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The Gifts of Guides

Copyright Lark Ritchie 1995. 1996.

Symbolic Gifts

The gifts of a guide are an axe, a knife, a pair of boots, a compass, a gun, ideas, and the spiritual or mystical gifts of life itself. Although some are tangible and some are not, they are all functional as well as symbolic. They do not have to be given or received serially or chronologically. Some may not be recognized as gifts until long after they are given or received.

A gift is something given from one person to another in recognition of another's need or the expression of regard for that other person.

As with most rituals, the meaning of gift-giving has digressed through time. We confuse personal significance with monetary value.

What we sometimes forget in this period of abundance is that a gift is not required to be functional, nor to be related to monetary value. It can be either functional or symbolic in its nature, and can have elements of both. But in its most prime and basic concept, a gift in fact, is significantly symbolic. A gift is given, because, in some way, the giver chooses to give the it. Because the giver cares, and because the giver recognizes some relationship with the recipient. The relationship may be only that giver and recipient share the commonalty of life, of being human beings.

The gift as a symbol was replaced by the gift as a tool or fashion. We have further traditionalized the process and tie the giving to a calendar date rather than to an individual's life and the personal development of that individual.

We have come to expect to receive or give a gift according to a calendar of birthdays, anniversaries and social events. Only in very personal situations, are gifts given and received as symbols. Symbolic gifts are usually given in intimate or formal relationships such as between lovers, family or very close friends. Sadly, even in many of these cases, the quality of the gift is measured using a monetary scale. A ring with a large diamond somehow seems to be better than the ring with a small diamond.

The gifts of the guide are given from one to another not according to a calendar but according to personal development, and are symbolic in their nature, recognizing the stages of development of the recipient. Besides their functional value, each of the gifts has a deeper meaning, and each require demonstration of responsibility, and an awareness of an ever changing future for which each us must prepare.

Sometimes the gifts are given in what seems to be "out of order". In some senses, they are, recognizing that one has achieved a level of skill and awareness which, on one indicates the individual's qualities demonstrate that he or she has accomplished awarenesses which show that they act on that level. However, they may not be fully resolved at some lower level, and that some refinement is necessary before they are fully competent. For example, some people may be fully trust worthy, good, and basically qualified to be recognized at the level of the gun, but still not have the qualities of independence or skills required for the compass.

The criteria giving of any one of the gifts seems to be that the recipient be internally motivated and capable of achieving the levels of development of the others.

The Axe
The axe is the normally the first gift of recognition. It symbolizes the fundamentals of personal and physical potential. It recognizes involvement, and the willingness to learn and develop. The axe is the fundamental tool through which all else is possible, the beginnings of independence, and the ability to change one's environment.

It is a multi-function tool, basically a leveraged cutting tool, but serving in many other ways along the trail. It can be used as a hammer, a defense weapon, a cane or staff, or a wedge. It can blaze a trail so that others may follow, or for one to find his way back to the starting point of a journey.

It can be used to make a shelter, cut firewood, make another tool, clear a campsite, and build extensions such as bridges or ladders. The axe signifies a modifiable future of improvement, and in symbolizing these concepts, implies that the conditions of the future do not have to remain as they are in the present.

The axe also demands responsibility, and in itself becomes a learning device for the owner. It establishes a future, in that the axe must be prepared for use, and kept in a state of readiness. Care of the axe ensures that it is solid, sharp and ever ready to perform as it should. It also demands care and responsibility in its use, for it can be a dangerous and destructive object when used improperly, damaging property self, or others.

Its traditional makeup joins the products of the sky with the products of the hard earth, the metals. Its handle is of a tree which lived by reaching into the sky, taking sunshine and rain and gases, making these into its skeleton of wood. Its head is of metal, from the earth's core, and previously from the heavens themselves as the solids of the universe. The two parts come together in the tool of the axe. It is the application of prime mechanical physics; the lever and the inclined plane, and of higher molecular physics and chemistry; the technologies that we have come to understand.

The Knife
The knife is the second gift. The knife symbolizes proficiency in tool handling. It allows for fine, precision work and the creation of function and art. The knife can separate skins from carcasses, extract clothing from skins, create tools and symbols from wood, create beauty.

The Pair Of Boots
The boots symbolize the ability to move protected over various types of terrain; to go where one would normally find travel difficult. They symbolize basic independence, and the ability to step out of the protected environment into the world as it is, unmodified by others.

The Compass
The compass is the fourth gift. It is also the last and parting gift when each expect that for some reason, that they will never meet again, as they are today. It may be given posthumously. The gift of the compass symbolizes that the recipient has demonstrated the capacity for travel beyond the known territory. It is an orientation tool beyond the security of the blazed trail of the axe. The compass allows one to maintain direction when there is no visual indicators to determine position. As long as the target position is known, one is able to reach the planned destination.

The Gun
The gun is the gift of trust and power. It is the ultimate tangible gift. The gun symbolizes the tremendous power of life and death, and the giving of the gun indicates that the giver has complete confidence in the recipient. With the gun, the recipient can become a protector and provider for many. The giving of the gun indicates that one has been given the power for destruction of life, including the life of the giver, for when the gun is in one's hands, all continuance of life's potentials becomes the choice of the holder.

The Gift of Ideas
The gift of ideas is the gift of guides to guides. It can be given in the form of conversation, printed word, in picture form, in music, in reference, or by example. The gift may be given in the present, or into the future. These gifts are subtle, and are given at any point, but only become recognized as true gifts when the recipient becomes aware of the significance of the gift. They are cryptic to the novice, and self evident to the understanding. They contain personal meaning, and are truly personal, and yet universal. They are ideas and values.

The Spiritual or Mystical Gifts
The spiritual or mystical gift is not given. It is received by an individual from life itself. There are many of these gifts, and they are received when the person is ready to recognize the happening as a gift. They are things like those that happen when one watches a fire in silence, sees a shooting start, hears ice crack on a frozen lake, watches a leaf fall, or recognizes that a flower has opened since morning. They are things like first snowfalls, spring time melts, raindrops rebounding in a puddle, the smile of another, the excitement of one telling of the experience of the hunt, or his resolution of a problem.

They are the awareness of being alive, and the relationship of one to the whole. They are things like talking with a moose, watching a bear watching you, apologizing to the bird or snake or deer that was crushed by one's vehicle. Things that happens, affectsing one's life,. A thing that should not be, but nonetheless is. Not because one is deserving, or has been punished, but because, when put in context with one's total experience, there is a realization that what has happened is somehow of benefit. It is recognized as a significant gift and the recognition itself shows the individual his own progress and development as a human being and member in the totality of life.

These are the gifts of a guide, given and received by those who love nature, fellowship, and life.

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1996 Lark Ritchie. Contact me at this address..