By Christian Kramer
God is the great mystery that exists within everything. All of creation is God. Consequently, there’s a sacredness in everything that exists.
In dealing with Native American religions, the concept of spirituality is a bit different than how most people think of it. It’s a way of life, a constant in our lives. There is no split between out spiritual lives and our day-to-day activities. Everything we do has a spiritual impact.
Life is given in response to our petition, and we must renew that petition every day, then give thanks for it at the end of the day. If I must take a life to sustain life, an offering must be given for that life. Permission to gather a plant must be given by the plant, and you only took what you needed.
How does plant give permission? I can only say that I’ve always known when it was OK.
There are many sacred herbs. Sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco, bear root, willow. The first four of these are most sacred.
(Christian passed around pictures of sacred items that included the eagle, hawk, drum Conk shell, rattle.)
The eagle is sacred because he’s highest flying bird, closest to heaven, a messenger of God. Drums signify the heartbeat of the world. Rattles are used to give rhythm and to help focus; for example, rattles help augment the healing properties in prayer and facilitate concentration.
Father Sky provides the rains to nourish Mother Earth When Native Americans pray to different directions, they’re acknowledging different characteristics and properties â€“ they are not praying to different Gods.
No one person is considered to be more important than others. Similarly, no days are more important than others. All days are for life, for giving life, for prayer and for work.
The Shaman is a healer, or doctor. A 40-year apprenticeship is required to become a healer. Within the Yuchi culture, (didn’t catch the name) their last medicine man. “The things he taught me changed my life,” Christian said. Among other things, Christian said, he learned that a Shaman must always be prepared for ceremony.
The first Green Corn ceremony coincides with the first new moon of the year. The Yuchi don’t eat corn until the next Green Corn ceremony in July. The ceremony is tied to the celebration of life and the creation of the world. The dance tells the story of the creation of the world. The east is always left open because that’s the direction of the creation of the world.
The Green Corn ceremony begins with the making of a fire. Four large logs are arranged. Once fire is started, it can’t go out until the ceremony is completed. It starts at 9 p.m. Preparations continue until sunrise. Then the corn dances start. We dance, then run, dance, then run.
The majority of Native Americans now belong to other faiths. Christian said he finds it more satisfying to focus on Native American religion.
The significance of directions in the Yuchi tradition: The circle of life, a universal symbol. Facing East symbolizes newborn life. South relates to learning and growing. Facing West suggests you have become an adult. North â€“ you have become a teacher, the grandfather teacher of the Way.
Native Americans have a strong sense of community. There’s no greater honor than to be asked to defend the unborn child. That’s why Native Americans have always volunteered to defend America in greater percentages than any other group.
Because of this sense of community, no one steps forward when the group needs a leader. Leaders emerge, but it is seen as improper to volunteer to be a leader.
There are no Yuchi today because smallpox wiped out the Yuchi tribe.