According to one of my beloved Elders, the upcoming Wolf Moon has great significance for us as Indigenous people. In the past it was known as a hard moon - the food stores of winter are beginning to dwindle - we don't know how long the winter will go on for - it is cold and the cold takes its own toll on the people - the warriors are stretched to find food in the hunt and will often make the choice to go hungry to allow the people to have nourishment. In the now, when i think of this Wolf Moon, i think about many things: the things that nourish our spirit and our journey, the test of winter with the cold and darkness and of our Elders, whose numbers continue to dwindle.
There are many out there who claim the title of Elder, who are quick to share with you how many people they have 'healed' or 'saved. For me, the true Elders are the ones who are reluctant to take upon themselves that title even when others confer it. I have been told that a person is deemed to be an Elder by the community... there is no 'self-appointment' and that being an Elder for one community doesn't mean you are an Elder in any other community. I have been told that each of us has the right to choose our own Elders - meaning that someone who is an Elder for you might not be seen in that light by others. When i encounter people who tell me they are an Elder, i find myself uncomfortable in a host of ways.
I have been blessed to have a number of truly wise, wonderful and humble Elders come into my life and share my journey since i reclaimed my heritage and began my walk on the Red Road. This winter has been hard - i have lost two of those Elders. In November i lost Gaazonegee kwe who i have helped with ceremony for almost 15 years. She was known as everyone's Auntie and it was strange to hear people sometimes call her Grandmother, that beautiful honorific usually reserved for those considered Elders. Many did see her as an Elder as she was very loving and wise. She worked tirelessly to bring healing to the people with the cedar bath ceremony, sweats and more. She was like a mother to me. She was one of few Elders who supported two-spirit people like myself and welcomed us to ceremony just as we are. The love that she would always greet me with filled me up with great joy. I was privileged to sit with her through her transition to the star world. She was ready, i was sort of ready but still my heart broke when she took her last breath. I will miss seeing that love for me in her eyes but i will carry it in my heart forever.
On December 24th, Ma'aingan d'bik Gizis who i have been Helping for about 20 years, crossed into the spirit world. This was unexpected, shocking, traumatic and my heart is truly broken. He was a veteran, a soft spoken humble man who restored my faith in men in general. He had a wicked sense of humour and was one of those Elders who simply accepted people where they were at. His teachings came from a place of respect for each persons gifts, not requiring us to all be the same but seeing the strength in our differences. We would walk with those who were not accepted in other circles and welcome them. One of the most important things he taught me is that if we carry ceremony, our responsibility is simply to offer that ceremony when it is asked for - we do not need to 'police' those who ask - we need only police ourselves because Creator and the medicine will take care of everything else. He taught me the importance of being a 'hollow bone' to allow Creator's breath to move through you and that would be where everything that was needed would come from. I would often watch him be that 'hollow bone' in sharing teachings with others. I will miss his good words and calm presence. I will also much miss his humour.
Neither of these people ever described themselves as Elders - in fact, they were visibly uncomfortable when others described them as such. They walked with a beautiful humility, not placing themselves above anyone but recognising the gifts in all. They were incredible role models on how to put your footsteps down in a good way - in a way consistent with those seven sacred teachings. Now it is for me to figure out how to carry on without two people who have been my anchors, my strength and so much more. I am truly in the Wolf Moon, as that wisdom which has nourished me for so long seems to be unreachable and i feel in danger from the cold and darkness that is creeping in around me in my grief.
The key to moving forward is for me to remember and continue to live by the teachings they shared with me because that means that they have not left me at all. In fact, in an Indigenous understanding of the world, they have simply shifted to a world that is not above but rather alongside this one. I may not be able to see them in the same way but there, just over my shoulder, they are continuing to whisper their wisdom in my ear. There will be moments of great grief, sadness and sense of loss but there will also be moments of laughter and comfort in those teachings and memories. My world has changed, the Wolf Moon is upon me and yet i will continue to put down my footsteps in a good way - the way they taught me because my Elders still are walking with me... just there... in the moonlight.