Harmony and Kinship

Harmony and Kinship inspired by Bendíceme, UltimaImagine a world where the land was dry and the air was stale. All of life was drained and colours turned pale. The seasons of animosity dragged on and lasted four long years, we knew it was inevitable that the end was near. It is never easy when a Mother and Father fight, but for the sake of Creation this wrong had to be put right. Myself, Tobacco, Yucca and Sagebrush were all that was left, and one remaining bird, who sat alone in its nest. We spoke to our dear Mother, who agreed something had to change. Then she told us to talk to Father to sort the exchange. The bird agreed he would fly up and up, to appeal to our Father and confirm the make-up. He soared so high that eventually we lost sight, so all we could do was wait and hold tight. Four days passed and we heard nothing, we almost lost hope but then saw something. Stormy clouds tumbled over with thunder and lightning, there was an electric buzz in the air that was heightening. With one big crash, an eagle swooped down and said “it’s me, I’m the bird, but with a new crown.” It rained and rained until the land trembled as if by magic all of life reassembled. Harmony and kinship had thankfully been restored, making us important elements of reward.

Over time, people came. I was appreciated, they spoke to me, and I basked in my fame. The indigenous peoples drank my leave juice to encourage body purification, as well as to keep away the evil spirit’s condemnation. The medicine men thanked me for healing infections, and the elderly thanked me for arthritic correction. My wood was great for pottery kilns and my berries for a child’s beaded necklace, but not before long my native land became very restless. It was invaded by the Hispanics and there was a power struggle, and unfortunately my people faced turmoil and trouble. Their medicinal books and herbals were burned during the Inquisition, because knowledge is power and it threatened the Christians. So the native traditions had to be passed on orally, from curandera[1] to helper it was taught thoroughly. The helper had to have the natural gift for the teachings to perfectly exist.

Then after the conquest, the power was again contested, and in the Anglo Americans hands is where it rested. As many years passed only a few curanderas remained, meaning that sadly their traditions had almost fully been drained. Nobody else thanked me anymore and I was taken for granted, but you wouldn’t be able to breathe if we all weren’t planted. You no longer appreciate the fruits of my labour, the hard work of your ancestors or my nice flavours. As you sit back and drink my gin, I want you to think of how you sin. Mankind, you treat us like we are inferior, but the irony is that without us you would not be around to be superior. We were here first and we saved the day, so be grateful and aware of that in every way. As for our uses that are evergrowing, give thanks to your ancestors for all their knowledge. It is my own ancestors who told me these tales, that I have now passed on to you in rhyming details.

Next to me, Ultima and Antonio are standing. They are an exception to the ignorant society. Ultima passed on her knowledge to the boy, he had the natural gift. Ultima herself had an earthly connection and approached us plants with so much affection. Up in my leaves sits her spirit animal the owl, keeping a watch over el llano[2] as his eyes prowl. We are joined by the eagle, Mother Earth and Father Sky, a nod to all our roots. Oh, how time has flown by for me the juniper tree!

[1] Mexican/Mexican-American traditional folk healers
[2] The plain

“My bare feet felt the throbbing earth and my body trembled with excitement. Time stood still, and it shared with me all that had been, and all that was to come…”

Rudolfo Anaya(1994 [1972]), Bless me, Ultima

Juniperus communis L.Juniperus communis L.

Family: Cupressaceae.
Commonly known as: Juniper.
Native to: Europe, Asia and North America.
Main properties: rich in aromatic oils used as condiment and fragrance. The berries have diuretic and antiseptic effects and are also used to flavour gin.
Appears in: Bless me, Ultima (1994 [1972]) by Rudolfo Anaya.


Jo McQueenJo McQueen

Studies: Spanish and Latin American Studies.
Commonly known as: JoJo.
Birthplace: Scotland.
Interested in: The medicinal properties of plants and how they can be used for spiritual healing.
Favourite Plant: I admire daffodils as they are bright and happy and can cheer up a room with their vibrant yellow petals. They also signify growth and rejuvenation as they are a flower associated with spring, and I myself was born in spring.