Thursday, January 4, 2007

The Old Ways are Best

Two excellent articles via Witchvox today:

Ancient tome on herbal medicine shows new truths

This article points up the value of "oral history". It was only a few years ago that oral histories were just considered myths (heh, like 'myths' are a bad thing). Thankfully, Cultural Anthropologists, historians, and geneticists are now paying much more attention to peoples' oral traditions:

In this case, the "ancient knowledge" probably would have disappeared if not for the dogged persistence of Georg Everhard Rumphius, a mercenary with the Dutch East India Company, whose story is recounted in the Dec. 23 British Medical Journal article. In 1657, he started collecting plants on the Indonesian island of Ambon and recording their medicinal uses in a text that he illustrated himself. Thirty years later, his manuscripts burned in a fire...

But Rumphius rewrote it from memory...

...The surviving copies were essentially gathering dust in rare-book collections until a Dutch-language professor decided to translate part of the text into English...

Eric Buenz, a graduate medical student, found the text and decided to test the efficacy of some of the plants (particularly one for diarrhea). Together with a co-researcher, it was discovered that some of the plants had strongly microbicidic properties, and it may indeed work against the conditions for which it was prescribed. But leaves us with a positive note concerning cultural knowledge:

...But the larger message, he said, is that there may be more to learn from the ancients. "It should keep us somewhat humble," he said...

Many Wiccans embrace the teachings from spiritual traditions of American Indians. This article, by James T. Moore, appeared in American Daily, a staunchly Right Wing publication:

What We Can Learn From Indians

Whether living in tribes in the mountains, on the plains, in the forests, or near the coast, American Indians believed, and still do, that all mankind has a unique relationship with everything in nature, and especially with the Divine Power that created all things. The Indian didn’t, of course, call this divine entity God. The word God was foreign to him. Rather, he called it the Great Spirit. And before this article is over I think you will agree that the Great Spirit which Indians acknowledge, communicate with, honor, obey, and worship is as much, or more, of a true relationship with the Almighty than many of our so-called religious institutions preach. Even further, I think you will see how various aspects of Indian thought and attitude might help us counter the devastating, chaotic situation in our world today—and quiet some troubled hearts.

Well said. Mr. Moore recounts fondly the email exchanges and long distance friendship he had with a man named Keepshorse, a Lakota Indian. From this, he has generated a great sampling of wisdom (he calls them 'axioms'). To quote Joseph Cambell, these sure are 'myths to live by':

COOPERATION: “What could be greater than to be the Creator’s mind, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, hands, legs and feet here on Earth?”---Fools Crow. Lakota

VISION: “Believing people can soar beyond ordinary life.”---Fools Crow, Lakota

NATURE “We need to save those Elders who cannot speak for themselves…the trees.”---Haida Gwaii—Traditional Circle of Elders

GUIDANCE: “He walks with us along the pathways of life, and He can do for us what we could never do on our own.”---Fools Crow, Lakota

HUMILITY: “We consider ourselves superior. But we must understand that we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there is a part of the creation.” --Oren Lyons, Onondaga

AWARENESS: “Words hypnotize and deceive at one time or another, but those hypnotic words cannot last long in the hearts of true warriors.” --- Barney Bush, Shawnee

RESPECT: “If I destroy you I destroy myself, if I honor you I honor myself.” ---Hunbatz Man, Mayan

PRINCIPLES: “Today, what is important for us to realize is that old sacred ways are correct, and that if we do not follow them we will be lost and without a guide.” ---Thomas Yellowtail, Crow

ENVIRONMENT: “Whenever you take anything from the earth, remember to leave an offering.”---Joe Coyhis, Stockbridge-Muncee

Moore also lists an "Indian 10 Commandments", which is also worth keeping close to our hearts. He concludes:

...I have a suspicion that the Great Spirit told the Indians the same things that God told us. And if we had followed the Creator’s advice, each in his way, much of today’s turmoil and chaos might not be happening.To paraphrase Puck: “What fools we mortals be.

I've posted here before about certain groups of Xtian Fundamentalists recognising the need for preserving our Mother Earth. I hope I am not kidding myself, but maybe this is a sign of enlightenment among groups previously hostile to us.

No comments: