Ever since Laine's first book on Australia, The Family Made of Dust, I have waited anxiously for her next creative work. Seven Sisters molded a deeper understanding of the the indigenous concept of "dreamtime." Laine has delicately represented a series of spiritual perspectives leading us to the core of the aboriginal heart. With her insight, she must have been a native medicine woman in a previous life.
--Dale Stacy, Author Diamond in the Rough
Having no pre-knowledge of Aboriginal folklore, I found Seven Sisters to be both educational and inspiring. The fact that Laine Cunningham spent 6 long months on her own in the Australian outback before writing this book leant a rich authenticity to her voice as she shared from her abundantly full, and talented, heart.
My favorite story was The Dance. Not because I’m a dancer, but because I am a passionate dreamer, and like the young woman in the story, I’m bit of an oddball. Passion is at the heart of this particular story and at the center of all creativity. Laine Cunningham writes, “Passion is as important to our lives as reproduction is to our species.” I couldn’t agree more.
I absolutely adored this book and keep it in the top draw of my bed table so I can go back to Dreamtime anytime I need to be rescued from the dream killing drudgeries of this life. Seven Sisters is a Treasure!
--Leah Griffith, Award-winning Author Cosette's Tribe
This book gives readers two books for the price of one. I loved reading the tales from Aboriginal Australia. But there was also the second component which was the author's essays on the message behind each story and how we can use these message in today's world. I thought this book would be a quick read, but I found myself lingering, absorbing the message of each story before moving on to the next. I found this book to be both entertaining and informative, one I will probably re-read quite a few times.
--Dena Harris, Award-winning Author
Seven Sisters is comprised of unique stories that have been passed down from generation to generation among the Australian Aborigines. The stories offer insights into another culture, each with a life lesson, and the author adds her own insights to each story.
--Shaman Elizabeth Herrera, Author Storm Sentinels
An inspirational book which is most likely to change your perspective on a lot of things. The book is the outcome of six months of solitary camping in the Australian outback, which by any means is no small feat. The experience made her recognize new truths. One of those truths is that people haven’t changed much for thousands of years. Even changes that enhance lives can cause trouble. The speed of progress demands ever-faster adaptations that leave some people feeling unbalanced. In the book, Laine uses “dreamtime” energy to help modern people address various challenges.
Throughout the book, Laine tells interesting stories and delivers thought-provoking and motivating lessons which cover a wide spectrum of subjects. What is particularly helpful is the message at the end of each topic. Through these valuable lessons, you will learn that the issues confronting humanity like environment, love, friendship, parenting and life can be resolved if one applies the unchanging wisdom of the human heart.
--Amazon Top 500 Reviewer
What Laine Cunningham provides in this brief but poignant book is not only a sense of background for a refreshed knowledge of the Aborigines, but she also has written a number of essays about tribal customs and how they relate to the processes of connecting to the world - physically, through gender identity, through Dreamtime energy.
Each of these stories stem from myths but Laine's presentation of the stories or myths proves more enlightening on how to live in peace and love for all. She is our spiritual messenger bringing us universal truths from an ancient yet extant culture. Mesmerizing and meaningful an inspiring.
--Hall of Fame Reviewer
This book has many Aboriginal stories that teach lessons. My favorite story is the first one and is called Seven Sisters, which is also the name of this collection of stories. Overall, the collection of stories were good and definitely worth a read. I think the stories teach lessons that will help people even in our modern world.
An intriguing look at the culture of Australia told through a rich oral history and passed down through the ages. The stories they tell are their way of explaining many mysteries of the universe and of life.
--Mary Blowers, Book Review Blog
Winner, Carolina Woman Inspiration Award
Author Featured in First for Women, Awareness, and New Age Journal
Presenter for City of Sacramento, First Woman Foundation at White Earth Reservation, Guilford College, Greensboro, NC, Oak Park Multicultural Festival, CA, and Cherokee Full Circle, Emerald Island, NC
Featured Guest on JoyStream TV, Thrive in Balance Radio, Justme and Love Radio
Feature Article for Rainbow Reflections and Spirit Rising Yoga
Feature Interview, Diverse Traveller
Excerpt in The Blotter
Featured Interview, Huffington Post
Chapter One from Seven Sisters
Every Aboriginal girl looked forward to her initiation, the rites that would make her into a woman. Although the transition would be a happy time, the girls couldn’t help but worry. They wondered if they would be able to learn all the songs and remember the lessons. Their bodies would know when the time had come and would make physical changes all by themselves. That knowledge gave the girls some comfort.
Boys underwent their own initiations, of course, frightening rites of blood and pain. Not every child succeeded the first time. When one boy failed the man-making ceremony, the shame was more than he could bear. To soothe his humiliation, he loudly claimed that girls were weak because their initiation wasn’t nearly as difficult.
A young woman who had just completed her own rites grew angry at his words. Women’s lives held dangers and pains no man could comprehend. Why, a mother had died in childbirth only the year before. Was she supposed to think less of the men because they would never face that danger? Ridiculous!
Still, the comments buzzed in her mind like a horde of bushflies. She wondered if other boys or even men thought the woman-making rite was less valuable. After fretting over this for days, she told her sisters something shocking. She was going to ask the elders to make her into a man.
