SHAMANS AND KUSHTAKAS


North Coast Shaman
Happy Tlingit Shaman, sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

chilcat blanket
Chilcat Blanket Tlingit

Shaman and Kushtaka! Both struck terror in the hearts of the Tlingit and Haida people, for both possessed frightening supernatural powers. The shaman, healer and seer, battled the kushtaka (Tlingit for Land Otter Man; in Haida, gageets) for the spirit of a man in danger of drowning or dying of exposure. Stories of kushtaka exploits, though they may no longer evoke the spine-tingling chill of earlier times, still have the power to mesmerize those who hear them.

The Tlingit and Haida universe abounded with spirits. In this world, the boundaries between animal and human realms were blurred. Early people could hear an omen in the hoot of an owl, or a chilling curfew in the croak of a raven. Should you hear the hoot of an owl, be prepared, it may be heralding very bad news if you are of the North Coast people!

The Chilcat blanket is quite an intricate robe, each family handing down the blanket from generation to generation.

The shaman mediated between the spirit world and the human realm. He was a figure of great power in most Native American cultures. Both the Southwest and North Coast people overflow with tales of the supernatural, so if you are feeling low, see your local Shaman! The cure may be worse that the cause, but it’s worth a try.

PEOPLE OF THE SUN


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“People of the Sun” oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

What is this painting asking us: Are we blind to Life’s possibilities? Are our lips sealed to prevent the dissemination of heretic thought?

The rising sun is obviously our touchstone, without which we would forever wander in the terrors of darkness.

Now put this in the context of today’s life.

Do we stumble through life without taking every advantage offered us in the way of work, play and love?

Are we quiet in the face of dissention? Do we keep our opinions to ourselves for fear of disagreement?

The sun gives new life, light, warmth and hope.

Possibly the painting is saying “The darkness is over, it is a new dawn, and you can escape fears of the night.

SUFFER THE FOOLS GLADLY


Suffer fools gladly. You read that phrase often about prominent people who don’t suffer fools gladly. It’s often taken as a compliment by them. suggesting that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standard. It’s used to describe people who have the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks. It sounds OK, but when you actually see people in the act of not suffering fools gladly, it looks rotten.

The philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville argues that “politeness is the first virtue, and the origin perhaps of all the others.”

Surprisingly, the phrase originally came from William Tyndale’s 1534 translation of the Bible. In it, Paul was ripping into the decadent citizens of Corinth for turning away from his own authoritative teaching and falling for a bunch of second-rate false apostles. “For ye suffer fools gladly,” Paul says with withering sarcasm, “seeing ye yourselves are wise.”

Many people handle fools well; members of the clergy and many great teachers. I don’t give myself high marks always, but I would never knowingly put anyone in an uncomfortable position.

G. K. Chesterton had the best advice on suffering fools gladly. He put emphasis on the word gladly. “A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.”

At the end of the day, only kindness matters.