JUNE 15, 2012 7:07PM

Teepee blessing

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A friend got a teepee put up on her property and asked me to lead a blessing of same together with a Native elder at the last full moon.

I was slightly intimidated. Gee, a *Native Elder*, who would do quiet dignified stuff with smudge and tobacco, and then the crazy Wiccan would urge everyone into her rude, crude and sometimes lewd song-and-dance.

The friend, a member of our local full moon group, had got someone *authentic* to put together an *authentic* teepee. Must say, it looks really good. Set in a little cleared space beside a swamp, tall trees around but a view of sky above the swamp, and in front is a great firepit ringed (rung?) with big boulders.

Space for the picture below. Sigh. I couldn't find my regular camera – I hope it's not out in the garden in the rain – so I brought my little video camera...which has recently declined to do stills. Tried one more time...but it's still not doing stills.

View inside the teepee. Benches, blankets...note the altar at the far end. Um, I don't think an altar is an authentic feature of a teepee, but never mind. Neither, I suppose, is the mosquito netting.

And one final non-photo – people cooking bannock over the fire. Dip your stick into bowl of dough, pat it into a ball, put over the fire, all same roasting marshmallows, until slightly charred on the outside and sometimes still sticky inside. (The elder noted that the people were doing it in “the real Indian way”...which he didn't join in with, but instead partook from the fruit tray.)


Anyway, so the elder arrived not too much after the rest of us, who were already a bit late (Indian time trumps Pagan time). He was a little old fat guy. Our hostess introduced him around and when they got to me he said, oh yeah, we've met. Which was true – he was familiar. But from where or when? (It bugged me enough that I dreamt about it the next night: Ah, NOW I remember...except my dream-meister didn't bother to concoct anything but went on with some other nonsense, and when I woke up nothing had altered in my blankitude.) He did very non-intimidating ceremony. Actually, nothing. When our hostess asked him to welcome the (about a dozen) people, he said she should do it, her home and all. She then suggested he smudge the people and the teepee; he said he didn't know much about that and passed the task onto N, who has lots of smudging experience.

So in the end the elder didn't actually do anything except lend his presence as a member of the Agonquins whose, um, land all this is in these parts (including Ottawa, the nation's capital), and if I recall rightly they never did sign a treaty and occasionally threaten to evict everybody.

The woman who supplied and supervised erection of the teeppe was present and, I think, is Native. Also I think our hostess is part Native. But most of the Natives around here, ah, look like Elizabeth Warren, if you know what I mean. (It's a niggle of mine that if you have to wonder/ask if someone's Native, they ain't. But then I remember a place I worked at, run by a born-again [semi-demi] Native with a summer student down from the rez who spoke the language, did the dances, etc. etc., blue eyes and blonde hair notwithstanding. And then some other Native guy going on at somebody about how it was up to THEM to decide who was Native and who wasn't. Fair enough I guess. None of my business. Like in the hippie daze when oldsters complained they couldn't tell the boys from the girls – what's it to me.)

Anyway, then it was my turn. So I had people circle the fire and sing and shuffle, then around the teepee. Then gave them incense sticks – lit one, lit the second and third from it, then mine died down to the smoke stage and someone who still had a flame traded with me, and so on, until everyone was lit. Note to self: think out the logistics better ahead of time; OTOH, this worked out neatly! So then everyone went around the outside and inside of the teepee with their incense sticks (black madonna brand, direct from Montserrat in Spain) and then stuck them among the stones in the small fire inside the teepee.

Then I lit a candle to light the first person's candle, who lit the second one's, etc., and around and round, outside and inside, and then we put the flames together to light a pillar candle set on a stone of the inner fire.

Then everyone got a little punch cup (many jokes because they were fresh that day from the dump/reuse-centre) and our hostess poured in some water from, oh dear, I forget where, someplace special, and augmented by water from various streams in our area. Around and around, outside and inside, flicking water on the teepee, then pouring the remnants into a goblet. (NO DRINKING! MIGHT KILL YAH!)

Finally a bit of salt in everyone's hand to sprinkle around, outside and inside, and then the left-over onto a plate.

The actions symbolizing our individual and collective energies.

Then inside the teepee three AUMs to 'call down' (make us conscious of) the sun/sky energy through the hole at the top of the teepee, and three MAUs to 'call up' the earth energy. Sun's energy penetrates and awakens the earth, and together they form life. We are earth-stuff that gathers itself together and comes alive and walks around for a while, fueled by sun-energy, before returning to earth, blah blah.

