HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 2, No. 2&3, Spring-Summer 1983

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 2 No. 2&3, Spring-Summer 1983

Book Reviews
Becca Harber

Medicine Woman, by Lynn V. Andrews
Publisher Harper & Row, 1981, 288 pp

"Remember, everything must be born of woman. It is a power the world has forgotten. Men are interlopers. Many people, including some of my people, do not understand and would be angry for my words. Nevertheless, it is law. Woman is the flowering tree. You are the center of the universe, of creation, the mother earth. You need to relearn this and build up your strength ... Continue to use your intuition -- you can never solve a problem on the level at which it is born ... Be the master of your destiny, because you have the necessity to manifest yourself .. Follow the right trail and become one thing. Become a woman. In your world, womanhood is lost."  -- Agnes Whistling Elk

Medicine Woman is Lynn Andrews' thought-provoking and absorbing account of her apprenticeship with an old Cree medicine woman, Agnes Whistling Elk, who teaches her ancient ways of womanness from a time when women had as much power as men and were recognized, unlike today, as the source of all power. In this process, Lynn awakens physical and spiritual strengths in herself and a deep sense of connectedness with all life and its beauty and magic that set her more and more free of the constraints of her culturally learned beliefs about her own potential. This is a story of a comfortable Beverly Hills collector and dealer of ethnic power objects who struggles with the calling of her dreams and circumstances, and finally follows it into the completely strange way of life of her wilderness-living teacher.

Lynn shares her ignorance and arrogance as she enters an often frightening, dangerous, and discomforting world whose knowledge and methods for learning challenge all her values and ways of making sense of things. "Say, 'My beliefs are not necessarily true, even though I think they are,'" says Agnes, as Lynn looks at the large pile of rocks she has chosen to each represent one of her beliefs, and then watches, with a sense of inner release, as a passing cow scatters them far and wide.

It is a time of confusion, of great physical challenges, and learning skills of awareness and blending in with her environment.

Lynn must rely on her own growing personal power, the awareness of how little she really knows, and trust in Agnes and her surroundings as she finds the usual worldly items she has looked to -- designer clothes, credit cards, cars, etc. -- useless in the continual tests of her inner strength and intuition.

Lynn's story is both a literal one and a symbolic one for her readers, men and women alike, although perhaps especially inspiring to women. Her desire to possess the marriage basket, itself "the ancient way of woman ... woven from the dreams of many women," leads her to rediscover the creative powers of ancient and animal sides of her woman self, allowing her powerful wolf nature and unique medicine to emerge. Her preparation for the stealing of the basket from Red Dog, apprenticed-turned-sorcerer who stole it from Agnes, embodies many of the qualities contemporary women have ignored as so many of us have worked toward "masculine" definitions of success and well-being as including material wealth, prestige, dominance of others, and lack of care for and contact with nature in daily life. "All the medicines are good and have power. White people have this thing that says, 'I'm not a snake. I'm not a squirrel. I'm something important.' They separate, and that's their tragedy." (Agnes)

The story is also a metaphor for the need of men and most cultures to regain balance by manifesting this "feminine" essence at a time when male-directed values and goals have become so excessive as to endanger life itself. The basket's fibers entering Lynn's belly, a reconnecting with the ancient ways of woman through direct experience and assertion of personal power and risktaking, is a statement of what is called for and possible in all of us.

It is important to consider that the specific details of Lynn's experiences and the instructions Agnes gives her are meant for her individually. Yet her story tells and reminds us of ancient wisdoms that we can take with us on our own unique journeys through life no matter what heartfelt path we are on.

I Send A Voice, by Evelyn Eaton
Publisher Quest Books, 1978

Evelyn Eaton, now in her 80's, was an older woman who, through a set of unexpected circumstances, became a Pipe-Woman and a deeply committed participant in native American spirituality. I Send A Voice is the personal story of her gradually growing involvement with Arapahoe and Paiute neighbors, including vivid descriptions of some of the sweat lodges, vision fasts, and other ceremonies in which she participated. It is a story of a white woman following her heart's guidance to attend gatherings at which she was, at first, the only white, and dealing with the racial barriers that took time to transcend through her obvious whole-hearted participation, sensitivity, and humor. What becomes clear is that the power and beauty of her experiences and visions is integrally related with her love for the earth and all its creatures and the growing friendship and trust between her and her fellow practitioners.

In an absorbing story that inspires the reader to seek one's own spiritual path in whatever old or new forms that fit for you, Eaton movingly shares the vulnerability she felt in her early ceremonies and at the time when she told the medicine man her sense that she was supposed to have a pipe to use for healing work, especially when the only pipe-carriers she knew of were Indian men. For anyone who is interested in the spiritual traditions of our land shared out of direct involvement and especially for women who want to discover a strong loving woman who integrates her new practices without leaving behind her integrity and power as a woman, this book is a beauty. Evelyn Eaton is truly one of our grandmothers with much to share about living fully in spirit, no matter what forms of spiritual expression we choose.

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