By Marcia Israel
If you are seeking spiritual knowledge, a talisman, or spiritual self-exploration, then the perfect place to venture into is the Native Spirit Lodge, at 22559 Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills.
Most people pass by this treasure-filled store, never realizing that this store is not only a business which offers keepsakes and charms, it also a center of much learning and for gaining respect about Native American cultures, customs, and mindsets. As I perused the store, I was struck by the great variety of handmade pieces and natural elements or new age items adorning the showroom. Merchandise covers the walls, ceilings, and the floor. Glass cases, displays, or boxes of new age items, such as incense, tarot cards, chakra beads, stone spirit bracelets/necklaces, crystals, or jewelry and resources for personal growth or exploration.
The owner, Greywolf, embodies theative traditions, customs, and Indian tribal rituals to honor his family and teach others about Indian tribal beliefs. He grew up (not on a reservation or local tribal community) in New York and California and credits his parents and their Indian friends for honoring their culture, continuing to speak Native American languages (they were Canadian) and for preserving tribal customs in the home.
The focus of the merchandise is to offer spiritual, divine, or mystical tools or regalia for anyone seeking multiple spiritualities and self-knowledge, or religious or magical rituals. There are also aids for aligning one’s energy flow, meditation, blessings, healing, divination, and casting out negative spirits or energies. His store pays tribute to all Indian tribes. I found it fascinating that Greywolf, in speaking about native peoples, used the terms “Indian” and “Native American” interchangeably.
Some of the more traditional items represent the folklore and myths of native cultures, serving as protection against spirits, negativity, and/or bad intentions or dangers. Dream catchers, for example, were to reassure children who became afraid of bugs at night. The dream catcher’s web-like shape symbolized spider webs, they are said to “catch” the negativity, the bad dreams—the fears, and reassure the kids; feathers were used to check children’s breathing during the night. Native Americans generally hold positive views on life, says Greywolf. “When native people come across a desert – they envision a garden, when non-native peoples see a desert, they see a wasteland.”
The colors and variety of objet d’art in the store may serve also to bring abundance to one’s home or person. There are wedding vases to sanctify marriage unions, smudges (often placed in an abalone shell where the burning smoke is wafted in the air by a feather) to cleanse and sanctify locales or situations—perhaps ridding the site of negative spirits. Magic candles, crystals, tarot cards, spiritual books, and merkaba symbols line the shelves or suspend from the ceiling. One may find indispensable tools for magic, rituals, invocations, even shamanic rites. In addition, the Native Spirit Lodge offers salt lamps, pendants, custom necklaces and bracelets. You will also find handmade headbands and feather bands. I purchased an intention crystal to assist with my own search to discover my inner self. Everyone’s quest for self-discovery is personal, flexible, and fluid.
Greywolf offered me a quick lesson about Indian cultural thought and practices, explaining that there are over 580 tribes and sub-tribes in the US who often share an interconnection in customs and beliefs. Greywolf has spent many years participating in tribal councils, potlatch ceremonies, and powwows, as well as pursuing spirit quests.
He speaks with great reverence about his friend and mentor, Standing Bear, who also owned a local trading post store. Greywolf sells books which educate and validate Indian beliefs and customs. He has a copy of the Thanksgiving Prayer and the Iroquois Constitution by the door and is proud of the fact that Iroquois document may have helped influence our US Constitution. There is a respect and reverence as well to the Great Grandmother who charged the elders of tribes with finding ways to peaceful relationships and getting along with others. She is a dynamic symbol in Disney’s movie, “Pocahontas” as well. There is a colorful poster of the Medicine Wheel as well, whose four quadrants represent the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional components of the earth and man. I learned that Geronimo’s name means “one who yawns” and Crazy Horse means, literally, “one whose horse is crazy.”
Greywolf, a wonderful teacher and storyteller, enjoys regaling people with native stories, myths, or some of the philosophies or ways of looking at life common in his native culture. People hurry through life and worry about too many things, It is more advantageous to adopt the native mantra of “let it go” than to get too riled up over things in life. Sky Father is an element unifying family into one spirit—unity and harmony. Kachina dolls often symbolize spirits, such as Kokopela, the trickster and humpbacked flute player, who represents the spirit of music, as well as fertility and childbirth. Tribal shaman are widely regarded as having influence with good and evil spirits, perhaps the intermediary between natural and supernatural worlds. The shaman enters into a trance then employs words, magic, and sacred objects to foretell the future or control the spirit forces in the Kachinas.
In the next room is a collection of drums positioned in a circle. The Native Spirit Lodge offers private classes for drum circles and sound baths. In the drum circle groups, participants are invited to create their own beats, rhythms, and sounds and to share their inner self – mood, soul and appreciation. Next to this, the sound bath room houses various glass vases or bowls of varying sizes and shapes used to create a beautiful spectrum of sounds (it’s really cool to make beautiful and calming sounds with these bowls). These rooms are calming and serene and invite one’s self-expression through the body and mind using sound.
One key, perhaps unifying, many tribes is “Wakan Tanka”, the Great Spirit or the Divine. This spirit can be interpreted as the power or sacredness that lies within every one of us. If you are looking for inspiration, for a spiritual or human hand to steer you in life—visit the Native Spirit Lodge. May you find inspiration, love, guidance, and joy.