The Australian Medicine Woman
Crystals: Return them to the Earth!
“I don’t offer workshops. I offer ceremonials.” My words in response to a request by the Omega Institute in Upstate New York to come present at their facility in the Spring of 1988. With a mutual understanding, I agreed.
The grounds were well kept. Lawns, nicely manicured. Rather like the group of people sitting on the forest surrounded lawn where I had asked attendees to meet. Sitting on the grass, rather than in padded folding chairs in a conference room, I felt it was a much more appropriate place to be for whatever it was that would be offered by the Grandfathers and Grandmothers through my voice that beautiful sunny day.
This morning’s offerings were to be an open forum where I would offer a Drumming Journey then respond to questions and investigations presented by the folks gathered. A few inquiries were fielded regarding what to do with crystals, how to use them, how to care for them. As I began to speak on this several people pulled out – from leather pouches, silk bags, pockets, and bras – a variety of clear quartz crystals, placing them on the mown grass before them, or held aloft in great veneration. Though recognizing the beatitude of innocence of these crystal bearers, I was nonetheless horrified at what I saw before me. As if they were teeth pulled from the mouth of our Earth Mother, these shiny shards of silica presented as tokens of one’s spirituality caused my gut to clench in agony as a dizziness set upon me.
“What to do with these crystals? PUT THEN BACK IN THE GROUND!” I stated with firm conviction. “What you hold in your hand is the product of the rape of the Earth. You have ripped the very bones of the Earth from her womb. You have weakened the passages by which the Earth transmits life force around the planet. If you truly want to do something for the Earth, bury those crystals beneath the soil!” The looks of shock on the faces of the attendees, their obvious discomfort expressed in the squirming of their body language, the stunned silence, all of these showed that what they had just heard was not what they were expecting.
From out of the forest a woman stepped forth. I had glimpsed her peeking out from behind a tree, earlier. She was somewhat older than I, a wild mane of curly dark hair, her deep skin color showed that she had lived a life outdoors. Right into the middle of our circle she charged. Throwing up her hands, pivoting in a circle to face each of us in turn, she declared “Listen to this man! He is the only person here at this beautiful place that I have heard say anything that makes sense!’ Her Australian accent and appearance as an Aboriginal was confirmed with her next statement. ”I have been sent as the voice of Wollumbin of Arunta! Our sacred mountain Wollumbin is a giant crystal. It is the responsibility of the Aboriginal people to maintain and heal the earth grid that is sustained by the crystals beneath the ground, just as this man has said. He knows! He is of your land. Listen to him!” This Woman from the Forest, in her impassioned speech, had just driven the nail home.
“Lorraine Mafi-Williams,” she said. “How come such a young man know so well?” I laughed, answering “Because this young man speaks the voices of the Ancestors. He sits on the lap of our Mother.” Well, we were off and running. Lorraine told me of how she, and a couple of women, were traveling this place (USA) looking for someone who knew what they had lost. She was looking for that person. “What did they lose?” I asked. “Long story,” she says. “Come to my home in Arizona. I will listen to your story.” She looks at me, slyly, and says “You pretty smart for a young man.” “Me, I am just an Ancestor taking a look around” I replied.
