Brooke with Aluna Raphael
'Power Animals and the Way of the Heart'
(click on link below)
'SACRED HUNT/SACRED GIVEAWAY'
Brooke Medicine Eagle with Tanah Whitemore 2017
published in Green Spirit Magazine, England
SACRED HUNT / SACRED GIVEAWAY
Brooke Medicine Eagle with Tanah Whitemore
published in Green Spirit Magazine, England
“There is no death, only a change of worlds.” Chief Seattle
White Buffalo Calf Woman, the bringer of the chanupa - the sacred pipe of holiness - invites us always to hold a view of wholeness and Oneness, in addition to seeing from our minute personal sphere and limited years of experience. When we can breathe the expanded sense of the flowing wholeness that carries us through all time, then larger and perhaps clearer perspectives open to us. We become available to rich learning from the wider world around us.
All life offers profound teachings, and humans are learning to pay attention in profound ways. A primary lesson is respect for the life of all things, as White Buffalo Woman has reminded us in one of her tenets: “Whatever you do to anyone or anything else in the circle of life, you do to yourself, for we are One.” In our time, it is good that animal rights and care groups abound to remind us about the preciousness of all life. I, personally, look at the world with the eyes of a sacred ecologist. A normal ecologist would perhaps focus on the usefulness of trees to clean our air, supply oxygen, hold soil, and offer resources; a sacred ecologist would add: “AND they are living things, a part of the great circle of life, and as such deserve our loving care, just as our own human family does.”
This perspective takes me to the ways of our native peoples regarding killing trees. Elder women went about the camp sites gathering dead and dry wood for fires rather than the men felling trees. In preparation for Sundance ceremony, a tree is taken down, yet days of ceremony precede and accompany this rite. Four young, virtuous girls strike the first blows. Thanksgiving and offerings are made. It is carried to the ceremonial grounds in an honoring procession. Sacred objects are tied in it’s branches. It then represents the world tree - the growing and blossoming center of life. In the Crow Indian sundance form, all dancing moves to and from that tree.
Animals also offer powerful teaching about life and death, which primary hunting societies knew well from their intimate association with their prey. This lesson is about respect and honoring in a holy way, deeper than our usual surface awareness. Not only is the one which is harvested honored as an individual, but as well, the flowing, continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth is experienced with awe and blessing.
Now an awakening generation of non-primary people are tuning in to the challenging depth of full understanding. One of those is Tanah Whitemore, a wise woman of mixed native and European heritage, who is the steward of Sacred Ground, International - a teaching center and buffalo preserve which includes my old home ranch on the Crow Reservation.* I will briefly tell her story here so you can journey with her in what the buffalo have taught her.
Tanah wished to bring the buffalo back to the land they had happily roamed in the last century, and so began with a few bulls and cows. She was concerned about her ability to take care of them, to keep them safe and to insure that their unique needs were met. She took great care of them, or should I say, micro-managed them. In turn, over the years, they showed her how independent and powerful they are - what harmony and richness they create in their natural way of movement across the land. The pastures had been neglected, eaten down; and drought had plagued the rolling hills there under the crystal mountains. We raised money to feed the buffalo big bales of hay, fighting through drifts of snow to get food to them, tearing up ranch vehicles in the challenging process. As the years passed, the herd grew and grew……more food needed, more money, no income, stress….. yet because she loved those buffalo with a fierce protection, she would not think of commercially harvesting any, even though the excellent meat of buffalo was in increasing demand and would have given good income.
As Tanah continued to closely observe over successive years, she began to see that the grasslands were improving with the buffalo’s hoof action and their way of grazing and moving as a group. Clear springs came up where their rolling created wallows that filled with water in the spring rain, and thus magnetized water up from the earth to flow forth. She found she had to manage them less and less - they made it obvious that they knew how to live on the land and make it abundant. Yet the herd was growing too big for even her thousands of acres….
Then the buffalo began the deep teaching of “give-away” as she meditated with them, inviting her to do sacred hunts to harvest some of the herd. As difficult as this was, she cautiously began, bringing in a special kind of hunter who would go through teachings and ancient purification rites to ready themselves, praying and telepathically intending toward the one who would give it’s life — a way practiced by long generations of native hunters. Accompanied by guides and sharp-shooters, they would go on the mountain to the herd and sit, praying for the one who was to give itself. When the hunters got quiet and listened, they would often feel the animal before they saw it, creating a connection beyond normal perception. They awakened to the understanding that they and the buffalo were coming together to exchange gifts, to acknowledge their brotherhood, their oneness.
Then a pattern begins that astonishes everyone. A single bull or old cow (whichever has been requested) steps forth, away from the herd and ‘presents’ itself. Those attending report a glow of life, confidence and beauty radiating from this one, who stands proud and strong before them. There is a sense of the buffalo being in joy and celebration, looking around that beautiful homeland for the last time. The one doing the harvest is taught to look into the eyes of this radiant one and give thanks for the gifts about to be exchanged. These buffalo are grateful for the ability to complete and fulfill their journey as providers and teachers - as they are held within the sacred circle of an honoring and acknowledging ceremony. They have been seen, heard and honored for all of their gifts.
The shot, which cannot be taken until everything is clear and the sharpshooters give the OK, has to be behind the head where it joins the neck for a clean kill. During the hunt then, after those radiant moments in celebration of vital life, the buffalo will often move to stand sideways, then literally turn it’s head to open that exact place to the hunters. The shot will be taken and the buffalo gently go down. By this time the hunters are crying; everyone is crying with the intensity and beauty and power of the moment.
Then the immediate family of that buffalo comes forward from the herd and gathers around it, standing in quiet meditation and honoring. The hunters and guides join in that honoring. Tobacco is placed on the Earth and on the buffalo when they go to it, giving thanks for this gift of bounty and sustenance.
