It has been quite some time since I graced these pages so I will start my story a week in the past.
Approaching the evening at Jim’s I was full of skepticism towards anything a neo-shaman proposed to do in a pseudo-ritual fashion. I was not necessarily upset with the idea of people engaging in such acts..I just doubted any sort of palpable rewarding effect to come of it. I realized also as the evening went on that I was perhaps a little bent by the pressure of false expectations that no one actually put upon me but were projected from one side of my double-conscious to the other. So as I was blessed by the power of the eagle feather and bathed in sweet sage I didn’t know whether to scoff or stare stoic.
Then the drumming began and a small jolt shot my back and I felt a surprising descent. After only a few minutes I heard a few low notes of flute music. My still leering rational mind groaned at the prospect that Jim had snuck in a cd of traditional native american flute music….then my more free-flowing subconscious enlightened me to the true source, my Uncle Leonard At the same time I had the image of myself pulling a newspaper out of the ground with his image (although at first I couldn’t tell if it was truly Leonard or my grandfather). The rest of my journey involved alternating visions of attempts to reach the large white mesa where the flute music and Uncle Leonard were and random successions of various colors, moth wings, a certain someone recently departed and shafts of confused light. Near the end of the journey I approached a large white hot air balloon which I realized was my way to the mesa. Just as I put me legs out from the wicker basket to plant myself at my destination the mesa seemed to crumble away from me and suddenly everything was yanked away from me as the drums ceased.
While I haven’t yet decided if my spirit animal is a hot-air balloon, moth or Uncle Leonard, I have done some deep considering of the overall journey and how surprisingly “successful” it was for me. I walked away thinking that these sorts of strange little ceremonies are not as harmful as I had been willing to believe… harmful in the sense of demeaning native traditions and planting all sorts of delusions in non-Native settlers that now that the land has been stolen the traditions and spirit are up for rape and conquest as well. Further discussions in the day that followed during the dig lead me to consider that appropriation is not necessarily an evil and that I had been completely bias in privileging Native appropriations of settler and other culture while automatically rejecting settler appropriations as complete bullshit…although it is still obvious that the settler appropriation of native culture comes itself from a privileged position. Hippies chose to come back to the land and live in relative hardship on the fringes of mainstream society while natives were simply forced into the situation. Yet the experience at Jim’s showed to me that despite the veneer of native appropriation the journey itself is a beneficial and spiritually rewarding act. As I told my lunchtime circle at the summer solstice: white people could be really cool folks if they weren’t so insecure and culture vulturing.
Anyway I would like to write more at length and with more cutting intellectual insight on the subjects of appropriation (such as indians playing hippie and “rez up my myspace”) but I said I would be at the site two jiffs forty winks ago.