The Consciousness Has Shifted...The Awakening Has Begun
RAVEN was a great Thief who stole the Moon and the Sun from the Sky Chief, and brought them to the sky above Turtle Island.1
A powerful and wealthy aristocrat, who was also a Sky Chief, owned the Sun and the Moon. He kept them in boxes in his house. After a nasty crash into another tree in the dark, Raven was very angry. “Who does this Sky Chief think he is that he can own the sun and the moon, and keep the rest of us in the dark?” he cawed with righteous indignation.
– Larry McNeil’s retelling of Northwest Native American myth
Raven’s “righteous indignation” or “anger” describes his FEELING that a boundary has been crossed by Sky Chief. This boundary has to do with what is NEEDED for the Raven, and for the world he inhabits. Sky Chief doesn’t have to live in the world below, so he really doesn’t care what happens there. So Raven decides to DO something about it!
In the story, Raven transforms himself into a spruce needle which falls into the Sky Chief’s daughter’s water bucket. The Sky Chief’s daughter drinks the water, and swallows the spruce needle. This causes her to become pregnant with Raven’s spirit! When Raven is born, he is white. His grandfather (the Sky Chief) dotes on him. Eventually, Raven gets his grandfather to show him the Sun and Moon, which Raven snatches immediately and flies out the smokehole in the ceiling, getting all colored black (with soot!) in the bargain. He then places the Sun and Moon in the sky so ALL can enjoy them.
When Raven becomes black, he is marked as Shadow for all eternity. “In Native teachings, the color black means many things, but it does not mean evil. Black can mean the seeking of answers, the void, or the road of the spiritual or nonphysical.” 2 Black is the color of the soil, the color of Silence, the color of Wisdom, the color of the Night. Black is also a symbol of Raven’s “smudging.” In Native American lore, smoke carries blessing and communication. Ironic, isn’t it, that Raven was marked by the darkness, even as he brought light into the world?
Many Native American traditions speak of “the black road” that represents “the mind.”
Our life journey starts in the far southwest corner of the first cycle. The road from east to west, we believe, is the intellectual, mental road, the linear road. This road is called the black road. When we live only in our mind, we create emotions from our thoughts that can be very dangerous. When we are disconnected from our heart and only live in our linear mind, we cannot see in a holistic manner. When our heart is not connected to our mind, we lack clarity and insight. This can create fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, and can also destroy our self-identity and spiritual-identity.
– Marilyn Youngbird, “What is Medicine?”
A Thief is a Shapeshifter...and that shift comes from the power of the Mind! When the mind is wounded, it shatters into a million pieces. The Path of the Sacred Thief heals the MIND by searching for every last piece and fitting them into some kind of Whole. In other words, the Path of the Sacred Thief links up the MIND with the BODY, SPIRIT, and SOUL. Perhaps, the mind IS the link between the body, spirit and soul!
Mind is represented by the Moon, which waxes and wanes, becoming more white or black, stealing the light of the Sun as its own. The Moon has special magnetism for Wolf and Coyote, other animals associated with the Sacred Thief. One story describes Coyote thusly: “Coyote himself was lazy and always looked for the easy way to obtain his wants and desires. He never told the whole truth about anything.”3
Coyote is often a teacher by counter-example as he employs base human traits including lying, cheating, and sexual misconduct. He is also a master at physical transformation. The frequently foiled Coyote, who interfaces with humans and transcendent deities, is often credited with human creation as well as human evolution consequent from his treachery.”
Some other animals associated with the Path of the Sacred Thief are Ant, Weasel, Rat, Wolf, Cat, Squirrel, Wolf, Raccoon, Crow, Rabbit, Fox, Mouse, Dolphin---animals that are attracted to humans and often steal from humans and “collect” objects out of curiosity, fascination and desire. Some might call these “power objects.” What the Sacred Thief really wants is POWER; yet it seems to take a long time for the Sacred Thief to realize this!
Like the Sacred Clown, the Sacred Thief gives us a mirror; but instead of seeing ourselves in the eyes of the people who love us, we see ourselves in the eyes of the people who hate us, or (at the least) people who do not understand us, or who want to steal our power. This is a different kind of mirror, a dark mirror. Yet, it is good to honor the Darkness. “We all have a dark side; never forget that it is the darkness which defines the light. . . By honoring the dark side, you destroy her power over you. Then she can’t take you.”4
What exactly is a Thief? A Native American might consider the White European Invaders thieves because of the way their Chiefs broke treaties and took over lands, pushing the Native Americans onto “reservations,” or worse.
Conversely, a common insult in present-day White America is to call someone an “Indian Giver,” meaning that the person gave you a gift and now wants it back. This came from the Europeans’ misunderstanding of a Native American cultural tradition--that of expecting gifts to be shared among all, and periodically re-given. Native Americans were also considered thieves if they decided to drive out the White settlers, or simply because they existed in a place that the settlers coveted. Plus, they had a different concept of ownership, and did not understand the concept of “property” in the way of the European.
