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~  May Supplemental  ~


Why Rituals Work

By Francesca Gino and Michael I. Norton
Scientific American, May 14, 2013

There are real benefits to rituals, religious or otherwise . . . Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true. While some rituals are unlikely to be effective – knocking on wood will not bring rain – many everyday rituals make a lot of sense and are surprisingly effective.

Think about the last time you were about to interview for a job, speak in front of an audience, or go on a first date. To quell your nerves, chances are you spent time preparing – reading up on the company, reviewing your slides, practicing your charming patter. People facing situations that induce anxiety typically take comfort in engaging in preparatory activities, inducing a feeling of being back in control and reducing uncertainty.

While a little extra preparation seems perfectly reasonable, people also engage in seemingly less logical behaviors in such situations. Here’s one person’s description from our research:

I pound my feet strongly on the ground several times, I take several deep breaths, and I "shake" my body to remove any negative energies. I do this often before going to work, going into meetings, and at the front door before entering my house after a long day.

While we wonder what this person’s co-workers and neighbors think of their shaky acquaintance, such rituals – the symbolic behaviors we perform before, during, and after meaningful event – are surprisingly ubiquitous, across culture and time. Rituals take an extraordinary array of shapes and forms. At times performed in communal or religious settings, at times performed in solitude; at times involving fixed, repeated sequences of actions, at other times not. People engage in rituals with the intention of achieving a wide set of desired outcomes, from reducing their anxiety to boosting their confidence, alleviating their grief to performing well in a competition – or even making it rain.

Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. Why? Because even simple rituals can be extremely effective. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – do alleviate grief, and rituals performed before high-pressure tasks – like singing in public – do in fact reduce anxiety and increase people’s confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. While anthropologists have documented rituals across cultures, this earlier research has been primarily observational. Recently, a series of investigations by psychologists have revealed intriguing new results demonstrating that rituals can have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game; Curtis Martin of the New York Jets reads Psalm 91 before every game. And Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game, took exactly 117 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. (Boggs also wrote the Hebrew word Chai (“living”) in the dirt before each at bat. Boggs was not Jewish.) Do rituals like these actually improve performance? In one recent experiment, people received either a “lucky golf ball” or an ordinary golf ball, and then performed a golf task; in another, people performed a motor dexterity task and were either asked to simply start the game or heard the researcher say “I’ll cross fingers for you” before starting the game. The superstitious rituals enhanced people’s confidence in their abilities, motivated greater effort – and improved subsequent performance. These findings are consistent with research in sport psychology demonstrating the performance benefits of pre-performance routines, from improving attention and execution to increasing emotional stability and confidence.

Humans feel uncertain and anxious in a host of situations beyond laboratory experiments and sports – like charting new terrain. In the late 1940s, anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski lived among the inhabitants of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. When residents went fishing in the turbulent, shark-infested waters beyond the coral reef, they performed specific rituals to invoke magical powers for their safety and protection. When they fished in the calm waters of a lagoon, they treated the fishing trip as an ordinary event and did not perform any rituals. Malinowski suggested that people are more likely to turn to rituals when they face situations where the outcome is important and uncertain and beyond their control – as when sharks are present.

Rituals in the face of losses such as the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship (or loss of limb from shark bite) are ubiquitous. There is such a wide variety of known mourning rituals that they can even be contradictory: crying near the dying is viewed as disruptive by Tibetan Buddhists but as a sign of respect by Catholic Latinos; Hindu rituals encourage the removal of hair during mourning, while growing hair (in the form of a beard) is the preferred ritual for Jewish males.

People perform mourning rituals in an effort to alleviate their grief – but do they work? Our research suggests they do. In one of our experiments, we asked people to recall and write about the death of a loved one or the end of a close relationship. Some also wrote about a ritual they performed after experiencing the loss:

I used to play the song by Natalie Cole “I miss you like crazy” and cry every time I heard it and thought of my mom.

I looked for all the pictures we took together during the time we dated. I then destroyed them into small pieces (even the ones Ireally liked!), and then burnt them in the park where we first kissed.

