Monday, August 15, 2011

BHJ cont. Ninth Gate: Gate of the Elders and Love Warrior

AUGUST 12, 2011

Dear Birth Peeps,
The Ninth and final Story Gate is the Love Warrior Story, and like the First Gate—it is also a Gate of “no story.” I also call this Gate the Gate of the Elders.

In this mandala, you see this Gate represented by two symbols: (1) a buffalo and her calf, and (2) a group of Elders who, having followed the Red Path all the Way, have completed their hero’s journey and their destiny.

The Buffalo and her Calf
Native Americans of the plains were dependent on the buffalo. With its sacrifice, the buffalo’s body and blood fed them, its hide provided shelter and clothing, its sinew became thread and its bones became knives and needles to sew the hide. The buffalo sustained them and so they equated the buffalo with Spirit that gives and sustains life, and on which humans are dependent.
One evening a few years ago, an old Oglala Lakota, Delbert Charging Crow, knocked on the door of my office. He was a quiet man with long grey braids and a box. We had never met, he was walking through the neighborhood and wanted to show me his animal carvings. I invited him in. We sat in the teaching room and one by one, he carefully took out small fetishes he had carved; for each animal he told me a story.
There was a horse, an eagle, a goat I think, and a “turning bear.” “Turning bears” have their head and neck turned sharply to represent turning one’s life in a new direction, a more positive direction. On the animal’s backs were tied a bundle of beads, a small feather, sometimes sticks, and a tiny leather pouch of sage (spirit food).
All of the animals, with the exception of one, the Buffalo, had a bundle. I asked Charging Crow why Buffalo did not have anything tied to her back. He explained that Buffalo does not need to carry food for itself because the buffalo is “food” for humans. The buffalo sacrificed its life to feed us, so it represents Spirit.

By the time the Storyteller reaches her Ninth Gate she has been fed by many listeners, advised by authors, and inspired by poets and spirit. She has deconstructed and reconstructed her story, given it new meaning, and “digested” it. Finally, no longer identified with the story, it no longer needs to be told or healed.
From that moment on, the now “elder” Storyteller becomes a bit like the Buffalo. An Elder Storyteller-Storylistener never tells her whole story to anyone. She keeps in her heart, knowing what and when to share a specific bit of her story—as Medicine. She doesn’t tell her story, or even a part of it, to get something back from the listener (e.g., sympathy, advice, assurance, praise, bonding). She may draw from her story-experience, without having to refer directly to it; Story Medicine comes in the form of a mirroring, validation, metaphor, or myth.
The little calf wanted to be there to remind us that our children are little story-listeners learning through our stories. Casual stories, judgments, and gossip, inform the young how to eat, love, give birth, and parent in such a way they will belong to the “herd.”
Grandparents used to be storytellers; children learned through oral history, family stories, fairytales, and legends. Hearing a story told (and animated) is much different than a story read or acted out on television.
If a child knows even one elder-Buffalo Storyteller, she will be given buffalo-story food. Later, even though she must go through her own hero’s journey initiation and ordeal, and climb her way out of the underworld, she will forever embody the story Medicine of the Buffalo Storyteller(s) in her youth. This kind of story becomes part of her internal map and thinking; it ensures her spiritual survival.
. . .

It is not likely an initiate will arrive at the Ninth Gate soon after giving birth, even if all goes well. There is a misguided notion that women who birth normally are not traumatized, or that they automatically attain some kind of magical Knowledge and can now teach others the “secret.” I would disagree.
It can take a long while to get to the Ninth Gate; there are no short cuts. We cannot get to the Ninth Gate by merely re-affirming positive affirmations, or by declaring we “learned a lesson,” or by just “letting it [i.e., the negative memories] go.” It is a deep descent, a steep climb. As Sufi Master Irina Tweedie once told me, “You have to want this as badly as a drowning man wants air.
The Key that opens this Gate is not one our rational minds can come up with, and certainly, no one else has the Key to our Ninth Gate.

The Elders in the North. The figures are small and few in number. In the scheme of this painting, you might not even notice them. In my own search for Ones Who Know, they were not easy to find. They don’t boast about their Medicine. They mind their own business, watching and waiting patiently for the initiate-Storyteller to arrive. They do not go down after the initiate-Storyteller, but perhaps Call to her from time to time.
Imagine birth in our culture when the numbers of Storytellers who complete this journey increase. This will happen when we begin to participate in birth as a hero’s journey, when we learn how to tell and how to listen to birth stories. This will happen when elders share their Birth Story Medicine with the initiates.

Today I have explained the symbols. In the next posting I will explain this Story, the pitfalls and tasks of this final Gate.


1 comment:

  1. Yesterday I was reminded of this post while watching a documentary in which they talked about Bison.They were shown to be able to fend off wolves, packs of hungry and hunting wolves, by simply encircling their little and weak ones, facing forward, and standing strong and ready to defend their lives. I found it to be quite appropriate to your idea of the Buffalo story-listener. How you must be able to quietly stand your ground, face outward while protecting those who cannot protect themselves, always knowing you are stronger than whatever it is that hunts you. Steadfast.

    Continually inspired by your words-