There are many examples where the epithet of “Thief!” was thrown at each of the groups involved, or at individuals caught in the crossfire. What we know for certain is that the world of the American Indian changed drastically with the coming of the European Explorers, Colonists and Exploiters. In some Native American prophecies and stories, it is said that this was meant to be. The white strangers were very very different; but both races would learn from each other. To many Native Americans, the White invaders were the long-lost younger siblings who had returned, but had not yet learned a vital lesson, the KEY to living upon the Earth.
The "white intruders" brought much change to Indian people. Who is to say that it was not meant to be that way? Yes, all of the North American continent has been taken away, except for about two percent that American Indians still have that they call their homelands. The American Indian almost disappeared with the buffalo when less than a thousand buffalo were left by the turn of the 20th century, and only 225,000 Indians had survived the deadly new diseases and more than one thousand wars. But life was hard; it was never meant to be easy -- not for anyone! Perhaps, that is what all of us must learn for the 21st century. That we should not waste our natural resources and that we should value the natural environment, or else we will destroy ourselves.
--Donald Fixico, Thomas Bowlus Distinguished Professor of American Indian History and Director of the Center for Indigenous Nations Studies at the University of Kansas
Indeed, it could be said that the indigenous people of Europe originally held values that were very similar to the Native American values. In fact, the concept of “I own this land” is a relatively recent concept in the evolution of human culture all over the world! The concept of Boundaries seems itself to have been stolen in this era of Corporate Ownership of natural resources!
Thieves, like children and certain animals, love to steal things that entice them. Children (especially very young children) are natural Thieves.
As children, Sacred Thieves are likely to have experienced ongoing situations where their personal boundaries (both physical and emotional) are routinely crossed. Sometimes it is their own families that cross these boundaries; sometimes it is someone outside of the family. Sometimes this boundary-crossing is semi- or completely unconscious; it amounts to ABUSE nonetheless. Because of this experience, young Thieves become confused and have a difficult time (as they grow) getting clear about their sexual, emotional, and relational needs.
When we visited the Boston Aquarium several years ago, we saw sharks swimming in the big tank alongside all sorts of exotic, much-smaller fish. "How do you keep the sharks from eating the little guys?" my son asked one of the keepers. "We just make sure the sharks are very well-fed," she answered. Like fish, people usually only try to steal what they can’t come by honestly. Most of us are pretty good at examining ourselves for things we don’t like, ought to change, could improve on. A lot of us are not as good at routinely asking ourselves, "What do I need?" and then allowing ourselves to answer in full. Feeding oneself is one big step toward eliminating the tendency to prey on others, but you can’t feed yourself if you don’t know what you’re hungry for. Self-examination has for centuries been recognized as a useful spiritual practice. Adding a regular assessment of one’s own needs to the practice could be the beginning of understanding the boundary between oneself and others. When we know what the limits are, we can find healthy ways to connect with each other.
– Elizabeth A. Horst
Taking what is not yours because you lack the ability to provide for yourself implies the need to learn Self-Respect. A Thief moves into the Sacred dimension when she starts to get in touch with her own identity, to know herself inside and out, especially her thoughts and feelings. She must learn to recognize what it FEELS like when one of her boundaries is crossed. Once she knows her TRUE feelings and desires, she can finally go after what is TRULY hers! In order to love herself, a Sacred Thief must first KNOW herself.
Realizing that she has been abused, that somebody has stolen precious bits of her identity, can be a bitter pill to swallow. It takes courage, strength and steely determination for the Sacred Thief to ferret out the unresolved events in her life and deal with them one by one. There will be anger and many other emotions; but they will be HER emotions and nobody’s else’s!
As soon as she knows herself, she knows that somehow, someway, things must CHANGE. No more abuse, no more crossed boundaries, no more mistreatment.
The Sacred Thief makes changes by “bringing in the new.” Paris Soulier has done some fine work on “Soul Groups,” and he counts “Thieves” as necessary to the balance of all things. He calls Thieves the “Innovators of the Universe.”5 His observations on the “Thief Soul Group” include these:
Thieves work best with that which is NOT, rather than that which IS. By their very nature, Thieves work against the crystallization of society by constantly challenging reality and finding alternative methods for performing action. If there is a loophole, an escape clause, or a back door anywhere, you can bet a Thief will find it.
Thieves love to see what they can get by with. They tend to be on the cutting edge of society; bringing in that which is overSHADOWING and disseminating it to the rest of the soul groups.
You can tell who your Thief friends are; they are the first ones on the telephone to you with the new gossip or news. Thieves are the first to try any new innovation or gadget. While the other groups are saying “it can’t be done,” Thieves say, “Yes it can.” They don’t know the meaning of the word “No.”
Among the various soul-groups, Thieves have the fewest boundaries of all, if any. Consequently, they may relay to you extremely embarrassing or intimate personal information, and be surprised at your mortification or shock. It’s best not to trust a lesser-evolved thief with intimate secrets. Thieves are the last to learn the meaning of “mine and thine,” be it physical objects or shared thoughts or feelings.
Thieves are some of the most joyous beings to have around. They naturally gravitate to comedy, performing arts, written word. They are very verbally talented. They love word play and twisting around meanings.
