Hired as a Shaman

In lat summer I have been approached by the city of Bracebridge, to join them as an employee of the City to bring some of the workshops I usually provide for the community under the umbrella of the Culture and Recreation Department.

I was not interested.

But, they said, I would get paid by them! 🙂

Not very much, certainly not equivalent to what I normally get paid, if they hire me as an “independent consultant”and workshop provider in this department.

In the end they chewed me down and I agreed – at least for this winter – to see, how it goes…….

BB drumming flier

They first wanted to write Shaman/ “Medicine Woman” onto my contract of employment and on the fliers for the workshops I agreed to provide. But I told them, the word Medicine Woman was controversial, as it is understood – by the Native American (First Nations) – to mean “one of THEIR Medicine People” – like a Lodge Leader, Faith Keeper (Sachem) or Shaking Tent man or Pipe Carrier……..

The word shaman is not as widely known among the general population here in Ontario and often I get asked, what exactly that is. When I explain, that it is a Siberian term for a “Medicine Person, that gains information and help from the Spirit World during theta trance journeys brought on by drumming ”

they say Ooh, like a Medicine Man! – Or ah, you are a Witch Doctor!

NO, I am not!

I am not a witch and I am not a doctor, although I do have a current RN licence and am training as a Jungian analyst from a Western university.

My father’s people call a person that does the things I do a “Kham”, leading Khamlanies = healing and other rituals.

Udega is another similar word but it rather describes a person working with herbs and potions.

Someone who uses drums and chants , who has one or more Spirit Guides, mostly in Animal form that he or she contacts while drumming in order to find out what is wrong with a client is called a Kham. The word this culture uses is Shaman, also a Siberian word, Tunguse to be precise, it is descriptive of someone entering ecstatic trance in order to help, advise, divine, heal, and otherwise aid the community.

Living here in the West I claim this word as a befitting description for me because it points not only towards what I do but also to my Siberian heritage and distances me from the also often used term “Medicine Woman” that implies Native American heritage and incidentally would be analogues to the word Udega among Siberian people.

Shaman however is not what I do, it is what I am. It permeates every aspect of my daily life, my art, the way I teach at elementary and university level, the way I engage the Spirits in order to facilitate healing, the way I mentor my students, and how I conduct public multicultural gatherings and rituals.

But generally the ordinary folk here in Muskoka do not care so much about what I am called; they are waaaay more interested in what I do and what I teach THEM to do.

One lady, that signed up for the upcoming drum workshop and was advised by one of the town clerks taking in her application, that no, I was not going to do any healing right there…. She reportedly replied: ”I do not care if Mi-Shell teaches knitting this fall, my sisters and me and a few friends will be there and we will learn something that will be important to us – and besides, something awesome always happens anyway…..”

Well, we will see…..

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Muslim Prayers in the Longhouse!?!

Yesterday were at the monthly Longhouse celebrations at Wahta. Our Sachem (Faith Keeper) is since recently teaching some courses on Native studies at Georgian college in Barrie = 100 km south of the res. and from the course had invited some students to come up and join us for the celebrations this month. The students he invited however were newly landed immigrants– from Pakistan and Syria. Only as soon as they came through the door it was clear, that few of the Longhouse participants had any idea, about what it means to BE Muslim.
5 young guys had brought their veiled women and small kids and also 1 set of doting parents and a friend from Syria, that was in the country less than a week and spoke no English. So I ended up explaining to everyone, that, no, there is NO pork in any of the pot-luck dishes, we had Beaver stew, Venison and Moose.

What what IS Beaver??? Is it halal?
What is venison?? What is a moose????? Is it halal?
I explained, that all meat is blessed by the person that killed it using the smoke of Cedar and Tobacco and the Spirit of the Animal is send home to its Ancestors, to be born again. So happily our friends dug in.
They however had brought a rice dish that blew everyone’s mind, it was so spicy!
Then, no sooner were tables and dishes cleared away to make room for the round dances, that it was time for our guests to pray.
They asked, can we do this here in the Longhouse??
Our Sachem  is– aehmm…. – not known for being a very flexible adaptive person.

After all he has to “hold on” and keep the Faith pure against all outside influences…..
So no, you can not pray in the Longhouse!
But now praying outside – in the snow that was coming down – and in the pitch dark cooooold?????
When I offered to give them a large comforter as a blanket to kneel on, they asked the Faith Keeper, iffff the shaman lady is willing to be helpful and accommodating, could not he too…….
He said nothing and they just knelt down right in front of all of us and prayed.
I am sure, it gave all the usual Longhouse visitors an opportunity to think and reflect…….
I decided to also pray, quietly– for cross cultural understanding and tolerance.

