Rituals as Remembrance
We are remembering and being re-Membered when we enact a ritual bridging the seen and unseen worlds. The simple act of offering a ritual begins when we become quiet, listen, and observe the natural world. Rituals emerge from the spaciousness of nuna (soul) surrounded by the living pulsing heartbeat of our mother earth, father sky, cosmic canopy, and all our relations. Stepping into a sacred relationship creates a dialogue that unites us with the Teqsemuyu (the divine cosmos or circle of origin).
We enact a simple ritual with the medicine of love when we are sitting at the mesa, beneath a tree relative, feeding an apacheta, creating a despacho, or offering a ceremony. Our beloved maestro, don Oscar, reminds us that ritual begets relationship—relationship ignites love—and love begets life. This honoring of reciprocity gives birth to remembrance.
I love to hike in the mountains and offer rituals to the mama pacha (natural world). Here, in Southern California, we experienced an El Nino rainy season in 1998 that radically changed the topography of the land and trails in the backcountry. On a sunny day, a friend and I set out to hike a favorite trail in Oso Canyon. We drove as far as the river crossing, which was closed, and set out on foot. Stepping into the swiftly moving waters was dicey and I had to steady each footstep as I waded through the knee-deep current and over the slippery moss-covered substrate to arrive at the other side.
I paused to dry my feet, tug my boots on, and marvel at the lush green foliage fanning out in a velvety carpet of richly-hued grasses and leaves that glistened in the rays of the early morning sunlight. I offered a prayer of gratitude to the golden-leaved cottonwood trees whispering in the gentle breeze, their soft kisses brushing the sky. We followed the roaring creek alongside the road until we reached the Upper Oso Campground, and then headed up Camuesa Canyon Road to the Santa Cruz trailhead. The birdsongs and rushing water were music to my soul. Overhead a Red-tailed hawk soared on the thermals, piercing the calm of the blue sky with its calls. Hawks often accompany me on the trails, and the call of a hawk reminds me to change perspective and look with far-seeing eyes.
Entering the canyon, you can feel the presence of the Awkikuna (plant and nature spirits), Malkikuna (tree beings), and the Apukuna (sacred mountain deities). The faces of the ancient ones were etched on the rocks, reminding me of the Tirakuna, and the beauty of the trees and mountains surrounded me in all directions.
A beautiful horizon awaited us around each bend as we slowly climbed the steep inclines by way of the switchbacks. I chanted part of a verse from a Navajo Earth Spirit Prayer, “I am the spirit of the earth; it is all beauty, it is all beauty. The feet of the earth are my feet; the legs of the earth are my legs; the strength of the earth is my strength; all that surrounds the earth surrounds me. It is all in beauty, it is all in beauty.” Those were the words that guided my footsteps. I left Mikhushankus (ritual offerings of tobacco, cedar, cornmeal or strands hair) along the way. The offerings received phukuy (blowing breath and prayers) before resting them on the face of the earth.
After hours of walking I sat down and looked out over the solemn beauty of the land from the canyons to the tops of the peaks. The thrum of beating wings announced a hummingbird circling close by—very close by. The magnificent bird darted to the left and flitted around behind me, then to the right, hovering mere inches from my face. It zigged and zagged to-and-fro like an aerial dancer, its jewel-toned feathers iridescent in the sunlight, its heart beating twenty times per second, its wings beating fifty. It stared into my eyes and then zoomed off into the canopy of a Coastal oak, disappearing in the shadows of the leaves. I was stunned by the visitation and ushered into the Sacred. The hummingbird’s medicine infused me with spirit. The mama pacha and hummingbird were guiding me home to the seat of my soul. When I slowly came back to my body, tears were streaming down my cheeks. The vista I found did not come by way of summiting a mountaintop, this vista was an internal one—seeing and being seen by the sacredness of the natural world.
My hike back down the trail had become more vibrant and conversant with the mama pacha. Golden light was casting shadows where it had been shining earlier. The winds were whipping up as they often do late afternoon in the canyon, clearing out any energy within me that was ready to move on and be recycled. I was carrying the sacred back with me as medicine for my beauty walk, and my feet felt lighter as they touched the earth.
The act of offering a ritual infuses the mundane with magic, transforming obstacles into medicine and awakening the beauty inside and all around us. Ceremonial rituals can be elaborate, but they can simply be one breath with a stone relative or k’intu in-hand. By breathing in our intention and breathing out prayers with love, our heart is holding sacred space. We play between the mundane and magical, the ordinary and extraordinary, transforming and being transformed.
Ritual and prayer bring sacredness into our lives, honoring the great mystery and all we embrace as holy. We become interconnected with all our relatives and take our place in the sacred web of life. Ritual offerings guide us to our soul home—uniting us with the ancestors, holy ones, and the shining ones that remember us. Our sacred rituals, however simple, manifest as medicine for restoration and harmony in all worlds as our souls walk in beauty.
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” Rumi