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Rituals and Ceremonies

Rituals and ceremonies are performed for many reasons, birth, death, coming of age, marriage, full moons, new moons, equinoxes, solstices, as preparation for a journey, before healings, and to celebrate important events. Rituals serve as a focus for what you wish to accomplish and as a reminder of our connection to the web of power.

Rituals and ceremonies tend to use rattles as well as drums. Drums are used to help the shaman journey to and from the world of the spirits. Rattles tend to bring the spirits to a place. Rattles are also used for directing energy much in the same way wiccans use wands. Rattles are traditionally made from dried gourds filled with small stones and attached to a stick. However anything that rattles nicely can by used in a pinch although one made from natural objects always tend to have the nicest feel. Do whatever feels right for you.

The following are links to information about some rituals and ceremonies. They are by no means word for word accounts of how to do them. Instead they were written to serve as a guide for people to learn from and develop their own rituals out of. It is your life. It is your path. Live it for yourself.

Ritual Opening

Opening a ritual can be as simple as wafting sage smoke over yourself. They get more complicated form there. Your openings and closings for your rituals should be as simple or as complex as you feel comfortable with. More complex does not mean better, not however does it mean worse. there is also no rule saying that you have to use the same opening and closing for each and every ritual you perform. Often people start circles in the east for the rising sun, but you can start them from any direction you choose depending on what feels right to you or which area you wish to focus on. Make sure that when you do a ceremony you know what you are doing it for. Be careful what you ask for and watch your wording and your intentions.

One example of an opening:

Before beginning any ceremonies everyone present must be smudged. Smudging is a process of using smoke to clear away any negative energies and to attract positive energies to you. Use a large shell, pottery or stone bowl as the container for the sage and sweetgrass. Light the herb, blow out the flames, to keep it smoldering use a feather or your hand as a fan. The person doing the smudging first brings the smoke toward his or her heart and then up and over the head. This will help his energy to run in a good direction, and it will take away any negative thoughts or feelings out of him. Then offers the bowl to the four directions. Then to Father Sun and Earth Mother. Those participating should be in a circle and the smudging should be done in a sunrise direction beginning with the north.

Another example of an opening:

Stand in the center of where you want the circle to be. Start from the east and draw a circle, clockwise, with the rattle while shaking it, or, if you wish, walk the circle while shaking the rattle. Return to the center facing east. Call the spirits of the east. Shake the rattle above your head, at chest level and at waist level to call the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds respectively. You may choose to say something to invoke the spirits, for instance, "Spirits of the East, Season of spring, Please bring (something or things that east symbolizes to you) to this ritual (or meeting or ceremony etc...)" Repeat for south, west and north. Then for sky and earth. You could also designate a person to speak a few words for each of the directions if you wish. You should then address your guides and invite their presence. Then address all the spirits present with what the ritual is to be for and ask for their aid.

Ritual Closing

Basically a closing is just like an opening except that instead of greeting the spirits you are giving thanks to them and parting with them. Always remember to thank the spirits for their help. If you do not remember to be grateful the spirits may choose to stop helping you until you remember your manners. You do not order the spirit world around, you work hand in hand with it.

Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel in all of its forms, has the power and the ability to connect you to infinity. When used in the proper manner they will help your healing and evolution and with the healing of Earth Mother. What I am sharing here are the ceremonies that I use in connection with my own life and Medicine Wheel. They are based upon the Native American Way, but are also from my own personal visions.

I am providing a guideline for you, to help you become familiar with the Wheel. However, you should, when it feels right, use your own Vision and intuition to guide you in developing the ceremonies that are right for you and for your Medicine Wheel.

We all have our prayer placed in our hearts at the time of our birth, and our songs, these are the prayers we should make and the songs we should sing. I will share with you the way I pray, but your true prayer must come from within your heart.

In the traditional way, "Medicine" refers to "the way of things," a way of life, or the essence of a living being. We each have our own "Medicine" or way of life through our essence and personal power wherein we chose which of the Four Directions to focus most of our energy, and how to seek our own harmony and balance. The Medicine Wheel symbolizes the way of things as represented in the Four Directions, each of which stands for one aspect of life:

At the center of the wheel is the fire pit. Sometimes referred to as "The Creators Eye".

This is surrounded by seven stones. Representing the Four Elemental Clans, Father Sun, Grandmother Moon and Earth Mother.

To complete the wheel four stones are placed as directional stones. Starting with the North, West, South and closing the circle with the East Placing the stones in this sequence will allow the Spirit "door" to remain open.

Respect this space. It will remain a space to refresh your energy. Visit it to find harmony and to center yourself when needed.

Try standing in the different positions of the wheel see how each one affects the level of your energy. Learn the powers of the direction. Each position can give you new growth and new understanding.

