DIVING IN THE MOON:
HONORING STORY, FACILITATING HEALING
© Gloria Two-Feathers 2014
Rain and drought have a rhythm. But during the times of drought there is always someone or something that holds the seed for the future generation.
I was experiencing my personal drought when I met Buck Ghost Horse. And a lot of the rain came in the form of a sacred ceremony call a Sweat Lodge.
Buck Ghost Horse was Sicangu Lakota from South Dakota. He stood five foot four inches tall, weighed 135 pounds soaking wet; with long black braids down to the middle of his back. His charismatic, humorous personality was contagious. He had a light in his eyes and he carried a big spirit. He was one of the wisest and biggest men I will ever know. I didn’t know when I first met him that he was to become my Spiritual Elder and Uncle.
Did you ever have a time in your youth when you thought you knew everything? And then one day you wake up and take a good look around and you’re not sure who you are or where your place is in the world. I was in that place in my life. I felt like the earth was crumbling under my feet and I didn’t know what to do next to save myself.
My young daughter and I had recently moved from South Dakota, Wyoming area to the Northwest. I left all my family and friends so I could begin a new life in a new place. This new life all alone wasn’t as easy to live as I thought it would be.
We had lived in the Seattle area just a short time when I received the sad news my elderly father had crossed over to the Spirit World. My father was my only parent and I didn’t know how I would handle this new life without his strength, guidance and wisdom to help and guide me.
Within a year of my father’s passing, my young daughter began running away and living on the streets; of course drugs and alcohol were involved. And all the other things that kind of life style involves.
The reality of my life seemed so much bigger then me, I didn’t know who to turn to or what to do. I was being crushed under the enormous weight of it.
I had been attending weekly classes Uncle Buck taught in his home, outside of Monroe, WA. One night after class I was relating my circumstances to him, asking for any wisdom he may have to share with me.
He said, “Niece, I can’t help you heal, but I can help you find that healing place within yourself. You need to get into a Sweat Lodge and pray. We’re having one this weekend. You will need to wear a plain skirt with leggings and a tee shirt. Don’t forget to bring a towel”.
I had never been to a Sweat Lodge before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was feeling excited and anxious as I gathered my things in preparation to go. As I left my apartment walking to my car I heard a distant whistle above me. Looking up into the sky I saw an Eagle soaring in a circle. I knew Eagle was a messenger of the Great Spirit. As I gazed upward I felt a rush of goose bumps flash through my body. I knew something big was going to happen.
When I arrived Uncle was there with a couple of men. One was the Fire Tender and the other one was a Singer. And there was a large group of men and women who were preparing to go into the Lodge.
I will always remember my first Lodge. The Sweat Lodge was constructed of saplings inserted into the ground forming a circle. They are bent over and tied together; creating a low dome structure resembling the shape of a turtle shell. It was fully covered with several layers of blankets to create a dark space inside. The low east facing door has a flat topped earthen altar setting in front of it. A few feet away on the east side of the altar was a large fire heating several cantaloupe sized stones.
The ancient Sacred Stone Lodge Ceremony is the oldest ceremony known to mankind. It is conducted in four rounds and is based upon the six directions. The Spirit above, the Earth below, and the four cardinal directions West, North, East and South; these four archetypal Spirits are known to be the helpers of the Great Spirit. Each one carries a specific energy.
We begin in the West. The West is the place where we come from and we go back to. It’s where our Ancestor Spirits reside and the ever present Spirit World. This is where we go to heal and it’s the place of the life giving rains.
The North is the source of endurance, strength, truthfulness and honesty.
The East is the place of the sunrise, knowledge and meditation. Without knowledge we bring harm to ourselves and others.
The South is the place of bounty, medicine, love and growth.
To enter the Lodge you stand at the door facing the West, raising your hands to the sky turning in a slow clock wise circle, acknowledging each direction as you turn, saying Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, all My Relations. To enter through the low door, you must get down on your hands and knees, humbling yourself as you enter the womb of the Earth Mother. There is a round pit in the center of the Lodge where the hot stones are placed.
Uncle instructed me to crawl around and sit in the West facing the door in the East. The rest of the people crawled in setting in a circle around the stone pit. Uncle and his singer sat on each side of the open door.
Uncle said, “Fire Tender seven stones!” One by one the Fire Tender bought the red hot stones on a pitch fork and placed them into the stone pit. The hot stones had a wonderful sweet smell, unlike anything I had ever smelled before.
And after the seven stones had been placed in the pit, Uncle said. “Fire Tender, bring the darkness,” The door flap was bought down and it became so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. He placed some dried herbs on the hot stones and you could see them glow brightly before they disintegrated. The Lodge filled with a sweet fragrance that swirled around and in your body when you breathed in. Then he poured ladles of water on the stones creating steam that mingled with the herbs, to purify our bodies by sweating out the toxins of dis-ease. This helps provide balance for those who wished to soothe their troubled emotions; and helps them come back into their center and function again.
He began to explain that we are connected to everything on the Earth through the Great Spirit. So we must pray for all that is. He sent the prayer around the circle asking each person in turn; say a prayer for the trees, say a prayer for the water, the earth, the wind, the sun and moon, and the stars. Say a prayer for the stones, for the plants, for the winged, for the four legged, the swimmers, the creepy crawlies, the elders, the children, the mothers and fathers, for the warriors who keep us safe.
Then he said, “Each of you crawled into what seemed like a very small space. But if you look around you, you will see there are no boundaries or limits here. You are setting in the middle of the Universe and all of its creations. This is the place of full potential”. Then he called for a song, and the singer began to beat his drum, to the rhythm of a heart beat and everyone join him as he sang a prayer song:
A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey
A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey
When we were finished singing Uncle had us all call out four times to the Fire Tender, “Aho Mitakuye Oyasin, All My Relations.” Then Uncle said, “Fire Tender, bring the light!” The door opened and light poured in; shining a bright light on the darkness of our ignorance. We had finished our first round. More hot stones were bought in, the door closed and the same was continued for three more rounds.
As I sat in the Lodge praying and singing; I noticed the space around me filling with a presence I could only describe as something that was bigger then me or my suffering. I was being touched by the Great Spirit. I began to feel this presence inside of me. I was experiencing sacred grace. I felt the life giving rain returning to me after a very long drought. It was nourishing and bringing that seed deep inside of me to life.
I returned to the Lodge every week. Uncle’s teachings were showing me how to be a good human being and how to live as a strong respectful woman. I came to understand the honor of being a woman, and of the important and responsible role women have as the carriers of life. The honor and dignity the Great Spirit has bestowed on all womankind. I was healing and learning who I am. I discovered what my original medicine was; I was a healer and a teacher; I was finding my place in the world.
Each Lodge followed the same steps but each one was a different experience. Quite often Uncle would tell stories in the Lodge. Some of these were creation stories that are so old no one remembered how old they are. These stories helped our ancestors understand the Great Incomprehensible Mystery. I especially loved the ones that were first told by the Great Grandmother Spirits and past down to the people.
One of my favorite stories was about a Sacred Messenger.
Because time often folds into itself, no one knew when she was born. But all agreed, it was sometime between the beginning and the end of the world. Most importantly the Memory Keepers said they knew where she was born.
Tate the Wind remembered he blew as a gentle breeze that day, warmed by Wi the Sun. He moved through the Standing Nation, swaying their branches and rustling their leaves, ahshooow, ahshooow, ahshooow. The plants and grass heard and began whispering, whirr, whirr, whirr.
Tate breathed over the face of Ma-hne, the Water, and she began to sing her song of gurgling and tinkling. He carried a sacred message, “It’s time, she is arriving!” And nature was singing a song of welcoming. Tate continued his journey deep, deep into the heart of the Old Forest.
There on the soft, fragrant green needles, under the protective boughs of the Great Grandmother Tree, she lay nestled next to her mother’s warm body, in the graceful curve of her long legs. Wi the Sun’s warm light was shining through the branches creating spots on her smooth damp fur. Tate tenderly breathed Niya, the first breath of life, into her lungs and caressed her. Parting the hair on her forehead, Tate created a pattern that looked like a cedar leaf. This mark remained for all of her life.
Everyone knew she was different. She grew a little faster and a little larger; her deep golden-tan fur was radiant with an inner glow; her legs were longer and she moved more gracefully than the others. All of nature loved her.
It was during the time her spots faded, on a warm Indian Summer day that she had the dream. Bright yellow and fire-red colored leaves fell around her, as she lay resting; the air had a crisp smell. In the dream-world it seemed like a moment ago; it was the time just before her birth that she stood in the presence of the Creator. He asked if she would be one of his helpers, be a Sacred Messenger to those who had lost their way on Maka, Mother Earth.
She woke from the dream with a special spirit light in her eyes as she remembered her life’s purpose. Quickly she rose, moving so gracefully through the forest it appeared as though her feet didn’t touch the ground. Those who gazed upon her recognized she was different. They were seeing her for who she really was: Wakan, a Sacred Being.
With her large, velvety ears rotating she sensed a distant sound carried on Tate the Wind. She felt the call and followed the faint sound deep into the heart of the old forest to the Great Grandmother Tree, the place of her birth.
In the lengthening shadows and the fading light, standing in a soft glow was a most beautiful woman. This woman was Wophe, the daughter of the Great Spirit. She could sense Wophe’s powerful energy of beauty, friendship, compassion, and happiness.
As she stepped into the glowing aura, Wophe reached out and touched the cedar leaf pattern on her forehead, transferring some of her own energetic qualities to her. Speaking quietly, stroking the large delicate ears, Wophe said, “By using the gift of listening you will be able to hear the questions in the troubled hearts of those who have lost their way. By focusing on one heart at a time, you can appear magically before that person. When they see you, their hearts will open and their confusion will clear, so they receive the answer to their prayers.” At that moment, the Spirit Dear began to profoundly listen. She is still listening to this very day.
I continued to go to the weekly Sweat Lodges and the weeks turned into years. One day my Uncle said, “Niece, it is time for you to learn how to pour a Lodge. It took me several more years to learn how to conduct this ceremony so it wouldn’t harm anyone and to understand how to serve the people in this way. But the day did come when I built a Lodge on my land. I started to pour monthly Lodges for those who wanted to come and pray.
My life had turned around. I married my best friend of many years. We have a good strong loving marriage. He helps me maintain the land that my Lodge is on. I had my own healing practice and I began to teach others. This led me to open the first state licensed school of Energy Medicine. Establishing this new field of education was very rewarding, while full of challenges and countless hours. I loved my school, the students, and the material that was being taught.
Some of my old challenges persisted. I continued to have relationship issues with my daughter and one of my sons. Both were involved in drugs and alcohol. This bought a dysfunctional life style to my Grandchildren. But I kept trying to help all of them. No matter what challenges life threw at me. I still had my Sweat Lodge; the one place where I could go to cleanse, pray and receive direction from the Great Spirit.
In the second half of my life, I began to experience loss when my two older brothers and a close friend died. I was entering another time of drought and as I was aging Uncle was getting older too. One day the phone rang and I received the news Uncle had suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. I was devastated. But I held his teachings and continued to share them with others as I poured Lodges.
Despite of all effort my family completely fell apart. I could feel and hear my heart breaking when I accepted the fact I could not save my adult children from the decisions they had made.
At the same time the world economy entered into a financial recession, leading to losing my schools student loan program. After a couple of years, I had to close its doors. I found myself unemployed for the first time in my life. Within days of closing my school, my beloved sister was diagnosed with terminal cancer; nine weeks after her diagnosis she crossed over into the Spirit World.
I was filled with grief; I didn’t know how much more I could bear. I was under so much stress I wasn’t surprised that I became ill and had to have emergency surgery. To make matters worse due to me being unemployed we had lost our health insurance. Between the financial burden of closing my school and the medical bills we were devastated. And I felt completely lost and over whelmed.
The winter of 2012 was one of the wettest winters on record. The heavy rains left the area where I built my Lodge under water through the winter and into the spring. Then the adverse weather conditions persisted, bringing a hot and dry summer. Because of severe dry conditions there was a burn ban; we were forbidden to build a fire to heat the sacred stones. With floods and burn bans, I poured only one Lodge that entire year.
On a sizzling summer day I sat on my back porch staring at the uncovered framework of my Lodge. With a heavy heart I sent a prayer to the Great Spirit, asking, “Is this also something that is going away? Is this a sign that I should quit pouring Lodges? Should I take down my Lodge? Please let me know what you want me to do.”
As I waited quietly, hoping for an answer to my prayer, a doe appeared out of nowhere standing at the edge of the old growth cedar and fir trees on the west side of my Lodge area. As she moved forward I realized she was “Walking in a Sacred Manner” that is traditional of our Spiritual Ancestors. She crossed the open space to the Lodge, paused, and turning her long graceful neck she looked at me. Then she went back into the West. She disappeared without making a sound. My heart beat rapidly, I drew in a deep breath. I was as alert as a jack rabbit that had seen something moving in the brush.
For a few minutes all of nature became quiet; even the breeze was still, as if holding its breath. I felt an electrical charge in the hot air. Suddenly the Doe appeared out of the tall trees. With her beautiful head held high, the sun glinting off her golden hair she Walked to the North side of the Lodge. She sniffed all over the ribs of the open uncovered frame, for a few moments her large brown eyes looked deeply into mine.
As she returned into the trees on the West side of the Lodge, everything in me said pay attention! I knew something sacred was occurring. The charge of spirit energy filled me as I felt butterflies in my stomach and a rush of goose bumps rippled on my skin.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed several Ravens, who are the Gatekeepers between the worlds, quietly gathering in the high branches. A few dry leaves fell, and the shadows lengthened as the sun crossed the top of the trees. Nothing happened. Then I saw her large ears as she silently moved through the dry grass on the South side of the Lodge area. I smelled the dust that stirred under her delicate black hooves when she walked into the clearing. Standing quietly in the sun, rotating her lovely black ears back and forth, she once again locked her soft brown eyes with mine. Moments passed before she returned to the tall grass. The Ravens began gliding to the lower branches to silently watch and wait, holding space for what was to come next.
She circled around to Walk from the East to the Lodge. With great interest, she smelled the benches and chairs where numerous people had sat as they waited for the Lodge to begin. Stepping toward the fire pit, she continued her inspection of the burned, scorched ground and the ashes from previous fires. She sniffed all over the small, flat-topped earthen altar that sets at the door of the Lodge. Suddenly the Ravens cawed in unison, sounding like a cackling chorus. With a loud caw, one of the Ravens spread its black iridescent wings, and gliding silently it came to rest on top of the Lodge; taking up a position of a lone sentinel.
The Doe, bending onto her knees, lowered herself and crawled through the small low door of the Lodge. Resting there with her head bowed, she appeared to be praying!
With the Raven standing guard, she backed out of the door, rose, and met my astonished gaze. My whole being was focused on her soft sensitive face. In a heart-stopping moment, I entered into the transcendent, timeless space when one experiences the divine. Her radiant brown eyes sent me a message of love and compassion. She may have looked at me for a few seconds or for a lifetime; I will never know. She circled around the Lodge and returned back into the West where she had come from. Not a twig snapped, not a leaf rustled. She disappeared.
For a long time I stood looking up into the sky. Then I saw a cloud taking shape until it blotted out the sun, making shadows across my Lodge area. I called out thanking the Great Spirit. With an Eagle feather in my hand I danced like the wild dances of my youth. I could smell the rain as a few drops fell into the dust of my dry land. My drought was over. The rain had come.
My eyes filled with tears of joy and wonder. My heart was full of gratitude for the Great Spirit, who had heard my prayers and touched my troubled heart. I felt humbled and awed with how He reached across time and space, to send me a Sacred Messenger, with the answer to my prayer.
As time continues to fold and unfold, many worlds have begun and many worlds have ended. However, this story is never ending.
People throughout time have told their own story of a beautiful Spirit Deer who appeared to them in the most peculiar place and time, seemingly out of nowhere. She appeared to be friendly and unafraid of them. As she moved so gracefully, they saw compassion in her lovely, sensitive face and large expressive eyes. When she gazed at them, their troubled hearts calmed. They received an answer to their prayers.
More importantly, they felt the Great Spirit sent them a message through the most beautiful of creatures, just when it was needed the most.
As it was then, so it is now. Ah ho! Mitakuye Oyasin!
(Heart Song) A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey A hey ya na ya oh hey
Gloria Two-Feathers, LMP, CET, is trained as both an Energy Healer and Licensed Massage Therapist. She became an LMP in 1986 and had a private massage and energy healing practice for 14 years in Edmonds, WA. Scottish with Native American bloodlines, her body of work and teaching style is influenced and enriched by her unique ethnic background and perspective. She was instructed by Lakota Elder, Buck Ghost Horse for approximately twenty years in spirituality, ritual and culture. As an expert in energy healing, and an inspirational teacher, Gloria has been educating others in alternative healing classes, seminars and workshops since 1996.