Category Archives: rule breaker

The Light Bringer

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The Light Bringer Scan_Pic0019The Raven

Magic is in the air when Raven is present. The other day while at the coffee shop I was looking out the widow at the parking lot. High above everything perched on top of the tall light pole sat a bird. His outline fully formed against the light blue sky. It is a rather large size black bird with a prominent beak. He intrigued me so I watched him for a while.

Was he a Crow or a Raven?  A Raven for sure. A Raven is a member of the Crow family but a larger king-size cousin. This fellow was big. Two small birds joined him. They moved to the outer parameters of the light standard giving the Raven a wide berth. Crows and Ravens are the smartest of all birds having outwitted other birds, animals and humans from time to time. There are lots of Myths and stories about them. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a poem called, The Raven.

They are kept at the Tower of London, England. The Tower of London is located on White Hill and one legend tells of the Ravens always living there. Another legend is that after the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Tower was rebuilt and the ravens arrived. The British believe that “It is very unlucky to kill a Raven” and so they keep them as good luck symbols. The Tower Ravens are cared for by a Keep. Each Raven is named, fed and treated like a soldier. The Tower Ravens live to be 40 years old. Besides having one wing’s flight feathers clipped away, they have free rein of the Tower and the grounds. A Raven can be dismissed from the Tower grounds for “Conduct unbecoming of a Tower resident.” Otherwise, the Raven’s live a comfortable life.

In Rome, the Raven is associated with the God Apollo, the god of prophecy. They are considered good luck and a messenger from heaven who speaks to us. One myth tells the story of why Ravens are black.   In the story Ravens were as white as swans. One day a Raven brought bad news to Apollo who in his anger turned the Raven black. Since then all Ravens are black.

In Norse tradition, the God Odin had two Ravens who were his messengers.  Odin could shape-shift into a raven. In Biblical lore, the prophet Elijah was fed by Ravens and Crows while hiding in the wilderness. To the Athapaskan Indians of Alaska,  Raven was the creator of the world.

Ravens are symbols of watchfulness. They often perch high in the trees and can see for miles. Their Croak sound is so jarring that all can hear.  They can be taught to speak and are members of the songbird family . They have quite a range of vocalizations but they do not sing.

In many ways, the Raven is an animal that plays the confusing role of the trickster and the wise one.  Raven is comparable to the Coyote tales told by the Plains Indians.  In the Pacific North West, the Raven has this same aura about him. Raven stole the sunlight and gave it to the people of the Earth. He is playful and an excellent tool user. He cracks open nuts using stones.  In fact, many folks believe that Raven knows  he is  smart. He has chosen to remain a  crows rather then move on to some other area of evolution.  Raven  is associated with creation. The color of night, he brings forth the new day.  He is the light bringer.

Motherly Love

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Krishnawk#2aMotherly Love

Krishna and the Fruit  Week #2 The Positive Aspects

 The deep connection between a mother and her child is illustrated in this story. An example from the story, “Krishna! 0 Krishna!” she whispered, snatching up her boy in her arms. … Who are You?” she said softly, nuzzling His baby curls with her lips.This isan act of a devoted, loving mother. I agree with what Christine has written in her essay, “… I say motherhood lies in the quality of the love she brings to bear on the world.”

 I have two children and one of the things that struck me about motherhood is how each of my children came to me “factory wired.”

That is, each had their uniqueness built-in. They didn’t come as blank slate waiting for me, the parent to write upon. I wasn’t there to create or  mold them as I saw fit. In fact, they entered the world like the Prophet’s poem describes. “as sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”  Instead of thinking you are molding the child, you need to ask, “Who has come to live with me. Who are you?” For in time you will discover this other being who learns, and grows, but arrived here with their spark, their spirit already whole. They have come, like each of us, to have a human experience.

 I was listening to a TED Talk by Antonia Damasio, a Neuroscientist. The title of the talk,  The Quest to understand consciousness. He believes that the brain stem holds the conscious self. That part of us that is the observer of self,  is the aware one that is thinking, learning and experiencing. It is in the brainstem that we are connected from the body to the mind and from the mind to the body.

 This bit of knowledge suggests to me that this part of our self that is innate to our individuality is built-in. It is what makes each of us so very unique. In our story of Krishna there is the passage that reads … “and the lord who had become a human child out of sport, without any loss of his divine powers …”  I suspect that that is how we all come into this world.

We are all like Krishna. We arrive here whole and equipped to have the experiences that best serves our higher self.  Giving love and getting love are wonderful gifts.  Having a loving Mother is surely one of the greatest gifts of all.

Don’t Advertise

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Iktomi's Duck Feast

Iktomi’s Duck Feast

Iktomi and the Ducks

May Tricksters: Week #4

This Tale is from the Native American Tribes of the Plains, South Western and Western areas of the United States. Ikto’mi is a man with spider-like characteristics and features. He does everything backwards.

