LONG ROAD HOME (11)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 11

Finding New Family

Well, I can’t help it, I don’t know what it is, but I have always been able to get along better with women than men, and they always seem to sense it. Some years ago I placed an ad on Write A Prisoner.com. I was at a stage where I was lonely and just wanted to meet a few ladies to correspond with, exchange ideas and views on life, spirituality and everything. So out of the blue I got a letter from a woman named Helga in Germany. Long story short, Helga fell for me and we ended up talking about a possible future together. That all fell apart with her trying to mold and bend me into the shape she thought I ought to be, not who I am. Anyway, one thing I owe Helga is a debt of gratitude for introducing me to Leontien (Leah).

Steve and sister Judy 1996

Leah and I seemed to get along and we emailed back and forth about a myriad of topics, she was interested in the Native culture and we quickly became friends. During our exchanges she found out that I had lost my sister, Judy several years prior to cancer and I missed having her in my life. Judy was a strong and remarkable woman who raised her son as a single mother, never wavering in her love or dedication to giving him all she wanted him to have. So as time went on I found out Leah had no brothers, so we decided we would adopt each other. Cool!  I now had a new sister and I feel I hit the jackpot.

What an amazingly wonderful family Leah has, her husband, Mildo, is a super cool man and a great father to their two beautiful daughters. Both the girls are extremely smart and witty. Rosa, the youngest is a gifted equestrian and for-real horse lover. She is just as full of life as her mother. Vivian, the older of the 2 is super talented with a very good voice. In fact I’d say if she were to continue and pursue a career she could easily hit the stages of Broadway or more.

I think Vivian looks more like her dad, who is very smart and I’m glad to have him as a brother-in-law.  So the girls come by their brilliance honestly and it isn’t at all surprising when I think of their parents. Now Leah, she’s the bees knees, a very warm and witty woman, full of life’s wisdoms and able to share of herself with others, unstintingly putting the needs and wants of others before herself.

I don’t think I’ve ever come right out and said it this way, but I’m finding it’s so much easier to say things more articulately in writing than in person. The fact is my sister Leontien has helped me thru some rough times when I was really hurting and down. She didn’t know at the time because I’m kind of good at holding things in, but her dedication and patience have helped make me the man I have become and that man bears no resemblance to the man  I was years ago.

I can’t wait to see Leah from the free world. It’s going to be amazing and as I sit here and write this knowing it’s just 13 months until I can walk out the door to a half-way house and after that, it’s just a matter of a few more months.

Let me tell you, when I met Leah, it had been well over a decade since my mom had passed and then my sister passed. I had not had a visitor in 13 years, and all of a sudden Leah tells me she is coming to the states to visit with family and friends. Then she tells me she’s coming to see “My brother!” So Leah came and it was the best couple of hours I had had in decades. We talked and laughed and took pictures and visited and she got to meet Frank, one of my Native brothers and band mates. To meet my sister was amazing, and in this moment, as I write, I’m thinking it’s funny that a little later today, I’m calling Leah at her home in the Netherlands – Yes! That’s six thousand miles away across the ocean and in another country, but our love and respect and family tie is stronger than even toe-distance or the time difference.

And Leah, you ought to know by now that as much as I love you and your family, don’t set your strawberry kiwi drink down on the table and walk away for any reason. Some things I just can’t control, but I’m still sticking to my story… “It must have evaporated?!?!”

Steve and Leontien 2016

A year or so later, Leah came to visit again. This time I got to spend the whole day with her, the best day of my entire sentence. We talked and I laughed with her, we were able to relax and get to know each other better. We talked about all the things that were important to us. Leah is a wonderful person, and somehow I know my sister Judy would appreciate her being there for me. I know I certainly am. Thank you for being my sister and my friend. I’m a very lucky man to have the love of two sisters in this life. There is no doubt that once again, the Creator stepped into my life with just what I needed, when I most needed it. I was lost and lonely so the Creator gave me some new family…life is good…

But now it has come to my attention that my dear sister Leontien feels like she doesn’t deserve a chapter in my book because she “Really didn’t do anything!”

Geeminy Christmas, I’m floored by this. See this is the same woman who visits death row inmates, works with the organization, Soul Sisters Unlocking Cell Doors. These women write cards and letters to inmates all over the country who may otherwise not hear from anyone. Leah has traveled around the world, multiple times to visit me and other prisoners she has befriended over the years I have had the honor and pleasure to know her.

So it’s like this, if you ever meet Leah or if you already know her, count yourself as blessed because this woman who claims she didn’t do anything has brought light and laughter to me and many others in these iron houses. She has shown empathy and understanding for those in circumstances she will never go through simply because she chooses to care for those who suffer. To me this kind of seems like considerably more than nothing. Leah has shared smiles and care and yep, even a strawberry kiwi drink with me at least.

Now, Leah, I know you will read these words, and you know how I feel about the truth being the only pure beauty in the cosmos, neither good or bad, false or contrived, simply the truth. So listen up, here it is…Sister mine, your kindness has made a huge impact in my life. You make me want to be a good man so I can make you proud of me, and that ain’t an easy thing to do! Simply put, I love ya sis, and to me, your brother who loves you for you…  

You Are A Rock Star!

HERE & WELL

Here I am
Living on memories again
It’s just that your ghost’s at hand
Whispering into my brain

And I should have known
That that’s how it had to go
And baby I loved you so
I know now that you’re gone

Chorus:
Well, it’s never so easy
As if I had just let you stay
So just be the music and words
To the songs that I play.

(Instrumental)

Don’t try selling me
Your psycho logic
It’s just not nostalgic
So let that be said

If the telephone rings
Hope eternal springs
Could it possibly be you
As if there were something that I could do
Then rest assured it would have been done.

(Instrumental)

Chorus:
Well, it’s never so easy
As if I had just let you stay
So just be the music and words
To the songs that I play.


Here & Well lyrics © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks on the Grass)

Ghost Dancer’s Art

Red Cloud, Osceola & The Powwow Princess

In 1994, Ghost entered some of his work in an art contest at the annual Spring Break Festival in Pensacola, Florida. They had TV crews from all over take film shots and even talked to him about his art. Then he was disqualified, they said, because the contest was for amateur artists only.

“I have never been trained or taught to do art.” Ghost says, “I just learnt by trial and error.” He thought it was a bit funny that they still used his art as part of the advertisement for the festival in later years.  

In this exhibit, Ghost had several museum worthy pieces including actual portraits of Red Cloud and Osceola. Both were done in their correct original tribal colors and authentic clothing they would be wearing. None had ever been done like this before.

Red Cloud
Pastel by Ghost Dancer

Ghost was later approached by some Lakota women who said they were interested in getting the portrait of Red Cloud for the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota. They were brought to him by a tribal member living in Florida.

Ghost explains: “These women told me they didn’t have the money they knew this painting was worth, but said it belonged at the school. Now when I did Red Cloud, my model was a tintype image from the Smithsonian Institute. I did him this way to pay respect to a man who fought for his people not so much with violence but with his wits and negotiation skills.

Red Cloud tintype

“He was doing what he felt was best for his people and didn’t want any more of them to be killed or suffer from starvation or cold. Now many of his own people and especially other Lakotas, Dakotas and Nakotas did not agree with him. But sometimes it takes a great warrior to be a stronger man than to fight a war he could not win, realizing what war would do to his people. He was preserving all that he could. So to take the insults, ridicule and anger from so many who spoke and felt ill will against him, he showed his true worth as a warrior who gave himself for his people and that is another reason I chose to do him this way in the painting. 

Inlaid Story Frame
by Ghost Dancer

“I knew what the women said was right and they received the painting. Sometimes life isn’t all about the money. Now I pray it did go there and I wasn’t lied to about it. But that is what I was told. And yes, I even let it go with the cedar inlaid story frame which took me much longer to do than the painting.  I never checked with the Red Cloud School. I was just following my heart. Something that I always do.”

The portrait of Osceola was given away the same way. [No photo available] Ghost was introduced by a local tribal member to some women who said they were great, great granddaughters of Osceola.

