I am so psyched about my recent trip to the Brighton Rez for the latest sweat. It’s just been too long since I’ve been… so very long I could weep. And that I did.
Dancing Horse, my daughter and I left Brevard excited, all for different reasons. Dancing Horse and I were looking forward to the sweat and my child was looking forward to the camping experience. We left so early that we arrived way before anyone else. This was a mixed blessing to me; it did give me the opportunity to get my bearings and become re-aquainted with the area but by the same token I felt a little aprehensive at being the first ones there. The thought of being chased off property at gun point did cross my mind more than once.
Although it wasn’t my first time there the changes that ocurred in my abscence took me by surprise. The lodge had been moved and was built much smaller than the last one. It was no longer at the center of the clearing, but off to the side, closer to the uncleared portion of the property. It did have a more intimate feel to it. In the center of the clearing now stood a huge chickee covering a cement platform, complete with a band stage, lighting and ceiling fans. Behind it was a smaller chickee covering a cooking area and a fire pit big enough to cook a pig. There were also several new sheds that I later found out contained the items necessary for the lodge as well as several chairs and tables. The property also has a 3 bedroom home belonging to our gracious hosts, Helene and Andy. Needless to say, we were hooked up!!
My daughter’s Uncle of discipline, Tony arrived about a half hour after we did and seemed confused at fact that the house was empty. Andy and Helene were supposed to be there. When he called Andy, we found out that they had forgotten all about the ceremony due to Helene’s becoming ill and needing surgery. She was in the hospital at that very moment, however, there was a spare key hidden in X spot and we had free use of the home and land. Mi casa es su casa is very much the indian way.
At about 4pm people started pouring in. Some faces were new and some were better known, but we were all there for the same purpose and this made for a comfortable ambiance. Pete, the firekeeper and his aprentice, Rodney, got started on choosing the grandfathers and grandmothers as well as preparing the firepit. CJ, Joseph and Robert aka Jaguar were blessing the circle that encompassed the lodge and the firepit. Pete had made some cement markers for the 4 directions that were kinda cute, so CJ was busy putting them up. Jaguar was readying his pipe and Tony was praying. The women that came with them seemed unfamiliar with much of what was happening, except for one, Sue. She was sitting out the sweat due to being in her moon. They took to the kitchen to ready the food brought to share.
Dancing Horse and I were flitting here and there, helping where we were most needed and my little one ran all over the place, exploring and getting to know everyone. My Cacique and brother, Turtle, arrived later, about the same time that Midnight Wolf got there. My sister in law was also in her moon and chose to stay home with the kids, so Imiza was the only child there. It’s no wonder the fruit of my loins finds it so hard to get along with other children, she’s always surrounded by adults!
At about sunset, we all sat in a circle and Tony led the Pipe ceremony. I am the Pipe Keeper for my clan and I had brought the Clan’s pipe with me. We shared in honoring the pipes present and they were placed at the altar in front of the inipi. Afterwards, Tony took a moment to go over the behavior expected before, during and after the lodge for the benefit of all present. Then it was off to change, remove metal jewlery and prepare to sweat! Yay!
We had the usual four flaps. It was intense, it was amazing, it was …it just WAS. The first flap held all of those present, stuffed tight, like sardines. The grandfathers, shining brightly with their heat, were welcomed into the inipi one by one until there were 7 and the flap was closed. At this time we had the first round of prayer. After each participant prayed, water was poured over the hot rocks. By the time we came full circle, much suffering had ocurred, water was given to Mother Earth as freely as She provides for us. This was repeated for four flaps. Some of the newcomers only sat in the first and last, some people sat through all flaps. I sat through the first 3 and did a lot of crying, a lot praying and a lot suffering. After the third flap and just before the fourth, the Pipes were welcomed into the lodge. Everyone had the opportunity to pray and honor each of the three pipes present. Then the fourth flap began. By this time my skin felt burned from the steam of the stones and I was emotionally spent. I thanked All My Relations and left the lodge. I sought solace in my drum and beat it sensless. It sounded like nothing pretty, but it calmed my spirit.
Once the ceremony was done, the men decided to do a Warrior’s Sweat. This is where you load up as many grandfathers as you have and sit out the sweat and heat as long as you can stand it. Needless to say these Warriors lasted very little in there and were literally stumbling over each other to get out! This was hilarious to watch since you had men that where all sizes. Imagine a Mack truck rolling over a Yugo and you know what I am talking about.
After all was done, we showered, ate and took the opportunity to socialize some more. By 2 am I was beat, exhausted, spent beyond belief. I crawled into our tent and crashed along side Dancing Horse and My daughter.
A funny thing I’d like to share…
Turtle had his tent about 20 feet away from ours. During the wee hours of the morning I crawled out of the tent to visit the lavatory. It was pitch dark, the only light being that of the stars which were spilled across the sky. As I walked to the house I heard a horrible growl behind me. Now, we are in the wilderness. There are bears, wild dogs and cougars there. Last time we were cleaning the lodge we found a cougar print in the sand and this was the first thing to cross my mind when I heard the growl. I stood absolutely still and damn near peed my pants when I heard the growl again! By that time I was absolutely awake and I realized the growling was coming from my brother’s tent. Turtle snores horribly.
I didn’t sleep much after that…
So this was my experience and I am happy to share it with you.