You have discovered arachnoanarchy

You have discovered arachnoanarchy
otter clan omarian otter oasis

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How i became known as the "Medicine Man" (abridged version)

Asked by a number of friends to tell more stories about the days gone by, i am particularly drawn to telling the saga of the Medicine Man. And yes, it is true that Steve Fisher attached that appellation to me, both as a joke, and to some degree in bestowing an honorific of sorts. But the story started long before that time.

Wayback in the wayback machine of Peabody and Sherman, i had the good fortune of going to UCLA for my higher education. The good fortune came not so much from the fine education itself, as for all of the great interesting people that i met and befriended. This included the Merry Pranksters, my first ex-wife, Terry "Flanafish" Flanagan, some notable members of celebrated sports teams, my mentor professors, illustrious and infamous graduates, and so forth. I also met people outside UCLA that greatly influenced twists and turns in my life. Lifeguards at Zuma in the mid-60s (the eccentric renaissance man Norton Wisdom), lifeguards at WR in the early 70s, graduate students in diverse fields across the country including Harvard and Yale, a handful of 60s bands most of whom disappeared over time, with one profound exception, etc.

In the abridged version, it was this glorious melting pot of a fine entheogenic stew in my brain that led to Fisher calling me Medicine Man. I was at UCLA in grad school, studying shamanism and the history of American Indian religions for a doctorate. I had good friends traveling around the world, conducting anthropological fieldwork, especially focussed on Shamanism. And i had two friends graduating from Harvard Divinity School (RF and Ev), one of whom (RF) contributing greatly to my path development. It should also be noted that i was in the middle of divorcing my first ex (El), and meeting my second (JH). So the stage was prepared (there were also lots of other things happening to and for me as well: teaching, working in the music business, loving the ladies, and so forth).

During the Summer of 1970, El and i took off from UCLA right after the Kent State protests, and dove into the back country of the Yosemite (we got an unlimited backcountry campfire all access pass from the supervising ranger who was the father of a good friend). Over the long five months of summer, various friends would meet up with us at different access points and hangout for a few days, bringing news of the world (riots, Nixon, protests, sports, life). On one of these adventures RF and Ev arrived with some of our supply of pure entheogens, wanting to go for all the gusto. It was during this "massive trip" that RF and i discovered that we were both really interested in the Lakota rites and rituals of South Dakota. His family was from the eastern side of the state, and my dad was from the west. We made some silly commitment to longterm plans to get together at some point in SD.

Time progressed, my doctoral research moved forward, i left El, found JH, worked at WR in the summers, and went about life. In the early fall of '72, i spent a day eating peyote and reading the whole of the newly released book Seven Arrows. I remembered things that i had overlooked from previous experiences, and began to connect the dots. I set about doing small rituals for myself, particularly at the beach, as a means of just connecting with the natural world. I became very good friends with Chuck King at Tower 18, talking about his days in WW2 and studying at Brown University, his writing poetry about connecting with nature. In December, my phone rang. It was RF, who had moved to South Dakota to work on the US Senate campaign of a family friend, James Abourezk. He said that Jim had won, and that he (RF) would be working as the Field Rep in the West River office (the western half of the state where the vast majority of the Lakota lived). He invited me (and JH) to come back for a visit, and suggested i could conduct fieldwork on shamanism among the Lakota.

I was already well versed in Lakota studies; i had become something of an expert in the Ghost Dance among them, knew the religious transformations that took place between the forest village dwellers of the 1600s to the Plains warriors of the 1800s, and was starting to train myself to speak the language. I couldn't go the first year (my music biz boss was rapidly expanding his enterprises), i still had classes to finish, and another summer of the beach. But i did go in January of '74 (and each year after that) and found an amazing and inspiring place. The politics were blown up with Wounded Knee, the FBI, the tribal goons, and a host of other ongoing sagas, but the true nature of the Lakota and the Black Hills was easily accessible. I met a number of spiritual leaders who became friends. I ended up working in the Senate office with RF. I could go to rituals that few other people could attend.

Each summer i came back to the beach i was changed. At first it was little stuff, performing rituals around my towers, spending time in the late afternoons meditating on the water and waves, delighting in creative pursuits, really enjoying life. I started doing little sweat lodges and feasts in the evenings for lifeguard friends, bringing back rocks from South Dakota and across the country from tribal lands.

I'm not sure when Fisher first called me Medicine Man, it was sometime during this period. It really hit home one winter when Fisher, Morales and myself spent three weeks crossing the High Sierra through Yosemite. Prior to that trip, i had performed a couple of vision quests with the help of John Thomas and Flanagan, including a modified sun dance at the beach. When Fisher, Morales and myself went on our trek, i did take some entheogens for various purposes, and we had amazing experiences including skiing down waterfalls, crossing large avalanche chutes, climbing and skiing peaks. We talked about that stuff, and i think Fisher came up with the name to give me the proper amount of grief.

1 comment:

Monica Mettert said...

Thank you for the interest in my blog. I will keep an eye on yours from now on. I also responded to your comment on my last entry. :)