A Year's Journey of Initiation
A Year's Journey of Initiation
Invocation Blessing Song
Behold Great Mystery, Creative Force, Spirit That Moves Through All! We call to the Seven Directions of the Sacred Wheel!
We turn to the Keepers of the East, direction of new beginnings, of inspirations, of illumination and creativity, of the dawn and spring, new births, and childhood. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We call to the Keepers of the South, direction of vitality, of high noon and hot sun, of summer and vigorous growth, of youth and passion. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We invite the Keepers of the West, direction of introspection, of the evening, of autumn and maturity, deepening and ripening. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We respectfully summon the Keepers of the North, direction of the night, of winter, of wisdom and transformation, of dropping inessentials to reveal the core. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We look up to the sky and call to the Beings of the sun, the moon, the clouds, the stars, and the endless blue, and we ask that you bring your spaciousness and mystery to this work. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We put our hands on the ground and ask that the great substance of the Earth give grounding to the work, and that the Earth’s beauties give us beauty and that the entire world—the animals and plants and rocks, mountains and rivers and seas, the elemental forces of Earth and Air and Fire and Water, and all the human beings, all the elders, children, teachers, all the red, yellow, black, and white—join in this blessing. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We call to the Sweet Mystery that is the Sacred Center, to hold us and cradle us in your divine protection. Be with us, teach us, show us your ways!
We claim this work to serve, to bless, and to share knowledge for wisdom building and for bringing wholeness to our hearts and to our world. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
(Note: The beginning prayer and a final blessing appear at the beginning and end of each lesson, respectively. These prayers mark the cycle of energy within that lesson and create a circle of connection.)
THE IMPORTANCE OF PURIFICATION
Closely aligned and separate from the physical realm is the subtle body, which exists in the etheric realm. The subtle body is an energy field, or matrix, that surrounds and interpenetrates the physical body; the etheric realm, or etheric plane, is a dimension of space without time that exists throughout Creation. In some systems, the subtle body of energy that surrounds our physical bodies is called the aura or auric field. The chakras of the Eastern traditions are wheels of this subtle body energy, special aspects that relate to specific areas of the physical body and to the endocrine system in particular. The room you are in and the space outdoors also contain this energy.
The etheric realm is most easily affected by astral or emotional energies, and for that reason, it is important to balance your aura and the etheric field of the space around you by cleansing. It is especially important before you begin any ceremonial, visioning, or spiritual work to clear these fields. The incense that is burned to remove odors in a house and the incense burned in a church are both examples of such cleansing. Sounds and toning, ceremonial bathing (e.g., mikvahs), baptisms, sweats, fasting, and sweeping with feathers or branches also cleanse.
Smudging is a traditional way to rid the aura of any vibrations of negative thoughts, actions, and attitudes. It is used to help bring you, your surroundings, your objects, and your mind into harmony with the sacred. It clears away patterns of energy that could block good work, and it draws to us that which is most supportive of what we need. Smudging is central to Wheel work, walking a Medicine Path, and in all paths of American Native spirituality, and many other cultures follow similar practices. Smudging others is a job given to new apprentices because of their innocence. It is an important part of healing ceremonies and is used to prepare, bless, dedicate, and empower objects, spaces, and all participants. Smudging is used to cleanse and dedicate people, tools, materials, and the spaces before ceremonies and spiritual work of all kinds.
In the beginning, we will teach two cleansing methods. The first is brushing or sweeping the aura with a Spirit feather. Sweeping the aura is performed by using the feather to brush over the body surface an inch from the skin, as if you were smoothing out a surface of sand. Intuition is the key to what parts and how much sweeping is done. Trust yourself to know how to do it “right.” This method can be used by people who are allergic or sensitive to strong smoke, and it is less complicated than smoke smudging. This lesson will cover information about feathers, their cleaning, how to construct a Spirit feather, and smudging. Although purification is a simple process, it is one of great power.
