_Braiding Sweetgrass_. By Robin Wall Kimmerer. copyright 2013
Sitting with this book, sipping hot cocoa, and watching the land sleep and slowly, ever so slowly, begin to awaken was the absolute best way to begin 2021. This is a favorite book and I have reread certain sections of it many times over the past years. This year, my approach was different. I sat and soaked in her words, her thoughts, and her teachings . . . I sat with notebook (see turtles above?) and pen. I sat attentively watching for the word ‘ceremony.’ I approached it as I do Lectio Divina — and it made such an impact.
There aren’t going to be lists and lists of quotes from the book. You should probably own a copy and if you don’t, I cannot recommend reading this book enough. The audiobook is perfection since she reads it herself and you get to hear bits of Potawatomi language.
Here, in a nutshell, are the principles of ceremony from an Indigenous perspective:
Ceremonies are the way we remember to remember
Ceremonies draw a circle around our family
Ceremonies have the power to focus attention
That, I think, is the power of ceremony: it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to a prayer. The material and the spiritual mingle like grounds mingled with the humus, transformed like steam rising from a mug into the morning mists.
Rooted in gratitude and reciprocity
To have agency in the world, ceremonies should be reciprocal creations, organic in nature . . . They should not be cultural appropriations from Native peoples.
To honor the cycles of the seasons
Include human and the more than human world.
Honor the land and our connection to it.
A second time she says: ceremonies are the way we remember to remember
My takeaways from this are nature based, gratitude based, family/community based ceremonies are the most important. I don’t need to keep a running list of saints’ days in my head, I just need to be observant of the Earth and all her rhythms. Those are worth remembering, those are worth gratitude, and those will knit our family/community together around this place.
I wasn’t seeking a new project. In fact, I thought I had more than enough on my hands as it was. And yet, here I am six weeks into a project that has already worked its way deep into my being. It started, as all good things do, in a conversation among companions. We were discussing little rituals that we have and how creating a ritual can help with grief, remembrance, and celebration. A quote came to mind from RWK’s book _Braiding Sweetgrass_ and so I shared it with my companions. The rest of the day I began to remember more quotes from her book and from others. By the next morning I decided to spend this year reading, writing, and creating ceremonies.
The quote that started it all: That, I think, is the power of ceremony: it marries the mundane to the sacred. The water turns to wine, the coffee to a prayer. The material and the spiritual mingle like grounds mingled with the hummus, transformed like steam rising from a mug into the morning mist. _Braiding Sweetgrass_ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, pg 37/38.
My hope is that I will be able to create meaningful ceremonies that reflect the wheel of the year and my own personality.
Imbolc is a Celtic festival day, a fire day. It is half-way between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox — a cross quarter day. In an agricultural sense it is the time of lambing, udders swelling, sweet fresh milk, and adorable little lambs. It is the time when the winter wheat begins to green up again, the woods begin to stir with critters coming out to check the weather, and I find myself anxious and eager to get outdoors among them all.
Imbolc is the time when seeds come out of storage, clay pots get washed, filled with rich soil, and tiny seeds get tucked into the pots. They’ll live with a heating pad under them and a plastic dome over them until they find themselves strong enough to live in sunny windowsills.
Imbolc is a time of growing light, and so I celebrate by lighting candles to help call forth the brightness. It is a time to evaluate the woodpile. Will it make 6 more weeks? Likely not, but we’ll have a celebratory fire anyway.
Imbolc is one of those seasons when the Phos Hilaron seems to joyfully leap from my lips each evening and I mean the words with all my being.