Sunday, September 22, 2013

Grandmother and Grandfathers: Keepers of Tradition.


I’ve been an Indigenous Traditional Dreamer for over 20 years.  I was lead to this path by a friend who “diagnosed” me (so to speak) as an Indigenous Dreamer.   I’ve always been fascinated with dreams and I’ve always dreamt a lot.  On a good night, I can dream 3 to 8 dreams and remember them all.  Yet, it wasn’t the amount of dreams I recorded or how many I remembered; which caught my friend’s attention; but more so the way I interpreted the dreams and used them to understand and tackle every detail of my waking life.  Basically, an Indigenous Dreamer is a practical dreamer:  Someone who believes that dreaming is not only natural, but a valuable tool to mundane living, personal growth (healing and learning) and a connection to the World around us. 

The word traditional comes in when a Dreamer follows a discipline or has been initiated by a lineage of Dreamers. Tradition implies a set of attitudes, behaviours, and values, which stem from the past.  Often traditional ways are handed down through family, elders, teachers and community members.  There are strict traditionalists:  People who expect the traditions to be honoured in their original form, and followed without question.  And then, there are those who recognize that tradition must be practical and in service to people; hence it must follow social and economical changes.  Perspectives vary when it comes to this topic; but one thing everyone agrees on is that tradition recognizes the wisdom and practices of yesterday.

I am not a “strict traditionalist” in so much that I’ve played with some traditions and adapted them to today’s World.  On the other hand, I like to learn old ways because life is circular and always brings us back to situations or relationships where these old methods could be helpful.  Just the way I think and work with traditional practices certainly describes me as a more contemporary traditionalist.  The way I see it, in the end it’s the results that count.  Of course, I have considered a different perspective along the way where the results weren’t the focus but preserving the traditions was…

Traditionally Indigenous Dreamers were called “Dream Walkers.”  My paternal grandmother was a great fan of horror stories.  She loved Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King.  As a child she often told us stories, which literally kept us up at night.  If you didn’t have nightmares then she didn’t feel validated in her role as grandmother.  She was quite the character.  Halloween as you can imagine was her favourite celebration of the year.  She dressed up as Dracula and /or Zombies way before these types of creatures were popular.  She was the first one to introduce the concept of “Dream Walkers” in our childhood world. 

Of course for my grandmother if a character wasn’t scary it wasn’t worth talking about.  I didn’t realize until I was in my late 20’s that many of the stories my grandmother shared with us were actually traditional teachings.  Her mother and grandmother, with the same scary and horrifying twists, gave these stories to her.  It was only after studying and experiencing Indigenous story telling, that I noticed that most traditional, indigenous stories are grounded in fear.  The idea is to motivate courage and ingenuity.  Strength and wisdom comes to those who can meet the challenges and surpass them. 

I guess this is where I feel there needs to be some kind of reasoning behind the use of tradition.  Life changed drastically between 1880 and 1960.  By the time I was born in 1965, the notion of story telling didn’t hold the same meaning as it did in the 1800’s when my grandmother’s grandmother was alive.

When my grandmother watched the movies “Friday the 13th or Carrie” she had a completely different perspective than me.  She saw the “monsters” as real and understood these stories as parts of her life.  As a Dreamer she worked through “these dreams” in her daily living; and she always came out of them the victor.  My father often argued with her  (shouting matches) when she persisted to convince us that the stories were real.  She even pointed out synchronic details. 

“Stop mom,” he would say, “you know it’s all make believe: Hollywood actors and Hollywood sets. Stop you’ll scare the children.” 

In many ways I wish my grandmother had told us what she was and how it worked rather than let us figure it out.  For too many years I struggled through modern perspective, my own personal experience and a huge lack of resources. The Dream Walkers within my grandmother’s stories were always powerful villains who could kill, possess, and control people to do the most evil things.  I guess it wasn’t surprising that most of my family members didn’t have a positive outlook on dreams.  

It literally took close to 20 years to come full circle and understand the beauty of tradition:  How you can find it hidden in the simple rituals, the songs, the stories and some of the sayings… We have these romantic images of our ancestors.  We see wisdom as soft, loving and angelic.  Yet when I look back I see old women chuckling at the idea of scaring the day lights out of their grandchildren.  I’m only 48 years old yet my children are 22 and 23.  Another 6 to 10 years perhaps and I may actually find myself looking forward to all the way I can “impress” my grandkids. 

Too many characters are disappearing because we’re too busy imagining and not present enough to what really lives around us and within us. 

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