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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Community Medicine

Years ago, right before my initiation as a healer, during a VERY dynamic time of change... I had a dream.
In this dream the home of my birth was an Animist village of people living close to the earth. On top of the well box in the middle of my back yard man appeared dressed in black buck skins and bone jewelry.
The man was holding a sack and every one in the village turned to see him speak.
"I have stolen the collective medicine of your tribe. If you do not all give me your own personal medicine I will destroy the collective medicine of your people, dooming you all. You have until sun down."
The people knew what to do they went and gathered up their personal medicine and dressed in their finest regalia and set out to give this man in black their medicine.
I was outraged that my people would just surrender to this mans demands! I went into the house painted my face and picked up my ceremonial knife, took it from its sheath and ritually stalked the man...
As I walked around the out side of my house I saw that every one was preparing to give their medicine or had already done so. this fueled my rage. Not only was i enraged at the man who saw it fit to threaten my people, but I was enraged that they had allowed him to do so.
I was met at the back side of the house by a member of my own people sitting at a small table covered in cards. He was busy cataloging peoples personal medicine. Behind him was a room with another man in it, and the room was filled with box's of peoples medicine.
" Come to drop off your medicine?" the man asked.
"Yes...." I said, lying to him.
"What is it?"
This stopped me dead in my tracks. "I... I don't know."
"Oh well life is run by chance, so just pick one of these cards and that's your medicine."
I gave him a skeptical look and picked up a random card turning it over. on the back side was a picture of a wild rose.
"OH wild rose! That's allot like hawk medicine, wild rose medicine is wild love, that's a good one! Go ahead and drop it off inside."
The rage drained out of me completely... If my personal medicine was wild love then how could I kill this man in black. I walked into the room full of medicine in a daze, I was confused. Before me stood the man in black but now he was in a tie-dye T-shirt arranging boxes. He said to me while piling them up happily, "Oh just set it any where I will get to it in a minute..."
"I can not harm this man," I thought, " my medicine is wild love..."
I walked out of the room, muttering my medicine is wild love over and over again to my self, and out of my dream into a half waking dream, where information about what medicine was and its relationship to man and nature filled my now lucid mind.
I was shown what medicine is, and how one finds it within themselves through ones relationship with nature. I was shown that we all have a medicine to help heal all of the sickness in the world.I am currently in a college program about growing community. I took this coarse as a way to further my community development skills so that I could further assist in the development of bioregional animist communities. The night after my first class I could not sleep... the memory of the dream entered into my head and I could not stop thinking about it... I was exhausted but the memory would not leave me alone to sleep.
I had always felt the dream would make a wonderful community ritual there was so much meaning in it...
I saw that the dream could be made as a ceremony to teach about the collective medicine of a community. The man in black represented adversity and how adversity can threaten community. Every one had to give of their personal medicine to protect the community. Those that did not know what their medicine was would not understand this and would have to find out what their medicine was.
We all have medicine and our personal medicine is to be given away for the benefit of the community, not just the human community but the other-than-human community. Because all other-than-human-persons benefit from the authentic wellness on another, the other-than-human community gives its medicine to the larger community as well including human persons, it does so in such a way that shows us that our personal medicine also lays in nature that what is within us is also out side of us in the natural world and it show us this so that we can give of our medicine wisely to aid the whole of life.