We found that people who wrote about engaging in a ritual reported feeling less grief than did those who only wrote about the loss.

We next examined the power of rituals in alleviating disappointment in a more mundane context: losing a lottery. We invited people into the laboratory and told them they would be part of a random drawing in which they could win $200 on the spot and leave without completing the study. To make the pain of losing even worse, we even asked them to think and write about all the ways they would use the money. After the random draw, the winner got to leave, and we divided the remaining “losers” into two groups. Some people were asked to engage in the following ritual:

Step 1. Draw how you currently feel on the piece of paper on your desk for     two minutes.
Step 2. Please sprinkle a pinch of salt on the paper with your drawing.
Step 3. Please tear up the piece of paper.
Step 4. Count up to ten in your head five times.

Other people simply engaged in a task (drawing how they felt) for the same amount of time. Finally, everyone answered questions about their level of grief, such as “I can’t help feeling angry and upset about the fact that I did not win the $200.” The results? Those who performed a ritual after losing in the lottery reported feeling less grief. Our results suggest that engaging in rituals mitigates grief caused by both life-changing losses (such as the death of a loved one) and more mundane ones (losing a lottery).

Rituals appear to be effective, but, given the wide variety of rituals documented by social scientists, do we know which types of rituals work best? In a recent study conducted in Brazil, researchers studied people who perform simpatias: formulaic rituals that are used for solving problems such as quitting smoking, curing asthma, and warding off bad luck. People perceive simpatias to be more effective depending on the number of steps involved, the repetition of procedures, and whether the steps are performed at a specified time. While more research is needed, these intriguing results suggest that the specific nature of rituals may be crucial in understanding when they work – and when they do not.

Despite the absence of a direct causal connection between the ritual and the desired outcome, performing rituals with the intention of producing a certain result appears to be sufficient for that result to come true. While some rituals are unlikely to be effective – knocking on wood will not bring rain – many everyday rituals make a lot of sense and are surprisingly effective.



Circle of Life

Melton Haslett Clark


by Jeanne Leiter Clark


My husband Mel had a good life. He lived for over 73 years. I met him when he was 27 and I was going to college in Kansas City, Missouri. In my off hours after school, homework, and a part-time job, I attended a Dojo taking Judo classes. Mel was working full-time, attending college in Kansas City, Kansas and taking Karate classes at the same Dojo.


If it hadn’t been for that Dojo . . .


Mel at Temple of the Goddess 2013

Summer Solstice Ritual. (Photo by David Jacks)


He was raised by his grandmother and grandfather on a farm where his grandfather broke horses, had a garden, and raised chickens, but still, he was a city kid. He lived for a few years in Portland, Oregon, but spent most of his growing years in Lawrence, Turner, and Kansas City, Kansas with his half-sister Joyce (deceased). He is survived by a half-brother, Chuck Ramey, and a half-sister, Carol Darlene Pringle.


At Turner Junior High School he was a member of the Dramatics Class and took part in several plays, including Stage Door and Ten Little Indians.


Because the draft was in effect in 1958, Mel volunteered for the Army a month after he graduated from high school. Luckily for him this was a period of Peace. After Korea, and before the U.S. sent large number of troops to Viet Nam. He shipped out from New Jersey and spent his required time in Vicenza, Italy. He liked to tell how he managed to nab a job in the Administrations Office. When he arrived in Italy, the camp was covered with cold, white snow. As soon as the bus stopped, a soldier stuck his head in the door. "Can anybody on the bus type?" It only took an instant for Mel to figure out that the typewriter would be inside and a lot of other camp chores would be outside. His was the first and only hand held high.


In his off hours he worked with the base theater group on Petticoat Fever and Stalag 17. He spent leave time in Venice, Italy, Munich and other various towns in Germany.


He lucked out again when his platoon was mustered out three years later. He was released, whereas others in his group were held over for possible deployment to Viet Nam.


When he returned to Kansas City, Kansas he worked at an optical supply company, taking a night class in, of all things, French Language. (Side note: he had many gifts, learning another language was not one of them.)

