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.