“They had come all the way from south Florida and wanted the portrait. Someone had told them about seeing it on TV and contacted them about it. No one had ever done a painting of him like this because no one ever truly knew him, his true history and his beliefs or even how he got his name. Osceola was a red stick Muskogee, therefore I knew his history.

His name is derived from the sound that is made from one who has taken the black drink for purging. Osceola was like me, born a breed and he had to earn his respect and honor. So it was my honor to do this for him and bring him to life again in this painting. It was only fitting that this painting go to his family. Now I took these people at their word and the word of the tribal member who introduced them. After consulting with someone who was actually there, this is what happened as that person remembered it also.”

Powwow Princess by Ghost Dancer

Now in doing this painting of the powwow baby, to me something needed was for it to show the beauty of life. Our people had been almost totally wiped out. Then we began a comeback in population and in our culture. We have had a long fight for our lives, culture and religious beliefs. This little baby girl is showing the beauty of our return and way of life. Her desire to be in dancing and rhythm of life for her people. When my mother saw this painting, she truly wanted to have it so badly, and she would have had it not already been promised to be donated for a tribal auction/raffle to the highest bidder. Everyone wanted that painting; the little girl touched everyone’s heart. I do not know the person who wound up getting it. I could not be present. I was busy doing other things for this tribal event such as setting up the photographic booth. My job was to help dress up a tourist in authentic tribal clothing and get them photographed with the authentic dwelling, tribal items and animals. We had a professional photographer and I helped design the scene, hair styles, facing painting, and right clothing for each of them with authentic items to accent the scene. This was a big success and we were swarmed. They even got to get their photo with real wolves who were set up with back packs and travois.

Ghost Dancer

 Ghost

LONG ROAD HOME (10)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Chapter 10

Cat In The Forest

Shortly after Walker left, about mid-week, I was asked if I would come to the next sweat and was told the brothers wanted to ask me to become a member of the circle and spiritual group there.

For more than a year, since I came to Yazoo, I had never asked to become a member of the circle. I only attended the sweat lodge if I were specifically asked by one of the brothers to come as a guest. There were just so many things going on with and around Iron Rope, the sweat leader at the time, that I didn’t want to be a member of “his” circle.  According to traditional ways, if I were a member of the circle then I would have an  obligation to speak out against any wrongs I saw within the circle. Most definitely I wasn’t looking to go down that road. So I would just wait until one of the brothers asked me if I was going to the sweat that week, and then respond with “are you inviting me?”  

The answer was always yes, so I would go as a guest. In fact it became so usual to see me there for the ceremony that no one thought anything about my not being a member of the circle until they had their annual ceremonial meal. I didn’t attend because I felt it would be wrong to take food out of the mouths of a community that I was still not officially a part of.

It was not until after the meal and they wondered why I hadn’t attended that it became obvious that I had still never asked for admittance to that circle. Everyone just took for granted I would be there or I had somehow managed to not serve four fires or whatever.

Eventually when it was time the Creator saw to it that they did extend an invitation. I accepted that invitation, but contingent on my being allowed to teach what I knew or had been taught over the decades and that the brothers made a conscious effort to learn a song for the lodge so they could contribute and be a part of the ceremony instead of just sitting there. Another requirement was that they learn to control their language in the sacred area, because it was sacred to me and I found it offensive that they would be so disrespectful of the Creator that they would use vulgarity in this sacred place where they supposedly came to pray. So we made a language rule. For each infraction of the language rule, 25 pushups 1st violation, 50 for 2nd, and repeated offenses. That is how I managed to get a foul-language-free sweat lodge area. Didn’t take too long either.

When it came to question I went ahead and served the four fires I had never done. In a way this was really kind of pointless in that by that time I had already taught several of the brothers the proper steps and reasons for making the fire a certain way, from how a medicine wheel is laid on the ground and blessed with herbs and then how the stones are laid, 7 first individually, then the others as you need to, all the way to teaching the brothers a fire badger song to help the spirit of the fire to consume the wood offering and heat the rocks.  

~~~

Now, for the second reason I believe Creator sent me to Yazoo – David Martinez. David was a Mexican, here for guns and illegal entry, he was from the interior of Mexico, and most interested in the Native American culture and ways. I have always been of the position that Mexicans are Native Americans! After all they didn’t draw the borders, they were conquered by Spain and we were all from North America. Many of our ancestors had migrated north from Mexico or moved back and forth, so we are all the same people.

David wanted to learn and he had made a point of coming around me to ask questions about the traditions, languages and ceremonies, so I proposed that he come to a guest sweat and that way he would be able to at least have experienced some of what was actually supposed to go on. At this time the guy Iron Rope was still the pipe carrier, still up to his antics and still very anti anyone coming in that could  see him for the fraud he was.

A meeting was called and I was basically grilled on why I wanted to bring this “Mexican” to the lodge. So I explained my feelings and told them these ways are sacred, not secret, and the Creator embraces all who come with the truth on their tongue and prayers with a true willingness to become a better person in their heart. After all it isn’t the color of your skin or your geographic origin that defines your desire to follow the red road, it’s your heart, and your soul that lead you and keep you in these ways. So there it was, because of my desire to help a man learn, the pipe carrier’s true colors showed, not just to me but to everyone in the circle. When it became apparent to the guys that I would not participate any further with a racist group, he was convinced by the group to let me bring this guy.

David and I became very close friends. We spent a lot of time together. For more than a year where you saw one of us outside the unit, the other wasn’t far away if we were not together. Meal times together were the best. As we all know prison is a strange place, where there is a place for everyone and everyone has a place all “set.” Gangs and homeboys from the same state all had their places in the chow hall, and you know, blacks sat over there, whites over on the other side,  Mexicans here, Puerto Ricans and islanders over there, you see where this is going?

Well David and I broke all the conventions together but no one ever questioned it. At first I wasn’t so sure how it would be taken, a light skinned Indian going over to sit at a Mexican gangs table, but they always made me feel welcome, calling me Indio and come sit here. It was known to all the Spanish brothers about David being a Spanish Indian, and my friend, and that I was on a spiritual path. I was and still am known throughout the federal system so they all knew that I ran Native and wasn’t on the “political” time.

After the first couple days of going over with David and sitting down to eat it was just expected and accepted. It worked out a whole lot better than the time David went with me to the white side. I won’t go into it any further than to say we got up and moved after calling several people out on their attitudes. We never again attempted that, in fact I never ate over there again, even if I was alone; I was more welcome at the Spanish tables then I ever felt at the white tables. Funny how I’ve had just as many problems over the years with the whites a I’ve had with the Natives over my color. The whites are leary of me because if you don’t know me, you would never think I am Native with my fair skin and green eyes, but the Natives are sometimes on that same B.S.

So David’s time with me, learning the ways and culture was very special. He was like a sponge and learned so much. We never thought our time together would end when or the way it did. I knew I was again in for a transfer, then one cool fall evening I was at work in the factory, a guy came to the factory door and sent for me. I walked over to see what was up and he told me David had gotten a pack out order, meaning he had to go to R&D the next morning to pack out. They were sending David to be deported. This was the last I saw of my brother, but not the last I heard or that we talked.

David Glecht Ni Kote, Cat In The Forest, was to become one of the best friends I have ever had, in line with Donkey and Paints…true friends, men who say what they do and do what they say, all with a good heart.

We talk often and email back and forth. David and his beautiful family are fine and doing well. They have the usual speedbumps of life, but all in all they are well. I am proud to call him my friend, and more, my brother. Cat In The Forest, you have made my life richer for knowing you and sharing who we are and how we approach the Creator, Ahoa Mitakuye Oyasin.

~~~

The rest of the story – the Native circle is doing good, Iron Rope leaves but passes the pipe to his little friend “Taz.” Like Iron Rope, Taz is no good, a real piece of work, but he is clever. At least he has the sense to ask questions and try to learn a pipe song. He also asks me to run some sweats since I do so in the manner I have been taught. I could see his character had never changed and the deal is he just wanted to watch and learn so he could mimic me when he ran a sweat. Now this didn’t make me mad or angry, it just made me sad to know he just wants to copy someone else so he can act like he is something he is not.

