Celebrating the life of Kumu Raylene Kawaia’ea
I have never met anyone like Raylene. She was so filled with kindness, so present and so clear. In honor of the gifts she offered us all, I wanted to share some of her words from our conversation with her at the International Herb Symposium in 2007. I have kept her words as she said them, without making edits or changes, because as I read them, I can hear her speaking…
Ann: What role do plants have in your journey?
Raylene: As an Hawaiian, the plants are our ancestors. Our creation chant brings into the world everything that exists here in this world. What we learn by the chant is that we, as human beings, are the youngest. We’re the youngest, perhaps the favorite, and we were loved and cherished and pampered and given things sometimes perhaps that we would not cherish in the manner we should have, as we reveal ourselves today.
Yet everything before us, everything that was birthed before us, are our elders. We’re the baby. And in our culture part of that is that, as the younger ones, we take care of our elders. Because if we can take care of them well enough, they will share their wisdom with us. And so the plants, all the creatures – everything – are our elders. So we truly look upon them as our family. And we cherish them. We love them. We take care of them as anyone would take care of their human family. We truly understand them as our uncle, our auntie, our cousin, our grandparent. So there’s a very personable, personal relationship; when we go to talk to a plant, we are addressing, you know, a cousin, a family, a family that is part of us.
Ann: What advice do you have for those of us for whom this connection the ancestors and the plants has been broken?
Raylene: It seems that in our world, many of our youth are disconnected from these things that some of us are shown, that we remember. We remember the stories, and yet there are many who desire these things but don’t know how to get there. And I have come to realize that there are many ways of getting there. And sometimes we only validate a few, when it just takes a desire to go talk and a willingness to allow yourself to be vulnerable, to talk to an ancestor whom you might not know. And it really reflects back where you are in your understanding of how the world is, how the creative forces are . What do you believe? What do you doubt? What do you hold valid? Because it’s going to call to question those same things that you so desire.
What happens in your mind is that you question, is this real or am I making this up? Did I really get a sense that this plant was talking to me? Or is it because I wanted it to talk to me so I think it talked to me.
And so why not just go with that? Why not go with, so what if it was talking to me? And so what if I did just make it up in my head? Soon enough you will start to realize that some of the information that you’r making up in your head is information you didn’t have before… What does it truly matter if I can come to a further understanding, a fuller understanding of existence and if in healing and in working with the plants, that I might understand more and be able to be of greater service?
Ann: Given the state of the world now, at this juncture in time what does this connection with plants and spirit have to offer?
Raylene (in one of the clips we included in Numen): In our world today, we look at the environmental issues and think about how it is impacting or perceived to be impacting all of us. And for some of us, we want to say to, “Believe that she is whole. Understand.” I’m gonna get caught at this because it’s so deep. My mother, our earth mother. It’s like saying to someone, oh poor thing, you don’t feel good.
And she’s going, I don’t? It’s like manifesting illness rather than wellness. Can we not look upon her and see that she is quite capable of what she has always been capable of? Can we not look upon her and not know that she is connected to all the powers that be, that whatever the needs that she needs will be provided?
Please, everyone, look what you’re calling, look what you’re bringing forth. Turn it around. Say to her, ‘Our mother, you are so beautiful. Thank you! You provided us with this. We are so fortunate that you are there for us.’ Feed her, rather than pull it from her.
Feed her the energy that you have. Let her know. Sing to her. Dance to her. Give thanks so her so that she is renewed, so that she is filled with the spirit of all of what we are. As we are her stewards. We are here to take care of her.
It’s the seat. This body, for many, is the temple that houses our spirit, the spirit is that place of us that is who we are. There’s a question that comes up every now and then: are you a human being on a spiritual journey or are you a spiritual being on a human one? For us, we recognize ourselves as spiritual beings.
With deep love and gratitude for Raylene’s journey here, on this earth, during the time her spirit traveled as a human…