Today is the day. Let us join together in ceremony and prayer. Let us do our cleansing and find our space on this Sacred Earth. Let us light our fires and make our offerings. Let us sing our songs, dance our dances, drum our drums and open our hearts. Let us Honor those who died at Wounded Knee, naming the names. Let us find connection with All Our Relations. Let us embrace those who have gone before us. Let us find compassion and healing as we move forward in a Sacred Way. Let us make a better place for our descendants.
Thank you for participating.
Please share these posts and encourage people to join us in ceremony, in ritual, in prayer on Tuesday December 29th, the 125th anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee, at Noon in your own time zone.
Meditation on the prayer of “All My Relations”: The Native Americans pray “All My Relations”. This is a statement of humility, connection, and compassion. It is an acknowledgment of the Ancestors and a recognition of the Descendants. In doing this working, in joining the global prayer, in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” we come to a closer understanding of what this prayer “All My Relations” really means.
That All My Relations is a statement of connection seems self-evident. But it doesn’t just honor or acknowledge relatives of bloodline. It calls to a connection with the whole tribe, the community. It makes it possible for us to connect, in an interfaith community, praying to heal our multi-generational wounds. It touches ancestors of the blood, ancestors of the heart and ancestors of the spirit.
It is also a statement of connection to those ancestors that are very different from us. It is a connection to our ancestors on BOTH sides of this massacre, and of any conflict. It is a connection to people we may not understand or approve of, but who are indeed our relations. It is a connection across race, or species because the bear people are our relations, the wolf people are our relations, the bird people, the fish people. The tree people are our relations. The stone people are our relations. The earth we dwell upon is mother to us all and we are all her people. All My Relations.
All My Relations is a statement of humility, because it recognized our human inability to determine the best possible outcome for all. We’re not even good at always finding the best possible outcome for ourselves! How could we know what would best serve the memories of our Ancestors and honor their work? How could we know what will best serve our Descendants? How can we know what the best possible outcome will be for the Animal people? The Plant people? The Stone people? The Earth? So we prayer to the good of All My Relations in humility for our own limited vision.
All My Relations is a statement of compassion. Every religion has some version of “do unto others” or “what goes around comes around”. Acknowledging a direct connection to the harm and benefit our actions cause shifts our awareness of the impact of those actions. When we harm our relations, we harm ourselves. When we damage our lineage, we damage ourselves.
The other side of that is that we recognize our capacity to stand where our misguided, confused, fearful Relations stand and make their mistakes. All My Relations includes both sides of the argument. All My Relations includes those who lash out in fear and anger. All My Relations includes those whose actions aim only to benefit themselves.
To truly heal our multi-generational traumas we must be willing to take in compassion All Our Relations. We must be willing to honor and acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the loss, the pain, the greed, the anger, the jealously, the hopelessness and meet those feelings with love. One hour of prayer, one anniversary of recognition is only the beginning of this work.
The invitation we were issued at the Parliament of World Religions also calls for us to move forward in a Sacred Way. That is the true working, for All My Relations.
I really hope you are all sharing these posts. It would be great to share in “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity” on December 29th and Noon. The more the merrier in this kind of global interfaith work.
In my last post I talked about cleansing and creating a sacred space. In this one I’m going to talk about prayer, or ritual, or the working.
Transformation: Fire is transformative, and since we are looking to transform from the 125th anniversary of a horror to a world where those things don’t happen fire seems like a good focus.
Depending on your circumstances, lighting a fire might not be easy or practical. I have a fireplace, but even a candle will work. If you’ve chosen to take time out on your lunch hour visualizing a fire can be effective. There are Kundalini Yoga techniques that build internal fire energy.
However you choose to create fire, remember that this particular fire is sacred. It is symbolic of the divine energy we are calling upon to manifest this transformation. There is a Buddhist philosophy that says the first step to changing the world is changing yourself. In doing this work the hope is we will transform our own understanding of our relationship to these events and carry that change out into the world.
Offerings: The other nice thing about fire is that it will accept offerings. We can offer up gifts, like additional candles or our incense or smudge sticks, in thanksgiving. Expressing gratitude for the help fire gives us in transforming is very appropriate.
We can also offer our own emotions to the fire. This can be especially useful if you can not work with an actual flame. Sitting in meditation with the reality of our history can raise up powerful feelings. Allowing ourselves to experience those feelings fully, and then give them over to the flame is a very transformative process.
