by Dawn Rafferty, County Galway, Ireland
Sometimes we find ourselves being in the “separation-habit” of blaming history, religions and all manner of circumstances to let ourselves or our counterparts off the hook. We so casually sing about ignorance being bliss.
With the expressed request of the Little People involved, please hear the following vital awareness, which came to me in the wake of my own “blissful ignorance.” My deeply humble and huge gratitude to the Little People/Fairies of the Catskill Mountains who live in the forest on the banks of Saskawhihiwine river, for accepting my remorse and forgiving my selective ignorance.
Before my first visit to the sacred land and river of the Blue Deer Center, I went to see my fairy friends in the Burren, Ireland, that they might send a message ahead of me to make an introduction of sorts to their native relations there.
Across Saskawhihiwine the Little People gave me the honour of letting me watch them watching me. They came over to have a closer look but did not speak to me. I saw them as a masculine people, not of the river but of the rocks maybe, and more so of the trees, especially an older gnarled rooted one on the far bank, which appeared to be their home.
Six months later, within the splendour of autumn, the dream of life carried me back again to my, by now, beloved home away from home. A haven of tranquility, laughter, awareness, deep blessings…I could go on…for a long time…
I was soon sitting with Saskawhihiwine, recognized by ancestral tribes to be a sacred place to come to in order to resolve conflicts, find healing and restore balance. The Little People came to sit with me. I was struck by their large dark sullen eyes. I could not detect any joy in them although the energy of the Land and elements was, as always, Holy Communion.
When I asked why they were so sullen, they looked at each other, got up, turned and walked away.
At the dinner table I asked our elder, Tsaurirrikame Eliot Cowan, “How can this be, in such a beautiful and sacred place? The land and the river, the birds and all who live here are so connected with us humans. How can the Little People who live across the river be this way? I’ve never heard of an unhappy fairy. The fairies in Ireland’s wild places are so spontaneous and hilarious.” Eliot only said, “Well, they have been wronged. Maybe they are tired of being mistreated.” Taken aback by a glimpse of the narrowness and poor light of my mind’s corridor, I asked no more.
I went back to the river in the dark and left an offering of tobacco, apologizing for my human presumptuous ignorance in that, just because the Little People are not susceptible to the plague of separation, I assumed an attitude that all must always be perfect in their world, despite what logic and a bit of mindfulness would have suggested to me. For example, why were there no huge ancient trees on the other side of the river other than on the water’s edge? Of course, in reality, all Beings are affected by the human epidemic of separation and isolation from Heart and Senses.
I promised to bring them an offering of tobacco every morning while I was there. It was the only gesture I could think of that might be of any meaning to them. The next morning the Little People came and sat and talked with me for the first time. I expressed my heartfelt sorrow at whatever my people had inflicted on them and their ancestral home, their sacred place of belonging. I explained that I might still say mind-based things out of human ignorance and would hugely appreciate their patience with me. I did my best to convey the depth of my sorrow for what my people had done. We cried together.
Of course, in reality, all Beings are affected by the human epidemic of separation and isolation from Heart and Senses.
Later that morning, Justin Starting, a traditional healer in the Huichol tradition, told us that this once magnificent ancient forest always had two levels of canopy. The tallest level included one of the most common tree species in the Eastern United States, the massive chestnut tree. With a trunk diameter averaging five feet, often up to 10 feet, the American chestnut grew as tall as 200 feet. Each tree provided a huge amount of chestnuts, gifting an abundance of food to support life in the region. Every year over about three days, flocks of millions of migrating passenger pigeons would pass over like a huge cloud and land on the giant trees, to feed on the soft chestnuts and roost for the night. In the morning there would be droppings one foot deep. This in turn would provide rich manure for the trees, whose chestnuts would also feed deer, bears, wild turkeys, other animals as well as humans.
When the white people arrived conditions changed rapidly. We began clearing forests for farmland. The pigeons turned to eating all the grain in a field if they flew over before harvest. Our recent ancestors began shooting the pigeons and huge numbers were also caught in grain-baited traps. Pigeons were sold for food across the continent. During the last half of the nineteenth century, the passenger pigeons were wiped out not only in the Catskill Mountains but in all the Eastern United States.
Shortly after the last known wild United States passenger pigeon died in 1901, a blight arrived on chestnut trees imported from Asia, infecting about four billion giant American chestnut trees, including those on the land of the Blue Deer Center. The trees were virtually wiped out.
There is a movement on now to bring back a blight resistant chestnut tree.
Shuffling along our dim corridors we could suppose the giant chestnut trees died of blight alone, but we see a wider view of truth in our Hearts. Nature’s relationship with Herself runs deeply where all is One. The symbiotic relationship between the original peoples, the trees, the pigeons and animals–the whole ecological system–was compromised. An important component was taken out, the relationship broken, the balance weakened.
Also, trees were taken from the forest of what is now the Blue Deer Center and milled by the power of the river to build the structures nearby. It does not look like our people remembered they were supposed to ask permission of each tree and abide by the response. Fairies/Little People/Nature Spirits have no escape from the present moment like we do. Our minds gladly, willingly, even forcefully drag and drive us off in all directions, to all sorts of scenarios and distractions other than the nucleus of where we can only fully be–in the present moment.
We can practice though.
The Little People can’t cajole, invite or entice themselves to anywhere other than where they are in their Beingness. Given the Little People’s inability to move away or distract themselves from Moment and Reality, what must it feel like to witness and feel the desecration of their life, their world, their home of which they are custodians? To see the pillage and mass murder of different species of Beings they lived among? By getting some minute fraction of a glimpse, I hoped that my little effort of recognition, respect and heartfelt sorrow at the soul crippling injustice inflicted by my people, would make some degree of a difference for them.
So I came to them and they came to me every morning. We didn’t cry an awful lot. We didn’t need to. We needed relationship. I asked if I could do something for them and they asked me to tell my people that “Fairies” are people, with a full range of feelings, needs and rights. The way this comes to me is, if somebody announces that they have a new puppy, everyone will gather around singing, “I want to see the puppy, I want to see the puppy”, and so they gather around “oohing” and “aahing”. The puppy likes this. Fairies, however, are not puppies. They do not want to be treated as such. They want respect, space and to live in their traditions. To the best of my limited knowledge, loyalty is huge in their way of being. This loyalty has to be earned, of course.
Respect and honour would be two important basic steps in that direction.
We too are Nature. We live in Her soul.
To flourish we need every single aspect of Nature.
Let us remember to feel this now and then during the day.
Dawn Rafferty was introduced to the Sacred Fire Community in 2002 through her training as a Plant Spirit Medicine healer. She is very passionate about her loving, healing and awareness-deepening relationship with the divine natural world, particularly the Burren on the South shores of Galway Bay.
The Blue Deer Center is an important home for the teachings and practices of Heart–those ancestral traditions of healing, ritual and retreat which restore connection to self, community and the Natural World. The Center is supported by the living spirit of the land, nourished by the tradition of the Huichol people, and guided by the timeless wisdom of Sacred Fire.