Part Three -- The Dream Continues
Sunday, August 16, was spent in quiet activities at the Dance Awake the Dream gathering at Lake Cascade. The camping areas were a beautiful sight and sound as people were meditating, stretching, doing gymnastics, dancing, singing, playing music, or just lying in the sun. This magnificent place, protected by the Bureau of Reclamation as a nesting ground for the eagles and osprey, stretched out across the meadows, sloped toward the marshes leading down to the lake. It was a perfect gathering place for such a Celebration.
In the early planning stages it had been expected that from 50 to 75 people would be part of this gathering. In actuality there were somewhere between 300 and 350 people who arrived. Many in the Boise Family had sacrificed much to bring about this gathering. This small group built a strong foundation for this special weekend.
Everything flowed smoothly and harmoniously as we prepared for the Long Dance which would last from dusk to dawn... and culminate with the great celebration at the rising of the sun on August 17, signifying the beginning of a New Cycle.
There had been much discussion over the months as how best to honor and integrate mooning women into the ceremonies. Traditionally, women on their moon have not participated in the
Long Dance. It was rumored that Brooke Medicine Eagle, who was leading the ceremonies and rituals, had been talking to many elders about combining a new ritual with the traditional, to
fully utilize the special powers of the woman on her moon during this celebration.
Brooke has been recognized as one who blends traditional patterns with her own visions and teachings. One of the strong points of the weekend for many was Brooke's incredible insight and teaching about Feminine Energy and particularly regarding moon time for women.
The moon women had experienced the sweat ceremony first, led by Brooke, to open and empower the Sweat lodge with the offering of their blood. This symbolized the cleansing process as each of them were in a natural state of cleansing and purification. Because the veil between the woman and the Great Mystery is so thin during her moon, the women have the strongest ability to go into the "Mystery" unseen and return safely. Brooke told them that they were the calling card for the rest of the gathering. Their chant throughout the weekend was "I give away my blood for all my Relations -- I open my womb to the Light".
Sunday, about midday, Brooke invited all who were interested in learning more about the Moon Lodge to come together men and women were welcomed. Brooke explained that women on their moon do not participate in the central ceremony because when a woman is on her moon her energy is like a vacuum and it is often powerful enough to pull others away from their focus.
Brooke talked about each person having made the choice as to whether they would be male or female in this life -- having experienced both. She said that when one is born female, much moves in and out of her; she is like the moon -- the light shines on her and she gives it away. She explained that blood represents the highest creative form -- each month that she chooses not to create a human child she is asked then what? It is a beautiful time to spend with her creative and visionary selves. Brooke maintains that naturally women cycle with the moon; going inside and mooning on the dark of the moon -- ovulating and giving themselves away at the full moon.
Brooke said that their moon time is an important time for women to reevaluate their personal choices about what they desire for their lives and to learn to stand by their visions. Taking this time will help women to remember the truth and purpose for being feminine on the planet this lifetime.
Brooke suggested that men can help provide women of spirit the opportunity to move in the world. Men also need to open to their feminine nurturing sense to help bring the planet back into balance.
The women then went to the Moon Lodge to meet alone with Brooke and to prepare their moonsticks. The moonsticks were made from straight sticks about six feet long which the women wrapped with several different colored yarns. Throughout the coming night, during the Long Dance, the Moon Women would carry their moonsticks, tapping very gently on Mother Earth.
Later in the afternoon, there was a dedication and blessing of the drums. There were large drums which were hung from frames and were suspended just above the earth. These could be
drummed by several people at once as they kneeled or sat around the drum. They were made of wood, rawhide and antlers.
A number of people had brought their own small drums which several had made themselves. The small drums were 12-16 inches across, sort of like a tambourine in shape, with a cross piece on the back by which they were held with one hand and struck with the other. All of the
drums would be hit in unison, the large lead drum setting the pace...signifying the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
For the blessing of the drums, Brooke used cedar, sage and sweetgrass smoke for the cleansing, purification and dedication of each drum. One by one, each person held aloft his or her drum calling out the name they had given the drum saying, "My name is (name of drum) and I dedicate myself to (chosen purpose, such as the Light). This was a lovely moving ceremony.
Late afternoon, the Long Dance circle was staked out in the lower meadow overlooking Lake Cascade. This large meadow had been unused...having been saved especially for the Long Dance. Stakes were set designating each of the four directions--north, south, east and west and representing earth, fire, water and air.
Several of us "grandmothers" were asked to help prepare the newly staked out circle for the Long Dance which was to begin later in the evening. (Grandmothers are women who no longer have their moons, whether or not they have grandchildren). Shirley Randolph and I went down the path through the trees to where the sweat lodges had been built to collect willow branches which were left over from building the lodges.