One thing I will encourage you to offer up is the names of those who died 125 years ago at Wounded Knee. The fact is that we don’t have names for even the majority of those who were killed. That is part of the great wound that needs healing. But the names we do know deserve to be honored. Here is a link
There are other things that can be offered as part of this working, part of this prayer. Drumming would be appropriate as would singing and dancing. As this is an interfaith working bringing something to offer from your own faith tradition is very appropriate. Or you could simply allow yourself to be present in the moment and trust that your body, your heart will know what to do.
It is very difficult for white Americans to sing or dance or move directly from our spirit. We tend to edit ourselves. We wonder, “How do I look?” We wonder, “How do I sound?” We ask ourselves, “Am I doing it right?” But if we can find a way through to that child-like trust, If we can truly let go and allow spirit to move through us, that is also a very transformative act.
Two more days, and hopefully two more posts.
No, this post isn’t about the “Incident at Wounded Knee”, although part of the reason that had so much impact is because of the history of the Massacre taking place on the same land. This is a posting for those who are interested in joining us in prayer and healing for those who were chased down, and shot down, and buried in the mass grave at Wounded Knee.
Praying, to my mind, is a very personal thing. Approaching the Divine sincerely is not something anyone can tell you how to do it “right”. However, for an event like this I’m happy to offer some suggestions of things you might want to try.
Cleansing: Many rituals and acts of prayer start with some form of cleansing. This can be anything from a full ritual bath to an energetic cleansing like grounding and centering. In many Native American practices cleansing is done with smoke, or smudging. Commonly smudge sticks are made with sage or sweetgrass.
The cleansing practice can be constructed as a small prayer in and of itself. The water, or smoke can be blessed. Prayers can be made about being prepared – appropriate and able (I hate the notion of worthy) – to do the work at hand. Any “excess” can be returned to the earth for recycling and renewal.
For this particular work I’m using this prayer for cleansing:
Blessed be my mind and heart
Let me be open to the struggle, the pain, and the heartbreak of what has been lost
Let me be honest about my participation in a culture that would allow, condone, and reward persecution of people already pushed out of their homes
Let me be compassionate to the fear, on both sides, that caused the shooting to start and to continue until the dead littered the ground
Let me be open, honest, and compassionate
May my heart and mind be blessed.
Creating Sacred Space: There is no need to do this work in a separated space. To the Native Americans every place you stand on this planet is sacred. But many of us appreciate a small act to acknowledge that sacred work is distinct from our mundane lives. Some of us need a special space so that we know to avoid distractions. Because this is a prayer, not just for Wounded Knee, but for all those massacred in similar situations it seems to me that the most appropriate way to create sacred space is to acknowledge the 4 directions.
North, East, South, and West are the compass points that cartographers have used for ages to define the land. Many of us have associations with those directions, as do the Native tribes. However, those associations are not universal.
Where I live, and in my spiritual tradition, North is associated with winter, darkness, silence, and wisdom. If I lived in Argentina North might be associated with warmth and growth. In my spiritual tradition West is associated with water, compassion, sunset, and healing. The sunset in the West is globally true, but it’s hard to associate West with water if you live with the ocean only a short trip to the East.
In religions where the spiritual center is a geographic point, like Mecca, where you stand in relation to that point impacts your association with the directions. Even where we stand relative to Wounded Knee, South Dakota, may impact how we establish this space.
So I leave the specifics up to you. Establish the sacredness of where you stand by recognizing where you are in the world at this moment. Honor what is in each of the 4 directions. Honor the sacredness of the Earth upon which you stand.
More to come…………….
Wounded Knee means many things to many people. Then there are those who’ve never heard of the place. American history is taught with a carefully edited eye to the white mans point of view. But to most of the Native people of this continent Wounded Knee stands as a tipping point. It is the Ferguson of the era of conquest and oppression of the indigenous people of this land.
This year, on December 29th, is the 125th anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee. It is a massacre that took place because the white army perceived the natives as dangerous and unruly. It took place because there was no understanding or appreciation of different points of view, different religious practices. It took place because a failure to communicate lead to a “need” to control, to take away human and civil liberties, and to respond with brute force to a perceived threat.
There are many tellings of what happened at Wounded Knee. I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee back in 1974. On line there are several accounts eye witnesses, official reports, and of course wikipedia. All the versions agree that the natives were practicing their religion illegally. (The practice of the Ghost Dance was banned) They all agree that hundreds of men, women and children were killed. They don’t all agree on why.
The massacre at Wounded Knee is a living injury in the hearts of the Native people. These are their ancestors, and they are honored with dance, and song and story, and a reenactment of the ride to escape the soldiers.
When I was at the Parliament of World Religions I attended several seminars led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse. He is one of the spiritual leaders of the ride. This year, on this anniversary, he called on us a spiritual leaders to join together and help heal the hearts of those massacred unjustly. He asked us to pray not only for Wounded Knee, but for all those killed in massacres because they are perceived as “other” or “threatening” simply for trying to make their way in the world.
