Cree Protocol for Ceremony: part three of a four part series
- Louise Halfe | May 13, 2015
Tobacco ties are made for particular ceremonies such as the shake-tent, a vision quest and other ceremonies. They are generally not used by the Plains Cree to be presented to an Elder to gather information or for the more common sweatlodge. It is more honorable to present a pipe or pouch of tobacco rather than a pinch, as this indicates the respect of accumulated knowledge the Elder has earned over the many years of discipline, reflection and gathering. This tobacco is used to enter ceremony with spirit, to receive and learn how to share what is being asked for. It is advisable for the recipient to gift the Elder in nâcinêhikê , in return for gathering information, knowledge, stories, songs, medicine, or ceremony. nâcinêhikê suggests that “there is a valuable exchange for his/her request” and “it is not for nothing.” One must remember that these Elders have earned their knowledge through many years of ceremony, sacrifice and humility in their own quest for understanding.
A “bundle” is another term that is often confused. The Elders say a true Bundle – nayâhcikan - contains hair and the clothing of a deceased person. Sweet grass and tobacco are wrapped in prayer cloth along with these personal remnants. This bundle must go through ceremony to be honored, blessed and to carry on the memory and teachings of the deceased. To accept the responsibility of a bundle is a life-long commitment that requires the correct protocol and the participation in the Ghost Dance and other related ceremonies. Recently, the beautifully created moccasin vamps honoring the missing and murdered aboriginal women are symbols, a remembrance of their lives. The vamps are a bundle in their own way. Creating them was a commemorative reminder of their complete absence. They are unique bundles, not to be confused with the original nayâhcikan, but worthy of having their own ceremony and protocol carefully developed through a community consensus.
In the nêhiyaw community iskwêwak, “women,” are asked to refrain from participating in most ceremonies when they are in their moon. This is not because they are dirty and unwanted. On the contrary, it is because it is a power time. “When Creator called for the universal energies to come together in that sound, that vibration, what came were the universal energies to create Mother Earth. It is those universal energies that came together that manifest the physical form of her behavior in women. We emulate everything that she teaches the universe must be. So it isn’t just Mother Earth, it is how we are connected.” Creator, Mother Earth, Women’s ability to bring new life; this places women as intermediary between earth and the spiritual world. The potential to help a new soul transform, to cross from the other world into this world, is the heart of feminine potency.Regardless of one’s gender identity, they will never forget body form they came in at birth. That was the beginning of their story.
In nêhiyawêwin birth is referred to as mamahtâwisiwin, “arriving from a spiritual place filled with medicine powers.” The arrival of women’s period is sometimes referred to as “her grandmothers have arrived” which insinuates the innate wisdom- kiskêyihtamowin, she possesses. Wisdom in Latin and in Greek means to “taste life.” In nêhiyawêwin, kiskêyihtamowin loosely means “the sacred things I know from which my heart has eaten.” Mathew Fox, a theologian writes “…There are two places to find wisdom: in nature and religious traditions…Nature is a powerful source of wisdom.” Some Elders believe that not every woman is a grandmother and it is only through pregnancy and childbirth that this right has been earned.
- Cree protocol for Ceremony, part one of a four part series
- Cree protocol for Ceremony, part two of a four part series
- Cree protocol for Ceremony, part four of a four part series
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