or How To Discover The Natural Spirituality You Already Have
by Joseph Bearwalker Wilson
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This article contains the essence, although
not the details, of some of the teachings I inherited from my own cultural
and spiritual ancestors and elders, particularly those from my Irish, Scots,
Welsh, and English roots. Within it is all of the information necessary
for a person to understand the fundamentals of Toteg Tribe. I also offer
these guidelines for people wishing to establish their personal spiritual
foundations around and within a natural framework. The path may be difficult
at times; facing ourselves with uncompromising self-evaluation always requires
work and dedication. It is deeply spiritually rewarding and physically
healing for those who persist.
First and foremost is the practice of reverence and respectful attention given to your immediate family and ancestors. Your family history may or may not be varied as mine; regardless, you are the result of the unions of your ancestors and they all deserve your awareness and respect.
I discovered through genealogical research that my family is a blending of the following peoples (in alphabetical order): African (but I don't know what tribe), Cuyuga, Dutch, English, French, German, Irish, Scots, Seneca, Susquehannock, Swiss, and Welsh. Each of these has contributed a little bit to who I am today, not just genetically, but in subtle and not-so-subtle family attitudes and customs. Which of these family lines should I dishonor by deeming it less important than the others? In my opinion, none of them. If I deny one I create a subconscious battle within myself. When that happens the only loser is me. I do suggest you do some genealogical research to find out exactly where your roots lead. When you do this you are likely to find some fascinating family customs leading back a very long way. If your family is like mine you will also find some ancestors who were horse thieves and murderers as well as some saints. That's okay. Accept your background and learn from it. Remember, just because you have an ancestor who is, for example, an African Native, or descended from an African Native, it doesn't make you an African-American any more than finding a distant ancestor who was a Native American would make you an Indian. You are probably a unique blend of many cultures and peoples, as am I.
When I say that you should respect and honor your ancestors I don't mean
that you should slavishly research and try to follow the customs of your
forebears. Many of those customs (such as the headhunting and public copulation
practiced by some of my Celtic ancestors) would not be acceptable in modern
society. I am saying that you must respect the fact of their presence in
your ancestry. Look at yourself and accept yourself for who you are, whomever
that may be.
Use the same principles to look at your culture, and the sub-cultures in which you were reared. Whether they are apparent or not, the influences from your country, your state, your county, your city, your neighborhood, and your family have all had profound effects on making you who you are today. Each one of your sub-cultures has been colored by many influences. You have blended them all, personally agreed with some and brought them to your surface. Some you've denied; some you've disowned. Regardless, in one way or another they have all influenced you and your personal attitudes toward life. Although you may not accept some of the cultural attitudes as being appropriate for you, they have influenced you, and denying that merely causes you internal conflict. Accept that refusal of an influence is part of the influence, and move on from there.
Your spiritual ancestors are as deserving of respect as your cultural ancestors. Your spiritual ancestors feed your responses to the religious or spiritual attitudes of the people in your community. They consist of the teachings you learned in your church or through private instruction in one of the many religious traditions that exist in the world. These too have influenced your outlook on life, in some ways positively and in some ways negatively. Accept the fact that they have had a profound influence upon you, so that you may grow from it and learn from it. A wise man once told me that it probably doesn't do any good for a person to change religions; the Ultimate Mystery doesn't care what It is called or what rituals It is honored with. The best way for you to honor It is living your life in respect and dignity. To do less is to be unfaithful to yourself and to Spirit.
Remember that you are a part of nature, a working part of a working whole,
and never separate from it. Your body and your soul are made of the elements
of the earth, as are those of all the animals, plants and minerals. As
such we are all related -- all children of Mother Earth.
Part of the spiritual growth pattern you will discover as a result may be special methods of prayer, perhaps some ceremonies or rituals, perhaps some ceremonial implements, perhaps some songs and dances. When they come from your own sincere prayers and meditations they are gifts to you from Spirit.
Don't be too willing to adopt everything you remember from a dream or vision. You need to learn to test these answers to find out whether they are true answers, or merely your subconscious mind trying to please you by giving an image that it knows you want. Your dreams may be influenced by your conscious desires, by books you have read, by movies you have seen. You need to be aware of this and aware that the surface symbols of a dream are hints to its meaning. If what you see is identical or nearly identical to the practices of some peoples you have read about, or seen movies about, or even visited, it is probably a false vision and should be ignored. All dreams and visions need to be tested over periods to time to determine if they are true, or just wishful thinking.
This is especially true of dreams that seem to indicate you are a leader,
or a leader-to-be, of any sort. All dreams must be confirmed in the real
world. If you dream and announce that you are to be the new "Chief of the
Cherokee Nation," for example, you are likely to be given some not-so-quiet-instruction
in proper respect. You'd be much better off talking to a psychiatrist about
delusions of grandeur.
Your true dreams and visions will be archetypal, and although they might remind you of certain cultures, they have NOT been stolen, inspired by, copied, borrowed, or misappropriated from any society, ancient or modern. They are uniquely yours, and if you respect them properly they will become of great value to you. They are yours to use privately, not to be waved about as a flag for others to see. Your spirituality should promote your own growth and connection with Spirit. Its purpose is not to impress someone with what you know and do. With the introduction of ego, spiritual practice becomes a hobby, an activity to pass the time like oil painting or collecting seashells. It's best to seek advice about dreams and visions from a more experienced person than you are.