– Paris Soulier http://www.wizardrealm.com/metaphysics/thief.html
I would add that Thieves are also great Samplers of other peoples’ music, lyrics, and art. Many Thieves have become great Channellers of metaphysical information. Thieves are often Romantic Charmers who make successful “con men” or “con women.” Thieves are the “Players” of the world, and they are very aware of all the varieties of “games people play.” They can also be artists like the Surrealists, Impressionists, and Cubists, who destroyed convention in visual art. Iconoclast writers such as Allen Ginsberg (poetry) and James Joyce (fiction) also operate in the Sacred Thief style of innovation.
The Path of the Sacred Thief is all about KNOWING OURSELVES, warts and all, and ACCEPTING OURSELVES (even our shadow-parts that we hide from others), with love. Once we do this, we can simply take our power when we come upon it, because it is part of our own essence. And we can also let other people have their own mistakes, and let them have their own power, and love them for it.
In their dreams the old ones saw that the Indians would go through a very bad time, that they would lose their spirit, that they would be split up into many parts by the different kinds of religion of the white men. Like the white men, they would try to find what these strange people call success. But one day the Indians would begin to wake up, the old ones told me. They would see that those white people who chased after personal pleasure left behind the truly important things in life. The Indians would see that their people in the old days were in tune with something far more wonderful, the Spirit of Life.
And you must realize that this is not all the old ones saw in their dreams. They saw that just when the Indians seemed to be all becoming like the more foolish white men, just when everybody thought they had forgotten about the ancient days, at that time a great light would come from the east. It would come into the hearts of some of the Indians, and they would become like the prairie fire, spreading not only love between all races, but also between the different religions.
And in that day, all the little circles will come under the big circle of understanding and unity.”6
Remember Raven? Raven was filled with “righteous indignation” when he realized that his boundaries were being crossed. He decided to take what was HIS. Yes, the Sun was his! The Moon was his! He was really the Shadow-Self of the Sky Chief, birthed through the Sky Chief’s daughter, which represented his own female side. He was really the Sky Chief in disguise and incarnated into the world, so that he would learn from his own experience. But he didn’t know it, until he acted to “right the wrong.”
Eventually, the Thief becomes The Sacred Thief by realizing her own identity as both Creator of the World and Savior of the World. She does this first by being herself, and secondly, by being not-herself! That is, she claims her own identity, but she does not cling to it. She sets her mind free, unbound, unattached. She knows the peace of clarity and the joy of true being. She sets her boundaries, but allows herself to let go, to transcend those boundaries when the time is ripe. She feels her feelings, but does not carry them around with her; she releases them when she has learned what she needs to learn. She embraces the paradox: When we let go, we know that we are all connected.
Identity is not a “thing;” it is a ongoing process of awareness. The Mind can link us with All-That-Is if we relax and simply “be.” When we are not grasping and holding on to things, we “default” into our true identity, a process of awareness connected to the essence of all beings and all creation, ever-changing and ever-new.
The Sacred Thief epitomizes not only the transformation of the Mind, but the spiral process of Consciousness evolving itself! It has been said that Conscious awareness is the next frontier of knowledge, and the Sacred Thief likes to learn new things. The Sacred Thief (dark as she is!) becomes the Deity of Light by finding Illumination, taking it for herself, and bringing it, THROUGH herself, to the people.
It seems to me that there are more people on the Path of the Sacred Thief at this time in our world than any other! I don’t have to wonder why. The Path of the Sacred Thief brings the NEW into the world....in fact, brings in the NEW WORLD itself. The Thief thinks; the SACRED THIEF thinks “outside the box.” The time is ripe for such a feat!
And it is on behalf of the suffering that the Sacred Thief acts. Her own suffering is the catalyst that convinces her that CHANGE is necessary! Her sacred task is to CHANGE that suffering by bringing something NEW into the World. She brings in something NEW by thinking outside the box. She’d never be happy in a box, anyways!
Too many of us are trying to keep a tight grip on things that are out of our control. This is like trying to grip the water flowing in a river. Put your hands into the river. If you try to get the water by grabbing it and clenching your fists, it goes right out of your hands. If you relax and open, gently cupping your hands, the water flows into your palms. By relaxing, opening, and trusting, we can hold onto more of what is precious to us. By letting go, we actually allow more of the mystery of life to come in for us.
1. Haudenosaunee word for North American:
“Turtle Island = The symbol for North America, also referred to as Mother Earth, is a turtle. The thirteen plates on the turtle's back represent the thirteen moons of the year, showing a connection between the Mother Earth and the Grandmother Moon.”
2. Jamie Sams and David Carson, Medicine Cards, St. Martin's Press; Rev Bk&Crd edition (July 30, 1999.
3. Weagle, http://www.snowwowl.com/gwritcoyote.html
4. Zoila Gutierez, Jaguar Woman by Lynn V. Andrews, 1985, Harper & Row, NY, pg. 47.
5. Paris Soulier, http://www.wizardrealm.com/metaphysics/thief.html
6. Eyes of Fire, Warriors of the Rainbow (Strange and Prophetic Dreams of the Indians) by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, 1962, Naturegraph Publishers, P.O. Box 1075, Happy Camp, CA 96039.