The youngest sister, a reed-thin girl with hair like the floss of a kapok tree, began to cry. She thought the ceremony would actually change her sister’s body into that of a man. Even after the others convinced her that wouldn’t happen, she would not be silent.
The boys will say it’s not fair to compare them to an adult, she said. They must see that girls are also strong. I will go with you!
For a long moment, no one spoke. Then it was agreed: If one went, they all went. What one suffered they would all suffer. The seven sisters had been that way ever since their mother had pushed them into the world like a living chain of years.
As they walked back to camp, they didn’t say another word. Just by looking at the girls, everyone knew something serious was about to happen. Mothers put aside their grinding rocks and grandmothers scooped up the babies. Men stopped repairing their weapons, and even the boys abandoned their games to tag along. By the time the sisters stood before the elders, the entire camp had gathered.
The senior men and women knew the girls as wards to be cared for, as young minds that were curious yet lacking in experience. The oldest sister had already done much for her people so she was allowed to speak. When she did, the elders couldn’t believe they had heard her correctly.
Test us with the man-making ceremony, the oldest sister said again. Let us prove we are equal to men.
For many hours the council discussed the request. Even as darkness grew, no one moved to light the fires or prepare food. Finally the senior woman nodded. Their request would be granted. As the oldest sister joined the ensuing celebration, she felt the eyes of the sky spirits on her. Her request was so unusual even they wanted to know if she would succeed. She could only hope that she would endure.
For the next few days, the girls’ uncles disappeared for hours at a time. When they wandered back, they pretended not to have been gone while everyone else pretended not to have noticed their absence. One day the uncles left for only a short time. Then they leapt out of the bush shouting war cries.
The girls’ mother and aunts grabbed the sisters in trembling arms. The men tugged and shoved intent on breaking the sisters free. It was time to change. Separating the children from everything they had ever known was the first step.
When the oldest sister’s head was covered with a dingo pelt, she plunged into a darkness she’d never known existed. Each girl would face the ordeal alone. Hands guided them roughly into a fast run and the mourning cries of their aunts fell behind. For them, the girls were already dead.
By the time they reached the bora ground, the ceremonial site, their feet were bloody from thorns and stones. A man sang a song they had never heard before then told the girls to sing. They stammered as best they could through the chant. When the pelts were finally removed, the sisters saw seeds and stones arranged to form a symbol important to men.
The evening decayed into a dark night. The uncles left. For the first time, the girls weren’t surrounded by aunties who could explain every sound and warriors who could defend against every enemy. If they lit a fire to drive away their fears, they would fail. If they fled the bora ground in terror, they would fail. If they attempted to return to camp, they would shame their family.
Strangeness haunted the dark hours. Terrible howls rose out of the bush and the sound of running feet mysteriously went nowhere. A sudden snap of branches startled the girls; a rhythmic clapping like boomerangs tapping together drove thorns into their temples. None of it made sense and all of it was terrifying.
When the sun finally rose, the uncles returned looking as rested as ever. The sisters were ragged and had bunched tightly together. The men lined them up and counted; seven remained. The girls had passed the first test. They had controlled their fear.
Training began in earnest. The men recited stories and songs that spoke of a man’s life, his duties and his pride. The sisters stood motionless as their lips were cut over and over with a sharp stone. The sun wheeled through its burning cycle but they were given no food. Water was offered only at dusk, and then only what could be held in the palm of a man’s hand.
After days of this, the uncles brought a feast. Bush tomatoes and bush potatoes and witchetty grubs had been roasted on hot coals. The loin of a kangaroo dripped with juice and the drumsticks of a bustard let off a smoky steam. Although their stomachs ached, the sisters took only enough to sustain their lives. In times of famine, their discipline would serve the entire clan. They had passed the final test.
The uncles used the sharp stones to scratch their own arms. They gathered up their blood and sprinkled it over the initiates as they sang the last song. The sisters had become men.
As they left the bora ground—this time without the cloak of youthful ignorance—everything looked different. They had a new path in the world and saw things from a different perspective. The oldest sister had felt much the same after her initiation into the world of women. Now she saw the world with the eyes of a man and a woman.
A corroboree, a celebration, was held in their honor. The oldest sister felt joy and pride. A part of her stayed detached, though, as if her soul moved in an entirely different realm. She yearned to transform again. Before that happened, she would be with her tribe for one more night…and then forever after.
Toward dawn, the corroboree was still going strong. The sun touched the horizon, yet the stars glowed like brilliant crystals. The sun climbed higher but the stars would not be quenched. Then the sky spirits swept the seven sisters into the heavens where they became a new constellation. To this day, the Pleiades remind us that men and women, although different, are equally strong.
The Message of Seven Sisters
We often joke about differences between the genders to diffuse a very real tension. Men evolved to understand the world physically: to set aside emotions until they have the luxury of processing them, to spend long hours tracking in silence, to pursue and defend. Women evolved to understand the world intuitively: to communicate during group activities, to notice nonverbal signals from the youngest in their care, to select ripe berries based on years of ingrained experience. No wonder there’s trouble!
