A Comparison of Native American Thought anf Witchcraft

Native American religions and witchcraft are alike in many ways. First of all, both are nature religions, meaning they both hold nature sacred and many of the symbols and ideas come from nature. Starhawk says that The Old Religion, as we call it, is closer in spirit to Native American [email protected] Both religions teach its followers the importance of understanding and action. Through reading Starhawk and Black Elk essays in the textbook, it easy to see the meaning of understanding and action. Each of these elements are crucial to the beliefs of the follower.

Black Elk was a holy man of the Lakota people of the Sioux tribe. He writes of rituals and beliefs of his people in his book The Sacred Pipe. The sacred pipe is very important symbol to his people. It symbolizes the medicine wheel, all four directions living in the same space. Pinches of tobacco are placed in the pipe along with grains and seeds for all relatives and the pipe takes on new meaning. It also symbolizes how everything in the universe is unified. The pipe is very important in the lamenting process, which is discussed in Black Elk’s writings. He goes into great detail about lamenting. It is looked at as a quest for healing, answers, and as a rite of passage. If a person wishes to lament, they must seek the right aid and advice, otherwise something could happen. Black Elk says that if it is not done correctly, “a serpent could come and wrap itself around the ‘lamenter’.” Serpents appear in religious stories and teachings and often used as a means of punishment or a catalyst for change. In this case, it would help the lamenter understand how important it is that lamenting is done correctly.

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AAll the powers of the world, the heavens, and the star peoples, and the red and blue sacred days; all things that move in the universe, in the rivers, the springs, all waters, all trees that stand, all the grasses of our Grandmother, all the sacred peoples of the universe: Listen! A sacred relationship with you all will be asked by this young man, that his generations to come will increase and live in a holy manner (Black Elk, pg.131).

The Lakota believe that nature is sacred, everything in the universe is connected. As Black Elk puts it, “a sacred relationship.” All living things are relatives. His people have a great reverence for nature. This belief originates with Inyan and Skan. In the beginning there was primeval stone (Inyan) and primeval motion (Skan). Everywhere Inyan was, there was Skan moving. They are personified as Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky. They represent all living beings. By sharing the sacred pipe in a circle, each person is taking the universe within himself or herself, experiencing the sacred relationship. At the end of the lamenting process, those involved give thanks to Wankan-Tanka, Grandfather, for his gift of understanding and the relationship he gave to them. Wakan-Tanka translates into not only another word for grandfather but great mystery. The great mystery is an unanswerable question, where did motion come from? Wakan-Tanka is present everywhere always. Lakota people are constantly aware of this. The Great Spirit is always there, be conscience of this in every action, every moment.

Black Elk presents the spiritual beliefs of his people. He focuses on the strong belief that everything is relative and how one must have an understanding of this sacred relationship and how this can be achieved through the lamenting process. The spiritual beliefs of Witchcraft are similar to that of the Lakota. Both Starhawk and Black Elk emphasize the importance of an understanding before practice.

Modern Witchcraft’s ideals began approximately 35,000 years ago. They have been one of the most misunderstood and unjustly persecuted spiritual groups. For example, the Inquisition, which was aided by the 1484 A.D. Papal Bull of Innocent the VIII. This persecution was aimed at women. According to Starhawk, “Of an estimated 9 million Witches executed, 80 percent were women, including children and young girls, who were believed to inherit the ‘evil’ from their mothers.” The ideology behind the Inquisition was hatred of women, which was a trend of medieval Christianity, and it was thought that if you punish the evil doers you would gain favor with God. It is horrific to think how these women were punished and persecuted for their beliefs, even women who did not follow Witchcraft were punished. Women who had freckles or moles were accused of being witches because these marks were said to be of the devil. A lot of the women did not even understand Witchcraft much less practice it.

Starhawk takes an Ecofeminist approach in her writings about Witchcraft. She is not a “man hater” and she clearly states that Witchcraft promotes equality between sexes. In this portion of Spiral Dance, she gives examples of ethical applications. Sexuality, for example, is “a direct expression of the life force”; it must be appreciated and held sacred. It is to be expressed freely, but only for love. She says that rape is intolerable because it is violent, and when hurting someone else – it is hurting the Goddess. Starhawk also discusses the ethics of stealing. Pagan followers apply the golden rule to their daily life, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This belief can be applied with the issue of stealing. Stealing can harm individuals and by harming someone else, it is also harming to the Goddess.

Just as in other religions, understanding is vital to the practice of Witchcraft.

“The Goddess is not separate from the world – She is the world, and all things in it: moon, sun, earth, star, seed, flowing river, wind, wave, leaf, and branch, bud and blossom, fang and claw, woman and man. In Witchcraft, flesh and spirit are one. (Pg. 354)

The most important belief in Witchcraft is that of how everything is connected, everything in the universe is one. A Pagan has extreme appreciation for nature. For example, Starhawk says that meditation is considered a spiritual act just as picking up garbage or marching in protest for something you belief in. Basically she is saying, don’t just meditate…. Act upon your beliefs, but only if you have a complete understanding of them.

Black Elk discusses the unity of nature and man, just as Starhawk does. Both belief systems portray a sincere appreciation for their environment and nature because everything in the cosmos is one. Everything is relative, part of a whole…. “ The Goddess is not separate from the world- She is the world, and all things in it”.

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