12 Tribes & The Preservation Seed
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Two mountains lie forever spooning each other against the encrusted cluster of little lit houses below me. My friend Parizeau and I sit high on slabs of rock in Gyro Park, pounding back Goldschlager and smoking. I had managed to arrange an interview with a member of the
Twelve Tribes, an obscure religious cult in Nelson, BC.
Using a cell phone for light, we conjured questions to
ask in the morning. Nelson is a place where “No Dog” symbols are painted on the sidewalks downtown and cars always stop, even though the many crosswalks are void of
traffic lights. A city that has the population of a town
and that houses The Preserved Seed restaurant. Owned
and operated by the Twelve Tribes cult, the Preserved
Seed is an enchanting place with kickass key lime
squares and a Tudor-type tavern feel. In their restaurant
I was to conduct my succinct n’ juicey interview.
Witha post-party head full of dreams, I woke
to the sound of screaming children and ill-tempered
storms. It was 9:30 am and the interview was set for
10:00. I got ready on the flash (Parizeau to boot), and
we made it to the Preserved Seed on the nose, damp
and drowsy. We were welcomed warmly when I asked
for Devaq, the man I was to interview on behalf of the
bearded men and oatmeal women. He met us promptly
with a strong handshake and pleasant manner. We sat
at a charming table and were served lovely carob mint
matés. I told him that I was from a collective zine that
was interested in alternative living, and the interview
When did your tribe arrive in Nelson?
In 2000. The restaurant was established in 2001.
How many tribes are there and where are
Fifty, with twenty-five in North America and four in Canada. The ones in Chilliwack and Courtenay have restaurants with the name The Preserved Seed
Do all groups have restaurants?
Devaq: Most do, and those that don’t are working on getting one.
Where in the world are the other tribes?
Devaq: Brazil, USA, Spain, England, France,Germany, Argentina, Australia and Japan.
Which country is considered the Motherland?
The movement was started by Gene and Marsha Sprigs in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1971.
Gene was part of the Jesus movement of the 60s. He moved to Tennessee and met his wife and they opened a restaurant called The Yellow Delhi on the University of Tennessee campus. Gene had so much love for Jesus and became inspired by him. When Gene and Marsha married, they would have friends over to discuss Jesus. They would call the discussions ‘wrap sessions’ and their friends would come from all over. Then one day when it was time for their friends to leave, their friends said, “I wish I didn’t have to leave,” and, Gene and Marsha said “You know, you don’t have to leave, you can just stay.” They did, and more friends from all over came, and then, through networks, started groups all over.
Can anybody join?
Anybody can join.
What are your guiding morals or rules?
Yahshua, (The Twelve Tribe’s name for Jesus) said “Don’t worry about what you eat and wear. Give up
people, give up your possessions.” Most Christians are
mainstream; they live apart from the word of Yahshua.
Jesus wanted us to share all things in common. John (the Apostle), knowing God and loving God, wanted to live by his word and we lead by that example
Do you have gender-specific roles?
Women are the mothers, but they have other
roles. Men are obviously stronger than women so they
build and so on, and women take care of the children.
But women also work at the Preserved Seed and handle
the money. Have you noticed that women are really good with money? They handle the money made from here and the spending of it.
Devaq then explained that the Twelve Tribes’ Council is based on Yahshua’s famous saying that
begins “If you don’t hear from the least…” Devag was stressing that all voices from the community should be heard. Members are elected to council when “Grace is recognized.”
This grace is supposedly allotted to you by God himself; your position in the Twelves Tribes is to
reflect your God-given talent. You talent is identified by assessing your “true intelligence,” which stems from humility, truth and “what love says.” An intelligence that is of intrinsic wisdom.
Devaq placed emphasis on their desire to “follow what was in their hearts.” Courting rituals were
practiced through something called a waiting period. A room was offered to members of the cult that swelled for each other and they were allowed up to three months of private talks (no sex?). Sex apparently only happensafter marriage (but I bet somebody’s getting head).
Devaq invited us to the Twelve Tribes farm on Mount Sentinel. I figured it would be a great opportunity to get in touch with a God so I joyously accepted (please
note my sarcasm). As we were wrapping things up, I asked a couple more questions.
Some say love and hate are the same thing. What is you opinion on that?
They may be, but it’s up to you to choose what to do.
It would appear that there is limited room for real individuality in a community like yours. How does
your community deal people who have no choice in being different like people who have physical disabilities?Devaq: We give them jobs that are suited to their condition, such as bookkeeping – jobs that require thinking.
What about people of same-sex orientation?
Devaq’s eyes became hallow like empty graves.
We don’t have a place for peoples with same-sex orientation. We don’t hate them, we just follow
the word of Yahshua in literal terms. Women are the mothers and men are the fathers.
So you do not accept people of same-sex orientation?
What do you do when your children turn out to be gay?
They would have to leave.
At that point I looked into Devaq’s heart and a saw a shallow grave. I then became haunted by a
flood of memories. When I was fourteen I had left my strict Muslim home near Elora. I left my family
and school in the middle of the night with nothing but the clothes on my back. Through the darkness of the country I walked all night. I made it into Guelph and went underground never to return to my family again.
I could not help but be sympathetic toward any child of the Twelve Tribes that would have to go through the same experiences. What Devaq and other clan members may not realize is that the world has a funny way of crushing and drowning the nicest of children.
If a group of people truly “looked into their hearts” as means to relate, then why would there be the need toexile? Why would love say “ discriminate, judge and
deny access?”. Just an other religious ruse to oppress and reject perhaps?
