Monday, December 31, 2012

Medicine Baskets


A Medicine Basket is a container, woven of many strands, for Medicine.

Recently, inspired by a dream a friend had, I made a mask I call "Medicine Basket - Gather and Offer". 

When I looked up "Medicine Basket" on the Web, I was somewhat disgusted to discover page after page of "Indian medicine baskets" but very little about people actually making them,  or  talking about what the significance of a "Medicine Basket" might be other than its fiscal or historical worth.

So I returned to the contemporary work of Cherokee artist   Shan Goshorn,   as she is also a weaver of  medicine baskets  which she makes in traditional designs and techniques  They are woven from the words of broken contracts, and the names and photos of children taken from their families and forced to attend boarding schools. “Educational Genocide – The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School” was created with a Cherokee-style double weave, and was made from splints of paper that had student’s names and historical documents and photographs. The artist  weaves together the broken threads of the past to create healing baskets that re-member and re-join.

My friend saw in her dream a woman wearing a mask that was a basket, the face emerging from the fibers of the basket.  This image had meaning for me on many levels.  A Medicine Basket is a container, woven of many strands, for Medicine.  We can create Medicine baskets, sacred containers for the medicine that is needed at a given time, place, and for a particular person. We are also "baskets" ourselves, our intentions and histories woven into the container of  life,  day by day, strand by strand.  Since it's New Year, I wanted to think about this mask,  and  another mask came to mind, that of Ilana Stein, which she called "Gathering and Offering" from the poem she made for her mask.  I've told this story before, but after making this mask I felt it was perfect as we stand here at the precipice of 2013.

"Basket Mask" by Ilana Stein (2008)
Gather and Offer
by Ilana Stein


Gather towards the North
Gather towards the South
Gather towards the East
Gather Above, gather below and gather the great Mystery

Gather what you’ve studied
Gather what you’ve learned
Gather how you’ve lived,
and gather what you’ve earned.
Gather what you’ve loved
Gather what you’ve lost.
Gather what you’ve soiled
and gather what it’s cost
Gather what you’ve wasted
and gather what you’ve saved

Gather who your friends are
and gather how they’ve cared
Gather your relations and gather how you’ve fared
Then Gather birth and celebrate,
Gather death and cry
Gather hope, regret and longing and
gather up the why

Gather up the waiting, gather struggles,
gather challenges.
Gather all the goals you’ve met and
gather up the bravery
Gather faceless fear and all the broken promises.
Gather yesterday today,
and gather time tomorrow

Gather what you’ve ruined
and gather when you’ve failed.
Gather up the personal, gather up the frail
Gather up the culture, gather up the myths
Gather all the songs you’ve sung,
and all expressive art
Gather dances,  gather dreams,
and gather up your heart

Gather in the garden and gather at the beach.
Gather on the mountain and gather what’s in reach
Gather in the workplace,  gather on the roads
Gather in the home you’ve made and
gather all your kin
Gather your impatience,
your frustration and your greed.
Gather up the words you’ve said,
gather what you need.

Gather up your journey and all
 the time you’ve spent
Gather up your courage and walk inside your tent.
Gather up your secrets
and gather up your wisdom
Gather what you’ve forgotten
Gather what you’ve meant.

Gather faith and Reverence
Gather truth and and gather lies,
Gather secrets great and small
Gather wisdom of the ages
and wrap them in your shawl
Gather sickness,
Gather health,  gather tenderness and rage
Gather all your stories
and gather on the stage

Gather up your gatherings,
stir the basket’s bounty
Gather all remaining threads
and search across the county
Look out among the human beings,
look out among relations

Then offer up your gatherings
to all nations and creations

Offer to your children and offer to your kin
Offer to the hungry, to the needy and the grim
Offer to the blessed and offer to the prim
Offer to the kings and queens
Offer to the beggars, paupers,
Offer to the jesters and the priestesses

Offer to the little birds, chipmunks and the deer
Offer to the badger, mole, the frogs,
and yes the bear
Offer to the green spring shoots,
the white and yellow crocus
Offer to the budding trees
the bushes and the rushes

Offer to the sand and mud
the concrete and the buildings
Offer to the cook and maid
the seamstress and the butler
Offer to the farmers, offer to the farm
Offer to the doctors and offer for no harm

Offer to the visionaries,  offer to the artists
Offer to the frightened, offer to the scared
Offer to those endangered and to the unprepared
Offer to the hurting, offer to be healed,
Offer to your neighbor and offer to the field.

Offer grace,  offer peace,  offer possibility
Offer privilege,  trust,  and faith
Offer gratitude, wonderment and awe
Offer loving kindness, compassion, joy and love

Offer up your story. Offer honor and integrity
Offer for community, offer your vulnerability

Offer what you’ve learned
and offer what you have
Offer what you know
Offer what you’ve shared
Offer both your ears,
your shoulders and your tears
Offer all you’ve gathered, offer all your cares.

You’ve gathered through the springtime,
the summer and the fall.  And you’ve offered season’s greetings without going to the mall.

Now rest and build your strength up.
Cycle with the moon.
Cycle through the mystery time.
Close your eyes and sleep.
Dream the dreams of where you’ve been.
Dream of where you’re going –


Then gather.

(2008)

5 comments:

Gail said...

I so hoped when I went online for a final message from you of 2012. The mask and poem are so lovely and relevant. I lost my 30 year old daughter in May to cancer. You have no idea how your messages of hope have carried me throughout the year. Bless you and your sacred work on this New Year's Eve.

Lauren said...

Oh Gail, I am so sorry to hear this, and cannot imagine how painful this Holiday season must be for you. What I didn't share in this post was that Ilana at the time of the workshop was going through chemo, and she died just a few months later. I truly felt that the White Goddess came to her to bless her way....the poem Ilana left for us, who were left behind.

Lauren said...

Oh, I forgot to give a link to the occasion on which Ilana made the mask, the vision she had:

http://threadsofspiderwoman.blogspot.com/2008/05/gathering-and-offering.html

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Powerful post. I love the whole idea of medicine baskets. I read your comment, Gail, and I'm deeply sorry for your loss.

Mana From The Muse said...

Blessings Dear Oracle of Clolor shadow and light.
i am off to bed...I hope you can come to Willits after pantheon. I wold love for you to meet with the project comittiess and dancers 9( or as I like to call them.. .Masks Carriers.. )
I am gone for about a week but will be on the net just not the phone... Keep producing. More work coming
PS I can not stand it.. I am so excited to be wtih this Basket Masks.. It me ands a great dear to me.
Love
m