Ceremonial Dance experiences…

Well, this is the first instalment of my blog! I’m not sure yet what I’m going to write or what shape it’s going to take. All I know is that I want to share about my experiences.

I have always been interested in spirituality, especially in the way that Native Americans express it. But as I am not Native American I never felt it was right for me to take part in their ceremonies, especially in light of how they have been treated by our so called civilised society.

However, some years ago I was invited to come to a ceremonial dance. This dance was started by a Pueblo/Ute medicine man, Joseph Rael, also known as Beautiful Painted Arrow.  He had a vision that he should encourage people to build sound chambers and do ceremonies aimed at healing themselves and Mother Earth. These ceremonies are not restricted to Native Americans, in fact, they are specifically aimed at people who are not of that race.

I was asked to come to the SunMoonDance as a Dog Soldier, a helper. But, being a musician, I wanted to be one of the drummers! My wish was granted on condition that I would arrive at the dance site a few days early so that I would have time to learn the songs with the rest of the drumteam. And so it happened.

We spent a week rehearsing, at first using an upside down washing bowl because the Drum hadn’t arrived yet! It was a joyous thing to do, getting together with the other two members of the team every morning and going through all the songs we would play at the Dance. After a few days the Drum was brought from America, made from cottonwood with buffalo skin on top. What a Drum! On the side were the words: “The Wargods Have Gone Home”. This is the Drum that has been used ever since, its deep sound driving many Dances.

A round structure, called Arbour, had been built that would serve as the area where the actual Dance would take place. The Dance would begin after all the participants, Dancers, Drummers and Dog Soldiers had been to the sweat lodge where prayers are offered in preparation of the ceremony.

View of the Arbour                    A view of the Arbour. The Tree is in the centre and the dance paths are still visible

The Dancers would dance from friday afternoon until monday morning during the daylight hours, with rests but without food or water. Not easy!

I had my doubts about the safety of going without water for all that time but it appears that no one has ever been adversely affected. Also, a Dancer can decide to finish early if he or she wants to. Such a decision is always respected and does not mean failure to complete the Dance.

We would all get up at sunrise and greet the Sun with a special song. Then the first round of the day would begin, followed by a break. After resting another round would follow and another break and so on, until sunset. Then the Dancers would go to their places in the Arbour and sleep until sunrise…

Recently I have actually danced after about 12 years of being a Drummer or Dog Soldier. It was an amazing experience, a journey which took me deep into my own being. I do not wish to share the details at this time, not because I feel it’s too personal or private but because I have been advised to keep it to myself for the time being so that the power of the experience remains unaffected.

to be continued…

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