Our elders said we learn through living, through experience of the truths of life. We also learn through listening to stories. The imaginal world and the “real” world provide experiences from which we learn. The truth of our discoveries is either confirmed in our interactions with others or not. If the story resonates with our inner being, we adopt it as our own. Each tradition explains phenomena in ways consistent with the people’s environment, with their experience on the planet.
Like many Americans my genetic inheritance is multi-cultural and hence multi-faceted. We were more like gypsies abandoned by our tribe, living in Idaho’s Magic Valley, where irrigation made the desert bloom. Growing up without a close connection to my indigenous roots was hard. It made me feel disconnected, like I was alien, a wanderer in a strange land. Even my nuclear family felt a little foreign. I knew I must be my mother and father’s son, I looked exactly like my dad, but something was different about me. I talked a lot, just like my grandfather. I was very spiritual, like my grandmother, whose ancestors came to Turtle Island in the first wave of the invasion by the boat people. Through grandmother Theodocia’s blood the Dream Gift came. But she never talked about our Native American Tribal heritage and blood line, in those days it was best to keep secret about such things lest we lose our advantages in the dominant culture.
Gifted by my ancestors with powerful dreams, I grew up wondering why the dreams were always part of every sickness and why I felt so different from everyone else. Why did I imagine lives lived in the past, lived in the dream world of my ancestors? My teachers were mostly women, my mom, my aunties, my grandmother, the women I worked with as a teenager. They were all warm, kind and intelligent. College brought the men into my life, especially the fraternity brothers and the fathers and grandfathers of the philosophy department. My dad was very warm, sensual, and loving until I went through puberty, when he distanced from me and my brother. His musical talent and charisma, his social ability to charm people into listening to his stories was his gift to me. Consequently I became a teacher early in my life, a teacher of the wisdom literature of the dominant culture, a philosopher. I loved wisdom and found the (mostly male) wizards were very supportive and appreciative of my prodigious gifts to understand, teach, and intuitively relate a wide variety of thought systems to others. It wasn’t until I married and had children that the slumbering genes of my ancestors awoke and became ascendent. That’s when I found the traditional lineage for which I now speak to you.
In most esoteric religious traditions there is a bi-sexual aspect in all humans. The alchemists referred to it as sol-luna, sun-moon; the gnostics called it hermes-aphrodite, or andro-gyne. Whatever is on the outside has its opposite within. Essentially we have the opposite sex within us. This is a psychic fact which is discoverable through experience. But that’s not all that is within us either. We have all the gods and goddesses of all the planet’s history, all the matrices of the psychic patterning. Plato used the word “archetype”, which means ancient form or pattern. Carl Jung wrote all of this down and connected all the dots of human psychic history. Most of his early colleagues were women. Marie-Louise von Franz taught us that everything is within, AND the only way to experience the Inner Kingdom is through the magic of the unconscious which projects itself onto the external environment. This is not a conscious process of our ego awareness. In the beginning we do not know the magic communication is coming from within us. It is experienced as “out there” in the world, in the people, in all the animal and plant kingdoms, in the sky and the ocean. There is at first an arcahic identity with the perceived outer object. It is indistinguishable from ourselves. Because of this ancient way humans experience the world, there is a sense that what is “out there” is as much “in here”. When we use language to talk about these things paradox results.
Women are the maiden, mother, and the crone, all the feminine energies which bring forth life and take it away. Our Celtic ancestors put the symbol of this, the mother with her open legs and vagina, through which we come into the world and return in death, on the walls of the earliest Catholic Christian churches. They practiced their ancient ceremonies and allowed the new cult a place to grow. It was much later in the ninth century of the common era that the male Christian priests of the Roman Catholic church forced the people to remove the symbols of the great mother. Somehow they missed the carvings of her male counterpart, the Green Man and his vines, which decorated the rafters high above the worshipers below him. Even the Cathedral in Chartres (the ancient center of Celtic religion) has him above and the great mother’s labyrinth below.
In England the Druid wizard Alban protected a Christian cleric by taking on his persona, his robes and regalia, and sacrificing himself to protect the future of the people. Under Roman law Christianity was punishable by death, de-capitation to be exact. Alban was baptized by the prelate, whose lineage was traced to John the Baptist and Jerusalem through Joseph of Arimathea. Celtic tradition expected the chief to sacrifice himself for his people; he was the consort of the goddess who never dies. Her human lovers returned to her in death and among her many gifts were visionary experiences. It is easy to see how the self-sacrificing god/man of the Jewish Christians, whose mother is a form of the goddess and whose father is the sky god, could be embraced as the Celtic “mother’s son” in a new form. Alban lost his head before the Council of Nicaea, when the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced his mother Helene’s religion and made Christianity the religion of the Empire. That was seventeen hundred years ago. Are we any different really?
Many of us come from Celtic and Native American roots. What resonates is the mythic patterning within us. The circle of relatives around the fire, the singing and stories of the tribe, the ceremonies and magic of life, these are all part of us. And so is the goddess. Every man has an unconscious feminine aspect. Every woman has an unconscious masculine aspect. These aspects act out behavior in order to get us to become conscious of our true nature. Often we talk about men possessed by their feminine and women possessed by their masculine. Why use the expression “possessed”? Because we are not conscious that our behavior is coming from an autonomous source. First we must become conscious how beautifully complicated our psyches are. We have to become conscious of our contra-sexual opposite within. When we allow that archetypal energy to act through us, our ancestors and their connection to the Divine speaks through us. God is both within us and in all things. Yes, it is paradoxical. So all humans are connected to the Divine and expressions of Her/Him. Women are just as close to the Source as Men are. We have all within. Creator gave us a dual nature. Our physical bodies provide our original orientation to the environment. Our inner psychic structure makes communication with the opposite sex possible. We just have to allow ourselves to understand and have empathy for others, including the plants and animals. Peyote teaches us that. All the Medicines teach us that if we are open to them.
So what matters is whether or not, and to what extent, we are able to embrace ourselves as Creator’s children. Whether we are embodied as men or women, we are all children of the One Source. We stand upon the Earth under the same sky. We drink the same water and breathe the same air as our ancestors did. We have the genetic inheritance of a common ancestor, who was a child of the Creator herself. The only thing which stands between us and the truth is what our elders have believed, what their experience taught them. Perhaps their way was best for those times. I cannot make a judgment about that. We have inherited the ceremonies of our ancestors and they must be alive for us and the next seven generations or they will die. We see that happening all around us. Things are dieing rapidly, species, cultures, tribes, religions, forests. Will we adapt or will we disappear? That is the question we all need to entertain. Whether women or men are the ceremonial leaders seems to be irrelevant.
River Sauvageau opening the Tipi door.
Times are changing. We have women ceremonial leaders within the Christian tradition occupying the places traditionally held by men. Maybe the old ways are coming back in new forms.
What can I do? What my elders have told me to do: Teach the Stories of Life. So that is what I am giving you all, my best rendition of life’s stories. Good luck. May the Great Spirit guide your steps.
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