Then we proceeded with the usual “Standing Quiver Dance”, followed by traditional teachings – this time around Beaver and Deer hunting, Corn bread and marriage customs, when the woman goes out to choose a husband -among others…..
Our Muslim friends were all encouraged to join in the dances. The men did with gusto and also used our horn rattles in the Women’s Honour Dance.
The women did not dance. It took a while until my Mohawk friends understood, that Muslim Women are not permitted to dance in front of men. – So I went over to them to talk and teach. They told me, that they were astounded at Native customs and the matrilineal Clan system and the leadership of the Clan Mother.
I took the time to show them around the Longhouse, pointing out all our beautiful Wampum Belts and explaining their history and specific meanings. I let them reverently touch the mighty Wolf fur at the side of the Wolf Clan and explained our ceremonial Turtle Shell Rattles and a few other things.

11903744_1_x
There was also the “thing with the Red Indians”
“Red Indian” is not an appropriate term – rather use Native American or First Nations Person….”
“Oh” said one of the ladies, “That is the same as people calling us Pakies”
Yes!
(Oh maaan, I do not even know, how to write that word…)
And trying to explain that Ojibwa and Mohawk and Sioux are not different casts, but tribes, formerly independent Nations, now coexisting within Canada (or at least try to…..!!)
At the end of our gathering, after the last Stick Dancer gave up hollering for more songs and the Clan Mother did the Closing Prayers, we go around in the circle and everyone is giving everyone else a by by hug.
Of course the Muslim ladies can not allow another man to hug them, so after I explained that to the Clan Mother, everyone agreed, that a handshake would be good Medicine as well.
I hope we see our new friends again next month.

HIAWATNA WAMPUM BELT

Run!!!!

Coming home from last night’s Haudenosaunee Harvest Social there was a freshly killed Snowshoe Hare in the middle of the Road. Dinner for our Raccoon family? It was still warm and so we decided, that the Raccoons would have to share with us. So this morning I first sang a “Soul returning Home” chant and then butchered the Rabbit. There was lots of goodies for the coons; head, lower legs, rib cage and innards, but we do not much like bloody smeary messes on our upper deck, so I brought these out to our organic composting place.

Something was rattling inside the large black bin.

I carefully opened the lid, expecting one of our Coons, but a little baby Bear jumped out, right at me and then scampered of into the bush.

I knew, what THAT meant:

MOM!!!!!!!

Me and Bear 3

And sure enough a large black hulk appeared between the low bushes, huffed at me and proceeded to chase me halfway back to the house…..

 

I ran!

.

This was NOT Windwalker, the Lady Bear who knows me/ us, but one of her now adult daughters, now a mother herself, probably for the first time.

Best, to teach her in no uncertain ways, that she ALWAYS will have the “right of way” here on our land and that we are not a thread to her and her cub.

This will assure us, that later, she will simply ignore us when we accidentally meet up somewhere in the bush.

All my Relations

A few months ago we finalllly invested in a new TV.

RCA and like everything else these days, it was manufactured in China.

About 6 weeks ago we suddenly noticed, that there was a bug in it.

Yes, literally! In the lower right quadrant of the view field there was a small centipede!

centi

How did it get there?

China?

What was even more disturbing was, that we soon noticed, that it was alive!!!

It mover around. It was obviously “stuck” somewhere at its mid- section, but head and tail crawled here and there as far up down. Right and left as the stuck mid- section allowed. Poor thing. My shamanic prayers always end with “Blessings to all my Relations” – meaning ALL life on Earth and beyond and “let there be no suffering”

So now, here, with the news we nightly also witnessed this poor Shape-Changer’s suffering.

We tried to get it out, but no luck. Kill it? Peter pressed a thumb on it- pushing onto the soft surface screen of the unit. Nothing. Its little antennas continued to move and its many feet moved here and there and tried to get free…..

Days passed. What is it eating, that it i still alive???

Then we went on vacation – for 8 days.

Upon our return – the little Creature was just as alive and strugggglingas before.

I started to get nightmares about being stuck and unable to get out.

Finally last night I sat in front of the TV and “concentrated”.

On the space widening and softening, on becoming “open”

When, after quite a while I opened my eyes again, the Centipede was gone!

I first could not belief that; but on the other hand, shamanizing always brings results. Often the ones we want, when, ifffff our “want” is in unison with Mother Earth.

Then, today around noon I noticed something.

A small movement on the floor 1 1/2 meters away from the TV and towards the sliding door to the deck.

The Centipede!

Peter took a quick picture and then I took him/ her outside, to a half rotten log that was warmed by the sun.

Good luck!

Take care; winter will be here soon.

Centipede 1

free at last!