August/September 2010 Volume 64Welcome to this bi-monthly edition of our newsletter! You will find these columns contained in our August/September issue:
Carla Woody, Founder
Metaphors for Life
The Seeds of Compassion:
We were gathered in the silversmithing studio of Gerald Lomaventema on Second Mesa. Gerald creates exquisite traditional Hopi jewelry and has won numerous honors, including the prestige of having a one-of-a-kind piece placed on permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan.
In a separate effort, Gerald, Japanese organizer Atsunori Ito, and Zuni artist Tony Eriacho, Jr. came together to found the Hopi-Zuni Show in Japan, held annually since 2007, and have been working to protect the authenticity of Hopi and Zuni art. It’s become so popular in Japan that the inevitable copies are being widely produced with the claim they’re Native-made.
At home on Second Mesa, the Hopi Senom Artists are forming for much the same reason to protect traditions and ensure the development of their community.* I was invited to be an advisor and had come for that purpose. Artist Alan Staiger accompanied me and would later give a photography workshop to the core group of Hopi artists present that day so they could document their art to best advantage.
Sitting in circle, we were discussing the group’s intent and some practical aspects of evolving their purpose when the conversation shifted slightly. Hopi elder Harold Joseph commended those present for wanting to benefit their community as a whole, the meaning of larger connection.**
And then he began to tell a story. He spoke in Hopi, in a voice of the same lyrical resonance that drew me into his prayers during times he has traveled with us. He punctuated his tale with English words now and then. As they listened, the artists, too, became absorbed. Expressions became serious and then light, heads were shaking or nodding depending on what Harold was imparting. Periodically Harold looked over at me and we shared an understanding. You see, I didn’t have to comprehend the Hopi language. I knew the story he was telling and could testify to its far-reaching importance.
Don Antonio lighting the godpots
In January 2009, Harold went with us to the village of Najá located in the Lacandón jungle of Chiapas, Mexico near Guatemala. Sent as an emissary by his religious leader to share traditions, he was also given the instruction to come home and report what he’d seen. To prepare Harold, I’d told him how decimated the ancient Lacandón Maya traditions had become, with elder Don Antonio Martinez carrying on the sacred ceremonies nearly alone, only a few young men periodically present. At that time, there were no apprentices who had stepped forward; and from Don Antonio’s own lips issued the sad words that it was hopeless. No one cared. Too many outside influences pulling the young people away and outside Western-based religions convincing the villagers the old ways were evil. Soon the ancient spirit-keeping beliefs and practices of the Lacandones those of inclusion and respect for the Earth would go the way of countless other such Indigenous religions and disappear into the mists of time.
But I had hope. I had a strong sense that if we could bring outsiders to be with Don Antonio in respectful tribute to partake in ceremony, to hear the stories, to just sit and be fully present to the beauty offered, then just maybe the village young people would recognize the important foundation their birth tradition gave them. And this would be an act of, what in the Andes they call, ayni, a sacred reciprocity.
One of my readers recently contacted me in his message describing this opportunity as a “field trip.” I wrote back relaying my agreement. For me, his words brought to mind Rumi and his invitation: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there... That’s the way when we enter such a sacred space. Respect, acceptance and support. And in the more traditional meaning of “field trip” it’s a sojourn we take to bring home an experience or knowledge that can radically inform our lives, a distinctively positive influence.
By bringing Indigenous people together who have common roots, there’s intent that such sharing will enter another level altogether, one of great healing. But there was no way of knowing ahead of time. And we had no inkling of the devastating situation that would greet us when we arrived that year. One of Don Antonio’s sons had just died suddenly. The pressure for him to abandon the traditions was intense, applied consistently by the members of the new religious sect in the village. But Harold’s presence and support to Don Antonio those few days we were there, bringing his own traditional prayers to merge with Don Antonio’s; offering the Hopi creation stories so like those of the Lacondones; speaking about the plight of his own people, so that by the time we left there was a glimmer of expectancy. One that had touched all of us present. In A Humble Connection, I wrote in depth about that time in Najá.
After the balché ceremony
The effect of that short time, those moments of compassion and quiet camaraderie, would be revealed over the next year. In March 2009, I received news through my friend Alonso Mendez. During a village gathering in Najá, Don Antonio stood and made a public announcement confirming his traditional religion saying he would continue the sacred practices. Shortly after that, Don Antonio formally entrusted the caretaking of his godhouse to his son-in-law Chan K’in.
Both these incidents are quite significant. Just prior to our arrival in January 2009, with pressure mounting for him to discard his faith in favor of the new one, Don Antonio was wavering. While we were there, he had lamented its demise while grieving for his son at the same time. It was heart-wrenching. Harold had entreated, “You must hold on.”
