As I have been called to action, more from Earth and Spirit than from world events, I found myself drawn into a deep exploration of my own Nature as an integral part of finding a compass in these times. As a woman, indigenous to what some call North America, who was displaced from my culture due to events unfolding in the course of this land’s history, I found I had to question deeply the reality I had been handed. To sit as a Native woman in a high school U.S. Civics course, was to realize that there are many versions of the truth–and the majority are not real when it comes to truth. I turned to Indigenous peoples to hear our version of the truth, and how we make sense of this life; how we view reality. Among many differences, one that took me on a profound journey was to witness and experience how we hold the spectrum of our gender. That I am born woman is significant in every single Earth-based culture I have encountered. Going back to work in U.S. culture, or maybe we could say, modern culture, I began to see how, in the history of humanity, the dysfunction between masculine and feminine, and between men and woman, was at the core of many difficulties we face. My primary course of what I will call ‘Sacred Activism’ has been to unravel, and explore the nature of this malfunction.
Now how does the functional polarity of masculine and feminine aspect come into the picture of activism you might ask, isn’t looming global catastrophe complex enough without throwing that unwieldy can of worms into the mix? Perhaps. And yet, ancient culture–that culture which has known how to live in place in relative health, harmony and happiness, for extended periods of time, say, a thousand years, two thousand years, three thousand years or more–would tell us that the last world was destroyed because Men’s Nation and Women’s Nation believed they could live without each other. As it is possible that the ologists have made such knowledge of such longevity feel a bit too anecdotal for our rational sensibilities, then let me put it another way: if at this time we might agree that as a species, the sum total of our actions is on a course that seems to have forgotten a foundational principle, which is that The Plan is Life. And if we might agree that it would make sense to rethink ourselves, or to put it another way, ‘birth ourselves anew,’ then might we be open to the idea that the newness we seek does indeed lie at the core of our–humanity’s–procreative ability?
At one point in my spiritual seeking, as I was confronting my own aging as a female of our kind, and the mysterious way in which modern culture greets this inevitable transformation of half of our population, I called out to my teachers:
“What do we really mean when we say, ‘feminine?’ And what are we really talking about when we say ‘masculine?’ Those words have so much baggage if we were to not use those words, in particular, what would we really be talking about?”
They responded, “Ah, now you’re asking a good question.” My inner 6th grade, front row, student beamed. “It’s true, you think you know what ‘feminine’ is, but you don’t. And you think you know what ‘masculine’ is, but you don’t. All you really know is how the ‘masculine’ behaves when it is plugged into a power-over paradigm. And all you know is how the ‘feminine’ behaves when it is plugged into a power-over paradigm. But that paradigm is a choice, among many choices. And those two Medicines behave very differently in other paradigms, which humanity has known at other times. In a power-over paradigm ‘might makes right’ those with the most brute force will take their places in what will naturally form as a pyramid shaped structure. It is worth noting that while physical violence may not always be present, any time one person chooses power over another, that violence is implied, it is the underlying force in action.”
Who am I?
When activism becomes too convoluted and overwhelming, I resort to this: you have to know Who you are, Where you are, and How it is. Who I am, in one view, is a female of the human species, or of the Five-Fingered-Ones. Why did I come here as this? Why does anyone come here, to this Earth-Walk Life as this? What does it mean and where should I look for this meaning? As I am connected to two systems of ancient humanity, the Diné and the Lakota, naturally I inquire in those movements. Here I see that I can call myself, Holy Earth Surface Walker, Life Bringer, Life Bearer. Here I see that my design is a design for Thriving Life and will bring forth the future, in generations, yes, but also in the fruitfulness of inestimable variety, exactly as the Mother Earth herself does. I am told that my biology affords a Spiritual capacity that is capable of profound co-creation and cooperation with the Earth, as well as the Womb of the Cosmos, such that as she infuses me with boundless nourishment and nurturing, I am a fountain of care and generosity in my home, in my family, in my community, and in the cosmos as well. In this connection to her, I stand with her ‘authority,’ always, as her agency, speaking on behalf of Life and Sacred Creation of every nature. I am naturally a lucid dreamer, dreaming with the Mother Earth, receiving instruction for how to be here; for how my community can move and keep adjusting to be in alignment with the Thriving Life Plan, specific to where we are planted on her vast body. My language for this knows little about Point A and Point B, moving instead from the center, spiraling out, circular and evolving with each revolution, in the perfect, true and deep efficiency of the natural world around me. Glass ceilings, witch hunts, liberation, equality? Equal to what, exactly?
