Cree Protocol for Ceremony, part two of a four part series
- Louise Halfe | April 13, 2015
The Cree concept of ceremony is not so different, but perhaps less superficial.
in the English concept.. In the Oxford English Dictionary the term ceremony is defined as: 1. A formal act or set of acts performed as prescribed by ritual or custom. 2. A conventional social gesture or act of courtesy. 3. Strict observances of formalities or etiquette. 4. A formal act or ritual often set by custom or tradition, performed in observation of an event or anniversary. 5. A religious rite or series of rites. 6. The formal activities conducted on some solemn or important public or state occasion. 7. A gesture or act of politeness or civility. 8. Formality. Ceremony is a prescription for spoken or unspoken modes of dress and behavior that one adheres to. The idea of ceremony carries with it the implication that without these traditional modes one could not have celebrations or laws to abide by, and chaos would prevail. They direct social conduct and instill order and values that enhance and bring meaning to one’s life.
Protocol is derived from the Latin protocollum, which means “the first sheet of a volume.” In Greek, protokollon is the “first sheet glued onto a manuscript.” It is essentially the same and marks the beginning to something of more depth and substance. These words, in both Cree and English, have an ancient origin and still have value in the here and now.
Spirituality is a companion to the sensual. We explore and discover and analyze through our five senses. The eyes or miskîsikwa which means “big heavens,” or “infinite heavens” have the capacity to see more than appearances. The mouth, – mitôn, not only tastes, eats, ingests and regurgitates life, we spill from our mouths what we have thought and learned. The nose, - mikot, pinpoints odour, and helps us determine the direction and place of the scent. It works alongside the eyes and the ears, it sends out feelers to absorb the scent and aura of another entity or being. The ears, – mihtawakaya, implies a “digging through the tunnel to receive the information.” In essence the ear acts as a “gut” as it discerns and digests what it hears. The hands, – micihciya, are the “feelers of skin attached to muscle, the heart and the rest of the body,” – miyaw. The hands carry out the directions from the other senses.
It is not surprising then, that a sweat-lodge is shaped like a cave, a lodge, or den. In native spirituality, nêhiyawak receive their gifts and their teachings from the earth, plant, insect and animal life around them. Interestingly, “the word for animal is derived from animale meaning animated which comes from the world anima or soul. Animals are those not only whom we share this earth and this physical universe of space and time, but also with whom we share a soul.” Visions or visitations are received through the Vision Quest, the Sun Dance, and other ceremonies as well as in dreams. One becomes aware of their pawâkan
through deep observations during one’s participation in ceremony. The pawâkan is one’s dream-spirit and helper. In essence, “animals line our souls” and yes, our physicality.
The tipi – mîkiwâhp, “where one sits and sees from,” may be a decorated structure that enfolds, akin to a nest or a hive. It is shaped like a woman, she is
full and circular. Originally animal skins dressed her skeletal frame. The tipi poles extend from the ground into the sky, as if her arms hail the heavens in prayer. Each pole represents a principle and together the values and morals of the culture. Each peg that is inserted into the ground provides steadfastness and are “grounded” in duties and beliefs. The doorway, in essence, is the vaginal opening to the womb. It is from this hearth that women share their teachings and their place in the universe.
Read part one of the series.
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