What makes such processes powerful is the INTENTION in your heart for the act. Through intention we lay claim to a certain energy pattern that then infuses the act or thought with its energy. An intention of purity and good taps into a lineage that is stronger than our finite minds can comprehend. Conversely, hidden agendas and unclean intentions draw muddy and aberrant energy, no matter how lofty the act may seem. Whatever you are doing, it is very important to be clear on what your true intention is. In fact, if you get nothing else from these lessons except this one point, the understanding of the importance of INTENTION, you will have received a most priceless pearl of wisdom. Stating your intention out loud gives even more power to the act. This is called naming, or “the word,” and some traditions (e.g., the Judeo-Christian) teach that all of Creation was brought into being by this process. We simply cannot stress how important and powerful it is to claim your intention by speaking it out loud. Even a simple daily devotion of lighting a candle and sweeping your body with your open hand, saying out loud, “I do this for the good of all,” or “I do this in service,” is so powerful that you could never know all of the good effects it has.
The smudging technique generally practiced today was given to the Cherokee people by the Swamp Mother for the purposes of healing at the time the European settlers brought the gift of smallpox, and this technique is used to this day for purification before ceremonies and healings. Although practices of clearing with aromatic smoke are older than recorded history and are found in all traditions, we will honor the gift of the Swamp Mother by passing on this method.
Almost any herb that smells good when burned can be used for smudging, and smudging mixtures can be bought already blended for the purpose the individual herbs represent. We give a word of caution here: Sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata), also known as Holy grass, is a very powerful smudge that calls in energies. For this reason, we suggest that you avoid using sweet grass until your Spirit body has been prepared well enough to handle the power of this substance. Sage and cedar are wonderful all-purpose smudges that are good to begin with. Sage drives out negativity and cleanses the physical body, and cedar cleanses the Spirit body. When you enter into the gates of each direction, you will receive information about the purification incenses and guardian incenses for each direction.
Some herbs for smudging are wound in bundles, whereas others are ground or finely cut up. It is a good idea to practice burning the substance to see how easy or difficult it is to light and keep lit. To keep your smudge burning, such as outside in the wind, you may need to use a charcoal disc specially made for burning incense or coals from the fire. For lighting these discs safely, some use saltpeter as an ignitor (ask for instructions when you buy the charcoal). In any case, always have plenty of matches on hand. (In the optional weekend intensive for the East Gate, participants are taught to create fire from the elements around them.) If you want to purchase incense or discs and do not have access to a “New Age” or Native American supplies source locally, you can order supplies directly from Sacred Wisdom Circle Institute.
For smudging with herbs, you will need a fire-resistant container. An abalone shell is traditional for burning herbs in, although any thick clay or earthenware bowl is suitable. Metal bowls are not recommended because of heat transference. A layer of sand will help insulate the shell or bowl, and even with sand, these objects tend to get very warm. Watch out for table tops, table covers, and delicate skin tissues. You can use a healing feather, a group of feathers, or a bird’s wing as a fan to direct the smoke, and many people just use their hands to fan the smoke where they want it to go. Whatever instrument you use to direct the smoke, it is important to cleanse it first by passing the feathers through the smoke or by rubbing your hands over each other as the smoke filters around them.
An Important Note from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
It is illegal to have any part of a wild bird—feathers, wings, abandoned nests, and even eggshells—without a permit from the Department of the Interior. There are special regulations that cover owl, hawk, and eagle feathers that absolutely restrict their use. If you plan to work with wild feathers, apply for a permit; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has the forms. Even if you are a registered tribal member and have a permit, all of your feathers are supposed to come through the proper channels. In other words, if you find a dead bird, it is supposed to be turned in and then you apply for permission to have the parts. For some parts the waiting list is as long as 5 years. Be aware that permits are never issued to anyone who has previously been found in violation of the regulations. Most feathers that you can buy commercially are from domestic birds: turkeys, guineas, peacocks, domestic geese, and so on. Be wise about this issue.
According to James Mooney, wild animal parts (feathers, bear claws, etc.) can only be in the possession of Medicine People. To be safe, if you have any parts of a wild animal in your possession, make sure that you also have your Oklevueha Native American Church card with you along with the appropriate papers of authorization and documents that certify that you are on a Medicine Path.
