© 1984, rev 2002
The Article entitled The Muskogee Universe, which
follows, is long and convoluted. The subject is complicated--more so
because Muskogee and English encode basic word meaning
differently.Also, it is important to remember Pine Arbor handles
this and other related subject matter by using a strictly symbolic
approach. Use of a symbolic model relieves the mind, to some extent,
and allows individuals to accept things at a philosophical level,
symbolic level or an actual level--dependent upon their own
sophistication, cultural foundation and native education. Unity of idea
and purpose is sought, not uniformity. That is the Muskogee Way.
Any help extended is appreciated. Footnotes have been reduced
with vital information incorporated into the text. Other information
may/should either be disregarded or reduced to manageable notes for the
interested reader. This complier is too close to the subject to be
effective in this undertaking. The subject matter, itself, is of the
highest philosophical order. Through it, an history of ancient logic
can be discovered. Any offers of a rewrite are welcomed. Should the two
articles Power and the Muskogee Universe be merged into
one article? Your thoughts, please...
The interested (capable) reader would do well to examine an article exploring the universe as a "duality of mirror images" which appeared in the January issue of Scientific American, 1996, starting about page 88. In additon, May 1997, saw the release of a several science news articles describing the nature of space, its shape and movement--it all seems very Muskogee!
THE MUSKOGEE UNIVERSE
[Part One: Partially edited, 2002]
An Historical View from the Inside
By the People of Pine Arbor Tribal Town
Compiled For Their Children
Each people possess a unique world view and unique ideas about how the universe and its many parts fit together. The view is not constant but is always unfolding, enlarging, and changing as new understandings are gained or older opinions fade into disuse. Just as the actual universe and all that comprise it is in constant motion, opinions of the universe and its components are in motion, too. Much must remain conjecture even though views we each hold of the universe and cosmos, form the basis of our self-identity--a sense of individuality within our nation, people or tribe whose collective pool of identities provides the internal source for cultural values and beliefs.
What one knows of the universe now and what was thought as a child is vastly different. From the days when daring men such as Galileo and Giordano Bruno were persecuted for daring assertions that earth was not the center of the universe to intense interest in planetary exploration, has been a centuries-long road. In science, much is (and remains) speculative--theory is only theory. The first step of any new advance is conjecture. Scientific character explores, thinks and rethinks about something until conclusive proof or disproof can be obtained. At best, ideas or thoughts that constitute "science" are suspect by many individuals or groups with different, strangely or strongly held notions about belief, religion or philosophy--especially if it differs from their own. Similarly, interpretation of the sciences--its ends, products or results, is highly subjective. Science to one is bunk to another. Interestingly, Creeks often say scientific consistency is no guarantor of accuracy but is only an indicator of repetition.
Before approaching the Muskogee Universe, we would do well to put forth a simple defining statement of science today, the framework from which many modern peoples derive their present view of the universe and much of their cultural sustenance. From science, influences on modern thought, both religious and secular, shimmies forth--often in a combatant mode or vice versa.
In Pine Arbor community schools operated through the 1980's, science was defined as a systematic body of knowledge, in a technical sense, gained through experimentation, study and observation carried out in an exacting disciplined manner in order to establish or determine the nature or principles of the object of study. Further, any and all such derived natures, principles or understandings can be independently tested and verified by consistency of methods and results.
Individual world views rest with personal opinion and belief, often derived from religious or spiritual perspectives. Modern Christianity holds many views. Some groups believe in multi-layered heavens, others believe in no heaven at all. Some believe earth is transitory--soon to be replaced. Others believe men never left earth to visit the moon. There are many levels of personal belief in any one system--levels of belief that change over a lifetime. It is a diversity fraught with chaos or confusion. Additionally, all cultural values, however expressed, are relative. They must be viewed or judged against their own parent culture and not compared with the observer's culture. Values are measured by their consistency within, not without. What is right in one culture may be wrong in other cultures.
Prior to recent centuries, the vastness of the universe was beyond the physical grasp or actual experiential knowing of all peoples. Each of earth's many peoples authored their understanding and expressed it with ingenuity that matched the distances being bridged in their imaginations. On a clear cool Spring or Autumn eve in the darkness of the pre-electric days, the vastness of all beyond the reach of man must have generated awesome feelings that sent the imagination reeling with countless visions of what might be. It all looked so close and yet was so far. That is the matrix upon which early Muskogean people placed their deepest philosophical musings and devoted their greatest fears and affections.
Pine Arbor's ancient views (and, there is more than one opinion) of the universe, is expressed entirely through symbology. They hold that symbols are easier to understand, more flexible and less rigid than opinion and hold basic truths more clearly than words. Symbols may be arranged and rearranged to suit the purposes at hand. Then, meaning is derived which is both geographically and position-specific according to the grammar of symbology as practiced by learned classes called shamans in the literature. Constant symbols and flexible meanings provided great diversity of opinion without spawning undue aggression which sent many in Europe, and elsewhere, to the pyres of divergent views. At times, the only light on mankind's long dark road to the modern world has been cast by the pyres of the intellectuals. Muskogee symbols reflect ways of representing the observable features of the natural world, the universe and cosmos. Our symbolic elements exhibit validation though visible phenomena. Symbols often mirror atomic structure, too.