So I created a Facebook event and will write on and off for the next week about things we can do. Let us join together, in spirit, in ritual, in prayer. The Natives pray “all my relations” and recognize that we are all related, we are all one. These are our relatives, our ancestors who have died at Wounded Knee, in Boznia, at Tiananmen Square, in Rwanda, in Syria. These are our relations killed in the Holocaust, in the streets and prisons of the USA, in the Ukraine.
As Chief Looking Horse invites us, let us stop the massacres, let us heal hearts, let us move forward in a Sacred Way.
This was not only my first time at the Parliament of World Religions, it was also my first visit to Salt Lake City. I had to sneak away and check out the area.
I was fortunate to have a chatty, tourist friendly driver from the airport. I learned that Salt Lake sits between two mountain ranges on the Western edge of the Rockies. That feels like being in a big comfy bowl surrounded by mountains. Salt Lake is a planned city. Streets are on a grid and an address will tell you how many blocks north/south and how many blocks east/west of the center point you are.
Apparently there is an old law that says all streets have to be wide enough for two full oxen carts to comfortably pass. That makes for wide streets, and “alleys” that look to be the size of residential streets anywhere else. (They run the light rail down one of those.) So when something is two blocks away, it seems a bit further than you’d expect.
In spite of that Salt Lake is a very walking friendly city. Streets are clean, sidewalks are smooth and you can hop on public transportation pretty easily. At the convention center there were always bicycle rickshaws available. At the end of the day, the small fee for a ride back to the hotel was well worth it! Salt Lake also has a broad “rent a bike” program, so if you wanted to peddle yourself it was an option.
I couldn’t stand the idea of being in Salt Lake City and not seeing the lake. I didn’t have time to take a tour bus out. The Lake is a good 10 miles out of the city (beyond the airport). I did manage to find my way along with a nice cab driver who was happy to get out with me and snap a few photos. There is quite the drought, and the lake bed I’m standing in should be filled with water. I did see the lake in the distance and was impressed and appalled. We’ve been hearing about drought conditions in the SouthWest and in California for years. This visual really brought that home to me in a new way.
I didn’t have to ditch the conference for all my tourism. The Parliament arranged an evening of sacred music and dance. It was hosted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and held in the Mormon Tabernacle. This was a real treat. The Mormon Temple is not open to anyone outside of the religion, and then only for special services like weddings and rites of passage. Most things take place in the Tabernacle.
It’s smaller than I expected. The woodwork, the pews, are all handcrafted and painted to look like oak. The organ that dominates the altar is magnificent. The place only seats about 5000 (more if you seat people in the choir, and they did!) I got there early and still chose a seat in the balcony rather than sitting way in back on the main floor.
We were presented with everything from a Muslim call to worship to the Dervishes whirling. We saw dances from Cambodia and drummers from Africa. One of the highlights was a children’s choir made up of children from many different religious traditions. A delightful surprise was the Baha’i choir which gave us a piece based on their liturgy but in a gospel style.
Temple Square is the center of the Mormon presence in Salt Lake City. It includes several visitors centers with museum dioramas of the history of the building of the temple. There are also plenty of dioramas of the history of the religion.
There are other things to do in Salt Lake as well. One evening we were encouraged to go on an Art Crawl (apparently a regular monthly affair in the city). The Jazz Society rehearsals are open as are rehearsals for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. There are several Art Museums in the area around the convention center.
I had a great time. Really enjoyed the Parliament and all it had to offer. Truly appreciated the host city and it’s amenities. I’m hoping I’ll be able to go to the next Parliament of World Religions in 2017.
As amazing and awesome and hopeful as my experience at the Parliament of World Religions was, the event wasn’t without its controversy. Most of the complaints can be attributed to communication issues. However, some of those communication issues seem to stem from a failure of the decision makers to examine their own systemic cultural bias. To tell this story I’ll go back and forth between the Macro and Micro viewpoints.
On the Micro side, I contributed to the Parliament by participating in one of the offerings presented by Macha Nightmare of Covenant of the Goddess. As a COG member myself, as well as knowing Macha, it was easy enough for me to shoot her a message offering help. She said yes, so I got to be a “grace” (tech crew) for her ritual theater piece: Goddesses Alive.
On Macha’s end she sent ahead lots of information about what she needed. She included a diagram of the set up and seating arrangements. She requested rehearsal time and space. She asked for a changing/staging area for the women wearing the masks of the Goddesses. All of this was confirmed in advance and the entire cast and crew (singers, readers, Goddesses, and tech) received copies of the schedule she was given.
