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Global Spirit

Endaba and The Word That Comes Before All Else with Kay Olan & Orland Bishop

PHIL: In your tradition, there’s this marvelous word “Indaba.” Can you tell us what that means and the power that it evokes in story telling?

ORLAND: Well, I was introduced to this word several years ago by the great sanusi teacher, Credo Mutwa, who is from the Zulu tradition in Southern Africa. And he wrote a book called, “Indaba My Children,” as a description of his own initiation and into the realm of prophecy. Indaba means, “I have something important to tell you.” And it says that every human being who speaks has something important to say, because our speech comes from a place in ourselves that is not just, say our own motivation or even imagination. Language itself originates with those who spoke it before. It also connects to the place. And so part of saying why we be in Indaba is to be able to bring something back. Bring it from the past, bring it from the place where we are. And so indaba has that state, I’ll tell you a story, but also I’ll tell you what I’m dreaming of. And what my hopes are, but also is I need to know that if something is violated in my life, I need to know the truth. So indaba is also a kind of trial for the truth. Pursuit of certain hiddenness within our social and cultural life.

PHIL: Kay, do you have the equivalent in your tradition? A magical invocation at the beginning of a story?

KAY: We have something that’s very central to who we are, and again when I say “we” I’m talking about the Hadeshanownee, we have something that’s called the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen and some people translate that as the opening address or the thanksgiving address, some people translate it as the greetings to the natural world. But literally it means, “the words that come before all else.” And they’re the words that we’re supposed to say each day to start the day. And we also start any meeting of importance with these words, and our ceremonies, and any gatherings of importance with these words. Because it does a variety of things. It does for instance, it helps to pull us all together. When we come to a meeting, we’ve come from all different places and maybe we’re still thinking about those places and instead of thinking about where we are right now. So this pulls us together so we’re thinking about where we are now, what our purpose is right now, why we’re here. But it also helps us to remember how we’re related to each other, but not just to each other, but to all of the people of the world. And to every part of the universe. So what we do in the Ohenton Karihwatehkwen is we talk about extending our greetings, our thankfulness and our love to all of the people of the world, to all of the waters, to all of the plants, to all of the animals, the birds, to all of the forces around us, the winds, the thunder-beings, to our elder brother the sun, to grandmother moon, to the stars, to our spiritual guides. And of course to the one that made us all and gave us life and gave us everything that we need to sustain life. We say the Creator and other people have other names. And so when we say those words together, we’re reminded that we’re part of a bigger picture, just a small part. But also it reminds us that no one here has an idea more important than anyone else’s. That we’re all on the same level. And that we shouldn’t think just of ourselves, but also consider everything else in creation as well. So it gives us perspective.

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