Journey into my Polish Indigenous Mind
Atava Garcia Sweicicki
Submitted in Partial Satisfaction of the Requirements
for the Degree of
Master of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality
Approved: Dr. Apela Colorado
Project Advisor (Signature)
Approved Marlene De Nardo
In memory of Barbara Kay Dean
September 29, 1942 – October 25, 2003
Dedicated to my family, to Polish ally Nancy Connor, and to the traditional farmers of Poland who fed us and loved us.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Writing in Alignment with My Ancestors 1
Chapter I: Origins and Maps 4
Opening Prayer 5
Discovering Creation Spirituality and Indigenous Mind 8
Indigenous Science 10
A Map for Polish Slavic Remembrance: The Story of Baba Yaga 13
Feeding the Doll 18
Listening to the Doll: Intuition and Navigation 19
Cleaning the House: Feng Shui as an Initiatory Rite 20
The Doll Works Magic at Night: Dreamwork and the IM Recovery Process 21
Seeking the Sacred Fire: The Forgotten Medicine of the White Hoop 22
Following Jezi Baba’s Trail: Heeding the Call of my Polish Ancestors 24
Chapter II: Stories from the Polish Land 29
The Dragon and the Lizard 30
Discovering the Polish Dragon 31
The Divine Feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia, Matka Boze, and Mary Magdalene 35
Matka Ziemia: Moist Mother Earth 35
Marian Pilgrimage 38
Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel 40
The Teachings of the Forest 44
Recovering What Has Been Lost: Finding My Polish Family 49
Chapter III: Synthesis, Antithesis, and Thesis 53
Lessons in Antithesis 56
The Historical Shadow 57
The Story Repeats Itself 60
Dreamtime: Excavating for What Has Been Lost 65
In the Arms of Jezi Baba: In Honor of My Polish Sister Barbara Dean 69
Notes from the Road: The Un-Conclusion 74
Introduction: Writing in alignment with my ancestors
“Knowledge in the traditional world is not a dead collection of facts. It is alive, has spirit, and dwells in specific places. Traditional knowledge comes about through watching and listening, not in the passive way that schools demand, but through direct experience of songs and ceremonies, through the activities of hunting and daily life, from trees and animals, and in dreams and visions. Coming-to-knowing means entering into relationship with the spirits of knowledge, with plants and animals, with beings that animated dreams and visions, and with the spirit of the people.” 1
This thesis is my own personal account of coming-to-knowing in a traditional way. I am telling the story about how I, a woman of Polish descent, came into relationship with the indigenous wisdom of my Polish ancestors. The path I walked in this process was the Master’s of Liberal Arts in Creation Spirituality with a concentration in Indigenous Mind. Creation Spirituality honors the original blessing, or sacred nature, of all of creation. Creation Spirituality weaves together the wisdom of western spirituality, indigenous wisdom and post-modern science.
The Indigenous Mind Concentration is a natural extension of the philosophy of Creation Spirituality. In the Indigenous Mind concentration, each student reconnects with their own ancestral culture or cultures. Guided by world-class indigenous elders, the students in Indigenous Mind gain an understanding of indigenous knowledge that is firmly rooted within their own cultural background.
Like many traditional people worldwide, my Polish ancestors have a rich tradition of stories, legends and folk tales. Many of these stories are encoded with cultural, historical and spiritual information. Rooted in this storytelling tradition, my thesis has emerged as a story that weaves together personal narrative, history, folk traditions, mythology, dreams, and indigenous wisdom. Two short videos from my ancestral journey to Poland accompany my written thesis: “Thank You Mother Poland” is a video collage of scenes from the Polish countryside, set to the music of Polish composer Frederick Chopin. “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” documents my and Barbara Dean’s adventure in which we discovered Saint Mary Magdalene’s abandoned and looted chapel at Kalwaria, Poland.
1.F. David Peat, Lighting the Seventh Fire, The Spiritual Ways, Healing, and Science of the Native American (New York, NY: Birch Lane Press, 1994), 64
Telling one’s personal story has power/relevance in the realm of traditional knowledge, the power of specificity. Kim Johnson, whose doctoral research explored the path of a European American woman recovering her traditional mind, writes:
“Elders and teachers from living traditional cultures have taught me that recovery of the good mind, the mind that is healthy and whole, begins in the specificity of each person’s story,. Generalities only point in the direction of healing, while specificity is the place where healing occurs. I can speak in truth from my own experience.”2
As the stories from my thesis developed, I discovered they naturally grouped themselves into three chapters. The first chapter, “Origins and Maps” gives background information and introduces indigenous science and the ancestral remembrance process. In this chapter, I explore a map of the Polish Slavic remembrance process: the fairy tale story of the fearsome witch Baba Yaga. I explain how BabaYaga’s trail led me to follow the path of my Slavic ancestors and make an ancestral journey to Poland.
The second chapter, “Stories from the Polish Land,” the heart of my thesis, arose from my ancestral journey to Poland. These stories reflect my direct experience with Polish people, Polish land and Polish spirits. I tell the story of my encounter with Smok, the Polish dragon in Krakow. In the section titled “The Divine Feminine in Poland,” I relate my encounters with three of the faces of the Divine feminine in Poland: Matka Ziemia (Moist Mother Earth), Matka Boze (Mother of God), and Saint Mary Magdalene.
2 Kimmy Karen Johnson, “On the Path of the Ancestors: Kinship with Place as a Path or Recovery,” (Doctoral dissertation, The California Institute of Integral Studies, 2001) 31.
The video “Mary Magdalene’s Forgotten Chapel” corresponds to the story I tell here about our pilgrimage to Magdalene’s chapel. In “Teaching of the Forest” I tell the story about an encounter with a Polish elder and forest crone. In the final section of Chapter II, I relate the experience of meeting my own flesh and blood relatives in Poland.
The third and final chapter of my thesis, “Synthesis, Antithesis and Thesis”, includes the stories and reflections about my process of integration and coming-to-knowing. In this chapter I delve into the lessons taught to me by the historical shadow o my Polish ancestors/ and discuss how this shadow continues to play out in my own life. “Reenactment” relates my encounter with my first Polish traditional ceremony. In “Dreamtime” I talk about the ways my dreams have supplied valuable information in the remembrance process. At the end of Chapter III, I give tribute to my dear Polish friend and companion, Barbara Dean, who joined the world of the ancestors on October 25, 2003.
Three is a sacred number to my Polish Slavic ancestors. The number three appears any times in Slavic fairy tales, mythology, folklore, and rituals. By structuring my thesis into three interconnected parts, I am symbolically aligning myself with the wisdom of my ancestors. As I do this, I am weaving together these three parts into one complete story. As Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr writes:
“Since, in the Indian system, all data must be considered, the task is to find the proper pattern of interpretation for the great variety of ordinary and extraordinary experiences we have. Ordinary and extraordinary must come together in one coherent comprehensive storyline.”3
3Vine Deloria, Jr, “If You Think About It, You Will See That It Is True,” Revision, A Journal of Consciousness and Transformation: Indigenous Science (Washington D.C.: Heldref Publications, 1996), 39.