green grass. The hares may be enjoying themselves in the bright sunshine, but for the reader, the sun is too bright to look at. The card cautions not to be “blinded by the light,” but do enjoy the moment. The illumination of The Sun highlights the shadow, which hides just behind the light.

Other entries in this series:
Temperance, Devil, and Tower

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dragons of the Cosmos: Timeless Chaos

Dragons of the Cosmos are a part of the fabric of the Universe. According to many myths, these Dragons have either created the world or plotted to destroy it. They have an intense unbounded energy to accomplish their aims. Because of the danger They pose, these dragons are best to be avoided. Moreover, Cosmos Dragons only have relations with the Gods, and usually ignore humans.

The Great Mother Dragon, Tiamat of Babylon (pictured above) is one of the best known of the Cosmos Dragons. As the Creator, She formed the first Heaven and Earth with Her Body. Tiamat is also called the Lady of the Primeval Chaos, who avenges her spouse’s murder. According to Babylonian myth, She tried to rid the Earth of both Gods and humans, and nearly succeeded.

Mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Leviathan is another world destroyer. According to the prophet Isaiah, the Leviathan will run amok during the Final Days. Middle Eastern lore says that the God of the Old Testament created two Leviathans. Because He realized that the Two together would destroy the Earth, God had to kill the Mate. When upset, the surviving Leviathan will cause devastating tidal waves. To console Em (Leviathan is multi-gendered), God plays with Em at sunset every day.

According to Norse lore, Jormungand, the World Serpent is the offspring of Loki, the Trickster God and Angrboda, the Giantess. (His siblings are Hel, the Queen of the Underworld and Fenrir, the Wolf.) To prevent Jormungand from destroying the earth, Odin, the All Father, threw this dragon into the sea to contain Him. Encircling the world, Jormungand lays on the bottom of the sea and plots his revenge. Every time that He considers the injustices done to Him, Jormungand writhes thereby causing tidal waves and earthquakes. At Ragnarok, Jormungand will flood the land in seeking his vengeance on the Gods.

The sworn enemy of Ra, the Egyptian Sun God, Apep is the Dragon of Destruction and Chaos. When Ra goes go forth in his solar barge, Apep tries to kill Him, but is usually thwarted by Ra’s allies. On the few times that Apep appears to be successful, a solar eclipse occurs.

Dragon of the Cosmos are dangerous to people. If you think that you may encounter one, be prepared to offer the Cosmos Dragon, gold, silver, or platinum. Then praise Them, “Oh, Great Dragon of the Central Cosmos, Great Dragon, upon You rest the bones of the Universe. I exalt You.” In addition, people who have Sturgeon or Sperm Whale as their animal teachers can call upon these animals for help, as well. It is best to avoid Cosmos Dragons all together. These Dragons do have the wisdom of divine knowledge, but They keep it to Themselves.

Because They threaten the Order which is maintained by the Gods, Cosmos Dragons embody the attributes of chaos. When these Dragons communicate, They do so by lightning, tidal waves, and earthquakes. This alone creates havoc on the earth and elsewhere. In myths, They are the creators and the destroyers of worlds. Cosmos Dragons are indeed The Beings of the Timeless Chaos.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Tarot of the Animal Lords: Major Arcana: Temperance, The Devil, and The Tower

Temperance: This card depicts a flamingo pouring water from one pitcher to another one, which is sitting on the ground. She is standing under a grove of trees, which are far from her village that is off in the distance. A slight breeze shakes the leaves, giving a sense of movement to the scene. The flamingo watches a mallard migrating, while a grebe broods on her eggs, nearby. The card gives a sense of quiet contemplation of choices yet to be made. Between leaving and staying is Temperance that seeks the balance between the two. Perhaps the flamingo will leave someday, but not today.

The Devil: A he-goat represents the devil in this card. He stands at the maw of a red-rock cavern, patting his buddy, the toad. Behind the pair, the full moon rises with the bats flying out to catch insects. With their jaunty poses and red eyes, the pair exudes a sense of malefic magic. Their air of nonchalance entices people into their web of promises. However, once someone enters the cavern, they become lost. The card suggests think before entering or end up being stuck forever.

 The Tower: A beaver is falling headlong as he is inundated by logs and water. At one time, loggers held drives to guide their sawn logs down river to the mills. Often, a log jam would occur and the logs would pile on top of each other. A logger would need to go and pull out the key log, holding back the others. This usually resulted in the death of the logger who did the task. This Tower is the raw energy that has been pent up rushing out, killing everyone in its way. How the beaver ended up this way is something for the reader to puzzle out. Was he the heroic logger or the builder of a faulty dam?

Other entries in this series:
Star, Moon, Sun