Arizona: Clouds and Magic
Not long after Lorraine and her two traveling companions, Denise Greenaway and Jill, arrived in Arizona. Lorraine is a filmmaker (fillum-maker she pronounced it), Denise was Lorraine’s coordinator and organizer, Jill a photographer. Our conversations revolve around the current state of indigenous rights and the necessity of keeping alive the old knowledge. Lorraine, I find, is much more than an accomplished filmmaker, actress, and activist. She is a Medicine Woman, a carrier of the ways and stories of her people. She asks me, kinda coyly, one day “So what can you do?” I ‘got’ what she was asking, and told her of how my mother, who had died when I was 3 years old, was a Weather Spirit, and I could talk with her if the weather needed balancing. “Show me,” she says. I invite the women outside. We are under a nice blue sky with white fluffy clouds here and there. “See that cloud, sitting on its own, there above that tree? I’m going to disappear that cloud.” Lorraine nods, with an uplift of the chin. In a matter of moments, the cloud dissipates. “Now, you choose one” I direct her. Lorraine indicates another, rather larger, cloud sitting above the mountain to our north. I nod, we all turn to face the cloud. “As this cloud begins to grow smaller, look at how that cloud to the left of it will begin to grow larger. You may even notice deeper blue pulsation in and around that cloud. And just maybe you will see some bright sparkles spiraling between us and that cloud. And then… the wind will shift direction, and begin to blow from our backs (a slight breeze had been coming from the west, our left). Ok, now it will begin!” As described, the cloud dissipated, the other grew larger, the breeze shifted. “Ah, yes. Some of our fellas are weather workers as well.” We all turned to go back inside. Lorraine tugged my sleeve and held me back. “You can climb all the way up, but when you get to number seven-level you have to go through to nine. You can’t get through 8. Number 8 is there to prevent anyone who doesn’t know-how from getting to the Big Fella of the Stars.” I stood there with my jaw dropped! She had just solved the mystery for me of the one thing that had been blocking my path for the last six months! I had been ‘climbing the Sacred Tree’, moving thorough all seven earthly realms, and had been seeking to get to the eighth and ninth levels. The Elders had told me that once in the ninth realm I would be able to commune with the Starry One who maintained the original pattern of creation by way of star alignments. Once there, in the ninth realm, I could activate a re-alignment for those who had lost their (starry) path, and therefore were lost in the world, without guidance or anchor. The key, as just revealed by Lorraine: ‘You can’t get to nine by going through 8. You have to go from 7 directly to 9.’ I laughed at the sparkle in her eyes. She had just shared with me what she could do. That is the way it is with us Spirit people. We must be able to do what we can say we can do. If anyone walks around saying they are a shaman, ask them to show you what they can do. They are required to do so. If they cannot, or dance around it… they aren’t really who they say they are. We don’t have diplomas. We have magic.
The White Buffalo of Wollumbin
Lorraine told me the story of how there was a white spirit animal, the likes of which they (the Australian Aboriginals) had never seen in their world. It resided on Wollumbin (Mt. Waring) and was in the caretakership of her Aunt Millie. One day some of the fellas, she told me, were in a movie theater watching a Charles Bronson movie. In one scene a white buffalo walks out of a snowstorm. The fellas jumped up shouting “It’s Aunt Millie’s spirit animal. That’s the animal of Wollumbin!” So now they knew what the animal was, a white buffalo, and which continent it came from. Their oral history had told of when all the landmasses were one. As the continents split off and moved away, the spirit of Wollumbin was separated from its people and continent. The Australian people knew that the people who cared for this spirit had feathers coming out of their head, feathers which went all the way to the ground. They now knew these to be the tribal peoples of North America. Lorraine had come to the USA in quest of the head feather people in order to let them know that their spirit animal was in her land and that they could come retrieve it. She and Denise had been traveling, meeting with Native American elders to let them know. She had been told that she needed to speak with the Hopi in order to close the hoop of her journey. “Will you take us to meet with the Hopi?” she asked.
Off we set, Lorraine, Denise, Jill, my friend Shell, and myself. Our drive took us through Sedona and up Oak Creek Canyon, some of the most beautiful terrain in the USA. Towering spires of red rock, a deeply cut canyon filled with lush green trees and sparkling waters are the scenic vistas through which we traveled. At the upper end of Oak Creek Canyon, on Highway 89A, are the switchbacks. It is a full half-mile rise in elevation from the creekside to the top, over the course of two miles of curvy, sheer-sided roadway. Our route takes us through Flagstaff, then to Tuba City, where we hang a right towards Hopi lands, and Hotevilla. Once we arrive we ask for directions to Grandmother Caroline’s house. She lives way over yonder at the edge of the mesa, we are told. Off through the high desert we go!