Then with a bit of an apology to the elder, we did one of those pseudo-Indian songs, Oh Great Spirit, which seemed like a good one for the place and occasion. Teepee had pretty good acoustics.

Then outside for another Native (or Native-inspired) chant, a livelier one (The Earth is Our Mother), and dance (shuffle) around the fire.

And then close and eat.

Which is where the bannock-on-a-stick comes in. And the fruit plate. I'd brought some nice Euro baking-powder biscuits and rhubarb jam, and cheese buns. There was another container of water, this one potable. For our Wiccan ceremonies, we usually have wine, but I had been given to understand from other times and places that Natives don't want alcohol in their ceremonies.

Anyway, people seemed to enjoy, the hostess pronounced herself happy (and looked properly transported during the ceremony), and the elder didn't complain (or, actually, didn't say much of anything...until around the fire he and the other men got onto stuff country people talk about - guns, weather, coyotes, whatever).

We got sprinkled on FTTT, nature blessing us too, but the rain held off. Too cloudy, however, to see the full moon... 

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Sounds like a fascinating time was had by all!
Rate would not generate!
Golly! Look at that! There's a rate!
Native people are very accomodating even if they are often late to functions. I really enjoyed reading about the teepee blessing.
That sounds pretty cool and mystical.
What an interesting experience. I hope I get to read more about the teepee this summer. My daughter will be working in Attawapiskat this summer. I wonder if she will work with First Nation people and will know them to be so. Rated for being a fascinating look into something I have never experienced.
At least someone knew what they were doing, Myriad.
Or sort of.
Sounds rich.
Your descriptions were vivid. I didn't miss the photographs at all. So interesting! ~r
Amaze our lame Amazement.
Yesterday we talked Teepee.
We have a 18-foot wide TP.
The Fire creates Wonders.
All age levels tell great tales.
It be best to watch TP Sparks.
Years ago I bought a Teepee.
I Believe we best turn off TV.
A Mennonite sells TP poles.

Rats chewed through canvass.
We threaded colorful patches.
The TP poles rotted. I go now.
fun . . .
They can be insulated at bottom.
The inner hearth has magic force.
It's hued with many varied colors
Wonderful week for ritual. I enjoyed reading about yours.
Myriad, I really enjoyed your telling - the conversational quality of it. And you had me laughing with your down to earth, off the spiritual high horse, take on the whole thing.
"Indian time trumps Pagan time" - that's a good laugh out loud one. As was the clever comparison, "Like in the hippie daze when oldsters complained they couldn't tell the boys from the girls – what's it to me."
Loved reading of all the "actions symbolizing our individual and collective energies." and about the "AUMs" and the "MAUs" - right on. Sounds like the tepee was for a sweat lodge. Thanks for sharing.
Here's another rate and hugs!
Reminds me of a sunrise ceremony where a friend of mine attended her own wake... after the prayers and music, everyone returned to her family's loft where her husband and I made breakfast for all the guests and by ten o'clock everyone was full, each and everyone bid her good-bye. Seventeen days later she went to sleep and never woke up.
jmac - I want to do something like that!

Zuma - thanks!

Maria - right on...except a sweat-lodge is a rather different structure. Hah! Which reminds me - years ago this same friend hosted a womens' ritual get-together in her then house, which was very small, it was wintertime, she had wood stove on, it got very hot...so afterwards we ran outside and rolled nekkid in the snow. Sort of improvised sweatlodge scene (or sauna).

Maureen - have you got a ritual to tell us about?

Art - ah, yes, sparks... And I imagine the poles need replacing occasionally...and the covering too... But yes, "The inner hearth has magic force." I look forward to future occasions of telling tales and such around that inner fire.

Joan - Ah, but the pictures would have been SO cool...

Kim - I can always do *something*, but I thought it was very cool how the elder managed to do nothin'. I must take notes.

Pandora - Well, Attawapiskat is a Native community. Somewhat isolated up in northern Ontario. The more isolated the Native communities, haha, the more Native the people look. Dunno about Native customs and such - some First Nations communities are very Christian and down on the old stuff. Some communities are split. Also, I always thought teepees were actually used by Plains people, not the woodland peoples of these parts. But what do I know... I hope your daughter has lots to tell (and pictures to show) from her summer.

Just Phyllis - I think it was!

Seer - It's a joke among Pagans about how we operate on Pagan Time, but when push comes to shove we're still People Of The Clock.

Miguela - I was hoping not to be offensive to anyone who is or knows Natives. (Pagans, who cares - their MINE and I'll insult them if I want!)

Poor Woman - thanks for persevering!