A Medicine Woman Speaks
by Cinnamon Moon
Reviewed by Mike Gleason
| Rating: ****
This is a book which is going to irritate many people, including
the ones who take the time to read the entire book, not just the
introduction and the short author’s biography. Native Americans
will object to her eclectic approach; Pagans and Witches will object
to her division between spirituality and religion; and Christians
will object that she is not adhering to Biblical teachings. Having
said that, I found this an extremely interesting book.
To be truthful I got it, not to review it (and I was up front with
the publisher about that), but because I had hopes that either my
wife or daughter, who have ties to the Native community, would be
interested in reviewing it. For a number of reasons that didn’t
work out, so I tackled it out of a sense of obligation. Surprise,
surprise, I actually found points of agreement with my own view
of spirituality almost at once.
In no way can this book be considered to be truly "An Exploration
of Native American Spirituality" as the subtitle claims. It
IS an explanation of personal (or Shamanic) spirituality but, even
though couched in Native American terminology, it bears little resemblance
to the spirituality of the Native Medicine people I have known.
I was privileged to spend time with a Medicine Man of the Massachusetts
Wampanoag tribe. Although he accepted that members of my family
came closer to his definition of Shaman than that of Witch (as he
understood the term), he did not offer to share his medicine with
us. We were not of his lineage, and thus not eligible for these
Most traditional Elders share those views. This book flies in the
face of their beliefs. They would not accept the fact that these
beliefs should be shared, without a very long probationary period.
They would feel that their spirituality should be held in trust
for "The People".
Through the years, going back at least to Edward Curtis at the
turn of the 20th century, the native peoples have been slow to accept
those from the outside who attempt to learn Native spirituality.
It took Curtis six years of earning the trust of the Hopi people
before they even considered allowing him access to their sacred
rites. To give the impression that non-Natives would be welcome
to walk the Medicine Path would be a dis-service to the seeker
Ms. Moon gives warnings early on - about approaching the search
for personal spirituality in a serious manner; about who you share
your knowledge and Medicine with; about who you learn from; and
these are all valid warnings in my opinion. Many times these warnings
are not given by authors, and we frequently encounter those who
say "That isn’t the way I was taught. You’re wrong!"
Some of the practices she speaks of will undoubtedly cause some
readers to snicker, and respond with a "Yeah. Right."
The first one she mentions, and the one most likely to evoke that
response and to draw negative responses, is shape-shifting. Shape-shifting
has always been viewed from controversial points of view. Some feel
that it is ONLY a psychological change (i.e., the practitioner _feels_
he has shape-shifted). Some feel that it is ONLY a psychopathic
change (i.e., that the practitioner is deluded, and _believes_ that
she has changed shape). And a few people will believe that it is
a physical change (i.e., the practitioner has _actually_ changed
shape).At times this book seems a bit too "white light and
fluff" for my tastes, but I am sure that it will help many
people to begin to integrate their personalities and to start their
journey towards respecting the rights of all living creatures.
Would this be a good book for someone interested in a traditional
Native American point of view of spirituality? Probably Not.Would
it be a good book for someone interested in a Shamanic point of
view of spirituality? Absolutely.
I would recommend it for all beginners as a way to open their perceptions
to the divinity which surrounds all of us every day of our lives.
It is not necessary to approach this with the mind set that "Shamanism
is my final path," only one of "Shamanism is one path
open to me." Some may find that it fills a void in their spiritual
quest, others may not. Everyone can benefit from exposure to this
type of thinking.