Hotevilla: Hopi Elders
Grandmother Caroline was one of the most highly respected Elders of the Hopi at that time (she has long since passed). We pull up to her door. She comes out to greet us, not even knowing who we are. Behind her an older Hopi fellow peers out. He smiles big and welcomes us. Grandfather Martin is his name. Grandfather Martin is known to me by reputation as the keeper of Inscription Rock, the Hopi ‘prophecy rock’. Our fortune is doubly blessed this day! There is also a man (of the Potawatomi Nation we learn later) sitting on the couch who is also visiting Grandfather Martin and has brought him to Grandmother Caroline’s house that day. We enter and sit down. We have brought some folds of cloth… yellow, blue, red and white, the colors of corn that sustain the Hopi people, that is presented to Grandmother Caroline. Not having been prepared to also meet with Grandfather Martin, nonetheless, I take from my pocket a pouch of hand-rolling tobacco and offer it to the old man. He takes a pinch and hands the pouch back to me. I then roll a tobacco and hand it to the fellow sitting next to me on the couch. This offering of tobacco is a way of recognizing holiness and friendship. The man next to me nods his head and places the tobacco in his shirt pocket. Grandmother Caroline, meanwhile, is perusing the colored cloths and nodding her head.
We introduce ourselves, explaining that the calling of our visit was to introduce Lorraine, as a Spirit Person of Arunta, to native elders. The women set to talking. Martin, the fellow on the couch and I speak, and fluid as water our talk turns to the return of the people of the planet back to the Earth, and how it is necessary for the survival of humanity. Grandmother Caroline walks with Lorraine, Denise, Jill and Shell outside where, I learn later, they bring water to the corn crops while talking of Women’s Mysteries, as it should be. In these simple and harmonious ways of Earth Peoples, the accentuation of labors and mysteries fall to each, men and women, with an easy presence, like the rising of the Sun above the Earth’s horizon. Unforced. Rhythmic. Potent.
Inscription Rock and Piki
The womenfolk come back in the house. After some discussion, in Hopi, between Grandfather Martin and Grandmother Caroline, they announce to us that Grandfather Martin will be taking us out to Inscription Rock. Now, ya gotta understand. You don’t just go out to Inscription Rock on a whim. It is one of the holy sites of the traditional Hopi. Some refer to it as Prophecy Rock, but that is a misnomer. For the Hopi, it is more instructional than prophetic. We piled into my Jeep and followed the directions Grandfather Martin gave. Arriving, we parked the vehicle a respectful distance from the rock wall and walked the rest of the way over to it. I think we were all in awe to be standing at Inscription Rock with the very person who was the caretaker of, not just the physical wall itself, but of its message. As Grandfather Martin described to us the significance of each element of the inscription, he came to one point of the journey the etched lines indicated to one such as he, who could read and interpret them. With a stick in his hand as a pointer, he held the stick at a particular junction of lines and spoke of how, when all the events described by this inscription had come to pass, then the Purifiers would come to cleanse the Earth of all those who had turned away from Creator’s instructions of living a good life. His eyes locked onto me, and he nodded his head. I felt chills running through my body. Then, as before, the moment was done. Grandfather Martin went on with the rest of the instructions given the Hopi, and all peoples, by their Creator Massau’u. I will not attempt to describe nor advance an insight upon the Hopi prophecies. They are not mine to do so. They are the Hopi’s, and only they have the knowledge, understanding, and right to share those instructions given to them from Massau’u.
Returning to Grandmother Caroline’s home, we were given available floor space upon which to sleep, and we slept so fine. When morning came we said our goodbyes to these wonderful people who had received us into their homes and hearts that day. In parting, Grandmother Caroline gave us each a piki roll, a thin crispy rolled up sheet of blue corn, treated with wood ash in its preparation, and baked upon a hearthstone next to a fire. Piki – and blue corn in general – is the food of life for the Hopi. To be gifted piki is an acknowledgment that one’s life is worthy of continuance.
Big Mountain Sundance
Though it was late morning by the time we drove away, I let Lorraine know that there was one more stop to be made that day. While the Hopi were an authentic tribal people, she was looking for the natives who had feathers to the ground coming from their heads. I let her know that our next stop was to meet with those people.
There was an area of disputed territory between the Hopi and Diné (Navajo). Between them, they had come to an arrangement for peaceful co-existence, wherein the Navajo currently living upon the land could remain until their days were gone. That is until the US Federal government decreed the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974. As a clause of this interference, the Navajo residents of Big Mountain (the actual place in dispute) were to be forced off the lands, out of their homes and resettled in Flagstaff, Az. The traditional Hopi and Diné spoke with one voice honoring the original agreement, whereas the non-traditional Hopi tribal council and the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) had already been using force and violence to remove elder Diné from their hogans, in the vast northern Arizona desert, in order to displace them to the foreign environs of a city.
