TOUCH NOT THE POISONOUS FIRE WATER.
A story told to me in meditation by CALLING HORSE, an ancient Chief.
My tribe would not allow the use of alcohol in any form. Occasionally it would appear by mistake in containers of fruit which had started to ferment. lf word got around that this had happened there would always be those who sought to experiment with it. They had heard about the interesting effects that it brought about and were eager to try it. However our chief was very strict about it and if it was discovered that people had been deliberately making or using alcohol they would be punished.
I remember an old man who used to follow the movements of the stars very closely. He was a person who was not averse to taking all sorts of stimulating mixtures. There were plenty of herbs and mushrooms around which had even more startling effects than alcohol, but they were harder to come by and often more difficult to preserve. The use of most of these was also frowned upon, however because in small quantities they were useful as medicines and for clearing the mind for meditation, use of them was permitted. When the use was ‘abuse’ rather than ‘proper use’, it was not considered to be according to the will of the Great Spirit. The problem was that it would always be difficult to prove the motives of the user and if he sat in a drugged state he would say later that he was treating himself for an ailment and had mistakenly taken too much, or that this particular batch of mushrooms had been stronger than usual!
Now this old man was well known in the tribe for taking too much of all sorts of things by mistake. He was actually a useful medicine man. He would advise the chief on potions to concoct and would successfully prescribe the correct dosages for other people. However, for himself, he often got the mixture too strong!
One day this man was being called upon to perform a predictive duty, looking at the stars to see if it was a propitious time to move camp. He had collected a large bowl of berries and had left them to soak for several days under a cloth in his tipi On the day of the required prediction, he had decided to eat the berries. He scooped out the top ones, gave them to his family and he ate the ones at the bottom of the bowl. He felt pleasantly mellow afterwards.
It was the Chief’s habit to inspect his prophets before any serious predicting was undertaken. The chief entered the tipi and immediately smelt the alcohol. He looked suspiciously at our friend who smiled benignly at him.
“Stand up,’ requested the Chief. The old man did so. “Now, I would like you to recite the prayer you will use before your prediction.’
The chief stood in front of him, close enough to catch the odour of alcohol on the old mans breath.
“I see,” said the chief, after the prayer had been recited. “It seems to me that the words are somewhat clouded today. They don’t seem as crisp and clear as they should sound. I don’t think the Great Spirit will be able to hear them very well and if he were to give you an answer neither would you be able to see it very clearly through this haze of poison! I have had enough of this nonsense, Standing Bear. I will not be asking for your prophesies again until I am quite sure you have not been eating ‘happy fruit’.
The old man hung his head in shame. This was a great dishonour, worse than any punishment. Everyone would know that the chief no longer listened to his prophesies and it was because of his personal weakness.
Demoralised, Standing Bear gathered his meagre possessions and left the camp. He disappeared for a month and on his return he came laden with herbs of all kinds for drying and preserving. These he presented to the chief in atonement for his sins.
The chief placed a hand on his shoulder, “Be peaceful, Standing Bear, we do need your knowledge, but it has to be tempered with sobriety.”
Standing Bear nodded and walked through the camp with his head held high, acknowledging the welcoming smiles of many members of the tribe.