Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of teaching the ancient philosophy of his people, lived in the Arizona Mountains. He had been invited to give a lecture at a prestigious university in a neighbouring state. As the date coincided with my trip to his home, where I would spend an additional period of time studying Shamanic culture, he asked me to meet him at the university. From there we would return together by car. As I love the academic environment, I immediately accepted the proposal. I arrived a little earlier than the appointed time and sat down in a pleasant cafeteria overlooking the enormous garden that intermingled the campus buildings, to observe the intense movement of students going to their classes and other activities. It’s an inspiring air. I was lost in memories of when I was that age; the yearnings, the doubts, the struggles, the searches, when my attention was drawn to a small commotion. A group of students was arguing among themselves. I noticed that the discussion was escalating rapidly and I was worried about the outcome. Other students approached and ended up also becoming inflamed. The conflict was escalating. Some staff and teachers arrived to control the situation. In vain. Everybody seemed anxious to speak, to explain their reasons and nobody wanted to listen to anybody. At the instant that I feared a dangerous escalation of aggressions, from verbal to physical, a whistle blew loudly. By instinct everyone shut up and turned around. I was startled to see a man, although old, in a very good mood and agile, standing on a table to make himself seen by everyone. The whistle he had borrowed from a basketball coach who had also approached in an attempt to calm tempers. Despite his advanced age, the man had long straight, though grey, hair tied back in a ponytail and wore a colourful waistcoat; typical Navajo habit and dress. He was Starry Song.
Although firm, he showed absolute serenity, as if controlling a conflict with excited young people was commonplace and without any difficulty for him. He said that all could speak and all would be heard. But not there. He asked them to go to one of the university’s amphitheatres, there, in that same building, in order to talk. The calm, clear tone of his voice emanated a strange authority. It was not a power derived from the law or from brutality; it was an immeasurable internal force, difficult to translate into words. No one questioned or disobeyed. Very interested, I grabbed my coffee cup and went after him.
Everyone was properly accommodated in their seats as the shaman stood in the centre of the stage, at a level below the seats, as is standard in amphitheatres. When he asked about the origin of the conflict, immediately several students stood up to present their arguments. Most of them shouted. All it took was a hand gesture from Starry Song to make everyone fall silent again. He proposed the rules of that meeting: “Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights inherent to any person. However, it is of no use to speak if there is no one to listen. There is also little point in putting forward the best and fair reasons while tempers are inflamed by revolt and intolerance; no one will listen.”
“The ancestral culture of my people originates from time immemorial. Because we understand both the need to put forth the best words and the need to find a serene heart ready to hear it, at the Councils of Elders, meetings in which we discuss matters that are of interest to us, we have established a ritual known as the Stick of Power.” He then explained how it works: “During the debate only the one in possession of the stick may speak. When he finishes, he will give it to someone else. This may be to whom the speaker would like to hear a comment from or a response on the arguments he has put forward. Otherwise, the stick is passed to any member of the meeting who also wishes to state his reasons. Interrupting someone’s speech is not only not allowed, but is also considered a serious offence. Everyone who wishes to, must have the right to speak. Without exception. Everyone will listen in total silence and respect, even if they do not agree with the ideas. If you want to speak again, just ask to join the queue of those waiting for the stick. To be reasonable, one should not ask for the stick to repeat the arguments already exposed. No one needs to agree with anyone; however, everyone needs to respect everyone’s opinion as an indispensable presupposition of self-respect”.
Everyone remained silent. The shaman opened his backpack. From it he took out, besides his famous two-sided drum, a small branch wrapped in leather and feathers. It was a stick of power. The explanation continued: “In our culture, the shamans who take part in the councils coat the branch of a tree with the leather and feathers of certain animals from which they wish to add their respective medicines. Animal medicine, commonly known as Animals of Power, are maintaining energies which circulate in the planetary psycho-sphere and can help in the ordering of existential emptiness and conflicts, if adequately captured and used. Each shaman makes his or her stick with the energies that are related to him or her. This is the stick I use. It is made from a piece of oak, the only tree whose flowers bloom in winter. It carries within it the energy of life even when the conditions of existence are the most inhospitable. The feathers are those of the eagle, the bird that by flying at high altitudes has a broad vision of existence. It also bears the feathers of the owl, the bird that can see in the dark, where no one else can see. The leather is made of snake and wolfskin. Snakes, by constantly changing their skin, transform themselves as a way of expanding the possibilities of life. The wolf teaches us about the harmony of living in a group, of taking care of others, of teaching by example. They show loyalty both to their principles and to the lives of others, concomitantly. As the one who teaches is always learning in the magic of lessons, the wolf of today is different from the wolf of yesterday. Thus, receiving the respect and love from the pack.”
