I am sharing this Prayer by Vera Dery for its deep connection to Spirit. I hope you find it as meaningful as I have. ~Lynn Manyfires
Soyal is a Hopi ceremony that begins on Dec 21st and ends 16 days later. The Hopi say that by performing this ceremony, we are creating the next year of our lives. I have celebrated this ceremony for the last 20 years of my life and there are many wonderful suggestions to ‘living’ this ceremony such as using wholesome words; uplifting and doing no hurt; asking the Spirits to listen to you to bring the rain of Loving Care down upon the whole world, etc. And while there are many worthwhile elements to this 16-day ceremony, what has been the most important to me has been the daily morning Prayers.
In the beginning of celebrating this ceremony, I offered to Pray for anyone who asked for whatever was needed/required in their lives. Over the years, I received many powerful visions and answers to those Prayer requests. As time went on, people did not ask for Prayers. Perhaps because they had ‘walked on’ from this world…perhaps because they felt they no longer needed or believed in Prayers. Whatever the reason, requests for Prayers trickled down to a few.
It was extremely challenging in the beginning to maintain the positive loving nature of this ceremony. The holiday season seemed to put such stress on people and I struggled to remember my focus. Some years, my life was so hard and disheartening that I felt too discouraged to even want to Pray. But every year I managed to get up in the morning and say my Prayers…and every year, it was truly worth it. Sometimes, I had to delay my morning Prayers for later in the day because of Life. I was loath to do that as I would often forget to do them. However, there were times that delaying the Prayers provided meaningful and powerful lessons for me.
2 years ago, I spent the night as an overnight host to the homeless guests of an Interfaith Shelter. And instead of early morning Prayers, I spent time with them and their families at breakfast. I was continually humbled by their courage and vulnerability and I felt honored to be there with them, witnessing their journey. Coming home, I thanked the Creator for letting me be there that morning for my Prayers were clearer, stronger and purer. Being there allowed me to see not only the compassion but the wisdom in serving each other. It keeps us truly connected to Spirit…and to each other!
In Love, I offer my Prayers…in Love, let them be known…and in Love, let them be done. For the good of All and harm to none and against no one’s will.
Looking back, I guess I was always destined to follow a spiritual path…it was just a matter of which one. I remember lying on my bed when I was 10, reading a book on Joan of Arc (for which I won an award for the fastest reading of a book). I admired her courage, her faith and was horrified that the God she obeyed and listened to, would let her come to such a horrific ending. But what astounded me more is that she was ‘told’ she would come to that end…and could have walked away but didn’t. Creator had given her a mission and that mission required that she die. As she burned in the flames, I cried deeply…the sorrow lasting for many days.
I remember wanting to be a Nun…apparently, a common ‘call’ with most of my female spiritual friends. And when I started dating in high school, I was drawn to the boys who followed a religious path. I think I was ‘shopping’ even then to find where I fit in, spiritually. But ultimately, Creator did not ‘speak’ to me thru those ways.
And then in my 30’s, I heard the ‘call’ of the Lakota/Nakota ways (the Sioux). Thru a series of coincidences and chance meetings, I was given the opportunity to learn their true teachings. My spirit was captured by the way they honored Mother Earth by trying to live in balance; of how they spoke of walking in a good way with the Earth and with each other; and of the Honor, Respect, Courage, Generosity and Compassion they lived by. These teachings not only gave me a strong spiritual foundation but ultimately they gave me what I had always wanted since I was 13…I wanted the Creator to speak to me.
…and so it happened, in a variety of ways: thru dreams, visions and spoken words.
In the mid-90’s, I was “guided” (pushed was more like it) to purchase a rather large book on Tsunka Witko (Crazy Horse). I was deeply into the ways at that time, praying and talking with the Creator several times a day. I began to have out-of-the-body experiences which were always stopped by a “parental” energy, as if I was a child, not ready for that yet…probably because about that same time, the Dark Ones started to take an interest in me. But more importantly, I was beginning to experience more and more contact with the Creator and with spirits.
