Reclaiming our Moon Lodge

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As our Grandmothers have done since before recorded history, we the women enter into our own Ceremony each month. Flesh and blood, these physical manifestations of Spirit have the incredible capability to give life. Not to be taken for granted, moon time (menstruation) is a special time when our power is so great that our energy may inadvertently take over other Ceremonies. One egg dies each month while a cleansing of our bodies, minds, spirits, and emotions prepares us for yet another cycle. The womb of creation resides within each woman whether we choose to give birth or not. Cycles continue in the circle of life regardless of where we come from or how we live our lives.

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Are we aware of this power that naturally unfolds as we enter once again into our dark inward phase each month? It is our responsibility to learn what it means to be gifted these incarnations as women reclaiming our Moon Lodge. How do we do this? The answer is simple but seemingly difficult for our domestically trained minds in an increasingly technological time. We are living in a male dominated culture when production, efficiency, science, and reason are the focus. Feminine qualities which were once revered such as intuition, receptivity, and artistic expression are now viewed as a waste of time, frivolous, and lazy. While mother qualities are encouraged such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for our children, a balance is needed for us to have the energy to lovingly nurture others. Moon Lodge is a space where we can retreat from all responsibilities. Moon time is just 4 days out of each month when we, the women may recharge so that we are strong and empowered, ready to fulfill each of our specific life purposes while caring for our families in a joyful manner.

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Regardless of the cycles taking place in our outer world, we must be aware of and honor our own cycles. Together we support one another while welcoming a return of this sacred space. Let’s turn off our cell phones, quiet our busy minds, retreat to our Moon Lodge, and listen to what the Spirits are telling us. In native teachings, spirit is in everything. We can keep trying to find that teacher or book but it all resides within each of us. The universe is one and the same whether it be from the Spirit in the from of a clear understanding in that “Aha” moment or in the form of a direct feeling from a tree or stone. During the dark phase of our moon cycle, when we are bleeding, women are even more receptive so it is extremely important for us to calm our minds and listen to the messages that we need to hear in order to help ourselves as well as our relations. This is a good time to pay particular attention to our dreams and write in a journal so that we can reflect on them later. When we are mooning it is an opportunity to pray for anyone that we might feel needs help. From deep within ourselves we may develop or give birth to something new and we are in tune with an inner knowing of what is and is not working in our lives. As the moon surrenders her light, women follow her example and prepare to shed their blood, retreating into the Moon Lodge to rest, reflect, and gather wisdom.

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Why do we call it moon time? The tides of the waters are regulated by Grandmother Moon and she watches over all the waters of the Earth. Just as Grandmother Moon watches over the waters of the Earth, women watch over the waters of the people. Feminine waters are always first followed by new life. The moon cycle is a gift to the women and we are especially close to Grandmother Moon because she governs the woman’s cleansing cycle. Second only to the ability of the Great Spirit to give new life, it is considered a time of extreme power. Some traditions believe that when women are on their moon time, the Creator comes closer to them. It is interesting to note that in the newer patriarchal religions the moon is seen as a dark satellite and bringer of negativity whereas in the older traditions of the Earth, the moon has always been seen as a life giving force.

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Not to be crossed with the masculine fire element, moon energy is cool and feminine. In general, women pray with water (moon) while men pray with fire (sun). A ceremony of men and non mooning women centering around a fire might be simultaneously taking place with a circle of mooning women nearby. It is the responsibility of women to focus on the water instead of the fire as an additional fire burning with mooning women could be extremely dangerous. An unnatural increase in the flow of blood by the women in the Moon Lodge could occur. Another outcome could be that the energy of mooning women could completely take over the efforts of participants in the other ceremony which is counterproductive. Many ceremonies include men, women, and children but when it comes to subjects concerning women, it is meant only for women while discussions around men are meant only for men.

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To understand the extreme power that exists during moon time as well as reverence for this influential energy, we can go back in time and explore cultures from around the world. All indigenous traditions would agree that a mooning woman’s energy could overpower a Ceremony and would encourage seclusion for any woman who is menstruating. From a Native American perspective, a woman who is on her moon time that is not being responsible can be detrimental to the entire tribe. It was believed that menstrual blood could interfere with the power that men needed for hunting. Because this energy is associated with the positive forces of life, it could overwhelm their power to kill. Hunters were instructed not to walk near a menstruating woman or to swim downstream from where she bathed. There is a mystical connection that is thought to exist between the blood of a mooning woman, the essence of life, and that of game. This would keep a tribe from acquiring the necessary food for survival. In Hinduism, moon time is recognized as such an essential cleansing of toxins (ama) and metabolic wastes that women are believed to outlive men. Apana vayu is an aspect responsible for the circulation and physical movement of energy, wastes materials and fluids down and out of the body. This is an excerpt from the Old Testament in Leviticus 15:19, part of Semitic mythology, “When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening.”In Bali, a woman is not allowed to enter the kitchen to perform her usual duties, nor is she allowed to have sex with her husband while menstruating. She is to sleep apart from the family and has to keep her clothes that she wears while menstruating away from any clothes that she could wear to the temple.

