The Native American Burden Basket was traditionally used by women to gather wood for cooking fires, or Grandmother Fires used to heat the inside of their lodges. These fires were named such as they were small enough that even a Grandmother could carry the wood and it was placed in the Burden Basket freeing up the hands of the woman to gather herbs, choke cherries, etc. for cooking. Native women were never allowed to bear a burden heavier than their Burden Baskets could handle. This is an ideal concept, and it comes from living in a community, which we in modern society have moved away from as we try to do everything, more than our Burden Basket can carry thereby causing self-induced stress. These baskets were hung outside of the door of any Native American home, which was considered Sacred Space. For one to be given permission to enter into a Sacred Space, it was understood that you would leave your personal complaints, or problems in the Burden Basket before entering another person’s Sacred Space.
If one needed assistance from relief of a burden, one would seek the guidance from the Elders of their tribe, which was an exception to the practice of leaving the burdens outside the door. If it was decided that the seeker’s burden was to be carried further in order for a life-lesson to be learned, this was accepted gracefully. In Tribal Law, the burden of finding answers rested on individuals and their ability to be connected to the Ancestors and their Medicine Helpers.
Burden Baskets thus served as utilitarian carriers, and as Guardians of the home reminding all those that entered to respect the happiness and privacy of each family’s Sacred Space. It was a reminder of strength of character to set aside ones personal problems before entering another’s home. If we could consider other’s Sacred Spaces today before we spoke or acted, balance would be something much more achievable. These baskets still teach us the value of knowing our own heart and answers through connection with Divine Source. We must carry compassion for the burdens of others, and yet not take on their burdens as our own, and this requires a strong heart and strength of character. We must be very sensitive to know when and how to speak to others. It is about personal balance in the present moment.
What burdens can you leave outside the door when you enter into someone’s Sacred Space? Remember, this is not about ignoring your problems, or thinking you must do all the work on your own, it is about knowing where to seek counsel, and to also look inside at your shadow self and do the work necessary to stand in the light. We must be self-reliant and interdependent for this planet to abide in peace and it begins with each of us right now in this very moment. It is a perfect time to begin this practice, as the moon is entering into an eclipse on November 13, 2012 and eclipses are powerful times of transformation, times to let go of some emotional baggage and clean out your own Sacred Space.
May the stars carry your sadness away
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty
May hope forever wipe away your tears
And, above all, may silence make you strong.
Chief Dan George (1899 – 1981) of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Canada