Happy New Year!
Welcome to 2010. The last year has been very busy for me, to say the
least. 2009 was full of drama at work people getting fired, hired,
quitting, more people hired, I finally got a raise, and all kinds of
changes both good and not so good. Personally, Ive been
busy with my art, my website, designing new logos, and trying to find
time to relax. I learned a great deal about myself spiritually this
last year as well. And really, thats the most important. I was
granted some amazing opportunities on my path, and followed them with
wonderful results. I already know from the Goddess, that the first 3
months of this new year will be very important for my spiritual life.
I have a feeling that the rest of 2010 will be full of awakenings, too.
This will be the year of my first Vision Quest, an opportunity presented
by a blessed and powerful Shaman named Phoenix. This will be the year
of my Crystal/Stone Healing certification, an opportunity presented
by healing practitioners, Chris & Dave. This will be the year of
an entire re-do on my website, Flying Cat Productions, an opportunity
presented first by me finally drawing my own logo, and by my
great web mistress, Laura. So I think I will be busy this year.
Hopefully 2009 was happy and healthy for you. And if it was not ideal,
heres a chance to start the new year off right. Make your resolutions,
burn away the negative from the past, check off things from that long
to do list, whatever...just make the changes you feel you
need to improve your life in 2010. We can always begin again. And if
it doesnt work out perfectly, theres always 2011, right...?!
Wishing you good health, joy, prosperity, and blessings in the New
The full moon was actually on Dec. 31. It was a Blue Moon, and there
was a lunar eclipse that day as well. The eclipse occurred in the
middle of the after noon, so we were unable to witness it here in
Michigan. However, the powerful energies of the Blue Moon and the
eclipse were still present. Read Infinite Flames Blue Moon Newsletter
all about the 2 different types of Blue Moons.
The Inipi Ceremony
I will begin with a quote from Ed McGaa, Eagle Man: "The Sweat
Lodge Ceremony is impossible to describe fully. You have to experience
it to truly realize its fullness and depth." And I agree. Nevertheless,
here's my attempt:
The Sunday after my drum-making workshop, Nov. 22, I got to experience
my first Sweat Lodge ceremony. In the Lakota language it is called the
Inipi. (The Lakota people are who Westerners call the
Sioux Indians .) Id never been to a Sweat Lodge, and didnt
know what to expect, but I was excited to do it. I didnt read
about it beforehand; I wanted to go into it just experiencing whatever
would happen. I didnt want my ever present logical mind to interfere
with the primal feelings of the experience itself, at least not for
the first time. I am always the person who researches everything and
wants an explanation, usually a very scientific one, for everything.
But not this time...
Our Inipi ceremony began around 10 am, at Upland Hills Ecological Awareness
Center, in Oxford, MI. It was led by Jorge Arenivar, Pipe Carrier
& Sun Dancer, who taught the drum-making class. He has attended
and led many Inipi ceremonies. He was assisted by others who had participated
in the Sweat Lodge before. Julie helped us all make prayer ties before
the lodge was ready. For the prayer tie, we each chose different colors
of fabric squares the color could represent whatever you wished,
although it is common to use at least 4 pieces to symbolize the 4
directions that were attached to red yarn. Before tying the
material on, we took a pinch of tobacco, one of the sacred plants,
touched it to the ground, the Earth Mother, and whispered our prayer
into it. Then we breathed into it to awaken its Spirit, put it on
the fabric, and then the fabric pouch was tied onto the yarn. We could
leave the prayer ties in the lodge as we prayed aloud, burn them in
the fire as an offering, or keep them if we wanted.
It was a little walk from the center to the lodge. There was a large
stone Medicine Wheel set up nearby the lodge, big enough for several
people to walk into. The fire was near the lodge, and between it and
the lodge was an altar with a large staff, drums, rattles, feathers,
stones, and various articles that people had brought to the sacred space.
One man began the opening song, inviting the Great Spirit to our purification
ritual, and we all sang. He also tended the fire with another, and heated
the stones. Two women used sage and large wings to smudge everyone,
before entering the inner circle around the lodge. Once we were ready
everyone walked once around the fire, then bowed down to the ground
and touched Mother Earth before entering the lodge. Upon entering everyone
said, Mitakuye oyasin, which translates to all my relations,
all my relatives, we are all related or all
There were two rings around the pit in the lodge, an inner and outer
ring, accommodating about 30 or so people total. The heated stones were
brought in by shovel & pitchfork, and moved with antlers to the
pit. When the stones were brought in they were greeted with, Aho,
Grandmother!, for they are the Stone People. To create the steam
Jorge sprinkled water on the hot stones with a pine branch and
sometimes he sprinkled us, too and a dipper to pour on water
creating lots of heat and steam. There were Four Endurances, four separate
sessions of the lodge, each with an opportunity to leave if necessary.