Anyway, things went fairly well for the next year until I was finally able to get put in for a transfer. Not long before, I started having pain in my back and when it got bad enough, I went to medical. I had an MRI and the surgeon came in for a consult. He told them I had some serious issues with my vertebrae and disks and really needed surgery. So what they did was transfer me to avoid having to pay for the surgery.

The three years I spent in Yazoo, left me emotionally and psychologically drained. From the very beginning I felt like the place was super bad medicine. If not for the lodge I could not have dealt with it. Later I learned that the place was named for an ancient tribe that had been massacred by another regional tribe, totally wiping them from the face of the planet, leaving only a name.

Dear Friend

Lost in space, prisoner in time,
The place where we are is less than sublime
A shot in the dark from a dear friend of mine,
With the faith that he borrowed on a hope that was blind.

I’ll bring the science, they’ll bring the greed,
Time-space continuum ain’t what we perceived,
A snake in the grass, another ant on the farm,
Your childish lies have lost all their charm.

From zero to ten, we travel that far,
just two dear friends stuck in a jar.

With nothing to stop us from shifting our gears,
Check your baggage along with your fears,
As you look to the heavens I’ll give you a nod,
If you look closely, you’ll see there’s a god…

From zero to ten, we travel that far,
just two dear friends stuck in this jar…

© Steven Maisenbacher, Walks On The Grass

Forgiving Ourselves

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 4

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

Now I wish to talk to each of you from my heart. We all have done things in our lives that we wish never happened or we never did. We also have regrets about things we wish we could or would have done differently. There are no exceptions if we are truthful with ourselves. Now herein lies the biggest block for most people: we have never let that go! We have never truly forgiven ourselves for our mistakes or failures. Oh, we ask for forgiveness and we may even say we have been forgiven. Others may even have forgiven us. But if we still think about these things, if we wishfully think about them, wanting to do things differently; to change what happened or didn’t happen, then we have not let it go. And if we have not let it go, then our regrets become anchors that drag us down, even subconsciously.

This is what causes doubt, this is what causes us not to truly believe in ourselves. It makes no difference how big or small our regrets are. It is we, ourselves who give them power to pull us down and keep us from stepping up to our true potential. When we continue to think about these things, we are constantly saying, if only we had done something differently or not at all; or if we had made a different choice, our lives would have been so different. Really? You honestly can say that? How do you know? You could just as easily have chosen or done something different and your life could be ruined, or far worse than it is! You don’t know.

One thing I have truly learned from Spirit is that there is no blame. I am not to blame anyone else, not to blame myself, not to blame life, and not to blame Spirit. Why? Well let’s see. What if what happened or what didn’t happen was supposed to be and we were supposed to learn something from that? What if we were supposed to help someone, even though we weren’t even aware of it? What if what we were suffering was actually keeping others from suffering?

WHAT IF? Those are two mighty big words! What if we just accept what was, what is, and just move on with the knowledge that we are who we are and where we are supposed to be at this moment. What if it was intended for us to be here right now discussing this so that change can come in a bigger and more wonderful way. It is LIFE itself that is so precious to us all and it is so important for us to not live in the past or caught up in “what could have beens.”

We only have what is before us to do our best to grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally. We can do these things. And understand this: we are all in this together. That is where we get the “we” from in our traditional medicine ways. What each of us does affects everything around us. Remember that drop of rain hitting in the center of the lake – the ripple effect? Well the same is true in the world and the universe and multi-universes.

I have studied religions from across the world and in between and every single one says this same thing. What most people miss out on is one key essential, and that is you only get out what you put in. Now simply this means if you only go through the motions of living, you really aren’t going to get much out it. What would happen if you put half of your energy, heart, and time into something you set out to do? Well, you would be doing that thing half way. But what would happen if you gave all of yourself to something? Well you would receive all back. Common sense tells us this is so.

Let’s look at a baby. A baby wakes up giggling and smiling and loving this new day. But this baby does something you didn’t want it to and you get upset and scold the baby. The baby cries. Later, the baby gets over the scolding and becomes all happy again, but you are still upset with the baby. The baby doesn’t understand why you are upset. Why? Because whatever the baby did is in the past. The baby can’t change what it did to make you upset.

Now picture yourself as a baby. Each day you wake up to a brand-new day. Are you going to let something that happened yesterday spoil today? Or are you going to be like a baby; be happy and just enjoy this wonderful new day of life? See, these are choices we can make each day that can change our lives and change our outlook on life each day. In every religious tradition, when you humbly ask for forgiveness, you are forgiven, so let it go. It never happened. The slate is clean. But if you hold on to it, you are keeping your suffering alive. Not anyone else; only you.

This unforgiveness and holding on to the past stagnates our spiritual growth. In our traditional ceremonies, when we say, give it all away, and empty ourselves out to be cleansed and purified, that is what we are doing – Inside and out; physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We as a people are each specks in the grand universe, but connected to every other speck, which makes us all one. Therefore, we must see the beauty and love in every single thing. We must forgive, and I mean, truly forgive even ourselves. Then we become one again. Each of us is important. Each of us has a part to do. No matter how big or how small; each is needed.

You may think, Oh, I can’t do anything. I don’t have anything that anybody needs or wants. Really? What about your love? What about your beauty? What about your prayers, your time and energy to help someone who needs you? Now what about all the plants, winged ones, four legged ones, the rivers, streams, oceans all the ones that swim and live in the waters – what about all those who can’t speak up or defend themselves? Would you speak up for any of them? Try to help? Work with others to do so? See, each of us needs all others. We are supposed to help each other. The fish, plants, four-legged, winged ones, waters, air, all help us and each other. Why don’t we help them? We are supposed to do these things instead of just thinking of ourselves.

Traditionally, all Native Peoples pray for everything and everyone else first and their own selves last. This is tradition and always has been. Now, how can you be praying for all these others if you aren’t clean and pure of heart? Do you think you can be clean and pure of heart if you haven’t truly forgiven yourself and you haven’t let go of all inside that bothers you? Don’t you think that negativity could flow over to others and cause them harm? This is why a main part of our tradition is that we always ask each person to cleanse and be purified before we pray; before we do anything sacred. These things and acts become so natural you don’t even think about them. In time, it begins to feel so right.

Now if you really study the world’s religions, you would also notice that all mention the use of sacred incense, such as cedar, sage, juniper, and such. Did you think that was all just for show? People forget there is a reason for everything, just as everything happens for a reason. So, with all we’ve discussed, are you really ready to forgive yourself; really ready to become all you can be; to become one with everything? Okay, let’s begin and get this on the road now.

How much we progress in this life will follow us into the next. For there is eternal forever. Our spirit just keeps changing and becoming is all. We truly have so much to learn and experience and we receive this gift because Spirit has given this to us, so we must do what needs to be done on our part.

Here is what we need to do:

1) Write down on paper, each and every thing that you still think about and hold yourself accountable for. Be truthful only you know what these are – and Spirit. Haven’t you hidden from these long enough? Now, let’s work on getting rid of them.

2) Write down all the things in your heart that you wish you had not done or done differently. Remember, it is your choice to be truthful with your own self. If you can’t be truthful with yourself, how can you ever be truthful with others?

3) Okay now it is time to go to work. I want you to get a smudge going. All of you should have already read to know how to do this. If you have a fire place or can build a fire outside, that would be perfect. If you can’t, use the smudge bowl for this next step.

4) First, I want you to smudge yourself all over. Next speak verbally each thing that you have written down, and say, I release this forever; never to think about this again. Do this four times to each of the four major directions, East, South, West and North. As you do, tear the piece of paper that you have written these things on and burn it in the smudge or a fire. If you are using a fireplace or an outside fire, toss in cedar afterwards.

5) As you are doing this, visualize each thing you have spoken leaving your body and burning up in the fire; being purified by the gift of Spirit, to transform and make new.