As I lay awake trying to sleep fitfully I saw how small communities of human persons could enact this dream, and how it could teach them bioregional animism as well as about their responsibility to give back to life as life for the benefit of the community. I saw how it could teach about how communities can work WITH adversity, and the things that threaten community, and I saw how they could learn how ways of doing this could come from trans-rational ways of knowing, learning and problem solving, in ways that lead them to a deeper understanding of themselves through relationship with their larger community of human and other-than-human-persons.
As an example, if I was to do this with my class I would take a bag of stones for every member of the class and I would pass the stones out asking them to have an intention for the wellness of the community they are a part of in that class ( just as an example) and then blow their intention into the stone as a way of symbiotically putting their life force, their breath into the intention, animating it the intention, Giving it a life of its own...
Then I would ask the community leader to hold onto the pouch of stones and put it some where safe. At some point much latter down the line I would call the class together for a community "event" in which I or some one unknown to the class, to arrive dressed in black holding the pouch of stones. What would happen next would be an enactment of the dream. Many of the participants may not know their own personal medicine and the actual concept of "medicine" might be out side of their world view. So for ease, and to go along with the dream. Cards could be made covered with plants animals and forces of nature as well as types of places in ecological systems ( streams, lakes, ponds & mountains etc..) with their symbolic attributes added to them. Sources for making these symbolic cards could be taken from both Ted Andrews books as well as Jamie Sams. Though I don't fully approve of other-than-human-persons being viewed strictly as symbolic vehicles for human experience, other-than-human-persons can be related to symbolically, which does not make them symbols themselves. Something about this could be placed on the table with the cards. The participants could then give their cards the man in black who is now wearing colorful non-threatening colors and style.
After the last participant has given their personal medicine the community could gather and talk about their experience. After the discussion the dream as well as my interpretation of the dream and the foundation of the event could be shared to further show the importance of trans-rational cognition in the process of learning and growing and maintaining health in community as well as within ones sense of self.
This community ceremony empowers its members to find the medicine within themselves through the natural world, through trans-rational means. Showing them that they were all born with medicine to heal the sickness in the world, to mend that which is broken.
I participants were interested in pursuing this concept of personal medicine and community medicine deeper they could be encouraged to go out into nature and develop relationships with the other-than-human-persons in their larger bioregional community, and seek out their personal medicine or medicines through their relationships with
the ecological world. Through this relationship dynamic they could utilize various trans-rational methods comfortable to them to discover that the medicine is within as well as out side of themselves, seeing how trans-rational forms of cognition dissipate dualistic notions of inner and outer reality as well as self and other, cultivating altruistic action int he process as well as deeply grounded and centered personal growth based on place and the physical world.
I might add that the process of finding ones personal medicine as well as giving it to the community is an act of self healing as well as personal discovery, it can be painful as well as liberating and joyous, ultimately life changing
and requiring deep commitment and is not to be done with a half hearted attempt. This work I call a medicine quest, or medicine seeking. Often times one finds that the medicine they are seeking is in some way connected to the pain they hold within themselves and is one with adversity itself, that they might find it to be the poisonous parts of themselves or the world around them, and that they must actively transmute that poison into medicine before they can give it away... this can be a path of deep personal healing and growth. Thus requiring a deep commitment to wanting to help. Actively seeking this medicine themselves could be encouraged after the public event.

