Christmas is a week away, and New Year's Day, two weeks. My 18-plus months of unemployment has kept me focused on the spiritual, the paranormal, the dead and the meaning of life, mostly through my readings and writing for my dissertation: How Do Fan/Viewers Use Paranormal Television and Related Media to Interpret Death and the Notion of an Afterlife.
In between, I have watched television and dvds related to these topics, as well--obviously television is the research focus, but I really am interested in finding answers and other ideas from cultures around the world.
I enjoyed watching a DVD called All is Made Beautiful: Native American Traditions with Oh Shinnah Fast Wolf and, after consulting the related web site, began doing some morning prayers of thanks, asking for blessings, and blessing my food. (Growing up, my parents said the traditional Christian prayer before meals--"Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen"--which my ex-husband described to my then future sister-in-law as, "They say mass at the dinner table."). For many reasons I like Oh Shinnah's blessing of the food--first you rub your hands together to generate energy. John Edward does this prior to his readings. I wonder if Reiki master's do it, as well.
Second, you create a mudra with the forefinger and thumb of each hand and hold your fingers wide open over the food, picturing a green healing light penetrating the food. I've always heard of green as a healing light. In relation to Archangel Raphael, the healing angel, and in relation to other "New Age" traditions, as well as the heart chakra emanating a green light. And the heart is the strongest source of energy in the body. So this felt right to me.
Third, you circle the food three times saying three times per rotation, "to help and to heal" for a total of nine recitations. 3 x 3 = 9 Three in the Bible is completeness. Nine in numerology is a complete cycle. So three threes, three cubed, total completeness. It makes sense numerically. It makes sense, spiritually to bless food and recognize its value to life.
Fourth, you take some of the food and give it back to the earth. It feeds the earth as the earth as fed you. It's the basis of composting, it's balance, it feeds the insects and creatures that keep the earth healthy which keeps us healthy. It's the cycle of life.
My family members think I've gone off the deep end by seeing things this way, but if we don't all begin to see things this way, WE will be the ones who are eliminated so that the earth and its non-destructive creatures can go back to the balance that its health requires. The planet won't die, necessarily, but we certainly will not survive unless we do the right thing.
About eight years ago, I had read about another Native American tradition in the book Write it Down, Make it Happen. It was a Native New Year ritual for eliminating things from one's life and bringing in new things. I really wanted to do this ritual when I read about it, but there were challenges. First, I needed arrows with black feathers and arrows with red feathers on them. Not something you can pick up at the corner store. I also needed tobacco. No one in my family smoked, thank goodness, but that meant finding a place that sold loose tobacco leaves. And third, I needed to be up before dawn on New Year's Eve day to do this ritual, which was best done on an uneven area of land. I could have easily done it in my own backyard, but my yard was flat without even a mound of dirt. So the creative side of me kicked in and I fashioned six arrows from long, pointed wooden skewers and I taped blackened paper to three of them (to represent feathers) and red-colored paper to the other three. I stopped at a cigar store in Huntington, NY, to get some loose tobacco. (I actually could have gone to a shop with Native American spiritual items in Huntington, too, but I guess it hadn't occurred to me then).
I then wrote down the things I wanted to eliminate from my life and wrote down the things I wanted to bring into my life. There was something about doing a drawing of it to keep. And something about writing each request on a slip of paper.
On New Year's Eve day -- December 31, 2002--I got up around 5 a.m. and drove, in the frigid morning hours, to a nearby state park, which was gated. However, while I couldn't drive into the park, I could walk around the gate, which I did. I went in just far enough to be away from the road but not too far in to be at a safe distance from my car. I could barely see. But I found an area that had a low spot and a slightly higher spot of land. I sprinkled tobacco in a circle on the low area and stuck the three arrows with black "feathers" into the ground with the requests for what I wanted to rid my life of. At that point I was supposed to say a prayer and burn the arrows. Not wanting to be arrested for starting a fire in a public park, I instead, as the writer of the book did, buried the requests in the circle near the arrows. I then moved to the higher ground area and did the same ritual with the red arrows and the requests for what I wanted to bring into my life. I said a prayer and buried the papers. I then hurried back to my car and drove home, back to my warm bed with the hopes of fulfillment of my requests dancing in my head. The Great Spirit instead of the Great Santa (or Santini) doing the work.
The next day, New Year's Day, I mentioned my early morning ritual to my mother-in-law, whose ideas of the world were more along the mundane, everyday expectations of most Americans. Why I mentioned it to her, I don't know. I think she asked me what I did for New Year's Eve, expecting to hear something about champagne and partying. When she heard I drove to a state park before dawn, her first response was, "Weren't you afraid of being raped?" (Not in that cold weather that early in the morning in the suburbs--but you never know, I suppose). When I told her about the ritual I had performed and why I had done it (to ask for change to come into my life for the new year), she said, "Why don't you just pray to Jesus like everyone else does?"
Cracked me up. I'm sure people do pray to Jesus with the same intention, but the act of actually making the preparations, writing down what I hoped for, and making the effort to go out into the cold in a natural setting kind of stirred up the intention within me. And I believe it is not the ritual or the words, but the INTENTION and the level of FEELING surrounding it that matters most. And apparently, that's what all the New Age writers are saying these days.
I doubt I will go out into the early morning hours to be planting arrows in Central Park in a circle of tobacco leaves this year. But I would like to continue bringing in new ways of seeing the spiritual side of life and bringing its possibilities into my physical reality.