When we met in June 1966 we decided fairly quickly to marry. We chose December and noticed that one of the Saturdays was the 31st. The more we thought about it, the more it sounded festive. The whole world is in a joyous mood, awaiting the bright future of the coming year.


Right from the start I asked him if he liked California (having lived there, and only coming back to Missouri in order to live at home and attend college full time, I was determined to move back to the Sunshine State). He said he didn’t know, had never been there. I asked him if he liked snow. He said–-very emphatically-–"No". I said, "You’ll love California."


We lived in Kansas City, Missouri for two years while I finished college, and we built a small bankroll to sustain us until we found jobs in California. Moving to Pasadena was a great move. Living near Colorado and Lake gave me a short drive to Jet Propulsion Laboratory where I worked as a chemist. Mel had a short walk to Pasadena City College where he attended classes in the day and worked in the Admittance Office at night. He earned enough credits for an AA degree.


After living for two years in Pasadena, we bought our house in Arcadia where we lived the remainder of our married years. While I worked at an agricultural chemical company, the G.I. Bill paid for Mel’s schooling at California State University, L.A. where he obtained a B.S. in Business Administration (Finance).


The degree got him a job with LAUSD; Financial Manager at Pasteur Middle School, and then at Virgil Middle School. He spent twenty-seven years in his career before retiring in January 2005.


Shortly after retiring, we took a two week trip to Italy. Mel wanted to show me the Venice he remembered from the Army. Not surprising, Mel found that it looked the same as it did in 1961! He had planned the entire trip. Going on-line, he booked the plane tickets, hotel rooms, several museum admissions, and the train tickets to Florence, Rome, and then back to Venice. It was the first time I had ever been outside the States. The trip was perfect.


He had learned chess while in the Army. Instead of the usual games, his barrack's buddy taught him how to play blindfold chess--in other words, no board, no pieces, he had to remember the location of his and his opponent's pieces and the moves on both sides! Chess continued to be an important avocation throughout the rest of his life. He joined the U.S. Chess Federation and the Arcadia Chess Club in 1999, became a player, then a Tournament Director (and treasurer) for the next fourteen years.


His interest in theater also continued his whole life, attending many plays (and dragging me to many musicals–however, he was fond of saying that I always ended up enjoying the plays/musicals he drug me to–true enough.) He enjoyed reading plays, too, subscribing to American Theatre in order to stay informed of the theater scene.


During his retirement years, he discovered he enjoyed cooking. He asked me if I minded him in my kitchen. My response was, do I look stupid? His specialty was gourmet meals, as opposed to my down home cooking. If I had any complaints about his cooking, it was that he enjoyed finding brand-new recipes and liked to cook meals we had never had before. I had to keep reminding him that sometimes he cooked something that I really, really loved, and would he perhaps cook it again? He would. He especially liked to host parties so he could research for and then prepare unusual appetizers and meals.


Except for the last two years where he underwent a triple-bypass and then four months later excision of part of his lung for cancer, he had a healthy life. He underwent chemo treatments for seven months where I believe he learned to trust others (doctors and nurses) by giving up his secrets to their intimate questions.


He did not call himself a Pagan, was on a different path than mine, but he learned to honor the decisions that I made on my path. He attended all Temple of the Goddess rituals and kept the ritual Give-aways in his bedroom. I believe he was proud of what Xia and I had created with the Temple.


On March 11th he passed over the Rainbow Bridge peacefully, in my arms. He was anointed and prayed over by Xia. We were priestesses to his embarking on the next phase of his journey.


I honor his life with my memories.



Learning How to Live


by Jeanne Leiter Clark


While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. -Leonardo da Vinci


Before you accept the notion of death, you must first embrace life.