A child may first be taught to believe in goblins, tooth fairies and the little short fat man in the red suit who brings gifts in December--an endless variety in the expressions of beliefs and their practices. Later, the adult is called upon to make the transition from symbolic Santa Claus to the spirit of the December holidays; many don't undergo such a maturing experience. They often abandon the roots of their childhood's spiritual cocoon. Their own individual self-awareness, their identity, often fails to recover from the shocking distrust they develop as a result of maturing beyond childhood and childlike beliefs. This is the point where many loose their taste for truth--discovering, that given as a basic truth in youth, was an adult sham, a set of lies they would be called upon culturally to perpetuate. Pine Arbor families promote first the symbol and call on youth to interpret. The symbol remains the same but the interpretations change with each of the four stages of life, infancy, youth, maturity and old age. That growing body of knowledge a youth gains becomes their personal source of wisdom and guidance in things Muskogee. The experiences become stewards of ideas. To this end, trickster rabbits, wily foxes, sluggish bears and singing herbs were brought forth with a whole plethora of "other world" ethereals to train the generations.
What about Pine Arbor Creeks
who still believe in their ancient world view and practice traditions
which reflect that view?
To that end, let us now turn our attention.
articles about Creek world view often miss the important and dwell on
small things--the unusual or the supposedly "savage." Such articles are
narrow foci of fragmented views devoid of awareness of overall
structure--the system or big-picture. Often, misinterpretations or
biased distortions are presented which may be amusing to read but the
humor quickly disappears. Creek traditions are presented as ridiculous
and genuine harm, via misinformation, often results. Here, Pine Arbor
will attempt to put forth a simplified clear explanation for readers
compiled from the collective remembrances and views of Pine Arbor's
faithful core families. One is not asked to believe, but only to
understand that the Creek world view is indeed valid for our people,
and has been valid for thousands of years--some yet to come.
If you have made a study of Muskogee languages, you are aware of Creek subtleties that cannot be rendered in English. Often ideas, beliefs and philosophies of the aboriginal South were poorly understood. When those concepts were set over into English, French or Spanish, much was lost for several reasons: the education of those receiving the information wasn't usually of the highest quality available; those receiving the information (whether by observation or direct questioning) often confused the symbolic representation with ideas, beliefs or philosophical precepts filtered through terms based on their own ethnocentric views and personally held beliefs.
Results were often fantastic--filled with misconceptions. A surprising amount of the correct overview did make its way into European tongues but at the meanest levels--not the higher planes of understanding. For all the beauty and richness of the English language (from Archbishop Cramner to Cranberry Corners, USA), it is still a cumbersome tongue in many ways when applied to "alien people, alien concepts and strange lands." Nevertheless, we must use English here as best we can. By way of example, consider Uncle Sam of poster fame. Americans recognize the patriotic spirit Uncle Sam evokes. It would be very inaccurate to state that Uncle Sam is a God or Spirit Being although his image is prolific in American life. For Creeks, many ethnologists never get beyond the symbol even if they come to fully understand it.
Most, but not all, at Pine Arbor Tribal Town believe in three worlds, possibly changeable but predictable worlds. The Uppermost World is perfect; it is perfection both real and ideal. It is a World of Power. "Power" is the key word. It is Impersonal Power. Power is always in motion. Upper World has no physical attributes although it is represented in and by physical phenomena. It is a place of Infinite Order and Balance. As such, it is Ohfvnkv (oh-FUHN-guh), the One Above, Master of Breath, Creator and Source. By some, this concept is now called Father Spirit in English.
This old Muskogean view could perhaps be called symbolic philosophical physics since its entire body of knowledge, expressed beliefs and philosophies originate from Muskogean views of Power previously discussed. Modern Creeks state that one can substitute the words energy and matter for these concepts to produce a scientific model consistent with modern science. To many Creeks, science is an attitude, a way of looking at things--not a factual disciplined endeavor.
Power is neither good nor evil, only impersonal--impartial. Have you read "The Orange Story?" It would help if you thought of Power in the same manner you consider mystical flame or raw electrical energy, also impersonal Powers. Fire is one of the most important earthly manifestations of Power or the Energizing Force. Flame is neither good nor evil--it can be an agent of creativity or a destroyer. Fire may hurt or help but it is always mystical. The innate character of our world, the Middle World of the user/receiver, determines if results of Fire (Power) are to be beneficial or destructive. Everything Muskogee has two natures, two opposing natures in one whole. The symbolism of Fire is an integral part of all things Muskogee specifically and all things Southeastern generally. Throughout the Muskogee Words and Ways (MWW) series, the sacredness of Fire is paramount and oft explained. It is dealt with as a separate article "The Fire, Source of Balance and Harmony," in a preceding chapter.
