In the spring of 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, found himself in a dream riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. Just before he awoke, he arrived at a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time, Jim knew nothing of the largest mass execution in United States history, ordered by Abraham Lincoln on December 26, 1862. “When you have dreams, you know when they come from the creator… As any recovered alcoholic, I made believe that I didn’t get it. I tried to put it out of my mind, yet it’s one of those dreams that bothers you night and day.”
(Now), four years later, embracing the message of the dream, Jim and a group of riders retrace the 330-mile route of his dream on horseback from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato, Minnesota to arrive at the hanging site on the anniversary of the execution. “We can’t blame the wasichus anymore. We’re doing it to ourselves. We’re selling drugs. We’re killing our own people. That’s what this ride is about, is healing.” This is the story of their journey- the blizzards they endure, the Native and Non-Native communities that house and feed them along the way, and the dark history they are beginning to wipe away.
The name Owlmirror comes from the translation of Eulenspiegel, a legendary C14 character who embodied ‘trickster’ medicine, of the indigenous kind. He has many stories associated with him that show just how much of an ‘upsetter’ he was – he was given to unpredictable and outrageous behaviour and often made the establishments of the Church and the ruling classes the butt of his pranks. As a result Eulenspiegel has become both vilified and venerated in time – however, do not be fooled, he was all about challenging and changing prevalent paradigms of consciousness and that is where Owlmirror comes in.
Indigenous medicine and Eulenspiegel!? Well, yes – here is a case in point. In our times the word ‘indigenous’ has become synonymous with that which is unadulterated through westernisation, although this is more of a reflection of the rifting that has occurred between ‘the people’ and the Earth through industrialisation and mechanistic solutions to living than to the assertion that pre-industrialised communities are ‘primitive’. Eulenspiegel would jump on the hubris of such an assertion, and rightfully so, as the ‘indigenous’ is more akin to an indicator of our original humanity than a reflection of inferiority – he would scorn superiority in favour of fidelity – he would champion the original selfhood of our humanity and then say ‘but they can’t touch you for it’.
The whole thing becomes much more complex when ‘medicine’ is brought into the mix. To the mechanistic way of thinking medicine demonstrates and is founded upon science. Science is to religion what religion is to indigenous medicine – the proof of our transcendence over ignorance – at least to the converts of scientific ‘faith’. We are moving away from the ‘devils’ towards the ‘angels’ and from the ‘angels’ towards the pharmaceutical companies.
However, to a guy like Eulenspiegel the power of the Church was an affront to his humanity and he would always be the true mirror of pompous self aggrandisement – he was prone to shiting in churches! Today he might be found at work as an agitator in the face of corporate greed. Greed too was one of his pet targets. So, you begin to get an idea of Eulenspiegel’s nature – he was controversial and provocative – but, it is equally true to say that his outrageousness served to bring attention to the rights of the individual – being an heyokah his extreme behaviour was both the lens and the catalyst for awareness. To the unwitting ‘victim of his attentions’ he would be the asbo worthy delinquent who should be punished – to the savvy he would be the willing risk-taker for social change and equanimity. To those blessed with the ability to see the funny side he would be the homeopathic dose of hilarious sanity that made life worth living in the face of control and oppression. He would challenge us all to wake up and wise up!
It is his ‘medicine’ that makes the difference – that word heyokah. How do we relate to this idea in our present world? Indigenous medicines are much closer to spirit than the church was ever comfortable with. ‘Devils’ are the denied personified rationalisation of freewill combined with spirit. The reverse hubris – a reflection of the personifier’s own shadow. Repressed selfhood that is subservient to ‘authority’, whether it be the ‘authority’ of the Church, the State, the conglomerate or of the ego – or the status-quo! Eulenspiegel had an healthy ego there’s no doubt, and the ‘powers-that-be’ would perceive and vilify his ego as that of an outlaw. And yet, it is the Heyokah’s purpose and gift to bring attention to the true nature of Law. Here is meant the spiritual and natural law of humanity, of Life, of our indigenous relationship with the divine. Sometimes it takes an injection of the absurd to snap us out of our cultural self absorption and pathological miasma. We are so much of the time dead to the world, culturally stunned while dreaming of it.
Could we blow the dusty cobwebs of our death oriented culture away from the natural beauty of our minds. our spirits and our world we might just discover that we are where we have been all along – inextricable miracles of self-aware Life embedded in the mysteries of our personal and collective journeys, a journey in which death is but a halfway house, a turnstile leading to a deeper understanding of where we have been, where we are going and, more to the point, of where we are NOW. A fart from the joker would do it!
Eulenspiegel did nothing if live in the moment. He was deeply itinerant, a great traveller, and yet, paradoxically, without an apparent destination. Like so many displaced persons he lived close to the earth, the earth of our own absurdity within the midst of everyday life. His medicine was an expression of irrepressible spirit – effulgent and magical, slightly scary even.
If you have ever been to the circus or stood amongst the crowd around Morris Dancers or powwow gatherings you will no doubt have seen him clowning around – in the old english tradition of Morris Dancing there is usually a Fool, wielding an inflated pig’s bladder on a stick, catching you unawares and bashing you with a Zen slap of the absurd balloon. That’s him – we love him! Heyokah medicine is good for our Health….