Study Guide: Purification and Cleansing
Exercise 3: Smudging
What you will need: A fire-resistant container; a small amount of sand (a cup is plenty; sand bought from a store can be toxic, please read the label); matches; a charcoal disc (optional, although possibly necessary if you are working outside in the wind); dried sage or cedar; and a feather (optional)
For safety reasons, it is especially important to read through the instructions for this exercise several times before you begin. Also, make sure you are well away from any smoke detectors in your home. If you are unsure of how sensitive they are, you may choose to do this exercise outside until you see how much smoke is produced. Before you begin, pour some sand into the bottom of your container to help absorb the heat. It is better to have too much than too little.
- Face the West. If you are using a charcoal disc as an ignitor, lay it on the sand and light the disc first. If you are using loose herbs, mound a small quantity on top of the sand in your shell or dish (or on top of the charcoal disc, if you are using one). If you are working with bundled herbs, you may want to hold your smudge bundle above the container to make it easier to light and blow on. Begin by lighting only a small section of the smudge materials. Gently blow on them just enough to generate a comfortable amount of smoke. Too much smoke can quickly become overwhelming, so start small.
- Offer the smoke first to the West, then to the North, East, and South in that order. Then hold it high to offer it to Grandfather Sky, and then set the bowl on the ground or on a table to offer it to Grandmother Earth.
- Cleanse whatever you will smudge yourself with, your feathers or hands, in the smoke while offering the smudge to the Sacred Mystery that is at the heart center. All of this can be done silently, and it adds power if words of dedication are spoken out loud. There is no “right” thing to say; let your heart teach you the words. We all have our own prayers that were placed in our hearts at the time of our birth.
- Pick up the bowl and hold it in front of you. You can use your feathers or hands to direct the smoke, or you can leave the burning herbs on the table or on the ground and draw the smoke over you. You first draw the smoke toward your heart and then up and over your head and down your body. This will help the energy go in a good direction. Make sure to also smudge the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Obviously, a more thorough job of smudging both your front and your back can be done if someone else smudges you, and smudging only the front of your body is just as effective. Remember: Use your INTENTION!!!
That’s it! You have cleansed both yourself and the area around you. It’s that simple. With the intention of your acts, you have created a sacred alignment.
Smudging in Groups
If you are in a group, the Medicine Person will choose someone to do the smudging. Sometimes, if the Medicine Person hasn’t already smudged, they will hold the bowl while the person smudges them. The facilitator of the smudging process smudges himself or herself first, or that person asks an experienced participant to smudge them. The facilitator holds the bowl as they smudge the next person. If you have another tradition that you have always followed, honor that unless Spirit tells you that it is time to do it differently.
It is also appropriate to smudge yourself and any place that gives you the sense an unpleasant or “negative” energy. Many people smudge their houses and workplaces daily so that their everyday lives are cleansed, blessed, and aligned and dedicated to Sacred Spirit. If you do this in a space you share with others, please be considerate of people who may have allergies or respiratory issues.
THE SACRED MINDSET
Our ancestors did not treat time as we do. They did not begrudge the minutes needed to make contact with sacred energies, nor did they get impatient with the time it takes to relight, blow on, or fan the smudge mixture; this was all seen as a part of the process of life, and they knew how to surrender to it and honor it. We can learn valuable lessons from this mindset in a world that is so clock driven, and we can learn how to see the Sacred in all we do.
Even your bath or shower can be turned into an act of purification if you do it with intention. The water washing over your body can sweep away unnecessary energies that put a barrier between yourself and the Divine. If you are doing a fire ceremony, you may offer herbs to the fire and then smudge yourself with the smoke from the fire. James Mooney teaches a water ceremony to be performed after the Sweat Lodge (Inipi), a cleansing in which you submerge yourself in water to the point where the water covers the crown of your head. You duck yourself once briefly to cleanse yourself, once to cleanse for your family, once to cleanse your tribal energy, and once to cleanse your relationship with Creator. You can also cleanse with sound by using a rattle, drum, didgeridoo, bells, and so on, beginning from the heart to the head and traveling down to the feet. Afterward, flick off any energy that may be clinging to the instrument, and ground this energy in the Earth.
Earth-centered cultures do not view possessions in the same way that the modern Western World does, and it is sometimes difficult to understand these attitudes. In Earth-entered cultures, possessions are often given away with no thought of thanks, and all their sacred objects are handmade very slowly and carefully, with sincere intention, without measuring the time taken to create it, and without placing a monetary value on the object itself. It does not matter what amount of time it takes to make the object well; the pressures of clock time are not an issue, and their spiritual life permeates all aspects of their daily life so much that they view all acts and objects as sacred.