6) Take your time; let it all out. Cleanse your heart, mind and body of these things. See everything leaving and now, a pure golden white light radiates in its place. Crying tears is fine – and guys, don’t act tough. Humbleness is the greatest code a warrior lives by because we love so much.

7) You must love yourself enough to truly forgive yourself of all things and see only good things, happiness and beauty, surrounded by love in your life. A warrior walks in beauty and love always.

See yourself becoming pure of heart with only thoughts of what lies ahead and what you can do to walk in beauty and love each day, spreading more love and beauty in the world around you.

9) See yourself becoming one with every single thing in the universe, because you actually are. You are part of the whole. You are one and you feel everything and everyone and you are one.

Walk in Beauty and Love, Ghost

Ghost Dancer © August 2017

LONG ROAD HOME (9)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 9

Walker

As Bad as it was…

It could always be worse. After 5 months in the hole in Florida I was finally transferred to Yazoo Mississippi. I knew from the moment I stepped into the R&D for intake processing that I wasn’t going to like it much and it sure wasn’t going to be anything like Coleman Low. That chance for a little peace in a good place had been washed up by an idiot with a big mouth and little brain – Chains, you were wrong for doing that.

But, I digress… Funny, I never in my life thought I would use a word like “digress” and I just used it! So thanks for letting me get that one off…

Anyway, it was December and cold, even for Mississippi. They did the usual hoopla and I got the B.S. lecture from the lieutenant. They always come to look me over like I’m some sort of circus animal. He strips me down to look at my tattoos, to see the ones that brand me with my belief system and affiliation and all that. Yeah, I’ve got the great big A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) patch on my right outer calf and the medicine wheel patch in the middle of my chest. I’ve also got the Dancing Eagles Society patch on my right chest. These are the tats the feds use to identify me as me – and I was dumb enough to get decades ago that caused all the ensuing mess since then.

So after that, I’m freezing on my way to the block. When I get there, not a single person in the block is a Native. They tell me where most of the natives live, but I get put right into a cube and start getting settled in.  A guy named Rex comes and asks if I knew his brother in Coleman. I did and said so.  Then Rex mentioned that I am Native and said he had a bandana that one of his friends left here and asked if I wanted to use it. I’m thinking, Ummm, Yes. The bandana will make me feel complete and centered in the circle representing the hoop and my place within it, as in my beliefs.

Now by this time I had already been gifted a pipe by White Panther and Mountain Heart, both chiefs and pipe carriers that had come into the facility at Gilmore, West Virginia to consecrate the sweat lodge grounds after they found out I had fought so hard to get it. (Chapter 2).

So I get dug in for the evening and I’m planning to catch up with the pipe carrier in the joint to announce my presence and see what the deal is. The very next morning I’m in the chow hall and several Natives come up and sit down at the table. We go thru the usual rounds of introductions and “where ya been and who ya know stuff.” They tell me the pipe carrier is a guy named Iron Rope. Only later I’m to find out this guy is quite a scoundrel and not at all what he is purported to be.

So I finally meet Iron Rope. All’s well and I’m to go to a sweat ceremony that coming Wednesday. Perfect! This will give me a chance to cleanse and get the traveling off me, and get some prayers in. So here comes the sweat; I get out to the area and I see guys laughing and joking. Normally, that’s a good thing, but then I start to notice a lot of profanity and disrespectful behavior to and within an area that is supposed to be sacred. There were candy wrappers scattered around and I see a couple men actually spit on the grounds.

Finally we enter the lodge and I continue taking in all the behaviors I see while trying to get a handle on how they conduct their ceremonies. I’m astounded when I see them bring in several rocks on a shovel; this is not at all done according to the proscribed traditional manner I was taught. When done correctly, the first 7 rocks are brought in one at a time – 7 being the Creator’s number for earth, sky, the four directions and finally for the Creator above.

I’m just a guest at this point. I have not yet asked to be allowed to serve 4 fires to show humility and a willingness to serve the circle and Creator.

So the first door comes down with 20-some rocks and this guy Iron Rope says, “OK, I wanna welcome this new brother and you all know what to do, pray for whatever you need to pray for.”

I’m just amazed that this guy who claims to be a spiritual mentor and pipe carrier would be so cavalier with a sacred ceremony, so un-leading and nonchalant in his directions. At this point, I’m quiet, just going to see how it goes, not going to make waves. And then someone speaks out loud, “Can someone play the drum?”

So then I hear the drum start, no invitation song, no four directions song, just some vocable chanting that didn’t even sound like a real song. As soon as this was over I asked permission to speak to the sweat leader.

“Oh, go ahead,” he says.

“If I may I would like to play a song or two.”

“Please do, brother.”

So I sing the Four Directions Song, then ask if I may play another, the Spirit Calling Song.

After that, he calls for the door. Now I’m thinking it’s strange to do only 2 songs, but again I don’t say anything. Now the 2nd door, or round two of the ceremony begins. This time the sweat leader asks if I have any more songs I could share.

By now it’s obvious that these guys are neither Native nor believers in the medicine teachings.  It seemed to me they were just there because their workout buddy was Iron Rope and he was using the lodge like an exclusive club that not just anyone could go to. 

So I take off since this guy has offered no direction or explanation to these guys. I briefly explain that since the 2nd door is predominantly for the South, the warmth of the sun the nurturing of creation, it is a round usually dedicated to the women and children. Therefore, I sang a Women And Children’s Song, and as I closed, I asked permission to sing another song. It was of course a Children’s Lullaby sung in Cherokee, to help comfort a disturbed child, soothe them into tranquility with a loving tone and words.

As I closed this song someone spoke right out, “Sing more, sing more.”

I responded that I would love to sing and share more songs with the group; maybe with the sweat leaders permission I could sing a couple more next round.

I think that was the right thing to do and after the sweat was over I said my thanks and appreciation for the brothers allowing me to share some prayers and songs with them. After that, some of the guys asked why I didn’t just sing all the songs since they only knew maybe 3 songs amongst the group.

Then I had to explain that traditionally it is the sweat leader’s position to sing the songs for each round if no one else can or offers and that there are really supposed to be 16 songs per sweat. I explained the whole thing about being a sweat leader or “Hollow Bone” is that you are supposed to be facilitating the spiritual opportunity for the brothers in the lodge. Now I said this in a respectful, diplomatic way so as not to alienate any one, primarily this guy, Iron Rope.

From that moment on some of the brothers would come to me privately wanting to learn songs and ask questions about the traditional ways, so as much as I grew to hate that miserable joint, I also came to understand the Creator needed me there. Two men in particular stand out in my mind.

One was “Walker” an Omaha Indian from Nebraska. He was raised in the inner city, really more white than Native if this is possible for a full-blooded Native American man. Basically, Walker had never been exposed to his culture or the beliefs and practices of his culture until he got to prison and found out about the lodge.

For months, in every spare minute at work, Walker would be beating on a piece of cardboard with a pencil, going over again and again the songs he wanted to learn. As often as not he would be waiting outside my unit in the evenings or at lunch and on weekends. He would say, “Hey bro, can we go eat and then work on this song?”  

I knew Walker was a good guy; he just got caught up in the inner-city hustle and the feds got him for what often is just a means of survival to these people anyway.  About a year later, Walker left to go to a camp. I would not see him again, but the last thing he said to me before he left would stay in my heart and mind forever.

“Walks,” he said, “I can never repay you, but I want to thank you for giving me back my culture. You taught me about who I am and who my people are and were, and for this I thank you.”


EXACTLY
i have been anger,
i have been hate,
i have been exactly what you meant to create...
i have been oppressed,
i have been shamed ,
i have been exactly what it is you would blame...
i have been beaten ,
i have been tazed,
i have been left to rot in a prison cage...
i have grown strong,
i have learned to read,
i have done exactly what it was that i’d need...
i have a smile,
i have light in my eyes,
i am no longer exactly what the system despised...
i have felt anger,
i have felt rage,
i put that behind me and that’s exactly where it will stay...
now what?
exactly.....
Exactly © October 2019, Steven W. Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)

Walks

Understanding Native Ways of Thinking

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 3

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

I realize most of you have never been around old Native elders who believed and practiced the old ways. The mindset that was traditional to the ancestors is totally different from today. How you ask? Well let me show you some differences because taking on these very simple concepts can change your whole way of thinking.