 In our tale this week Iktomi says to the gray wolves, “Don’t come and eat my duck feast.” Of course, as soon as the wolves hear that there is a duck feast they promptly arrive to eat his ducks. Iktomi makes the same mistake again by telling the wolves that they hadn’t eaten his buried baking ducks under the coals. So the wolves dig up the ducks and eat them too. By calling to the gray wolves and telling them what they shouldn’t do the wolves quickly react and do it anyway. They come and eat his ducks.

 But, at the beginning of the story when Iktomi tells the ducks they don’t want to know what is in his blanket the ducks stop what they are doing and demand to know what Iktomi has in his blanket. This time his backward speak works in his favor.  He is able to get the ducks inside his straw hut, and get them dancing with their eyes closed.

 He tells them not to  peek, not to open their eyes until he tells them to do so or  their eyes will turn red forever. After the ducks open their eyes and fly away their eyes do turn red … his curse does comes true.

This is trickster magic.  Backward speak, trickery, spells and the unexpected happen all throughout  the trickster encounters.

One message this tale gives  is the same trick doesn’t always bring the desired results.  The Trickster needs to consider the possible outcomes before using the backward speak.  Since the backward speak convinced the ducks to do exactly what Iktomi wants them to do, it worked to his favor. But when he uses the backward speak with the wolves, it doesn’t.  Actually the trick worked the same, but the outcome was not what Iktomi desired. He really did not want the wolves to eat his ducks.

 There is a Blue’s song that speaks to this very situation. The title of the song is … “Don’t advertise your man.”  The message is,  if you tell everyone how great your man is then some other woman will go behind your back and win him away from you.   In the Iktomi tale he advertises his duck feast and the wolves eat all of his dinner.  Next time,  Don’t advertise your duck feast.

Coyote as Trickster

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Coyotewk1

Coyote says, “RUN!”

In this story of Coyote, we discover that he does not understand the cultural rules about gift giving. When he returns and demands the Rock, Iya, give his blanket back Coyote has disregarded the cultural belief that what is given is given forever.  He is reminded that the blanket is no longer his by Iktome who says, “It is Iya’s blanket now!” Coyote still thinks of the blanket as being his.

When Iya tells Coyote “NO” because he likes having the blanket.” Coyote explains that it is cold out and he needs HIS blanket back. He tells Iya he doesn’t want to catch a cold.  Yet,  Iya still says “NO!” This makes Coyote angry. Coyote just takes the blanket and leaves.  Iya warns him that it is not over.

There have been times in my life when I have not understood the rules or the person I’m dealing with seems to have a different set of rules that I don’t understand.  The whole idea of etiquette or manners is to make social interchanges comfortable and pleasant.

The newspaper columnist Dear Abby or the writer Emily Post are often asked about what manners and/or etiquette rules apply in very specific social situations. Not all rules are written down. In addition, as our society becomes more and more complex new rules have to be established.

My collage this week shows the Rock chasing Iktome and Coyote through the river. Coyote has his blanket flapping behind him. The over all collage depicts a patchwork broader suggesting that the entire piece is a blanket. The reason for the dispute.

Despite the fact that rocks don’t need blankets and Coyote did make the mistake of giving his away, Coyote cannot be an “Indian Giver”.  He cannot expect the Rock to give the blanket back. As the Rock explained, “What is given, is given.”

Coyote’s Blanket

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Coyote's blanket

Coyote’s blanket

One of the best things for me about my friendship with Michelle is how differently we view things.   Over the years we have both benefited from an expansion of vision, learning from each other how to see from a different perspective.  We’ve learned to trust each other’s vision and follow along even  when we don’t “get it” right away.

Last week, I was utterly swamped, enmired in a project with a deadline I was having trouble meeting, so when Michelle offered to pick the story and present it, I was delighted.  We’d agreed earlier that we wanted to work with a Native American tale and Trickster Coyote is an old favorite of ours.  We created a workshop around him several years ago, using collage to do shadow work.  Coyote loves to dance with the shadow and he proved a perfect mentor for those workshops.  Still, when Michelle picked this blanket story it left me at a bit of a loss.  It’s a teaching story, so it must be teaching something, but what?  It seemed way too elaborate a set-up to say something so obvious.

It wasn’t until I finished my collage that I realized what a big part landscape plays in this story.  First of all Coyote’s antagonist is a rock!  It’s one thing to see a biological creature as a character in a story but a talking stone that feels cold…?  Then there’s that detailed description of all the places Coyote runs through with the rock chasing him – hills, thick forest, a river, prairie.

As it happens the project I’d been working on was a talk and slide show about pilgrimage.  It’s my contention that our human habit of going on pilgrimage is a direct result of the nomadic lifestyle practiced by all Homo sapiens for at least 40,000 years.  I won’t repeat my reasoning here, suffice it to say my theory has to do with the importance of landmarks.

