The Peace Pipe, the Four Directions, and My Friend, Susan

Apr 4 / Matthew Wood, MS

Susan and I smoked the peace pipe for thirty-five years. The spirits come when you are regular in your practice - even if it is only five or six times a year. The Eastern Indians would start with an offering to the East - you hold your pipe stem to the East, and a pinch of tobacco, showing that you are giving them the first smoke. I don't make anything out of being a tiny bit Delaware (Leni Lenape), except for this one thing: I always start the offering to the east. They made me do it that way. They were really happy when I connected with them. "Use that fire-starter, use it, use it" they would say. It was a cigarette lighter. "Don't you know, this is what destroyed your civilization." "Use the fire-stater, use the fire-starter." They loved that so much. So I never had problems with the East. I could feel them come in my fingers as I held the tobacco. For me, the East was the way of the great vision over the nations, the Eagle, the United Nations, the color yellow. The South was the place of home, comfort, and domestic life--always a thing to pray about. The Canine, and the color red. The West was the way of the dead, where we all walk on our path to the summerland. It is a dark path at first, you have to give up your attachments. The color is black, and for me, the animal is the Bear because they hibernate, and go inside, like the path to the West. The North was the place of the career, although it was presented a little archaically. I always see a Fish and a man catching a fish. That's the occupation and the reward. The color is white. 

Now some people would have different colors and different animals. I could never understand the Dakota colors. Then I went to a Sundance in Pipestone led by the late Arlo Omaha. He was a day late. "Where's Arlo?" He was a contrary. They called his daughter, she said, "The only thing I know about my father is that he's my father." He showed up the next day and said, "Oh, my cousin put up the colors in the Dakota Contrary Way: yellow in the East, red in the South, black in the West, white in the North. I felt good about my colors after that.

Susan was trained by Lakota and Dakota medicine men, and also, her ancestors had been warned to flee before the Mdewakanton Dakota Uprising, in 1863, so she had her connection there and loaded the pipe starting in from the West. 

After the four directions, you touch the pipe and tobacco to the Earth. I always asked, not only for blessings but for Mother Earth to "open the doors" to the other world because we need to acknowledge that she holds the passage from the physical to the spiritual. Then we raised the pipe to the ones overhead, the winged-ones, the cloud nations, the heavens, the galaxy, the Great Creator. Many people equate the center with the Great Creator but we were jinxed: we had to acknowledge the Little People, the faeries, and the gnomes. The gnomes healed Susan one time. I have my own reasons - not to share. So it wasn't our business to overlook them. 

And then the ceremony began. The spirits talked. Rarely did Great Creator come. I experienced that in a sweat lodge in October 2022. The animals came. They surrounded us on all sides of the horizon, 75 feet thick. They said, "We will protect you, guide you, and teach you." They felt sorry for the human race. I wasn't sure why. Things we will face in the future. The mess in our past. How we are now? All of it? Then Creator came. I never felt anything like that. We both understood: the situation of Earth was dire that He had to make a special interpolation of energy into the Earth, so it would not be lost. So don't worry - but don't stop your spiritual prayers, work,  and dedication.  

The next week, a buck came and stood in Susan's pasture, and that night, on the way home, it stood by my truck, on the verge of the road. Two feet from the right headlight. You just knew it wasn't a deer. Not even a sick one. Anyway, it was big and fat.  

One time Susan was out in her yard when she had a vision of wheels within wheels spinning in all directions, with eyes in them, and animals. She was really put off. "This cow's eye was looking at me. What was it looking at me for?" 

"Susan," I said, "you've had the vision that Jewish mystics down through the ages have sought above all - the Chariot of God. I read her the passage from Ezekial. It's also in the Book of Revelations, "The Throne of God." The Hebrew name is Merkahbah. There are four animals in the Merkahbah: the Bull (Taurus), the Lion (Leo), the Eagle (Scorpio), and the Human (Aquarius). And seven directions for all the directions the chariot can move: up, down, staying in one place, or in the four directions, or any combination.

We never figured out why she had that vision, but I figured it might have been because of her long association with the four directions and the seven directions. She was really dedicated. She'd been to a dozen Sundances, if not more. To hundreds of ceremonies; fasted on the mountain. When her deceased husband came to get her, two months before she died, I saw him in the 'crown of glory,' which seemed to be on the bottom side of the Merkahbah - like leaves or feathers sticking out from the center - I think they represented the good souls, and good things, in heaven. 

For more, you can listen to Matthew share stories
of his lifelong friend, Susan, on YouTube.

Susan Yerigan and Matthew Wood circa 1985

The information provided in this digital content is not medical advice, nor should it be taken or applied as a replacement for medical advice. Matthew Wood, the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism, ETS Productions, and their employees, guests, and affiliates assume no liability for the application of the information discussed.