Radical, man

Samain and the Holiseason Moon

Black Mountain

Monday gratefuls: Rigel. Her head on my pillow most of the night. Kep, so happy to get up. Orion of the morning. Skeletal Aspens. Lodgepoles waiting with spring loaded Branches. For Snow. Shadow Mountain. Solid Rock beneath my house, my feet. Black Mountain. Which tucks in the Sun.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Mitzvah

Tarot: See notes from my hexagram spread next post


Holiseason. A primer. I discovered holimonth 15 years ago. That was December with its abundance of holidays. Then I extended the idea to holiseason. (discovered later that this was a word anyhow. But, hey.) Holiseason by my reckoning runs from Samain on October 31st to the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. [A Kate aside here. She left Sunday School for good when one of her teachers, 4th or 5th grade, kept pronouncing the holiday epi-fanny.]

Holiseason contains multiple holidays, many of the holidays of light like Divali, Christmas, Hannukah. Thanksgiving. Posada. Advent. Kwanza. Winter Solstice. Gregorian New Year. Dia de los muertos. All Saints. And, of course, Samain. It’s my favorite time of the year. Lots to celebrate.

Reflecting on my radical career. One thing in particular. A long time ago, either 1975 or 1980, I attended a conference. Liberation Theology in the Americas. There were two and I can’t recall which one I attended. Cornel West. Harvey Cox. Lettie Russel. My roommate was a priest from Guatemala. Lots of impassioned speeches. Marxist analysis. Great meal conversations. Bus tours by a Detroit Socialist party that had made some political progress.

At the time I thought the conference was important for the clergy and theologians. Only later did I realize that the most radical moment came from a member of the Iroquois Confederacy, a medicine man in a 700 year lineage of medicine men.

At the end of the conference he performed a ritual typical of the Confederacy, planting a pine tree as a sign of peace. In the original rituals tomahawks and bows and arrows and knives would have been placed into the hole, covered in soil, the tree planted on top of them.

Afterward, and this part of the story I’ve told many times, he gave a long prayer. I listened carefully. You can read it below.*

When he finished, I went up to him and asked, “I noticed you didn’t mention the two-leggeds.” Oh, he said. Yes. The people are the most fragile of all. We need all the other spiritual forces healthy if we are to survive. So we pray for them. If they are well, so are we.

That was the radical moment at this most radical of all theological gatherings. I see it now. I carried on with work for economic justice: affordable housing, supporting unions, worker owned cooperative businesses like food co-ops and grocery stores and drug stores. Restaurants. Direct financial aid to the unemployed seeking work. Until.

Kate and I attended a Physicians for Social Responsibility conference in Iowa City. On climate change. This was in the mid-1990’s. A national conference they had now well-known figures in the climate change movement presenting. Each day we would go back to our hotel and express wonder that this science was not public. And, it wasn’t then. At least not enough for anyone to notice.

No habitable planet. No need for justice. I decided then that the remainder of my political work would be on climate change. And so it was. But, I could have made the same realization back in 1975 or 1980. Had I listened to the Iroquois medicine man.





  •   Reimagining Faith: Tree of Peace

Spring                                                              Bee Hiving Moon

The essence of the Peacemaker legend follows as told by Mohawk chief Jake Swamp at the planting of a Tree of Peace in Philadelphia in 1986. “In the beginning, when our Creator made humans, everything needed to survive was provided. Our Creator asked only one thing: Never forget to appreciate the gifts of Mother Earth. Our people were instructed how to be grateful and how to survive. But during a dark age in our history 1000 years ago, humans no longer listened to the original instructions. Our Creator became sad, because there was so much crime, dishonesty, injustice and war. So Creator sent a Peacemaker with a message to be righteous and just, and make a good future for our children seven generations to come. He called all warring people together and told them as long as there was killing there would be no peace of mind. There must be a concerted effort by humans for peace to prevail. Through logic, reasoning and spiritual means, he inspired the warriors to bury their weapons and planted atop a sacred Tree of Peace”

