Grandmother Maria Alice will be speaking in Portland this month on November 23. She is part of the Indigenous Council of 13 Grandmothers; women who have come from around the world to share ancient healing practices. Last year I went to Sedona with my friend, Dicksie, and sat in council with Grandmother Rita from Alaska, Grandmother Aama from Tibet and Grandmother Mona from the Hopi Nation.
Grandmother Aama used an interpreter, a man from Nepal who traveled with her and translated as she spoke of sisterhood and healing. Aama walked the circle giving each of us a blessing in the fierce way the Nepalese have for invoking the Gods. She stood before me and thumped her wooden prayer beads on my head, heart, shoulders and knees. “Give thanks for joy, give thanks for the pain, it is your chance to grow, give thanks for your life. It is your gift.”
Grandmother Mona was on her homeland in Arizona. She beat the drum, called the spirits from the four directions and burned sweet grass and sage.
“When a Hopi person is ill,” Mona said, “and has to go to the doctor, the whole family is expected to be there. Each person is instructed on the role they must play to help the healing process. A person is never expected to go alone because it would be too overwhelming.” (Sounds just like our medical system, don’t ya think?)
Mona wore a green shawl, print skirt and deerskin moccasins as she spoke of her own healing. “I had a heart problem; the community came together and made a fire. When the coals burned down my husband took a stick and arranged them in the shape of a heart, then bowed before me and waited until he had a vision and feeling about the place in my own heart that was damaged. When he knew, he returned to the heart-shaped coals and added new ones where the weakness had appeared. In that way, my heart problems were cured and I was able to recover my health.”
Grandma Rita was my favorite because she had the same bubbly spirit as the Dalai Lama. She wore a white dress embroidered with ravens and spider webs above fringed leather slippers. Rita could not walk easily or hear well, but danced like a little elf and laughed as she sang native songs with her Alaskan sister. She was sent by plane from Alaska at three years of age to learn English. She returned at six and was given the job of lighting candles beneath the statue of the holy mother for the duration of a thirty-one day religious festival.
“My mother asked me why I wanted to go church so early and I told her I wanted more time with the Holy Mother. Each day as I was lighting the candles I said the same prayer: “Holy Mother, I have come to your world about which I know nothing. Give me those things made for happiness so I may be a blessing in your world, and Mother if you would ask your son Jesus, to ask his father God what I will be when I grow up, than I will find my way in this place. At the end of thirty-one days – you can believe this or not – ” Rita continued, “as I came to light the candles for the last time, I noticed a tear on the forehead of the Holy Mother. I took it in my hands, wiped it on my forehead, over my eyes, across my shoulders and against the soles of my feet. Thank you, I smiled, now I will surely find my way.”
These women are good examples of living outside the cultural trance of aging, stagnation and limitation. Grandmother Maria Alica will be at the First Unitarian Church November -23 from 7-9.