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Donna Flood
Mah-Ah-Zee, Cedar

     A small whimsical note came from friend this morning. She said, “I wish I had a ranch house somewhere to drape with the cedar. It is a crazy stirring,  but it happens every year.”

     The bit of melancholy came through to me from over the miles. I know we at our age are like disabled old tanks or maybe dozers with broken blades. Through every situation imaginable we pushed ahead and over. No matter how shining the circumstance the paint on our bodies is scarred and our mind set,  drifts.

    The mention of cedar makes my thoughts go back to what I've studied and what I know about the tree.

     Cedar to the American Indian is sacred. The word Mah ah Zee or Green in the snow or life in the snow, more accurately and to go farther, it means literally, life amidst death. The reason I know the meanings is because it was my Ponca Uncle's Indian name. His mother gave it to him while he was in the heat of battle at the Island of Iowa Jima in the second World War. She wanted him to return from the place where he was where some soldiers told about it later as too horrific to write. Without a doubt, it was the ultimate location for death. The soldiers were said to have become so embroiled in killing even their own men would not approach them but instead took food and supplies to dump it at a distance from battle crazed men. One delivery man was supposed to divide up a load of beer when he found himself looking down the barrel of a soldier's rifle.

     “Let the dump up and slide it ALL off, right here.”  the soldier told the driver. Needless to say, this is what he did.

      So the mother's prayer went to Great Spirit, “Please allow Mah-Ah-Zee, my son, return to his family.”

      To another time back into the mystic legend of the distance past is told a story about the mighty hunter in the sky, Orion, or some say was actually Nimrod, that mighty hunter mentioned in the Bible.  His mother, who he had married,  planted a cedar by his grave to symbolize his eternal life.

       Druids in their knowledge of herbs brought cedar into the house for cleansing the air. Their belief and worship of the spirits of the trees going back so far, maybe even to the Baal worshipers.

       Moses commanded the people to clean the houses of people who had leprosy with Cedar. Today's scientists use the esters in it to treat that disease.

      Like good people every where folks can't seem to be just logical about something rather it has to become sealed in duty through the use of superstition, tradition or religon and it got to the point Jeremiah in the Bible had to severely admonish the people as written in Jeremiah 10.

      We Poncas use it to "smoke off" after a death. With prayer a righteous person takes cedar on a hot pan through-out the house.  The purpose is told that it is to send the evil spirits off and away from the premises. I've often wondered about these evil spirits. Are they the size of a microbe and as deadly?

      Before a Ponca gathering a smudge is made with cedar smoke and all line up to stand before it and pull the smoke over their bodies with their hands. I've always thought this had some good cleansing effect on a person and was the reason for peaceful gatherings. At any rate, as we leave, I love the smell in the car from our clothes that have absorbed the cedar smoke.

      So my dear friend, for as little as we know about anything I would say that your “crazy stirring,” are not so, “off the wall.”  at all. And that brings another matter to mind.

     “How much of what has happened over the lengthy trek through eternity is somehow or another sealed into our genetic code somehow?

    Why do we remember and feel curious about something as inanimate and plain as a cedar branch to the point of being sentimental about it?

     “Well, don't ask me. I don't know. What do I know about anything?” My thinking races on to another mystery that needs research.”

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