I wasn’t really interested in purchasing that book. I honored and admired Crazy Horse but in a distant sort of way. Long story short, I ended up buying the book and learned a great deal about him. For a man who faithfully served for the good of The People and walked in a humble way, he suffered a great deal. I felt great compassion for him at the loss of his wife and young child and that he had been killed not by the whites but by one of his own people. 2 nights later, Crazy Horse came to me in a dream. It felt as if he talked to me the entire night but I remember little of what he said. There was one thing I did remember when I awoke: “Be careful what you ask for.” I thought at the time that perhaps he meant that I shouldn’t desire to be like him…and also, to pay close attention to words I spoke. I took those words to heart and always took care when speaking about what I wanted.
Crazy Horse has been on my mind of late…along with Joan of Arc. Two people I admire for their courage, their faith and their dedication to the Creator. Two people who ended up dying in terrible ways for that dedication. I have been feeling hurt, angry and resentful lately. In the mid-90’s, I told the Creator that I would serve him and The People. And I have been true to my word. One year at Sun Dance on the 3rd day, He gave me my Mission: “Tell others to Pray.” This I have done and continue to do…along with the duties of being a Cannunpa Yuha (Pipe Carrier), I serve The People.
So it was, when 3 Grandmothers came to me in a dream in Dec 2010 and gently asked me to quit a job I loved…after 2 weeks of praying hard about it, I did. Four years later, having lost my home, traveled to 5 states and 11 cities looking for work, had my family turn their backs on me, homeless on the streets for 6 months…I still struggle with no job and no income. And worst of all, I’ve lost hope that the Creator will ever return what I had to sacrifice.
I wish I had known the context of what Crazy Horse was sharing in that dream. I realize now that he wasn’t talking about me wanting to be some great spiritual leader. He was cautioning me to be careful in asking to serve the Creator and The People. And from all that I experienced, perhaps he was right.
The first Sun Dance (Wiwanyang Wacipi) I attended was in Marty, South Dakota on the Yankton rez. I had come for my Naming Ceremony and knew very little about Sun Dance and what it represented and I was most grateful to be invited by my new friends. It was a powerful, heart-felt and humbling Ceremony for me. Til the end of my days, I will always remember my visions there. One of the most powerful experiences occurred on the 3rd day.
I was in this meditative state from singing and dancing for the last 3 days…when I happened to look to the West and saw a massive Thunderstorm building on the horizon and heading across the plains very fast. Having a deep affinity for the rain, I was torn between wanting the storm to come and not wanting it to disrupt the “Healing Day”, one of the most sacred days of the Sun Dance. As it drew closer, the storm began to blow the tall grass almost flat and small pebbles and branches blew into our faces.
The Intercessor (Sun Dance leader) asked us all to Pray that the storm would go around us. I did pray…hard…but the storm was so big and massive, I didn’t really believe it would happen. But I danced harder, lifting up my voice in song as the drum beat grew ever louder. I heard the faint cries of the People in the Arbor: “Ho Tunkashila…Ho Thate Topa” as the hail hit the camp grounds…hard! And then a great Wind came…and almost as one…the crowd held it’s breath….silence except for the wind and the trees blowing. And then, suddenly…the massive grey Clouds parted…and went around us! No rain or hail touched the Arbor circle. And once it passed us, the clouds closed up once again.
The Thunder Beings (Wakinyan) had heard our Prayers! We watched in awe as the fury of the storm flew on. And then a sudden surge of new Energy…new Life…flowed thru us all! We danced and Sang and Prayed with a Joy I had never felt in the entire 3 days. In Gratitude to the Creator for this amazing miracle, we raised our hands into the air and yelled as one “Wophila Grandfather…Wophila!”
Many years ago, when I first walked upon the Red Road, I self-consciously tried Praying. This was something I had not done in many years. Hesitantly at first, like a baby taking her first steps, I offered simple Prayers like “Please, Grandfather…I want to be able to attend these teachings.” And my Prayers were instantly realized! This filled me with a pure, spiritual joy I had never experienced. I felt a new hope and a sense of what Life could be. I Prayed more and Listened carefully. Looking back, I see it as a time of building my spiritual ‘Confidence’. I began to believe that the Creator truly favored me and I cautiously started to allow myself to be Guided.