1) To native ancestors there was no “I” anything. It was “WE.” We as a family, we as a clan, we as a tribe and we as a people. This is because when we individualize something, like put ourselves before others, we have now created an ego of negativity. Why? Because now you are judging and comparing yourself to others. We work together, live together, pray and suffer together. We dance together and survive together as a people. As a family and as a clan. This is what is missing in so many people’s lives today – the duty, obligations, love, and respect for each other in our own families.

Traditionally family came first, then clan, then tribe, then people. How many today are lonely and separated from family? Family members not speaking, not helping one another? Too busy to come visit or do things together? Now I’m not just talking about the elders, but young families starting out who have small children as well. Life is supposed to be about family. Children need not only their parents, but grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews too. And all of them need all the children too., this is we! We learn from each other, not only values, but lessons of life, skills, knowledge, family history, and most important, love. This security of family is the foundation of a circle, the cycle of life.

2) Now comes the clan: The clan is responsible for teaching you the clan laws, duties, knowledge, skills, understandings, and ceremonies. Now it is important to understand these are your tribal clan members. But beyond that, you really need to understand that no matter what tribe you go to, if your clan is represented there, they take you in as family, to help you, protect you, guide you. To them you are extended family. So once again you see the WE, not the I.

3) Now comes the tribe: The tribe is your extended family. Every woman is a child’s mother or aunt or grandmother, even if she is a different clan. A child can eat at any family’s home. Why? Well, we all are family and look out for one another. Especially the young and the older ones. Those that are injured, sick, or handicapped. The tribe has stores of everything. That is why there is a community garden. There are goods stored and only issued out by the clan mothers. Extra dried and smoked meats, fish, birds – all kept for distribution when needed . Everyone works together for the common good of the whole. Every single member has a duty and responsibility to each other and to the whole. Not one single member is more important than another. That is the key. If a person is failing in their position as a leader, or in performance, they can be replaced easily.

4) Leaders: These are people selected to guide the tribe or clan in what is best for the clan and tribe. These can be replaced quickly if they do not perform their duties and responsibilities as they should. The best leaders are the ones who look after needs of others before themselves. Never in Native traditional beliefs was it supposed to be that a leader looked after their own needs before the others of the tribe or nation, or clan. Now true, many of the Mayan, Aztec, Inca who came here and started their peoples’ customs did just that, and even imposed these practices on the people. But that changed too. Why? Because of the blood laws. These are what we live by and they are all about balance, love and peace starting within each, to the family, to the clan to the tribe, to the nation.

5) Our concepts also include all walks of life, not just two-legged ones. We did not and are not supposed to believe we are better than the plant people, stone people, animal people, bird people, reptile people, fish people, and on and on. We all have a common factor: we need each other. This is what creates the balance. To destroy and wipe out one is to take a part of you and throw it away. You will always be missing something. It is the same when we destroy a life, a people.

6) Hatred: We don’t hate anything. We don’t do this because if we did we would be hating ourselves. Our belief is we are all connected to everything. Then everything is part of us. Hatred must be taught and forced into you. You are not born with it. It is not natural to you. Just as prejudice is not natural. Prejudice is taught to you just as other bad things and ideas are taught, out of ignorance. Ignorance which is the basis of fear, which causes all pain and suffering to occur one way or another.

7) Failure: Failure is something that is uncommon to us. Why? Because if someone fails in our eyes, whose fault is it? Is it we have placed a standard on that person that doesn’t belong to them but to us? That would be wrong, don’t you think? Do you think our children should live their lives for us, our goals, our dreams, or should they choose for themselves? This is why the clan teaches and guides the children. Our clan is decided by the blood of our mother and the clan she belongs to. Not our fathers!

8) The greatest thing a warrior can do is to give his life for others, our people, so that they can survive. But the greatest battle we, as warriors, fight is our own self. So, our battle is to stay in balance in love and peace, each and every day. Now who are warriors? We all are. We all fight in our own way for different reasons. Having the courage to fight for what you believe is always good. Fighting to stand up for others who have no voice or can’t be heard is vital, and calls you to do so out of honor.

9) When we say we are connected to everything, we mean everything is related to us. This is important for you to learn, understand, and make a part of your very being. The quicker you can incorporate this into your way of thinking, the sooner you will feel the importance of all your family.

Respectfully,

Ghost

Ghost Dancer © 2017

STRONG FOX

In the late 1700s a little red fox and the inhabitants of a small Muscogee Creek village share a pleasant mountain valley along the Flint River in west central Georgia. The story of Strong Fox is reminiscent of oral tradition stories told to Creek Indian children long ago. Such stories served to entertain while also teaching valuable lessons learned by observing and respecting the ways of animals. Fox has learned to survive by using his wits, and while hiding just outside the village awaiting opportunities to steal an easy meal, he has also learned something from observing people. Fox’s surprising knowledge enables him to have a profound effect on one young boy and through him the entire village. As in the tradition of our ancestors, Strong Fox serves to entertain while inspiring children to face difficulties in their lives by focusing on their strengths, rather than their weaknesses. 

A must-have educational and inspirational book for children ages 6 – 8

LONG ROAD HOME (8)

By Steven “Walks On The Grass” Maisenbacher
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com
Chapter 8

Strange Blessings

Prison is a strange place, you never know what’s next or who you will meet on any given day or in reality who you’re really even talking to. I know you have probably heard the saying, “there are no friends in prison.” Well, for decades I thought that to be the truth and just the way it was. But…there was Jimmy Coleman, my friend, “Donkey.” We met and became true friends in Beaumont before I went to Coleman Low in Florida.

Now let me tell you about my close and good friend, “Paints On The Rocks.” He and I first met in the evening of my arrival at Coleman Low.  Paints was actually the cellmate of Vernon, another guy I knew from when I had been in Coleman Medium before going to Beaumont Low. I didn’t know Vern well, but he and I had been in the band program together, and at one time had been in the same band for a bit, so we spoke and played music together.

I was in the sink room, washing up and trying to get my act together after just getting done with the bus and con-air and all, when Paints came walking in. He greeted me with the usual, “Hey, how ya doing, are you new? Where are ya coming from?” Just making conversation. Finally it came out that I had been in a band over in the medium, and Paints was like, “OH! do you know Vernon?!? He was over there and played guitar.”

I was really happy to hear that Vernon was Paint’s cellie. I think Paints must have run back to his cube and told Vern about the guy, “Walks On The Grass” that had been in the medium with him and had just gotten here. Right after that Vern rolled into the sink room.  We immediately started up with the usual conversations when a guy gets to a new spot. How’s the food? Where’s the band room?  Are there any good bands?  

It was good to meet an old friend and we strolled back to Vern and Paints’ house. Vern asked me what I needed, which is kind of a silly question actually, but one that always seems to come up wherever you go.  When you first arrive somewhere, you have nothing but the clothes you have on and the little bedroll they give you in Receiving and Discharge  (R & D).

So as Vern is giving me my first shot of coffee, a bar of soap and a pair of shower shoes to go take a shower, we’re talking about commissary, and me being the sugar fanatic I was before the diabetes got me, I asked about fireballs, a hard candy jawbreaker that is amazingly delicious and addictive.

Paints pipes up with, “Man, I’ve got some of them in my locker box and I can’t eat them, you’re welcome to them.”

If he only knew then he had really done it; he had fed the stray cat and you know how that goes, he wasn’t going to get rid of me after that! So as time goes by, Paints and I hit it off and I find I’m down in his cube more and more frequently, talking and just “kickin’ it.”

Paints seemed genuinely interested in me as a person. He was getting out soon and I think was doing his best to see me on a good path before he left to go home. He talked with me quite often about the world and all the issues out there, and about going home.