It is said that the Tree of Peace given by the Peacemaker symbolizes the Great Law of Peace. The symbol is a great white pine, and it is said to shelter all nations who commit themselves to Peace. Beneath the tree are buried the weapons of war of the original five nations. Above the tree is an eagle that sees far. Also, four long roots stretch out in the four sacred directions, and they are called the white roots of peace. The Peacemaker invited any man or nation desiring to commit to the Great Law of Peace to trace the roots to their source, and take refuge beneath the Tree of Peace. The Peacemaker’s teachings stressed the power of reason to assure righteousness, justice and health. Faithkeeper Oren Lyons, an Onondaga, states that the Great Law of Peace includes freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right of women to participate in government.

The seed-idea underlying all Iroquois philosophy is that peace is the will of the Creator, and it is the ultimate spiritual goal and natural order of things. The prayer below comes from the people of the Iroquois Confederacy. The prayer is based on the tradition of interconnectedness that the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee possess. This prayer is said to be the backbone of the Iroquois culture. The prayer expresses the belief that rather than take the world for granted, it must be respected, and that we must thank all living things in order to align our minds with creation and the Creator. Usually, a faithkeeper is selected to share the prayer of thanksgiving at the opening and closing of social, government, and ceremonial events. The prayer is comprised of three levels:


Spiritual Forces on the Earth, Spiritual Forces in the Sky, Spiritual Forces beyond the Sky

The Spiritual Forces on the Earth are:
the People, our Mother Earth, the Waters, the Fish, the Grasses, the Plants,
our Sustenance, the Animals, the Trees, and the Birds.
Throughout the year we bring our minds together as one
We give thanks to one another
All year long she gives us all that we need

We give thanks to our Mother Earth
Everyday it quenches our thirst
We give thanks to the waters In winter it replenishes the lakes.
We give thanks to the waters

During the year they purify the lakes
We give thanks to the fish
When the wind turns warm a green blanket appears
We give thanks to the grasses
In early summer the flowers turn sweet
We give thanks to the medicinal plants
In early summer they help us survive
We give thanks to the food plants
In midsummer we dance for the green corn
We give thanks to our sustenance
In midsummer we dance for the red beans
We give thanks to our sustenance
During the winter their pelts warm the soul
We give thanks to the animal creatures
Since early times they have been our companions
We give thanks to the animal creatures
In early spring we are glad they reappear
We give thanks to the animal creatures
At one point in time it became a symbol of peace
We give thanks to the trees
At the end of spring the sap will flow
We give thanks to the trees
In early morning they carry messages
We give thanks to the birds
In times of danger he warns the people
We give thanks to the birds
In the summer they sing sweet songs

We give thanks to the birds Spiritual Forces in the Sky are:
the Four Winds, our Grandfather Thunder, our Elder Brother Sun, our Grandmother Moon, and the Stars
Throughout the seasons they refresh the air
We give thanks to the Four Winds
In early summer they bring the falling drops
We give thanks to our Grandfather Thunder
Every morning he brings light and warmth
We give thanks to our Elder Brother Sun
Every night she watches over the arrival of children
We give thanks to our Grandmother Moon
In the night their sparkle guides us home
We give thanks to the stars
The Highest Spiritual Forces beyond the Sky are: our Protectors, Handsome Lake, and the Creator
All the time they remind us how to live
We give thanks to our protectors
At one point in time he brought back the words of the Creator
We give thanks to Handsome Lake
Everyday we will share with one another all of these good things
We give thanks to the Creator.
– Prayer of Thanksgiving, Iroquois Confederacy

This entry was posted in Dogs, Family, Fourth Phase, Great Wheel, Great Work, Holidays, Memories, Politics, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Shadow Mountain, Sierra Club, Weather +Climate. Bookmark the permalink.

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