It was around that time that people began connecting with those whom they called their “Guardian Angels”…many who carried Native names…who would share a person’s previous lives and their purpose here. Many of my friends and family had already noted that I seemed obsessed with the Native ways…and it was true. A fire burned soul-deep inside me…a fire that felt as if it had been there forever. I did not feel as if I belonged to this un-real world. I found myself spending more and more time in deep Prayer…which seemed to bring me into some kind of a ‘spiritual alignment’ with the Creator.
And that is when a Voice began to occasionally speak to me…answering my questions. My friends who were trying to help me understand what was happening told me “Perhaps you were an Indian in a previous life.” And so in Prayer, I asked if I had I been Native in a previous life. The answer came quickly. ‘No!’ My heart fell but I asked again…twice… to ensure that the answer that came was a true one. ‘No’ was the answer each time. Disappointment filled me. I had been so sure that this was the reason I had felt such a deep connection to these ways. A few days later, it suddenly popped into my mind to ask if I had a Guardian Angel and what was their name. Strangely, there was no response at all. Yet, the silence was deafening and the room felt ‘full’ as if a ‘presence’ filled every corner of the room. But still…no Voice came. And then…into my mind’s eye came a vision of a man. Silent. Strong. Powerful. Arms folded, standing next to me. I called him my “Silent One”. After that, I came to trust the Voice of the Silent One. There would be other Voices but it was the ‘Silent One’ that guided me in the beginning. After awhile, all that truly mattered was that I felt a sense of destiny in being ‘Guided’ towards whatever Creator had asked of me in this world.
And then…along with the Silent One’s Voice…the Dreams began.
And so it was one day, while searching for various beads and leather at the local Indian Store, that I was inexplicably ‘drawn’ to a rather thick book on Crazy Horse (Tĥašúŋke Witkó). My knowledge of Crazy Horse was limited to what I had seen on TV and I really wasn’t interested in spending the money. But each time I went around the store, the book ‘called’ to me. I didn’t really want the book but on the last pass before I intended to leave…the Voice spoke…but not in words…and I suddenly found myself with the book in hand heading for the cash register. What had happened? Why was it so important for me to read this book?
I flew thru the story of Crazy Horse and all that he had experienced…that he was called “Our Strange One”…his great sorrow at losing his wife and his child…and even though he was admired for his skill as a warrior, he was loved for his humility. He went quietly throughout the camp…helping an Elder here or speaking a word of encouragement to a young one. A mystic, yet, a man alone. And then to be killed by one of his own People after all he had done…the injustice done to a man who had faithfully served the Creator and his People…it was wrong.
That night, Crazy Horse came to me in a dream. There was nothing else in the dream except him…standing there, right in front of me…talking to me. He spoke of many things and the dream seemed to last the entire night. And when I awoke in the morning…tired from our night’s discussions…I could remember only this…be very careful of what you ask for…and that I had no need to be other than who I am. While I cannot remember all that he told me that night, I know he spoke of the Wisdom of our choices….of serving for the good of The People…of Prayer…and of Humility.
I shared this story with only 3 people…because I knew how it would look and I did not wish any disrespect. Funny that, even to this day, I feel a genuine warmth and closeness to him…as if he were my brother or a friend. And sometimes…in deep darkness when it is only the Creator and I…I wonder…was it he that was the Silent One?
I have wondered many times if the Spiritual Ancestors of this land…Turtle Island…speak to us at night in our Dreams…in our Prayers. Whispering to those of us who are truly open and seek to Honor the Creator…by truly caring for Mother Earth…acknowledging that All Relatives are truly our Brothers and Sisters…and seeking to return to a way of Respect, Generosity, Compassion…and most importantly…Balance. Perhaps those ‘Whispers’ (I’d called them Dreams) come to remind us that no matter what our physical DNA…it is the Spiritual DNA that is meant to guide us. So many of us were steered to the ways of the Red Road…not to make money off of a way of life…but to return the 2-legged to the true path of Spirit. I pray that I have heard, and honored, the Whispers of not only my Ancestors…but of my Spiritual Ancestors as well. Hetchetu. Haho.