Each endurance when the tarp door to the lodge was closed
lasted about 30 minutes, so the entire ceremony was about 2 hours, not
counting the prayer ties, beginning song, smudging, and of course eating
Traditionally the Inipi was used as a purification ceremony before
engaging in other spiritual practices, like the Vision Quest or Sun
Dance. This Inipi was a ritual onto itself, and also to bless the drums
that were made the previous day. The Inipi incorporates all of the Elements
in ceremony: we are on the Earth, in a structure created of Earth-based
materials, which represents the womb of the Great Mother; the stones
(also of the Earth) are heated by Fire in the lodge; Water is poured
on the hot stones creating steam, in this case the representation of
Air, the Great Winds; also when the door is opened Air rushes into the
lodge during each endurance. And, of course, Spirit is with us.
Our Sweat Lodge consisted of both men and women. As you sweat your
lifeblood mingles with the lifeblood of the other participants, creating
a brother & sisterhood among all. When the first rocks were brought
in they were glowing orange-red like molten lava. Sometimes you would
see symbols and messages in the glowing stones. Jorge offered up an
opening prayer, then the first dipper of water was poured on the stones
to create steam.
The Four Endurances
A few notes: All of the following italicized words are Lakota.
The traditional color associations were given by the Six Grandfathers
(4 for each of the powers of the 4 directions, plus one for the Spirit
of the Sky, and one that was really Mother Earth, the Spirit of the
Earth) to Black Elk in his vision:
East = Red for the rising dawn; the peace pipe, knowledge, wisdom,
& peace; the purifying Air.
South = Yellow for the hoop of healing & the Sun Dance Tree;
the circle of life, growth & unity of all people; the creative Fire.
West = Black for the womb of life; the bow & power; the life-giving
North = White for the sacred sage herb; the wing of cleansing,
endurance, courage; the strengthening Earth.
These 4 traditional colors represent the 4 races of people on Earth
as well. I have also seen the associations slightly different: East
= Yellow, South = Red, West = Black, and North
= White. I have read that sometimes Purple is now substituted for the
traditional White in the North, and Blue is sometimes used to represent
the Water in the West instead of Black, in modern more Western styled
ceremonies. Of course I have my own color associations, a combination
of both Shamanic and Magickal tradition. Different things work for different
Great Spirit is addressed as Wakan Tanka; it is more formal
and a good general way to greet Spirit. The female aspect of Great Spirit
is Unci, Grandmother. And the male aspect is Tankashilah,
Grandfather. Often in private prayer the Great Spirit is addressed by
Unci and Tankashilah, acknowledging that we are all grandchildren.
Aho is a word used to acknowledge a person after they have spoken.
It is also used as an acknowledgement, like a greeting, to greet people,
spirits, animals, energies within plants, stones, etc...
The first endurance is the Wityopeyata, represented by
the West. Here the spirit world is recognized and invited to the ceremony.
Jorge said a short opening prayer of acknowledgement to Great Spirit.
He placed juniper and pine on the fire as an offering. It smelled so
wonderful! He poured the first dipper on water on the stones. He thanked
all of us for being at the ceremony. He explained that we are all connected
and that by doing this ritual we were now all brothers and sisters.
Time for meditation. There was a song of unity and the first round of
drumming. Mitakuye oyasin! And the door was opened.
The second endurance is the Waziya, represented by the
North. It is symbolized by courage and recognizing our true selves.
Jorge put sage and juniper on the fire as an offering, another wonderful
smell. After the dipper of water is poured on new stones, everyone had
a chance to offer up prayers to Great Spirit. This takes courage, talking
about inner feelings, fears, & hopes to others. It was at this time
when people became the most emotional, but also learned a great deal
about themselves. Usually prayers go in a clockwise pattern, beginning
with the person leading the lodge, but after Jorge offered his prayer,
anyone who wished could say theirs; we did not follow a pattern. After
each prayer wed acknowledge the persons gift with Aho!
Occasionally others would call out words of encouragement or inspiration
from Great Spirit to the person offering their prayer. There were no
rules; you said what you felt, and no one was judged. This time there
was more water and steam, less drumming, and more talking for the prayers.
