Read an Excerpt
During the last twenty years, many people have begun to realize that unless the human race listens to the "voices of the first world," the voices, that is, of those original human cultures that lived in naked and reverent intimacy with nature, it may well die out. These "voices" still speak to us in those tribal cultures that have survived against immense odds into the modern era--in, for example, the Kogi of Columbia, the Aborigines of Australia, the Hopi and Navaho of North America, the Eskimo of the Arctic Circle, and the nomads of the Himalayas.
What do these voices have to tell us? They tell us of our essential "inter-being" with nature; they tell us of the mystery of the world we inhabit, which they know to be everywhere sustained and saturated with divine presence; they tell us of the necessity of profound respect for everything that lives and happens; they tell us of a peace that is the birthright of all those who honor the Great Web of Life; they tell us of the urgency of humility before the majesty of the universe; they tell us again and again of the depth of our responsibility as human beings to be guardians of the natural world. "All life is equal," Oren Lyons, chief of the Onondaga, informed the United Nations in 1977. "We forget and we consider ourselves superior, but we are after all a mere part of the Creation. . . . We must continue to understand where we are. . . . We stand between the mountain and the ant . . . as part and parcel of the Creation. It is our responsibility, since we have been given the minds to take care of these things."
Such a radical, egalitarian vision not only reverses the arrogance ofmodern materialism but also implicitly challenges the world- and body-denying mysticisms and their often elitist and hierarchical modes of transmission that were to develop later. My own belief is that as consciousness of the Mother growsin our culture, we will increasingly turn to our ancestors for guidance on how to live with her and in her and for help in developing new egalitarian and "tribal" forms of transmission. We cannot go back to a tribal world, but we have many necessary lessons to learn from its "voices" and its humble practice. As is said in the Ojibway prayer quoted in this section:
Teach us love, compassion, and honor
That we may heal the earth
And heal each other.
My words are tied in one
With the great mountains,
With the great rocks,
With the great trees,
In one with my body
And my heart.
Do you all help me
With supernatural power,
And you, Day,
And you, Night,
All of you see me
One with this world!
From a Yokuts prayer
the supreme io and the creation of the world
Io dwelt within the breathing-space of immensity.
The Universe was in darkness with water everywhere.
There was no glimmer of dawn, no clearness, no light.
And he began by saying these words,--
. . ."Darkness become a light possessing darkness."
And at once light appeared.
(He) then repeated those self-same words in this manner . . .
"Light, become a darkness-possessing light."
And again an intense darkness supervened.
Then a third time He spake saying:
"Let there be one darkness above,
Let there be one darkness below . . .
Let there be one light above,
Let there be one light below, . . .
A dominion of light,
A bright light."
And now a great light prevailed.
(Io) then looked to the waters which compassed him about,
and spake a fourth time, saying:
"Ye waters of Tai-kama, be ye separate.
Heaven be formed." Then the sky became suspended.
"Bring forth thou Tupua-horo-nuku."
And at once the moving earth lay stretched abroad.
Those words (of Io) became impressed on the minds of our ancestors, and by them were they transmitted down through generations, our priest joyously referring to them as being:
The ancient and original sayings.
The ancient and original words.
The ancient and original cosmological wisdom (wananga).
Which caused growth from the void,
As witness the tidal waters,
The evolved heaven,
The birth-given evolved earth.
I am the wind
I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave on the ocean,
I am the murmur of leaves rustling,
I am the rays of the sun,
I am the beam of the moon and stars,
I am the power of trees growing,
I am the bud breaking into blossom,
I am the movement of the salmon swimming,
I am the courage of the wild boar fighting,
I am the speed of the stag running,
I am the strength of the ox pulling the plough,
I am the size of the mighty oak tree,
And I am the thoughts of all people
Who praise my beauty and grace.
From the ancient Welsh Black Book of Camarthan
We call upon the earth, our planet home, with its beautiful depths and soaringheights, its vitality and abundance of life, and together we ask that itteach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the mountains, the Cascades and the Olympics, the high green
valleys and meadows filled with wild flowers, the snows that never melt, the
summits of intense silence, and we ask that they teach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon, that flow in our
rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields and we ask that they
Teach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the land which grows our food, the nurturing soil, the fertile fields,the abundant gardens and orchards, and we ask that they
Teach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the forests, the great trees reaching strongly to the sky with earth in
their roots and the heavens in their branches, the fir and the pine and thecedar, and we ask them toteach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon the creatures of the fields and forests and the seas, our brothers andsisters the wolves and deer, the eagle and dove, the great whales and the dolphin,the beautiful Orca and salmon who share our Northwest home, and we ask them toteach us, and show us the Way.
We call upon all those who have lived on this earth, our ancestors and our friends,who dreamed the best for future generations, and upon whose lives our lives arebuilt, and with thanksgiving, we call upon them to teach us, and show us the Way.
And lastly, we call upon all that we hold most sacred, the presence and power of
the Great Spirit of love and truth which flows through all the Universe, to be withus toteach us, and show us the Way.
Chinook blessing litany
The universal mother
The mother of our songs, the mother of all our seed, bore us in the beginning of things and so she is the mother of all types of men, the mother of all nations. She is the mother of the thunder, the mother of the streams, the mother of the trees and all things. She is the mother of the world and of the older brothers, the stonepeople. She is the mother of the fruits of the earth and of all things. She is the mother of our youngest brothers, and the strangers. She is the mother of our dance paraphernalia, of all our temples and she is the only mother we possess. She alone is the mother of the fire and the Sun and the Milky Way. . . . She is the mother of the rain and the only mother we possess. And she has left us a token in all temples . . . a token in the form of songs and dances.
She has no cult, and no prayers are really directed to her, but when the fields are sown and the priests chant their incantations the Kagaba say, "And then we think of the one and only mother of the growing things, of the mother of all things." One prayer was recorded. "Our mother of the growing fields, our mother of the streams, will [you] have pity upon us? For [to] whom do we belong? Whose seeds are we? To our mother alone do we belong."
O my mother Nut,
stretch your wings over me.