Join us as we learn the teachings and traditions of the Anishinabe people in Manitoba, and experience a sweat.
Ron Bell offers traditional teachings and interpretations of the Bannock Point Petroforms site, located in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. A permanent resident of the Whiteshell, recognized as a cultural teacher, regarded by many as an expert and as a “keeper of the Petroforms”, Ron has guided many groups and individuals through this site for a number of years, including ours.
“Manitou Api" refers to a central sacred site of North America, part of which is located in the petroform site of Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park, where First Nations traditionally gathered to share teachings and wisdom. Manitou Api means “where the Creator sits”.
The name Manitoba was derived from Manitou Api. Geographically, Manitou Api is located in the centre of North America. There are a number of petroforms at this special site, including one in the shape of a turtle. The turtle also represents Turtle Island, which is another name for North America. According to First Nations teachings, the Turtle represents the teaching of truth”. www.ignitingfire.org/2006
Anishinabe, also known as Ojibway, still attach importance to the major petroform sites of southeastern Manitoba as special teaching and healing places. These rock alignments, known as petroforms, serve as physical reminders of the instructions that have been given to the Anishinabe by the Creator. These adherents of the Midewewin, or Grand Medicine Society, are dedicated to spirituality and the pursuit of knowledge. To them, the area containing the petroforms is Manito Ahbee, the place where God sits. It is the site where the original Anishinabe was lowered from the sky to the ground by the Creator. While the first people to use the petroforms have not been identified, these stones are not just relics of past rituals of unknown people. Their importance to the Anishinabe continues to this day. The petroform sites are places where the spirits teach those who are open to instruction.
Members of the Midewewin, a society of healers, practise a code of ethics that promotes a long and healthy life through a commitment to the values of wisdom, love, respect, courage, honesty, humility and truth. The membership provide spiritual, physical and emotional healing to all who come seeking help. Increased knowledge in the use of natural medicines and in the power to heal are recognized by the member's passage through four to eight stages or "degrees." Advancement from one degree to another involves intensive periods of instruction, quests for spiritual knowledge, and initiation rites. The details of these rituals were often recorded in picture form on birchbark scrolls. Petroforms also may be recordings of these teachings.
In the Midewewin, The Sweat Lodge is very important. The history of how the Anishinabe received the Sweat Lodge is in itself a teaching. The Sweat Lodge was given to a boy who travelled to the dark side of the moon and met with the seven Grandfathers. It was given to the Anishinabe as a means of purifying the mind and body. The "sweat" must be conducted in accordance with a proper understanding. For those who participate, it can be a very powerful experience. When one is finished in the Sweat Lodge, "the eastern doorway is opened and a person crawls humbly out into the world, it is like being born anew".
Some common practices and key elements associated with sweat lodges include:
• Orientation – The door usually faces the fire. The cardinal directions usually have distinct symbolism in Native American cultures. The lodge may be oriented within its environment for a specific purpose. Placement and orientation of the lodge within its environment often facilitates the ceremony's connection with the spirit world.
• Construction – The lodge is generally built with great care and with respect to the environment and to the materials being used. Many traditions construct the lodge in complete silence, some have a drum playing while they build, other traditions have the builders fast during construction.
• Clothing – In Native American lodges participants usually wear a simple garment such as shorts for men or long loose dresses for women.
• Offerings – Various types of plant medicines are often used to make prayers, give thanks or make other offerings. Prayer ties are sometimes made.
• Support – In many traditions, one or more persons will remain outside the sweat lodge to protect the ceremony, and assist the participants. Sometimes they will tend the fire and place the hot stones, though usually this is done by a designated firekeeper. In another instance, a person that sits in the lodge, next to the door, is charged with protecting the ceremony, and maintaining lodge etiquette.
• Darkness - Many traditions consider it important that sweats be done in complete darkness.