Vision Quests

Vision quests have taken many forms over the centuries, from tests of survival, to pilgrimages, to inner quests. A vision quest can bring you in touch with yourself and the spirit world in an unparalleled way. Everyone can benefit from such a quest.

You will need to decide certain things before you start your quest. Where will you go? When will you go and how long will you be gone? What will you ask? Where you will go is important. A personal place of power is best. It should also be someplace secluded. As for the length of your quest, it does not have to be long, just long enough. Sometimes just one afternoon will be enough, sometimes it will be days. Ask your guide if you are not sure how long you should spend. Remember to let someone know where you will be and how long you will be gone. Questions for vision quests are normally major questions about your life or about very large problems you might be facing. If you can not think of a question ask you guide for help and if you are ready to take such a quest.

Historically shamans fasted before and during a quest, both to purify themselves and as a sacrifice of them themselves to show that they were serious about what they were undertaking. Please note: Severe fasting can be VERY harmful to your health. Instead I would suggest you eat less than normal for a couple of days before your quest. Do NOT take alcohol or drugs for a couple days before or during a quest if you are in the habit of doing so normally. During the quest try to eat nothing. If you need to drink a little juice or broth. Do NOT try and go without water. Make sure you bring enough to last your entire quest. Your health is most important. If you have special medical considerations. please take them into consideration. Do not do anything that might hurt you!

Bring as little on your quest as possible, clothes enough to keep warm, a blanket, water, a drum and or rattle, sage, and if you wish writing or drawing material (for stuff related to the quest not for writing letters home to Mom! {grin}). Do not bring snack foods, radios, walkmans, gameboys, trampolines, battery operated TV's, etc... The fewer distractions the better. Bring only what you think you will need.

If you have a general area for your quest once you get there you can feel your way to the correct spot, much in the same way you found a power spot or you can use your rattle, shaking it in front of you, to guide you to the right place. Once you are there, create a ritual circle, calling the six directions and outlining a circle about eight or nine feet in diameter with stones or twigs (find them on the ground, don't pull them off the plants) or other such things. Make yourself comfortable in this doorway between the worlds. Close your eyes and greet and introduce yourself to the elements and life around you (plants, animals, rocks, etc...). Spend as much time as you need, a long time spent doing this is good. Journey, dance, sing, chant, listen, learn, experience.... If you wish you can try and stay awake for the entire quest. On a long quest you can choose to sleep a couple of hours, but try to sleep as little as possible.

Look for signs form your guides. Subtle signs are the rule. The spirit world doesn't need to use a sledgehammer. A bird call, a pebble formation, or a visit from an animal can all have great weight and meaning on a vision quest. Do not worry if you get restless and hungry, you probably will be and it will bug you. Just acknowledge it as part of the experience. Don't leave early. Stick with it. The experience will be much more powerful.

When it is time for you to leave, restore the area to how it was before you came. Clean up any trash left there by others. Remember to thank the spirits and your guides before you leave.

Your answers may not be clear. In fact, they may be a long time coming. remember that time is relative and you will know what you need to know when it is time for you to know it. Feel free to share what you experienced with people who will not judge you if you wish. If you feel something should be kept private then do so. You don't have to tell anybody anything if you don't want to.

Cross Over

A "Cross-Over" exercise is a way of getting out of an energy rut or a comfort zone that requires the shifting of mental energy. It sets up opposite energies, with water being a powerful energy for "clearing." A Cross-Over is also very helpful if you do not know which direction you should go in.

Visualize a stream of water that can be crossed by walking over a bridge. It is important to touch the water on your forehead and give thanks to the water. Say, either to yourself or out loud, that you are going to experience Cross-Over to move yourself in the direction of healing. Slowly walk across the bridge while looking ahead, rather than down at the water.

"Feel" the sense of energy movement as you continue to move slowly. If you sense someone crossing in front or behind you, just stop and let this "person" pass. Continue to move across until you feel a sense of calm. Once you feel the sense of calm, then "feel" which is more comfortable: looking up the stream in the direction it is flowing from, or looking down the stream in the direction it is flowing to? Note where are you on the Bridge? Are you near where you started, the middle or the opposite side?

Continue slowly across to the other side. Once you have crossed, explore your feelings. The messages will tell you the direction with which you are connected. Sometimes you get very subtle messages, or a picture of something that may not fit until a later time. If you are in the middle of the bridge when you feel the sense of calm, then you are all right being with others and allowing the energy to go around you. If you are at the starting side, then you may not be ready for the change. If you feel the sense of calm at the other side, then your spirit has already made the change and may be waiting for you. Looking up the stream refers to being actively involved, and looking down stream means you are probably ready to disengage a little now, or maybe you can just follow rather than trying to lead.