The Sacred Masculine Roles of Protector and Provider
Who are we as Men’s Nation? I find that I have heard very little language for the Sacred Masculine in my life. It is as though it does not need to be spoken, but is implied by witnessing what men do, and how they do it. ‘Patriarchy equals masculinity’ is a common calculation of our time. But if, as was pointed out, I am only witnessing how the masculine behaves in a very particular system, and one with both literal and implied violence as its primary modality, then my inquiry must move deeper and in other directions if I am to come upon the truth of knowing ‘who I am’ and who the Masculine is, relative to the Thriving Life Plan. Does patriarch inherently mean violence? As many have said before me now, when we, story beings that we are, do not have language for something, it tends to remain elusive if not entirely invisible to us. A primary form of activism for me at the moment is attempting to remember the language but also, the song, of the Masculine as it is in service to Life. This has become a priority for me for the reason that, without this language, our procreative endeavors will continue to bear only bitter and noxious fruits or perhaps more truthfully, remain barren of any fruit at all that can actually feed Life.
From ancient human systems’ perspective, I might say that there are three primary roles that might be called inherent to the Sacred Masculine, two of which are Protector and Provider. Protector and Provider of/for what? Protector and Provider of/for Life. The sign of any successful leadership on the part of the Men’s Nation is that the children and elders of their community are cared for. As Men’s Nation has been plugged into the power-over paradigm, a paradigm inherently propelled by violence, eliciting in particular unhealthy competition and isolation, I witness a difficult adaptation, bordering on mutation, of these Sacred properties. As I come from a line of humanity that recently has weathered attempted genocide; I can say from experience that when a man is prevented from fulfilling these two sacred duties, it can change him. Most commonly, the adverse response can be for the suppressed man to either become a perpetrator of power-over violence, or he relinquishes all belief in his ability to keep his sacred charge. These responses carry forward for generations.
I confess that I cringe as I name these two Sacred roles to modern Men’s Nation. How must it feel to a man to be charged with being Protector as even the most adamant of the ‘free nations’ have been positioning themselves to move into martial law at any instant, inch by inch? And how must it feel to be charged with being Provider in an economic system that is rigged, in which the majority is never meant to win? I cry as I watch this machine that men are indoctrinated into, often father to son, breaking their hearts, and spirits, and bodies too; their noble instincts hijacked by an illusion of false power, false pride, and a false promise of fulfilling a distorted version of their Sacred role. How do we know that these are false? We can know that they are false because they are not leading to Thriving Life.
The Sacred Fire Keeper
I heard of a man who had come into his eighties exclaim, “Finally, I am released from the tyranny of testosterone.” This brings me to the third medicine of the Sacred Masculine: the Sacred Fire Keeper. As nature would have it, as I went through a rollicking ocean of mid-life hormonal fluctuations and all of their accompanying behaviors, thoughts, and feelings, I was given a specific Grace for about a month: a massive surge of testosterone. I had never experienced such a fire. Everything that moved, and even certain inanimate objects, were of sensuous interest to me. I remember being profoundly in awe of all of the many men I have known who were nothing but honorable and respectful with the use of this molten blaze that apparently they were holding within. It was unfathomable to me how they maintained that discipline and integrity, year after year. It was questionable to me, in a humbling and even frightening way, to imagine who I might become if that fire had burned for any longer than it did. As a woman, I concluded, it is entirely possible that I am just not up to holding such a fire any more than I am made to understand it when it becomes Wildfire.
My respect for Men’s Nation, and what they are charged with, grew so deep during this time. I came to understand the true horror and torment of the media all around us in all directions and at all hours. I felt the pain of being shamed and feared for something so integral and powerful and inherent in my make up as the male aspect. I felt the schizophrenia of the pleasure and pride in the power of this Medicine, mixed with the confusion and fear of myself in the responsibility of holding it. Nowhere did I see the true initiation in the modern world for its correct use as Sacred Fire. Seemingly, the teaching of how to hold the confusion and fear of it was to douse it in liberal amounts of alcohol.
The Sacred Hoop of Life
From ancient humanity systems view, sometimes our whole Life construct is held in the symbol of a hoop, the Sacred Hoop of Life. Every Life form, plant, animal, stone, water, sky, star, air, fire, holds a place on the Hoop of Life. Every member of this Hoop has a perfect design to uphold its part. If any member does not uphold their part, the integrity of the Hoop begins to fail. This is why I would propose that it is important for us to consider: What is our design for Thriving Life? How am I working with my design for Thriving Life, and how am I working against my design for Thriving Life? I propose that our biology holds many clues about our design for Thriving Life, as we have not been off course and out in the rough for so long that our biology has maladapted toward the demise of Life–yet. For example, the fact that Women’s Nation, if they live together for any length of time, all begin to move into the same menstruation cycle, should be a big clue for us, that something is supposed to occur, some possibility is available to us, at that time. This Fire held within the Masculine Design is also, assuredly, a part of our Thriving Life Design. If The Plan is Life, then it would only make sense that such a Fire would be profound Medicine for Life, a driving force that assures that Life will most definitely continue on and on into the future. What a relief to hold this force, so vilified and feared in our time, as deep Medicine to be held with respect and, yes, reverence. Now, to learn the true nature of Sacred Fire tending.
