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The Spells You’re Spinning

By Dr. Kelly Jennings

I’ve been reading a series of books my 11-year-old daughter lent me. They take place in Middle Earth, a time when dragons, dwarves, elves, Urgals and wizards roam the land. The main character is a young man whose companion is a dragon. He’s been chosen as the best chance the people have to overthrow the mad sorcerer King of the land – and so he’s being taught magic and spells by a group of Elders, spells that need to be spoken in the ancient language to work.

With this language, you’re unable to lie. And when you make a spell, or take an oath, or speak in this language, it’s completely binding. So you have to be so so careful about how you make the spell and you have to try and predict the long term implications of the spell. It’s a deeply thoughtful process of spinning and spelling and tending with care the chosen words. It has me thinking about the spells we spin with our words, with our thoughts even. Am I giving life, or am I taking life away with what I say? How do you think of or speak about yourself? Your partner? Your work? Your life? How are you acting as the magician of the life you’re living?

Language frames our consciousness. Many linguists write about this. Language frames our relationship and perspective with the world around and within us. The structure of certain languages, such as many indigenous and Native languages, promotes connectivity, a sense of belonging, and recognizes an active state of emergence. We can call these verb-heavy languages. Here, the mountain isn’t a noun, rather the mountain is a verb – it’s mountain-ing, implying that it is in active motion.

The common Nahuatl phrase “Ometeotl”, which comes from the MesoAmerican, Moshica or Nahua people around the area of Southern Mexico and Central America, translates to the dynamic, divine energy of harmonic balance. Ome meaning two, and teotl meaning energy in motion. “Ometeotl” is a word that is said frequently, at the beginning and/or end of an announcement, prayer or speech – to signify that the words spoken represent the truth and can be trusted. It can also be used as a call to attention. “Ometeotl” acknowledges the omnipresent vital energy flowing through all material manifestations as interconnected opposites in dynamic balance, much like the Yin Yang symbol from the Chinese. When we say “Ometeotl” we recognize this dual balance dwelling within all we encounter and within ourselves as well. It acknowledges that each and every one of us comes from two. It dispels Otherness.

The common Lakota saying “Mitakuye Oyasin” means “all my relations” or “we are all related.” This affirmation is made at the beginning or end of a motion or movement or talk, in the Inipi sweat lodge or other Lakota ceremonies. When we say this out loud, we’re declaring and remembering the awareness of the unseen bonds that are already linking us. It humbly places you as the speaker in relationship with the cosmic web – the familial belonging with people, the more than human world, nature and the infinite creative source that binds existence together in a reciprocal nurturing. It creates Belonging.

The Hindu greeting “Namaste” accompanies a prayerful gesture: palms pressed together with head gently bowed to recognize the subtle luminous light within another. Its words mean, “the Divine in me honors the Divine in you.” Beyond names, identities and forms, we acknowledge the same timeless Awareness that looks through all eyes. It honors our non-separateness from the Divine.

Similarly, the Hawaiian word “Aloha” means “I share my breath of life with you,” recognizing that we do, in fact, share the same air, the same breath, the same spirit. Our aliveness is shared and universal. Our lives depend on our capacity to breathe – to be responsive to and connected with the space all around us. It highlights the essential nature of our sharing.

These ritual greetings or invocations, which are said frequently in many contexts, offer repeated ways to honor the sacred interconnectedness of life and divinity in all beings. These phrases acknowledge an awareness of our shared experience here. They salute all beings, elemental, mineral, plant, animal and human. They help us re-member the deep truth of our connections, and keep us in the spell of the awe and wonder of our relationship to all of life.

This post was originally published 2/13/24 in The Source For Healing newsletter.

Dr Kelly Jennings is a naturopathic physician, Chinese medicine and Qi Gong practitioner in the Hudson Valley. She sees people locally and by distance.

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