Another word that can be used in English is love--impersonal, all-giving and non-judging. This Uppermost World is a spiritual world, an Upper World, an energetic Power realm of a higher order. This World is incapable of a personal relationship with anything; it is the nature of this Upper World to radiate Power equally into and through all things. If personal relationships are to exist for humans (and they do), they must be established from this Middle World where humans and other beings dwell, toward the Higher World. Our Middle World initiates, maintains, fulfills, and concludes that relationship with impersonal Upper World Power. Life and its opposite, death, come to us without special regard for any.
Being a pragmatic people, our ancients developed a descriptive symbolic model through which to view and understand their three world complex--Uppermost, Middle and Undermost realms. From ancient observations they concluded that water acts as the natural separator of these three Worlds. The Middle World is represented as a thick two-sided disc firmly suspended in the center of the water's surface and symbolically bounded by two Power Serpents with blue and yellow horns. In this universe everything, including time, is circular, cyclical and in permanent opposition with two distinct natures.
"Cycles of Time - Seasons of Life, the Ceremonial Kalendar of
Apalachicola's Pine Arbor Tribal Town," Muskogee time, although
measurable two ways, is defined as not lineal but cyclical and
segmented. It is generally experienced in orderly segments. Time is the
idea-entity or off-spring of cyclical Power in motion around the same
circuit or pathway. When it wobbles occasionally, all hell breaks loose
and Mother Earth heaves and groans. Spring, by example, illustrates
cyclical time. Spring may come short and violent in some years or long
and florid in others--Spring always comes. It is not a new Spring each
year but the same Spring, exhausted and cross or invigorated and fully
refreshed. Fall is Spring's opposite. Lives, too, may be short or long.
Death is life's opposite. Death in Muskogee is not a thing or end but
an on-going state of being, the state of "Being dead."
is a duality with motions as its twin. Time flows, an invisible river
whose currents create the visible phenomena. The boundaries of
river-like time are the boundaries of our middle world. We live in this
river of time. If we swim against currents, that is, attempt to change
natural order, we soon tire the body and exhaust or use up our energy
or life allotment, time itself. Go with time's flow and our journey or
life, though not without its rapids and sandbars, will cover more
distance. Living in balance is to maintain a midstream course--flow
around obstacles. In so doing, we will accomplish much or go far. Souls
swimming up-river naturally do not accomplish the same quantity or
quality of life. Regardless of chronological age, one who goes with the
current remains spiritually younger longer and manages to get more
completed. An upstream swimmer ages spiritually more rapidly, perhaps
physically, too. There are always exceptions, it seems, to any model
put forth. Exceptions reflect our limitations of understanding, not
flaws in the natural order. Time can only be experienced in the present
because it is always in motion; its past can be remembered and its
future only anticipated or approximated. Because time is segmented and
flowing, it is never where it was--only approaching where it will be.
Dream journeys of remembering or seeking time gone are always shadowy
or incomplete. When dreamers "go back," they do not actually experience
a past time but only its memory, shadow or past reflections. Not all
parts of time flow at equal rates. Speeds may vary but time never is
still. It is always moving toward the future. Time being cyclical, the
past is always being revisited as a future reshaped. Time, as does all
things, has two natures, too. First, time acts as the assembler, an
agent of growth. Time is also the disassembler,
an agent of decay. Unlike the Maya's definite date for creation, Pine
Arbor only dates an awareness of creation. Creation is not an event but
an on-going cyclical process. It can have no beginning since it is
merely Power in motion, expressed as time in the physical. Power, not
time, is the ancient Pine Arbor concern that parents, permeates and
shapes all things, including time. We are always within time--never
outside of it. Time never controls Power. Time is the measurement of
Power's movement which it can deflect or reflect. Time is layered and
its layered parts overlap as reflected in the two ceremonially
structured kalendars still in use, celestial and terrestrial. Before
there was a Middle World, the creative processes were cyclically
occurring in the heavens, the Upper World, centered where we now
observed the night fires known as Orion. That River of Time which is
also a Tree of Life, Pathways of Souls, Smoky Trail or Great Serpent,
among other nomens, is what moderns called the Milky Way. That is where
Pine Arbor's Creation Story takes places before earth was found beneath
the waters and formed into the Middle World below the Milky Way--the
corridor between the Middle and Upper World. The Milky Way is the
corridor most life will follow to return the their original birth place
before they were "earthly beings."
There are four parts to the
physical year but two ceremonial halves. Four major ceremonials occur
during the ceremonial season and none during the other half. Four years
complete one kind of cycle. Four of these cycles make another cycle of
16 years; four sets of 16 year cycles form another--ad infinitum. A
special shaman's cycle comprises three years each--one for each
particular World nature whose influence or emphasis affects events and
ceremonials during that year. Four of these shaman's three year cycles
make one Portal cycle of 12 years accompanied by one null year or "dead
cycle" when Power (either World) flows out--not in. During that time,
some shamans may have opportunities to affect the Higher and Other
Worlds. Four of these Portal cycles with their four null years
constitute a special 52 year period called the Great Fire Cycle. Venus
signals this time when the universe and the whole cosmos rights or
adjusts itself. Special ceremonies and shamanistic functions at the 52
year mark determine if our Middle World will continue or cease.
