I first spoke with Joseph GreyWolf over the phone as we prepared for our trip to Sedona. Interested in the Native American culture, I googled Native American Ceremonies and found just what I was looking for. GreyWolf, a Lakota (Sioux) medicine elder, talked about the importance of the ancient customs of his people comparing them to today’s philosophy that is geared toward diminishing the value of rituals. To the Native Americans, ceremonial practices are powerful, deeply meaningful and germinate from their very being. They have made painstaking efforts to preserve rituals and customs through the generations.
There are a number of native ceremonies with multiple purposes such as healing, coming of age, celebrating and overcoming difficulties. We chose the Fire Ceremony. Fire is used to cleanse negative energy, clearing out what is holding you back.
Sedona is a special part of the Southwest, brimming with spiritual grounds, vortexes and sacred places. When you arrive in Sedona, you can’t help being awestruck by the beauty and contrasting landscape. The visual of the red rock mountains and the physical energy combines to heighten your senses stimulating peace, clarity and a feeling of oneness with nature. Native Americans believe nature is divine; they consider themselves to be a part of nature and not here to dominate it. Many of their ceremonies are for the regeneration of Mother Earth and spirit.
After a day of hiking Soldiers Pass, we headed out to commence with our Fire Ceremony. In preparation for our meeting, GreyWolf had asked us to make two lists. The first list was meant to be things we wanted to release, patterns or thoughts we no longer had use for. The second list should be composed of new intentions, requests we wanted to call forth to replace the negative issues from the past.
Upon arrival, GreyWolf guided us through the ritualistic Native American journey. We started by walking through the Medicine Wheel. The center symbolizes your spiritual center. All directions have a meaning: west represents strength and dreams, east brings knowledge and teaching, north is spirit, water and life and south gives wisdom. There is also a spiritual, mental, emotional and physical meaning to the wheel.
Next, the bonfire started and we began the fire ceremony. We were instructed to pick up handfuls of white sage and mediate as we dropped them into the fire. The sage flamed up the fire’s appetite kicking up the embers while a cleansing aroma of natural eucalyptus wafted through the night air. GreyWolf emerged with a hand carved box made by his grandfather and adorned with an Eagle. The box, we learned, held a secret treasure trove of items inside. He thoughtfully selected a few items and handed them to us. I received an Eagle feather, which I later learned evoked the power of gentle forgiveness. We sang an Indian chant while holding our handpicked items. He would not let us see inside the sacred box, but when he opened it, I snuck a peek and saw a bear’s claw and possibly some kind of a rattle from a snake. Special instruments were given to us: hand carved shakers, feather symbols and peculiar shaped rocks. The assigned items seemed to have meaning, as if he sensed what was going on inside of us.
As the fire was heating up we continued with the Sage Ritual. Sage is used for smudging and is a cleansing herb ritual. In our ceremony, Salvia Apiana or white sage was used. For thousands of years, smudging has been used as a way to remove negative energy and cleanse the mind, body and spirit.
GreyWolf was now dancing, singing and rounding the fire. The time had come for us to release our emotional baggage. We took the first list and threw it into the fire. The paper flamed up, smoked and turned to ash. The past now behind us, we were ready for our new intentions to take flight, we summoned Wakan Tanka, the creator, and lit it up.
Our dance was complete, we came full-circle, a turning point towards new possibilities. As we left our friend, I felt a lightness come over me. I looked up at the sky and saw the crossroads of two jet streams bulls eyed overhead.