He sprinkled us with water using the branch so our lifeblood would flow
into the Earth; we gave of ourselves back to the Mother. It ended with
a short round of drumming. Mitakuye oyasin! And the door was
The third endurance is the Wiyoheyapa, represented by
the East. Jorge placed lavender on the fire as an offering, which smelled
so soothing and beautiful. More heated stones are brought in by the
fire tenders and greeted. This is the time of knowledge and wisdom,
and the Ancestors were called for Their guidance. Prayers continued,
becoming more personal, and more healing. It is here when we learn the
most about ourselves. A song of prayer was sung, and there was drumming.
It was at this time that my drum was played in the lodge, first by Jorge,
then by myself. Then my drum was used for another prayer song, this
one about the gifts of Mother Earth. How appropriate. (By the way, Jorge
didnt know that Earth was my Element.) Mitakuye oyasin!
And the door was opened.
The fourth endurance is the Itokaga, represented by the
South. Many more stones were added this time. And I think Jorge did
3 to 5 dippers of water over the course of this session. I lost track
of how many, but there was a lot of steam, and I mean a LOT. This is
the time of healing and growth. It is here where the most drumming,
rattling, and singing took place. Jorge asked Great Spirit for healing
for all brothers and sisters of the lodge. A song of healing was sung.
Another prayer to call on Great Spirit to help us all to grow in harmony
with all around us, on our paths, in all aspects of our lives, and with
greatest respect for Nature and our fellow creatures. Another song,
for Nature. Another prayer of gratitude to Great Spirit for bringing
us all together to experience this ceremony. Another song, this one
very loud and exuberant, this was a song of joy and acceptance of blessings,
a song of gratitude for the gifts of Wakan Tanka. Intense drumming,
rattling, and shouts of praise, happiness, and thanks followed. More
water on the stones. We were filled with the healing love of Mother
Earth. Great Spirit had blessed us. The steam subsided and a final closing
prayer was said. Mitakuye oyasin! And the door was opened for
the last time.
As I said in the last newsletter, not everyone endured all four doors.
Sometimes people left temporarily to use the restroom, and then came
back in once the door was opened. No one was required to stay for all
four endurances. It was only expected that if you leave you face your
brothers and sisters and explain to them the reason for your departure.
If anyone felt weak or too hot or couldnt breathe properly from
the steam, they exited. And no one judged him or her. We would acknowledge
their honesty and were honored for their presence in whichever endurance
they participated. And if they chose to return they were welcome. The
heat was so intense that we were advised to remove metal jewelry as
it could burn the skin (although I did keep my favorite most special
ring on and did not get burned, but it did get very hot), and plastic
could melt, so people with plastic frame glasses were wise to remove
them too. Sometimes, the emotional release was too much for a person
to handle and had to walk away to gather their thoughts. Again, this
is all part of the healing experience. And no one is admonished for
leaving after one of the endurances. That being said, I did endure all
four. For my first time at an Inipi, and for someone who cant
stand the heat, I consider this a great physical feat and even more
importantly, a very powerful spiritual purification.
After the lodge was ended some people stayed to talk around the fire.
One man was carving a staff. People collected things off the altar.
Some walked in the woods. I went back to the center and changed my clothes,
as eventually everyone else did too. I was dripping wet dripping!
Then I took my drum into the pine woods near the lodge and presented
it to GrandmotherGrandfather Great Spirit, the 4 directions & my
totems, to Father Sky and Mother Earth, and drummed a little myself.
It was my own private little ceremony acknowledging the spirits and
totems that have always been there to help me. The entire experience
was like stepping back in time, to the way our ancestors used to live
so close to the Earth. Really it was stepping out of time. For when
a sacred space is created it exists outside of ordinary reality, an
existence of its own, its own spiritual world often with different physical
laws than mundane reality. People retreated to the center were everyone
got to share in all the food. Everyone who participated in the Inipi
brought food or drink to share. This was also a good way to ground again
after being at such a high vibrational level during the lodge.
Some people do the Sweat Lodges regularly. I am on the mailing list
for Upland Hills, and get a monthly update when they are doing various
activities. I want to do another Inipi ceremony. Its especially
nice in the winter months because it really makes you appreciate the
heat and the cold much more. I dont know their schedule for 2010
yet, but I am hoping to do another lodge with the people in the Shamanism
workshop I am taking.