An Article Written by Little Lightning Bolt
The Long Dance ceremony is brought to us by Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael) Native American Medicine man, Visionary, Mystic and author from the Souther Ute and Picuri Pueblo Native Nations.
The Long Dance is a four-year commitment to Spirit, the Land, Community and all sentient beings. Long dancers have an opportunity to dance for their first year and see if they feel the call to this commitment. After the dance ends they are asked if they will continue to dance another three years. It is a life changing and transformative act, and a great service to participate in this ceremony. For many people this is their first time in a ceremonial dance, and it can be very opening to the realities of sacred communal dance and ceremony. Participants are asked to maintain full reverence to this work during the ceremony: to the ceremony itself, the participants, the work and the land one is dancing with.
Before the dance all dancers paint a banner where they materialize their intention for the dance: What it is they want to leave behind in their lives, what they want to call into their lives and what their wishes are for others and the world at large. Prayer ties of tobacco are made with strong intention and hung around the dance arbor along with the prayer banners, as offerings to the six directions, so that the dance will be wreathed in prayer. After the dance these tobacco ties are placed in the central ceremonial fire as an offering to the Great Mystery, releasing the prayers of the dance to the world.
Traditionally we dance all night around a fire within a circular enclosure; half the night in one direction (clockwise) , the other in the opposite direction (counter-clockwise), working the spirals of energy to first go deep within where matter implodes and we are purified of that which we wish to leave behind in our lives, and then when we change to the upward spiral, we send forth prayers and blessings to the universe and also receive them, as our wishes for the future are potentiated and realized through the energy we set in motion through our dance steps.
The earth we take out from the fire pit in the middle is placed in front of the entrance on the eastern side of the circle enclosure, and becomes the earth altar, where we place offerings, flowers, cornmeal and candles, and where dancers can go pray anytime during the dance.
Before the dance begins a sweat lodge ceremony is often held to honor this sacred time of ceremony and prepare us for the work ahead. This brings the dancers into the appropriate mind frame and intention for the work that is to come at the setting of the sun. As well as to cleans off anything thing the dancer has brought with them which could hinder their commitment to the work. Dancers walk into the sacred dance arbor clean and focused for serious work.
We dance from sun down to sunrise mostly without stopping. Dancers many times will enter into deep healing processes and may feel the need to rest but are asked to continue dancing if not for them selves for all sentient beings. Dancers often spend time in reflection and prayer at the fire and at the Earth alter giving offerings in deep communion with spirit. Each dancer is welcome to play instruments or sing while they move around the fire in one or another direction.
The San Pedro Long Dance Ceremony is a variation created by Miguel A. Kavlin, Bolivian Shaman and apprentice to Beautiful Painted Arrow, who named him the caretaker and chief of the Bolivian Sun-moon Dance which has been danced for eight years now. This variation was inspired by his work with the magical and sacred cactus of the Andes, San Pedro (achuma). The Bolivian San Pedro is one of the most powerful San Pedro cactus’s in South America and is very unique in spirit, often moving people into deep places of healing and revelation. The integration of Achuma and Miguel’s training in South American Vegetalismo with the North American Long Dance creates an amazing world bridging synergy. Synchronistically the Latin name of Achuma is Trichocereus Bridgesii.
Before the San Pedro Long Dance Ceremony we prepare a burnt-offering ceremony in the Andean tradition, to propitiate the Great Spirit, the Grandfathers and Grandmothers of the four directions, All Enlightened Beings, The Mountain Guardians (Achachilas), Spirits of Sacred Places (Huacas), Ancestors (Awichas), Mother earth and local guardians in order to obtain their permission and help in conducting the dance.
Around the fire we place a six pointed star, and in each point of the star we place offerings of food, flowers and spirits for the beings in each of the six worlds: the world of the Gods, demi-Gods, Humans, animals, hungry ghosts and demons, that they too may derive benefit from our efforts, and their suffering be eased. That is, we dance and work through our obstacles, obscurations and confusions in order to benefit ourselves and all of being ness.
Miguel is a Master ceremonialist: innovative as well as grounded in the spirit of the long dance vision. Miguel will often work with the spirit of inspiration and improvise to add depth and meaning to the dance, working with the local spirits, traditions and the uniqueness of the land to create a balanced, life changing experience for all that come to the dance. Many times when the long dance has been held near grandfather trees, an altar is erected to honor their presence, and they are integrated into the ceremony. This has also been the case when the dance has been held next to bodies of water alters are made to honor the spirit of the water and the water beings that live as one with it. Each long dance ceremony is unique and works with the more than human communities of the local landscapes.
In the center is the fire where all is one and all pollution and contamination is consumed and transformed, and wherefrom blessings ensue to guide us towards the integration of our manifold dislocated and uncoordinated energies into the one heart. When they want or need dancers kneel in front of the fire to pray and offer cedar or cornmeal or coca leaves.
In the San Pedro Long Dance Ceremony participants in the dance consume an amount of the sacred cactus Achuma and enter the healing and cleansing process which it brings along. An incredible amount of work is done in one night, where with every step we set energy in motion and are able to transcend obstacles carried within, sometimes for entire lifetimes.
Some of the participants enter into past life experiences in order to free themselves from their negative charge in the present. One dramatic example is of two women, who during one dance both entered into a state of great suffering and wailing, breathing very fast. This lasted for a long time until they where able to relax and rest in peace. As they told us afterwards, they where seeing a life where they where both burnt unjustly at the stake, accused of witchcraft. Subsequently they entered a state where they saw themselves dying and giving birth simultaneously. It was a rebirthing experience that freed them from the past and allowed them a free start in this life.
Another woman completely lost her sense of self into a seeming chaos, only to find herself back in full consciousness, only this time in onneness with the Great Spirit, feeling the perfection of it all and herself in harmony with all of creation.
It is through the sacred songs that Miguel was taught, both by beautiful painted Arrow as well as his Amazonian teacher, Don Agustin Rivas Vazques, and others directly by the spirits, that all these processes are kept within safe bounds and the entire process carried out without any harm to participants. No matter how intense the process during the ceremony is, by the time we come around to finishing the ceremony, everybody is safely brought back to themselves, only free of some of their burdens, full of insight and blessings, and ready to enter back into their lives with renewed energy, vision and insight.
To help in this work the shaman blesses each dancer with the sacred smoke at key places in their bodies, helping to expel any remaining negativities attached to the dancers, blessings the energy pathways of the body, and closing the chakras so that dancers can safely reenter the world.
We finally close with a burnt offering ceremony giving thanks to all the beings who participated with us in the dance and helped us to send out and bring in the blessings so that all of beingness may be blessed by the efforts of the participants and our lives be beautiful and honorable from here on!
After the dance a sweat lodge ceremony is often times honored making sure that all who have come to the dance are clean, purified, and newly born into their transformed selves. After the sweat a feast is had in celebration and nurturance of the newly formed dancers, strengthening body and community for the work that is to come integrating the power of the dance in to each others lives until next years dance. Dancers are blessed and carry their blessings out into the world.