Repetition for all cycle sets is ad infinitum in both directions. This
is all reflected in Pine Arbor Busks which have four parts and four
opposites including Fast and Feast, Female and Male, Purity and
Pollution, Night and Day and so forth--major dualities are in all
things Muskogee. To some folks, all this is but a symbolical reduction
of Power. For others it is not a symbolic representation but the very
real and actual. There are actually two major kalendars in use.
Duality, and time's own two natures, naturally requires the use of two
such kalendars mentioned above.
Duality permeates all things Muskogee. The whole symbolic model is a ball-like shape but the actual is thought to be beyond the boundaries of form. One half, the Upper World, is perfect--one half isn't. The Upper World, from whence rains come, is a hard circular vault above a center where "water rests."
The whole upper ball-like affair is filled with water. Water, like anything of the Higher or Lower World, can have no physical form or attribute in these two realms. Water, Ethereals and other beings, must come to our Middle World to take on physical attributes: form, substance, purpose and place. Water falls from above where it is an invisible Power or wells-up from the Lowermost World where some of it absorbs the murky dark sided nature of that realm. Creeks know gravity as the selfish, taking force or Power of the Under World. This selfish force pulls the invisible Power, pure water, from the Higher World. As water is a life force, itself, some water is often able to preserve its pure nature and escape from Below with clear cool sparkling flows or even hot steaming issues. Such water is very powerful and its spring heads or boil sources are sacred. Its use is preferred in all things ceremonial.
Power can't act alone; it can only react with, through or to things of our physical Middle World. Power is absorbed and filtered in the Middle World which shapes its character. If there were nothing physical, Power could never be expressed as a storm and storms could never bring nourishing rain nor destructive winds. In fact, our Middle World actions, their use or misuse of Power, determine if we receive gentle nourishing rains, drought, violent storms or foul waters from the Other World. Dual natures permeate all things in all ways: symbolically, ceremonially and actually.
Seven directions emanate within the ball-like universe but appear frozen still in our World. Solid in the symbolic model only, they are seen physically as stepped concentric circular layers which are actually the directions--seven pathways created by circular movements of Power and time. These non-solid directions are also cyclical. North and South are but different segments, ends, within the circular loop of flowing Power between Upper and Lower World. Except in a still model, directions and time are in constant unhurried motion. A working model of these two entities looks like a modern gyroscope in action; the Muskogee model was invented long before the birth of the battery-powered generation.
Looking from the Middle World upwards, there are 4 cardinal directions plus up, down, and the "point" or axis-mundi, viewed by some as the true center and by others as omni-circular, that is, all around. Viewed from the Middle World but looking downwards are the ordinal directions. The other three directions remain constant in all three realms, Upper, Middle and Lower. This orbicular universe is often called the Great Turtle in the solid model because it resembles the shape of a turtle's shell. The Palachicola Creek word for this universe implies in the shape of, with the properties of or in the manner of; it does not state the universe is a Great Turtle--just shaped like a turtle shell. Our World, on the water surface, is attached at the 4 cardinals of the Higher World Vault, dome of the Turtle shell, by four cords woven out of light. The four Hayvhvlke, the Original Teachers or Beings of Light, came to earth on these beams flowing from the Milky Way in their "Sky Canoes." A few claim to see these cords sometimes, especially at sunrise or sunset. Four cords woven of abysmal darkness firmly anchor the disc's underside to the Lower World; they are attached to its ordinal points, the opposites of the Upper cardinals: North, South, East and West. Being of the imperfect World, strands of these dark cords occasionally snap off and roar across earth as tornadoes.
The Sun, physical embodiment of pure Power, slips under one edge of the vaulted sky [mouth of Turtle] and journeys across the vault to the other side and out through the unmentionable. Creeks don't concern themselves with Sun's location when it is not in the sky; they know Sun completes a great circle illuminating the Middle World's bottom side and then returns. Though Sun is there in the Lower World, its light never penetrates this World. However, the only safe time for shamans to visit this World is when Sun is there to guide them back. At any given moment, one disc side of the Middle World is always lighted--the other always dark. The Middle World disc has two sides, a mirror image--reinforced concept of duality again. Reported as flat by some, the disc is really slightly concave and convex like two sides of the Turtle's bottom shell. Power, although without form or limiting attribute, can and does express itself (through the physical) in many ways such as Thunder Beings. While called deities by non-Indians, these Power manifestations are more like saints, that is, physical beings filled or imbued with Power to act or accomplish certain feats. The literature states colors are associated with the four directions where certain "beings" and influences or forces reside. This is true. Different writings in the literature give different colors to these several directions. Various articles fail to note or grasp the fact that several colors are associated with each direction; the choice of color is determined by the season, ceremonial occasion, force evoked and the sex of the participants among other factors. When answering a color question, a Creek automatically gives only the color of the moment--not all colors of a given point.
