Spring Notes from Pine Arbor Tribal Town News
30 March, 1997
* At our Berry and Arbor Dance, when new corn
shoots are appearing, the importance of corn is acknowledged. Secure in
the fact fields are planted and growing, our fast from corn begins. From
Berry Dance to the igniting of Green Corn's New Fire, our renewal continuum,
we do not partake of Corn--nor new honey either. In the old days before
corn products became so pervasive, this was an easier symbolic gesture
to keep. It was security, too. Preservation of seed corn stock was assured.
The Corn Fast prevented the seed stock from being consumed before new seed
was ready. Should planted crops fail [we have records of that happening]
and all the corn seed be eaten--well, you know--major disaster. The
Corn fast also prevented major illness and sometimes, death. Dampened corn
in Deep South springtime could become host to any number of biological
problems such as the active ergot of psychedelic fame. Whole villages could,
and did, die. For each planted, gathered or hunted thing, a special ceremony
of acknowledgment is held which includes fasting for a specified time.
You've probably heard mama say, "It's not right to eat certain things until
they've been fasted for." Some suggest that by fasting we imbue life into
objects of the fast. Bees and certain moths pollinate corn, beans, pumpkins,
squash and tobacco--therefore, those species were never purposefully killed
or dislodged. Instead, they were honored with fasting, dances and prayers
of thanksgiving. In fact, it is said that no knowledge gained about “Medicine,”
healing formulae, songs, ceremonial rules and procedures, or any other
important matter, is valid until it has been fasted for.
* Sometimes, ancient traditions can prepare us for the complexities of modern life, even in a mixed blood community such as ours. Many communities, especially in Oklahoma, merely fast from this year's new corn crop and eat older corn, last year's corn or corn grown by non-Indians. Me thinks the spirit of it all has been aborted in these instances. There's no reason for a people to maintain any tradition regarding corn if they have forgotten or missed the point entirely. My own mother and grandmother impressed upon me to keep no fast unless I fully understood the associated value or could derive some education from it--that old Muskogee duality again. If something is denied the body, the mind and spirit must be in the intake mode. If the mind and spirit are denied something, the body must be fed. It's a matter of maintaining whole-person balance in our understandings. Aelah--that Duality business is surely constant now isn’t it…!
* Thus, for Pine Arbor, the CORN FAST is also a great intellectual pursuit and a wonderful teaching tool about the inter- and intra-dependency of all things; it is the balanced importance of small things, even the bee and moth. Go into your kitchen larder and look at all the foods therein. Read a few labels. SEE! Corn is everywhere--even in your toothpaste and your deodorant powders. It is in many of your medicines, vitamins, paints, dyes and plastics--Aelah! It's everywhere. Talk about the Staff-of-Life; corn is it! As Corn Fast fast approaches, take time to reflect, consider and make preparations. If you think little ol' humans are the most important of things at the expense of all others, examine corn in your life. Examine life without corn and its many by-products!
* Pine Arbor takes seriously this obligation our fore-elders assumed for us at the dawn of ceremonial history. Talk about complexities--what's a body to do? Corn IS everywhere. Human wisdom sometimes imitates Creator. That's a good thing these days. Our elders, some fifty years ago (circa 1946), decided that we must fast only from all obvious forms of corn such as fresh corn, canned corn, grits, corn flakes, corn chips, corn tortillas, popcorn and corn whiskey no less! Bees contribute heavily to pollination; therefore, our fasting extends to new honey as well. It is a time to take your children into the kitchen and study its contents--an amazing education awaits you. We not only keep a major fast for corn but a minor fast for each of the other growing things we harvest. Upon readiness, each of our grown foods is given to Creator first in a specially prepared Fire of Sacrifice. Fast the body to feed the spirit and soul, said Aunt Alice. Fast the body to teach the heart, said Oreal McKenzie. Fast in thanksgiving and fast to focus your relationship to all living things. We, of planet earth, are Ena-Hvmke, one body, regardless of our form and species. What does it profit us to enrich the body and impoverish the mind, soul or spirit; we are whole people and must treat things in the whole and not in the part.
* Some, but not many, Indian churches have returned to traditions of the Corn Fast since it often parallels the Lenten season. What a wonderful way to teach the young Creator's lessons about inter-connectivity, interdependence, self-discipline and focus. Perhaps American Christianity as a whole could benefit from this practice. Fasting is an area where the dominant society could really learn something from Native communities. At this point, many traditional Creeks would quickly ask, "Hey, isn't Power geographically specific?" Of course it is! Different cultures in different regions have their own items of severe importance that might well make a sufficient object of a national fast. Ever wonder how a tea fast would work for the Church of England? Chuckle! Well, these are just some thoughts to set you upon the right path of contemplation as the fasting time fast approaches. It is a time that can unite parent and child, as each becomes the other's corn guardian. It becomes a time of talking and sharing as new solutions are sought to the standard questions of "what do we eat now?" Alice Jenkins's answer was always, "Whatever don't eat you first!" Like many other traditional practices, Corn Fast helps, in part, to define us as a People of the Fire. The Fast reminds us of interdependency with all Creator's creation. It is also parent to a whole body of modern stories about that rascally Ol’ Rabbit and Pine Arbor’s corn foible. Do you remember when Grandmother went to the movies after the Berry & Arbor Dance and absent-mindedly bought a big tub of hot buttered popcorn? Did we ever have fun with that one-but that’s another story for another time…
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