These “Between The Lines” interviews done by e-mail and transcribed for readability by Mankh
#1 - MariJo Moore, who compiled and edited When Spirits Visit: A Collection of Stories by Indigenous Authors (rENEGADE pLANETS pUBLISHING, Asheville, NC, 2016). See a list of all her books and more at: http://marijomoore.com
(Between The Lines – BTL)
This is the first non-audio version of “Between The Lines” so calling it “Between The Lines – Readable”... welcome MariJo!, thanks for doing this. In your online piece “We Are Story Stones On Which Sacred Carvings Are Made Daily”
“...it is important to go beyond the sounds in chanting, beyond the tune in music, beyond the dancing in ceremony, and beyond the words in storytelling.”
That fits with the gist of “Between The Lines”... So my first question has to do with your most recent anthology “When Spirits Visit”... how did you get the idea, what prompted this anthology which wonderfully explores the experiences of learning and healing from dreams, visions, and spirit visitations, which, for a lot of people, is radically different from book and school learning.
(MariJo Moore – MM)
The idea of "When Spirits Visit" came to me through intuition as all my former books have. I rely heavily on spiritual guidance as to what needs to be written and shared with others.
As someone who has American Indian ancestry, the realm of the "otherwordly" has always been a valid belief for me. And since I am gifted with the abilities of being a seer and medium, I have always dealt with the other side. Many people, through the years, have shared stories with me concerning visitations, dream guidance, etc., and with this new anthology, I gave several Indian writers the opportunity to share theirs.
My sense is that many people, perhaps everyone, has had some such experience at some level, yet it is often considered spooky or inconclusive for many reasons including a kind of reverence for scientific data, yet am reminded of a phrase that when I first heard, it made a huge impression, “spiritual science”, because it revealed to me that these kinds of experiences can in fact be helpfully categorized to some degree. An example of that is alluded to in Lois Red Elk’s story “House of Portals” as she writes about her Lakota upbringing, “...our family belonged to a dream society... my Grandma was known as a dream interpreter. And Phyllis Fast, a Koyukon Athabascan, describes in her story, “Nabiita, A House Spirit”, a “project spirit”, in other words, a spirit that helped her decorate when she first moved to a new house. How strong, how pervasive is this sense of a “spiritual science” for Indian aka Native cultures?
The idea of spirituality is the basis, I feel, for all Native beliefs (not only Native peoples but for all peoples, if one does research). Traditional Native people believe in interconnectedness - the idea that all - this realm and the next - are connected. That we are All One, so to speak. Therefore, there is no way to separate the two. In my opinion, those who do not believe in a spiritual realm have still to some extent, had an experience or two concerning this that they referred to as coincidence. I do not believe in coincidence. Many times people cannot find answers to daunting questions concerning their lives or their loved ones, and so ancestral spirits will contribute what they can in the way of helping. It all depends on how one is taught to honor these spirits.
“Honor these spirits” is an excellent reminder that it’s a two-way street and that spirits generally WANT to help and that they too deserve respect. And as you mention, it’s “all peoples”... so many cultures mention offerings to spirits, whether its flowers, candles on an altar, sweeping a grave site, etc. Another stereotype is that these kinds of experiences are always serious or scary. They can be but in Dawn Karima’s story, “Widows and Orphans”, told from the perspective of a pastor, there’s a wonderfully humorous depiction, “He’s surprised to see the Spirit again and wonders if maybe it should drive, After all, he reasons, in matters of the Divine, it might be best not to lead, but to follow. He starts to offer to let The Spirit drive, until he looks over and sees that The Spirit is already riding shotgun.” How often do you hear of or experience yourself, humorous encounters with spirits?
I have had many experiences where Spirits exhibit a sense of humor. As my late great mentor Vine Deloria, Jr and I once discussed, "A sense of humor is what has helped Native peoples endure what they have had, and continue to endure." I cannot divulge a certain instance of spiritual humor from any of my "readings" due to client confidentiality. But I will share that many times the spirit of the deceased will give a humorous assertion of a certain dilemma in the client's life. I am often told, "That sounds just like my grandmother, mother, father, etc." I believe a sense of humor is an essential part of making sense of life - this one or the next.