From public conversations held at Oak Hill, Old Pine Arbor and New Pine Arbor over the last several decades.
The two Power Worlds mirror and interact with each other through the Middle World where everything is also mirrored--in addition to its duality and Power takes on form, substance, purpose and place, that is, can become a physical expression--but one in the Middle World.
"Imagery made solid by Symbols" [illustration missing]
Power's personification--taking on characteristics, can only occur between the Upper and Middle World or between the Lower and Middle World. The two natures of Power, Upper and Lower Worlds cannot mirror nor interact with each other because the Upper and Lower World are merely dualities of total Power devoid of the physical necessary to interact. The physical, our Middle World, is required for any Power to be active or expressive. The solid Middle World reflects Power, thus, can direct or exercise control of Power to some extent; that is, shape the use to which Power is put. Our ceremonial teachers once explained that if we did not give Thunder Beings or Flying Snakes and Horned Serpents form in our thoughts or dreams they could not exist. Dreams, they said, are the stepping stones to reality, the place where Power heals or kills. Reality is nurtured in thought before it is born. It is said this is why some Power-laden people can control weather, influence certain events and occasionally see "through time". Without this precept, the polluted could never be made pure and the pure could never be corrupted. "Oh, to dream adequately, powerfully!" is a ceremonial pronouncement and common wish among old styled Muskogees.
Middle World is two sided. Each side interacts, reflects, a different
nature of Power--Upper or Lower World. This gives rise to another
important Muskogee concept. Each thing on our side has an individual
opposite or shadowy "being" mirrored on the opposite side of our Middle
World which is associated with the Other Power. For instance, the
bottom of one's feet are also the bottom of another "being's" feet on
the underside of our World. Each tree, e.g., has a shadowy mirrored
duplicate, root to root, and so forth. On rare occasions one's mirrored
"being" might become disengaged or break loose. When that happens, a
feeling of emptiness and inexplicable loneliness is noticed as the
mirrored "being" ranges free. This causes complications when that
happens. One must get that other half back in order to be complete
again. If incomplete, one's personal Power is disenfranchised and may
drain away. It is not clear to the author whether or not the mirrored
"being" is the residence of one of the two souls we are believed to
have, each associated with a different nature of Power.
Communication between us and our mirrored "being" was once common--communication between Worlds was once common, too. However, past actions of certain people and animal "beings" disrupted it. Some people and shamans occasionally "get through" to the other Worlds but it happens less frequently. It is said when the last Sacred Fire dies out and there is no longer a Busk, this Middle World will be crushed to nothingness as the two Power Worlds fall into each other and reunite--black holes? Since Upper and Other Worlds possess only one nature each of Power's duality, one Power, but separated natures, its reuniting would be a Power implosion beyond comprehension. That one nature each in the Upper and Other World equals opposites again. The Middle World is of a solid nature and is always weaker than Power. It must unite with a Power to be animated--have life. The quality of that life depends on which Power is used. The Middle World, Turtle Island, is responsible for the duality of all things. It is the wedge dividing Power into two natures by providing the physical barrier between Power's natures. The Middle World is nothing without one or the other forms [natures] of Power. The Middle World cannot exist in a [Power] vacuum and Power cannot exist without us--Muskogee physics!
public conversations held at Oak Hill, Old Pine Arbor and New Pine
Arbor over the last several decades.
flows to us from Upper or Higher World Power. Death, is an absence of
Upper World Power, the Assembler and Enabler; Death is
the presences of Lower World Power, the Disintegrator, Destroyer
Human "beings," you will learn later, have four parts: body, soul,
spirit and personality. Only three of those enjoy the experience of
death. One is immune. Death, too, is a balance. Death is an English
noun. For people of Pine Arbor, "death" is more verb-like, an on-going
and usually continuous action in a direction opposite life. There's an
art to being properly dead as opposed to just being in an ordinary
state of "deadness." One lives life carefully, correctly in order to
enter into death properly and enjoy its benefits. If life is but a
state of being, dead is an opposite state. Muskogee things have
opposites. Life and death are different sides of one circle; we could
have been this way before and may come again--some say.
Thus, Upper or Higher World Power is symbolically Spiritual Father. Our Middle World where things are expressly born--put forth in solid, physical, visible terms gives rise to the beloved phrase Mother Earth, the World of "Absorbers," say Pine Arbor congregants. The third, the Under World, the bottom-most place, is a place of darkness, cold, and dampness. Here, too, the author prefers another English term, one less loaded in medieval precept; "Other World," place of chaos, best suits the Muskogean mind here.
