|Source of the text below.|
"How does a Sioux become a medicine person?" I asked.
"Some people think we are chosen for this while we are still in our mother's womb. That might be so, becuase most of us start to become one when we are still a child. We have strange feelings about it and we think about the Higher Powers more than children do. We play games less, and do other things less. We go apart and comtemplate what is happening to us. Of couse, all of this is Wakan-Tanka's doing. He looks into us and sees what we are like. What is really happening id that He and Tunkashila are calling us. What happens then is that we become more and more open to the Higher Powers. It is like we have bodies that are covered with holes through which they enter and fill us, and out of which prayers and desires go up to Them. We are also ready to forego many of the ordinary pleasures of life so that we can become medicine people. e know that we must take the time needed to learn how to apply the power we will get for curing, healing and helping our people in every way that we can. As all happens, we are being changed (transformed) so that day by day we move deeper into what we are becoming. Doing this does not take away from our regular responsibilities. We continue to share in the work that has to be done at home and we must make our contributions to the needs of our communities. In fact, medicine people do what they do for their communities and nation. We are called hollow bones for our people and anyone else we can help and we are supposed to seek power for our personal use and honor. What we bones really become is the pipeline that connnects Wakan-Tanka, the Helpers and the community together. This tells us the direction our curing and healing work must follow and establishes the kind of life we must lead. It keeps us working at things that do not bring us much income. So we have to be strong and committed to stick with this, otherwise we will get very little spiritual power and we will probably give up the curing and healing work. The lessons we are taught by our human teachers, as Stirrup was for me, stress that the traditional way of performing a ritual is more important than curing someone. Curing a single individual is only important in terms of what this teaches the entire community. The community must continue to know Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers are always with it and that it need not be afraid. Seeing a person healed gives them this assurance a and it gives the community strength to carry on in the face of distress and disasters. So the medicine person sits at the center of every important thing that goes on in their community and nation and when power is set in motion and distributed, it brings us more and even greater power. We emphasize that prevention is more important than treatment where the community and individuals are concerned. Getting ready in advance may not prevent our being hurt, but it keeps us from being destroyed. It is unfortunate, but our people have begun to forget this and they are paying a tragic price for it. They get knocked down and they do not have the strength or the way to get up.
"How," I asked, "does the difference between holy persons and medicine persons conme into being?"
"Power takes over a holy person's life. It efdfects everything about us. So our knowledge and understanding increases faster and before long our relationship to the Higher Powers and to power itself is different from that of medicine people. Also, holy men and women have more ways to obtain power and to set it into motion. We can heal others and ourselves more easily and quickly. We acheive peaks more often and our experience of them is deeper and more intense. Holy people can make spirit travel trips to the dwelling places of the Higher Powers and we can be transformed into animal or bird creatures who can go among people to see what is going on. It is holy people who are called upon by people and communities when situations are the most serious and it is the hold people who acheive the most impressive results. That is why there are so few of us at any one time and why we are the ones who can show people the fullness of power in motion. So we are called holy men and women. But all medicine people are different from ordinary people. Thety may for the most part behave and look like everyone else, but they are not. The way they think is different. What happens to them is different. They have insights that other people do not have. And it is these thoughts and insights that enable them to reach the peaks that are required for their work. Another thing is that when we are compared to people who do not cure or heal and even to medicine people, we are more emotional. This enables us to reach the peaks more eaily and quickly. Because of our emotions, when we do a ritual or treat a person we can quickly change our intensity as we move toward a climax.
"Another thing we holy people know is who we are. We have s clear self-image. To say this is not bragging. It is the truth. We know we are part Sioux history and that when we become hollow bones there is nolimit to what the Higher Powers can do in and though us in spiritual things. Even our physical bodies cannnot contain us, because our spirits can step out of our bodies and spirit-travel. We dream and vision and have fantastic thoughts. This begins while we are children. Because of it, we are always ready for Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers to take us places and show us things that others, because of their closed minds, may never see. The Power that we receive is for curing, healing, prophesying, solving problems and finding lost people and objects. It is not to give us power over others because the source of the power is not ourselves.It comes to us and moves through us hollow bones, but it belongs to Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers. They are the Source and all thanks should go to them.
