Hearing Ceremonial Singing Before It Starts - A Prelude to Transformative Experience in the SunMoon Dance Arbor
by N J Howell
This is part two of a 3-part story about my experience attending the SunMoon Dance ceremony in New Mexico. To better understand this second part, please also read Sun-Moon Dance arrival. To learn more about the spiritual vision of the man who brought in the Sun-Moon Dance teachings, Joseph Rael, please visit this submission from someone with personal experience in participating in ceremony in The Healing Sound Chambers that make up another facet of the spiritual gifts brought forth by Beautiful Painted Arrow, Joseph Rael. I did not get to meet Joseph Rael as the SunMoon Dance I attended was led by his brother Benitos but, as you can read in the closing ceremony, which is part three of this article, Benitos has his own gifts to bring.
Being a Supporter of Sacred Dance
Being a supporter in a Native-American ceremony is a lot of hard work. In fact, at first, it may feel like that's all you are there for....to lug things, and pull weeds, and dig holes and paint and.... All the luggage had been carried down to the camp sites. ( In the high altitude, this took much longer than normal. I had difficulty breathing for the entire duration of the dance.) The tents had been set up and I was exhausted. I was a little miserable, physically, too. However, all that was about to change in an astounding way.
The dancers had finished their preparations. It was about time for the dance to begin. The dancers were lined up to enter the arbor. All the dancers had whistles and they began to blow them together -- a sudden, high-pitched cacophony of sound -- as they took their places inside the arbor. Something shifted for me then. Gone was the physical discomfort and in it's place was the sense of standing in rarified air.
While I was standing there, listening to the whistles, I also heard singing. I heard three distinct voices, singing a song that sounded familiar though I'd never heard it before. Sometimes the sound would be in my left ear, other times in my right ear. The sound was very close, almost as if inside my head -- left side, right side -- as if dancing around me. It was so real that I turned all the way around several times, sure that there was someone standing nearby singing.
Finally convinced that there was no logical explanation for what I was hearing, I decided it was Spirit singing, or the ancestors. Then, the dance began. When the drummers started and the songs began, I realized that the three voices I had heard a few moments earlier were those of the singers. I heard the singing before it began. I heard the song that opened the circle, before it was sung. The rules of linear time, I discovered, do not hold true in Sacred Ceremony.
I was filled with pride as I watched my spiritual sisters, both fierce and beautiful, as they danced and I sang a song I didn't know but somehow did know. I felt myself literally lending strength to both of them as the dance progressed, realizing at last that a supporter literally supports, energetically and, as such, plays a vital role in the dance. Even if one doesn't believe in the passing of energy through the ethers, it is easy to understand how uplifting it could be as a Dancer to know that someone stands for you, they are there for you at the edge of the arbor, praying and witnessing for your dance.
As the first day progressed, it was a challenge to keep my focus on praying for the two women I had come to support when everywhere around me, other spiritual Relatives began to deal with the truth of their own dance. I reminded myself that they had supporters too, and worked to focus on the two sisters I had come to assist. At the same time, I remained open to Spirit direction if someone else needed support. It was tricky and required spiritual awareness not to let the ego focus with someone else just because I identified with their suffering.
I also saw how the energy was touching places in me, and resolved to save my own healing and process til after the dance, so that I could remain present for those in the Sacred Circle.
As I continued to watch the dance unfold for each dancer, it seemed evident to me that part of what I was witnessing was some level of death to the ego-self in each Dancer. As the heat of the day took its toll, emotions began to erupt. The tree took it all. I'm not speaking metaphorically when I say that the Tree took it all. I could see the energies being absorbed by the SunDance Tree and energy wasn't just going one way.
From my vantage point as a supporter, I saw these webs of energy going out from this Tree, made more Sacred by Spiritual Intent, outward to each of the dancers. The energy webs seemed to literally pull the dancers forward and push them back, until there came a moment of reckoning, a time when action was required.
In this ceremony of dance, the action taken was often to run toward the tree, and slam the body against it, full force. I do mean FULL FORCE. The first time it happened, I was stunned. I was thinking about broken ribs or limbs, the force was so great. However, each of these Dancers rose, limbs and, I assume, ribs in tact. Often, I thought the person had knocked themselves out. However, as I watched, I began to realize they were in ecstatic trance. I did not understand this either at the time.
Magical moments to remember: Throughout the long day, I was alternately disturbed and captivated by the paradox of the dance. Butterflies dancing; that's what it so often looked like. So incredibly sensual and beautiful. Then, SLAM! Someone would hit the tree. It was this way all day. I had begun to think I knew what was going on (ha, ha). I reasoned that the dance was just like life is for a lot of us. We have to wear ourselves out and knock ourselves silly, before we'll just be quiet, open up, listen, and receive. Spirit was wearing them down, I thought.
Then, I watched a woman taking little tiny bird steps toward the tree. She came to it, finally, and reached out one little timid hand. As her hand made contact with the tree, she fell just like the others. There was no SLAM! There was barely physical contact at all. What was this that was happening? There was no conscious mind explanation. I was astounded and very tired, as I worked to remain present for my sisters, and not be carried away by the energy. It was a very long day.
Joseph really was drawing together the Rainbow Tribe in a true, dedicated sense. I'm not referring to those whose work it is to create the Rainbow Gatherings. That is quite a different work. Perhaps it would better be described as drawing together the global family. It was obvious as I watched the people dance -- there was the dance of the Irish, Catholic (I don't know how to describe that one, she just held the Catholic energy when she moved -- sweet nun energy), Celtic, Christian, Croatian, Brazilian and of course, Native American.
It wasn't about costumes. It was about a blending of essences. It is a hard thing to describe but it was like a universal dance. It was a dance that connected people from all different walks of life, all different spiritual paths, and all different physical shapes, sizes and colors. The ceremony transcended politics and religious differences, to find a sameness of being. All was one, though each was different. The difference was part of the One.
Intermingled with all the shocking and sometimes disturbing elements of the Sun-Moon Dance, there were also many beautiful and touching moments ....
There was the blessing of a child born to a Mayan Medicine Woman who had a vision four years ago that a child would come to her. I sobbed as this beautiful child was brought into the altar and blessed. I saw in her young Native face a reincarnated Tibetan monk. This baby embodied that energy. Born to a Mayan medicine woman comes a female Tibetan monk. I knew it was a part of the blending of the red (Native) and the yellow (Eastern) spiritual paths and I was so honored to be a part of this blessing ceremony.
Another beautiful moment was the honoring of a Grandmother. She was brought to the tree, and seated. The Moon Mother gently bathed her feet, as she was honored and lifted up in ceremony. Benitos thanked her for her work for the people. She sobbed, so humble and gloriously beautiful in her open-heartedness. I wept, as did many others, at the beauty of this Sacred Way, so reminiscent of Christ washing the feet of his disciples.
All the ways I have known God/Goddess energy were represented in that four days, by one experience or another. The images from that dance will stay in my mind for a long time....
I remember the woman who danced -- who flew like a bird into the tree -- and her look of ecstatic joy. Just as vividly, I remember the same woman's incredible courage when Spirit required that she hit the tree again. It did not appear so easy the second time and her look of fierce determination as she readied herself for what she knew she had to do had an intensity that was palpable.
I remember the man from Croatia who shapeshifted into an Indian brave and danced out the pain of his homeland -- the suffering and the grief and the anger and the strength (later, someone told me that it was for his people that he danced. I know he did what he came to do).
Oh. I remember the woman who hit the tree with so much force I thought she would knock it over. I was blown through by a wind of sound. I still cannot adequately describe the unbelievably powerful tones that she sang after hitting the tree -- these tones reverberated around the arbor like a band of mighty Angels, cleansing auras and flushing negativity -- yes, I remember.
Oh, God, I remember the agonizing cries of another sister as she wailed out all the damage of abuse and took the burden of that reality for many -- not just those in the circle but anywhere on the planet that abuse energy was ready to be lifted for another. When I think of her, even now, decades later, I instanteously connect with, weep for and pray for all those who have been abused. Her cries were that powerful and transformative.
I will remember with vivid and burning clarity the rest of my days witnessing the return of my sisters from the deepest vision states I have ever witnessed and the joy of being there to welcome them back into the world after their dance was complete. They seemed to rise from the dead, the sleep of the dead. When their eyes opened, there was a vast universe in them.
So much is permanently etched in my soul: the rise of the sun and rise of the moon, intensified by ceremony to an extent that it seemed I had never seen them before; the beautiful hummingbirds; the hawk carrying the snake, who flew over during the opening ceremony; the grace of the dancers and the joy of their journey; the tears and the laughter; the death and the rebirth.
Continue: The closing ceremony of the SunMoon Dance
Sun Dance Experience