     -Dr. Pio Vucetich Nunez del Prado, Peruvian Psychotherapist & Shaman


Mel and C-Ra : February 2009


Many cultures outside of Western societies understand and honor death. We in the West figure if we ignore it, it won’t be a problem. We don’t talk about it. In church our ministers talk about Heaven and Hell, but not about that moment of entrance. Our newspapers only deal with "If it bleeds, it leads." Magazines such as Time publish articles about the high cost of dying–Medicare and/or hospitals. Parents protect their children by telling them that Grandma went to sleep, or went on a trip. In my experience, grave site raw dirt is covered with artificial turf and the coffin descends into the hole only after everyone has left. However, I have been told that in Jewish culture there is no artificial turf and each person present is given a shovel which they use to put the final note onto the deceased’s song.


I have been trying to understand death ever since, when I was thirteen, my brother died in an automobile accident at the youthful age of nineteen. My parents didn’t ignore the subject of death, but my father had to go back to work, my mother had a nervous breakdown which required my sixteen-year-old sister to manage the house. There was no one to ‘teach’ me about death, to support me as I tried to handle my grief.


How can anyone ‘learn’ about death? The Los Angeles Times published an interesting article in a recent paper (15 April 2013). The article began on the top half of the front page. Some editor wisely thought it was important. It was entitled, "Death Café: passing thoughts". It seems that a year and a half ago a certain Jon Underwood thought it might be a good idea to sit around his London, England basement, sip tea, eat biscuits (cookies), and talk about death. Betsy Trapasso, living in the wild zone of Los Angeles decided to hostess one herself. She claims, "It’s not a support group. It’s not a grief group. My whole thing is to get people talking about it so they’re not afraid when the time comes." What a novel idea–talking about an invisible topic!


Trapasso describes herself as an end-of-life guide. "There are so many people who live in fear of death, and that’s one of the reasons we have such a youth-obsessed culture and culture that turns away from aging."


According to the article, "Life and death, death and life. The conversation slides easily back and forth between the two." Trapasso urges, "Live fully. Why have regrets?" Those present at the first L.A. Death Café (by the way, there are Death Cafés in Gig Harbor, Washington and Searsport, Maine and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and yes, even in Cleveland, Ohio) gave Trapasso advice: "If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t like the person you’re with, leave that person. Travel now. Don’t wait for later." Most importantly, "Don’t let anyone stop you from living the life you want."


I wish I would have had a chance to attend a Death Café many years ago. It probably would have made it easier to live through my father’s, then my mother’s, then my sister’s deaths. I was so wracked with grief when my special dog died that I had six visits to a therapist who agreed that my grief was far deeper than my dog’s death. Counseling, personal writings, rituals both public and private, and talks with friends helped me move past grief into sorrow. Although I handle death much better now, I still have a lot to learn.


My latest test with death started in June of 2011. My husband of forty-four years had a triple-bypass operation, then just four months later, underwent excision of small tumors on the left lobe of his lung. When the CT Scan in January of 2012 showed no tumors, we thought he had escaped The Bullet. His next CT Scan in July of 2012 showed a recurrence of the lung tumors. During his chemo treatments they gradually discovered metastases in his liver and bone marrow.


I hung onto the hope of modern science. I knew that lung cancer, especially with metastases, has a very low survival rate. I refused to think that he would or could die. By the end of February 2013 when the doctor told us that Mel wasn’t reacting well to the chemo, I still told myself that it was just a break, that he would resume the treatments in a few weeks and beat the dreaded "C".


For months Mel had been eating less and less. I had actually accused him of unconsciously trying to commit suicide by starvation–I was trying to shock him into eating. It didn’t work. A yellow caution light glowed at the back of my consciousness when he grew weaker and weaker. I kept my reactions ‘normal’ for Mel. Finally, he could no longer walk to the tv room or even from his bed to the bathroom, only 10 - 12 steps. I wheeled him in a wheelchair, but now, he only got out of bed to go to the bathroom. In one day he might eat a fourth of an apple and two chicken nuggets. He continued having an occasional scotch. But, now he had it in milk. "Gotta stay healthy," he’d say.