When the Parliament opened, I told you about the wonderful welcome from the Native elders to the land. I may have mentioned that even before the Parliament started – for the first time ever – there was a Women’s Assembly. This pre-Parliment event was programing specifically targeted to women’s issues. After the elders concluded and the anthem (written by two women specifically for the Parliament) was presented, the rest of the opening program consisted of men in suits yelling at us about what we need to do and patting themselves on the back about how inclusive THIS Parliament was for women.
“Separate but equal” is never really equal. I heard several women that evening talking about how disingenuous the whole presentation felt. The word “tokenism” was bandied about. Many of these women had been present for the Assembly earlier in the day. They were hoping to take that energy forward into the Parliament itself. In fact, many of them felt they were shut down. The rumors were this lack of women presenting in the opening ceremonies was intentional. There was a reception afterward (which wasn’t on the schedule) where women were invited to present. There is no excuse for this. Thankfully the next morning was the Plenary: Focus on Women, which was fabulous and even though it didn’t address the problem did help shift the anger.
Macha’s group includes several “Grandmothers of Paganism”, and I would count Macha among them. There were women in wheelchairs, one with a broken leg, one with a serious chronic illness and Macha herself in recovery from a stroke she had this summer. When we gathered for our rehearsal we were told pointedly, “You can not be in this room.” Eventually a rehearsal space was found for us, in a much smaller room on the other end of the convention center. We lost almost an hour of our precious rehearsal time to mismanagement.
The other Glaring scheduling issue was in regards to Black Lives Matter. Initially several workshops specifically addressing this issue were scheduled opposite each other. The workshop presenters noted this and brought it up to the committee in advance. Changes were made and you would think that would alert them to be sensitive. Unfortunately the Plenary addressing that issue was scheduled directly opposite the evening’s entertainment at the Mormon Tabernacle. (Apparently “those people” aren’t interested in cultural enrichment?) To be fair scheduling this kind of event is a nightmare and some things will get short shrift. Still, just because you have black people on the board doesn’t excuse this kind of dismissal of a huge social justice issue in the country hosting the event.
The day came for us to perform the piece. We found a room (again not the one originally scheduled but at least just across the hall) and started setting up and getting our Goddesses dressed. Less than an hour before we were to open the doors we were confronted by an irate staff member. I’m not sure if this was convention center staff or Parliament staff (or both!). I do know we weren’t the only workshop to get this treatment. Apparently no chairs were to be moved over the entire course of the weekend.
I’m not sure if this is a union issue (only union members are allowed to move the chairs) or a fire-marshal issue (the fire-marshal approved the set-up and any changes will have to be re-approved) or something else entirely. There was a cost component, as Macha was told she would be responsible for a large fee (several hundred dollars) to “fix” it. What it felt like (and in all the cases I was aware of it was Pagans wanting circles rather than rows) was an insensitivity and disrespect of the practice of our religion.
There was another point, actually during the presentation, where a message came back to the tech crew that if we were to “Turn on the lights or I will shut you down.” We made it through (forgiveness is always easier than permission) and the presentation was very well received even if it wasn’t the vision Macha intended. Again, there was nothing done that hadn’t, in theory, been approved in advance.
I choose not to carry the anger of the larger organizational issue, but rather to focus my experience on the more intimate encounters I had over the course of the weekend. I do know several people struggled with the dichotomy of so much bad and so much good. I don’t want to believe any of this was willful disrespect. I think it just goes to show how deep systemic prejudice can be and how much work, even the best intentioned of us, still have to do to fix it.
On Monday I gave you an overview of the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. I told you 10,000 participants and a vast array of topics and presentations to choose from. But that isn’t all there was to the Parliament.
There were several on-going or open activities as well. At the entrance, just in front of the registration tables, the Tibetan Monks set up a space to create a mandala for the event. In this tradition sand paintings are done to honor important events, and then in acknowledgment of the impermanence of all things, are blown away.
Even before the entrance, outside of the building, the Native peoples of the Americas established a ritual fire. They tended it throughout. People were always present to answer questions, help with offerings, and do sacred smudge. Each morning there was a prayer to the spirits of each of the directions to bless the work being done at the Parliament.
There was a table of salt, brought in from the Great Salt Lake. As participants passed by they could dip their hands in the salt. Many made patterns and pictures. It was an ongoing, ever-changing record of how people were feeling about the event. At the end the salt went back to the lake.
Of course there was the big room of vendors. Many of those booths were purely there to provide information about the religions they represented. There was a lot of free literature, books, pins, and occasionally candy given away. There were also places throughout the conference so that each religious system could host hospitality conversations.
