The Grandmothers' Fire
As the weather made a turn for the worse and things got icy, frozen, cold and snowy, I learned that the health of my grandmother and my aunt had also taken a turn for the worse, and that they'd been hospitalized. I asked the universe and I asked the spirits to offer their help in this situation. Shortly after this request, I was presented with the opportunity to do an interview with Jyoti, one of the primary forces behind the creation of The International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.
It seemed as though my request for help was being answered, as though the spirits of grandmothers and the energy of the elders was announcing itself. Despite a very hectic schedule we decided on a time to do the interview. Yet, when that time came, we found that we were challenged with many obstacles; technical difficulties, dropped calls, a Full Moon, locked hotel rooms, dead batteries... the list goes on. Somehow though, in the center of the storm, we managed to connect. Immediately we began discussing the intensity of the day, and also the situation with my grandmother and my aunt. Before I could make the request, Jyoti offered to keep my grandmother and my aunt in the prayers and ceremonies of the Grandmothers Council. I felt relieved, calm.
It was as though a circle had been completed; an illness, a crisis, the call of the Grandmothers, a lesson in perseverance, resolution, and fire. Even though the winter still reigns, and challenges remain regarding my own elders, I came away from my meeting with Jyoti carrying a bundle of fire. Such is the inspiration and energy of the Grandmothers Council, who will be in New York December 11-13 to warm hearts and souls with their incredible, humble, remarkable fire.
MM: Could you describe how the Council first came to be, what was the spark that set this into motion?
Jyoti: In 1995 my husband and I were asked if we would open a spiritual community, and so we opened up a place in the Sierra foothills about 3.5 hours east of San Francisco, it's 160 acres and we've lived there for the last 14 years. From that place is our village of Kayumari. Kayumari comes from the Huichols and there's many stories about the blue spirit of the deer that lives with the Huichol people, it's one of their main teachers and it is said that he lives at the portal of the other realms, and that wherever Kayumari walks, medicines grow that heals communities, and so this became the name of our community -- it now lives in different spots across the US. It also lives on the east coast, it lives in Switzerland and in Germany and we have friends in Austria and we have a place outside of Prague and a house in the Brazilian Amazon. So that's the footprint of Kayumari.
At Kayumari, when we went to the top of the mountain there, the Mother said to us "many people from all over the world are going to come here and pray, I don't care how they pray I just need them to pray right now in this moment of our history." And so we became guardians of this mountaintop with that intention. Three years into living on the land in 1998, the Mother came to me and she said, "I'm going to give you one of my most precious baskets and in this basket I'm going to put some of my most precious jewels, these jewels represent lines of prayer that go back to the beginning of time, you are not to mix them, you are not to change them, you are to keep them safe and protect them and walk them through the doorway of the millennia and hand them back to me, I have something we're going to do."
Now, none of us really understood all of that vision, we were very naïve and innocent, and innocent in our walk, but we could feel the power of its intention and we could feel the depth of our commitment to it and so we began the walk. And up our 14-mile logger road came many, many elders that began to initiate us in the lines of prayer that these jewels represented and to teach us how to take care of this basket and how to keep it safe.
At the same time this was going on, many of the community were beginning to get messages; images and inspirations were visiting them and all of us were beginning to hear this whisper that said "when the grandmothers speak."
It didn't say what would happen when the grandmothers speak, it didn't say anything more then "when the grandmothers speak" -- we didn't understand that either, we just kept walking.
Finally, many years passed and it came time to make a study with the 5th jewel in the basket. My daughter-in-law was studying, getting her masters degree, and really wanted to find her practice in the field of addiction. She was frustrated that here in the US there really weren't treatments that were really working long term for people. So she ended up discovering, in her study for her thesis, the plant called Iboga. Through that she ended up going to study with an FDA approved program out in St Kitts, and other programs that were beginning to work with Ibogaine, one of the alkaloids of the Iboga plant. But there was still something missing for her, so we were talking one afternoon and I said "the way that old people raised me was that if we're supposed to work with a plant and particularly one that is not from this land, then we as a family should go to Africa and meet with the elders of the Bwiti people and get permission to use this plant and if they say no, then you must come back and go on a meditation and look to see where your path is taking you next. If they yes, then we must ask them to guide our footsteps and our way so that we will tend to the teachings and the plant in the right way outside of its country."
And so as a family we went to Africa. I went there to observe and support my children going through a Bwiti initiation. In that process I was also asked to be initiated and during our initiation this vision of the basket came up and I went to tell Bernadette Rebienot about it and she got quite animated and excited and said she was having these same visions and that it was time for this to be put in motion now.
