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Sisterhood of the Seven Sacred Shields
For many years, I have held a teaching given by my Grandmothers, Indigenous Women who lived our traditional ways in the face of immense obstacles. They were the ones who held the family together, in the midst of poverty, alcoholism, despair, oppression, residential schools that stole their children, times when our ceremonies were illegal. The loved Mother Earth, Father Sky, and All Our Relations. They survived and thrived by working together, women to women, in the Moon Lodge, in Sweat Lodge, in the feasts, dances, ceremonies, as well as in their daily lives. They doctored the children, fed the families, sometimes defended the village alongside their men, assisted the Elders as they made their transition from this life to the next, bathed and buried the dead.
Strong, these women! They took no guff from anybody!! Including their sisters. . . . As in any family, they might occasionally argue among themselves, but wouldn’t allow anyone else to step over their boundaries or speak badly of another sister. And if a sister was wronged or harmed in any way, the sisterhood closed ranks around her and did whatever might be necessary to heal the situation.
These mothers and grandmothers, sisters and aunties followed a strong sense of tradition, teachings passed on from their grandmothers’ grandmothers. In matrilineal tribes, women were councilors; in some tribes, it was even up to the Beloved Woman to determine whether the tribe would go to war, or whether a man could be appointed as chief.
Even when patriarchalism was introduced to the tribes, many women stood strong against it.
Due to residential schooling, eventually, a lot of Indian women (and men) fell prey to a new teaching, brought by the imperialists of other countries, who had been raised in patriarchal societies. In those European and Asian belief systems, women always submitted to men because they were ‘chattel’, the legal property of their husbands and fathers. The women were told they had no rights, and unfortunately, they accepted these beliefs. This dysfunctional belief nearly destroyed the feminine as a whole, and women everywhere are still trying to recover a sense of Self and the power to do what is right, no matter what male authority figures demand or seduce us into believing.
So I believe it’s time to bring back the ancient teachings of Balance and Beauty. Until the feminine reconstructs it’s Power, and acts from it’s Truth, we will not be able to challenge and change many of the disturbing dysfunctions in our societies. This is not about bra-burning and “women’s lib”, this is about being fully informed, inspired and influential as the women we have been born to be! The Hopi tell us that this is the time of women, the time we are to step forward and lead in our role as nurturers, peacemakers, and the challengers of imbalance and insanity in our world.
The need for us, as women, to stand in our truth and lead the world is imperative. Mother Earth is dying, and the feminine will die as well, if we do not meet this need. Yet, how can we, if we don’t even know how to act with each other?
Over this lifetime, I have watched women deceive other women; pursue another woman’s mate; keep secrets about and from women because a man told them to; hold back, fall down, disappear when they have been called upon to step forward, stand up, and make their voices heard ~ just because someone they consider to be in authority has told them they ‘couldn’t do it’. Why? Because we’ve lost the teachings and no longer understand who we are as women, and how our actions affect other women, our children, and our men.
So what are these teachings, and what does it mean to live them in our lives on a daily basis?
Respect: To honor all creation is to have Respect. All of creation should be treated with respect. You must give respect if you wish to be respected. The Sisterhood of the Seven Sacred Shields teaches that, in relationship with our sisters, we always act from respect.
If a woman is interested in a man, and learns that the man is already in partnership, to be in respect means that one would not interfere in the prior relationship ~ period, ever! To be in respect means honoring the gifts and abilities of another sister, and defending her with passion should another denigrate her. Respect and honor require bravery and honesty. In a situation in which secrets are being kept from a sister, or told about her, another sister would insist upon open, honest communication among all concerned parties.
If a sister holds a valued public position in the community and says something one doesn’t agree with, one would broach the subject in a private meeting, rather than subject the other sister to a public scene. Respect means honoring another’s boundaries, whether it’s convenient or not, and whether one agrees with the other’s boundaries or not.
Bravery: Bravery is to face the foe, and often the friend, with integrity, no matter how hard it is. In the Anishinaabe language, this word literally means "state of having a fearless heart." Sisters need to do what is right even when the consequences are unpleasant. This can be confrontational, but only in the most respectful ways. If one sees another sister doing something that will cause harm to another person or the community, one is honor and courage bound to initiate council with that person. If that’s been tried, and the offense against others is large enough, one must consider calling a Council of Sisters in order to examine and resolve the situation.
If we are not part of the solution, we are, indeed, a part of the problem! The Hawaiian people have a process called “Ho’o Pono Pono, in which all affected parties agree to sit in council. Each person is allowed to speak their truth without interruption (using the Talking Feather). Then each person asks forgiveness of the others and agrees to let all past interactions go. Only when that is completed do the participants attempt any problem-solving.
Honesty: Honesty in facing a situation is to be brave. Honesty generates Trust. Without trust, one cannot be a member in good standing of the community at large. A Sister makes a commitment to be honest in word and action ~ to be honest first with one’s self, then to be just as honest with others. This word can also mean "righteousness." Sisters speak the truth. We do not deceive ourself or others.
How can one tell if one is being honest with one’s self? How do you feel? Do you feel relieved? Do you feel secretive? Do you feel guilt, anger, blame, shame? These are all clues to dishonesty with one’s self.
