Interview with Stanley Krippner on Medicineman Rolling Thunder
1. Please share with us your guiding intention with bringing forth your new book “The Voice of Rolling Thunder: A Medicine Man’s Wisdom for Walking the Red Road”.
Sidian and I wrote this book to share the wisdom of Rolling Thunder with a world badly in need of Native American wisdom. RT clearly envisioned the ecology crisis, the benefits of living close to Nature, and the role that herbs, ritual, and social support can play in healing. By letting those whose lives were affected by him tell their own stories, we have illustrated how a person like RT with positive intentions and clear motives can bring health, humor, and happiness to individuals, families, and entire communities.
2. I know Sidian Morning Star Jones is the grandson of Rolling Thunder. What could you tell us about Rolling Thunder’s life and spiritual perspective? I knew RT for more than two decades and saw him at work and at play both in the United States and Europe. His spiritual practice, simply put, was to align himself with the natural rhythms of life — the seasons, our fellow creatures, and the land, air, and water in which we live and breathe.
His life was complex; he was a medicine man, a visionary, a political activist, a storytelling, and a preserver of Native American ways. He always reminded us that he was not perfect. His temper was legendary as was his sexual appetite. But he continued to “doctor” people, as he put it, as well as to fight for Native American rights and for the preservation of Indian culture.
3. I see Stanley Krippner is an author on many books including Demystifying Shamans and Their World. What was Stanley’s role in authoring this book and what did he bring to the table?
A friend of mine had intended to write Rolling Thunder’s story, picking up where Doug Boyd’s excellent book “Rolling Thunder” left off and extending the scope of Carmen Sun Rising’s “Rolling Thunder Speaks” to include anecdotes from those who knew him. When work pressures aborted this project, I suggested that Sidian work with me on this project and he enthusiastically agreed. The first part of each chapter was written jointly by Sidian and myself, and then each of us wrote a more personal reflection on the the topic dealt with in that chapter, whether it was healing, politics, dreams, or his spiritual community, Meta Tantay
4. Mickey Hart, percussionist and musicologist, best known as one of the drummers of The Grateful Dead brings some never before released Rolling Thunder conversations. What can share you share about this?
Mickey bought RT A state of the art tape recorder and whenever he was so disposed, RT would record some of his musings or reflections. His friends also recorded some of his public talks and added them to the collection. When we told Mickey about our book, he lent us three huge reel-to-reel tapes that a friend of ours transferred to cassettes, which another friend laboriously transcribed.
5. The book contains accounts of remarkable healings and weather magic from famous personalities who knew him. Like Bob Dylan and he was the inspiration for the Billy Jack films. Interesting about the Billy Jack films I’ll have to dig those up. Could you share some of this information with us?
RT never spent much time with Bob Dylan but was always welcome backstage at Dylan’s gigs; there is even doubt that Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Review” was named after RT. However, Dylan did appreciate RT’s sunrise service that he attended. RT was one of several sources for the Billy Jack films in which Tom Laughlin produced, wrote, and acted. RT makes cameo appearances in two of them.
6. Could you share some of his personal teachings with us from the book that are some of your favorite quotes and information?
People will have to buy the book to get this information. But I learned a great deal from watching RT “doctor” people because he was a master at using their expectations, hope, and faith as part of the healing process. One time he took me into the trailer that contained his pharmacopeia, including herbs I had brought back for him from Latin America. There were even pharmaceutical samples that physicians had given him. He told me. “I use whatever is available to ‘doctor’ people.” He was very eclectic and always eager to learn; he even watched me hypnotize people and used some of those techniques in his own work.
7. The book’s description says ‘Eyewitness accounts of his remarkable healings are legion, as are those of his ability to call forth the forces of nature, typically in the form of thunder clouds.’ Was there often chanting and ritual involved when called forth scenarios like this in nature? And this was the complete reason he was called Rolling Thunder correct?
Nobody knows exactly where the name “Rolling Thunder” came from, and RT could not even recall the exact origin. But his closeness to Nature, and his comfort with such turbulent natural forces as thunder and lightning, certain made that name appropriate.
8. What were some of Rolling Thunder’s perspectives on our world and the state of disarray it seems to be in now and his healing solutions and also read he had a profound connection to animals. What can you share with us about this?
RT was dismayed at how far contemporary people and their lifestyles depart from the rhythms of Nature. But he maintained his relationships with animals. One night he took me into the Nevada desert and started to hoot. Soon a group of coyote appeared and the leader of the pack walked right up to us. RT and the coyote hooted back and forth, and then the coyotes went their way. RT told me that he had renewed the contract; he would not let his people hunt coyotes if they would not sneak into the chicken coop and eat the chickens. It seemed to work. I never ran across anyone at Meta Tantay who recalled coyotes running off with the chickens that were needed for fresh supplies of eggs.
9. I am curious to Rolling Thunder’s passing when he passed away and how that took place and would like to know more about his last days if possible. What do you know about this? I only ask because I am also curious to what his views were on death and the afterlife.
RT told me that he remembered his last two past lives in some detail; both were lived as Native Americans. In the book, I tell the story about how Mickey Hart and I saved RT’s life by flying him to the Bay area (in Bill Graham’s private airplane) where he could be treated my Mickey’s private doctor for gangrene. He recuperated in Santa Cruz and I went there for his birthday party. A few weeks later he said that he had to leave the area because something dangerous was about to happen. Shortly after he left for Nevada, the area was rocked by the Loma Preita earthquake. That was the last time I saw RT because the people who surrounded him at his return were very protective of him and refused to let me speak to him on the telephone.
10. What are you two up to in the future book wise and events wise. If you’d like to share any links or information or parting words this is the place to do so. Thanks and an honor to get to talk about Rolling Thunder for me personally as well.
Both Sidian an I have other projects in the works. He has a number of websites that are oriented toward the deconstruction and reconstruction of religion, a project that is badly needed in today”s world. I have just co-authored a book called “Demystifying Shamans and Their World” and continue to teach at Saybrook University. I will see Sidian again in December when he comes to San Francisco for my 80th birthday party.
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