By Kandace Keithley
Crow teaches the lesson that all great Spiritual teachers have come to share; and, if we are willing to walk with her through our Holy Times and Holy Spaces of Sorrow, she will heal our pain so we may be of service to our brothers and sisters.
It is not without great amusement that I realize my first full post since the WWR relaunch into Bird Clan Messenger is the message I started writing at the most profoundly life changing period of my life. The point at which my Medicine Walk on the Red Path began in earnest: “Crow Medicine: Where There Is Sorrow, There is Holy Ground.”
It was shortly after beginning to work on the draft that I became blocked and unable to receive any messages or ideas about the article. And it was the beginning of a long time away from my writing, the beginning of a story that had to be lived rather than written.
In May of last year, I had been going through the massive pressure of receiving enormous amounts of Medicine teachings from my guides and the Ancestors while continuing my own healing journey (which always brings pain and confusion), combined with several huge and scary transitions in my personal life.
At that time, I felt called to write about the poet Oscar Wilde’s wise teaching, “Where There is Sorrow, There is Holy Ground,” as it was the anniversary of my best friend’s untimely death only three years before.
Little did I know that my guides had brought this teaching to my attention to prepare me for what was to become the darkest, most difficult period of my journey.
In the very week of the anniversary of Susan’s passing, my guides asked me to attend the funeral of a man I had never heard of – but who I soon learned was a respected Cree Elder in the Toronto Native Community. Vern Harper was a powerful force in bringing Traditional Indigenous teachings and medicine into prisons, hospitals, and rehab centres and who was the co-founder of Toronto’s First Nation’s School.
Only days after I was guided to Grandfather Harper, the Ancestors led me to attend the sacred fire that was burning in his honor at the Native Canadian Centre, and then to attend his funeral. I was deeply grateful to have met this great man’s family and to be treated with such respect and kindness by the Toronto Native Community which I was just beginning to connect with, as I am from the Oklahoma Cherokee Nation.
Following the funeral, I stood outside in the Ontario May sunshine and prayed for Vern and all the people who were there, all the people who had lost him. On that day, he greeted me through the form of a male cardinal, and I began to see these powerful little birds on many important places during my journey, particularly when I was receiving lessons from the Ancestors. I sensed the Spirit of this Elder beginning to guide me, first through my daily Medicine Walks, giving me teachings and directing me to meet people in the community who offered me medicine, refreshments, powerful teachings and great generosity of Spirit.
But also, this Grandfather was a terrible task-master, for I didn’t yet understand that this spiritual connection was not only intended to help me more fully transition into living out my authentic cultural identity, but to teach me powerful lessons and heal the deepest wounds of my soul.
Now, I imagine that folks who are deep into a Spiritual Walk on this planet might be chuckling at this point, because we all know that learning lessons and healing deep wounds always, always begins with chaos and fear – and contains much comedy – as we stumble blindly through the emotions and memories that healing requires.
Always, when we reach the point where we’re ready to heal the deepest wounds in our soul, we have reached the point of crucifixion. Properly understood, this powerful Crow Medicine is the golden nugget. For it is only through the dying away of all aspects of our physical nature can we be reborn into the truth of our power.
Thunderbird starts this process, because the depth-healing journey asks for the most powerful medicines of change (think of an Oklahoma tornado). And it is the Thunderbird who wields the energy of divine transformation.
We often reach this point after we have already begun walking a medicine walk (healing journey) with the community that we have been called into; and, (with all of Crow’s silliness) we usually begin this phase stumbling and making messes, and being generally obnoxious while we are learning our authentic way of being.
Kind of like the poor ugly duckling at the farmer’s house where she had been welcomed but soon made a terrible, noisy mess because this was not her place and she didn’t know how to live in that world. This sad thing happened after duckling had been abandoned by her mother and wandered from place to place searching for her home. The poor duckling fled the farmer’s house in terror and wound up spending a cold and lonely winter by the side of a lake which, in the spring she would discover was her true home filled with beautiful Swans – the creature of her true being.
The Ugly Duckling contains the clues to the path for the deep seeker. Many of us have come to Earth at this time to help lift the consciousness of the people and to help process the great wounds of many generations. It is the deep seekers, the spiritual warriors and healers who have chosen this path which is definitely not for the faint of heart.
My particular journey into that long cold winter followed the duckling’s pathway – abandonment, rejection, loss of place, confusion about my identity. And, all of these issues would be addressed on this sorrow-filled holy ground that I would walk out over many months.
In order for a Bird Clan Messenger to fully realize our potential, we must undergo many kinds of painful experiences on Earth. This not only allows us to heal our own wounds, but when we understand that our challenges are actually great lessons and opportunities to learn compassion for others, we grow in Spirit and that equips us to do our work here more completely.
As a messenger of the 7th Generation for both the Great Awakening as taught by Jesus, and this great time of powerful transition known as the Time Out of Time by my Cherokee Elders, as the 7th and 8th Fire Prophecies by my Anishinaabe teachers, and which has been prophesied by our great Native Spiritual leaders like Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota Sioux Nation, Grandfathers Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Sitting Bull, our Hopi relatives and many others, my life experience has prepared me to speak with and understand the voices of many different people around the world.
My journey on Earth began as a mystical child who was drawn to the teachings of prophets, and who carried a great love for Jesus in her heart. As a young adult, I travelled and lived in many places and worked with US military, business and government leaders, and many wonderful people in Japan, New York City, my home Oklahoma, and across Canada.