Animist Manifesto

An animist manifesto

All that exists lives
All that lives is worthy of respect
You don’t have to like what you respect
Not liking someone is no reason for not respecting them
Respecting someone is no reason for not eating them
Reasons are best worked out in relationship – especially if you are looking for reasons to eat someone – or if you are looking for reasons not to be eaten
If you agree that all that exists is alive and worthy of respect, it is best to talk about ‘persons’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’, let alone ‘biomechanisms’, ‘resources’, ‘possessions’, and ‘things’
The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human
The world is full of other-than-human persons
The world is full of other-than-oak persons
The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons
The world is full of other-than-salmon persons
The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons
The world is full of other-than-rock persons…
‘Other-than’ has at least three references:
it reminds us that we are persons in relationship with others,
it reminds us that many of our closest kin are human, while the closest kin of oaks are oaks, so we talk most easily with humans while rocks talk most easily with other rocks…
it reminds us to speak first of what we know best (those closest to us)
Make that four references:
it reminds us to celebrate difference as an opportunity to expand our relationships rather than seeing it as a cause of conflict or conquest
All life is relational and we should not collapse our intimate alterities into identities
Others and otherness keep us open to change, open to becoming, never finally fixed in being
Alterities resist entropy and encourage creativity through rationality, sociality (or, as William Blake said, ‘enmity is true friendship’)
Animism is neither monist nor dualist, it is only just beginning when you get beyond counting one, two… At its best it is thoroughly, gloriously, unashamedly, rampantly pluralist
Respect means being cautious and constructive
It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,
It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others
It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…
It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts
believers in ‘human rights’, for example, demonstrate their belief in rights not only by supporting legislation to protect individuals from states, companies and majorities, but by not insisting on hogging the whole road or pavement, not insisting on another human getting out of the way on a busy street…
You don’t have to hug every tree to show them respect but you might have to let trees grow where they will—you might have to move your telephone lines or greenhouse
You might have to build that road away from that rock or that tree
Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first
Just because the world and the cosmos is full of life does not make it a nice and easy place to live. Lots of persons are quite unfriendly to others. Many see us as a good dinner. They might respect us as they eat us. Or they may need education. Like us, they might learn best in relationship with others who show respect even to those they don’t like, and especially to those they like the taste of.
Although evolution has no aim, life is not pointless. The purpose of life is to be good people — and good humans or good rocks or good badgers. What we have to find out is what ‘good’ means where we are, when we are, with whom we are, and so on. It is certainly wrapped up with the word ‘respect’ and all the acts that implies.
Since all that exists lives—and since all that lives is, in some senses, to some degree, conscious, communicative and relational—and since many of the persons with whom we humans share this planet have a far better idea of what’s going on than we do—we can now stop all the silliness about being the pinnacle of creation, the highest achievement of evolution, the self-consciousness of the world or cosmos… We’re just part of the whole living community and we’ve got a lot to learn. Our job isn’t to save the planet, or speak for the animals, or evolve towards higher states. Many other-than-human people are already happily self-aware, thank you very much, and if we paid attention we might learn a few things ourselves. By the way, we’re probably not alone in mistaking ourselves for the most important people in the world: hedgehogs probably think they are (but they’re spiky flea-ridden beasts so why believe them?!).
Um, when I said that ‘all that exists lives’, I’m not sure about plastic bags.
But I am certain that we should not treat objects as mere resources, somehow available or even given to us, or humanity, to use as we will or wish.
The same goes for words like ‘substances’, especially those that exist within plant and fungal persons. There are substances, but they aren’t ours until they are given, gifted to us. And then we’d better find out why we’ve been given whatever gifts we get. And we’d better ask how those gifts might be best used (whether its for pleasure, power, wisdom or whatever). This is especially true if the plant or mushroom person who offers us the gift substance has to lose their life in the process.
Maybe sometimes the mushrooms just want to help us join in the big conversation that’s going on all around us. But not all rocks, fish, plants, fungi, birds, animals or humans want to talk with us:
Sometimes they want to be quiet
Sometimes they want to be rude
Sometimes they have other concerns
Sometimes they don’t understand
Sometimes we don’t speak the language
Sometimes we don’t know the appropriate gift
The precise and proper way to show respect depends where you are, who you are, who you are respecting and what they expect. Gifts, like swords and words, have more than one side. Alcohol is a gift in one place, a poison somewhere else. Handshakes are friendly in one place, shows of strength elsewhere. Kissing is respectful to some people, an assault on others. Respectful etiquette is hard work but its reward is fuller participation in a large and exciting community of life.
Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking for us
Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking to us
Animism is just over the bridge that closes the Cartesian gap by knowing how to answer the question, What is your favourite colour? Perhaps it is the bridge. Perhaps there is no gap and animists are people who refuse to collude with the illusion
Animism is often discovered by sitting beneath trees, on hills, in rivers, with hedgehogs, beside fires… Animism is better communicated in trickster tales, soulful songs, powerful poems, rousing rituals, and/or elemental etiquette than in manifestos.
[Originally published By Strange Attractor Journal Journal number three . We would like to thank Graham for giving us the permission to publish this for the first time on line!]

Friday, September 21, 2007

"How can you poison some thing so beautiful?"

One night during a San Pedro long dance ceremony with a South American shaman I was sprayed by some perfume he had made during a dieta in the amazon, made with amazonian flowers.
In the perfumero curandero practice they take the perfume into the mouth and spray it on you in a mist from the mouth, the breath carries the and charges the intention to heal with the perfume. This is called Ch'alla, and is done primarily as a ritual action for cleansing.
I opened my self to receive the medicine. So many times healing is a painful process, cleansing is allot of hard work and I find my self resistant to it as I think many of get some times, this time I opened up, and "took my medicine".
I started coughing so hard it was like puking from my lungs! Once my lungs were cleaned out the scent of the perfume of the amazon flower people could find their way into my chest and deliver their message of healing to me.

