My benefactor, elder of his tradition, said this to me on numerous occasions. The record of his lineage was passed from generation to generation through groups of individuals that passed knowledge by word of mouth. Only in the last hundred years did this knowledge become corrupted by the influence of writing and the incursion of foreign takers. He maintained that if the people, any people, could understand this simple statement, much could be healed… between people, between us and the earth, but mostly within our own beings.
He noted that when we define anything with a negative connotation we then set ourselves up to be toxified and brought down. This did not mean that everything is in harmony with our highest good, far from that. There are medicines that are downright nasty for us and should be avoided, but they have their purpose in the grand scheme of the earth. He feared that we might have released too many of those medicines for the long term survival of our species. And he was always reminding me of the earth’s place in the center of all medicine because she is the source of all life and energy which creates medicine and hosts our spiritual journey with her.
The interesting thing for me is “medicine” is not so much a word about healing an illness as it is one related to spiritual energy, a force or an ally in the Toltec system. Medicine is at the heart of all things. It is the truth, the energetic frequency of each and everything that exists. Medicine is the vibrational signature tune of everything with an assemblage point. Every medicine affects everything around it. And when in harmony it sings with creation. When not in harmony it destroys with reckless abandon. Thus medicine, to my benefactor, was in everything that existed.
My benefactor was one of the last of his lineage to know the names of all the medicines of his tradition. He tried to share this only with people of his tradition and ended up sharing this with all who would listen. In his lineage there were four distinct groups of medicines. While the total number associated with medicines was 405, he reminded me that this falls far short of the actual medicines and the number had become a spiritually symbolic one one rather than an actual accounting.
The first set of medicines was associated with creation itself. For him creation was a process of elemental energies intermixing and creating the world. Behind all of them was Spirit so in essence everything was from one Spirit of Infinity. His tradition shares a creation story with 4 significant creators, Stone, Earth, Movement and the Sun, in that order, arising out of the one infinite spirit. It is a beautiful mythology, but taken as pure myth we might dismiss the significance of it. There are four fundamental forces in the universe; gravity, electricity, strong and weak nuclear force. Interestingly there are four fundamental chemicals in DNA… He notes that this process of creation is paralleled throughout the whole universe. So the myth of his ancestors may be discounted for its quaintness but it should not for its energetic wholeness.
Through these four (and infinite spirit behind all things) the creators merge and intermix to make the first band of elemental forces, wind, water, fire, air, smoke, stone, lightening etc etc. The elementals and the first four are the energetic forces behind all things and from each ascend everything that is alive. And everything that is alive can be thought to have more or less of the combinations of the elementals. Some of those combinations are dangerous and deadly, but no less medicinal. Some of them are in exact harmony with us and for us.
The next group of medicines is the animals and beings that walk the earth with us. His tradition was ripe with stories telling about the animals. He shared that our first formal covenant was with the animals. That covenant, agreement, was in a world where we lived very much like animals. And we turned to the animals for teachings. Teachings are medicine. Animals are medicine. He noted that when we take too much from this band of medicine, eventually we will die. If one listens correctly to his story, we know that there was a time when his people hunted to extinction the animals and the result was a massive die off of the tribes as they lost a primary source of food. But also, if we literally eat too much meat, we suffer from problems as well. From this is a vast bank of information and knowledge, which is nothing more than energy, we draw strength and understanding. These stories are the first ones taught to the children in his tradition. It begins our walk in balance.
The third group of medicines is the plants. It should be obvious that plants are medicine, but more importantly that all food is medicine. When we take anything into our bodies, his tradition notes, we are aligning with the energy of that thing. Just as to hunt any animal, in some manner we must become like that animal. Death advises us at all times, for when we hold any plant or animal it either helps us or harms us. The beauty of this system is that all the science and study and manipulation that we have done to plants to create food are a twisting of the original medicine found therein. When we manipulate this too far, we end up with medicine that is lacking in essential energies, lineal connection to its own past, harmonies which can help us. He said we should have left well enough alone. But he recognized that even his system of cataloging medicines encourages humans to catalog and know more. And then think that he can control the medicines. The medicines need no control, they already are perfect. We need to respect that.
The last group of medicines lies within our own being. Each person has medicine expressed in many ways and interacts with the world. This organization and expression of medicine also combines and interacts with the world for the good of the whole system. Each person must first come to know and understand his own medicine or they are lost to themselves. And the tribe becomes lost when people are disconnected from their own medicine. In every generation of his tribe, he believed, knew, that all the necessary medicines for the survival of the tribe existed in all the elders of that time. When an elder left the world, someone moved in naturally to replace that elder’s roll and medicine for the good of the tribe. Thus people survive through time, linking back to the source. He was very clear that in this group of medicines was also knowledge of spirits, ancestors, time, and the deep knowledge of how to create the future. Here lay the medicines of love, relationships, politics, commitments, questing etc. This is where the covenants of the word lay. And for him each area of the world had a covenant of the word between their peoples. The unique expressions of that covenant was unique to each people… what is the same was the fact that the covenant exists.
For my benefactor the time we live in is the most challenging that humans have ever faced. He saw that we had great potential to understand the energies behind all things. But we had just as much potential to try so many things that it would break our fundamental covenant with the creators, earth first and then from there all others. He said that if we could return to understanding medicine, all medicine, that everything is medicine, we might be able to survive this time of struggle. He noted that the lineages are strong, but the people have been consuming the wrong medicines. It was time to take stock of what medicines we have and strengthen ourselves by re-evaluating our relationships with all the medicines, the creators and elementals, the animals and plants, each other and spirit.
I share this in honor of his lineage. I am grateful to have sat in his circle and listened. I was not alone and I was not unique. I was just there at that time. Peace and medicine to all!