Religion seems to play a large part in what I think of as the North American mainstream psychic movement.

It makes a lot of sense after all, being a mostly Christian set of countries, with strong catholic overtures, that we would use the tools and language learned in religious study to explain the questions of faith that naturally arise when you start thinking about mediumship.

In the animal communication world, I’ve been able to dodge a lot of this. I read about and believe in Saints or guardians with a specific job, like Francis, patron saint of plants and animals. I’ve asked him for help when practicing energy healing with my dogs, and I did feel the help come.

Here’s what wiki has to say about St. Francis:

Could you get through it all? I just skipped forward to the nature section. This is what I mean when I talk about the conflict within me about Christianity and my own faith experience: I read about a fellow who negotiated with wolves, preached to birds and thanked his donkey, and I see a simple animal communicator, with a deep love and respect for God’s Creation, aka Mother Nature, aka well, we have a lot of names to describe creators and creation.  I just can’t latch on to the rest of the article.  Stigmata?  Um, what!?!

I wonder if my inability to grab on to the Christian overtones in many psychic teaching resources creates a bit of a block for me; I called on St. Francis for healing help, but St. Francis does not feel like my brother. I relate to him as a spirit who lived a long time ago as an extremely talented man and a community leader; his significance as a “saint” just goes over my head. I respect him, but I have difficulty “feeling” him. Does anyone else know what I mean by this or can relate to this?

So it stands to reason that this mindset would limit my ability to receive help from him – the only reason I thought to ask for his help was that I’d read about it in another animal communicator’s book. Asking St. Francis for help is like knocking on the neighbor-I-never-talk-to’s door and asking for sugar only when I need it. I guess I don’t feel a real working relationship with St. Francis, because he represents a religion completely foreign to me, and something I really don’t want a part of.

My religious exposure has been guided gently by my mother, in the manner of exposing me to different schools of thought, drawing me into conversations, giving me different books about different religions. I didn’t follow my friends through phases of vegetarian Buddhism as a teenager. I was absorbed in interest with wiccan and pagan rituals for a couple of years as a teen, but it didn’t resonate with me. My best friend was the daughter of a minister in the United church, a place you’d think I’d fit right into – but aside from Noah’s ark stories, favourite hymns and holding hands to say grace, I didn’t absorb a single thing in the years of Sunday school attendance.

You know what stuck?

In school, we had elective courses. I always took anything that had “Native” in the description. Native studies. Native stories. Native crafts. The language has evolved in the past twenty years. Aboriginal was the correct term for a while, but now it’s evolved into First Nations, which I prefer. There’s a pride and authentic truth to the descriptor – First Nations People, the people who lived here first.

This presents a small problem, because I’m white. Growing up in a small Northern community, I had several first nation friends. But I never played with them on the reservations. They didn’t attend school regularly. Some of them lived far away by plane. The only chance I had to be exposed to their culture was when one of the first nations women would come to our school to share her culture with this class of mostly white kids.

So the creationist stories I grew up with are about Nanabush, Turtle Island and the Black Crow who made the world from a snowball. I remember more from the pow-wows at the Indian Friendship Centre than I do from years of weekly Sunday school. It stuck. It makes intuitive sense to me.

The internal conflict I have now is cultural sensitivity. There are just too many white folks declaring themselves native, appropriating first nation culture. I know one woman who fashioned anne geddes – like babies out of clay and suspended them in dream catchers. It was grotesque to me, but everyone else who saw them admired them. All white people, by the way. I hope someone pokes fun at her in Ojibwe some day.

You know who was my greatest religious instructor? My dog, Heidi.

Heidi was a standard schnauzer who came into our family when I was 12, on the condition that I would walk her for at least a half-hour, every day. Fortunately for me, my family lived right next to a greenbelt on an escarpment – miles of undeveloped bush for me and my dog. Almost every day for seven years, Heidi and I spent at least a half hour in the bush behind our house – most often we were in the bush for at least an hour, but often for much longer in the summer, and whole weekends when the weather cooperated. That forest was my church, the animals were my instructors.

Heidi was my best teacher because she showed me everything in that forest. Before the end of our first year together we were sneaking off the beaten path and exploring the back country. She showed me deer trails, bear dens, beaver slides, sleeping porcupines, skunks, and kill sites when predators recently hunted with success.

Heidi caught a rabbit herself once – a terrifying experience for me. She was still a young pup at the time, and utterly tuned into her inner predator. She ripped the poor thing to pieces. I was so upset at the time and told her never to do that again! She never did, in front of me. But she was a terrier, and killing was part of her nature. I understand now that she was sharing something wonderful with me at the time, and I see the same fierce joy when I watch a family of bald eagles mercilessly fly down and rip apart a sea gull for sport, screeching and flying victory laps around the harbour with pieces of the bird.

My years in the bush taught me much about nature – that was my reality and my religion. I felt friendships with certain trees and I still miss a few of my favourites. I remember how sad and shocked I was when a large one fell after a bad winter storm; and how I reconciled to it as I observed the foot path changed to move around the giant fallen tree, how in the years that followed I watched the body of the tree give rise to new trees. I felt a quiet peace when I returned to the site a decade later, when nothing remained of the tree but the kink in the where it fell.

This is my experience. So how can I possibly relate to angels like Michael when my brothers were the wind, snow and sky, when my sisters were the streams, the rain, granite rock smoothes by glaciers centuries ago? How can anything in a book be as real to me as the birds, the deer, the beaver and my greatest teacher, Heidi the dog?

It’s not a religion, really. And I don’t know how to tie into the instruction I received as a kid with the mind and life of an adult. Not yet.

I’ve been looking for other animal communicators in my local area in the past few months. I live in a pretty hippy-dippy part of the country, so I feel confident that when I talk about looking for other animal communicators I won’t get a weird look. I haven’t had any luck, so far.

I have a friend, Les, who I know from around town. He’s a first nation fellow, and I give him a ride to work sometimes, when I see him walking on the road. I like him a lot. When I pick him up, we talk about the morning. When it was still light out before 7 am, I’d tell him about the sunrise, whether the eagles were home, what the little birds were saying, whether the gulls were flying in our out of the harbour, whether the blue heron was fishing for being lazy.

He said to me once, “In our culture, we believe the morning is an important time. It is the time the birds are waking up and declaring themselves. They are greeting you too.”

I wanted to jump in and say “YES! I know this, we believe the same things!!!” But I’m a bit afraid of scaring him off.

Maybe I’ve found another teacher. I hope he doesn’t mind teaching a white girl.

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