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This small handful of examples from various parts of our world reveals the importance of this part of a woman’s cycle. Something to consider interesting about the times we are living in now is how little this sacred moon time is actually recognized and respected. Could it be that secluding women during menstruation is inconvenient? Would a lack of attendees in Church interfere with the overall amount of money given? Is our present culture so repressed and confused that there is literally no acknowledgment? Are we just incredibly lazy? How could it be that women still continue to keep going like this?

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On a practical level, we all need to make an effort to truly honor moon time by making some steps to change the recurring pattern of it being “just another day” and “just another moon time”. Not a time to be spent on the mundane of daily household chores, the veil between worlds is thin and is best spent in solitude or in a small group. Ideally we would have a house or room to return to each month that is clean, cozy, and accessible to rest and relax in. This is not always feasible so it is important for us to communicate with our families and friends about how important it is for everyone to acknowledge and respect this woman’s time. Perhaps, until this “space” is created we need to hang in there and with gentle assertiveness insist on some changes taking place in the home. Planning ahead helps so that when it is time to retreat, there is food prepared in the freezer or others in the house know that we are not responsible for everyone’s needs. What about the women taking turns feeding each other, doing laundry, watching kids, or other chores? Also, we each need to make this quiet time happen. Even if it is just for an hour, it is a start. It is perfectly O.K. to say no sometimes and we do not need to feel guilty for doing this. If we are routinely caring for ourselves then we will naturally have an inward peace that emanates from our being. The feeling of lack and overwhelm will be a thing of the past and then we have the energy to give to others.

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We pray for our sons, fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, and nephews as well as for our feminine counterparts so that things can be brought back into balance. There is no time to dwell on the dysfunction of our world that we have collectively created. It is time to honestly look at ourselves and make changes where it is needed. The time of separation between women is over. Now we must, once again, connect with our fellow Queen Goddesses and create our Sacred Moon Lodge Temples. We are muske, sisters dancing together as we always have been.

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SPIRIT HELPERS

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SPIRIT HELPERS

With a basic understanding of Comparative Religion, it is easy to see that spiritual traditions are all fundamentally the same. Especially with respect to the major deities. No matter your tradition, you focus upon the center of the universe and the source of all life. All religions and spiritual paths inherently celebrate the same thing really. Aside from the obvious creator/creatrix, there are the spirit helpers, Angels, messengers, immortals (saints) and spiritual intermediaries.logo FSICC,9

A Spiritual Helper can be several things. First and foremost is the idea that one of the major deities of the creation stories is presiding over you and helping you. Secondly, there are the Messengers, those beings who carry our prayers to the Major Deities / Gods and Goddesses so that they might hear them and eventually answer them.

The messengers are Divine beings. Regardless of your tradition and what you think you know, these Divine beings can be many things, Angelic beings (Wakinyan), Fairies (canotila) and Little People (Wiwila). All of these messengers have a few things in common. They were all created to work for the Gods and Goddesses (Collectively known as Wakan Kin), and do not procreate as we do.

Then, lastly, there are the Spirit helpers in the form of Immortals. Immortals are many different beings. These are the saints, or mortals who have attained special power by fortifying their souls. In most Indigenous traditions, these can be humans, animals and other mortal beings that have transcended their limitations. These are the Spirit Helpers that make one tradition different from another. This type of spirit helper is what makes a tradition different than no tradition. and this is what I want to talk about here.

Some descriptions of Native American saints are wrongly labeled as ghosts. What is known as the Ghost Nations, can be more accurately described as Immortals. This concept is not limited to humans and can be an animal, plant or other being that has attained enlightenment. For example, a great bear of the forest may somehow be granted power for some brave selfless act and thereby attain sainthood.

In all of this is the idea that some Immortals are better than others to have as Spiritual Helpers. Immortals are important and unique in that they can tell you things and help you as a friend. The eagle can see where the buffalo are and show you how to find them. The Human immortal can speak and give advice.

