The Elders tell us that all ceremonies, be they tribal or personal, must be entered into with a good heart, so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm. For this reason, we will now perform a smudging ceremony, where we will use the smoke of sacred medicines to purify ourselves, and to honour and acknowledge the universe around us. It is said that the smoke attaches itself to those things within us that are negative, and will carry these things away, if we allow it. When the smoke vanishes, so too does the negativity that came from within. This ceremony will acknowledge the seven sacred directions. The first four directions are the four main directions of the compass: East, South, West and North. When a Native American prays to the four directions, it is a prayer to the spirits of the world, to life and the Great Spirit that encompasses the four directions and everything that is. The Medicine Wheel is a symbol that incorporates the four directions. Its spokes point east, south, west, and north. The four quarters are colored white, yellow, red and black, representing the races of man, the seasons, and the stages of life from childhood to old age. The circle is the earth, the moon and the planets. It is the circle of life and all creation. The circle is traveled clockwise, following the motion of the sun in the sky. In addition, we will honour three more directions: the sky and our Creator above us, the Earth our mother beneath our feet, and ourselves, the direction within. By honouring all of these directions, we will have honoured all that is.
We first acknowledge the East direction, the direction of the sunrise and new beginnings. Each new sunrise brings us new light, and new opportunities to grow in wisdom. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the East to always place light in our words, and in our hearts, and on our paths. The East is the direction of the child, so we pray for the young of the world, that they may grow and live in peace, and become good leaders for our tomorrows. We acknowledge the Eagle, who sits in the east and carries our prayers to the Creator. We acknowledge the colour white, and the White Race that it represents. We acknowledge sweetgrass, the medicine of the east, and give thanks for its presence here today, and acknowledge water, the element of the East. We invite all Eastern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now acknowledge the South direction, the direction of summer warmth and abundance. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the South to bring us the warm winds of compassion, whose fragrance speaks of distant springs and summer days, to melt the ice that can gather around our hearts, dissolve our fears, melt our hatreds, and kindle our love into flames of true and living realities. South is the direction of the woman, and we honour them as the gateways through which our spirits come to earth, and we ask that women everywhere be protected for they are sacred. We acknowledge the Thunderbird, who sits in the South and puts his thunder in the storms. We acknowledge the colour yellow, and the Yellow Race that it represents. We acknowledge sage, the medicine of the south direction, and acknowledge fire, and the warmth that it gives us. We invite all Southern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We next turn to the West direction, the direction of the setting sun, and of the autumn season. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the South to remind us that the end our days is no more sad than the end of a single day, and that the end is often better than the beginning. West is the direction of the Elders, and we honour our Elders as the keepers of wisdom and teachers of patience. West is also the direction of our Ancestors, and we proudly acknowledge those who have gone before us, and ask for their guidance so we can live our lives as we should. We acknowledge the Black Bear, who sits in the West direction and is both the keeper of medicine knowledge and grower of the medicines. We acknowledge the colour red, and the Red Race that it represents. We acknowledge cedar, the western medicine, and earth, the western element. We invite all Western spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now turn to the North, the direction of the winter that covers the Earth with a sparkling crystal carpet above whose deep tranquility every sound is beautiful. We ask the Grandmothers and Grandfathers of the North to temper us with strength to withstand the biting blizzards, yet make us thankful for the beauty which follows and lies deep over the warm Earth in its wake. West is the men’s direction, and we honour men as the providers and protectors of the family, and of the nation. We acknowledge the White Bear, who lives in the far North, and honour him for his ability to thrive in harsh conditions, and ask for his strength when we face trials in our lives. We acknowledge the colour black, and the Black Race that it represents. We acknowledge the fungus, medicine of the North, and air, the element of the North. We invite all Northern spirits of good intent to join us in our ceremony today.
We now raise our eyes to Father Sky, and to Kisulk, our Creator. As we look upon the day’s infinite blue sky, or admire the countless stars of the night, we are reminded that the Great Spirit is vast, beautiful and majestic beyond all of our knowing or telling. But we are also reminded that the Great Spirit is no further from us then the tilting upwards of our heads and the raising of our eyes. We offer our thanks for all the things of creation, and for being allowed to be a part of it. We offer thanks for the visions and dreams that help us remember who we are, and why we are here, and ask that all people be given this wonderful gift. We ask our Creator to be with us today.
We now look downward upon Turtle Island, our source of life. We give thanks to our Mother Earth for all we have: our food, our water, air, shelter, and so many beautiful beings who are our Brothers and Sisters. We ask that we always remain aware that we are all interconnected in the web of life, for there are too many who are blind to this fact. As our Mother, the Earth has shown us much patience in our greed and thoughtlessness, but we now know better. We ask for the strength to defend Mother Earth when she needs it, as any grown child should defend their mother. We promise to always walk softly upon her face, for underneath our feet are the roots of the trees, the flowers and the grasses, and there can be no greater aspiration than to strive for a deep respect and connection with all our relations.
