Unit 2: Aboriginal Spirituality Practices, Rituals, Festivals, Symbols, Sacred Writings Practices, Rituals, Festivals Today, Aboriginal peoples keep their spiritualism alive by participating in traditional festivals and by depicting their belief through their art and symbols. Some of their religious practices have become common to all Aboriginal peoples.
The Morning Dance Every spring, Ojibwa of southern Ontario perform the Morning Dance (Wabeno). Pays homage to the tree of the universe. Participants fast and cleanse themselves beforehand. Elder plays a drum and leads the dance in a clearing around a tree. Children, adults, and elderly dance from dawn to noon.
Each dancer touches the tree as they pass by to give thanks. At midday, everyone eats a feast of meat and fish. The Sun Dance Great Plains nations hold summer festival over 8 16 day period. Banned by Canadian government in 1880s. Ceremony identified the circle as important symbol and acknowledges the sun as the giver of life. Participants dance for long periods around central
wooden pole or tree of the universe. Face sun and pay homage to the suns life-giving powers. Some dancers embed sharp wooden hooks deep into their chest and connect skewers to leather thongs that trail from the top of the wooden pole. As they dance, they pull back on the thongs and tear their flesh. Resulting scars bear witness to their faith.
Dancers perform this ritual because they believe that the body is the only thing they control and can offer as a sacrifice to the Creator. By enduring pain, others will not have to suffer famine, war, or disease. Prayers are said for all people and vows are made to the Great Spirit during Sun Dance. Today, it is still practiced in Canada. The Potlatch Ceremony Northwest Pacific Coast nations practice this ceremony.
Feasting, distributing wealth, sharing songs and dances = Potlatch festival. Host gives a feast to celebrate important events: marriage, naming an heir, etc. The more wealth the host gives away, the more that person gains in status and greatness. Hosting clan grows in prestige. The Sweat Lodge Common among Great Plains nations. Renews the soul and helps regain focus. Sweat lodge cleanses physical and spiritual
body. Under direction of shaman, medicine man and spiritual leader, participants make a sauna-like construction. Dome made of saplings. Covered in animal skins, cedar which make it dark and airtight. Heated stones are placed in centre and water is sprinkled on stones. Participants crowd around stones in
confined space. Intense heat and steam cause them to sweat profusely, cleanses the body physically and spiritually. Prayers and a sacred pipe are shared. Elder or shaman assists by coordinating the ceremony. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFYI8 LpvFh8 The Shaking Tent
Ritual used by Aboriginal groups all over Canada. Represents beliefs and values of some about the supernatural world and its relationship with the living. Through the shaking tent, one can communicate with the spirits.
Constructed using 4 8 poles, placed deep in the ground to form a circle about a meter in diameter. Wooden hoop encircles the poles at top and bottom. Cylindrical shape is wrapped in birch bark or hide. Individuals who have requested the ceremony make a trade with shaman.
He enters the tent and intercedes with spirits. Asks spirits to solve problems such as finding lost object, communicating with ancestor, locating missing person, predicting outcome of an event. Always performed at night. The Vision Quest Rite of passage to adulthood. Coming-of-age ceremony common to most Aboriginal
nations. Seeker of vision quest is purified - involves confession. Occurs at sweat lodge. Medicine man instructs youth to go to a place far from camp. Youth prays, fasts from food and water, and endures elements for several days, awaiting a vision.
Seeker hopes to receive a message from a guardian spirit, who may appear in an animal, object, or other natural form. If no vision is seen, person must try again. Shaman will help interpret messages. Smudging Ceremony One of the most popular Aboriginal rituals that includes the burning of sweet grass and drawing smoke ritually over the body. This helps to clear ones thoughts, wash away impurities, and focus on a positive future.