Still, the life of a holy person becomes soaked with power. One way to describe it is that we are like filled sponges. We think constantly about power and the power we are given is easily set in motion. Our lives are a dance of power and our people see this, so they honor us. It follows then that we are always in the public view and that our behavior must be the best. I do not argue, do not fight, do not hate, do not gossip and have never said a swear word. I have not chased after women and I have controlled my lust for them. I have never touched awoman patient other than what is necessary to cure or heal them. I have not taken advantage of anyone. I have not charged for my curing, healing or advice, although I have accepted the gifts of gratitude people have brought to me. I have never touched alcohol or drugs. I have not even used peyote like they do in the Native American Church. Wakan-Tanka cn take me higher than any drug ever could. Because of these thibngs and of my spiritual life, people respect me. But the inmportant thing is thatt I refect Wakan-Tanka and the Helper to them. I am not Them, but people see what They are like in me and in the life I have lived. This life has been a very happy and a full one. I don't know how it could have been better. Wakan-Tanka did not tell me to forego the things I just mentioned. I just came to know that I would have a better life without them. One of the reasons why I have had such a hard time trying to find people to pass my medicine on to is that there are so few who want to live morally and frugally. Whikle they talk a lot about wanting to do this, they do not really want to give up pleasure and material things. Also, you can tell a true medicine person from an imitator by what they ask for in return for their help. According to where you live, everyone needs enough to live on and to pay their bills. But if they ask for more than a fair payment for this, walk away from them. They are only omitators and thier power will be limitied. They may talk well and they may have created ceremonies that will charm you, but these will not be ceremonies that are traditional and that came from the Higher Powers. Remember that evil can work ceremonies too. The strongest protection we have against evil is our pipe. I use mine nearly every time I do a ceremony. The pipe is a scared gift to the Sioux and it represents for us the fellowship we have with Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers. When we have the pipe in our hands and use it in ceremonies it is the same as it would be for a Christian if he could hold Jesus Christ in his hands while he prays."
As previously stated, Fools Crow had told me that his entire work as a holy man, although demanding, was "a dance of life" and he added that it was only when he did this dance that he was his true self. He was vigorous and a charismatic man and being with him was in itself a spiritual experience. Anyone who has been with him, Indian or outsider will confirm this. I was told that a well known actor, Robert DeNiro went to see Fools Crow when the holy man was ninety-eight years old and beyond carrying on any kind of a social conversation. The actor just sat with him for two days but even then described it as one of the crowning experiences of his life.
What was accomplished in and through Fools Crow did, of course, magnify his charisma. But he always stressed that both his power and the power that was added to his own was given to him for the sake of others. He consideredf this a normal view and nothing unusual. If anything puzzled him about it, it was his ability to understand why everyone else did not feel the same way and follow the same course of life that he did.
I asked Fools Crow whether he had any advice for those who felt they already had healing power or were called to it.
"They must," he replied "aim at the heavens and set themselves standards and goals that in the beginning will seem beyond reach. But they should enjoy the challenges this brings and they should not look for perfection. One day they might get close to it. If, on the other hand, they aimed low, that is where they will always be. Even failures make a positve conntribution. They keeps us humble and they help us find and fix our mistakes. Faiklures also tell us to practice more until we are better. Things are never automatic in our relationship with Wakan-Tanka. He wants us to learn ourselves what we are made of so that we can experience things fully. Quitting is the greatest failure of all. Don't. Put the work aside for awhile if you must, but then come back to it. It is practice that gives us confidence and gets us ready to meet the big tests whaen theyn come."
"How," I asked. "do you practice where curing is concerned? Wouldn't that be dangerous?"
He laughed and answered, " I did my practicing in the early days on the little things--on small wounds and in situations that were not critical."
"I'm a little confused," I said. "If Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers tell you what to do, why is practice even necessary?"
