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    The great Holy Man, Black Elk, said, "I cured with the power that came through me. Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to the two-leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish."

    As Fools Crow and I discussed the matter of how a person serves the Higher Powers, I asked, "Do you agree with Black Elk that the medicine person is a hole that Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers work through to help people?"

    Fools Crow: "We (Black Elk and he) talked about this several times. We agreed that the Higher Powers had taught us this same thing. We are just holes. But as I have used hollow bones for curing, I have decided that it is better to think of medicine people as little hollow bones."

    Thomas E. Mails: "All medicine persons are hollow bones that Wakan-Tanka, Tunkashila, and the Helpers work through?"

    Fools Crow: "In and through. The power comes to us first to make us what we should be, and then flows through us and out to others."

    I told him that pueblo medicine men thought of themselves as tubes, and that I had been told by them how this worked out in their lives. I said it had captured my interest fully to hear him using this same terminology, and wondered whether, in his becoming a hollow bone, he went through the same four stages as they did - first calling in Wakan-Tanka to rid themselves of everything about them that will impede Him in any way - such as doubt, questions or reluctance; then recognizing themselves as a clean tube ready to be filled with hope and possibilities and anxious to be filled with power; then in the third stage experiencing the power as it comes surging into them; and finally giving the power away to others in the knowledge that, as they are emptied out, the Higher Powers will deep filling them with even greater power to be given away. Although I did not say so, I wondered as I told him this whether it was possible that here on the Great Plains I would find the same concept. If Fools Crow knew and practiced this, it would be another proof of both our convictions that, since we know and worship the same God, it is natural to assume that He teaches all those who love Him the same basic lessons.

    Fools Crow answered most of my questions the very next morning, when he asked me to go out with him to pray. On his left arm he carried a folded blanket, in his left hand a drum and drum stick, and in his right hand his pipe, his smoke (smudging) materials - this time a filled sea shell - and a golden eagle feather.

    I should explain that Fools Crow did his smudging ("making smoke" he called it) in two ways. For personal situations, such as when he was smudging ritual items, he simply lit the end of a braided or twisted piece of sweetgrass and waved the sweetgrass around and over the items. If sweetgrass was not available, he used dried sage. For other circumstances where a greater quantity of smoke was needed, he made a mixture of sweetgrass, dried sage and tobacco in a large sea shell, and lit this. When the amount of smoke was sufficient, he blew occasionally on the hot ashes as he used the eagle feather to push the smoke toward others who were involved in the ceremony, and also toward the ritual items he would be using. As he pushed the smoke, he fluttered the feather, and did it so beautifully that when you closed your eyes you had the distinct sensation that an eagle was hovering close around you. If this was being done in the sweat lodge, you would even hear the shrill cry of the eagle.

    When we reached the place where he customarily prayed, he refolded the blanket until it was rectangular in shape and perhaps a quarter of its unfolded size, Then he spread it out on the grass, He placed the filled sea shell at the east end of the blanket and on the northeast corner, then used a match to light it. When it was smoking well and the sweet smell of it was permeating the area, he used the feather to smudge first me, then himself, and finally the blanket. This done, he faced the east, removed his glasses, and knelt down on the blanket. It was seven a.m., and Sun was already up and bathing both the area and Fools Crow. His face glowed, and the sunlight smoothed away his wrinkles. He seemed to grow young again. He closed his eyes, and breathed deeply seven times to begin his immersion into the ritual he was about to perform. When he was done, he rested his cupped hands in his lap and listened for Wakan-Tanka's response.

    While he did this, I pondered the idea of immersion, and what happens to the mind when you do it. The old holy man and other medicine people had taught me that the more time you spend and the deeper you go the greater the success of your quest. The entire idea has to do with achieving a state of complete communion with Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers. Once this is accomplished, They can enlighten and lead you, giving you comfort, strength, hope, and power. The amount of time spent in immersion is never wasted, and it reverses the usual procedure we follow when we are faced with time-consuming and critical chores. Ordinarily, we think we must rush and organize to get at the work because there is so little time. If we pray at all regarding the situation, it is only briefly, because we have so much to do. Then we spend the entire day working on the chores, and end up frustrated and drained. With immersion, you spend a lot of time in prayer, obtain from the Higher Powers the strength and guidance you need, and then finish those same chores in a fraction of the time, ending up fulfilled and fresh.

