Wednesday was a day of new beginnings for me. It was the day I started the project with the new client that I have been undergoing the arduous recruitment process for. It is a very different working environment to the corporate environment I am used to. It is more like a government office environment, i.e. it is rather dirty and low budget. If you want a cup of coffee there is only instant available and you have to bring your own spoon and cup to make it. None of the luxuries of ground coffee beans and an espresso like the office I am in on Mondays and Tuesdays. You have to bring your own plate, knife and fork as well as your own food unless you want to risk walking down the main road for sustenance. You will be taking your life in your own hands to walk down the road on your own as it is a rather chaotic street.
The bathrooms are horrific. You feel the need to wash your hands after going to wash your hands there.
It is a long travel time to get here, I spend about 20 minutes getting through one single junction which queues up for miles. The full trip is almost an hour each way.
I do not have comfy, safe, dry undercover parking, I park across the road and have to walk through a rather unsavoury, dirty, noisy street to get to the offices. If it is raining, then my laptop and I just get drenched. If you have never been to Africa you cannot conceptualise the noise of an African taxi rank which is just outside my desk window. A constant hooting of horns, whistles of the guys touting for passengers, shouting and catcalling. It is deafening and difficult to concentrate.
However the work seems like it will be interesting and I will learn new skills and have the knowledge and experience of a new system to add to my CV. It is a common system being rolled out to multiple universities internationally. Also in the current economic climate I am just grateful for work, I will adjust to the other details soon I am sure. But that does not mean you won’t have to listen to me whinge. 🙂
Wednesday was also the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere.
I was invited to attend a Sweat Lodge to celebrate the Solstice. The sweat lodge has many uses and can be used to achieve whatever you wish; either just for cleansing and purification or to get answers and guidance by asking spiritual entities or the Great Spirit and Mother Earth for wisdom, or help with an issue.
The lodge itself is made up of saplings tied together and draped with blankets to keep in the heat from the stones. An actual fire is not built inside, the heat is from stones heated in the ceremonial fire pit outside of the lodge.
The ceremony has protocols which must be honoured before you even arrive, you should either fast or have only light fruit for at least a few hours prior to entering the lodge. Women who are on their moon cycle should not enter the lodge. We were asked to dress in skirts or dresses and the women should cover their shoulders, the men should wear a shirt to cover their chests. I wore a long dress and a sarong around my shoulders. The long dress made crawling around in the lodge a bit of a challenge.
The process around building the fire is also bound by tradition, you build up the rocks into the fire pit with each attendee offering a rock to the Great Spirit and Mother Earth and silently stating their intentions for the ceremony either silently or aloud for the group. You go round the fire pit in a clockwise manner, each person placing a stone until the designated number of stones is piled onto the wood ready for lighting. Once the fire is lit only the lodge keeper or the fire keeper may cross between the fire pit and the altar which is set up midway between the fire pit and the opening of the lodge. The Stone People spirits are awakened in the stones by heating them in the sacred fire until red-hot.
Prior to entering the lodge everyone must smudge themselves from the smoke being emitted from the abalone shell filled with sage at the entrance to the sweat lodge. The entrance faces to the East and towards the sacred fire pit. This has very significant spiritual value. Each new day begins in the East with the rising of Father Sun, the source of life and power, dawn of wisdom, while the fire heating the rocks is the undying light of the world, eternity, and a new spiritual beginning that we seek in the sweat ceremony.
Once the fire outside the lodge has had an hour or so to get very hot everyone enters the lodge and settled around the pit. There were 23 of us in the lodge so it was very full.
One at a time the white hot stones were loaded onto a shovel and pushed into the lodge, then lowered into the shallow pit inside the sweat lodge, first placing a stone on the west, then north, east, south, and in the centre to symbolise the Grandfather. Additional stones are then placed to Grandmother and The People. The lodge keeper and the attendees all welcomed the stones, saying ‘welcome grandfather’ or ‘welcome grandmother’. After seven stones were in the pit, the entrance is closed by the Fire Keeper. This began the first round of ceremony in the lodge. The sweat leader played the Drum and called forth the spirit guides in prayer from the Four Directions. The sweat leader then dips water and pours it onto the hot stones in the pit, producing large amounts of steam, usually one dipper for each of the four directions, or until told by the spirits to stop. Then she begins the prayers, songs and chants.
We started by all stating our ancestry and calling on our ancestors to join us in the lodge. I called on my Cherokee ancestors and White Buffalo Woman.
There are multiple rounds of prayer and with each of these rounds 7 new stones are brought into the lodge. There is a minimum of a round for each of the four directions, where each direction symbolises a different purpose and energy.
The temperature in the lodge increases in heat as the fire pit fills up with the stones. At one stage it became too hot and we begged for air and the side was opened slightly.
I personally felt that the lodge was too full, when I have had a lodge before there was enough space to lie down should the heat become too intense. I also went into a trance like state in that previous lodge as I was able to relax and lie down. This facilitated visions and mysticism. However I still felt the benefit of the lodge, it was just not very physically comfortable.
By the time we finished the rounds it was midnight. Norm came to collect me and we went home without my indulging in the meal with the group. As I had started my new job that day I was exhausted. The night before I woke at 4am having only gone to bed at midnight so I had done all of this on 4 hours sleep.
The night after the lodge I was only in bed just before 1 am but I slept straight through until 7am. I never do that. In fact, there was a short in our security beam and the alarm went off, the dogs went insane and the security company came to trawl around our garden and I slept right through it all.
I feel so relaxed after the lodge, more in touch with my ancestors and my spirituality. I think that what has been missing in my life was prayer and spirituality. I have found this in my Cherokee roots and it is grounding me. I was raised with no religion or spirituality in our home, my Dad was agnostic. I have always been sceptical of the concept of a singular god. I am far more comfortable praying to The Great Spirit and calling on my ancestors for guidance and blessings.
I am so happy that I have found this path.
I wish you all a great weekend. ❤️💕❤️