It is here "things go bump in the night." Although this world can be expressed physically, that is, with imagery drawn from physical reality, it is largely a spiritual conception, too, albeit disorganized. Where the Uppermost World is expressed or at least described as a realm of Light, Energy or pure Power, the Undermost or Other World is thought to be pure darkness, a darkness where chaos and disorder foment, a place without direction, order or purpose. It is a cauldron of up-heaving negativism. It promotes nothing but dysfunction, pain, and ignorance. Its Power is the Power of the Upper World, but corrupted Power now dysfunctional, disordered, misdirected, misapplied--an out of control father to gravity, the taker.
Upper World characteristics--order, balance, harmony, self-restraint--have here been lost. Like the Uppermost World, the Other or Under World is also impersonal, exerting its influence equally to all things. Most believe that it, too, is without form, substance, or other measurable attributes. Only the symbolic model assigns specific boundaries to these three Worlds. The Upper and Other Worlds are more like poles of Power; Think of a magnetic rod with positive and negative ends. The rod can be made to spin; it is the basic principle used to generate electricity. A common science experiment places metallic shavings on a paper over a magnet. The flakes are pulled constantly in both directions because there is no real boundary where the opposing forces meet. Our Powers know no boundary in real life where they are constantly mixed, in motion, trying to occupy the same place, space or thing--causing duality, confusion. Upper World--mind, Lower World--dreams, Middle World and awakened life are common associations.
Because the Lowermost World exists, witches and other evilly-imbued "beings" exist in our Middle World. Perverted or corrupted Power is the engine that drives the Other World. Like Upper World Power, it can be and is expressed in solid forms or "beings." On the level of simple people, they are thought to be monsters, killers, demons, witches and the like. On a more philosophical plane, these things are believed to exist not as individual persons or "beings" but as darker expressions of the Power, the Lower World oozing through real Middle World inhabitants and exerting control on the direction of their lives. The physical is the missing ingredient of the Upper and Lower Worlds. Power is the missing ingredient in our World. There must be a conjugal union between Middle World and Upper Power for anything "to be," "to be able," "to be capable," that is, exist or have "being." To "age," "disintegrate" and "disassemble" requires conjugal acquaintance with Lowermost World Power. It, too, is an integral intimacy with our Middle World.
The Upper World, the Under World, and then this in-between World of beings.... We can call it, our World, the "almost real" World, but it is not. It is everything that is, was, or will be. We say it is "our" World, but humans are not its center and certainly not its master or owner. It is the World of many beings, of those things that have measurable attributes--form, substance, purpose, and place. By itself, with nothing from either Upper World or the Lower World, it is only a physical world without animation--cold, unmoving, unknowing and static. One characteristic of the Uppermost World is its unqualified giving, giving of energy, love, light or whatever word with which you are comfortable. Our World is the receiver-World; it soaks up these things. One old Heles-hayv, Maker of Medicine, used to address all on the ceremonial Square as "you absorbers." Perhaps that best summarizes things. Continuing in this vain, that nefarious Bottom-World is a selfish, Taking-World, a place where robbery of any kind is exalted. We are caught in the middle; we exist in the middle--a wedge between Power dualities. It is not only Upper World Power at our disposal but Other World Power, too. So, our World is not only the "real" World but may also be the Illusionary World, too. It just depends on which Power is solicited or answered.
Our purpose: to seek balance and harmony in all things--to travel life's road in moderation. Balance: occurs within a "being" and evens up its two natures--duality inherit in all things. Harmony: in the Muskogee view, all "beings" which have achieved internal balance must then equal out the dual nature that exists in any relationship with any other "being." Again, a duality permeates, penetrates everything. It gives rise to fourfold cycles as well. Two natures plus two natures equal four natures. Like mathematics, negatives and positives in different combinations yield many different sums and signs for the same numbers. Hard is the life of a Southeastern Ceremonial Mound priest who must guide and direct the union or segregation of all things in his sphere of leadership. He must be a people's memory and "Carrier of tradition."
We are precariously balanced, pulled between Upper and Lower Worlds--Giving and Taking-Worlds. Our task is clearly outlined but is not an easy thing to accomplish. Each World exerts its influence on us. Both Powers vie to occupy equally the same place, the same time and even the same heart--that cannot be. Each Power seeks union for physical expression, since that is missing from each place. Where English chooses to express our responsibilities in terms of purity and pollution, we view it as degrees of sacred or secular. Balance and harmony are not absolute states--merely varying degrees of relations with one World or the other. Each degree of the sacred and secular or purity and pollution is continually visible through the ceremonial litany of the Southeast with all its richness, color, symbolism and sounds. In the World Muskogee, everything has potential, period: One Concept - Many Symbols.
On our Middle World, Turtle Island, it is easy to see and understand water as the symbolic separator between Worlds. Out of it can come monstrous things and all manner of ill-boding and terrible events. Through it, too, flows life sustaining power for all "beings" and their needs. Our tasks are all the more difficult for this duality. Either World Power, though expressed, radiating and permeating equally all things, can be felt, known or absorbed by degrees, seven degrees as in the seven directions. No steady state exists. All things are in flux; all things are connected on the circle by degrees.