That’s good and amusing to know that people’s idiosyncrasies and familial opinions don’t really go away! Personally, one of the last things my dad said to me before he crossed over was, “Don’t lose your sense of humor.” And years later, after the 9-11 attacks I dreamt of him and he stared into my eyes and said, “Go bowling”, which is kinda funny yet I interpreted it as spirit telling me to keep playing and not to be devastated by the world events; not long after that I went bowling with my niece and nephew, and I swear I channeled a few strikes from my dad.
One of the most powerful stories for me is Sean Milanovich’s “Water Is Medicine”. He writes, “Cahuilla acknowledge and honor all water bodies including springs, rivers, oceans, clouds and underground sources. ... The Cahuilla have learned water heals the people and the land... The water bodies are living entities and need love, the ancestors declared. Pa’at was instructed to sing and feed the water. The ancestors told him to sing and offer prayers to local springs... They told Pa’at if he and others sang and offered prayers to the spring, it would flow again.” Can you comment on this with regard to climate chaos and the levels of toxicity the world aka Mother Earth is dealing with, for example, radioactive water in the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear disaster...
To this I can say that traditionally, Native peoples were taught to consider the next seven generations in every action concerning earth. Obviously many forms of technology, which is a double edged sword, have not adhered to this belief. Sean and his people are from the desert- to not have water would mean they could not exist. I admire his candor and willingness to share what he wrote as it should touch a nerve in all of us, whether we live in deserts or not. Water is the substance of all our lives, and we must keep praying it is stronger than what many are putting it through. That it can maintain its stability and ability to help us, even though seemingly there are many who have no thought for future generations, as Sean and many other Native peoples are taught to do. Cleansing prayer is absolutely necessary for all forms of life in this modern day.
Thanks for that answer. It reminds me that, since we shower and cleanse ourselves virtually everyday, we owe it to the water and whatever other element or nature habitat that needs help, to do some form of “cleansing prayer” everyday, as well.
How did you gather the stories, are they from Native people you know personally, writer’s groups, word of mouth...?
I never "put out a call" to writers, instead I ask those whom I know will deliver excellent writings to submit to my anthologies. I have been working with Native writers for almost twenty five years. Many have contacted me because of my books, articles, lectures, radio presentations, etc. Some I have met personally along the way, and some I have admired their works and wanted to share compilations with. I also have had several elders refer me to young writers (such as Sean Milanovich) whom I believe deserve an opportunity to become published.
It’s wonderful that you help give others a place to share their experiences and writings. And that reminds me to mention briefly your other anthologies I’ve read, “Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing” which opened my eyes to what it’s like for Natives living in the two-worlds (mainstream Western society and reservations/ traditional), “Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts Concerning the Universe” which is more cosmological/philosophical, and “Eating Fire, Tasting Blood: An Anthology of the American Indian Holocaust” which I’m about 1/3 of the way through, it’s intense, as the title suggests.
So to wrap up with the newest, “When Spirits Visit”... Each story is unique with a particular message, lesson, or reminder, though all are connected by spiritual visitation, whether animal, bird, or people, as you mention in the “Introduction”. Also in the “Introduction” you note about the stories, “Some are fiction, some non-fiction, and some faction. I will leave discernment to each reader.” As I was reading I got a sense of what’s what yet it really didn’t matter much because I learned from and appreciated each story. Why did you decide to leave the genre lines blurred, or maybe you were guided to do that? And what’s the best way for people to purchase the book?
I felt it would be more rewarding to each reader to see what he or she connected with and then decide which genre the story could be. A bit of mystery that entices readers to use his or her own intuition.
The book is available on my website www.marijomoore.com as well as www.amazon.com
Good idea to subtly encourage reader participation. Am a fan of ‘workbooks’ at whatever level, as it’s easy (though takes a lot work with all the propaganda and misinformation) to read and be well-informed but to question one’s self and find out how to participate more in the daily dance of life can take a nudge. And such effort also encourages getting to know and trust one’s intuition.
Sgi! (which you told me is “thanks” in Cherokee) MariJo, and may you have continued success with all your writings and projects.
Blessings to you, and may you have continued success in your wonderful projects as well!
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