I heard this very beautiful collective of voices say within me..."Why would you poison something so beautiful?"
I broke down in tears! A harsh question to be asked, I was racked with quilt for poisoning my body and at the same time feeling the message of the flowers telling me and affirming that I was a beautiful being, but I could not personalise the message completely. As the message expanded I saw how I was participating in poisoning the earth with pollution through damaging ways of relating to that which is around me and actually is me. The message expanded even larger and I could see that this was a question to my whole species.
Much of the work I am doing here is a response to this question, and a way to reciprocate and give thanks to the flowers of the amazon that healed my body and spirit that night. That night they showed me ways to not have to poison my self and my environment, showed me alternative ways of relating to the world, not out of guilt, shame or fear, but out of love for all that is.

Since that night I have been looking at the social and environmental impact of importation, out sourcing, and air travel. My partner is an ecology student ( go figure eh?) and allot of what I learn from her is very helpful. During one of her sustainability classes her teacher pointed out the immensely negative impact of air travel. A round trip ticket creates as much pollution as 100,000 SUV's driving for a full year. I began to look into it more feeling more an more drawn to bioregionalism I wanted to look at more and more reasons to embrace it. I found out that air planes dump the rest of their fuel from the air before landing to prevent explosions due to crash or some other potential landing problem, the chemicals in jet fuel are carcinogenic and mutagens, they have been found in nearly ever sample of breast milk in mammals as well as breast tissues, they are a major cause of breast cancer as is the same with PBDEs used as fire retardants in plastics. the chemicals can be found nearly every where in the world in water samples soil samples its unreal!

It is humbling and extremely scary to think wow when I eat a banana I am contributing to the poisoning of a mothers breast, to all mothers breasts, I am poisoning that which nurtures billions of babies, something beautiful.
Air freight is one of the fastest means of transporting food especially perishable fruits from other places in the world. When ever we eat a non local food that is out of season where we live, we can count on the fact that the majority of the time, it was flown to us. It is a horrible irony that the way wee feed our selves is killing us and others and not in the balanced cycle that life normally functions. The chemical found in the breast milk also keeps babies from gaining the immune boasting qualities of the breast milk, eating a banana makes babies sick... I have to hold my head for a moment and just allow the nausea to pass just from the thought....

I am in no means attempting to create motivation for change through fear and guilt. "My god look what your doing for shame!" I don't go for that I feel that with information like this we can make more intelligent decisions on how to live our lives and be motivated instead out of love then fear and guilt.
I think its more important then ever to attempt to look at what you have in your life, what you need and see if you can attempt to replace that with a local alternative do I need to travel by air? Why am I motivated to travel? Where does my food come from? Could I really fulfill my needs from local sources? More times then not we can! Though we do not have to work with just native regional foods and materials and life ways, we can work with what has been imported to our life places and integrate them and adapt them into our lives in a sustainable way.
The Polynesians for example have what they call boat plants that they took to Hawaii. Plants that were not native to Hawaii but were integrated to the ecosystems there. These plants were essential to their survival there, as was the pigs they brought with them.
With a knowledge of permaculture and ecology we can create natural holistic alternatives needing to import very little, working as a community, the development of cooperatives, collectives, and farmers markets in your local area can help immensely. Once systems of relationships are strengthened and old habits of relying on out sourced foods and other needs are changed, you will be surprised as to how much of a difference your making both socialy and ecologically. There is simply no need to import every thing we need. It appears so now but that's an illusion we are all going to have to face together, through working together to establish alternatives.The answer I give to the flowers of the amazon "How can you poison something so beautiful?" is..."I cant, I wont! Please show me ways to live advise me help me generate wellness for all. Aid us in finding alternatives. Be our allies?" If you ask the spirits of nature to help you in this way you discover they are more then happy to help! you can learn allot from a flower!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bio-Regional Animism in Five Minutes

Bio-Regional Animism in Five Minutes
By Fish bowl on
This is a speech that will be given by Fish bowl at a local unitarian church in his bioregion this coming Sunday.

