Myths, symbols, and the Haida

I’ve been reflecting on a recent trip to Haida Gwaii (Islands of the People), which is an isolated grouping of some 150 islands off the coast of BC.

Today’s Haida are descendants of the islands’ original inhabitants who were known for their incredible seamanship and their skills in warfare.  Museum anthropologist Diamond Jenness has compared the Haida to Vikings.  Did you know that the Haida are credited with the introduction of the totem pole and the bent box?

While I was there I had the experience of a lifetime visiting the Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Llnagaay. It’s a magnificent 53,000 sq. ft. cedar complex consisting of five contemporary monumental timber longhouses. The Centre houses the Haida Gwaii Museum with exhibition space, meeting rooms/classrooms, a Performing House, a Canoe House, a Carving Shed and the Bill Reid Teaching Centre.

There is something powerful about Haida Gwaii.  Even my husband, who isn’t hugely spiritual seeking, noticed a sense of significance and timelessness.  We both had unusual dreams, perhaps from the rich imagery and ancient forests.

Throughout my journey to Haida Gwaii, I was filled with admiration to see the commitment and dedication of the Haida people.  Elders and youth alike are working hard to awaken the myths and symbols of their collective unconscious and their daily lives.

I strongly connected!  As a Celebrant, I bring to life the universal human myths and symbols of our own culture.  Symbolism that the vast majority of people in today’s techno-society seem to have shut their eyes and ears to.

It’s SO interesting to me that these same people spend a great deal of money to get to remote Haida Gwaii for the purpose of standing before the old totem and mortuary poles of the Haida nation.  Eco-and-cultural-tourists gaze with reverence and awe at the poles, and eagerly seek to understand the myths and symbols represented on them.

Yet in their own lives they shut themselves off to the opportunities for symbolic representation of human experience that exist in their own lives – right here – right now.  As though they don’t deserve archetypes.

But every time I work with one of my wonderful clients – individuals, couples, and families – I get excited!  Yes!!!

With virtually all my clients, I see that they inwardly they yearn for the significant events of their lives to be meaningful and relevant.

When I perform ceremonies, I often have the sense that I’m stepping through a portal; a doorway that takes me from the mundane into the sacred.  To put it another way, in a good ceremony the unconscious is brought to consciousness. The ceremony itself is an outward expression of the client’s innermost emotions.

To be successful in my celebrancy practice, much of my time is spent discovering the deeper meaning of my clients’ experiences.  I’m working with some truly amazing couples and families right now (mostly baby and wedding ceremonies) and look so forward to the coming months of ceremonial experiences.

Huge gratitude to the dignified Haida people for the inspiration.  And also for the incredible mythic dreams their land gifted me with.  (I dreamt I was one of the figures on a totem pole!)

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