Saturday, February 9, 2013

Frankfurt journal: Singing in the Medicine Bear, and schnitzel heaven

Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany

Weine nicht, mein Kind,
Weine nicht, mein Kind,
Der Bär will für dich tanzen
Der Bär will für dich tanzen

Add German to the list of languages in which my groups have now sung the Bear into the circle as healer and protector. My dream translator, Peggy Moeller, magicked up this version with all of 5 seconds notice, and the rhythms worked perfectly for the words I originally borrowed and translated from the Mohawk Indians. For the Mohawk, this song is both a lullaby used to comfort young children in the night, and a shaman song used to call Okwari, the Bear, as healer and protector.
     To sing for the Medicine Bear as Great Mother in Germany felt like an act of ancestral healing and even cultural soul recovery, on more than one level. Here, as throughout much of Europe, the bear was revered in early times as the master of animals. Warriors invoked its strength and courage. The evidence of the paleolithic caves suggests that early Europeans believed that the bear was a form assumed by deities, by the more-than-human. The early church was fiercely hostile to bears, as well as the bear cult. St Augustine, who probably never saw a bear, pronounced Ursus diabolus est, "The Bear is the Devil". The church leaders became convinced that in Germanic lands like Saxony, the heathens would never be converted so long as bears survived, and they persuaded the emperor Charlemagne to order two crusades against the bear. These were deliberate acts of attempted genocide, or xenocide. In the late 8th century, soldiers and armed men were sent out in all directions with orders to hunt down and kill any any every bear they could locate. Thousands of bears were slaughtered. The facts of this appalling history are laid out in clear scholarly fashion in a recent book: The Bear: History of a Fallen King by French cultural historian Michel Pastoureau,
     Singing for the Bear seemed like an act of reverence and restitution. But there was more. As we sang, and then as I drummed, I had a most powerful vision of Great Mother Bear, dancing with us, and dancing for Germany. She was seizing the dirty and bedraggled bearskins of male warriors and men of violence who had been possessed by the killing frenzy of the Bear, but not its power to heal and protect. I saw her cleansing the spirits of dead berserkers (literally "bear-shirts") and stripping away the hateful though-forms and energetic legacies of racism and hatred. And I felt how deeply this country is in need of shamanic tools for ancestral healing, and gratitude for the ability an outsider sometimes has to see the shape of such needs and to help bring through the healing, because he or she stands outside the historic tragedy and multi-generational guilt and angst of the people among whom he is traveling.

How do you feed and honor the Bear? Well, food is always a good idea. After the first day of my workshop - where we went fast and deep while having loads of fun - I took a cable car downtown with native guides recruited that day  for dinner at the wonderful non-touristy Klosterhof, a restaurant popular with locals. The establishment is dedicated to this version of the Benedictine message: "Ora et labora, said Benedict, pray and work. But who works hard should also eat and drink well and plentifully!" No table available, just seats at the bar, but when I suggested to Jenny, our charming server, that she could work magic, she agreed with enthusiasm. No sooner had I been given a tall glass of the house brew than she announced that she had the perfect table for us. 
In schnitzel heaven at the Klosterhof
    I asked the table magician's advice on house specials, and she sang an aria of praise for a unique offering with a name designed to scare off all but the boldest of wordslingers: Schlägler Chorherrenschnitzel. A generous pork schnitzel, fried in butter, topped with bacon, slices of apples and mountain cranberries, melted cheese, and finally a fried egg. Really?
     I trembled a little at the prospect of a mountain of food with all these contrasting layers of flavor, but my inner Bear did not hesitate for a second. We'll have it. "Let me hear you say its name correctly," Jenny put me through a shamanic test. She was very kind to my atrocious accent. A mountainous plate duly arrived, and I found that, as promised, the many
 flavors and textures blended amazingly well. My inner Bear was fully prepared to clean the plate, but I told him that we would need to go hiking in the mountains to work off all this rich food if we did that, and he finally let me shove the plate away, uncleaned. A digestif? Of course. I chose the Klosterhofgold, a liqueur prepared with aromatic infusions of Angelica and Meisterwurz ( "Master Root"). This potion was invented by bibulous monks who insisted that it would blend the powers of heaven and earth in the body. It did wonders for the sniffles I had developed by sloshing around in wet snow after repeated redeye hopping between different time and temperature zones since I left Hawaii a week ago.
     The Bear in me was pleased, though he still wanted to finish everything on that plate.

Top photo: With Peggy Moeller, my dream translator, at my Friday evening lecture for the Frankfurter Ring.


Sal Ruiz said...

Your work there, in Germany, is much needed and timely due - tremendous, really...

Your visit there, and the opportunity that that gives to your - and any and all of the German - ancestors legacy of wars between each others through the ages will offer a synergistic opportunity in the realm of NOW time for that healing and working together harmoniously that you've written about.

It would have been choice to have been present when St. Augustine stated, "Ursus diabolus est," and to have responded, "Ursus non est diabolus, ursus persona Deus est."

Anonymous said...

Shared with a friend in Munich, who responded:
this is so wonderful! I got shivers in the first part of the blog, when he talked about the name of the bear, the bear hunt... something to look into, definitely. I am sharing his blog with my shaman group - we may consider to do a bear healing ceremony .
There are lots of local groups now, in Germany, of shamanic work. lots.. it seems to me, at least. Mostly in the southern part of the country.

Carol Davis said...

Beautiful images of the bear... singing and medicine rather than warring and killing.

Augustine was always the student and he loved fiercely. Too bad he didn't know the stories we know today. I think he might have learned to embrace the bear, or at least wonder about their scientific classification as did St. Albert the Great centuries later than Augustine.

It breaks my heart when God's creation is wantonly destroyed in order to control people under the guise of spirit when it is more about political control and power over others.

The good news is that the power within continues and healing power is always available. Dreaming is a natural way to connect with that healing. To sing and invite in the Medicine Bear as Great Mother opens pathways of healing in the imagination, in the body, in the land.

Sending a bear hug!