Symbols Native American use of symbols vary according to different nations and regions, here are a few uses: As assurance that guardian spirits are present. Whether a warrior needs more courage, or a new home needs a blessing - symbols always mark the occasion. Seeking assistance from a spirit. These symbols
are the image of the spirit, and thus the object on which the symbol is depicted (tools, blankets, etc) is spiritually charged. This means that where a symbol is so too is the original power. Symbols: Turtle Island The symbol for North America, also referred to as Mother Earth, is a turtle. The Turtle is considered to be one of the oldest
most sacred symbols for many Aboriginal peoples. They believe that North America was created on the back of a turtle. Symbols: Dream Catcher Wooden hoops of bent willow Woven with web made of nettle stalk cord dyed
red with bloodroot If hung over your bed your bad dreams are filtered through the web and dissipate into the Universe; your good dreams remain caught in the web. Symbols: Eagle Feather A symbol of strength, it gives the holder the power
to represent others. It is often presented as recognition to someone who defends, fights for, or negotiates on behalf of Aboriginal peoples or people of native ancestry. Some elders describe the eagle feather as a symbol of healthy relationships. Aboriginals believe the Creator loves the
Eagle most because it flies closest to her, and because it symbolizes the duality, or contradictions of life man and woman, light and darkness, summer and winter (this is seen in the light and darks colours of the feathers). Symbols: Eagle The protector of Peace that sits atop the Tree of Peace Universally accepted as the principle messenger of the Creator. The Eagle is a powerful symbol of courage; that is why
its feathers are such powerful tools for healing, and why there are special ceremonies for Eagle feathers. Gives holder power to represent others. Dropped Eagle Feather Dance To most Native Americans the eagle feather is sacred. So, when a feather falls from a dancers outfit, the powwow must stop and a special ceremony must be performed. In some traditions, a fallen eagle feather is treated like an enemy because it is believed the sacredness of the feather can turn against the person who dropped it. The ceremony is necessary to capture the
feather, ask its forgiveness and say a prayer over it to make the feathers medicine good again. The ceremony is performed by four male traditional dancers, generally veterans (i.e., warriors who have earned the privilege) who dance around the feather. At a certain point in the song, they approach the dropped feather from four directions and attack the feather, usually four times. In some instances, the warrior who actually picks up the feather relates a battle or war story. For most tribes, four is a sacred number, symbolizing, among other things, the four directions. When the feather is retrieved, a prayer is said. Symbols: Fire
For most Tribes, fire symbolizes the heart of The People. Present at all ceremonies in one form or another, from smoke in a smudge bowl or pipe, to the blazing fire at a Sun Dance or Potlatch. Fire cleanses the spirit, it is used to heat the Grandfathers (rocks) before placing them in the pit of a sweatlodge; the smoke from the fire is used to send prayers to the Great Mystery. Fire represents cleansing and renewal, for
out of the ashes comes new growth, new thoughts, rebirth of ideas and new ways of being. Symbols: Tree of Peace Connects Earth to Heaven Used in the creation of totem poles Tall white pine planted to represent the Great Law of Peace, unified the Five Nations under one law.
The Peacemaker proclaimed, "If any man or nation shows a desire to obey the Law of the Great Peace, they may trace the roots to their source, and be welcomed to take shelter beneath the Tree." Symbols: Circle Circle = Symbol of unity, strength
and cycles of life Sacred Writings Stories and prayers are passed on through generations by shamans or elders oracy Speaker will often use an aid, like a necklace of beads, wampum, totem pole or feather Handsome Lake Iroquois man who lost his homeland in New York during American Revolution in 1783
Suffered debilitating illness and became alcoholic Eventually swore off alcohol, died and was revived Upon recovery, he had visions and received messages from the Creator This resulted in a reforming movement, with a renewed moral code designed to reverse the social decline of the remaining Iroquois He reported seeing 4 heavenly messengers who told him the 4 words of the 4 wrongs in the world: alcohol, witchcraft, black magic, abortion These were recorded in The Code of Handsome Lake
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