I couldn’t help but be thoroughly disappointed. A community that was supposed to be
based on harmony turned out to uphold the uglier sides of Christianity. Members of the regular Nelson community informed me that last year the cult pasted anti-gay propaganda postersaround town.
Friday I’d be wining and dining with the get-along gang, gung-ho for Jesus and my pot-induced
thought processes were making me feel anxious. I started having the same worries I would have before surrounding myself by Muslims at large family gatherings. I felt depressed and rendered powerless.
At least I had a week to prepare my mind and manners. The week undressed with curious delight as
I discovered that Nelson is the pot capital of the world.
Friday finally came and it was pissing rain again. I waited for Parizeau to get back from work and before I knew it we were hitchhiking to Mount Sentinel
Farm. We arrived to the main gate, comprised of large wooden beams and a banner screaming
“Welcome!” in rainbow colours.
“Don’t be using no rainbow, ‘less you be payin’ a queen some respe’t,” I yelled, flailing my arms
with a blow wave in my hair. We started taking pictures, walking slowly up to the main lodge. It was a lofty and lovely Dukavor contraption, inhabited by a welcoming and pregnant-with-Jesus sort. “Come join my family,” said a sardonic Devaq. “Imean, come sit with my wife and kids.”
The entire gang was wearing linen Jesus braids on their heads. Before you knew it the tangential songs and dances broke out.
Parizeau made a very specific what-the-fuck face and I had to ask her to not make eye
contact, fearing the onset of a laughing fit. Their dances consisted of jointed hands and intense
spinning, broken with random spin claps. Some kids looked happy, others
discontent. Some of the men looked like ex-junkies and others look liked salt- and peppered hippie scholars.
Then the music stopped and we all sat in a circle. I was blessed with another Parizeau what-the-
fuck-face and I started laughing. It was confession time and they had the zest of a trekkie convention on acid. The music stopped/started between sporadic and
personal God talks.
“I am happy to find peace with people around me,” said
a nervous young African-Canadian girl named Darah (small pearl of wisdom). She turned out to be an old chum of my bud buddy J-dog. Apparently the sweet pea had a really hard time fitting in at high school and had turned to this cult.
During dinner a member of the Twelve Tribes spoke to me about their marriage ceremonies. The conjugal union is formed in a bible-inspired theatrical event with props and costumes. Brides or grooms may court to their own personal poetry and music. I was shown some wedding pics during my second helping of chevre and spinach pastry.
“If you have any questions, feel free,” he said. I replied by asking him about how the community
deals with mentally ill people, a question I meant to ask in my interview with Devaq. He explained to me that the cult family believed in the spirit world and if somebody heard voices, then they were believed by the cult.
Mentally ill members were allowed access to medication and doctors.
In fact, all members had access to certain things like internet and family visits.
“Now were going to serenade you,” Devaq yelled, while the sea of beards and make-up-less women collected on the other side of room.
“Don’t look at me!” I said to Parizeau as the music poured fourth like the light of God’s heart.
“You can be free, you can be free, just not with me,” they chanted collectively.
How could I seriously not laugh at the at such
blatantly direct lyrics? My previous suspicions of a join-the-cult dinner party were now confirmed. I felt really awkward and Parizeau and I began to laugh at the shear frankness of the cults
“join me joy ride” antics. Their weekly sabbath finished with blow horns, chants, rapid dancing, and epiphanic titalation. A time of rest now awaited them before another extensive and highly laborious week ahead.
Some of the confused and overwhelmed children retired to their rooms as the adults gathered
outside. Parizeau and I followed the adults to chat about their cougar and bear experiences, and then we checked out their bevy of baby goats. The cool air fingered our hair and we were ready to leave Mount Sentinel farm.
Later, I lay on Parizeau’s bedroom floor in a sleeping bag, my head filled with subconscious
visions. I paused to reflect momentarily. Could I truly accept these people who would not accept me?
I had the entire next day to reflect on my current cult happenings as I hitched across the entire province of BC. Mountains and rattlesnakes passed by outside of
cars owned by kind strangers. I went through a place called Osoyoos which actually houses Canada’s only canyon and hot desert, and then up a highway that brought us to the “Summit.” The summit was celestial, with glacial springs pouring downstream and ice-chiseled rock formations on the peaks.
I arrived in Vancouver finally, elated and exhausted. With my Ipod pumping Bowie and the need
to find closure, I began to invoke internal Q&As as I walked around an ugly pocket of Van city. What impact do the Twelve Tribes have on society? What are the similarities between them and us?
My head was a hot bed of confusion and labour.
Do they negate certain fundamental social progress?
Yes, they are regressive to humanity. They may be nice but they have biblical roots and when Jesus is on board, expect a chance of retroactive stagnation.
The Twelve Tribes open restaurants all over the world with one joint mission: to communicate and
recruit people under the law and word of Yahshua, a God void of facts and face that is used to separate and exclude.The mission machine just keeps morphing and extends to all world religions that endorse hate, ignorance, violence and global disharmony. Folks can fan and feed faith grapes for all I care but they should do it privately and without manipulation.
Sexual orientation is not a choice, but they chose to subscribe to the opposition. When a gay man looks at a hot naked man he gets an erection and that has more corporeal power than your cherubs, giants and wives of salt pillars. If the Gods of the world created the world, than they created everything in it, including what’s denied by religious groups like the Twelve Tribes. Inclusion should not include exclusion and this extends to all peoples of societies. For if everyone was to be as one, every one would lose one’s self.