There was a labyrinth laid out in tape on the floor, a copy of the one at Chartres. The ballroom hall was lined with beautiful tapestries of Goddesses from around the world. There were prayer flags lining the balconies and escalators.
There were art installations with religious themes. Everything was represented from traditional depictions of the crucifixion to an interactive exhibition where participants were encouraged to place keys on an arbor to support giving women access to theological and ministerial ranks in traditions where those roles are strictly limited to men.
The most profound contribution to the atmosphere at the Parliament (to my mind, and echoed by many others) was from the Sikh community. They had a presence in the vendor hall, offering the opportunity to have a turban wrapped on your head in the Sikh fashion and gifted to you to wear it throughout the Parliament. That was fascinating. Even more profound was their offering of Langar.
The Sikh’s made a vegetarian lunch every day and offered it free to any participant in the Parliament. We were welcomed to the space and asked to take off our shoes. The line took us past a series of boards talking about the Sikh religion, their principals, and their service. We were offered head coverings and hand washing. Then we were sat in rows on the floor as volunteers went up and down filling trays with each of the courses.
It was an incredible production and an invaluable gift to the Parliament. It set a place of community building. Many of my best conversations with strangers happened while I attended Langar. The food was simple, Indian, and wonderful. The warmth, friendliness, and generosity of spirit shown in this rite will stay with me for a long time.
It’s been the kind of week that I can’t cram into a single blog post. In fact, even though I’m having this blog automatically posted, the week isn’t even over. I’ve been on the road at the Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City.
It’s a HUGE conference with representatives of all kinds of religions from all over the world. There are almost 10,000 people in attendance. Programming starts with religious observances at 7am. Each workshop session has 20+ presentations to choose from. Additionally there is a track of films. There are also performances. Scattered through are Plenary’s – topics with very big name speakers which many attendees are likely to want to see.
The opening ceremonies, for instance, are a Pleanry. They were impressive, moving, powerful and controversial. The wonderful piece of the opening ceremonies was from the Native community. There was a processional, lead by representatives of the Native tribes of the areas, with multiple tribes acknowledged. The parade continued with representatives of the other religious systems present at the Parliament. It was surprisingly powerful and moving.
Then the Native elders and Grandmothers took the stage and welcomed us all onto their land. They offered blessing on the work of the Parliament and on its participants. They spoke of the trauma in their history and still embraced us with open arms. It was a profound expression of the theme: Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity”.
Being here has been a remarkable experience. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing faith-based activism. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in doing interfaith work. I would recommend it as an opportunity to learn more about world religions.
More later this week!
I’m posting late today because I went to get a haircut. You must understand that I am entirely incapable of maintaining my hair style in a traditional (cut every 6 weeks) kind of way. My last hair cut was in February.
I’m lucky to have hair that is flexible, adaptable and generally enviable. My regular readers have seen photos of me in the last 8 months and none of you have commented “Looking good, but you could use a haircut”. I’ll take the leap and say that mostly I haven’t looked like I needed one.
Thankfully, Jesse (my stylist at Hair Police) is pretty accepting of my cavalier attitude towards my hair. He believes me when my response to “what would you like?” is “That I don’t need to fuss with it.” We probably spend as much time chatting as he does actually cutting. That’s “normal” in the stylists chair, but it’s not typical for me.
In February I was getting the “new look” in preparation for flying to California and presenting at Pantheacon. (Go ahead and search that term out on my blog page. You’ll find lots of entries.) I didn’t get to go to San Jose, but the “new look” was helpful in the “keep your spirits up” department while I dealt with the cancer surgery.
Now I am again getting ready to travel. I’d like to make a good impression on the people I’ll meet. I’d like to do some networking with folks who speak on Spirituality for a living. I’d like to look good, approachable, and “put together”. I hope I’m not setting my bar too high!
Packing is still a challenge. I can get twice as many clothes into the suitcase as I used to! The problem is that I don’t have twice as many clothes that fit. I don’t even have the dreaded swimsuit in a size that won’t fall off if it gets damp. Usually before a trip I’m shopping for things like sample sized deodorant and toothpaste. This time it’s about what do I have to wear.
I’m grateful to the thrift stores. We went to one for Orion’s birthday and I picked up a few things for me as well. I’m grateful for my friends who clean out their closets and hand stuff my direction. I’m grateful for the women in my life (Karina and Carla) who are fond of “styling” and pick things out for me if they run across something that looks promising and size appropriate. (They have a better eye for my size than I do!) And of course I’m grateful to Jesse, not only for the haircut but also for taking the photo I promised:
Sadly I’m still going to have to shop for that swimming suit.