Now, at this time I had a lady friend from Germany who swore she was in love with me. She was even planning to come to the U.S. to visit me and we’d see where our relationship went. I don’t know why I always attract the neurotic ones, but it seems to occur more than not.

Anyway, all during this time I’m also conducting sweats and pipe ceremonies and teaching the youngsters. My life is moving forward and my acceptance of the Creator’s ways is becoming stronger in every day. So months pass and Paints goes home, in fact I walked with him to R&D, to see him to the door as it were.

A few more weeks go by.  I stay busy with the daily do – work, chow, making my jewelry – life goes on casually, the band is rockin’ and the lodge is moving in the good way. Little did I know the wheels were turning for me to be blindsided – guilt by association with “Chains” who threatened another inmate over the sweat lodge. 

And then BAM! I’m in lock up!

All of a sudden, I can’t call anyone and I can’t get on the computer to email. Without question, I knew my German lady friend was going to go nuts if she didn’t hear from me. I can write letters, but it would take two weeks to get a letter to Germany. Then I get a brainstorm. I would write a letter to let her know what’s going on, send it with another letter to Paints and his lady Karen asking them to scan the letter and send it to my girlfriend’s email address. That way we could get letters back and forth in a matter of days rather than weeks or a month.

Paints and his beautiful Karen came thru for me on this like champs. Not only did they soothe my ruffled feathers and help me keep a clear head about the entire situation, but they also helped ease this distraught lady’s mind thru the whole ordeal.

This was the first indicator that when Paints said he was my friend and he and Karen would be there for me, he meant it. I could not fathom that they would turn out to be my best friends in the free world! Since then the two of them have been there for me so many times and in so many ways that I’m sure there is a golden statue for friendship somewhere and they are on it in the friendship hall of fame.

Without fail, whenever I need something they are there and times when I don’t need anything in particular, they are there with a friendly note or email or voice on the phone. They know I love to read so they are quick to send me books when I’m without.

And Karen, bless her heart, she’s the best! As CEO of “Rocks On A String,” Karen does it all, from shipping and handling to public relations. Anytime I need to get a piece of jewelry sent to someone’s daughter or wife, I’ll give her a description of what is ordered and she will personally select appropriate pieces from the inventory they are holding for me and send it off. Inevitably she gets the right piece to the right place and right on time.

These two people do not know how very much they mean to me, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve been in prison for a very long time and they have removed all the worry about what I will do when I get out. They have offered me a vehicle, as well as household goods, and things I would need, blankets, spoons, cups, plates, you name it they’ve got it for me. All I’ve got to do is pick it all up and stay at least long enough to visit. But if I need a place, yeah, they have offered to let me live out in their camper, a beautiful camper ready for company, hooked up and free of rent till I get on my feet. All I would have to do is cover my own utilities.

Just knowing this has freed my mind and heart of a lot of worry, allowing me more time and energy to dedicate to what’s really important in this moment – my Creator, my life and future as a messenger of his ways and magnificent reality. I know this when I wake before dawn to greet the new day and sun boy with a prayer for the people, the world at large and all the goings on in it.

So I was just thinking, that saying about “there ain’t no friends in prison.”  It’s not so. I’ve found and made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life right here in prison, and what makes it all the better is the fact that we are all from totally different backgrounds, different places and different lives, and if it wasn’t for prison, we probably would have never ever met, or become friends.

I’m happy to say that I talk to Paints and Karen every week or so. They are living a wonderful life in their little piece of heaven in a secluded spot in Florida. As soon as I’m totally free and it can all come together, I plan on going there. My wish is to be able to get a place, a camper to live in or out of, and enough room to maybe, just maybe, build my own lodge and be able to have my own sweats on my own land. And although it may seem strange, I would love to share the medicine and the power and the beauty of the sweat lodge with my friends.

Peaceful At Night

You say you want freedom, yet you refuse to be free

You say you want liberty but are too blind to see

You scream for peace as you slowly wage war

I had my fill; I can’t take any more.

A politician’s promise of this and that

But children are hungry near where we are at

Add the morals instilled bought and paid for

With Justice’s scales held by a blind-folded whore.

And what I’ve done wrong, ain’t never claimed right

I’ve come to terms with the cost and sleep well at night.

You say you want love, but then act so cruel

You say you hate ignorance, then act like a fool.

And what you claim you hate, you protect all day long

So if the truth hits the bone, then you’ll hate this song.

And maybe my life’s not the beacon of light

But at least I can sleep peaceful at night.

Peaceful at night, peaceful at night.

Peaceful at Night lyrics C-sharp © Steven Maisenbacher (Walks On The Grass)

Walks On The Grass wrote Peaceful At Night after a prison counselor made a comment about how the government and its employees were better than other people and faultless in comparison to incarcerated men.  “He then went on clipping his nails and I was furious.”

Being A Shaman

Sacred Medicine Ways – Part 2

A Teaching by Ghost Dancer

Most people at some point in their lives have learned enough about tribal people to know they usually have someone amongst them with special powers referred to as a shaman or medicine man. Now many writers think they know what a shaman or medicine man is so let me say this, when using those terms, they never quite fit or describe who or what these people are.

In the real world, being such means having skills and knowledge in many different areas. The term shaman in general refers to people in many cultures who have earned respect as a spiritual teacher and adviser, naturally, but also for being a healer, counselor, inventor, pharmacist, botanist, veterinarian, astronomer, math professor, even a reputation for being part witch or part sorcerer. Truly a shaman is someone who knows. A shaman knows things, intangible things that most folks don’t see or feel.

Being a shaman requires many sacrifices – of time, life, energy, body, and most of all on any relationships or family. Why? Because it is a commitment to something far greater than yourself. You are in a marriage to Spirit, to our Creator. You never put anything before our Creator. Now lest you think that is easy, it is not. To always put duty first creates a kind of hell on your relationships with your mate, your family and even with meeting your own personal needs.

You see, once you step into that world and are shown the mysteries of walking in the Spirit world, you truly find out this world we all experience isn’t the only world or dimension that exists. You soon discover that you are able to chase a shooting star, retrieve the spirit or soul from someone who has lost it, and return it back to where it belongs.

You find out that you can actually see inside someone who is ill and you have the ability to find what is needed to heal that problem. Once people find out that you can do those things, more and more demands will be made by people constantly bringing you their problems.

Eventually you have to travel to other places just to get some rest and you have to work hard just to regain your energy for all these things take a toll on your body and your relationships. You are still human and your mate needs time too. Your mate needs to know that you love them and that you appreciate all the things that are done just for you. You need to spend time showing your love and giving your love to your mate. Same with your family. You need that family time also. Your mate and family will be all that truly keep you anchored in this world. Because of all the heart ache and chaos that is in this world, when going to other worlds and dimensions, many times you feel like you don’t want to come back. There is a balance you must reach and you will be lucky to have a truly loving mate and family who will put up with you and all the distractions. Many times they worry if you will even survive what you are doing. Yes there are risks. Let me give you an example:

Someone is in serious medical crisis and you have been asked to help. Time is a critical factor so you choose to do a quick travel. Knowing it could be deadly, you chew a poisonous plant which allows you to leave your body quickly. This makes it possible for you to look inside of the patient and see the problem. Now you travel to another dimension or place and find what you need to heal the person. You come back and begin doing what you need to do. Remember that you have been in this out of body condition now for quite some time. The longer you stay away the colder your body becomes and remember you still have all this poison inside of you.  Your mate knows this and does all that you have told them to do to help you. Your mate’s love is your anchor, it gives you the strength to pull through.

Now who knew how much doing the work of a shaman affects your body? This applies to almost all shaman or spiritual healers, sorcerers, witches, priestesses or whatever they may be called. The fact is, this is a calling, a life commitment and once you start you cannot walk away. It’s like marriage, only with more consequences if you try to turn away from it.

Some may ask why I’m talking about shamans now. What has this got to do with the old-time cultures I’m writing about?  What do you think? Everyone wants something – like to identify with their Native heritage – but don’t necessarily want all the responsibilities and duties that come with it. They don’t want to do the sacrifices, take the time, expend the energy, or live the life that is all part of it. Remember always, you only get what you put into something.