Finally, we look within, and acknowledge and honour our own spirits. We often don’t consider ourselves to be of value or to be important, but we are. The Creator, the Great Spirit, is in all of us. We are an essential part of life. We are life in action, loving, moving and growing. In our center is the home of our Heart – may we always return to this place, so that we may know the meaning of our journey. From here, the center of our being, we can reach out to all directions, and to all our relations. However, we must always remember be humble, for we are NOT the center of creation. We must always listen to our hearts, the tiny Elder within us who can never lie, and never mislead us.
FINAL THOUGHTS DURING SMUDGING:
As we stand in a circle to be smudged and cleansed, consider the words of Black Elk, spiritual advisor to the Oglala Sioux, regarding the Circle of Life: “You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days, when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. “The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The East gave peace and light, the South gave warmth, The West gave rain and the North, with its cold and mighty wind, gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does, is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard the earth is round like a ball and so are the stars. The Wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves. Our Teepees were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.” from Black Elk Speaks, pp. 198-200 Here is a healing prayer, spoken by Medicine Grizzly Bear during the Earth Healing Ceremony, Spokane, Washington, 1990: O Great Creator, I come before you in a humble manner. With tears in my eyes and an ancient song from my heart I pray. To the four powers of Creation, to the Grandfather Sun, to the Grandmother Moon, to the Mother Earth, and to my ancestors. I pray for my relations in Nature, all those who walk, crawl, fly, and swim, seen and unseen, and to the good spirits that exist in every part of Creation. I ask that you bless our elders and children, families, and friends, and the brothers and sisters who are in prison. I pray for the ones who are sick on drugs and alcohol and for those who are now homeless and forlorn. I also pray for peace among the four races of humankind. May there be good health and healing for this Earth, may there be Beauty above me, may there be Beauty below me, may there be Beauty in me, may there be Beauty all around me. I ask that this world be filled with Peace, Love, and Beauty.
Prayer To The Four Directions – Chief Seattle
Great Spirit of Light, come to me out of the East (red) with the power of the rising sun. Let there be light in my words, let there be light on my path that I walk. Let me remember always that you give the gift of a new day. And never let me be burdened with sorrow by not starting over again. Great Spirit of Love, come to me with the power of the North (white). Make me courageous when the cold wind falls upon me. Give me strength and endurance for everything that is harsh, everything that hurts, everything that makes me squint. Let me move through life ready to take what comes from the north. Great Life-Giving Spirit, I face the West (black), the direction of sundown. Let me remember everyday that the moment will come when my sun will go down. Never let me forget that I must fade into you. Give me a beautiful color, give me a great sky for setting, so that when it is my time to meet you, I can come with glory. Great Spirit of Creation, send me the warm and soothing winds from the South (yellow). Comfort me and caress me when I am tired and cold. Unfold me like the gentle breezes that unfold the leaves on the trees. As you give to all the earth your warm, moving wind, give to me, so that I may grow close to you in warmth. Man did not create the web of life, he is but a strand in it. Whatever man does to the web, he does to himself.
Four Directions Prayer
Creator, it is I. Thank you for today’s sunrise, for the breath and life within me, and for all of your creations. Creator, hear my prayer, and honor my prayer. As the day begins with the rising sun, I ask, Spirit keeper of the East, Brother Eagle, Be with me. Fly high as you carry my prayers to the Creator. May I have eyes as sharp as yours, so I am able to see truth and hope on the path I have chosen. Guide my step and give me courage to walk the circle of my life with honesty and dignity. Spirit keeper of the South, Wolf, Be with me. Help me to remember to love and feel compassion for all mankind. Help me to walk my path with joy and love for myself, for others, for the four legged, the winged ones, the plants and all creation upon Mother Earth. Show me it is right for me to make decisions with my heart, even if at times, my heart becomes hurt. Help me to grow and nurture my self worth in all ways. Spirit Keeper of the West, Brown Bear, Be with me. Bring healing to the people I love and to myself. Bring into balance the physical, mental and spiritual, so I am able to know my place on this earth, in life and in death. Heal my body, heal my mind and bring light, joy and awareness to my spirit. Spirit Keeper of the North, White Buffalo, Be with me. As each day passes, help me to surrender, with grace, the things of my youth. Help me to listen to the quiet, and find serenity and comfort in the silences as they become longer. Give me wisdom so I am able to make wise choices in all things which are put in front of me, And when time for my change of worlds has come, Let me go peacefully, without regrets, for the things I neglected to do as I walked along my path. Mother Earth, Thank you for your beauty, And for all you have given me. Remind me never to take from you more then I need, and remind me to always give back more than I take.