Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Traditions and Ritual

Some people think it's fate. My friend calls them magic moments. When things just connect in time. An opportunity of sorts. And everything falls into place. It's the way I felt when... First of all, let me explain.

In the October issue of First Monday magazine, I revealed my interest in the Crone Ceremony. A Write Happy Old Crone  Of course, it’s written in the style of all my columns: tongue in cheek. I’d come across some info on women celebrating age with pageantry and ritual, a tradition practised for hundreds of years, . I immediately embraced the idea. It's my fervent hope that one day I will be a participant. Perhaps, it will be necessary to be organizer, as well.

One of the ponds on David Plain's property

A few days ago, my husband and I enjoyed a tour with other nature enthusiasts on David D. Plain’s Aamjiwnaang land. Aside from the natural surroundings, other dimensions of this tour captured my interest.
I was fascinated by the sweat lodge we came upon in a clearing. Naturally, I encouraged David, local author and historian, to enlighten us.
Sweat Lodge, David Plain File Photo
Dried remnants of cedar boughs from the last ceremony, also known as a Purification Ceremony, were evident on the open domed structure. A dug out pit for the hot stones was in the centre. These red hot rocks called ‘grandfathers’ are heated for four hours in a separate pit outside the lodge before the ceremony begins. According to David, ‘small cedar boughs are put in the water that is used to sprinkle on the hot stones or 'grandfathers'. This sanctifies the water for use. Cedar is one of the four sacred plants.’
The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
The hut, enclosed in canvas for the sweat lodge ceremony, is large enough for a circle of a half dozen people. David explained that a leader oversees the ritual. Four or more hours of discussion, song, and prayer.

I experienced an aha moment. Purification is also part of the Crone Ceremony. It is suggested that the individual bathe in warm water while consciously purging discouraging thoughts. It is the belief that all negativity will drain away with the bath water.

My mind was still focused on ritual when we came across the remains of a fasting shelter in the bush, triggering my curiosity. Again, David patiently explained the rudiments of this tradition. Fasters go to a place where they can be totally alone for five days. They prepare by participating in a sweat lodge ceremony immediately before they go out to do their fast. He was quick to point out that the person denying himself food and water is checked on periodically.
Fasting Lodge, David Plain File Photo

Oh, and the Faster has a spiritual helper. They are spiritually connected by a ceremony that is held at the main lodge even before they do their Sweat (this aroused more curiosity). The Helper remains at the main lodge, eating and drinking for the Faster. I concluded that I’d make a better Helper than Faster.

Fasting seems like an appropriate addition to the documented steps for the Crone Ceremony. Nothing as extreme as five days in the woods, but some kind of a fast would fit well with the purification part of the ceremony. Like the fasting ritual, the Crone Ceremony is traditionally followed by a feast. A celebration.

It all came together for me. Ritual, tradition, spiritualism. Now, more than ever, I understand the meaning of preparing oneself, mind and body. In my case, for the privilege of joining the Sisterhood of Crones for the final stage of life. A long stage, mind you, but the last third of my life, nonetheless.

I'm thankful for the timely nature walk that stirred my passions and opened my mind to the dignity and honour of practising rituals.

David D Plain is a First Nations historian/author living on Aamjiwnaang Territory, an Indian Reserve in Southwestern Ontario. Among his impressive credits, in 2014 a film production company from Toronto optioned the film rights to his latest two books for a television drama series. He's also had...well, check it out for yourself. 
Here's a link to an interview by Gloria Pearson-Vasey for Writers Networking 

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