To construct objects that will be useful in your study of Wheel work, it is necessary that you learn to slow down and be in deep relationship with the object. Smudge your materials before beginning the construction, and consecrate (smudge and dedicate) the finished object to the good of all with a heartfelt prayer. Know that every moment of the construction is an opportunity for learning about sacred relationships and that the process will teach you many things about yourself, your attitudes, and how you process life itself. Take time to make your sacred objects carefully and with good attention and intention, and journal about what you learn from the experience.
Study Guide: Purification and Cleansing
Exercise 4: Making a Smudge Fan and Spirit Feather
and Feather Care
What you will need: 100% cotton red cloth (red flannel is wonderful, and red bias tape or red felt is also excellent because the edges won’t ravel); embroidery thread, embroidery floss, or thin strips of soft leather lacing; clear glue; a white bead; and other embellishments (optional)
Make a Spirit Feather
A Spirit feather is used for visioning, to hold in your hand as an anchor when doing deep Journey work, and to hold to your heart when praying. The shaft of the feather below the area where the vanes start is wrapped with red cloth. You can cut a 1-inch strip of cloth and fold the cloth lengthwise to create a ½-inch wide strip so that the edges are finished and will not ravel. Iron or sew the folded edge for ease of handling. Bias tape is already pre-folded, and like felt, this material does not ravel; therefore ½-inch wide bias tape does not need to be cut, and a strip of felt would be cut to a ½-inch width. Spiraling up from the fattest end of the feather shaft, wrap the shaft of the feather and stop just below where the vanes begin; use a drop of glue to secure both the start and end of the wrap. Tie the wrapped cloth at the top and bottom with the floss or leather lacing, and hang the white bead on one of the ties to represent spiritual purity.
Make a Smudge Fan
To make a smudge fan, place a minimum of three feathers side by side with the tip of the shafts parallel and touching each other. Glue the tips together and allow the glue to dry completely. Cut a rectangle of cloth 1 inch wider than the width of the shaft area to be wrapped and 1½ inches longer than the length it takes to wrap completely around the shafts. Fold ½ inch of the non-selvage edges (the unfinished edges that will ravel) over, and iron or sew them down for ease of handling. Fabric glue, which is made especially for cloth and does not make the material stiff, could also be used to secure the folds. Wrap the shafts with the fabric, overlapping the extra ½ inch of the length, and tie the wrap at the top and bottom with the floss or leather lace. The wrap can be secured with tiny drops of glue for ease of handling while tying. Decorate your smudge fan with beads, stones, or any other items that you are drawn to use.
Store-bought feathers are of course already cleaned; however, it can be much more meaningful to use feathers that have been gifted to you in Nature. When feathers are found on the beach or in the woods, they can be cleaned by soaking them in cold water for up to two days. All found feathers will be more beautiful if they are soaked to remove any salt or soil; if you are concerned about feather mites on found feathers, place them in the freezer inside a plastic bag overnight before cleaning. After soaking the feather, you can use your fingers to gently work as much of the dirt off as possible. Do not use a brush! Very gently pat the soiled parts with a cloth soaked in lukewarm water and a mild soap until the dirt and stains are removed.
After being washed in water, feathers soiled with oily substances (e.g., tar) can be further cleaned in white gasoline, Coleman fuel, or marine gas. Because gas fumes are dangerous, only do this outdoors. After soaking and swishing the feathers to dissolve the stains, remove the feathers from the gasoline and cover them with dry Plaster of Paris or hardwood sawdust; hardwood sawdust comes from deciduous trees that lose their leaves, such as oak and hickory. Sawdust from soft woods (from conifers such as pine, cedar, fir, juniper, redwood, spruce, yew, and larch) and other evergreens contains resins that will dissolve in the gasoline and further stain the feather. Another option is to use a mixture of cornmeal, flour, and borax to clean your feathers. After a few minutes, the gasoline that doesn’t evaporate will be absorbed by the Plaster of Paris, hardwood sawdust, or cornmeal mixture. Shake off the feathers and let them air out to get rid of any remaining fumes, then rinse them in lukewarm water and soap and proceed as above.
