This past Thanksgiving I had an opportunity to experience Turkey medicine.
In First Nation paradigm, animals have particular medicines. Not in the western view of extracting or replicating medicinal elements found in plants & animals, but more metaphorically. By observing the nature of each animal, we come to know it’s message or medicine, & can learn & grow from it. Turkey is sometimes called the Giveaway Eagle & is often part of a chief or elder’s totem. Turkey feathers are often part of ceremonial regalia. Turkey is revered for giving away its body, its very existence, in the cold winter months when the two-leggeds need sustenance. A good leader is one who ensures that “the very least of these, my brethren” (to mix paradigms as our current existence requires us to do!), are cared for. So a good chief or leader will giveaway his own possessions or food, in care of those in need in his tribe. He is responsible for his people & so he would not let them starve. How could he? He will fight for his people, to preserve their balanced connection to the earth that they have maintained for thousands of years.
As Robbie Robertson sings in his song Words of Fire Deeds of Blood:
Perhaps you think the creator sent you here to dispose of us
as you see fit.
If I thought you were sent by the creator,
I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me.
Do not misunderstand me,
but understand me fully
with reference to my affection for the land.
I never said the land was mine to do with as I choose.
The one who has a right to dispose of it is the one who has created it.
I claim a right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to
return to yours.
Interesting, no? When I compare those we celebrate in our modern world–celebrities, politicians, CEO’s–with the ways of an indigenous chief, I can see clearly why such rampant suffering & separatism prevails. The CEO or president or million-dollar celebrity who gives it all away to ensure his tribe, his people, are housed & fed & healthy is more the exception than the rule. And I don’t fault the individuals or laud the exceptions because each are simply operating in accordance with the existing paradigm, which, to my heart, is a bit screwy & imbalanced.
In my imagining of the Powhatan people that was based on research in books & also in my own heart, I could see that the giveaway was not one-sided. A chief looked after his people & so his people looked after him. A phrase from the First Nation (I use this phrase instead of Indian or Native American because it indicates more the truth of who they were/are.) that you may have heard is “all-my-relations”. There is a sense of an implicate order, to use quantum physics terminology. That all is interconnected. If all-oneness is the premise for one’s existence then one can never be separate.
We have this strange habit of saying “Nature” as though it is separate from us. As though we are doing a poor job of co-existing with this difficult flat-mate Nature. We are Nature. Trees & turkeys & ants & honeybees & streams & oceans & mountains are not separate from humans. One phrase I love from this Native paradigm is to walk on the earth as though you are walking on your own mother. To walk that way would indicate a great deal about one’s relationships–with mother as well as with earth. It’s no wonder “Indians” are known for moving silently through the forest.
Relationships are what this is all about. All-my-relations. If you exist within that premise that Turkey is your brother or sister, then even if you kill a turkey in order to make it through the cold winter, you honor & respect the life it is giving you. You thank it. You have gratitude.
My whole life I have struggled to conscience eating animals. My stepfather, concerned for my health & not being familiar with the vegetarianism I was already accustomed to as an 11 year old, used to make me sit at the table until I’d finished my chicken. Usually I would wait until he lost patience & left the room & then feed it to my dog Thunder. I have always been too sensitive. This world has been a difficult one for me to exist in with all its mindless consumption & desecration. As a young girl I had dry, flaky eyelids from crying so much. The salt tears dried the edges of my eyelids until they flaked. I cried for roadkill. I cried for animals on the dinner plate. I cried for pollution. I cried for pesticide based farming & even gave up eating one of my favorite foods, grapes, in protest. I cried for oil spills. I did not cry for humans who lived in the flood zone of the Mississippi & who complained that they lost millions of dollars in property value when their homes were flooded. You knew where you were living & didn’t respect the natural rhythms of it. What did you expect?
So Thanksgiving has always been a difficult holy-day for me. We live in different circumstances now. We don’t need to kill Turkey to make it through the winter. We do it mindlessly.