To Men’s Nation
To Men’s Nation, I find the language arising–at long last!–to say: I sing, dance, and pray for you, wholeheartedly, to be just as powerful as you possibly can be, in body, yes, but also in that laser, at times singular, focus of your amazing mind. In my journey into the Earth and into the womb of the Cosmos I cannot hold that way of mind, nor am I meant to, and so at that time, I rely on this strength of yours to hold us and keep us. I ask for your wonderful wide heart to be as powerful as it can possibly be, nothing moves me now as deeply as hearing you speak, and sing, and pray, with an open heart, rare Medicine to me and to the unknown or forgotten origin of hunger of this Holy Earth, Sky, and Multiverse. I travel deeply within, and also beyond, to encounter the true nature of your Thriving Life Spirit. As I come to understand myself, and all that was hidden from me, I see that we can meet, in perfect, functional and Holy Polarity.
Holy Earth Surface Walker, Sacred Fire Keeper, Guardian and Tender of Life, the One who has a heart that can weep in prayer, prayers of love and adoration for the Life Bringer, Life Bearer, and her fruit, your daughters, and sons I come before you now. I have seen you shed a tear, even for the pencils and backpack of your grandchild, as they approach their first day of school. Your breadth of heart, this tender, can then also find the courage and strength to take the life of the Deer and the Buffalo, in a sacred pact of respect and reciprocity which only you truly understand, providing for all that your heart loves, including our elders. Keeper of the external Sacred Fire, you watch over the coming of age of the daughters who will bear the Future, vigilant, tireless, meticulous, architects of the Visions coming from Spirit, through the spiritual womb of the Womb’an, to Earth. You watch over your sons as they mature into strength, Sacred Internal Fire growing, growing, as yours has also. That Fire within, the driving force propelling Life forward for our kind, burning with the Sun, Holy Star above, powerful, inextinguishable, you tend that fire also, once again, to serve the flowering of Life, with true and holy strength.
I say to you, I cannot be who I am made to be, without you being who you are made to be. In your very existence, in my very existence, we consummate the great purpose of Thriving Life. None shall drive us apart, ever again, not in my heart, mind or spirit, this is my vow of conjugal bond with you as the Female of our kind. This is my most Sacred Activism, now forming the seeds of Truth, which is Life, to be cast into the soil of the future, together, with you.
To speak these words has taken every bit of strength and courage, all of my cunning and vulnerability. The Spirit Helpers have intervened again and again to guide me to this place, and again I would call this Grace descending upon me. To me, this seems to be the root from which any activism needs to arise. The Hoop of Life does not understand ‘us vs. them.’ The Hoop of Life only understands ‘We.’ Every action then must arise out of a functional polarity from our kind, or we only further the illusion of separation, antithetical to the nature of our construct. Every form of separation must heal, one by one by one, but this one, between Masculine and Feminine, between Men’s Nation and Women’s Nation and the spectrum humanity, holds in between and beyond, is at the core of our course correction. Suddenly, our task doesn’t really seem so bad at all.
For all my relations and the continuing story of Creation, that We, all of us together, are telling, right now.
Pat McCabe, known as Woman Stands Shining, is a Diné (Navajo) mother, grandmother, activist, artist, writer, ceremonial leader, and international speaker. She is a voice for global peace, and her paintings are created as tools for individual, earth, and global healing. She has appeared in two documentary films: ‘SEEDing Change’ and ‘Journeying to Turtle Island’, and has presented at numerous conferences, events, and Indigenous gatherings around the world including Bali, Belgium, Chile, Ecuador, England, India, Italy, Mexico City, Peru, Scotland, Sri Lanka, and in the U.S., as well as the national Bioneers Conference and the International Healing Conference in Bali. She lives in Taos, New Mexico, and hopes all peoples of the Earth ‘can learn from Indigenous experience and re-member themselves and their own birth-right relationship with this Mother Earth.’ She draws upon the deep Indigenous sciences of thriving life to reframe inquiries about sustainability and balance, and she is devoted to supporting the next generations, the ‘Women’s Nation’ and the ‘Men’s Nation’ in being functional members of the ‘Hoop of Life’ and upholding the honor of being human.