The Medicine Card exercise.
"You're going to pull a folder. And we will each open ours one at a time and read what's on it."
She Hymn, the matriarch and medicine woman of the Oklevueha Native American Church (ONAC) branch we were at, had us pass around a plastic file box of folders. When it came to me, I pulled out folder number three, and held it in my hands... Anxious to see what was in it.
I was one of the last people in the circle though. So it would be while till we got to me.
In each folder was a medicine card and a sheet explaining the symbolism of the animal. The idea was that we would be drawn to the animal card that represented the energy that was with us before we were to go "up on the hill" the following day.
The first person opened their folder. Coyote was the card. They read through the description.
They agreed that it resonated with them.
"I bet I get a cat of some kind," I said to myself, reflecting on Gentle Eagle telling me I had a "cat energy" about me. "Or a snake."
I didn't know why... But a few days before I left for the trip to Utah, a co-worker asked me about my power animal...
"I have two," I told him. "An owl and a snake."
He thought about it for a second.
"Aren't those natural enemies?" he asked.
"They are," I said. "But I haven't had an owl energy in my space for quite a while. And in one of my last ayahuasca ceremonies, I morphed into a snake. So I guess it's a snake now."
Raven. Elephant. Dog. Mice. Butterfly. Giraffe.
Soon it was my turn.
I pulled the paper out of the folder. And the Elk card dropped into my lap.
I was pleased with it by appearance. The elk in the wild of the property we were on, I was told, were majestic.
"I have a photo of a group of them walking in the distance on the property from the other day," She Hymn told me. "It's beautiful."
And read the Elk explanation aloud to everyone.
It started off with a story about the elk going about it's mating ritual of making a call to attract a female. A mountain lion hears the call and begins to pursue the elk. The mountain lion is strong and starts to gain on the elk. But the elk stays focused, and has the stamina to continue at his pace. Eventually, the mountain lion gives up, and the elk is safe.
Elk had no other defense except his ability to go the distance, setting a pace that allowed him to utilize his stamina and energy to the fullest.
There were a few potential energy meanings for the card. One was about the need to spend more time with people of the same sex in order to build up the sense of community and the comfort of sharing one's feelings in a safe environment.
"Ha!" I thought. "That ain't me. I share my thoughts with anyone, male or female. I don't give a fuck if anyone has a problem with it."
So that wasn't me. Though I didn't immediately dismiss it completely. I decided I would think about it while "up on the hill" to see if there maybe was some deeper resonance of it. (Spoiler alert: It didn't resonate.)
No. My gut reaction with the card was with the stamina. And this...
Elk medicine teaches that pacing yourself will increase your stamina. Elk medicine people may not be the first ones to arrive at a goal, but they always arrive without getting burned out.
That made perfect sense to me. And I explained to the group why.
"I start so many more things than I finish. Personal projects take forever, largely because I get distracted with work. But also because there is that fear of finishing. The end result. The knowing that I won't be the first to do it/write about it/talk about it... I lose my drive."
I give up on my stamina. I let it die down.
"I guess I'll have time to think about how to better use my stamina while up on the hill this week," I concluded.
We moved on to the next person to open their folder.
It was the mountain lion card.