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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Buryat Shamanic Prayer Poles

Photo by Simon Matzinger
The Republic of Buryatia is home of the Buryats, a people of Northern Mongols. The republic is located in the south-central region of Siberia along the eastern shore of Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen surface fresh water. For Buryat Shamanists and Buddhists, Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal is a sacred and holy place. Along Cape Burkhan on Olkhon Island there is a very important pilgrimage site -- Shamanka (shaman) Rock, one of the nine holy places of Asia. If you walk along Cape Burkhan, you will come across serges -- ritual poles swaddled in cloth and ribbons left by pilgrims. It is custom to tie a ribbon to a serge and make a prayer to promote peace, compassion, and wisdom. Pilgrims believe the prayers will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Different elements are associated with different colors -- a blue ribbon symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. According to Buddhist tradition, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World"

Rumble is a feature documentary about the role of Native Americans in popular music history, a little-known story built around the incredible lives and careers of the some of the greatest music legends. With music icons like Charley Patton, Link Wray, Oscar Pettiford, Mildred Bailey, Peter Lafarge, Jimi Hendrix, Jessie Ed Davis, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Rita Coolidge, and Robbie Robertson, Rumble will show how these gifted Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives and, through their contributions, influenced and shaped American and international popular culture. Rumble tells the story of a profound, essential, and until now, missing chapter in the history of American popular music. To learn more, visit Rumble.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

10 Reasons Why You Should be Making Prayer Ties

The sacrament tobacco is used cross-culturally as a unifying thread of communication between humans and the spiritual powers. Offering tobacco smoke or a pinch of dry tobacco carries our prayers to the "Loom of Creation," thereby reweaving the pattern of existence in accordance with those prayers. Prayer ties are spiritual offerings created by wrapping tobacco into a cloth while praying and focusing on your intention -- what you desire or expect to accomplish. They should be thought of as a physical manifestation of your prayer.

A prayer tie is made with a small (about 2") square of 100% cotton cloth and it is usually tied with 100% cotton string. The cotton cloth is usually red, but can be of any color, depending on the circumstances, which tradition you are following, or what your intuition tells you. To make a prayer tie, begin by smudging yourself and your materials. After smudging, take a pinch of tobacco and focus on your intention while holding it. Next, place the pinch of tobacco at the center of the cloth. Gently bundle the tobacco into the cloth, and then loop the string around the bundle and pull tightly. If you are making more than one prayer tie, space them evenly on the string. I usually make a tobacco tie for each of the six directions -- East, South, West, North, Above and Below.

Making a small sacred bundle to hold the tobacco makes it easier to carry on your person, to make an offering of to another person, and to hold onto for longer periods of time. As with any sacred object, treat your prayer ties with the honor and respect they deserve. Upon completion, prayer tie offerings might be left hanging in a tree, buried in the ground, left on a mountain top, added to your sacred space, or offered to grandfather fire. When prayer ties are ritually burned, they open a path of communication between the human world and the spirit world. Here are 10 good reasons for making prayer ties:

1. For personal protection. Everyone should make personal prayer ties and then carry them at all times for protection from negativity. I carry my prayer ties in a small leather pouch that I wear around my neck.

2. To protect your home from negative or unwanted energies. You should hang a string of prayer ties over each door to your home. I also hang a strand of ties over the main east-facing window of my home.

3. As a way to honor and safeguard sacred objects. I always store a string of prayer ties in with items like my sacred pipe and shamanic drum.

4. When someone is ill. Making prayer ties is a good way to pray for friends and loved ones who are sick or injured. 

5. To prepare for ceremony. The making of prayer ties is a wonderful way to prepare for ceremonies such as sweat lodge, vision quest, or whenever there is a sacred fire.

6. When someone has died. Creating prayer ties is a good way to pray for the safe passage of newly deceased souls. Unfortunately, many of the psychopomp myths and rituals that once helped prepare people for this final rite of passage have become lost or forgotten. When people are unprepared to face death, they often need additional assistance crossing over into the spirit world.

7. As a sign of friendship. Gifting someone with a prayer tie is a great way to show how much you value their friendship.

8. When you are seeking advice or information from someone. Giving a tobacco tie to someone who has helped you is a good way to show your appreciation for what they have done for you.

9. As an offering of gratitude to Mother Earth. Foster a reciprocal relationship of meaning to the Earth. Take time to honor and respect the reciprocal cycle of give and take, for Mother Earth provides everything we need to live and flourish.

10. Anytime you feel called to pray to the Creator. Regular prayer is a cornerstone of spiritual practice. Over time, frequent prayers help to dissolve our mind and through them we gain access to Divine consciousness. Praying brings us Divine help, reduces our ego, grants us forgiveness of mistakes, and much more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Ghost Dance at Standing Rock

Siege at Standing Rock
Early Wednesday morning, the acting secretary of the army -- appointed two weeks ago by President Trump -- ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to reverse course and grant the permits necessary for the Dakota Access Pipeline to be completed. Hours later, the barricades on Highway 1806 were taken down, paving the way for a raid of one of the Water Protectors' newly established camps by militarized police and the North Dakota National Guard. American Indian activist Chase Iron Eyes was among dozens of demonstrators arrested after trying to establish a new camp on private property located on the west side of N.D. Highway 1806 in southern Morton County, North Dakota. 

For much of 2016, demonstrators in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, withstood tear gas, arrests, rubber bullets and severe weather while camped out in an isolated area that has become known as Oceti Sakowin Camp. While on its face, the encampments are demonstrations against an oil pipeline, some have called the battle between a Dallas-based oil company and the Standing Rock Sioux a larger civil rights movement for Native Americans -- a comparison bolstered by law enforcement's use of water cannons on protesters in late November 2016.

The Last Ghost Dancers

Chase Iron Eyes, a former Congressional candidate and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, calls the demonstration "our Ghost Dance." The Ghost Dance was a new religious movement incorporated into numerous American Indian belief systems in the late 1880s in an attempt to revitalize traditional culture and to find a way to face increasing poverty, hunger, and disease. According to the teachings of the Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka, proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with spirits of the dead, bring the spirits of the dead to fight on their behalf, make the white colonists leave, and bring peace, prosperity, and unity to indigenous peoples throughout the region. He also stated that the people must be good and love one another, and not fight, steal, lie or engage in war.

The Ghost Dance was based on the circle dance. Participants joined hands and sidestepped clockwise around a circle, stooping to pick up dirt and throwing it in the air, all the while singing special songs and striving to fall into a visionary trance. Each ceremony lasted for five successive days and was repeated every six weeks. The ritual dance swept throughout much of the Western United States, quickly reaching areas of California and Oklahoma. As the Ghost Dance spread from its original source, Indian tribes synthesized selective aspects of the ritual with their own beliefs.