More and more, I felt desperate to find something that he would like to eat, and a tv show he’d like to move into the tv room to watch. It wasn’t until the 6th of March when I called to sign him up for hospice care that the yellow warning light turned a pale shade of red. His weight, as well as his blood pressure had been consistently dropping, but I became scared when the visiting nurse told me his blood pressure was 86 over 42. That is dangerously low (average blood pressure is 120/80).


For the last few weeks, Xia had been telling me that when the time came that I didn’t want to be alone, to call her. She told me she would pack a computer, a few clothes, and come and stay with me for as long as I needed her. She told me that only I would know when that time had come.


Friday afternoon (March 8th) Xia brought chicken from Zankou and from Portos, she brought potato balls that Mel loved. She said she’d like to go in and talk with him if he’d like to–if not, she could email him. I went in to check, since when one of his friends had called a few days before, he had said he didn’t want anyone to see him like he was. Mel said, "Of course." Later, she told me about their conversation. She started off by reassuring him that I, Pythia, was not alone, that I had family. He never ate again after having half a potato ball.


For my whole life it has been hard for me to ask for help. But Saturday morning, I called my sister, Xia, and asked for her to come and be with me. I told her that we'd had a rough night, and Mel couldn’t even go to the bathroom, even in his wheelchair. He had fallen and hit his head when I tried to help him from bed to the wheelchair. Then I said, "I need you. I want you." It was terribly hard for me to talk through the pain and tears.


Xia said she would pack a few things, close up her house and come over. She arrived Saturday afternoon, staying until Wednesday afternoon.


Mel was still coherent on Saturday, talking with Xia, and answering all the nurse’s questions and carrying on conversations. On Sunday the visiting nurse would not tell me his blood pressure until we were in the other room. It was not detectible.


That Sunday afternoon my sister Xia went in to talk with him, telling him that I had many sisters and brothers in Temple of the Goddess who would make sure that I would be looked after, cared for. Sunday evening hospice delivered morphine to the house. This is when I truly began to deal with Mel’s death. It stared me in the face and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I slept beside Mel, setting a timer, giving him just enough morphine every hour to keep him comfortable. I stayed by his side, holding him, kissing him, feeling the cold creep up from his fingers, to his hands, to his forearm, to his upper arms. His mouth remained open. He didn’t ask for food or liquid. I knew that he was in the process of dying. I learned that dying is not a finite point, but truly a journey. I remained with Mel throughout the night, and the next day, Monday April 11th. Xia made sure I ate something periodically. She also did a search on her computer for mortuaries. I decided on cremation with The Neptune Society.


I kept telling him I loved him and always had. I told him it was okay to leave. I kept repeating that whatever he saw, whether it was a door to go through or a new neighborhood to walk into or a rainbow bridge to cross, that it was okay. That it was the next part of his journey. Finally, at about four o’clock in the afternoon on Monday I knew he was very close to the Veil. I held him and asked him to contact me, if at all possible, after he had gone through the door, or walked into that new neighborhood, or crossed over the rainbow bridge. For the first time in 24 hours, he gave a single nod. Through my tears I said, "Okay, you promised. You’ll contact me if you can." He gave another single nod.


He gasped. I looked at my watch, it was four minutes after four in the afternoon. Two minutes passed and he gasped again. It was six minutes after four. He gave one last gasp at four oh seven. I couldn’t feel a pulse. He wasn’t breathing. I had embraced death and survived. Not only did I survive, but I had assisted Mel in his transition to the next phase of his journey.


For years I have talked about a soul choice, meaning an unconscious choice of cetain dying persons to die at a particular time or date. Everyone has heard about someone hanging on beyond doctors’ estimates until a relative or dear friend visits, or sometimes the person waits until their loved one/s leave the room, not wanting to subject their loved ones to their death. Mel did have a soul choice. He died on March 11, 2013, also written 3.11.13 = 3+111+ 3 = 333. I have used 333 as part of my email address for several decades. It is a very important number to me. As a Pagan I love the number "3", representing Maiden, Mother, Crone, and Pagans often refer to the Power of 3 times 3 which equals nine, the same as 3 + 3 + 3. As I was re-reading this for the sixth time, editing it, the last paragraph hit me in the face. It took Mel 3 minutes to die. . .