I promised my family decades ago that I would bring all of this back, not only to our family but to our people.  Now what most don’t know is what I truly mean when I say our people. Our people is a very large group of people. For thousands of years our people had bred with other tribes. This was to keep our blood from becoming too close together and having any type of inbreeding which is strictly forbidden.

Many folks have no clue about our ancient culture, blood, rituals, beliefs, etc. Our bloodlines are also mixed with Mayans, Aztec, Olmec, Inca and other peoples from Mexico, Central and South America and this connection goes all the way up through the whole eastern United States. Our Southeastern ancestral people were mound builders just as the Maya were mound builders, and more significant discoveries are being made every day to prove the connections.

Look at all the historical artifacts, and you will see the same designs, same art, same depictions. In our belief system, we have the blood laws. The Mayans, Incas, Aztec had blood laws also. We have winged water serpents so do all of them. We have the little people so do they. Our languages are mixed together and the meanings of many words come from them. So open your eyes, our people never disappeared, they were already here. We had kings, they all had kings. Their blood line comes from the females so does all of ours, even the far northern tribes such as the Iroquois, Potawatomi, and Huron. This basically includes all eastern and Mississippi River regional areas, all the Mandan and Cahokia. This all includes you also.

All of our sciences, medicines, and cultures are mixed and that made us all better. All of our historical arts and artifacts support all of this. And I’m telling you personally that in my spirit travels I have been there and watched all of this and seen this happen. I have spoken on these things and have taught this for many decades.

You may have seen images depicting human heads and people hanging from the limbs in Mayan and Aztec artifacts.  Many seem to think this represents people being sacrificed but that is not true. It is a symbolic teaching that we sacrifice ourselves by fasting and hanging from the tree of life seeking knowledge and guidance. Now when I say sacrifice I mean that we choose to put our own bodies through many disciplined, rigorous, even dangerous experiences, which is the only way our spirit truly becomes enlightened.

Unless you are totally committed and serious about becoming more enlightened, then you should never even attempt fasting or sacrificing. You will not make it. Your dedication to the spiritual over and above the physical is the essential element that gives you the ability to do so much more than you can imagine. And believe me when I say, if you lose that spiritual strength then you will feel only pain, loss and confusion. 

Like being in an inipi (sweat lodge) for example, when the steam rises and fills the lodge, the air gets really, really hot. You are meant to be focused on the ceremony but you keep thinking about the heat rather on your prayers. See? You are distracted by the flesh. But if you tapped into your spiritual self you would never even feel the heat. You will feel chilled.

Now say, you are drinking a poison for a purpose. If you let your mind and heart worry about yourself, your flesh,  the distraction will null your good purpose and those inner fears of losing this flesh will come back to bite you. Your flesh will die sooner or later anyway but your spiritual being will always live and continue on.

If you are treating someone with rattlesnake bite; you must battle poison with poison. There are many antidote remedies for poison snake bites or other deadly poison bites or stings. Depending on what antidote you need to use, you chew up the poison roots, stalks, or leaves and spit this juice on the area. Then you begin sucking the poison out using your mouth.   Now understand! This is not for any of you to try. This for a person who knows exactly what they are doing.

We have all watched movies that show people just cutting the area open and sucking the poison out. That is all nonsense. You first need an antidote that will counter the poison and suck the poison out, plus you make a poultice and place on the area that will disinfect the area and continue drawing the poison out.

If you had even a tiny cut or sore on your gums, lips or tongue the poison goes directly into your body. When people go into shock and die from snake bites, it’s more from fear than from the poison itself. So when you, as a healer, are fully into your spiritual discipline, you will be able to stay calm and quickly give the victim something that will calm them as well.  This is about instinctively knowing what to do. Something you have practiced time and again. Something that you are automatically prepared for.

Should you choose to step into the spirit world, you must be prepared to see things that will totally attack your fears and your mind, things that make no sense because you are using the accepted laws of this world . What will you do? If you panic you can become trapped and never  be able to return to your body. That means your flesh will die. So yes you must be prepared, trained first before you attempt to do any of this. And that takes time.

 People use the word magic to describe things that are beyond their normal comprehension or go against the laws of physics. But is it really magic? No, it is of knowledge of things that others have not experienced or been trained to discover. And yes, in every person’s cultural heritage or belief system there have always been those who have this ancient knowledge. Throughout history, many have been tortured, killed or imprisoned because of their commitment to learn, practice and use this knowledge. Why? Because of fear and ignorance or religious dogmas that forbid these things, even when their own beliefs say that each of us has the ability to achieve these abilities.

What appears as magic is not inherently evil. Oh, the knowledge can be used by those who chose to do the bad things, of course. All knowledge can be used for evil purposes, just as with material things. A hammer is a tool but it can kill someone if it is used for that purpose. The hammer isn’t evil. Just as a gun is a tool not a weapon unless you use it that way.

So with that being said it is up to the individual to choose how to use these skills and with these things in mind, every teacher is responsible for the ones they teach.

It is not easy to judge the motives of others. This is why a teacher will ask your name for then you can be seen even if you are a long ways away. When you willingly give your name, it gives the teacher or healer power that can connect to you.  When dealing with spirits, most are reluctant to give you their true name because it gives you a power to call them forth. Spirits know once they do that you can summon them and actually have a control over them. Most spirits, even your Spirit Helpers, will give you a name to use that assures they are still free and not under your control.

Some people are born with the ability to see things that others don’t while others have to work and work at it. Some call this a gift, but in many ways it is more of a curse because you see things you truly don’t want to see – and they see you as well. You must train yourself to block unwanted thoughts and images. To a child born with this gift, such things can be devastating especially when others all tell you what you see and hear and feel isn’t real and you are just imaging these things. Then you don’t fit in with others very well either because you see the true spirit that is them. So before you go to wishing you could do these things, think again!

Shaman of The Old Times

Now in the old times the shaman was a very important person to any tribe or nation and on most reservations today they still are, but not as appreciated as they should be. So I will now begin picturing for you how a shaman lived and was treated back in the old times.

A shaman lived away from the hustle and bustle of life in a town for it is only a distraction from what was needed to be done. Every male, provider or warrior, female, mother, elder, clan mother, war leader, and micco came to get medicine, consultation, advice and blessings from the shaman who was revered as a holy person.  No matter what their role or station in life happened to be, everyone wanted and needed to be successful. They all put their faith and trust in the shaman to help them in all matters: fishing, hunting, war, being a mother, finding a good mate, being a leader, being healthy, getting healed from sickness, finding lost things, being advised as to communicating with your ancestors, finding your true spirit helpers, finding your power medicine and medicine bundles. So as you can see, the shaman was vital to every aspect of life and prosperity for everyone.

Now some shaman are strictly healers. They help with babies, sicknesses, diseases, broken bones, etc. and that is all they do.  There are others who strictly only do spiritual teachings and ceremonies.  So as you see there are many things involved, so not everyone who might be known or seen as a shaman has skills and knowledge in every aspect of life.

A Shaman’s Typical Day

The shaman’s day may start with a fisherman coming to ask what is needed to catch lots of fish. The shaman gets a plant chews it up and spits the juice on the hooks. This will make the fish attracted to the baits. The shaman may even visualize the fish hungry and biting and advise the fisherman where to go.  In return, a gift of some fish will be brought to the shaman later by the fisherman. The shaman never charged anything for his help and everyone understood it is just proper and balancing to give something in return for his help, It may be a rare thing for a shaman to have time to go catch fish for himself.

A hunter may come and ask for help in hunting. The shaman makes a wash and wipes the hunters clothes and weapons. He may tell the hunter where he will find what he is hunting at this time and he may even give him a chant to sing to help draw whatever he is hunting to come to him. After the successful hunt, a portion of the meat will be given to the shaman to balance the help that was given. 

