One of the most common questions we hear is, "What is the correct way to do this?" This question can be applied to many instances such as; ceremony, prayer, keeping a pipe, making an offering or many other things. In my thinking, the question should be, "How do we know that anything we do, could be labeled under the term, correct?" Perhaps the feeling we have in our heart should put this question to rest, but there is much ado about the correctness of things, the right way and wrong way, and all arguments do have their merits.
One thing is certain though, no two people have ever done anything exactly alike, felt the same or believed the very same way. This should tell us something about how the feeling in our heart will let us know if what we are doing is right for us.
Its true that there are many people who may feel they have the correct way, and I can't argue that. They may have one of the correct ways, and the fact remains that there are many correct ways, and incorrect ways of doing things. I have thought about this a lot and I'm not sure there is any way of knowing if the way we do something is correct in the strictest sense. Maybe acceptable would be a far better term to use. In light of all the time that has passed and all the attempts that have been made to try and destroy many of the ancient belief Systems and other facets of life, it is a wonder that any of the old ways remain at all. Many beliefs and traditions were taken underground during times of persecution, cared for and nurtured by only a very few people, who at times lived their lives in fear of death or imprisonment if it was discovered that they still held to the dear old ways.
There are many instances in history where there were only a very few who still remembered the old systems. The old ways had been destroyed except for that which was kept alive in as little as one heart, and that one heart held the belief from only that one person's perspective. A thriving belief system is much like a gene pool in a species. It is strong and diverse in that each holds many different aspects that could not be contained within one single individual. If the population grows too small for some reason, much of the diversity is lost and the traits of the few become dominant. Very much the same situation in a belief system that has been kept alive by only a few. While it is most wonderful that it has been kept alive, much diversity is lost and the re- growth is based upon the concepts held by the one(s) who kept it alive. Many, many parts of the whole are now missing and must be rediscovered by those followers who are a part of the re-growth.
These facts are very much true in Native American, Wiccan/Pagan and other belief systems. While I am not knowledgeable enough to go into detail on the Wiccan/Pagan side of history, I can attest that many Native American Tribes who, around the early 1900's, had only one or two elders who remembered the old spiritual ways at all... That's right! The whole system of belief and tradition's survival was within the hearts of only one or two people who miraculously somehow kept it alive and passed it on in the face of tremendous odds. What we see today has grown from that which only a handful of devoted people nurtured even at the cost of their lives. Although the basic system survived by a mere thread, much of the rich diversity was lost and is still waiting to be rediscovered by those willing to seek it. The environment and situations that influenced and governed the old ways have changed and new ideas must be adapted to fit the times and modern environment if survival is to remain certain.
In my estimate, there is no absolutely correct way of doing things in the most literal sense. There are examples, such as in the keeping of old species of sacred tobacco. In the old days, many tribes raised the sacred herb, kept seed and had many songs and ceremonies that accompanied the keeping, planting, harvesting and use of tobacco. Among some peoples today, the traditions, songs and ceremonies are all forgotten, although a few among them still lovingly keep the ancient tobacco. So, by still keeping the tobacco, but not knowing which song or ceremony went where or when, are they wrong? Are they incorrect? I really wouldn't think so. If all is done with a good heart and intentions and respect, I don't see how it could be classified as incorrect. The Creator knows our hearts and that is much more important than the outward mechanics of ceremony. If intentions are sincere, the Creator will let us know if there is something that needs to be done.
In fact, it is a wonderful thing that people cared enough to ensure the survival of the tobacco. It is much the same with spirituality. Eventually new songs and ceremonies to accompany it will develop with the new times. Religion and belief systems were and are always an evolving thing. Something that does not change, becomes stagnant. However, for one to add to or change a belief system at one's whims or notions would only serve to weaken the person changing it.
We can only do as best we can with the best intentions and a good heart. Respect and honor should always be given even if the songs, ceremonies or actions that were once applied to a situation are no longer remembered. If there remains old applicable ways to honor a situation, it would be best to learn and follow them. If there is none, then with patience and perseverance, your heart will show you the way.
If all songs and ceremonies were to be lost or taken away, we would still have our mouths with which to pray, we can still open our hearts to learn. We can show respect, make offerings and sing our joy without wasting the precious energy of getting bogged down in the right or wrong of it. Simplicity is the key. We are not striving to please those who would argue the "one and only correct way". The Creator is not concerned with who says wrong or right, who's red, black, white or yellow or any shade in between. Our Creator sees us as human beings and is unimpressed with claims of authenticity or absolute correctness. We are our Creator's children and that's how we need to start seeing ourselves and others. To have faith in our Maker will surely provide the answers we all seek!
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