One of the students howled as wolves do to the moon. Everyone laughed, including Starry Song. The shaman took the opportunity to add, “In the wisdom of the Ancient People, the moon is linked to the collective and individual unconscious. A place where we store atavistic knowledge; and the wisdom of the soul. The knowledge we have and do not know. The moon carries this symbolism and encourages us to seek this clear source to assist us in understanding about personal relationships, the objects of all our improvements.”
“Not rarely, the best lessons are born from the difficulties imposed by our antagonists. By calming the battle in the heart, the teaching germinates; the power to overcome flourishes. This is why in our culture we often say that we honour all our relationships.”
“Being here is an honour for me for who I am and who, with the help of each of you, in this ever-unique moment, I will be able to become.”
He asked the students to close their eyes and focus on the music. He ruffled the double-sided drum and sang a sweet melody in native dialect in homage to the moon, as he explained earlier, asking the moon to open the doors of the unconscious of everyone there, giving access to knowledge still blocked to the conscious. “When whole we can go beyond,” he explained.
Before opening the debate, he recalled: “Many want to speak and have the right to do so. Therefore, one should not speak more than is necessary so that the arguments are not dispersed. For both the speaker and the listener, synthesis is a valuable quality. The strength of the discourse is not in its size, but in the carat of its reasons.”
The debate mediated by Starry Song went on peacefully. Many spoke, everyone listened. Then someone asked for an agenda to be drawn up for the voting on the subjects discussed. The shaman pondered: “I do not think that these are reasons that need a unified decision to be accepted by all. The issues brought up in this meeting speak of an awareness that should or should not be the basis for future attitudes. Therefore, everyone should have time to reflect on each argument and reason exposed. Then, in the intimacy of the being, decide on which truth will emerge through their daily choices. Truths are like seeds. Some are ready to blossom within us. Others will wait for the right season so that they can manifest themselves in fruit. Each one in its own time. We should not impose choices that are not yet sedimented in the core of the being. In the same way, arguments considered obsolete should be discarded; always with due politeness towards the other. Thus, I respect myself and, consequently, you. Thus, I maintain the harmony and unity of the whole community; a common-unity. We are all one in the respect and beauty of personal uniqueness. This is the wolf’s way.”
The amphitheatre erupted in applause. Almost everyone left satisfied; all with serene spirits, carrying with them the seeds of various transformations. Each one, at his own pace, would make the necessary changes within himself according to his own capacity and understanding. This is the relationship between the unconscious and the conscious. Thus, we expand the consciousness. Nothing is more personal; nothing defines who I am better than each choice I make. So let it be one of broad and clear awareness, one that translates my best understanding and will; never lulled by the flow of the crowd. This is what good healers do when they provide the right conditions for each person to be beautiful because they are unique. An individuation that does not isolate or separate the group; on the contrary, it strengthens it by aggregating different possibilities.
At the end, the rector of the university who, called by the staff had arrived at the amphitheatre at the beginning of Starry Song’s exhibition, had mingled with the students and witnessed the meeting, introduced himself to the shaman. He thanked him for the wonderful lesson provided. He confessed he was delighted by what he had witnessed. He also said that he had read an interesting book about the behaviour of some species when in their groups. Wolves had a beautiful and advanced sense of coexistence. The strongest walked at the front and rear of the line to protect everyone; the eldest and the pups followed in the middle of the group so that they could receive greater care. There were also the trackers who opened up new routes and sensed any danger. However, he knew of a wolf called alpha; the one who leads the group. He asked whether this leadership is established by physical force. The shaman explained: “No. The alpha does not impose himself by fighting with others of his species. He gives each wolf the chance to develop the best that is within him. This makes him admired for the beauty he provides to all. By understanding the importance of each wolf, he becomes paramount in guiding the pack.”
The rector thanked Starry Song once again. He asked what time he would be giving the lecture. The shaman pondered, “I think that is no longer necessary. For now, my visit has been completed.” The rector said he understood the argument. He added that the doors of the university would always be open to the shaman. He said he would like to have him back very soon. We said our goodbyes.
Starry Song and I walked through the campus gardens towards the car park. I told him that I had been impressed by the strength emanating from him when he took the reins of conflict to lead it to pacification. “By understanding the love and respect I have for myself I realise the importance the other brings to my life. When that feeling becomes consistent with my attitudes an aura of respect and protection surrounds me. I need to do nothing more.”
I remembered that we had not talked about the lone wolf. I asked if he was a lone wolf. The shaman finished the lesson of that day: “No. I love solitude in the same dimension that I love living with people. Both are important and indispensable evolutionary practices. Solitude, in the plunge into the knowledge of our being, teaches one to become solidary, never solitary. The lone wolf, in truth, is the wolf that, fleeing from himself, lost his pack. When he finds himself, he will find a group to live with. All that I know is only revealed in what I am. What I am translates only into what I apply in my relationships. I heal myself as I share the best that is in me so that the best that is in everyone blossoms. This is the medicine of the wolf.”
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic