Monday, October 09, 2006

Long Dance

For the past three years I have had the privilege of attending a Long Dance. The Long Dance is the annual ritual for the women of the Chumash Native Americans.

It is performed as a gift to and from the earth, fire, wind, air and a bountiful harvest. The ritual is a weekend event for some, a yearlong event for others, with a date set nearest to the autumnal equinox.

Women from all over the country return yearly to dance ALL night around the abundant fire pit warming us as we travel. The journey is for the purpose of returning to our personal goals and our personal misgivings.

Lodges made of heavy canvas are attached to the long poles of the tipi. One lodge is for Grandmother’s and a whole spirited young Blessing Bear is our attendant.

Blessing Bear and I have become loving friends and she keeps me, as well as all Grandmothers, in hot tea and food all night long.

Every sister of the dance has her own personal reason for dancing. Prayers are the main focus of our mental state while circling the fire. Drums begin the ceremony and continue with the beat of the heart until the morning.

The ancient songs and chants of the tribe fill the night air and heart with words of blessings and gratitude. There is so much joy in being with magnificent friends and magic while we strut and talk until dawn. At dawn and as the sunlight hits the fire pit the drums stop suddenly.

The brothers, who have been standing sentry, climb the rocks the top and stand with the eastern sun at their back while the sing the ‘Welcome to the Day’ song that has been sung for hundreds of years. That moment always brings me to tears just knowing that the protection and love from the brothers was such an important element of the journey.

Our strong leader is Hua. She has been dancing all her life for the women of the Chumash. Becomes a leader of a tribe is because of strength, determination and memories.

Hua has all of those components and she commands reverence. Not because of her position but rather because Hua getting angry is something that one does not completely enjoy.

The current and desire and focus of our prayers is to own our own land. Hua promised me that when we get our own land I could build a rock staircase. We found that out as I attempted to build stone steps for all of our sisters.

I love Long Dance and if not for Rhea and Playful Otter I never would have found my way into the night sky of Arro Grande. This year I found something else. A young girl with the sweetest heart stood next to me as we were entering the sweat lodge.

I humbly admitted to Kim that this was my first sweat lodge. Kim said, “me too!” Aha, two sweat lodge virgins, as Hua would say. Kim and I checked in with each other during the three and a half hour event. The lodge ceremony is extremely private as it is a place of prayer. It is wrong to discuss the events within the lodge or to merely photograph the lodge itself.

I can tell you about my prayers and they were totally for our journeying team, six travelers to Nepal. Along with three porters, three yaks and one Nepalese guide who speaks English.

Another sister of the dance was offering face painting and I asked her to paint me a mountain on my forehead. She painted three with a gold spiral in the middle. I danced for 9 hours and each step was dancing toward The Mountain.

By early morning we were gathering our belongings and giving hugs and kisses to all who attended. Kim and I knew that we ought to try to stay in contact. I humbly offered her my citified business card. She looked so surprised and said, “ I just finished my master’s degree in psychotherapy.” I held my breath a little bit and asked, “Where did you go to school?” The magic in her voice and music to my ears she communicated, ”Antioch University in Culver City!” My almamater is Antioch! Blessing abound.

I send all of my respect to the sisters of the dance. I encourage everyone to visit the website for the “Church of Empowerment” and send in your tax-deductible donations so we can buy some land and I can build my staircase of stones.

To my sisters with love,


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