Stone Whisperer Newsletter

  January 4, 2010
Full Moon – Cold Moon    

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, I’ve 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, that’s 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, here’s 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 doesn’t work out perfectly, there’s always 2011, right...?!

Wishing you good health, joy, prosperity, and blessings in the New Year.

~~~ Alicia

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 Flame’s 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 .) I’d never been to a Sweat Lodge, and didn’t know what to expect, but I was excited to do it. I didn’t read about it beforehand; I wanted to go into it just experiencing whatever would happen. I didn’t 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 are related”.

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 afterwards.

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 Water.
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 people.

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 we’d acknowledge the person’s 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 opened.

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 didn’t 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 couldn’t 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 can’t 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. It’s especially nice in the winter months because it really makes you appreciate the heat and the cold much more. I don’t know their schedule for 2010 yet, but I am hoping to do another lodge with the people in the Shamanism workshop I am taking.


Quote of the Month

There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.

Heáka Sápa(Black Elk)

December 1863 – August 17 or August 19, 1950

Famous Wiháša Waká (Medicine Man or Holy Man) of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux).

Additional Sources

Mother Earth Spirituality.
Ed McGaa, Eagle Man.

The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk's Teachings.
Given to John G. Neihardt.
Edited by Raymond J. Demallie.
1960. 1985.

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux.
As told to John G. Neihardt.
1932. 2004.

Moon name is a traditional Cherokee name for January’s full moon.

Check out Full Moon Names from Various Cultures for more.

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