In the Lakota language, all of these Spirit helpers, as well as any divine beings, are known as Tunkasila. Roughly translated this means grandfather, but the term is applied in a genderless way. When someone says “Wakan Tanka, Tunkasila”, it can be understood as Creator, Spirit helper. A female Immortal would still be referred to as Tunkasila because the spirit world is somewhat more genderless than the physical realms. Tunkasila are the ancestors, whether they be the gods, Goddesses, gnomes, fairies, stones, trees or whatever.

In Native American traditions people speak of animal totems. This has to do with family ties to the animal nations. It is believed that far in the past most humans and animals could change their species. Humans could transform themselves into animals and animals could become humans. There are still a few individuals that can do this. This is known as shape shifting. As the story goes, humans and animals intermarried creating ancestral inter-species relations.

Ones’ animal totem has to do with an ancestral link with a particular animal. most people can see, when looking at a family, what animal is more prevalent. You can tell which parent past on the animal of their family to their children. The bear is a very prevalent family totem among all humans. This is so because bears came from humans. In the same way that it is believed that humans came from primates, we believe that bears come from people. That is why many tribes won’t eat Bear meat, it is considered cannibalism. Likewise, a medicine woman who works with the buffalo or has a strong family connection to the buffalo, will not eat buffalo meat.

A healer may have an ancestral link to the Elk nation, yet may have a “ghost” Spirit Helper of the mountain lion (for example). Inherently  a totem animal is a spirit helper of sorts, in that there is a connection to another nation, as relatives.

All beings are created in the image and likeness of the creator, on earth as it is in heaven, as above, so below. That’s true for everything and every event we experience. In Lakota philosophy this is known as Gapemini. For every visible/physical thing there is an invisible/ethereal counterpart. Likewise, for the creator to make the trees, it would have first had something like a tree within itself (for example). So, all trees have an over-soul, an angelic being “Tree” after which all trees were modeled.

There then is a messenger or angelic being representing of all forms of life in the universe. In the Lakota belief there are then 405 angels. That is why we make 405 tobacco prayer ties for the Hanbleceya (Vision Quest Ceremony).This is to address them all, perhaps only one or two of them will come to hear our prayers, but they are all invited. It is interesting to note that in European Christian lore, the Angels started to be depicted as humans (and as males), when in the original biblical descriptions, they are combined animal forms and never depicted as people.

Whatever the case may be, there are many types of helpful spirits. what I am wanting to focus on are the spirits that make one altar more effective than another. The reason why ancient traditions are more effective than domestic, contemporary traditions, is because they have more seniority and more validity with the founders of the universe.

People of our modern culture have difficulty understanding this concept. Those who do experiment with different spiritual paths, usually settle for something more tame and comfortable. These times are forging a whole new era of simplified, domestic religious systems. The problem with this is purely metaphysical and has little to do with doctrine or philosophy. It has to do with who you know and what kind of connections you have (spiritually).

Suppose you wanted a job as an executive for a large business. You would have to get credentials, get the right kind of education. The person hiring you would have to actually like you, You couldn’t just act like a jerk and expect to get the job. You would have to show that you have the skills to communicate by communicating in the right way. Suppose you got the job, you would have to learn who is who and fit into the pecking order And it would be of utmost importance to go through the proper channels.

As it is in the spiritual world, Just like anything else, it is all about who you know, the friends you make and your ability to forge and maintain good relations. A medicine man may gain a few Spirit helpers in his lifetime. This is within the context that he has a 26 thousand year old tradition backing him up. A tradition that forms a collective of Spiritual immortals that could not be achieved in any other way.

When someone just starts a new religion it will not have the power that an ancient tradition has. Most people in our culture would never even know the difference. In Indigenous Traditions, miraculous events are commonplace. Contemporary traditions scoff at this, claiming that it is the work of evil spirits. Some of the most powerful traditions of this earth have been massacred under this pretext.

When a ceremony is about to begin some of the The spirit Helpers are signaled by the activity itself, others are called from far away with songs. It is said that we were given intelligence and a voice originally for the communication with spirits. Some how we are so busy talking to ourselves or each other that we barely notice the spirits nowadays. All animals may use their voices to speak to one another, but if you pay close attention, you can catch them in the act of calling out to the very center of the universe, praying.

The Messengers or Angelic Beings are likewise specially attuned to the human voice. They were designed to hear us, to help us, as part of our birthright. An audio recording of Incantations to a spirit will not conjure that spirit, only the true voice will do that. If you have been praying for something and it has not come to pass, perhaps you haven’t spoken your prayer out loud. Many spirits may be able to read your mind, but not necessarily the messengers meant to carry your prayers.