As we approached the area, we were met by one of the women tending the fire who inquired as to what we wanted. No one enters the area when a sweat is going on without good reason. We announced ourselves as "grandmothers" who had come to gather willow branches to sweep the Ceremonial Circle. We were warmly welcomed into the area and found the unused branches and each took an armload. As we were preparing to leave, one of the women asked us to depart by walking past the most distant sweat lodge explaining that the children were having their sweat ceremony in it. We were told that by passing nearby we would honor their sweat. We circled around, passing by their lodge and left the area with our armloads of branches, retracing our steps through the woods.
Joined by two other "grandmothers" at the Ceremonial Circle, each of us took several of the long branches which still had leaves attached and using them like brooms we symbolically "swept" clean the large circular area which had been staked off. As we rhythmically swung the branches back and forth, Rusty Westin sat on the nearby grassy incline playing his flute. The lovely melody drifting over us added such a sense of beauty and serenity to the activity that as we finished we spontaneously came together with our bundles of branches and created our own little spontaneous ending ceremony. Having shared hugs, we left the area to go back to our individual activities.
Early evening everyone gathered again to make final preparations for the Long Dance. We did singing and circling. Brooke gave final explanations and instructions. We had been asked earlier to remove all our jewelry, power objects, etc. and to wear comfortable, familiar clothing so that we could come to the Ceremony as our simple, ordinary selves. In the early morning we would change to our Ceremonial Celebration garments.
Now, as it was nearing sundown, for the first time we walked together to the great meadow where the Ceremonial Circle had been laid out and we formed a large ring there. The specifics of the Circle were explained to us. The North was the place where we would enter or leave the circle.
The altars to Mother Earth and Father Spirit were near the center. Toward the north would be laid blankets on which we could lie face up in surrender to Father Spirit when we needed to rest. Toward the south was the area where we would lie face down in surrender to Mother Earth. Brooke said that we could bring items that were special to us to place on which ever altar we chose.
The fire was to be in the center of the circle with the drums on the East and refreshment (water) on the West. Ten men volunteered to tend the fire during the night and ten women to offer the cups of water, each serving for one hour.
Brooke next inquired as to the "elders" in the group... the oldest man and the oldest woman. It turned out that I was the oldest woman there and was honored along with the oldest man.
Finally, we were encouraged to bring mats, quilts, and blankets to lay on the grass in the surrender areas, and plenty of warm clothing as we would not leave the circle once the Long Dance had begun. As the gathering broke up the excitement and anticipation was building.
We went to our tents and campers to rest, meditate, and contemplate our Visions going to create as we Danced Awake Our Dreams.
At dark we began the trek to the large meadow where the Ceremonial Circle was waiting. Suddenly the whole area began coming alive. People coming from all directions, purposely heading for the Circle through the darkness. There was an awareness of being participants in a great Cosmic Event.
We would be setting the intention in the material plane for those things which we desired to manifest both for ourselves and for our planet, our Mother the Earth, who has nurtured and provided for us all.
As the outer circle grew, a group of the men who would be tending the fire during the night drew together, circling. They voiced a dedication to their intention to nurture the Circle with the fire, emphasizing with the male as a Nurturing Being.
We two Honored Elders were called by Brooke to the center of the circle. The "Grandfather" dedicated the Father Spirit surrender area. Going to the Mother Earth surrender area, I lay flat on the Earth, face down, as this area was dedicated.
Brooke sang then continued the dedication. She explained that the outer circle is the Circle of the Dream. Within that circle we would create a smaller one, the Circle of Forgiveness. The outer circle was to move to the left or clockwise, the inner circle would move counter clockwise. The outer circle would maintain the form and rhythm of the heartbeat of Mother Earth which would resound from the drums. We would be free to move into the Forgiveness Circle at any time to release old patterns. Within the inner circle we could move about freely and expressively.
The final dedication was for the circles. The outer circle began to move slowly, in unison, one step at a time, through the darkness -- stepping into Mother Earth. Opening up the Forgiveness CircleÂ· was led by Brooke as she danced through the hip deep grass which covered the meadow. Brooke was to be followed by the "Elders", Suzanne Lewis and a young man who I thought to be Suzanne's son. I surmised that we elders would represent the outgoing cycle and the young people, the new incoming cycle.
I quickly realized that the Elder male would be unable to follow Brooke through this grass in the darkness because I knew from having gotten acquainted with the family that he is disabled with Alzheimerâs disease and easily becomes disoriented. I whispered to Suzanne who told Brooke the situation. Brooke called to the outer circle for assistance from the second oldest man who joined us in the inner circle. With the other man supporting one side and me helping with the other we began our counter clockwise stepping to open the Forgiveness Circle.
Moving around that meadow, breaking ground, so to speak, was not easy for our small group. After one revolution, the two male elders moved into the center of the circle waiting beside the fire while Brooke, followed by me, Suzanne and the young man continued the dedication. The ceremony continued until the outer circle had completed four methodical revolutions, (with somewhere around 300 people this took quite some time) thus setting the foundation for Dancing Awake the Dream.