The real problem? One which non-Indian writers generally are unable to grasp is responsibility. Each "being" in the World--whether animal, bird, reptile, human, or anything else that has form, substance, purpose, and place must feel a sense of responsibility for its own actions, and a sense of responsibility in its relationships with each other "being." This Middle World, the World we live in now, is the Sharing World. This is the World of direction and purpose. It is the fish that decides to take the hook or not!
On this point rests everything in our world view--our perceptions about the World and universe of which we, along with all things of form, substance, purpose and place, are part. In the Muskogee dictionary accompanying this book you will read that snakes are highly regarded as wisdom-carriers. Perhaps that is because snakes bask in the purity of "Sunlight" yet remain closest to the Under World and for the most part elude its influence . . . they are indeed wise to do so. Snakes do not seek you out in order to bite you; the bite comes when you enter their space, whether accidentally or purposely--disharmony and unbalance in your spatial relationship with snakes. Birds are closest to the Upper World; perhaps that explains the unique spiritual qualities which we recognize in them and which we solicit earnestly. A reading of "How Things Came to Be," the Apalachicola Creek creation narrative, puts each thing and "being" in its proper order and its proper place. It also details the giving of Light and Knowledge from One Above to us earthly "beings" of every kind and species--not just humans.
Pine Arbor creation story tells of Turtle diving and doing her good
work. Perhaps it was the Under World she penetrated in her tasks. If
you examine each and every tradition, belief, or concept we hold in
relation to our three-world view, the Muskogee Way becomes infinitely
clearer and very consistent in all its parts. Our universe, as we know
it, is extremely complicated and is a very interesting place to
be--filled with intrigue, puzzles, warmth, and coldness. The intricate
and delicate expressions of our language beautifully express it all. In
all ways, the ceremonial Square Ground reflects a visible picture of
this conceptualization--an outward and visible sign of formless,
unqualified, all-giving (spiritual), all-taking (chaotic) Power. The
whole concept of a world view becomes expressed belief when it is
internalized and individualized in parts. Fragmentation is father to
belief while the whole is mother to philosophy. Numerous are the icons
and symbols that decorate the three Worlds and hold fast the many
meanings enshrined within them--flexible meaning embodying and
reflecting the constant flowing motion of Power's dual nature.
As a people, we hold many interesting indiviual beliefs on many different levels related to our perception of the Muskogean world view. Throughout this work, footnotes give some indication of the many embodiments and personifications given the Upper and Lower Worlds. Things considered strange or unusual in this Middle World are really but partial glimpses of those other Worlds and their Power. The Irish have nothing on us! Our World has four species of little people--ours are just not green. There are blue-boned giants, wonderful tie snakes, water masters and monsters, laughable rabbits full of tricks, awesome flying serpents and horned ones, too. There are wisdom animals and birds that constantly teach us about both of the Other Worlds and at the same time provide poignant and oft humorous examples to aid survival in this Middle World. Even our view about ourselves is intricately involved. Remember: It is we human "beings" who seek the spiritual (Power) and establish the personal relationship. Our character establishes the quality of Other World relationships. Our shamans visit the Lower World and survive. It is they who speak with the Upper World and seek their guidance in all things. Shamans sometimes visit the Lower World and return with terrors and tremblings. They are gatekeepers to all Worlds--their knowledge and wisdom, their experiences are the vines of the World Tree. They are curators of the Busk and exhorters of the Fire, Power's visible seat in our midst.
Women are the carriers of life, the co-creators of life with One Above, Father Spirit, the powerful impersonal force. All humans determine how Power is channeled and how it will flow and be felt in this World. Humans must be responsible "beings!" One cannot understand our World by studying just one part of it or copying just those parts which suit one personally. Ours is a whole, a whole made of three distinct parts. The weak may be easily influenced or motivated by the Lower or Other World, and thus evil can come to pass. But, we are free to animate and energize ourselves with Power from the higher realm, too.
are called animists, but that is more wrong than right. The non-Indian
interpreters failed to see that we believe in the awesome, impersonal,
beautiful Power which is a whole entity--a oneness of infinite
expression. They also failed to understand that Power can be known and
experienced in many ways. Everything in this World is capable, in some
way, of experiencing that Power, expressing Power, and communicating
Power. Henry David Thoreau, in Walden, is the exception. A
non-Indian writer, he adequately captures the kernel of meaning in the
Muskogee World by his description of the Busk (q.v.) which he describes
as a pure sacrament obviously given directly from Above. Who
says hawks, eagles, owls, rocks, mountains, fire, tobacco, or anything
else can't be a participant in our spiritual experiences? After all,
Creator hides messages there for us to seek out, a spiritual DNA, if
you would. Sainthood is not limited to just human "beings." Likewise,
other "beings" of form, substance, purpose and place, can feel and
express that which is of the dark World as well. Again, we must be
responsible in our actions and seek balance and harmony between the
Worlds of Light and Darkness--equilibrium is our responsibility. It
is we who color or give quality and character to our experiences.
