Books

Read an excerpt from Richard Wagamese's final book, One Drum

One Drum is a collection of stories and ceremonies inspired by the foundational teachings of Ojibway tradition.

One Drum is a collection of stories and ceremonies inspired by the foundational teachings of Ojibway tradition

One Drum is Richard Wagamese's final book. (Douglas & McIntyre)

One Drum is a collection of stories and ceremonies inspired by the foundational teachings of Ojibway tradition. Richard Wagamese's original plan was to focus on each of the seven lessons, known as the Seven Grandfather Teachings, but he died in 2017, before completing the manuscript.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings are humility, courage, honesty, wisdom, truth, respect and love. One Drum focuses on the lessons of humility, respect and courage.

Wagamese was one of Canada's foremost storytellers, known for novels like Indian Horse, Medicine Walk and Keeper'N Me

One Drum is his second book to be published posthumously, following the unfinished novel Starlight.

Below is an excerpt and images from One Drumwhich was released at the end of October.


Medicine burns when touched by fire. The smoke curls and spirals upward, plumes of it rising, swirling, pushing themselves in ribbons higher and higher until the smell of it becomes the ancient aroma of blessing, teaching and communion. Within its fragrant cloud you can feel peace descend upon you. There is Spirit here. You can feel it if you allow it and that is the heart of the Teaching — the Allowing.  If you close your eyes and breathe, drawing both air and blessing inside you and then exhaling long and slow and languidly, you can come to know that Harmony is a living thing — if you allow it. When you do, the act of burning medicine becomes a ceremony, and in this small, ritual way you are transformed, at once becoming more spirit than physical self, and the blessing is the feeling that comes over you. Emotion becomes your own medicine, rising with the smoke, higher and higher and higher, until it reaches that point of disappearing, vanishing, changing worlds and bearing your thought and hope and prayer outward into the realm of the Spirit World, where all petitions are heard. This is spiritual. This is truth. This is Indian.

In our Native way the medicines are sweetgrass, sage, cedar and tobacco. The smoke of them is the smudge that we pass over ourselves to return us to the purity and innocence we were born with. It cleanses us. It soothes us. It makes us ready for the ongoing ceremony of life. To smudge is to open ourselves to receive. To smudge is to become prayerful. To smudge is to join our energy to the great wheel of nurturing, creative, loving energy that is Creation — and it is the doorway to true Consciousness. This is also spiritual. This is also truth.

But it is not ours alone.

Wonder is the gift we share — if we allow it.- Richard Wagamese
Everywhere around the world people are engaged in ceremony. The ceremonies take many forms. They are borne outward as prayers and songs and petitions in many languages. They are partaken in geographies as diverse as the looks of our physical selves. Around the world humankind shares a deep and resonant yearning for connection with the cosmos, with spirituality, community and the planet. We're all going somewhere. We can feel that. We just don't want to make the journey alone — and we never have. In the primitive times that were our common beginning, we were wanderers. All of us. Every contemporary culture shares this origin. We followed game and other food. We foraged to survive. Every night, fires were lit and everyone gathered around them.
Everyone sat and basked in the flickering light of the  flames and the first thing that fire engendered in them was feeling. They felt secure from the hard dark around them. They felt safe in the company of each other. They felt belonging and worth and acceptance. They felt the mystery, the invisible energy of the universe all around them.

It was then that stories were told. The wise ones in their midst, the seers, spun great legends and teaching tales and the people learned that the world and the universe were full and alive and evolving. Out of those great tales came the feeling of mystery, of awe. Later, alone perhaps, standing outside the influence of that fire, one of our ancestors put their head back and scanned the heavens. It would have been a spectacular sight. Free of carbon clouds, the sky would shimmer brilliantly with the light of a million stars. The sense of space would be captivating. The ancestor felt wonder and out of that feeling came the need for ceremony, for rituals to re-create that feeling of wonder within their participants. And the quest for a spiritual life was born. Everywhere. In everyone. Wonder is the gift we share — if we allow it.


From One Drum: Stories and Ceremonies for a Planet, Richard Wagamese. ©2019 Estate of Richard Allen Wagamese Gilkinson. Douglas & McIntyre. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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