When your feather is as free of soil as you can get it, rinse the feather in clean lukewarm water to completely remove the soap from the feather, and then let the feather dry completely. To speed up the drying time, a fan or hair dryer on a cool setting may be used. With your fingers, gently massage the feather vanes back into shape so that your feather is in good relationship with itself.
After cleaning, the vanes of your feather may need to be re-oiled and straightened. Put a very, very, very thin layer of unsalted lard or other animal fat on your fingers, and stroke the feather lightly with your fingertips. Feathers can be straightened by running the shaft, not the vane parts, over a 200-watt light bulb. Once your feather is completely dry, the feather is ready for use.
SETTING YOUR INTENTION
The intention for our meditation and journaling exercises is to do four things:
- To suggest practices and exercises that you can learn to better observe and hear everything around you in the present moment and how it shifts and changes in every right now; this is a critical skill that must be mastered to become a medicine person.
- To support our observations and to stand in witness of what we are observing and hearing and how the observation is affecting us and influencing us, learning about how the natural world works by engaging our hearts, spirits, and minds through the stories we tell ourselves and others (e.g., How do I relate to the myths and the journeys I take while doing ceremony?)
- To support ourselves and others to speak, to create nature-based rituals, and to communicate back to all the living beings around us
- To support us to act, to know what solutions exist, to be willing to explore practical ways that we may transform our way of living to be more in harmony with the Earth, and to have a sound basis for action in defense of the Earth and all beings
It is important to honor the four ways of seeing that support our path as we deepen our ability to observe, meditate, pray, and journal (contemplation). These four ways of seeing are 1) intuition, 2) perception, 3) insight, and 4) vision. Many indigenous cultures recognize that intuition is the source that sparks external seeing (perception), internal viewing (insight), and holistic seeing (vision). For Medicine People, paying attention to these modes of seeing is away to honor the sacred. We extend respect to our own visionary processes when we give voice to what we see or sense. When we are in touch with the visionary archetype, we are impelled to bring our voice and creativity into the world.
JOURNALING FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH
A journal is a tool that you can use to keep your balance, to look at where you are, and to see where you’ve been and where you’re going. Through the journal you can become aware of the interrelatedness of life, and in it you will keep a record of your journey.
You can include in your journal descriptions of things seen, heard, experienced, and dreamed. Other things you can put in your growth diary are favorite poems, prose, and sayings that inspire you, words that strike you as significant, things that make you feel something, personal and clipped artwork and other creative pieces, a record of meaningful dreams, lists of music or plays or films you’ve seen or want to see, books you have read or that you want to read, new words or new descriptions of old words, things that ring true for you, things that wake you and make you want to do something, and words that strike you as funny, mysterious, or strange to speak. You can also include factual descriptions of subjects of interest in reference books that give new shades of meaning to the familiar and make surprising connections. Also include in your journal the exercises you will be given to do, like the exercises below, and most importantly, meaningful remembrances and lessons learned throughout this year. Your walk through the Wheel of the Year may be recorded here.
Keep journaling your growth as part of your power hour, and make the exercise below an everyday practice to create the greatest value. As you record in your journal, you will discover that your journal entries become more focused and have greater clarity as you mindfully observe yourself and all you observe and learn from nature. As you take the time to record your observations, your entries will support the lessons you learned; future actions become more clear to you, and over the years, those observations may prove to be an invaluable record as you step up and become the teacher, facilitator, or Medicine Person.
Study Guide: Journaling for Spiritual Growth
Exercise 5: Nine Ways to Observe
What you will need: Your journal, drawing paper, a pen
For this exercise, find a spot that will be your “home base,” a safe place where you can practice the disciplines of observation. Is there a park, a community garden, or a vacant lot full of weeds near your workplace where you can eat your lunch regularly? Is there an untended hillside you walk by when you take your child to the playground or your dog for her daily walk? Do you have a deck where you can drink your morning coffee and look out at the garden?