I went into the other room and told Xia that Mel had died. She went to Mel and as we looked down on his peaceful body, she mentioned that he probably wouldn’t want to leave the house in just a t-shirt and Depends. Mel was always particular about how he looked–chiding me for my jeans and t-shirt apparel. I agreed. We left his clean white t-shirt and recently replaced socks. I took off the Depends and put on new underwear. Together, we dressed him in clean black jeans. We both thought he looked his best in black. We straightened his body, resting his head on a pillow.


We waited together, with Mel, for the men from The Neptune Society. After filling out the paperwork at the dining room table, they wanted to see the room where he was to determine how to bring the stretcher in.


It was then, Xia told me later, that it hit her that Mel was really leaving and Spirit told her that Mel should be anointed by priestesses before he left with the men. She turned to me and asked, "Could we anoint him? I gratefully said, "YES!" I absolutely knew it was the right thing to do. She asked the Neptune representatives if we could have five or ten minutes with Mel before they took him away. They waited outside. They were very respectful. I went and got my bottle of myrrh oil and handed it to Xia.


I don’t remember all of what she said as I lay on the bed, my arm around my husband of the past forty-six years, but she used the myrrh oil to anoint him, calling him, "Sweet son of the Goddess." She prayed to the Mother to receive Her son into Her loving embrace. We were priestesses to this part of Mel’s journey.


As the Neptune men placed Mel on the stretcher, I picked up our dog, Pepper, in order for both of us to say a goodbye. The men placed a flag over his body to honor his service to the country in the Army. Xia and I (carrying Pepper, who would now be my only daily companion) followed Mel out to the street, waited as they placed him in the hearse, then watched as they drove away.


Xia told me later of "the honor, as a priestess, to share this blessed journey with you and your beloved."


By the way, Mel did contact me. I went to the grocery store the next day, Tuesday. I drove home a different route than I normally take, one past a gas station which showed the price of gas to be $4.07, the exact time of his death. That same day Xia received a call on her cell phone from a number she didn’t recognize: area code 407. She didn’t answer it. Friday in my morning prayers I prayed, as usual, to Pachamama (my personal Goddess) to give me strength. In my head I distinctly heard the following, "Strength comes with purpose." Not only did Mel contact me, but the Goddess did too.


The monthly anniversary of Mel’s death, April 11th, as I segued from sleep to wakefulness, I distinctly heard the brass bell ding four times. I had put it on the tv tray beside Mel’s bed. Before he became so weak, he had used the bell to signal me from the other room.


Mel fulfilled his promise to me. He contacted me from across the rainbow bridge, not once, but several times. I believe, if at all possible, he will continue contacting me. Once, while I was driving my car and thinking about this, I had a thought (I’m not sure if it was my thought or I received a message from outside). A conversation is not one-sided. I have, and intend to continue, contacting, talking with Mel.


I listen and watch the world around me. The past, the present, the future, this world, and the next are interwoven. I went to a lecture on April 22 and learned that the Ancient Egyptians believed this too. When they lit a wick in an alabaster lamp which was carved with a lily pad–symbolic of Creation, they were creating the Universe anew, at the beginning of time and in the present, conjointly. I just need to be aware, be conscious of every moment. Live in the present. Love in the present.


I am crying as I write this, but I’m not grieving. Grieving stops one’s forward momentum. I cry in sorrow. If I would wish him back, it would be selfish. After Mel’s death I read Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander. He had a seven day NDE (Near Death Experience). The book re-enforced my thoughts about the After-Life. What one experiences depends a lot on the philosophy of the individual experiencing it. I believe he is in such a glorious place in his journey that we cannot imagine. But still, I miss him so much.


Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.  -Helen Keller


We are all blind.

I love you Mel.

Both of us are on new paths of our journeys.

Bon Voyage.