Later a woman will come. She is having problems becoming pregnant. The shaman will chew a root and go on a spirit travel. He will look inside of her to see what the problem is. He will identify the problem, return to his body, and then gather the proper medicine that he has in his dwelling. He will make an infusion (a tea mixture) that she must drink. She will drink this for 4 days and will become pregnant if she makes love with her mate during those 4 days.  Later when she is pregnant a gift will be brought to balance the help she received. Usually this gift is food but could be a clothing article she has made for him.

Then the shaman sees an elder who has problems with his arthritis and has gained too much weight because of it. The shaman makes a wash and a poultice. The wash is a tea that will be wiped on all the elder’s joints. Then the poultice is be placed on the painful areas. Now the shaman makes an infusion (powdered tea mix) that the elder can drink every day to help take away all pain and fight the arthritis. Next the elder is given some different powdered roots and stems that are wrapped up in a bundle. The shaman instructs the elder how to make a tea that will increase his metabolism and help him lose weight. Later or sometimes even the same day a gift will be given to balance the gifts that were given to the elder.

Now a young mother comes concerned because her breasts have dried up and she cannot produce the milk her baby needs. The shaman makes an infusion tea and a wash. The tea will help make the mother’s milk come in again. The wash will soften the nipple and help draw the milk out. She will be given a small bundle of dried herbs and instructed on how to make a tea to take for 4 days to get her body back into harmony.

She then tells the shaman that the baby cries constantly and has loose stools. The shaman makes the proper teas for the baby as well and tells her this will stop the diarrhea and make the cramps relax in the baby’s stomach. He asks the mother to bring her baby to see him in 2 days.

Another woman comes in saying her daughter is in the women’s lodge and her menstrual blood flow is much too heavy. Once again the shaman steps into the spirit to view inside of the young woman. He immediately sees the problems and knows exactly what to give her to slow and correct this. He strips two dried roots of their bark, grinds it into a powder with a stone mortar and pestle. He gives it to the mother wrapped in a piece of leather with instructions that her daughter must drink a pinch in water every day for 4 days.  He then hands the mother a turtle shell with some leaves in it and instructs to make a smudge of the leaves and fan the smoke over the daughter and especially the womb area and this will help stop the excessive bleeding quickly. Later the mother will bring a gift offering to the shaman.

The Shaman’s Lodge

A common practice for the shaman is to have many smudges burning in and around his dwelling. This way anyone coming in or leaving will be smudged properly. Usually this is done by someone who is in training learning from the shaman. A shaman may have one or two learning at the same time and may include both men and women.

The dwelling of a shaman will always be filled with items needed for meeting the many needs of the people. There will be many different bird feathers and other dried parts. Same with animals, reptiles and fish. Whole plants, roots, bark, stems and even fruit will be either hanging to dry or already in clay pots or woven baskets.

Sabia’s (crystals and sacred stones) will surround his dwelling inside and outside and there will be amulets or charms hanging to protect everything from being attacked by witchcraft or sorcery. Yes, there will always be some who turn to doing bad things and those who are jealous. Jealousy is a bad, bad problem. It not only turns a person away from being in balance and walking in beauty and love, but it feeds off of others’ pain and suffering.

When someone comes to the shaman’s dwelling and asks for help with something, most shaman will first require that they see them. I mean really seeing them. They want to know their name, they want to see their spirit, they want to see their hands, because their mouth may lie but these things cannot lie. They  will see the real you. If a person refused to do that, then the shaman will know they are hiding something. Something they know the shaman  will see. But this is like a door, once you open it, it is open.

Those Who Would Deceive

It is important to understand that some who profess to be a shaman are false and intend to use bad medicine. You can recognize them because they will always require something from you such as a hair, fingernails, a possession that is really meaningful to you. They may even ask for your spit.

Sometimes to cover up these obvious clues, they will casually ask you to hand them an object nearby. So you do but the object pricks you or your skin sticks to it. This way they are secretly getting a part of you. If something is truly sacred they will not ask you to handle it. This is just a way to draw you in so that you feel important to yourself and trusted.  The motive is far from that.

Let me explain. A real shaman sees your aura or your energy colors that are all around you and even within you. This is how they  can see where there is a blockage or where something is not right. Every person is different and it is the same with shaman or sorcerer or whatever name you chose to call them. Now if you are truly gifted and think you can hide that from them, go ahead and try. There is an old time saying: “He who tries to trap or trick generally winds up being the one who is tricked or trapped.”

It is sad to say that even in this day and time there are skinwalkers, witches and sorcerers on the reservations just as there were in the old times. They are not out in the open. People would attack and probably destroy them as they did in the old times. In my personal travels and knowledge, I have seen that many tribes are still battling these kind who use bad medicine, who are guilty of hurting and even murdering people for their own gain or were paid to do so by people seeking revenge, or for greed or jealousy. Yes, this is very real and it doesn’t matter if you believe in witches or not, they exist. I cannot emphasize enough: witchcraft and such is not something Native people welcome or want around.

The Shaman’s Dress                          

Now let’s look at some of the dress a shaman may be wearing so you would recognize one in those old times and even in today’s world.  

In the old times most shaman, healers, priests or spiritual people wore things that easily identified them as to what they were and what position they held. If you were in search of a shaman, first you would look for many amulets or charms hanging from them or in them.

Usually they would have a painted face that hides their true identities. This is so no bad spirit or ghost spirit can follow them back to their home, village, city or family. Those who don’t take precautions will get what is called ghost sickness which causes bad things to happen to those around them first and then drives them crazy with guilt. So they have to find someone to make a potion that cures insanity and ghost sickness.

Their paint hides the actual features of their face. They may even paint animal or bird designs on their face. Some may have an owl sitting on their shoulder or an owl feather headdress. The owl symbol varies amongst different tribes, so the owl can be seen as a messenger or a bad omen to those it brings a message to such as a forewarning of a death either to them or to someone close to them. Owls also symbolize being able to see in the darkness, so this person would be able to see into the next world of the dead and talk to those who are there.

If the person had snake skin, or things of a snake on them, this symbolizes that they know the secrets of the earth hidden deep and where things are lost and can be found at. If they have hawk or eagle feathers they are saying they use protective medicine and can see in the future.

A turkey headdress or feathers represents the ability to help with seeing the enemies first. Always wary, the turkey is also very good at helping those who need help with reproduction problems, whether male or female or both, so turkey feathers are prized feathers as are eagles, hawks, owl, crane, cardinal, blue jay, pheasants and many more. The purpose and use of each kind of feather depends on the individual and the culture of their tribe and location. The same applies to all the different animals, reptiles etc.

If a person wore deer antlers with feathers on their head these represent not only swiftness and agility to navigate the different worlds, but also the fight to protect those who need help. A headdress that has alligator or crocodile (yes Florida has the only American crocodiles) represents not only ancient knowledge, but very powerful medicine.

A turtle headdress meant that the person is cautious, slow to run from anything and is always at home in any world or dimension. Anything that is of a frog, otter or tadpole represents powerful help from thunder beings. If the person wears numerous colors, this also represents being one with rainbow serpent. The winged serpent is represented by rattlesnake buttons and skulls.

Now in today ‘s world, a healer, spiritual leader or shaman may dress very casually or they may be flamboyant in their regalia. But whether it’s obvious or not, they will always wear amulets, necklace of power and sabia’s as well as cedar, sage, holly, or mistletoe and an herbal smell on them. They will carry certain other personal items that symbolize their powerful spirit helpers and items to ward off and protect them from any witchcraft or spell entrapments.

Like the holy people of old, today’s shaman do not like crowds or noisy places and most certainly do not drink alcohol or do drugs. Most can’t even eat sugar or sugar products because all these things knock them out of balance with everything in the universe.  Another characteristic is they all will have an aura of confidence and security. They do not worry about dangers or such because they would feel them before anything came that way. People with bad intentions send out angry or distressed vibrations which are easily picked up.

Most important, a true shaman will never tell you they are a shaman.. They never brag about what they do and they never want to project the illusion they are any different than anyone else. In truth they know they are only helpers to our Creator and only Creator can take credit for any of our talents and gifts.

Respectfully,

Ghost

© Ghost Dancer 2021

%d bloggers like this: