Service That Honors
God the Mother
As we approach this Mother’s Day 2019, I have been experiencing a deeper soul communion with my great-grandmother, Mary Francis Corbier, aka Marie Oga Debassige. I never met her. I was born 10 years after she died in 1938. My mother and grand-mothers, keepers of a genetic history, a suppressed story of ancient native tribes who’d come to Turtle Island, our North American continent, long before my white ancestors. This heritage lived in me, beyond my will to cancel or erase; in my consciousness, it burned to live.
Like the sacred fire that the Ojibwe tribe prophesied would be re-lit, I always carried an eternally glowing coal. I purposefully set out to know her, wrote poems addressed to her. Thus several discoveries entered my consciousness. Memories of Great-Grandma Mary’s huge herb garden, her knowledge of plant medicines, and her respected skills as a midwife serving the communities of Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island were still living memories.
These were all signature characteristics of a medicine woman of the Midewiwin Medicine Lodge, a society of healers and spiritual teachers, one so closed and secret it would be difficult to find out if she’d been a member. She may’ve herself kept it hidden from the assimilated family of five children she raised.
When I look into my great grandmother’s face, I see a strong and sturdy practicality. She did not worry about assimilation or the colonization of her mind by European trespassers. If she was angered about these issues, she used the anger to build community. She did what worked, what made her life work, and helped her Irish husband
set up a place to stay for travelers in their very large
She learned to prepare meals for the guests. She passed these skills on to her daughter, Catherine. I wrote a poem partly in tribute to my grandmother’s cooking, “Well Water Makes Good Pie Crust.” My mother also inherited these strengths and carried on the healing skills in service as a nurse to her community.
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