But, it was only in Toronto, and after leaving the institution of the Christian church that I found Anishnawbe Health Toronto and my true path into the culture of my Cherokee Ancestors, where my teacher gave me the great blessing of being invited to share my messages and teaching our people’s wisdom to others. But, of course accepting such a blessing comes with a great cost.
One of the most important teachings the Ancestors gave me for my life’s journey is that “ The Indigenous peoples who continue to live in accordance with the traditional, Creator-focused worldview are closest to the purest expression of Hummingbird (Divine Child) Medicine on this planet – and those of us with Native blood and light skin are to use our “privilege” to serve as a bridge between our Native relatives and the larger world. We are here to protect our relatives and to begin finding ways to share the teachings with the larger community.” Aho.
But, in order to do this work, I had to make the decision to either undergo the process of transformation which would allow me to move forward in a powerful way or to slowly die.
So, it was through this strange medicine of the Ancestors given to me through the powerful Medicine Men and Medicine Women at Anishnawbe Health Toronto that everything in my life flew away from me – my home, my friends, my family, my belongings.
The Ancestors gave me the greatest honour to learn from and walk with the most vulnerable people in our society – the homeless, addicts, prisoners, prostitutes, lost youth, abused women – all of whom are disproportionately represented in Toronto’s Native Community.
And, my walk has required that I not only walk with these powerful folks, but that I live my life with them for a time as well. We cannot truly empathize with those who are suffering unless we have walked in their moccasins.
Once I began this scary part of my path (not realizing the enormity of what I had prayed for and how much emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual work it would require), I was forced into the very darkest crevices of my personality, my heart.
My guides and teachers repeatedly forced me to confront my greatest fears (death of loved ones, homelessness, poverty, illness, isolation) and to undergo the process of facing them as best I could and processing the emotions attached to them.
They also forced me to expel and even express my darkest thoughts and beliefs about myself and others – and this process would cause pain and mayhem for the ones I love most in this life.
The Ancestors led me through a daily process of self-examination, constant prayer, ceremony, receiving Native wisdom and teachings, and long Medicine Walks where I began to reconnect with nature and receive the gifts and lessons from our plant, bird and animal relatives.
It was during this lonely place of loss and confusion mixed with deep healing that I began to understand the meaning of “where there is sorrow there is holy ground.”
Because as I continued my journey, I was taken through what the western system would call a “mental health crisis,” but what Traditional Healers understand to be a great Spiritual Awakening.
I was given countless choices to begin defining my own life: was I going to be a “mental case” like the westerners believed, or would I use the trauma and the sorrow in service of an authentic Spiritual Awakening and the Medicine Path?
Through deciding to continue on the Medicine Path, I began to understand the many lessons I had agreed to learn during this lifetime: to receive and discern messages from the Ancestors, to understand that their timing for those messages is different than our human understanding, to change negative attitudes, beliefs and thoughts into ones of love and grace, to accept myself and others as flawed creatures who are yet beloved by the Great Spirit, to learn how to choose peace over separation and anger, to learn responsibility for my life and to live in accountability to my community and loved ones. And, the most important lesson of all – patience.
Ultimately, this is a pathway for learning self-respect. And this is the most important thing we can carry for ourselves, because it allows us to behave with respect to all others: our Elders, our loved ones, our communities, and strangers.
And so it is that after Eagle has carried our prayers for healing and transformation into the heavens, after Thunderbird claps his mighty wings to begin the divine crucifixion, after Crow has walked alongside us, sharing her medicines of grace, provision, and humor that the mystical Phoenix comes to us offering the ultimate healing medicine: the power of rebirth.
This is the sacred cycle of life-death-rebirth that humans have lived for our entire time on Earth, and which we must all experience, usually many times during our lives. For it is only through this sacred process that we become free from our old programming, our old wounds, and the definitions others have placed on us.
Indeed – this is holy work and this is sorrowful work because it is in the letting go that we must also grieve what we are choosing to surrender. But it is also this very act of surrender that releases us to move higher and ever higher on our walk with the Great Spirit and in greater harmony with those we love.
Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground is the lesson that brought me to myself. That showed me the deep and true suffering of so many of our relatives here in Toronto and around the world. That took me into the depths of institutions where humans are often treated without care or dignity, but where there is grace all around if we will only open our hearts and eyes to it.
After I finished the draft of this post today, I went out to a little park for some air. And, can you even guess who came to visit me there? Yes indeed, Mr. Cardinal – the totem of my friend and Elder Vern Harper. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him but we had a nice visit and he let me take his photo. The Great Spirit is always on time, and will always provide signs of love and encouragement to his children.
In closing, I offer the Tunkasila prayer of our Grandfather, the revered spiritual leader and Medicine Man, Chief Fools Crow:
Tunkasila Fools Crow Prayer
Wakan Tanka – I thank you for our Ancestors for the life they have given each of us and for the traditions they preserved and handed down to us.
Wakan Tanka – I thank you for my life and the opportunity it has given to know you and to serve our people. Continue to make me a responsible person and help me to add to the good things you and the Ancestors have given me.
Wakan Tanka – I thank you for those who are yet to come, who will carry on where we leave off. Healp them preserve the traditional life for the generation to come after them
And so, to keep the hoop turning.
Finally, Wakan Tanka – I thank you for my friends who are here to share this precious moment. I pray that you will bless them and always be with them.
Thank you for sharing this amazing journey with me — Kandace