The year we were visiting, Bernadette had signed a letter, a declaration, along with ayahuasca curanderos out of Peru, that we were here before the governments came, we would be here after the governments left and it was no longer okay for governments and people to go into our forests and take our medicines and patent them without our permission. That it was time for First Nations people around the planet to stand up together and declare their solidarity, that it was time for First Nation people to take back the guardianship of this planet. With those instructions she sent me off to make this happen.
I was on my way to the Amazon, I was meeting Grandmother Clara and Grandmother Maria Alice there, I was riding down on a barge for three days to get into the deep interior. As soon as I appeared there they asked me about what happened in Africa. So I told them the story and Maria Alice got very excited and she brought me a letter that she and her daughter Julia had just signed with six tribes in the region and it said almost identically the same thing (as Bernadette Rebienot's letter) and had been signed at about the same time. And they too said its time to put this in motion.
I went back home wondering how was I going to know which Grandmothers the universe was calling. I sat in meditation for some time. Finally Grandmother came to me and she spoke, "Granddaughter you must start with the seed of it all, the seed of it all is relations. If you start with your relations, then everything will unfold from there, don't worry."
So I got on the phone and sent emails out to all of my community and all the places it lived and asked them to speak to their elders and to get guidance for which grandmothers were being called by the universe for this council. We got 16 names. We wrote a letter and sent it out and got answers from 13 of these grandmothers saying they would come.
We were now in the process of putting together a gathering of women in Phoenicia in upstate New York in the Dalai Llama's Medicine Retreat Center. And they came. We didn't know how it would be when they came, we didn't have any agenda at all except to bring them together, but when they got together they recognized each other, they recognized something was happening. We all recognized the profound energy that sat down at the table when the 13 sat down.
I would later come to discover that there are many prophesies amongst most of the indigenous peoples around the planet about the time when the grandmothers speak, about the time of the 13 Grandmothers Council.
Grandmother Rita , our Yup'ik Grandmother who lives in the cold, cold country up in Alaska, was telling us a story about when she was nine years old, she was 71 when she spoke this story to all of us. When she was nine, her grandmother sat her down and said "Rita when you are old and grey like me you're going to be called to sit on a council of 13 Grandmothers. I've prepared 13 sacred bundles and there are 13 of my sacred stones and I have found 13 white eagle feathers for you. You must protect these and keep them safe. And when it's that time, pass the bundles to each of the Grandmothers and take one for yourself and sit down and know that I am standing behind you and all of your ancestors are standing behind you and the times we've been telling you about and preparing you for are here".
They (the Grandmothers) decided they were going to take this basket that our community had walked through the doorway of the millennia with, they would receive this basket that Our Lady had given us as representative of her, and they would go to each other's home place, every six months and hold a seven day prayer for world peace and light the holy fire and they would go to each Grandmother's home place so that each one would host them and we would learn about the customs and the language and the land and the way of life that that Grandmother spoke for.
We've gone first to Grandmother Flordemayo, our Mayan Grandmother, who hosted us outside of Sante Fe, then we went to Mexico to Grandmother Julieta, the Mazatec Grandmother, then we went to Grandmother Tsering, our Tibetan Grandmother and had private audience with most of His (Dalai Lama's) ministers and his oracle and with Him himself. Then we went to South Dakota where our Lakota Grandmothers Rita and Beatrice hosted us in the Sundance and we went to Oregon with Grandmother Agnes of the Takelma tribe, she's the oldest on our council. Then we went to Grandmother Mona Polacca, who is Havasupai/Hopi/Tewa and is hosting us now in Sedona, it's the 7th gathering for the 7th fire for the next 7 generations.
That's where we've come to now. When they first said, "we're going to do this every six months," inside of me was, "Oh my god!," it took me two years to put the first one together! But somehow it's been magical and everywhere we go the most amazing things take place, people from all over the village bring sick babies, they bring their tears, and mostly what I noticed, people were losing hope, but when the Grandmothers were there they turn that fire back on inside and people walk away with hope again and now it's becoming a global movement. It's got Grandmothers making circles all over the world, our elders are standing up for peace and our Grandmothers are shaking the world awake.
What happens when the Grandmothers get together, what goes on when the Council gathers for these events?
The Grandmothers are usually together for about three days for some of their own private council because they're also growing their own relationships and growing their own business and empowerment process as a council, it's developing quite beautifully. When we sit down at a council there are seven languages translated simultaneously, so we have every opportunity for misunderstanding, but we really try to work past those places. Because when it gets hard, and it sometimes does, then the Grandmothers remind that we're here for peace and unity and we have to step out of ourselves and transform that which wants to divide and conquer us.
The other part is then they open the doors to the public for four days and they lead prayer at morning, noon and night. Each of them dresses, as they lead prayer, in their own regalia. Through the day you have three different nations that lead you in prayer.
