When one of my boys was little, he made a talking stick in Montessori School. My sister-in-law (hereon in known as ‘Sis’) fell in love with his stick and asked him to make her one. Alas, the muse was not with him. She so rarely asked for anything, I was thrilled to find something I could do for her. So I said I would be happy to make one.
It so happened that I had a beautiful piece of driftwood I had been drawn to at the beach. It had little knobby things on one end that looked like a face. I had stuck some feathers in the top and brought it home to my altar. I gathered up some ribbons, wire, beads, and a salvaged, single earring and created a talking stick for her to use in Council. Once made and gifted to her, I promptly forgot about it. This is a story about where that stick has been.
A few summers ago, while on retreat with Sis, she offered to share her skills at leading a dream circle. Not being an early riser, I dragged myself to the circle, no dreams in my conscious memory, intending to be a supportive friend. We sat in a circle, many still in our robes and slippers, listening to her instruction. In the center of the circle was my gift to her, the talking stick. She explained that the circle would be done in a Council style, each speaker holding the stick and passing it on when they had finished speaking. The dream sharing would reflect the African teachings of Mandaza Kandemwa - that dreams are not just for individuals but for the community. They are to be shared and reflected upon by the gathered dreamers.
Photo: Sis with the stick
We began with one dreamer holding the stick and sharing a dream, recent or from something they had dreamt earlier on that they could recall and write about. As the stick was passed, each person shared their dream or spoke in response to the dreams of the others in the group. “If Judy’s dream were my dream..” they would reflect, taking ownership of their response. And round the circle we would go, allowing each person time to share and reflect. When the stick reached the original speaker for the last time, he or she would draw upon what was heard and reflect on the messages from the dream world to our little community at the retreat.
The whole process was amazing. Each morning, more folks showed up and more dreams were shared. Each reflection added to the meaning of the dreams, not just for the dreamer, but for the whole community. The dreams of one of us, seen through the eyes of another, magnified the many possibilities and meanings in each dream. The closure for each circle always wove a message; something for us to all take into our day. And the messages for each day seemed to build on each other, as the theme of the retreat unfolded. Those who didn’t make it to the circle listened eagerly to the breakfast conversation. Again, each morning the circle grew larger.
One of the greatest gifts for me was seeing my little act of creating the stick as being a part of the magic. As each person held this sacred art, I saw how the way it was constructed provided a soothing object for the speaker to hold and focus with. Each speaker held and caressed the stick as they spoke, winding and unwinding the ribbons, fingering the beads, feeling the weight of the metal charms.
That stick travels with my Sis to Councils all over New England. As I sit at home at my desk, or with clients in my therapy office here in California, I am blessed to know that I am with her in spirit and in the dream time, a little bit of me sharing a little more of our connection as spirit sisters. This summer, we will have our third year of dream circle at our annual retreat. I have adjusted to the early chime of my alarm. As I focus my thoughts on the talking stick, it is like getting up early to greet an old friend I haven’t seen for a whole year.
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Written by Laurie Sequana Stolmaker, MA, MFT