The One we worship, One Above,
is Totality and can be known in an infinity of ways. Perhaps, Creeks
are really personificators instead of animists; they can give form to
anything or any thought. Creeks concretize concepts; they make the
solid spiritual and make the spiritual solid! E = MCsquared...
Why not? Even more curious to some is our notion that matter and space
are actual dualities. Matter is self explanatory but did you know that
we view space as not the absence of something but as the presences of
something that precludes anything else being there. If something does
come into a "space," the space isn't nullified or voided but merely
moves to where its occupier formerly was...!
Everything we know or believe is part of this consistent whole. Non-Indian neighbors, and Indians who have given up older ways, are still struggling to unify their World, to make sense out of it, to codify its many mysteries--to have an answer for everything. "Answers are not so important. It's the questions that make life interesting!"--so said Heneah Emathla (J. Ray Daniel), the compiler's father and the most able of Pine Arbor's recent teachers.
Let's look at one additional idea, then conclude this article before the author goes too far with too much for those who are too unprepared to think or reason about a system that sees a world different from their's. Some modern Muskogee philosophers, trained in the thought patterns of the Judeo-Christian world, have strongly suggested that the Upper World is in our hearts and partly in our minds, but always in the breath of our children. They also have said the Under World or Other World is in our minds and partly in our hearts. The heart of a human "being" can be the coldest place in the universe or the most inspiring. The heart is where both the real and spiritual are intimate. The heart is both a real and spiritual part of the human "being". The heart of the Turtle's Island in the human. The heart is also a husband to duality. Now--what is a human "being?"
A human BODY: a vessel made of earth, Mother Earth. As such, it is infused with the same essence that is present in all earthly things. Just as poison ivy and a rose have radically different make-ups, so also are human bodies formed from different proportions of building materials (the elements). Woman co-creates the body physical along with One Above, the Father Spirit, the Power. She, as daughter of Mother Earth, is both material source and carrier of Power ....missing words here.... witnessed the flux of spiritual incontinence suggest that there is one more World, a fourth World. It has only one inhabitant--yourself. There, you are master and slave, Creator and destroyer, God and demon. It is your personal World.
The author [editor] has probably done great injustice and created more problems and/or questions than solutions and/or answers. There is no quick way to cover this material and make it relevant in English in a few pages; the author completed a full sixteen year ceremonial training cycle which initiates life learning and knowledge gathering that can only conclude with permanent graduation into another World, without all the answers. He just barely understands some of the questions.
Where many of our beliefs and fast held views are quite beautiful, expressive and worthy of Zen-like pondering, they come across much the lesser in English. Bird man is not so much a real "being" that comes and escorts the Soul to its original home on high as it is a comforting idea that explains in mythical terms how that part of us travels from one realm or World to another. Of course, not everyone's life-Power comes from the Upper World. Some derived animating Power from below; such Souls will return there to fomentation of all things in that sphere.
of Pine Arbor aren't idolaters but philosophers of the highest. They
have discovered, through their ceremonial life, how to give imagery and
form to wisdom, belief and knowledge.
An excellent misunderstood example is the Moundville disc, called the Sun Circle and Human Hand. The disc can be the carapace of the Great Turtle symbolizing the cosmos. Turtle shell notches are replicated around the rim of the disc. The Horned Serpents are Upper and Lower World Power in motion and perhaps the Milky Way. The flat perspective of the disc is deceptive to those unfamiliar with Southeastern Native American artistic conventions. The Serpents' intertwined bodies are knotted to show they transect and interact within the Middle World. One body defines the Upper World and one body defines the Other World. Stories say one horn is blue and the other yellow. The hand represents one of the dual aspects of One Above, all-imbuing Power--creative nature physically expressed. The all-imbuing Spiritual nature of Power is symbolized by Fire and the many cruciform symbols representing Fire in art. The hand can also subset for flames of the Sacred Fire. The eye represents the sun and its tears found on earth as crystals. Through crystals, portals of light (hence, knowledge) shamans perceive segmented time: the shadowy past, an active present or approximate near future. Crystals are a shaman's tool (a doorway) whose use is potentially destructive. No one can control or know which segment of time is being viewed or how to correctly interpret the events portrayed. Simply put, this disc gives form and imagery to the Southeastern cosmic model, especially its Middle World. Are eyes soul-corridors? Does this disc imply the heavens above, especially Orion? Additional interpretations of this great stone's symbolic meaning and importance were proposed by Dr. F. Kent Reilly at a 1994 Southeastern Iconography section of the Advanced Maya Hieroglyphic Workshop, University of Texas, Austin, March 17-20. The four foundation stones under the Sacred Fire on ceremonial grounds are often called "The Turtle's Eggs." Also, they are called Star Stones among other names. The gorget cover design for Vnewetv is the same symbology in a different expression!