It is interesting to notice, if you pay close attention to a spirit that is listening to a person’s prayer. notice what happens when the normal speech of the prayer breaks into a shaky crying voice. The spirit reacts with great urgency! Perhaps this is why in some spiritual traditions, prayers are recited, purposefully, in a shaky, weeping tone.

 Many spirits recognize any rite as being a ritual, especially by the presence of fire and water,  fire and water are part of what forms a doorway for spiritual beings. Just to make up a ritual one may attract attention but that is not always a good thing.  When a leader of an ancient tradition of any kind presides over a ceremony, he or she calls a group of spirits specific to that tradition.  To lead a made up ceremony may call upon one’s individual spirit or ones own ancestors.  When calling ancestors you should be aware of many things, as an example, when they show up, they may be angered by the breaking of some family taboo.  It may be something long forgotten by you in the present.

For example, if you have family ties to the Deer Nation, and your family was forbidden to eat deer for thousands of years, but somehow lost that ancestral vow, you could be in quite a fix when that spirit shows up. If your ancestors made any agreement with the spirits you would have to remedy that in the present, after all, you are here on behalf of your ancestors and therefore have somewhat of a responsibility to them.

Some spirits of one tradition may not jibe with the spirits of another.  In most all religions and systems of magic, it is understood that whatever you offer you attract. If you offer alcohol, you will attract spirits that like that stuff. Don’t offer Buffalo kidney to a vegetarian Hindu goddess! this represents what we call the mixing of medicines.

In the Voodoo tradition,  for instance, you will notice altars of conflicting deities are kept separate and not crossed. Different and even enemy forces of nature my be honored by one person, yet their altars are not lumped together like some new-age mishmash. These things are subtle to us, but very important to them.

When someone becomes a Medicine Man or Woman it is because they are initiated in a true tradition, regardless of anything else.  Whatever the case, a position like that exists because a group of spirits are assigned to a person by another person according to that tradition.  By merely understanding Native American spirituality by itself one may not  necessarily enlist the help of those spirits. There has to be an unbroken line of tradition making the connection.

As an example, from the Catholic tradition one can see then, the emergence of the Protestant faith. This is an interesting example because the protestants actually cut themselves off from the Catholic saints. Aside from God, the other major deities and the Angels, the protestants basically had to start from scratch. Over time they gained Spirit Helpers.

Keep in mind that there really is no wrong or right way to pray. The creation herself is the body of the goddess. No one goes unheard. We are all inherently connected to the source of all that is. No matter what wrongs we commit we are all inextricably connected to the creator. We are made out of the very substance of god and cannot even escape our divinity if we tried. It is a reality that we, as beings, can offend the spirits in the same way we could offend each other and even ourselves. Part of any Indigenous tradition relies upon the adherence to ancestral vows.

Nevertheless, though beings may take many forms and many bodies, we have one spirit. There is one force fueling all perception and that is the one thing beyond math and comprehension. The fabric of the universe is woven with one thread! Each one of us, and everything, has a direct connection to Wakan Tanka.

What makes a Tradition powerful is it’s collective of spiritual Helpers, particularly the immortals. Spirituality is the same with anything else. There is a structure and order to all things. When we are born, we work hard to learn to move. We learn slowly to stand, walk, Talk and everything else. the same thing goes with the spiritual path. We can’t just walk right after being born. In the spiritual life is no different.

A true spiritual tradition is characterized by it’s saints or Immortals. When a person claims to have spiritual power outside of a traditional context it is actually very rare.  There are many who take up a priest like position alone, like the new-age shaman or the solitary practitioner among neo-paganism.  The problem here lies in the issue that one person cannot enlist the help of enough spirits to form a group of spirits that characterize a true tradition.  The spirits of Native American spirituality in general are a culmination of thousands of lifetimes of spiritual work, sometimes more.

Being a Medicine Man or Woman is not dependent on what you know or how you behave.  Those factors do determine how long you keep that power.  Like many indigenous paths, a two way communication with the spirits is inherent.  This allows everyone to be informed directly rather than from written or oral instruction.  As you can imagine all this could be very dangerous without a traditional connection to a living lineage.

What does enlist the help of spiritual forces regardless of anything are the making of offerings.  A personal sacrifice, changing your behavior, leaving behind your ugly old ways or putting water out for your ancestors.  This is something that anyone can do and is probably the best thing to do to form spiritual alliances.