One of my subscribers asked for a suggested reading list to help gain more insight into Native American spirituality and I am happy to oblige.
I have one caveat, however: Indigenous spirituality cannot truly be understood intellectually. It is based in the heart and the body and communicating with the natural world. I strongly recommend following the practices I share in my posts, particularly those that involve communication with nature. The reading will be a nice supplement to that.
This is a list of some of my favorites:
Last week, I shared Bear Heart’s story of how the cedar tree is a gift from the Creator. Today’s post shares more teachings about cedar.
The history of cedar
The cedar tree has been revered for it’s spiritual qualities by many cultures, and is frequently referenced in the Bible: it was chosen to build the temple of God in Jerusalem [1 Kings 6:9-20].
- The wood is not attacked by insects, has no knots and has remarkable longevity: the cedar forests of Lebanon often had a lifespan of over 2,000 years.
- Cedar wood was used to build the doors of sacred temples in ancient cultures and burned for purification.
- The branches grow wide and parallel to the ground. 19th Century author John Worcester compared the limbs of a cedar tree to the process of attaining successively higher natural and spiritual knowledge. I view it as climbing a ladder bringing me closer to the Great Spirit.
“Everything is part of the Sacred Hoop and everything is related. Our existence is so intertwined that our survival depends upon maintaining a balanced relationship with everything within the Sacred Hoop.” Bear Heart
Earth Day is the perfect day to focus on the Sacred Hoop of All Creation and how to establish a relationship with the natural world around us.
In indigenous cultures, the circle is sacred — when we sit in a circle there is a spirit of oneness and everyone is equal.
The elders teach that the universe is in harmony as long as the Sacred Hoop, the circle of life, is intact.
The Sacred Hoop includes all of life:
- the four directions (West, North, East and South),
- the earth,
- the waters,
- winged creatures,
- swimmers (fish) and
- “creepy crawlers” (insects).
They all bring their own unique contribution to the earth and one another.
This story about the Cedar Tree was told to me by Bear Heart:
“A long time ago, there lived a human being who always went out of his way to help the people of his village.
“When the elders could no longer hunt for themselves, he would bring them food.
“A young couple getting married could count on him to help make their tipi poles and gather the hides needed to cover their lodge.
“If a child’s family was killed, he would take that child in and raise it as his own.
“And there were many more good deeds he performed that no one knew of, because he never sought praise or attention for his actions. Every day he remained alert to what he could do to help his tribe, and he did so with good humor and enthusiasm.
“Many years went by in this way and all the while the Creator watched this man and took note of his virtues.
“At long last, when the man’s hair had turned to snow, and the days ahead were becoming fewer, the Creator thought, ‘All these years I’ve watched him help my people. I could use someone like him to be helping out all the time. I’m going to immortalize him.’
“So the Creator turned the man into a cedar tree.”
A young Native American man was talking to his grandfather about how he felt.
He said, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
“One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one.
“The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.”
The grandson asked him, “Which wolf will win the fight in my heart?”