It appears that Harold’s words found a resting place and Don Antonio strengthened. Turning over the care of his godhouse to Chan K’in signaled apprenticeship and continuity – the same as Chan K’in Viejo passed the ways on to his son-in-law Don Antonio from the time he’d been a young man.
With this news I began to prepare for our next journey to further these connections. Once again chosen by his religious leader on Shungopovi, Harold was to return, and this time, Gerald Lomaventema and Augustine Mowa would accompany him. In January 2010, this small group of Hopi Spirit Keepers and other travelers supporting this work arrived once again in Najá.
Lacandón boy during ceremony
This time was radically different. A good number gathered for the balché ceremony, too many to fit comfortably in the godhouse, and the atmosphere was light in a way I had never witnessed. There were lots of smiles and laughter. Don Antonio was visibly shining. Aside from the traditional chanting and prayers, music was played. And, for the first time in my experience, a very young Lacandón boy was there participating with the others. The gods displayed happiness. Their godpots blazed, none of them exhibiting shyness by refusing to light. The perfume of copal filled the air.
Back on Second Mesa, all these months later, we discussed our return to Najá in January 2011, the intent to continue the connection and mutual support. It’s about community and seeking strength to hold the integrity of heritage whether its folkart, language, right livelihood, traditional religion and cultural practices – those things that nurture the soul and hold the world together. Through such interaction, any of us are taught to protect and retain what is of value to us – to disallow attempts by others to pluck away pieces of ourselves.
“There was much depth that day,” Harold ended his recounting. He sat silent for a few moments, lost in reverie. We all did.
*Senom is a Hopi word meaning “people.”
** Harold and Charlene Joseph appear in our documentary One World Wisdom and will be featured in our Spirit Keepers Series on November 6-7, 2010. Both are on the advisory board for Kenosis Spirit Keepers.
For a related article see Inclusion .
© 2010 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.
More often than not, the publications or music you will find reviewed here will not be new or "bestsellers." Websites or organizations may not be well known. But all are spotlighted by virtue of their impact and value.
A Tribute to Ted Andrews
Photo credit: Dragonhawk Publishing
Probably all of us can point to some people who have passed through our lives and made a difference somehow, even if they themselves never knew it. A stray word may have been said. A direction offered. And through that interaction, we took a step; or were alerted to something otherwise unknown.
Ted Andrews served as one of those people for me. It was 1987 and I had just returned to Dayton, Ohio after living in Germany for several years. While there I had been introduced to metaphysics, my appetite whetted. But the opportunities to learn more, to participate in some circle in Dayton, were almost non-existent, or at least quite hidden. Through some diligence I found the Mountaintop Bookstore, a small enclave not too far from my home. And there I stumbled upon Ted Andrews, spiritual teacher, metaphysical author and kindly gentle man. Back then, he offered classes in a small room of the bookstore. I took all of them and experienced something awakening beyond mere intellectual curiosity.
And I discovered that he still gave readings. When I went to his modest home it turned out that he lived only a few blocks away from me. He brought me into the front room and we sat across a small table from each other.
Intuitives often use accoutrements such as Tarot or other types of cards, palm reading, any number of things depending on culture. But for true intuitives these things are really extraneous because they themselves are the channel. Ted Andrews was one of the true ones. That day he did use an intermediary the Tarot. But finally he looked earnestly into my eyes and took my hands into his.
“Are you a healer?” he said.
“No!” I was bewildered by the question and wasn’t even sure what he meant. With what little I did understand about that realm at the time, even the idea of his inquiry seemed preposterous and downright scary. After all, the flavor of my life back then far from supported such an activity.
“Well, you have fire around your hands.”
“Oh, okay. I understand that. I’m an artist and I work with my hands. I paint.” I was relieved.
“No, this is something else. You also have fire energy very much attempting to enter your crown chakra. Allow it.” He said gently and then nothing more, knowing that any more at that time would have been too much.
Through 1988, a short year, long before I met Don Américo Yábar in 1994, Ted Andrews was my first spiritual teacher, someone who opened a doorway. Recently I was telling a friend the story I have recounted here and we became curious about what he is doing now. Doing a search, brought me the very sad news that he passed in October 2009, still a young man.
Ted Andrews gave much to the world as a teacher, animal advocate, writer, a compassionate soul and clairvoyant. A great intellect who was able to translate complex metaphysical philosophies into everyday language. Many of you probably know his books, especially Animal Speak and Simplified Qabala Magic.
For me, he pointed the way, to something inherent but unacknowledged, a choice point awaiting. I vividly remember the moment he did it that day in his small front room. I have been able to draw on his soft encouragement over the years and it’s given me courage. I only regret that I didn’t return soon enough to tell him so.
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