Saturday, February 2, 2008
Buying or Selling Medicine Plants Like Sage
In response as to why I don't believe in buying or selling sage and other medicines, I think there are a couple of thoughts behind not buying or selling sacred medicines.
1. Spiritual things are not to be bought or sold. This is called "simony" in the Bible. It was named after a magician called Simon Magus, who became a Christian and wanted the apostles to _sell_ him the gifts given to Jesus' followers by the Holy Spirit. St. Peter got mad and said spiritual gifts are freely given by God, and are not to be bought or sold. In general, most traditional Indian people are the same way. Now, that does not leave out exchange. When someone wants help with spiritual things, you give the one who can help you an offering of tobacco...it is not the monetary value of tobacco, but what it means spiritually, and as a commitment between people that way. When you go visit an elder, you bring food...you don't go empty handed. When someone (no matter who) visits your house for the first time, you give them a drink of water, something to eat, and a small gift to take with them. When someone is doing a ceremony for you, there is no money, but you chop wood, bring food and prepare it...you work for them, so that the relationship is made, on that personal and spiritual level. This building of trust and respect. If the person succeeds in helping you, you might give them more help building a house, or food, or a gift of what you can, even money at times. That makes it right. But it is not a bill or a charge of a certain amount of money, but an exchange of value and making a relationship of mutual help and respect.
2. Second, Native Americans have historically had a bad run of luck when it comes to money...getting cheated, because money was not part of how you did things...you either gave freely, or you traded. Money exchanged usually resulted in someone getting cheated of lands. The Lakota call money "green frogskins"...the Hawaiians call it palapala, "paper"...that so much little bits of symbolic paper, can make people lie, cheat, steal, enslave, kill even their own families for...paper. There is a disdain for money and what it makes people do, in Native Americans. Traditional Native Americans are still mostly that way, and money is never an end in itself, but only a tool to help family. You are not measured by how much oyu have, how much you accumulate...but by how much you give away to others. That generosity and helping the people, is the measure of your stature and worth to the people.
Having said all that, sometimes you are stuck in a situation, where you need something, and cannot get it the traditional way. Then you just pray, are thankful when you can be helped, and try to buy from a source that is trying to do the right thing, and not be too greedy. Buying from a tribal person is a helpful thing. If you want to buy from them, you are helping out the tribe's economy. But you don't need to buy purification plants, even if you have no sage or sweetgrass where you are, I bet you have a juniper around where you live, as juniper grows about everywhere. When you find it, ask for permission to take a few leaves (scales), tell your needs to the plant, that creates that relationship with the plant spirit. Then give it something back (a prayer, a coin in the earth, some water), take only what you need for immediate use for yourself and family.