Fools Crow grunted and sat up straighter. "While the power comes into and through us," he said, "it does not change the fact that we are human beings with limitations. The Higher Powers have to work with us as we are, even though we improve as times passes and we become less of a burden to them."
"Are there any basic rules for students to follow?"
"To become a clean hollow bone, you must first live as I have or if you have not done this already, you must begin to do it. You must love everyone, put others first, be moral, keep your life in order, not do anything criminal and have a good character. If you do no do these things, you will be easily tricked and will become a hollow bone for the powers of evil. As I just said, you must also serve the Higher Powers for only what you should reasonably expect. If you demand more than this from people you help, any power you receive will come from the evil ones and it will hurt what you are trying to do. Also, if people come to you just because they are curious and want you to perform some miracle for them, you should ignore them. Wankan-Tanka and the Helpers have better things to do than to satisfy the curiousity of unbelieving people. The greatest miracle is not something incredible, it is the thousands of changed lives. Miracles never make believers. A priest told me that one time Jesus fed five thousand men with a few fish and some bread. But when they came for breakfast the next morning thinking they had found a restaurant where they didn't need to pay, he didn't feed them, and they all walked aaway. Miracles don't make believers.
"All of this has to do with faith," I commented.
"Ho," Fools Crow replied. "Thee one who wishes to be a true medicine persn must be a person of faith and they can only work successfully with those who also hhave faith. Good intentionjs are not enough and excuses are not enough. The medicine person and the patient must be glued together in faith for the curing or healing to occur."
"Yes. The true medicine person and the holy person do no try to cheat, to just get by or to fool anyone. Instead,they are the ones that always work and study the hardest. As long as we have the strength to do Wankan-Tanka's will, we work at our job constantly. Although we keep our lives in balance, we don't waste time. People can do anything if they want it badly enough. Of course, medicine persons must take the tiime to actually experience things to know how they truly are. Can we know how rain or snow feels without being out in it? Can we know how a Sun Dance feels without experiencing what a dancer does? Can we know of suffering if we don't suffer? Another thing medicine people need is a sense of humor. You know that I enjoy life and like to laugh. Laughter breaks the tension. It is a very good healer. And, it keeps us from taking life too seriously. After all, Wankan-Tanka and the Helpers are the Chiefs of the ages. They have always been and always will be. We come and go, but the sacred hoop was turning before us and if we do what Wakan-Tanka wishes us to do, it will keep on turning aftyer we are gone."
"Isn't it true though that the holy and medicine people usually live longer than other people do?"
"There are many medicine people with grey hair."
"How do you account for this?"
His eyes twinkled as they usually did when what he was about to say amused him, "I have been told," he said "about the Fountain of Youth. But that is only a dream. If people really want to stay healthy and live a long time, there is a real way to do it. They must give themselves to Wanka-Tanka and live a spiritual life. They will have the peace that frees them from fear. They will know that Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers surround them and that nothing can hurt them that they can't recover from. So there is no fear. They remaibn calm and they are unhurried. They do niot get ulcers or have sudden heart attacks while they are still youbng. I have had a couple, but I was eight-five before I had my first one. Spirityual people do not suffer as much from anxiety as other people do and they do not worry as much about being chiefs or pleasing others just to get ahead in life. Instead, the things they do are personally rewarding. They feel good about themselves and they naturally take care of themselves as they ought to."
"What you present," I said "is the ideal picture, but not realistic?"
"What," he added, "does realistic mean?"
"Possible, probable....likely to happen."
He thought about this for a moment and then answered me with another question. "Shouldn't we always remember that Wanka-Tanka does not ask us to do these things alone? He walks with us along the pathways of life and He can do for us what we could never do on our own."
"Can you", I asked, Point to examples of longevity because of a spiritual life?"
"I am one," he said with the least indication of humility. "Black Elk is another....Charles Red Cloud is 89....Iron Cloud and my father. There are many I could name for you (in the Fools Crow book). But I will admit that this is changing. Most of my people have begun to fall away from Wanka-Tanka and with every passing day the examples get harder to find."