In ancient times, the elder council eased the tension. Senior men discussed how events might affect the prosperity of the clan and other tribes. Senior women considered the emotional and psychological needs of individuals and the group. Every aspect of the community’s physical and spiritual health was balanced against the others.
The seven sisters are extraordinary because they balanced different kinds of knowledge within themselves. They understood both masculine and feminine, physical and spiritual. When they added the pains of men to their pains as women, their wisdom surpassed that of the elders before their bodies had ripened enough to marry.
Taking on both male and female knowledge is dangerous. It requires one body and mind to bear the suffering of two genders. Yet sometimes that’s exactly what women do…they carry their own burdens while shouldering those of a man. Single mothers protect and nurture their children while unmarried women build lives alone. Husbands grow ill or stumble so wives carry them for a month, a year, a lifetime. Widows become their own mates.
Today we are integrating the knowledge of the elder council, of both genders, into every level of society. Our schools and universities burst with female teachers and professors. Our businesses recognize the unique benefits of feminine leadership. Our highest courts understand that women from all backgrounds are wise, that their histories and experiences are critical to true justice.
Valuing women’s perspectives has an additional benefit: it allows us to more fully value the contributions of men. In tribal structures, a man’s reputation was based on what he did for the community. The best hunter and the highest earner provide no value if they hoard what they have hunted. Today, men who cannot achieve within a narrowly defined role are looked down on while “successful” men gobble up more than their share. Our modern society therefore does not truly honor a man’s strengths and abilities.
When a man’s identity is linked with iron chains to wealth or power, everyone suffers. Nations that focus only on tangible assets like economic stability and military strength lack the intangible assets of compassion and empathy. There is no use for grain stored in such vast quantities that it rots; there is no value to money horded in such quantities that it exists only as a numeric concept. A balanced society will distribute excess grain to those in need. A balanced person will utilize excess funds to bolster community projects.
The negative cycle of gender imbalanced is linked in other ways, too. When women’s contributions are devalued, the man who performs the ultimate acts of strength—being a single father, carrying a wife through illness, allowing compassion to enhance his leadership—walks a gauntlet of social ridicule. He is “weak,” “soft,” “pussy-whipped,” “gay.” Gender-based terms make him womanly and therefore ineffectual. His strength is neutered by a brawny line between the sexes. Approach that line, men are told, and become less than you were.
The most important message from the Pleiades is that our natural state is one of mutual strength. The oldest sister did not want to physically become a man or to fulfill only a man’s role. Nor did she seek to place women above men. Disenfranchising the men would have been as destructive as disenfranchising the women. Any society that values either gender more than the other is a society divided.
Back in the early days of the Dreamtime, the sisters were honored for their unique accomplishment. Despite having earned that respect, they had to be removed from the ancient world. Their dual perspective would have made their lives unbearable. Other women would not have been able to understand their knowledge of men; men would not have been able to relate to them as they did to other women. Their unique viewpoint would have caused the sisters an excessive amount of suffering.
Modern society has the opportunity to do what the sisters could not. During the last century, women and men have taken on each other’s knowledge. Single parents, people who delay marriage or choose not to marry, widows and widowers have learned how to be protector and nurturer, provider and comforter. Now we can welcome people who hold this dual perspective. We can let their strength shine like stars burning among us.
This is the sacred message both genders have known since people first gathered into groups…that either gender can bear the burden for both. That the hearts of men and women are big enough and their arms are strong enough to carry a spouse, a family, a friend. This deeply spiritual love disappears only when we agree to hide it away. We are weak only when we choose to believe the modern myths that spring from issues of power and control, insecurity and instability.
These issues affect every nation in our modern world. In the U.S., much is made of the fact that religious restrictions in some countries bar women from receiving an education. Yet American fundamentalists from several popular religions bar women from becoming spiritual leaders or heads of household. Unwed mothers are maligned while absentee fathers, who conveniently bear no overt signs of their “sins,” are spared any repercussions.
Our secular society is still influenced by these judgments. Education means little if it can never be used; employment is psychologically degrading when the wage gap between genders exceeds twenty percent; a woman making a bid for president is merely a footnote when few corporations have any female executives.
Yet the issue is not solely based in gender dynamics. Not when a college degree costs six figures, not when blue-collar workers are indentured by low wages and lower status. Domestic violence—against husbands and wives, children and elders—is driven in part by an economic model that pays too little for many people to support their families. The poorest among us are disenfranchised by a system that doesn’t respect the contributions of every person.
Our societies have changed from tribes to nations, from neighborhoods to a global community. We are each responsible for improving our own society so it can improve the world. We are also responsible for sharing what we can with our far-flung neighbors. Our foreign sisters do not deserve fewer rights simply because they were born into systems mired in issues of power and control; our worldwide brothers also deserve to have their contributions fully valued.
In times of darkness, we need only look up to remember our power. The Pleiades, burning brightly for millennium, honor the sisterhood of mankind and the brotherhood of humanity. The way requires suffering, some of it harsh, and we will sometimes have to bear each others’ burdens. Together we can celebrate equality and strength. Together we can lift free of our individual bodies. Together we can shine.