I had a frustrating day on Friday, April 26th. I had to call Social Security and tell them that I could not find our marriage certificate in order to complete their claim form. It was also the first day that I had taken off Mel’s wedding ring in order to have a massage which I sorely needed (I had slipped the ring from his finger directly onto my right middle finger while Xia had been anointing him). I arrived home at 7:30 pm from having dinner with Xia (after the righteous massage) and saw the telephone answering device blinking. I punched the listen button and heard the machine say, "You have received one new call at 3:33 pm." There was no one on the recording, not even static, not even a hang up.


On May 11th, one of the Temple families came to my house to celebrate Mothers’ Day with me. CandyJo, Ernie, and their daughter Essence and son Prophet. They had graciously given me the privilege of attending the birth of Prophet in December 2010. I have been given the gift of being present and aiding a new life to come through the doorway into this marvelous world. I have also been given the gift of being present and aiding a precious life exit through that same doorway. I now realize that the door to life and death is the same doorway.


I must tell you of one more communication (gift) that flowed from Mel to me. Because CandyJo and Ernie were running late on the 11th, I turned on the tv to pass the time. The tv was already set to channel 2. It was one hour into a three hour show of PBR bull-riding. This is my favorite sport to watch. Mel would often spot it in the line-up and record it for me as a surprise. Thank you Mel.


I don't know how long Mel will be able to communicate with me. But with an open heart and an open mind, I am patiently waiting.


This is not the end.




You are sitting around a fire after a hard day of work. The air cools and the sun sets, the frogs and crickets begin singing as the sky darkens. Suddenly the person you have been eagerly awaiting leaps to the center of the circle. Your Shaman begins her story. You have heard the story a hundred times, but the antics of the animals and the wisdom in the story never fail to give you pleasure. As she weaves her tale, the knowledge that every thing is alive, carrying its own power and wisdom, soothes your soul.


Let us join together, in this virtual circle, and share these Animal Tales. Let us once again feel how the stories connect us to the natural world and remind us that we are all part of a vast Circle of Life. Listen now as the Shaman's animal stories whisper tales of that power and wisdom in your ear.


Tonight it is another Coyote tale. This one is from the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Their land is located in the mountains and rugged mesas of northern New Mexico.


Coyotes are teachers, teaching by example with laughter and folly. According to Coyote nothing is sacred and all things are sacred. He also reminds us to pay attention and think hard about what you do!


How Coyote Obtained Fire


When the people came up onto earth, Coyote was the very last one of the animals to emerge.


When this world was made the trees wouldn't burn. The people were living without fire. Coyote was running all over. No one knew where he would be the next day. He was running from place to place.


One time he found a place with great rock cliffs all around. In the bottom was a hollow place. A great spruce tree was standing there. The people who lived there were the fireflies. They came up in the cliffs by means of rock steps, so that no one could see their footprints and know the way to enter. The stones were laid one ahead of the other, so that the people, when they came out, could step on these rocks.


Coyote saw some little children playing at the side of the cliff. He asked them, "Where is the entrance to this place?"


The children paid no attention to him, however.


He thought and thought, "What will these children like?"


He picked some cedar berries and made beads out of these. He colored the beads four different colors: the first black, the second blue, the third yellow, and the fourth all colors. He went back to the children with four beaded strings. He started to speak to them, but they paid no attention to him. They acted as if they didn't understand what Coyote was talking about. He was trying to make a game for the children so that he could draw them to him. He wanted them to talk to him and laugh at him, too.


Finally they noticed him. He said to them, "I'll give you these beads, but you have to show me the way to get in. I want to see the inside of this cliff place. If you show me the way, I'll give you these beads."


He put a string of beads around each of the necks of two girls and two boys. He said, "How pretty you are! You look nice now. You have on pretty necklaces."


The four children were pleased then and led Coyote to the entrance. They showed him the stones and said, "Right here is where you go down. Right at this spruce tree is the door. We live beyond this cliff. This is the way we get in; this is the way we get out."


They spoke to the spruce tree and said, "Come, bend down to us."


Then the spruce tree bent down to each of the children.


"Now bend away from us," they said, and it took them across the cliff.

