In the previous post, I continued to think about vision, prophesy, and the unseen world. One of the places Evangelical Christianity and Native belief overlap in the Americas is the idea that the unseen world continues to influence this one. Perhaps that is part of the broad appeal Evangelical Christianity has for Native people here. (This is not the place to speak about the immense harm some forms of Evangelicalism have done to Native communities.)
Mayan elder and shaman, Martin Pretchel, often speaks to the presence and influence of the unseen world on our lives. . News of My Ancestors wrote about Martin recently, applying Martin’s ideas to the American Civil War:
Prechtel says the when people die in this world, they return to the other world and become part of the invisible force that “sings us into being”. If the dead are not properly grieved for and given to, they remain attached to the earthly world and persist as ghosts, seeking emotional nourishment from the living. He explains:
Many old cultures had funeral arrangements whereby the dead were annually fed by the living for as long as fifty years, with the living giving ritual payments back to the world and the earth for the debts incurred by the deceased. When that grief doesn’t happen, the ancestors’ ghosts begin to chase the culture.
The ghosts will actually chase you, and they always chase you toward the setting sun. That’s why all the great migrations of the past several thousand years have been to the west: because people are running away from the ghosts. The people stop and try to live in a new place for a while, but the ghosts always catch up with them and create enormous wars and pain and problems, which feed the hungry hordes of ghosts. Then the people continue on, always moving, never truly at home. Now we have an entire culture based on our fleeing or being devoured by ghosts.
Westward expansion was a major reality of 19th century America. My great-great-great-great grandparents, Benoni Dickerman and Lois Hull Dickerman, left Connecticut to homestead in Ohio in 1815. Their granddaughter Louisa was the wife of William Davies, the soldier whose diary I’ve been writing about.
Many of those fleeing Europe acted like the angry, hungry ghosts who were chasing them. No wonder the gold rushes created such viciousness and greed! Of course, that violence, along with the genocide inherent in the Westward Expansion, created more hungry ghosts, many of whom have no one to remember, honor, or even morn for them.
There is such a thin curtain between worlds! Yet we struggle to remember and honor those who have moved to the other world. As a country we are still pursued by them, and do not know to stop and acknowledge the suffering of our pursuers. So greed grows, veracious and insatiable. Yes, this cycle will also pass. Perhaps we can each do some small part in beginning that turn toward the Ancestors, a change of course that will allow us to catch our breaths, settle into place, and remember to be kind.