And often among the next season’s calves, Tanah will sense that new buffalo babies are born to embody the energy of the ones who had previously crossed in the Sacred Harvest. They return to the family and land where they have given-away, continuing the circle of life in joy, and creating a deep lesson from which we must learn.
This conscious cycle deepens over time, continuing to teach Tanah and her hunters about the honor of a respected giveaway, the importance of using everything that was given in a sacred way, the continuation of life, and the returning of those who had gone before. The herd is happy and peaceful, fitting within the bounds of it’s land. Tanah’s love for them grows and deepens, as does her respect for the way the buffalo live on and improve the land, and offer themselves in an exchange of gratitude.
Birth and life and death move in a circle of beauty and aliveness. And all is well……
Of course! the path to heaven
doesn’t lie down in flat miles.
Its in the imagination
with which you perceive
and the gestures
with which you honor it.
by Brooke Medicine Eagle 2016
My birthday time is coming - late April, snow on the high peaks, blossoms bursting forth in the valleys, blackbirds singing in the reeds as they pair and repair their nests. Radiance, aliveness, burgeoning irrepressible….
In my childhood on the ranch, baby calves came forth and their mothers licked them into wakefulness, yet their big, soft brown eyes grew weary in the sun of feeding time and they slept on the hay. I would slip up behind them and gently rest myself on them until they stopped their startled struggle, felt my warmth and sweetness, and then we both slept there together among the blossoms in the nurturing light of spring.
In the sky on the April morning of my own emergence into the light of day, the constellation Taurus the Bull lined up with the sun and also with the horizon - giving me double the energy of Taurus (sun and rising). I ran wild and free in that mostly unsettled part of the reservation, following animals trails into the high mountains on the back of my pony. In times of challenge in my young life, my mother would say to me “Stop fighting your head,” when I would bloody myself on whatever tried to confine me, as did the huge, thick muscle-necked bulls when we ran them into confining chutes on rare occasions. I eventually learned to stay calm and breathe my way un-bloodied through the small spaces, yet I was never tamed.
This day I have visited the high mountain Andalusian town of Ronda, and the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain - blessedly quiet on this sunny afternoon. All around me are images of wild bulls, brought into the confines of the ring to fight and lose their lives. On the town walkways, famous matadors’ names are enshrined, and their colorful and extravagant moves flash at me off post cards and posters. But mostly, i can feel the bulls, already harmed - frightened and wild-eyed in a full and shouting ring of those who will cheer and watch them die.
I have recently felt myself in such a place, with my heart pierced in the end and the townspeople applauding; and I am with the bull in the glory and sadism of his final challenge. The crowd is there - looking, judging, yelling, frenzied by the thought of blood. The dark, magnificent bull awes them; his wildness frightens them. They hurl their cowardly shouts from behind high walls, clustered together with others of their kind, yet wishing they had the courage of the last one who steps forth into the ring - the only one brave enough to act out the people’s bloody will. Toreadors - horsemen with their long weapons - dare to be in the ring, near the danger, yet above it.
Yes, then the matador - the one who has courage enough to step into the ring and dance with the wild one - comes forward. He reminds me of the man who recently stepped into my personal ring with its power and challenge. Although his elderly walk was stiff and seemed clumsy, when he danced he was young and agile and joyful like a matador in his shining moment. He dared to join the thrill and intensity of the dance with me, and was buoyed up by the love and power of it until he could hold me no more. It was time to finish it, and to my utter astonishment, instead of setting me cleanly free, he unsheathed the long blade which plunges through the back.
Toro, the bull, comes out of it’s dark and tortured enclosure into the blinding light and is surrounded - by the small ones above who judge and jeer, and by the horsemen who start the slaughter with spearlike weapons. Only the brilliantly-clothed matador is smaller than the wild one who fights for life. In the glaring sun, a bull fighter swirls his enticing cape; the bull charges, and comes out with a barbed banderilla stuck in his back. Again and again, the toreador’s dancing skill allows him to strike, and soon the bull’s back is festooned with those small picks that looked like feathers flying and bouncing as he runs, unable to escape, blood trickling down from his back above his heart.
All of it - the fear, the rage, the shouting, the horsemen, the bleeding, the unrelenting barrage of insult - begin to wear him down. He does not know he is to be killed; he is only fighting to be free. His wild heart beats fiercely until the end, when the matador drives a sword down through his great heart. He falls, to the cheering roar of the small people in the stands. The wild one has once again been vanquished; their hero has come out unscathed! The people of city and town can go back to their lives, feeling safe again from the terror of what seemed an intense and powerful darkness.
And yet some place in their heart mourns the loss, for deep within them lives the song of wildness that comes from Great Earth Mother. It calls to them of pure streams and clear air and sloe-eyed baby calves born of huge bulls, and of meadowlarks and blackbirds singing in the valleys under high, white peaks.
Magnificent wildness cannot be tamed or conquered by smallness. In the heart of life, the bull lives and is free again. What is destroyed is destroyed within the hearts of of the mob who fear and judge and jeer. The ‘triumphant’ crowd which hangs together feeling satisfied and proud, are diminished and yet cannot perceive what it is that eats away at them during the sameness of their days, huddled together in agreement and colluding in justification behind walls of numbness and judgement.
GLORY TO ALIVENESS and FREEDOM!
The bull’s magnificent life awakens again on this spring day in Andalusia, beating in the heart of a newborn calf just being licked by his mother in the sun of a new and radiant morning. Wildness lives on among the blossoms…..
PS: I came upon a site which tells the whole story of the bull’s torment, should you care for the nitty gritty...