Saturday, October 30, 2010
Navajo Juniper Berry Seed Necklaces
This morning I went to the 22nd Annual Mesa Pow Wow. This is an inter-tribal Native American gathering that is open to the public. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience another culture or cultures. I sat in the grandstands with my son and watched as a war dance was performed. The singing and beating of the drums filled the air as we gazed upon the steady movement of the colorfully dressed men. I told my son to try listening with his eyes closed. "Allow yourself to go back in time." I suggested. It's easy to let those drums fill you up and carry you away.
There were also craft vendors at the pow wow. I enjoyed walking from booth to booth and allowing my eyes to scan the jewelry and pottery. I love that feeling when a particular piece jumps out at you. Then you examine it more closely to try to determine what it was that made your eyes stop. Today I was drawn in by the jewelry containing juniper berry seeds. Juxtaposed with the bright glass beads, they called out to be noticed.
I have a particular fondness for juniper berries. In my twenties, I woke up one morning with terrible swelling in my knees and ankles. I was in a lot of pain. A Rheumatologist put me on powerful anti inflammatories which made me feel horrible and didn't do that much for my mystery condition. I read up on the long term side effects of the drug I was on and decided to stop taking it.
I was ready to try anything, especially something natural, when a family friend and nurse practitioner shared a holistic remedy with me. I soaked golden raisins in distilled gin until the raisins were plump and the alcohol had mostly evaporated. Then I ate nine of my gin raisins a day. This might sound crazy, but distilled gin gets its flavor from juniper berries. The idea was to absorb the good medicinal properties of the juniper into my raisins. What can I tell you? It worked! Juniper berries came to my rescue and so now I have a special appreciation and fondness for them.
Apparently I'm not alone. The Navajo also feel a connection to these seeds. I've actually come across several stories today about the Navajo and juniper berries. At the pow wow I was told that evil spirits and ghosts don't like juniper berries, so wearing them is a form of protection. Navajo mothers may tie juniper berry bracelets on their children to protect them from bad dreams. Wearing juniper berry seeds is also seen as a way of connecting our inner strength with our surroundings. They are a reminder to journey through life with patience, courage and wisdom.
Now I'm back at home and sitting at the computer. A quick search led me to Winter Sun Trading Company where you can buy juniper berry seed necklaces. The listing includes a fascinating story about Juniper Seed Birth Beads by Faye Bia Knoki, a Navajo Traditional Midwife. I'll let you click on the link to read that story.
I don't really know how to conclude my post today. I don't expect everyone to start wearing juniper berry necklaces although right now I'm wearing two. I would probably find it worrisome if everyone began making their own gin raisins after reading my story. After all, I'm not a doctor or healer of any kind. I wouldn't mind it though, if this post inspired people to explore the festivals and events taking place where they live. I feel my life is enriched by all the things I learn and all the experiences I have with other cultures and traditions.