"In the four corners of the room were stationed the Voices who spoke in trance for the Four Sacred Things. In the north, direction of earth, the first of the Voices wore the mask of the White Deer, the sacred fallow deer... The bearer of the Hawk mask with its curved, sharp beak, guardian of the creatures of the air, sat in the east. Coyote, wearing a wooden mask painted with dots and stripes of brilliant color, sat in the south as the trickster guardian of fire, of the energy systems. In the west, in a mask with gleaming scales and geometric designs of red and black, sat Salmon, guardian of the waters, symbol of return and regeneration and hope."
Starhawk in ‘The Fifth Sacred Thing’, Chapter 3
Starhawk's Voices seem inspired by the 'Council of All Beings', a ritual that invites us to shift from human identity to speak the words of another being. The ritual emerged from Deep Ecology, a philosophy that aims to deepen our awareness of the web of life, so strengthening our commitment to defend it.
The Dragon Council
The original Council doesn’t involve channeling or shapeshifting, though people have experienced another voice "coming through". But the potential is clear, so Dragon integrated a sweat lodge and shamanic journeying into the workshop. Our intent was more than speaking on behalf of another –this was a meeting of animal and nature spirits speaking through us.
To honour this development of the original concept we recorded the Councils' words and offer them to the wider community for comment and debate. We all felt a need to open the Council again and again, perhaps with new people and different beings: Several beings were sad and angry, and by re-connecting regularly we can move through pain to creative dialogue. A question and answer session was suggested for next time to structure it our interaction and learn how to move forward.
We are planning another council for Autumn 2007. If you would like to be kept informed of future Councils, please contact us.
Joanna Macy, who co-created the ritual, believes the Council "helps us act, not from the whim or nobility of our short-lived individual ego, but clothed in the authority of our four and a half billion years. We start learning to act our age."
References and further Reading
Carlos Castaneda, 'Tales of Power', Pocket Books, 1992
Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, 'Coming Back to Life', New Society Publishers, 1998
Joanna Macy, John Seed, Pat Fleming, Arne Naess Thinking Like a Mountain, New Society Publishers, 1988
Starhawk, 'The Fifth Sacred Thing', Bantam, 1993
More on the Deep Ecology Council Of All Beings