Once you have your spot, spend time there. Do the awareness exercises listed here every day to begin to observe things you have never noticed before. Listen, notice the slightest changes, and enjoy every moment in this mindful process. Write notes with questions or “I wonder” statements in your journal, along with your observations.
In your ceremonial grounds or in your home base, observe and be a witness to what is around you, and say to yourself, “I wonder.” Don’t worry about answering your questions, just notice what questions you are generating.
- Observe Energy
Ask yourself, “How is energy coming into this system? How is the energy being exchanged? There are many different sorts of energy you might observe: sunlight, heat, energy generated by motion of air or some form of water or food, even psychic energy. Can you sketch what you are seeing? Don’t worry about your lack of skills to make the sketch perfect; instead, focus on the patterns of light and shadows and the space between things.
- Observe Flow
Observe flow of all kinds. How does water flow through this system? Use your own body to ask this question about and not what you observe. Is there anything you might want to change based on your observations? Make observations about all kinds of systems. For example, how do the wind and airflow affect your garden? What intercepts the flows that you see? What marks do they leave of their passage? What is the source of these flows? How is the source replenished?
- Observe Communities
Whether tribal, family, societal, or religious, communities seem to gather according to ideologies and values. How does human behavior affect our surroundings? What do you observe growing with what in the area where you are? Do you discern patterns among things? Which trees grow with which bushes, and which groundcover grows with each of these? Do you live in a desert, near the seashore, or by a forest or a glen, and what things in your area are different from those at your normal home base? Are the ferns in your yard different from the sword ferns under the redwood? Do you know how to remove the spines from a cactus from your skin or clothes? What is different at the seashore? What insects, birds, and animals seem to be connected with the plants you see? Do different plants play different roles in the community? What is a weed? How do you know? Are some plants serving as “nurses” for the young of others? Do some plants seem to stay distant from each other? Are some plants always found together? Note that some questions can only be answered when observations occur over time. Expand on the concept of community in all you observe. Observe a tree. How much information can you gain from your observations? Does a tree have feelings? What energy patterns do you notice? Does a twig grow into a branch? How long does it take?
- Observe Patterns
What patterns can you see in each area that you observe? How does human behavior disturb patterns in textures and patterns of growth or lack of growth? What patterns are repeated, and on what scale? Can you find spirals? Pentacles? Branching patterns? Why are certain patterns repeated over and over again in nature? Again, it might be helpful to sketch the patterns or forms you observe. Let sketch be a meditation to sharpen your ability to see and focus. Does what you see today change over time? Does the change take a day? A week? A month? A year?
- Observe Edges
Where does one system meet another in your home base? What edges exist in different places, such as the ocean or desert? Away from your home base, where is your favorite place, and what system prevents you from being there? How do you define your system? As we saw earlier, edges—places where forest meets meadow or ocean meets shore—are often the most diverse and fertile parts of an ecosystem. Is that true where you are? How does the edge differ from the center?
- Observe Limits
What limits the things that grow around your home base? Shade? Lack of water? Clay soil? Sandy soil? What other facts can you identify? How do these limiting factors make themselves evident? What seems held back? How have the plants and animals adapted to these limitations? What characteristics do the successful adapters have in common?
- Observe from Stillness
Sit still in your favorite spot for at least fifteen minutes; longer is better. Notice what you can see, and observe how that changes over time.
- Observe Past and Future
What can you observe in your home base that can tell you about the past and how this place might have changed over time? What can you observe that can tell you something about the future of this place?
Practicing these skills of observation and taking the time to ground and listen, we begin to be able to hear sounds that we have blocked out in the past. When we clear away some of our inner obstacles so that we can open up to the outside world, we allow ourselves to be present, and we can be fed and informed and delighted by the richness of life around us.
Exercise 6: Oranges and Oranges
What you will need: Your journal, drawing paper, a pen
When you get past making labels for things, it is possible to combine elements and transform them into new things. Look at things in your surroundings until their import, identity, name, use, and description have all dissolved. When we give names to things, we often assume that everything that goes by that name is alike. In the same way, we may miss similarities in things that we thought were not alike at all.
For this exercise, consider two similar things that you find in Nature: this can be two of the same kind of flower, two leaves from the same tree, two oranges, and so on. List how these two similar items are different from each other. After a week of doing some of the other exercises, recall the pair you choose in your mind’s eye and make another list. What new insight are you gleaning from making these lists?