    With his eyes still closed, Fools Crow began to pull with both hands at his chest and abdomen - as if he were pulling out evil or negative things. He grabbed many handfuls, and he threw away what he had seized.

    Next, he stretched both arms and hands as high as he could up toward the sky and held them there for at least two minutes while he looked up and smiled broadly. He was as happy as ever I saw him.

    After this, he began to clutch at the air above him, where he seized unseen things and shoved handfuls of them into his head and body.

    Finally, he started to pull invisible things out of his chest and body, but this time he held both hands side by side in front of him and threw what he was clutching out to an invisible audience… invisible to me, that its, but visible to him I am sure.

    No words were spoken while Fools Crow made these gestures, but when he was finished, he picked up the drum and beat it softly as he sang a "sound" song - that is, a song in which syllables were used to carry the melody, but which had no meanings. The beat was what the Lakota call the "parade beat," which is slow and steady, and is used for serious occasions. If Kate had been there, she would have "trilled" to express her happiness and appreciation.

    When the song was finished, Fools Crow, still on his knees, pointed the stem of his pipe out to the Four Directions, up to Wakan-Tanka and Tunkashila, and down to Grandmother Earth. Then he turned to me and said, "Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers just made me a clean new hollow bone. Whenever there is time before I must begin to cure or heal a person, or before I am to lead or share in a ceremony. I go off by myself and ask Them to prepare me like this."

    "You say Wakan-Tanka and Tunkashila," I said. "Most authorities consider these to be different names for the same Person."

    "No!" Fools Crow replied adamantly. "We have three Chief Gods like the Christians do. Wakan-Tanka is like the Father. Tunkahila is like the Son. The Powers and Grandmother Earth together are like the Holy Spirit, and I call the five of them "Wakan-Tanka's Helpers.' When I speak of all seven of the Beings together, I sometimes call them the 'Higher Powers,' When I pray with my pipe I point the stem up to Wakan-Tanka, then just a little lower to Tunkashila. But Wakan-Tanka and Tunkashila think, act, and watch over us as One. So there is only One God. Whenever I say, Wakan-Tanka, I mean Tunkashila too.

    "It appeared that you did four kinds of gestures," I said with unfeigned enthusiasm.

    "Ho," he said as he held his clenched fists out in front of him. "First I thought about all of the stumbling blocks about me that can get in Wakan-Tanka's and the Helper's way when I want them to work in and through me. Then I asked them to remove these things so that I am a clean bone. They did this, and as I felt the obstacles coming out I grabbed them and threw them away. When all of this was done I felt fresh and clean. I saw myself as a hollow bone that is all shiny on the inside and empty. I looked around inside myself to see if any obstacles or junk were left, and there were none. I knew then that I was ready to serve Wakan-Takan well, and I held up my hands to offer my thanksgiving and to tell Him how happy I was. Immediately, I could feel the power begin to come into me, and I reached up to help it. It was wonderful, and my energy grew until I was completely filled with power. Before long I thought I would explode! Then I saw people of all races all around me, and I gave the power away to them. All of them were very grateful, and it made me feel good to share in this giving. As I emptied myself out, I could feel more power coming into me, and it was wonderful!" He watched me carefully to see what my response would be. "That is how I become a little hollow tube," he said.

    I, of course, was delighted, and sat back to draw a deep breath, for it seemed like I had forgotten to breathe during the entire rite. Finally, I asked, "And when you do this in preparation to cure or heal ---?"

    He did not allow me to finish the question, "Then," he said, "instead of many people, I see just the one I am treating. But when I am alone here I do it to get ready to serve all people - red, black, white, brown and yellow."

    "Can anyone become a little hollow bone for Wakan-Tanka to work in and through?" I asked.

    "Perhaps not a holy or medicine person, because we are called to that. But everyone can become a bone to serve others. And when they do they will find that in an emergency they can accomplish anything in half the time it would ordinarily take. They can also get immediately ready to work great things. If I do not have time to do anything else before I treat someone, I at least do this, because if necessary I can even do it in my mind."

    "Where the bone idea is concerned, what is the difference between a holy or medicine person and an ordinary person?"

    "The cleanest bones serve Wakan-Tanka and the Helpers the best, and medicine and holy people work the hardest to become clean. The cleaner the bone, the more water you can pour through it, and the faster it will run. It is this way with us and power, and the holy person is the one who becomes the cleanest of all."

    -taken from 'Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power' by Thomas E. Mails

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