Spirituality is everywhere to be found; it unfolds with the peddles of a rose, and gurgles in the song of a creek, and in the canyons, and running through the forest. This is the experience animism is built from. It is the belief in spirit. It does not distinguish from the spiritual and the material; instead, they are one and the same.

Today, New Animism seeks to discard the dualism of modern society, where we divide into us, them and the other, to realize there is only everything. Instead, we seek a way of relating our modern culture to a spirituality based upon how we interact with ourselves, other human people and other-than-human-people that are the trees, rivers, mountains, animals, energies, and scientific principles, that we interact with daily. Nature is not seen as collection of resources for human consumption, but as equals to humans to be related to. This does not mean we abandon modern society, but to relate our lives to what is needed for daily sustenance. We have to ask ourselves how we are using, what we are using, and what are we contributing back to nature and the universe This forces one to realize the essential truth, that life is sacrificed to sustain life.

This way of thinking demands that we be environmentally, ecologically, and socially aware and to implement change. This shift of consciences brings empathy with our environment and to feel the reality of its state of being. Humans are not above nature but as much a part of it in everyway. However, our form of intelligence has lead to an irresponsible attitude towards the things we need to sustain our own lives, subjugating our environments to mere material and forgetting the spiritual nature of everything.
Our planet is a vast network of ecosystems that work in highly concentrated ways, unique to their immediate environment. These ecosystems have been surveyed for their resources and been divided up on the market to be bought and sold by piecemeal. Do you know where you food comes from? Do you know what is in it? Most likely you don’t.

Our culture has become so disconnected from our eco-systems through a homogeneous market that we have long lost the sacredness of daily life. Bio-Regional Animism is form of New Animism that re-cultivates the sacred relationship of humans and the eco-systems they inhabit. We recognize the values and lessons taught by animist cultures from the past and the present, but understand that is one way in which a specific culture related to a specific ecosystem.

Bio-Regional animism is not a new religion or a even a new tradition of neo-paganism; rather, it is a way of relating to our environment in a deeply spiritual way. For me I came to it through studying the history, culture, and mythology of the British-Celts. In time the pantheon lost its human attributes and revealed themselves to me as the rivers, mountains, forest, animals, and plants of the ecosystems where I was living in at the time. In this way its synchronism can co-exist with other spiritual systems and life philosophies, if one is open to the possibilities.

All one needs is to listen to their intuition and hear the needs, desires, and unique understanding of their ecosystem. This is not only done with improvisational ceremonies and meditations but through scientific study of their environment. Understanding where your water comes from, the medicinal value of indigenous plants and the social activities of local wildlife builds the foundation for relating to your ecosystem. Bio-Regional animism is not the path for those who seek predefinitions and structure; instead, it directly challenges these notions, leaving us with the very soil under your feet and sky above our heads, and that is what we work with to grow our spiritual relationships.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


What is back yard shamanry?

Well to start off... there is no such thing as shamanism... the 'ism' behind shaman misleads us to believe that shaman'ism' is a belief system or religion even unto its self independent of an animist cosmology that is grounded and centered in place. Shaman is a role created by an animist community, by both human and other than human persons, and is a role filled by both human and other than human persons. The characteristics of the shaman are designed by the bioregion itself and is as much an aspect and expression of a bioregion as the flora and fauna. Because the shaman is a role within an animist belief system, it like many other roles, cannot be called a belief system thus the adage of ism to shaman is as inappropriate as adding ism behind the word carpenter, or therapist or doctor... even healer in which the word shaman is the most synonymous cannot be called a belief system, and placing, ism behind healer, therapist, or doctor, would be absurd...

This blog is in preparation for a book based on Bioregional animisms healers as well as a place to transmit stories of healing and inspiration....
The book Bioregional animism: Finding the spirit of the shaman in your back yard with out having to culturally appropriate, is still in the works and is still waiting for enough work to be contributed from others from other bioregions telling their stories of how they relate to the land from this particular life way...