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Issue # 2

Issue # 2

Article Listing

Shamans, Mythmakers and Imagined places: Central Asia at the 51st Venice Biennale
by Candice Hopkins

Bounty Hunting Warrior Genes: Potential use of genetic material for a clone army
by Christine Morris

Os-sa-pah-chi-kan / Shapeshifting in the Matrices
by James Nicholas

OHEN:TON KARIWATEHKWEN greetings to the technological world
by Jason E. Lewis & Skawennati Tricia Fragnito

Os-sa-pah-chi-kan / Shapeshifting in the Matrices

by James Nicholas

As a special addendum to this article, James has provided image works from his collaborations with his wife Sandra Semchuk.
from the coyut and baba series
pimatisiwin
1335 x 480 px

1.83 MB

Poundmaker's Garden, shown at the Godfrey Dean Art Gallery in Yorkton, Sask. in August curated by Elwood Jimmy.
poundmaker
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

As an exercise and out of sheer curiosity I decided to look up the word “shamanism” in various classic books of knowledge, which my father-in-law had left me when he went to the world of the shamans.

The books include, The World Book of Organized Knowledge (1922); The New Teachers and Pupils Encyclopedia (1910) and the Harmsworth Universal Encyclopedia.

The Harmsworth edition simply grants itself the peerage, “written by the leading authorities in every branch of knowledge.”

According to this group of imminent scholars and “brilliant company of specialists”, shamanism is a Sumerian form of demonology and ancestral worship practiced exclusively by aboriginal and primitive people.

Aboriginal Asians, Eastern Europeans, Tunguses, Turks, Finns, Norwegians, Mongolians, North American Indians.

These include witch doctors, sorcerers, oracles, and soothsayers, performing exorcisms of ancestral ghosts, spirits with rattles, fetishes, dances, weird feasts and demonic ceremonies.

A sacred society of cults and idol worshipers who would perform incantations, magical rites, spells and sacrifices to ward off evil spirits of the lower world.

Apparently these guys worshipped everything from dead ancestors, fetishes, demons, carved posts, animals, the sun, rocks,etc.

And finally shamanism is a religion practiced by Northern American Indians with there
“uncanny rites” and “medicine men.”

Of course one cannot (should not) dismiss off-hand the dedication and immense contributions of such scholars/anthropologists as Robert Brightman, Franz Boas, Levi-Strauss, Radcliffe-Brown, Malinowski, Bronislav, etc.

My favorite is surely Robert Brightman because he goes through 396 pages of written text in Grateful Prey without mentioning the word, shaman, even once.

And his mastery of the Cree language is astonishing, in its near preciseness of literary form, considering its oral tradition.

I can only say, “Good for you, Robert, because to define is to limit.”

Shamanism from the perspective of a full-blood Cree Indian is a non-linear, de-globalized, anti-hybrid post-modern society, at once ma mah ta wi si win and matrices. But to enter the matrix you have to be aware and knowledgeable of the portals which may or may not avail themselves to you.

Shamanism from the perspective of a full-blood Cree Indian is a non-linear, de-globalized, anti-hybrid post-modern society, at once ma mah ta wi si win and matrices. But to enter the matrix you have to be aware and knowledgeable of the portals which may or may not avail themselves to you.

I don’t know who picks shamans or indeed how they are picked, but this much I do know, you know.

One must begin at the beginning, in the womb, the genetic code, the double helix, the strand of DNA which determines the why and what and where of…

One must be a child of the earth, of the land, in order to understand the simple, the profound, the sacred, the spiritual.

The inner world vis--vis the world as it appears when you look up at the stars on a dark night.

One must sacrifice for knowledge and dare to go where no human mind or spirit has dared to venture.

One must see through and around the time/space/earth/self continuum, with the added ability to bend it, harness it, or bring it to a standstill.

One must not only understand and discover the portal to the matrix, one must also be the matrices.

One must know intimately and communicate with stone, tree, plant, medicine, duality, fire, rock, water, good, opposites, balance, polarity, pebble, change, static, beginning, life, death, in-between, boulder, bark, moss.

One must hear and understand the thunder, the bear, waterfalls, wind, laughter, tears, sorrow, joy, the big people (mis-ta-pe-wuk), the little people (mi-mi-quiss-e-wuk), love, compassion, silence humility.

Above all one must hear and understand the language of power.

Some of my most vivid recollections, gowing up as a trappers son as I did, were “Kiyass-achemoyena” or old stories; the ones told late at night, in that space between the conscious and the abyss of “le petite mort”.

Some of my most vivid recollections, gowing up as a trappers son as I did, were “Kiyass-achemoyena” or old stories; the ones told late at night, in that space between the conscious and the abyss of “le petite mort”.

These old stories encapsulated the incredible power of my people, and their immense beauty.

My ancestors, Asiniskaw Ithiniuwuk were and are an amazing gifted people.

When you hear about men whose vision quest was the duration of a season; fall to spring, immersed under the ice, in a river or musket, enclosed inside a box, you know where you are from!

When you are told of your relatives on vision quests being amid the elements, on a reef in the middle of a lake for weeks or months, you know who you are.


Notes

Brightman, Robert. Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft0f59n6tb/

The World Book: Organized Knowledge in Story and Pictures; W.F. Quarrie and Company; Toronto, 1922

Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopedia; The Educational Book Co. Ltd.; 17 New Bridge St.; London, E.C.

The New Teachers' and Pupils' Encyclopedia; The Holst Publishing Company; Chicago, Boone, Pittsburg, Toronto; 1910


James has provided us with a series of eight stories that extend and reveal the understanding he has presented in his introduction above. We are very pleased that in each of our future issues of Conundrum Online we will be adding a new one. Ahasiw


Story 1

They say that in the spring my grandpa would abscond into the forests of the boreal north, carrying with him the meager provisions of a bible and a small steel axe.

No one would see him for the whole summer, until late fall on a calm and windless evening, they could hear him calling from across the lake for someone to come and get him.

A group of women berry pickers would then take a canoe and go rescue nimosom!

Having gotten him to the campsite shore of the lake an all night ceremony would begin where they would have to rub his whole body down with bear grease.

One other occasion, meaning other autumns, he would simply reappear in the community his body covered entirely in rabbit skins, still carrying the bible and his little axe.

People would be curious as to his summer travels, and would ask him about some of the places he had been to.

He would thus recite his vast and diverse itinerary, citing numerous communities and great distances traveled between them.

And if you’ve ever been to northern Manitoba, you’d soon realize the impassibility and precariousness of such travel.

But you’d be especially struck by the great number and vast stretches of lakes, rivers and bodies of water one would have to ford or circumnavigate to accomplish this fate.

People would be naturally curious and want to know how a guy could cross the lakes and rivers without a canoe.

His answer would be simply, “I flew”.

According to Esther Linklater who told me the story, the reason my “gramps” had to be rubbed down with bear grease was to “re-humanize” him; because having spent so much time in the animal world, he had begun to assimilate some of the mode and physicalities of the four legged world.

Ekosi



James Nicholas

James is full blood Rock Cree, an actor, video artist and writer. His work "Land, Relationship and Community" is reproduced in the book of the same name (published by Presentation House Gallery). Recent videos include "To the living, the dead and those yet unborn" an intertextual dialogue in Cree with Taras Shevchenko and 19th Ukraine and Peuk Nepi Meeting Waterwoman.

Sandra Semchuk and James Nicholas, husband and wife, are collaborative artists who work with photography, video, performance and textual narrative to create dialogue between the indigenous and the non-indigenous.

 
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