In part this story seems to talk about the importance of maintaining and honoring an intimate relationship with one’s geography.  The intimacy is underlined by the symbol of the blanket.  In many Native American traditions blankets are strongly associated with the bonds of kinship.  When publically given, a blanket acknowledges those ties to the whole community. In this story we see Coyote giving the rock the blanket in front of Iktome.  He makes a point of the gift, proclaiming the change of ownership in front of a witness.  His failure to respect his relationship with the land (symbolized by the rock – think basics, bedrock, bones of Earth, foundation) has dire consequences from which he barely recovers; just as our failure to maintain a relationship with the land results in floods, landslides, and dust storms that flatten us.

You see how my faith in Michelle’s vision is justified?  This story contains a powerful teaching for me.  Not only as a concept but also more immediately; I spent all last week hunched over my computer.  I did manage to walk every morning, but I walk with a friend and we talk the whole time, so I haven’t really been outside and present for days.  This collage made me long to be out alone under the sky, tiny as distant Coyote in my picture. – I think I’ll take tomorrow off and go wrap the landscape around me like a blanket…

May: “The Trickster”

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This month’s Tale is about the Native American “Trickster.”

For the Month of May we will be working with the Trickster. The Native American character who reminds us to laugh and not take life to seriously. In American Indian tales and legends, the “Trickster” can be several characters.  Often he is Coyote, but Coyote has friends who are sometimes tricksters too. There is Raven, Blue Jay, Beaver, Iktome, (the Spider man), The Great Rabbit, fox and Mink. There are also human tricksters.. Wasichu, a sharp trader, the Old Man of the Blackfoot and Crow.  Even Whisky Jack takes his turn playing the prankster and troublemaker.

We focus this month on different tricksters and their qualities. Sometimes the Trickster is clever, other times he is stupid. He is always chasing after pretty women. He will cheat if it serves his purposes. He lies,  steals and rebels against the rules. He is a prankster and full of paradox. Sometimes he is the hero, sometimes he is the creator and saves the day.

In our first tale, which comes from the White River Sioux, Coyote is the trickster who learns the hard way about the rules of the Giveaway.

“Coyote, Iktome, and the Rock.”

White River Sioux

On a warm day, Coyote and Iktome, (Spider man),  are hiking along and see a big beautiful rock with moss veins. Coyote decides to give his Indian blanket to the Rock. He says, “Why this is a nice-looking rock. I think it has power.”  He places his thick blanket on the rock and says, “Here, Iya, take this as a present. Take this blanket, friend rock, to keep warm so you will not freeze. You must feel cold.”

Coyote turns to his friend Iktome and tells him, “I’m always giving things away. The rock, Iya, looks real nice in my blanket.”
“His blanket, now”, says Iktome.

Later that week when it starts raining, and it is quite cold,  Coyote has second thoughts about his Giveaway. He wants his nice thick blanket back. He and Iktome have gone into a cave to keep dry but Coyote is shivering from the cold.  He tells his friend to go back to Iya and get the blanket.

When Iktome asks the rock for the blanket, the rock says no.  He reminds Iktome, “What is given is given. Iktome goes back and tells Coyote. Coyote is outraged, goes to the Rock, and demands the blanket back.
“No!” says the rock, “What is given is given.”
Coyote jerks the blanket away. “Don’t you care that I am freezing to death? I could catch a cold.” Wrapping the blanket around him self, Coyote says, “There, that’s the end of it.”
The rock says, “By no means is this the end.”

Coyote, wrapped in the blanket, goes back to the Cave and he and Iktome wait out the storm. When the sun comes out Coyote and Iktome, go out side and sun them selves. After a while Iktome says, “What’s that noise?”
“What noise?”
“A crashing, a rumble far off.” says Iktome.
Then they see the great rock rolling, thundering, and crashing down upon them.
“Run,” says Coyote.
They run as the great rock, Iya follows. They swim the river, and Iya follows. They run in the thick forest, and Iya follows. Wherever they go, Iya follows until they run out into the flats.

“Oh no” says Iktome, this is not really my quarrel and he rolls himself into a tiny ball and disappears down a mouse hole. Coyote runs as fast as he can but the big rock is close on his heels. Then Iya, the big rock, rolls right over Coyote, flattening him out altogether.
Iya takes the blanket and rolls back to his own place, saying, “So there!”

A rancher riding along sees Coyote lying there all flattened out. “What a nice rug.” He says rolling Coyote up. He takes the Coyote rug  home and puts it in front of his fireplace. Whenever Coyote is killed, he can make himself come back to life, but this time Coyote takes the whole night to pull himself up into his usual shape. In the morning, the rancher’s wife tells her husband, “I just saw your rug running away.”

Now, Friends, hear this: Always be generous in heart. If you have something to give, give it forever.

I hope you enjoy this tale.