Some of the Grandmothers have had difficult walks, difficult lives, but the strength and humility found in each and every one of them is remarkable, and that touches people. They are present in who they are. By the end of the day another kind of space is opening for everybody. By the end of the fourth day things have happened -- people write me many letters about how cancers have disappeared, bad situations in their families have healed when they go home, people report the Grandmothers coming to them in their dreams and answering their prayers or touching them in some way.
People will say to the Grandmothers, "Tell us what to do," and the Grandmothers will say they're not here to tell them what to do, they're here to remind people that the answers for everything they need to do live inside them. They must become self reflective, they must go back to that source that lives in every single one of us, reconnect, have faith in it again and follow it, listen to it.
Could you talk a little bit about For the Next 7 Generations, the new film that features the Grandmothers?
We're quite excited about it, in fact we were able to show people the film when we were in Oregon, and since that time it seems to be mushrooming itself all over the place. The director/producer is Carol Hart, she's an award-winning filmmaker and she and her husband,Bruce Hart were in charge of bringing it into existence. Bruce died two years into the film, and so Carol finished it, and the film is dedicated to Bruce. It's quite a remarkable movie, Carol took over 500 hours of film as the Grandmothers traveled on their journey and was able to cut that in such a way that when you see the film you literally get to know each of the Grandmothers and also have a real experience of where their journey has taken them in the last 5 years.
Were going to be in New York, there's going to be a screening there on the 11th of December and there will be six of the Grandmothers there. I'm hoping people will fill Donna Karen's studio and make this an amazing event not only to support their work and the work they're doing in the world but to come and be touched and let that light be reignited in those that participate.
Some of the Grandmothers come from indigenous cultures that have practiced their shamanic ceremonies for centuries or longer. Others, like Clara and Maria Alice of the Santo Daime, represent relatively new shamanic traditions. Many people tend to think of shamanic spiritual practices as a way of reaching back into history and reclaiming old traditions -- but would you consider the Grandmothers Council an expression of a new, 21st century kind of spirituality? That is, in what way is the Grandmothers council the expression of something new?
I think all circles have to come back to where they started, so for me, our First Nations people have a way of life that has survived, they're not something of the past. They live with us in the midst of who we are now. And they have survived genocide, where we literally tried to wipe them out and wipe them away. But the strength and spirit of their way of life is so enduring, so sustaining. I believe we've got to change our way of thinking and our perception and move back to an understanding of what that First Nations way of life is all about. They approach life, they don't grab from it and try to take from it. They don't try to analyze it; they have relations with it, they have dialogues with it, they see and experience a whole other level of intelligence inside of creation.
We've gotten so far away from our hearts and living in that related way with life, we've intellectualized it so much that we are totally lost out there. Unless we come back to the spirit of who we are, unless we come back and live in the heart of ourselves and our soul; we will destroy ourselves. That's just the truth of it.
So I don't think it's about creating a new way, I think it's about reclaiming our original way. We come back to our self, sit down in our self again. That's for me what the Grandmothers do, they embody that.
What can people do to encourage and develop right relationship with the planet and their relations? What might be one of the first steps people can take if they're wondering what they can do?
A couple of things come up when you ask that question. Take a glass of water, this amazing element that Grandmother Aggi says can hear us, and take this glass of water every morning and go outside and face the sun and give thanks to that day with that water. Pour that water on the Earth and feed her first, then take some for yourself and have your family stand with you while you do this, let your children drink this water, let your companion drink this water. Start your day this way; it puts something new in motion.
The next thing that comes to mind is a story of a psychologist that was taking small groups into the Amazon. After being in canoes for several days, they got out of their boats and they saw oil in the river and a can in the river and things like this. They saw an old man standing by the river and went up to him and the psychologist said to the old man, "I'm so sorry for what we have done to your river." The old man looked down the stream and he said "things are as you dream them, you once had a great dream. You had many beautiful dreams but then your dream turned into a nightmare." And this young man said to him, "but I don't know what to do, I don't know how to change out of this nightmare," and the old man said, "The world is as you dream it, turn around and pass a new dream, pass an awakened dream, one with wholeness and balance, pass that to the one standing right behind you, do this as long as it takes you to do it."
So with us, the Grandmothers, we're trying to walk into that dream, were trying to wake up into that dream, and come out of the nightmare.
As Grandmother Rita says in the film "the Earth is angry, it's not going to change until we do" I don't think that the Earth will destroy itself or that we will destroy her I think she is much more than that. But we are an endangered species at this moment and we will get to such a point with our toxicity that she will have no choice but to shake us.
Jyoti (Jeneane Prevatt) is an internationally renowned spiritual advisor and psychological consultant. She obtained her Ph.D in transpersonal psychology, including two-and-a-half years of postgraduate study at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland. Jyoti is the one of primary forces behind the creation of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.
Image courtesy of The International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers.