Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Can You Imagine?

I never would have made it as an American Indian Mother, given my sense of worry and dread. My nerves went crazy if one of my boys was ten minutes late getting home. I pictured them dead in a ditch somewhere, so I can't even fathom sending my son off on a vision quest into the wilderness.

Considered a boy's initiation into manhood, most tribes sent their sons off dressed in very little and armed with even less. Since I'm done most of my research on the Sioux tribe, I'll describe their tradition here:

Prior the the four-day quest, the youngster generally look part of a purification in a sweat lodge. In this lodge, water drizzled over heated stones created a steamy environment thought to enable the body to hear better the voice of the great spirit.

Afterward, clad only in a breechclout and moccasins, the Lakota son was sent to spend said four days and nights, without food, while he waited to experience something deeper than I can understand. According to America's Fascinating Indian Heritage from Reader's Digest, "waited to see with the eye in one's heart, rather than the eyes in one's head." I've also read elsewhere that new names were given the returning son...something to reflect his adult status and protect him from evil spirits. A medicine man was always on hand to help interpret the vision received. Without sustenance and lying in a vision pit, I think I would have conjured up a few things myself. I'm afraid of the dark. :)
The American Indian people of the old west possessed an intense regard for nature, although on a recent trip through an Apache Reservation in White County, Arizona, I saw little evidence of pride in the littered land and run-down houses. Seems we could all take a lesson from our red brothers of the past. Think about it before you toss that coke can or McD's wrapper out of your car window.


Margaret West said...

Funny you should say about the living conditions of the native americans now. When I was writing my book, I researched the Navajo to death. Their old way of life is now almost crushed beyond recognition. How sad such spiritual people, who lived from the land and respected it, are now so changed in every way.

Rhobin said...

There is an essay by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes called Alone on the Hilltop published in Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions (1971) which is about Lame Deer's vision quest as a 20th century Lakota Sioux. If you haven't already read it, you might find it as interesting as I did.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, Ginger,

I think that a vision quest is comparable to the notion of seeking enlightenment in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. However, for Native Americans the material world mirrored the spiritual world (whereas in Buddhism and Hinduism the material world is "maya", illusion) so seeking truth in the forest, naked as an animal, makes some sense.

One reason I never had kids, btw, is the fact that I knew I'd be terrible overprotective. I'd worry night and day and I know that is not healthy for a child (that's the way my own mom was). Hey, I obsess about the health of my cats!


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