• Etiquette - The most important part of sweat lodge etiquette is respecting the traditions of the lodge leader. Some lodges take place in complete silence, while others involve singing, chanting, drumming, or other sound. It is important to know what is allowed and expected before entering a lodge. Traditional tribes hold a high value of respect to the lodge In clothed lodges, women are usually expected to wear skirts or short-sleeved dresses of a longer length. Some lodge leaders do not allow menstruating women. Perhaps the most important piece of etiquette is gratitude. It is important to be thankful to the purpose of the sweat, the people joining you in the lodge, and those helping to support the sweat lodge.
• Risks - Wearing metal jewelry can be dangerous: metal objects may become hot enough to burn the wearer.Contact lenses and synthetic clothing should not be worn in sweat lodges as the heat can cause the materials to melt and adhere to eyes, skin, or whatever they might be touching. Because of the danger of melting, cotton clothing is better for lodges than synthetic.
Even people, who are experienced with sweats, and attending a ceremony led by a properly-trained and authorized Native American ceremonial leader, could suddenly experience problems due to underlying health issues. Check with your doctor, if you have any health issues that could cause you problems in a sweat.
(adapted from wikipedia)
Moontime and Ceremony
Moontime refers to the time a woman bleeds during her menstrual cycle. Through this cycle, women feel the effects of the moon, like we see the Earth affected by the ocean tides. There is some controversy and confusion about menstruating women and their participation in Native Ceremonies, such as the sweatlodge. Bleeding women sacrifice and give to the people during their moontimes, and through childbirth. The sweat ceremony was created for men to have a way to sacrifice and give for the people since they do not bleed monthly, or give birth. The Creator does not ask so much that women need to double their effort to be close to Spirit.
Much knowledge of women's traditions has been lost due to the genocide of Native peoples and the outlawing of their ceremonies. Before patriarchy, bleeding women were respected for their ability to nourish life and many still view this bleeding time as the first ceremony to connect with Spirit. Patriarchal society continues to view women's bleeding as a curse: dirty, and something to be ashamed of. These histories of oppression of Native Peoples and of Women leave us vulnerable to feelings of exclusion, anger, or hurt when ceremonies do not include mooning women in the same way as others.
Native Women used to routinely withdraw from their regular duties of childcare and food preparation to a moonlodge during their bleeding in order to rest and recieve dream guidance from the creator for their people. Some view this time of separation as a vision quest, a time to step away from daily tasks to focus on one's relationship with Spirit. The people honored and respected these bleeding women and their sacred role by covering the work otherwise done by them, and even cooking for them and protecting them.
(Adapted from an article by Ellen Faruna. http://www.sevencircles.org/Newsletter-Ceremony-MoonTime.html)
9:30am - meet at Tim Hortons, give introductions and lanyards out, finalize the carpool, get refreshments
10:00am - Leave Tim's in our organised carpools
11:30am (approx.) - arrive at the Petroforms site and start our guided tour with teachings
12:30pm - Travel to the sweat lodge for our next experience
1:00pm - After instruction and teachings we will begin the sweat
3:00pm - Picnic potluck lunch (nothing hot)
4:30pm - Carpool back to Tim's
6:00pm (approx.) - arrive at Tim's (please allow time for delays)
What to Bring:
• long skirt
• rubber boots (it may be very wet)
• appropriate outdoor clothing (we will be outside for most of the day)
• offering for the picnic potluck and serving utensils (cheese, cold meat, bread, fruit, crackers, chips, veggies, salad etc). Please note there is nowhere to store the food, so keep it in your cooler until needed.
• water to drink
• portable camping chair
• large towel
*Please note, this meetup is not suitable for dogs
• smaller towel for your face if you tend to get really hot
• small tobacco offering for the fire and for the site
* Note: Please be respectful and RSVP No if you are on your moon-time (or just come and experience the event without the sweat) There may be a spot at last minute, so keep the date free, just in case things change for you.
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$3.00 meetup fee
$15.00 donation for the experience
$12.25 for the carpool
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