Before I did more extensive research for PocaHAUNTus, Shapeshifting History into HerStory, my solo show this past Feb, I was in a place of uncomfortable ignorance. I knew that I didn’t know enough of the history, yet I also sensed deep in my soul that there is a truth we are ignoring. That our current culture is based on deep denial of wide-scale desecration, even genocide. The foundations of so many western cultures are not based on right relationship, but rather on taking, on force, on existing as though we are separate.
In myoga’s Seasons, we are currently in Svadisthana, 2nd chakra, in the hips. This area is all about right relationship & is supported by our foundations, our roots. If we have support underneath us, we can let go into intimacy, we can flow into friendship with ourSelves & Other. Yet many people have tight hips. I think of the odd numbered chakras as more Yang & the even numbered ones as more Yin. And there is relationship between them. If we have the support & the empowerment of 1st & 3rd on either side of 2nd, then 2nd can come into its true nature of being more fluid, receptive & sweet. If not, then poor little hips have to hold it all together!
Another word for flow is currency, so I align prosperity & abundance here in 2nd chakra. My definition of abundance is having enough to give it all away.
(And you thought I was digressing off into incomprehension & lost track of my initial words about Giveaway Eagle! When I first learned that the First Nation mode of communication & storytelling tends to be spirallic, I felt like I had come home–another definition of 2nd chakra Svadisthana–one’s own home. Here, at long last, my natural tendency to answer a direct question with a long spiralling story, made sense! I finally made sense!)
The 2nd chakra sense of having enough & being enough means that I can giveaway without feeling a deficit. It also comes from that strong root support that ensures me that what I have or who I am is not finite, but Infinite. I come from all-that-is. And even if I give away all that I currently have, even unto my own demise, it does not matter because my true matter is beyond matter.
To quote another Robbie Robertson song & one that I featured in my show:
He spoke of the days before the white man came
With his guns and whisky
He told of a time a long time ago
Before what you call history
The general couldn’t believe his words
Nor the look on his face
But he knew these people would rather die
Then have to live in this disgrace
We cared for the land and the land cared for us
And that’s the way it’s always been
Never asked for more never asked too much
And now you tell me this is the end
I laid down my weapon
Laid down my bow
Now you want to drive me out
With no place left to go
And he turned to his people and said dry your eyes
We’ve been blessed and we are thankful
Raise your voices to the sky
It is a good day to die
So I was walking along the road in Wellington last week when it was Thanksgiving in the US & I was presented with an opportunity to practice Turkey medicine. Sitting on a bench was a woman I had taught yoga to in the women’s prison, in the drug treatment unit. She is out on parole. I sat beside her & we talked. It was Friday & she had just been to WINZ trying to get her food allowance but they couldn’t give her anything until Monday. She had $5 in change for the bus. I had only $5 in cash & gave it to her. She wanted more to buy food with & would pay me back on Monday when she received it from WINZ. I don’t have oodles of cash, but I certainly have more than she does so I figured I could manage to give her $40. I thought of the charities I have given what I could to in the past–Greenpeace, Christchurch Women’s Refuge after the earthquakes, Opportunity for Animals. Yet here was a living member of my own tribe, asking for money. How could I refuse her? We’re not blood related, but we had shared space & relationship & knew each other’s names & faces. That’s enough for me to identify someone as tribe.
I have no idea whether what she told me is the truth, but I’m going to base my decisions on trusting people, on taking them at their word. This is another trait I used to be embarrassed of in myself–my naivete in a world scheming to take from me. Yet when I learned that truth-speaking was normal with the First Nations, again I felt like I had come home to mySelf.
What world would we live in if more of us operated as though our word is our truth, our bond? And if even more of us took to heart Turkey’s medicine?
I’ll leave you with words about Turkey from Jamie Sams’s Medicine Cards:
Let go and give away the past. Share your gifts with generosity. Feel the freedom gained.