From time to time you may want to take a personal spiritual retreat. Go
off alone somewhere and spend that time in prayer and meditation. It's
during these times that your purpose in life may be revealed to you --
your Big Dream, or Big Vision. When properly interpreted, it will be your
guide through life.
A spiritual path is a doing, not a knowing. There is a vast difference between learning something and just learning about something. As I said in the beginning, this path may be difficult from time to time. It is not instant gratification. It's a long lifetime of work, self-analysis and flashes of "aaaahhhhaaa!" spiritual satisfaction that come when you finally get it!
Please be aware that applying the above suggestions will not turn you a technician of the sacred (shaman). What they will do is help you to develop the kind of natural spirituality in which shamanism is normally found.
|A post script and
explanation to " How to Develop a Natural Spirituality Without Taking from
I have a confession to make. The beginning of this article is absolutely correct " This article contains the essence, although not the details, of some of the teachings I inherited from my own cultural and spiritual ancestors and elders, particularly those from my Irish, Scots, Welsh, and English roots."
Those who know me know that my history of public activity in things relating to The Craft, Paganism, and related things goes back to early 1965 when I began publishing The Waxing Moon, the first "witchcraft" newsletter published in the United States. I had three very wonderful and related "teachers" back in those olden days, and often, like youth does, ignored their guidance and tried to do things my own way. That lead to many lumps on the head I could have avoided!
In the middle 1970s I met a man in Los Angeles. His name is Ernie Peters, also called Longwalker. He was an early member of AIM, and if I remember right was one of the people at Wounded Knee in 1972. He is a full blooded Lakhota, recognized as a "medicine man" and was given the name Longwalker by his people for leading the protest march from Los Angeles to Washington DC. That's the famous one where our illustrious president had promised to meet with him and other Indian representatives, but broke his promise once they got there.
Like many people today, back then I was restless. I was seeking something other than what I had legitimately been given to me by my own people's spiritual teachers. I used to go to Longwalker's weekly instruction sessions where he would teach folks who came to Los Angeles direct from the reservations. He would teach them some of the basic things that were necessary to know before undertaking one of his sweat lodges. (He used to do them in prisons for the prisoners when it was allowed, and others, if they wanted to attend one, would have to go into the prison with him.) He also allowed some whites to attend these weekly meetings.
I talked to him privately several times, about the difficulties that non-Indians have with spirituality, how they are searching, and how they felt that the Indian ways, since they retained that connection to nature, were important for them to learn.
This is what Longwalker told me, quoted as closely as I can. "You know, Joe, if you or other white folks are really serious about our spirituality, you won't go asking me, or us, or anyone else about what we believe, our ceremonies, our regalia, and stuff. Instead you will go out into the woods and talk to the sky, the earth, the rocks, the rivers, and the streams. And LISTEN to the answers, and listen to your ancestors. Only then will you start the long path to healing."
So there you go. Authentic "Indian Teaching" on how to be real. Not how to be a "real Indian".... but how to be "real".
Look how similar it is to what one of my three most important teachers, Roy Bowers, taught me. "The answers to all things are in the Air - Inspiration -the Winds themselves will bring you news and knowledge if you ask them properly. The Trees of the Wood will give you power and the Waters of the Sea will give you patience and omniscience, since the Sea is a womb that contains a memory of all things."
Wow. Authentic European teaching. Nearly identical in essence to what Longwalker told me.
Longwalker's simple instructions there reminded me of Roy's and I felt ashamed for ignoring such basics from the beginning.
This was the inspiration and the beginnings of what I did with my own group after that. We started from scratch, looking for basics, listening to the earth, listening to our own ancestors instead of someone else's, and learning to understand and trust our own dreams and visions. I confess, I got Inspiration from an Indian. I followed an Indian "truth" without taking from an Indian culture. In my case, it led me back to a "truth" of my own heritage, that I already knew, but in the know-it-all impetuousness of youth had chosen to ignore. It may lead others in different places, I don't know. I continue to follow those teachings to this day.
Doing this is extremely hard work. It's filled with frustrations, disappointments, and impatience. Many times in the following years I made serious mistakes, was misguided by my fantasies which I took to be something other than what they really were. I failed a great many times, many more times than I succeeded. Many times I found myself guilty of doing things that today make me ashamed because of my impatience and arrogance then. Sometimes I've been successful and learned from my failures. I continue to struggle and learn, and will continue to do so for the few years left to me. In the process I try to pass on what I have learned the hard way to others so that perhaps some people won't be as stuck by thorns and cactus as I have been.
Some of the hardest things for me to learn were the lessons about my own ancestors. I've done a lot of genealogical research and am continuing to do so. Every once in a while someone will send me a copy of an old letter or newspaper clipping about some of them, letting me know just what kind of person that particular 5 th great grandfather or grandmother was. It's extremely rewarding though also very hard work. What I've really discovered about my ancestors is that I am descended from them, good or bad. It makes no difference what they did or were; they are mine. They are the spirits I can most easily call upon because they are my relatives. They are the spirits most likely to help me when I need help. And also the most likely to hinder me if I disrespect them. Hard lesson, it's wise to respect your ancestors, even the evil deeded ones, else they are loath to help (or just stay out of your way).
So there you go. Those who really want to practice spirituality similar to that of your ancestors (on this continent as well as on others) now have the guidance to get started, courtesy of Longwalker and Roy. Enjoy the hard work, it's definitely worth it.
If you don't want to, don't complain to me about it. It's not me that has to walk where your footsteps lead. You have the right to get the same lumps on the head I did. <g>