Cree Protocol for Ceremony, part four of a four part series by Louise Halfe
- Louise Halfe | June 23, 2015
There are ceremonies dedicated to each full moon as well as the first Moon Time period. Moon tipiskâwi-pîsm – translates loosely as the “night moon,” or more accurately the “tumbling over or turning over of the night sun.” It is also referred to as nôhkom âtayôhkan which means “GrandmotherLegend Keeper,” the sacred holder of knowledge and legends of Cree pimâtisiwin. pimâtisiwin at a deeper level means the “blowing life of the wind” which is life, and is sometimes referred to as culture. The word psyche in Latin means “one’s spirt and wind”. The Old Ones teach that our ceremonies, our culture is our psychology.
The moon time is a time of reflection, power and consideration. It is the wakening of women’s fiery spirit, during the last week of her cycle she is waiting, wishing, meditating and dreaming, It is a time of learning, memory, moderation and deliberate action. In nêhiyawêwin this is referred to as pîsimâspinêwin, or “the moon’s behavior/psyche has taken over.” The menses is about transformation, regeneration and death. During a ceremony the protocol asks that people be mindful of dress, sitting position and moon management. This is not because the Elders are being disrespectful or dismissive, they are merely asking that the ceremony be respected. Participants are in fact humbling- ê-tapahtêyimocik ,” themselves in the sacredness of ceremony.” Contemporary Elders did not invent these wishes, these practices have been here long before their Elders were born and are inherent in our language.
Dress, miskotâkay – more literally means “to switch into another skin to cover up one’s private parts.” For ceremonial purposes the word that is used is mamahtâwisîho which means “in honoring of one’s sacred entity, one dresses.” Those who conduct a conduct a ceremony may be in opposition to women wearing pants, but the ospwâkan, “the Pipe” cannot turn people away. The circle will be broken if it is so. Everyone therefore must grapple with and be accountable for what they perceive to be humble and, respectful. The person who is responsible for the Pipe and whose belief system is entrenched in the dress protocol is free to establish that boundary for themselves, the ceremony they conduct, and if necessary for others. How they handle this is entirely their journey. They know for themselves, what it is to dress appropriately, sit upon the earth, and be in ceremony with humility and respect. The question for them is do they project this upon others? How will they welcome innocent seekers and share their knowledge?
There is also a misconception that one is a “Pipe Carrier.” In reality ospwâkan, carries us. To be carried by ospwâkan is not only an honor, it is a significant responsibility. To honor ospwâkan is, perhaps ironically, an earned kîspinacikêwin, “a and difficult burden.” ospwâkan opens most ceremonies. It does so to clarify the expectations of the rituals before a ceremony begins. All participants are the guests in this process, and follow protocol. It is not without flexibility. Women who avoid a dress can be offered a blanket and be encouraged to honor their feminine side or moon time.
I am deeply grateful to the language itself for these gifts of awareness, and to the Elders who guided this paper. This paper was written with respect and brought into ceremony. I may have offended some in the publication of this material. It is my hope that releasing this information inherent in the language will open the door to further discussion and help those in need. There is no end to the quest for knowledge. Reading and research is one thing, it is yet another to gather information through active participation in ceremony and direct communication with an Elder. One grows when one accepts and honors mistakes and pays attention to the corrections. Our Elders are diminishing in numbers, time is running short. More than ever we are in need of their wisdom.
- Cree Protocol for Ceremony, part three of a four part series
- Cree Protocol for Ceremony, part two of a four part series
- Cree Protocol for Ceremony, part one of a four part series