Exercise 7: A Part of the Furniture
What you will need: Your journal, drawing paper, and a pen
We are accustomed to looking at objects. We need to become accustomed to seeing spaces between and around objects as if they, too, were solid. Seeing spaces can free us from deadly assumptions. Spaces can also help us understand where connections are made.
For this exercise, choose a dining room chair, bookcase, or some other piece of furniture and draw with elaborate detail the space you see around and through the item you’ve chosen. Do not draw the legs or the rungs of the chair back; draw the shape of the space between the rungs or the shape of the space between the books and the shelf above them.
“Love life… everything—pale lights, markets, medley of green lettuce, red cherries, golden grapes and purple eggplants—all so extraordinary! Incredible! You get excited, you talk to people and people talk to you, you touch and they touch you. All this is magical like some endless celebration.” —Eugene Lonesco
Deep within each of us is a knowing, a remembering. A part of each of us knows how to dance the sacred rhythms and knows the healing lore from the times when the voices of the plants, animals, and minerals could be heard. We have not lost our connection to these primal mysteries. Our society has simply not nurtured their remembrance, and yet the pattern is still there deep within us as an archive of memory from a time when the sacred was approached with awe and reverence. You know this is true because of the heart’s longing within you.
You have experienced the Call of the Soul or you would not have signed up for these lessons. You now embark on this Sacred Journey that will allow you to hear the voice of your own Ancestors from a time before time was kept. You will reclaim your legacy as a Keeper of a sacred dimension, and you will bring it back into harmonic relationship with the Earth.
Modern so-called civilization has brutalized both Nature and the natural part of ourselves because modern society is out of balance with Sacred Laws. Collectively we are faced with the challenge of renewing culture and building a sustainable society. Culture is the vehicle through which we can reenchant society and stop the cycles of destruction that civilization has brought.
Humanity has a spiritual relationship to the Earth, and the destruction of our world represents spiritual blindness. The Earth is not just a repository of natural resources to be used for economic gain. We are totally dependent on the air, water, and food-producing capacity of our ecosystem. It seems ridiculous to say such words, for it should be so obvious, yet collective denial is rampant, and we continue to take without replenishing. One reason this happening is because of our concept of linear history and time; in our current society, we lack the feedback loops so necessary to a sustainable system. Another is our preoccupation with physical aspects and exclusion of the metaphysical (intuition, heartfelt wisdom, relationship with the sacred, etc.). A third is Western culture’s dependence on rationalism ever since the Age of Reason became the dominant worldview. What these ways of being cause is a forgetting of balance.
Healthy systems are in a state of dynamic balance. When change occurs in one part of the system, the other parts adjust themselves to the change so that the overall equilibrium is restored. Operating in cyclical, regenerative time—as opposed to linear time—gives us the feedback necessary to know when equilibrium is disturbed. Because of the energies inherent in a circle, the ceremonial circle of the Sacred Wheel is an effective form for reconnecting with the web of interrelatedness of all life and thereby reclaiming the World Soul and the spirit of human culture in balance. Each time someone moves from fragmentation and isolation into unity, an aspect of the sacred World Soul is reclaimed, and that is an initiation as rigorous as any preindustrial shamanic ordeal.
We gratefully acknowledge those who have contributed to this material, especially Starhawk, from The Earth Path; Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms; Steve Thomas; Mattie and David Wolf; Lore and Gary Acevedo; James and Linda Mooney; Cam Mosier; and Elaine Payne.
Questions for the Introductory Lesson: Week 2
If you are seeking certification as a Teacher/Leader or Medicine Person, you are required
to email your answers to the questions below to the Institute via your private account.
- What is your experience of the Invocation Blessing Song and what meaning does it hold for you?
- Why is purification important?
- Why is setting an intention important?
- Why do you think we added a note from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?
- Why would you consecrate a Spirit Object?
- How would you care for a feather that had been soiled with oil?
- What did you learn from the nine ways to observe?
- What judgement came up for you when you were asked to draw?
- Why do we end each lesson with gratitude?
What does the statement above by Eugene Lonesco mean to you? Did you do anything with this exercise?