It was pointed out to me later that symbolically, the disabled "elder" represented the old male thought patterns which are ineffectual and obsolete. While the female energies and those of the new male are strong and vital. At the conclusion of the dedication we returned to the outer circle to join the others. We began to circle, slowly, rhythmically, stepping to the beat of the drum.
Then it was that I saw the Moon Women. Across the meadow, through the darkness shone their fire. The Moon Women, walking counter clockwise, carrying their Moonsticks, tapping gently with them on the Earth, circled the fire calling to Mother Earth, "Come out, Come forth".
As I watched them it was a very mystical scene. I had the sense that there was a temple behind them and that they were all dressed in ancient attire. Around and around they promenaded. What a powerful and stirring vision.
All night the dance continued. The drummers were free to move in and out of the drumming. Although. the Boise Family did keep the lead drum going all night. The dancers sang the Native American songs we had learned, interspersed with the chant "We are awake in the night. We call the ones who bring the Light. We Dance Awake the Dream tonight." Occasionally someone would spontaneously introduce an old favorite or improvise as the evening grew into morning.
The dancers were free to move from the Dance Circle to the Forgiveness Circle or to rest in one of the Surrender areas. It was important, though, to keep the outer circle strong throughout the night. It became very cold and we were glad to keep moving.
When the moon appeared in the sky, the main dance circles stopped turning and we looked to the Moon Circle where the Moon Women sang their dedication song as they continued to circle.
Throughout the night the Dance continued. Greg Valentin, lead drummer from the Boise Family, moved from the drum to the Circles during the early morning hours keeping the energies alive and strong with his vibrant voice and dynamic enthusiasm. Brooke Medicine Eagle hiked back and forth across the meadow between the Moon Circle and the main Circle keeping communication going.
During the time I was resting in the Surrender area I became acutely aware of the tremendous power that was being generated in the Dance Circles. Looking from the center of the circle outward through the bodies in the inner circle moving one direction, through the outer circle which moved in the opposite direction in time with the powerful beat of the drums, then across the meadow to that mystical place which shone through the darkness as a beacon throughout the night. It was like a set of tremendous gears which had been set in motion.
Just before dawn, Brooke stopped the circles and had the fire d0used and sent us to our lodgings to change into our ceremonial clothing and return in about 15 minutes. I walked through the frost- covered grass to my tent across the upper meadow. I noticed that my car windows were covered with ice. Climbing into my small tent I could feel the frost on the outside of it. As I stripped off the ski hat and gloves, the two pair of slacks, poncho, sweatshirt, sweater, jacket and several shirts I really didn't feel cold. I changed into my white slacks which I covered with a long white skirt, adding a white t-shirt and finally my white blouse with rainbow ribbons draping down the sides. Finally, I put on the jewelry which I had chosen to wear.
As I walked back toward the Circle it was becoming light. We gathered again in our circle. The Moon Women came over to our Circle bringing bowls of water. They came to each of us in the large circle and with water symbolically and with great sensitivity cleansed each of us. Then, taking their Moonsticks they went to the center of the circle where the fire had burned. Each one, in turn, dedicated her Moonstick to the New Cycle and laid it over the ashes. The new fire was kindled from the Moonsticks.
As I watched the fire grow I looked toward that part of the meadow where the Moon Circle had been. I was amazed to see nothing there at all. I was expecting to see some type of structure. Off in the distance I could see the teepee which served as a Moon Lodge -- but that was not what I had seen in the night in that meadow.
Brooke used the several herbs--Frankincense & myrrh, sage, sweetgrass and cedar-- throwing them into the fire. As before, we used the smoke symbolically for purification as we scooped it over us.
The "elders" were called into the circle. We symbolically planted four willow trees, one for each direction, representing the new growth for the New Cycle.
As the sun began to show itself above the mountain top we all ran at once toward the center of the circle and symbolically scooped up the things which we had envisioned for our future and then gathering them to us danced back to our places in the Circle. Wave after wave we continued running into the center of the circle and gathering our "good" until the sun had risen above the mountain top. Joyously singing and dancing we celebrated the beginning of the New Cycle as the sun shone warmly upon us.
Eventually we scattered to our lodgings to rest. Late morning we assembled for a Celebration Feast of fruits, vegetables, breads, salads, hot stew, and desserts which we enjoyed together.
The final Ceremony followed with the giving away of gifts. Each person brought something of special significance or value to him or her, laying it on the cloth. With some ceremony the gifts were chosen and each person seemed to receive just the thing that was perfect for him or her.
Driving away, toward home, I had such a sense of happiness, satisfaction and completion. What may have seemed purely just ritual to some was, I believe, a process of using the physical as well as the mental realm energies to make an imprint on the essence of spirit.
That pattern which was created has already begun to manifest in the lives of the people who I personally know who took part in Dancing Awake the Dream. I see more creativity, more opportunity, strengthened awareness of mission and a greater sense of fulfillment in their lives. Dance Awake the Dream, a celebration of the Dance of Life--which, in the words of Ram Dass, is the "only dance there is".