A Most Powerful Ceremony
On Sunday, Jan 11th I participated in a Coahuilteka (healing and empowerment) ceremony with Chief Sonne Reyna and his brother, Jesse Reyna of the Yaqui Indian Nation. It was a powerful experience that I want to share with others.
About 20 people gathered at a house in San Francisco. We began with a sharing of food and a getting to know who was there with us. Before the actual ceremony, we all watched "Mending the Sacred Hoop". This film is about a Lakota Indian Chief leading rides (on horseback) to places like Wounded Knee where congregations of indigenous peoples perform sacred ceremony together for the sake
of the world, and to heal the land where terrible things have happened. (Wounded Knee is an infamous place where large numbers of defenseless American Indians were massacred by the US Cavalry in the mid 19th century)
A recent congregation took place in Costa Rica where indigenous peoples gathered from all over Central, North, and South America. Another such gathering in June, 2004 took place in Hiroshima, Japan (As the Lakota Chief says "There are places like Wounded Knee all over our world").
After the film, the Chief began the actual ceremony by telling us a little history of how the Yaqui nation was governed in traditional times. There were two governing houses (much like the Senate and the House of Representatives) but one house was composed of all men, and the other, all women. Each had equal power in decision making for the tribe, including warfare. And the men would not go to war unless the women agreed. Sometimes in dire situations, the mothers of the tribe would place themselves between the warriors of conflicting tribes and bring the fighting to a halt.
Chief Reyna said that modern society has is backwards today in our "artificial world". The real power of the women has been taken away. He believes that the only hope for America to become truly great is to take responsibility, and to heal from the genocide and other atrocities that were committed upon the native American peoples by the European invaders. The Chief says that this healing must come about by the restoration of the true power of women.
Then the Chief spoke about ancient ceremonies in which the sacrifice of blood was the medium of powerful prayer. For women, in their monthly menstrual cycles, they would for a time, bleed consciously on the earth as a prayer. And for the men, this bleeding took a different form where they willingly allowed their bodies to be cut and bled as a way to strengthen their prayers. (Sometimes women, not in their menstrual cycles, would choose this way also)
The Chief said that this most potent and powerful practice has been completely misunderstood and is all lost in modern times.
The Chief offered us the opportunity to participate in such a blood sacrifice. Eight of the twenty (5 men and 3 women) chose to do so. We went outside, It was cold and foggy. The Chief told the men to remove their shirts and "make friends with the cold". I resisted at first, but did as he asked, and surrendered to the experience. Soon, I did not feel cold at all.
As we waited in line for the bleeding, he asked each of us to formulate a powerful prayer and keep our intentions focused on this throughout, The other participants (who chose not to bleed) held places in a surrounding circle, and all focused their intentions together. Even before the bleeding, I could feel the magnifying power of what was happening. When it was my turn, I held a sacred peace pipe to my heart and prayed to "End the destruction of the rainforests in the Lands of the Condor, and to stop the killing in Colombia".
The shape of a lightning bolt was cut into both of my shoulders. Each man received the same. Circles (of life and healing) were cut into the arms of each woman. The conscious wounds hurt and bled, but I felt the pain as a sacrifice to empower our prayers to end the suffering of others, and I willingly endured it. The intensity of the ceremony magnified even more. Some of our blood and flesh
was given back to each of us in small blood red prayer packets.
Then another phase of the ceremony began. We each received seven small pieces of cloth of different colors. As we faced in different directions, we chanted ancient Yaqui songs holding tobacco in our fingers and infusing it with our breath. (Tobacco has long been used by indigenous peoples to hold and transmit sacred intention)
With YELLOW, we faced East and prayed for the end of the suffering of Asian peoples perpetrated by the greed and violence of men.
With WHITE, we turned to the North, and prayed that the white man, especially the leaders, would begin to FEEL the consequences of all their actions, and see the changes that are so badly needed in our times.
With BLACK, we faced south and prayed for the end of the suffering of the black people perpetrated by the greed and violence of men.
With RED, we faced west and prayed for the end of the suffering of the native people of the Americas perpetrated by the greed and violence of men.
The Chief was particularly impassioned during this time. His chanting, and wails for the suffering of the world brought about by men, penetrated each of us deeply. He cried for the ghosts of those who had been killed at places like Wounded Knee to return to their home in the stars, and leave this world to the living.
With GREEN, we held the offerings to our hearts and touched the women around us, praying for end to the suffering of women which has been the most grievous of all.
With BLUE, we touched the men around us, and prayed for the end to their suffering, and the atrocities we have committed collectively and individually for the sake of greed and righteousness.
And we prayed for the restoration of man's rightful role as the sacred guardians and protectors of women and children
With PURPLE, we prayed for the miracle, that all our prayers and intentions would be answered.
After this we offered more sacred chants for the sake of women and children, and for all the living creatures of our world.
We ended the ceremony in a large circle holding hands, and the Chief told us that the Yaquis never say "goodbye". They part from each other with the word "ashokee" which means "we will meet again".
Then each of us embraced the others with the word "ashokee" and went our separate ways.
That night at home when I showered, the hot water burned the places I had been cut and bled. Waves of emotion welled up in me.
I cried out to the stars and the divine powers to bring an end to all the suffering caused by man. And I embraced the pain of these wounds of love for the sake of others.
In the days that followed this ceremony, I continued to feel these effects strongly. Something changed inside of me, and I felt honored and grateful to have participated in such a sacred event.
It is my hope that this story will inspire many others to participate in such sacred ceremony if they are given the opportunity.
Let it be so.
Bob Bishop (Jan, 04)
To contact Chief Sonne Reyna, or learn more about his work:
NOTE: This essay has been shared with you by permission of Chief Sonne Reyna, although the content of such ceremony is not usually written about. Therefore, the Chief has asked that it NOT be distributed without permission, and is in NO way to be published elsewhere in ANY form.
Thank you for honoring his wishes and mine.