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…………….
This year when I think about fertility rituals I am also recognizing the impact of my recent hysterectomy. I’ve always been happy to include new beginnings and creative endeavors in my fertility rituals. This year required a little more depth of thought.
I have been blogging about reclaiming my garden spaces. It really has been a long time since I’ve worked in some of them. I’m grateful for the things that continue to come up, in spite of the total neglect. That persistence is part of my understanding of fertility. The strong desire to live, and to thrive.
There’s also an appreciation for the new. The first flowers, the baby peas, and planting the annuals are all a part of spring awakening. When the trees start to blossom it’s like fireworks. The allergens may make my head a little “thick”, but my heart opens up. Even the dandelions make me smile.
As I’m digging in the ground it occurs to me that fertile earth is ready. It’s full of potential, ready to accept and nurture whatever I may choose to plant. It is willing to be willing. I think this year that’s my challenge.
I’ve been through a lot, and it’s time to move forward. It’s time to open up and accept whatever is offered. It’s about being ready, being willing to be willing. Hopefully all this new growth around me will inspire me to continue to take chances and accept the challenges and opportunities life throws my way.
Previous blogs about Beltane and the first of May:
Here I am smack in the middle of holiday celebrations. The solstice last weekend rang in a whirlwind of festivities. I took a small part in a public Yule ritual put on by Harmony Tribe.
This was an afternoon event and very kid friendly. I think there were almost as many children present as adults. There was storytelling about the traditions of the holiday, including flying reindeer. It was a short and simple ritual with lots of laughter and singing. I like the public events for the post ritual food. It’s an opportunity to catch up with folks I don’t see regularly. Lots of hugs and sharing.
That same evening the small coven I belong to gathered for their Solstice Rite. The Deities we were working with are travelers, migratory and so the space was filled with carpets and pillows to make a wayside rest, a caravanserai. The God in particular has a role as guardian for the shamans. Think about the neolithic caves, the walls painted with stories of shamanic travels. This God sits before the cave entrance to guard and protect those who enter to journey. So we started the rite with drumming and guided meditation seeking help to fulfill our visions for the coming year.
Feasting is a big deal in our group and we did well this year. We had smoked salmon and apples and hard cheese and fig whip. We had pork roast and venison with gravy. We had brussel sprouts and garden salad and wild rice. Desert included baklava, stollen, and sugar cookies with a poppy-seed frosting. Since I can’t find the cord that lets my camera talk to my computer I didn’t take many photos. I’m not nearly as good with the camera on my phone. I promise I’ll try to do better along the way.
Sunday was another Solstice celebration. This time with the community at Walker church. I wrote about them when the old building burned in a fire. The new church is built and just opened so we got to celebrate at the new hearth fire. Solstice is the celebration of the returning light after the longest night of the year. For this ritual start in darkness and light candles representing the blessings that have shone for us that they may light us into the new year. It’s a pretty ritual and it was a delight to celebrate with this community in a beautiful new space.
Being one of those folks who values spirituality in whatever form it’s offered I still have Christmas celebrations to come. There is cooking to do this week in anticipation of the holiday. Next Monday’s blog will give you the play-by-play of my family’s Christmas “Chopped” challenge. I even have plans for a pajama party for New Years eve!
Hope your holidays a full of love and laughter. May your travels be smooth and safe. May your holiday wishes come true. I’ll light a candle in thanks for all the warm comments you’ve left over the year. Thank you for reading! Blessed Be.
Samhain on the River is an event hosted by my friends Nels and Judy for many years. This year was the last and I made a point to attend. The high point of the weekend is the burning of an effigy “corn man” or a “wicker man” in ritual. Nels did a piece several years ago about his experiences hosting fire rituals.
The ritual itself is powerful, dramatic and lovely. Sitting with a group of friends drumming and dancing around a HUGE bonfire is a great time. Taking time out to acknowledge and honor the ancestors is especially nice in a year when we’ve had a recent death in the family. However, dramatic and awesome though it may be, the burning isn’t the heart of the weekend for me.
The ritual starts with a casting of the circle, calling in the four directions as guardians and protectors. The ancestors are welcomed and so is the Divine, in many forms. Then there is the feasting. This is a huge pot-luck extravaganza. The ovens are going for two days. There are half a dozen crock pots. The desert table has two levels and probably could use a third. Given all the dietary issues in the group everything is supposed to be marked and labeled – does it have meat? Nuts? Is it gluten-free? Vegan?
When I attend I complicate things. It’s that darned allergy to cinnamon. Most people don’t think it’s a real allergy, or they just don’t hear it, or they haven’t a clue how to read a label down to those tiny ingredients. (Except in red hots, cinnamon is rarely one of the first ingredients listed.) It gets even trickier when all the label says is “natural flavorings and spices.” Most of the time that actually means cinnamon. Who knew? – Well, I do.
There are a few people in this crowd who have watched me react to cinnamon. Who know that my children wash their hands and brush their teeth before they come home if they have a cinnamon roll elsewhere. People who have been to restaurants with me and been asked “Please don’t order the waffles, the cinnamon roll, the warm apple pie.” If the ventilation is good I might manage the room (if they’re not baking right then) but not at the table.
Because of all the trouble, the feast isn’t really the heart of the event for me either. It’s the people. It’s being able to spend time just talking and catching up with folks I only see once or twice a year. It’s the late night conversations about being a leader in the spiritual community and the lessons that come with the job. It’s the laughter when someone pours a glass of wine and makes a joke.
These people remind me that not all our ancestors are ancestors of blood. Many of them are simply ancestors of the heart. I remember this year, my aunt who just passed, but also the friends who I have lost over the years. I miss them all the time and think of them often. But so many of them would have loved sitting in a circle full of drummers and dancers around a really HUGE bonfire.
I have mentioned this event in an earlier post. See Ancestors and Descendants