The Diné knew that this was a spiritual and political quagmire. Activists (otherwise known as people who are standing up for their personal sovereignty and dignity) amongst the Diné had contacted the American Indian Movement (AIM) and through them requested a Lakota Sundance to be done at Big Mountain, in order to shift the spiritual and political dynamic and tension. The Lakota, in the person of Leonard Crow Dog and his family, responded, and set up a Sundance at Big Mountain during the time when the BIA had announced they would send in federal marshals to forcefully remove all remaining Navajos from the Disputed Land. It was into this that we stepped. Oh boy!
Leonard Crow Dog was known to me through family ties. We sought out his camp, and after being vetted by his Warriors, were brought to his campfire. We were offered coffee, and sat around the fire, informing Leonard Crow Dog of the reason why we had come. Lorraine then spoke of her people’s caretakership of the White Buffalo since the continents drifted apart, and how she had come to let the feather-haired people know that they were welcome to come to Australia to retrieve their sacred animal. After many “Uh-huh!” and “I see” comments, we were offered food and a place to camp for the night, which we graciously accepted. I do not know the upshot of that connection. I was but the courier of the meeting. What transpired was of the provenance of those indigenous peoples, and was not mine to put my nose into. I do recall that Lorraine and Leonard spoke of indigenous land rights. As the Australian Aboriginals were at that time just being able to assert their historical rights, she sought out the guidance of Leonard, who, as an AIM member, was well versed in how to contend with the legalities and approaches to be taken. In the meantime, Sundance was happening! The dancers were mostly Diné and Lakota, while the Drum held mostly Lakota drummers and singers, as they were the ones who knew the songs. Women – Diné, Lakota, Anglo, and Hispanic – sat on blankets spread upon the ground, singing chorally, trilling beautifully when the medicine was strong. Night descended, the drums carried us into the sleep as a child within the womb, the Mother’s heartbeat strong and present. Morning came, we packed up our sleeping gear, shared a cup of coffee with the folks in Crow Dog’s camp, and hit the road.
White Buffalo People Found
I had spent a number of years living with the Southern Utes in southwest Colorado. My younger brother was married into the tribe. A few hours’ drive brought us to Ignacio, Colorado to my brother’s house. Introductions were made, coffee was poured, and we got down to the serious business of discussing where the deer and elk herds were that summer, and how the spring was faring up on Horse Mountain, and catching up on family members and friends on the Rez. By then Gramma, the matriarch of our ‘clan’ was at the table, as well as a few others of our extended family. Word gets around pretty quick in Indian Country, even without telephones (back then). Again, Lorraine shared her mission and purpose in coming to meet with the native tribal peoples. Gramma took a keen interest in Lorraine’s story and asked her about that white spirit animal in her land. Lorraine described how it lived in a white patch of rock up on the side of Mount Wollumbin, and of how the spirit animal would step forth from that white rock and walk around up there, for all to see. Gramma nodded her head and said “We got one of those white rocks on a mountain up north. That is where our White Buffalo lives. Those white people they call it Mount Lamborn because they think it looks like a sheep. But we know it is the White Buffalo.” The connection had been made. I could see it in the relaxed body language of Lorraine following that conversation. We stayed the night, well-fed on buffalo stew and sweet corn. Morning comes, a few cups of coffee are drunk and farewells are made. It is a long day’s drive back home to Arizona, so we set off down the highway with no stops intended along the way.
Home, Home, Home Again
As I recall, Lorraine stayed on for just a couple more days before continuing on her way. The whole experience was, for me, powerful, revealing and deeply moving. This feeling was highlighted when, prior to her departure, Lorraine presented me with a gift of a sweater that bore the colors of the Aboriginal Flag: red, black and yellow. She told me this wasn’t just a sweater to keep me warm, but that it embodied the recognition of the Australian Aboriginal peoples of me as their representative in the USA. I asked Lorraine what the responsibilities were of such a distinction. She replied that I would be called upon to speak in support of them when the time came. “You will be called,” she said in parting. Seems like I had heard that before.
Jade Grigori ©2020