But Coyote didn't go in yet. He just learned how. The four children on the other side then had another spruce tree which was standing inside the entrance throw them outside again.


Now Coyote saw how to do it, but he didn't go in yet. He asked the children, "What's going on down there?"


"We have great fun every night," they told him. "We have a big fire there each night and we dance around it."


Now Coyote knew all about what was going on on the other side. That's what he wanted. He wanted to get that fire and take it to his people. He wanted his own people to have good times at night, too.


He went back to the people and told the chief. The chief gave a command to all fast birds and fast animals to help Coyote obtain fire.


Coyote said, "Now I'm going to go back to those cliff people. When I get fire I'm going to hand it to one of you, and the one who takes it should run, and when he tires he should give it to another fellow." Everything was arranged. The fast running birds were notified. They were told to stand all around the world and to be prepared to run. "The fireflies might prove to be good runners," Coyote said. That is why all these helpers were picked out. These people were all around the world waiting. If the fireflies were not good runners, Coyote was not going to pass it on, but if they proved to be good runners he was going to do so. He explained all this to them.


Coyote then went and got some dry cedar bark. He shredded it and tied it around his tail. He made a torch. When night came he went over to the place of the cliff. He went to the young spruce and spoke to it, and it put him over on the other side.


He saw the fireflies dancing with the deer and antelopes, and with the white-tailed deer, too. Flicker was there too. They were all having a good time dancing.


Coyote came up to a cliff resident. He asked permission to join the dance. Mountain-lion was chief there. Mountain-lion told him, "If you won't be too rough I'll let you join the dance."


"I'll try," said Coyote.


Coyote danced. He tried to dance close to the fire. But some were suspicious of him. Every time he got too close to the fire, someone got in between him and the fire.


After a while the people got tired of watching him and relaxed their vigilance. Finally, he approached nearer to the fire and pushed his tail with the cedar bark into the flames. Someone called to him, "Friend, your tail will be burned."


"No, I always do that without any trouble. I am a wonder worker."


He watched his tail. When it was burning brightly he started to run.

Someone called, "Coyote is running!"


Everyone started to run after him. He lost his way. They all tried to circle around him, but he ran between them whenever he saw a space. Then he remembered where the place of exit was. He started to run that way.

He ran to the spruce tree, crying, "Come, bend to me!" It bent down. Then he said, "Now you turn the other way with me." It did.


The cliff people were coming close behind him. They were gaining on him. He dodged about among the trees. Some trees he hit with his tail while he was running, and those are the ones which burn well today, like the oak and the pine. But he did not hit the rocks with his tail, and that is why they can't be made to burn now.


The fireflies and all the others were running after him still. Coyote began to run around the world. On his way he set many things on fire; he spread it all over. Those who were running after him grew tired when they got about half way. They gave up, thinking, "Let him keep the fire."


The fireflies came back to the cliff place. They had a council. They asked, "Who told Coyote how to come in?"


All the other children told on the four who had taken the beads from Coyote and given him the information. The two boys and two girls pointed to their necklaces and said, "Coyote paid us these beads for the fire."


The parents of those children got after them, but it was too late then.


Coyote had run far. He was tired by the time the cliff people gave up the chase. He fell right down in the shade, his tail still burning. He rested and started running again. He went on until he had circled the world.


He meant to touch every kind of tree with his tail, but one tree he missed which stood in the east and that one became petrified. So all wood but this one kind will burn. Even if you put this one into the stove it will not burn.

Coyote came back to the Indian camps. He said, "Now you can use this fire."


All Coyote’s people were glad that they now had fire.


When Coyote ran around the world he went the way the sun goes. He headed for the east and then for the south, and so on. But he didn't run straight. He zigzagged all around. The others took no part in the run. They just stood

around and watched him.


So it was only through Coyote’s cleverness and swiftness that brought fire to his people.



Retrieved from http://www.indigenouspeople.net/coyote.htm


Here's a website that gives you a good look at Coyote Medicine: http://www.pathtoharmony.com/coyotemedicine.htm




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