In the Sisterhood, honesty is one of the first pre-requisites. And, often, that’s the first thing we abdicate to a man’s needs. We’ll lie to ourselves and our sisters when our man doesn’t want us to do something with them. We’ll lie to ourselves and our sisters when a man wants us to break a commitment to the women. We’ll lie to ourselves and our sisters when we’re attracted to and/or seduced by a man who is in relationship with another sister. We’ll deceive the whole world if we can gain approval from someone we believe to be in authority, or someone who can give us something we want. Honesty is integrity. Without it, we will have a hard time finding spacious, balanced peace in our lives, and we’ll have conflicts with our sisters and the community at large until we grow in honest beauty.
Humility: Humility is to know yourself as a sacred part of Creation ~ as Above, so Below, neither Above nor Below. This word can also mean compassion, calmness, meekness, gentility or patience. You are equal to others, but you are not better or worse. Humility is the ‘leveler’, in which we see others as a mirror to ourselves, teaching us through their actions what is in balance and what isn’t. Sometime we teach others by our actions as well.
Arrogance is believing that we know more, better, greater truths than another, and are willing to go to any length to prove ourselves ‘right’. Arrogance creates a pathway to judgment, and judgment allows arrogance. When we are arrogant, we leave no room for Creator and the Spirit Guides to help us find new solutions to old conflicts. When we are arrogant and judgmental, we call arrogance and judgments to ourselves. In the Sisterhood, there is no room for this kind of ego, because it kills all love, compassion, honesty, honor and brave action.
Love: To know Love is to know peace. Love must be unconditional. When people are weak they need love the most. However, real love doesn’t hide behind platitudes and dishonesty. Real love is a combination of all the attributes listed here, and can only be achieved by right action. Love isn’t a noun or an adverb, it’s a living, breathing, spiritual experience based in action.
This means that when a Sister needs help, when she is in pain, those who love her show up. They don’t hide behind their own fear of inadequacy. They are ready to learn what they can do to assist another, even though they may not know the answers. They don’t hide behind what a man, or an authority, says they ‘should’ do. Sisters follow their heart, and act in compassion to others in the community, while being honest with everyone. There’s an old saying, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” Sisters who avoid those in pain, or refuse to talk about pain-causing experiences, condone those experiences through their weakness. We no longer have time for this behavior. It is a time when all are being called to act from their Strength, and bring Healing to any and all situations of need.
Forgiveness: We are all spiritual beings, learning through our human experience. Life is our school, and we often make mistakes. Sometimes our mistakes trigger harm others, and sometimes others’ mistakes trigger harm us. It is important to acknowledge mistakes and clean the slate with our forgiveness. This brings everything back into balance.
As long as we hold grudges, as long as we suffer in martyrdom, as long as we plot revenge and retribution, we keep ourselves enslaved in the patriarchal paradigm of war and hatred. Sisters don’t do that. Somehow, some way, somewhere, a woman of beauty will find a way to share, to correct herself, to release blame, anger and guilt. She will work through issues with others, to find forgiveness, to heal and to move on to the next and highest level ~ together with her sisters.
Wisdom: To cherish and apply knowledge is to know Wisdom. Wisdom is given by the Creator to be used for the good of the people. In the Anishinaabe language, this word expresses not only "wisdom," but also means "prudence," or "intelligence." Intelligence is also acumen ~ the shrewd ability to penetrate circumstance with insight, discernment and expertise ~ in order to resolve issues and situations for the benefit of the common and extra-ordinary Good.
This brings us full circle. When a sister knows another is in pain due to a circumstance that has been brought about by immaturity and lack of wisdom, a sister will pray for the good of All Our Relations. She will seek guidance and the council of other sisters to create a beneficent outcome for all those involved, male or female. Councils such as the Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers, and the Grandmothers’ Lodge, share these teachings as well as work together to assist other women and men to live their lives by these principles1.
Making a commitment to the Sisterhood of the Seven Sacred Shields gives a woman a sense of dignity and authenticity. As a Sister of the Seven Sacred Shields she can be proud of her courage, her sense of honor and respect, her willingness to grow and learn. She knows that she will be honest, and has the right to expect honesty from her sisters. She understands that as she respects others, she will be respected. When she makes a mistake, she knows she will be forgiven and supported, as long as she accepts responsibility in humility. She will become a Wise Woman, loved, honored, trusted in ever-growing ways and ever-expanding circles. Her Light will shine, and she will be sought for her wisdom.
Currently, I’m calling women to start a Sisterhood of the Seven Sacred Shields. We don’t have to live together, work together, or play together in the same neighborhood. We can live anywhere on the globe, and still be sisters. If you’re interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s work together to heal the Divine Feminine!
About the author:
Rev. Robin Tekwelus Youngblood, Okanagon/Tsalagi, minister of Church of the Earth, has been a student of her heritage for many years. She has studied with Indigenous elders of her own tribes, along with African, Siberian and Aboriginal leaders. Robin believes that the only way to create harmony and avoid disaster in these times is to learn to attune ourselves to our Earth Mother's natural rhythms through ritual, ceremony, chant and dance.
"I love to sing, honor the ancestors, and share the ancient teachings with others. Please join me for Dreaming Shaman Workshops, Retreats and Ceremonies where together we can bring balance to Mother Earth and All Our Relations."