Monday, August 07, 2006

Walking on Holy Ground

Back from the Holy Land and thrust into my daily activities, I need to take a moment to record it all. We (my three girls and I) left Friday afternoon and had an uneventful 3 hour drive down to Lake of the Ozarks. We were able to find Sr. Morningstar's place in short order. She was there in the garden with her two little granddaughters naked as can be. Morningstar was was wrapped in a sarong. (Sr. Morningstar has three daughters also) We unpacked from our hot drive (about 105 degrees and no working air conditioner in our van) and cooled off in Casita, our cabin. I took a cool dip in Casita's huge whirlpool tub while the girls went out to explore the woods. After dinner and the girls were getting their baths, Morningstar and I talked about the next day's ceremony. We tweaked it a little to include my African-inspired pouring libation, otherwise it consisted of several Christian and Cherokee customs rolled together. Here is what the final itinerary looked like:

Cherokee Birth Blessing Ceremony
Sacred Blessing Rituals
The Holy Land

Initiation and Integration
Foot washing in the garden with sacred bowl with floral herbs and essences. Circle of wimym will drum and sing while midwife washes entreatant's feet. Her daughters will assist.

Pouring Libation
the african tradition of pouring libation using liquid from the foot washing will be initiated by entreatant. Each woman in the circle may remember a female ancester who has birthed powerfully and call their name while pouring some of the liquid onto the ground from a sacred vessel.

Purification Ritual
Sr. Morningstar and Maya will smudge each participant as they enter the tipi. The smudge stick will later be presented to the entreatant as a gift.

Invocation of Spirit and Wisdom
Wimyn will take turns using the sacred talking stick to tell their stories of how they were able to birth instinctually and with power. We will sing the song, Wild Womyn, Mother, Midwife and Healer with Native American flute and drumming.

Feather Water Blessing
The entreatant will be baptized with a sacred feather dipped in blessed water by each womyn as she offers a blessing for birth and presents two black beads to be used to construct a labor neclace. The three daughters will assist. Moriningstar will offer the Cherokee Birth Blessing to the baby. All will joing in singing Birth Like the She Bear with Native American flute and drumming.

Celebration Feast
All will join in a potluck vegetarian feast on the veranda at Rose Cottage



The next morning I spent the day in silence and meditation until the time of the ceremony as Sr. Morningstar and I had agreed. The film makers arrived mid-morning and spent time interviewing Morningstar while I stayed in seclusion in Casita cabin. I did some last minute sewing on the robes, while the girls explored the woods, or came in for food, or watch Beverly Hillbilly episodes they found on video and immediately fell in love with. (Mom, they asked excitedly, have you ever heard of this show? I didn't know whether to shake my head yes, or roll my eyes). I also found a book on the desk in Casita written by one of Morningstar's admirers. An actress by the name of Tonya Pinkins wrote a book called "Get Over Yourself" The book was so good and wonderful, I ended up reading the entire thing before I left the Holy Land. I would recommend it to anyone. She quotes Sr. Morningstar several times throughout her book. I found it exciting, inspiring and uplifting. Just before the ceremony started, the girls and I bathed and dressed in our robes. Everything went beautifully and according to plan. I am especially eager to see the birth stories on film. I think the film makers got some really good footage. The ceremony itself made me feel quite regal and special. There were six women, myself, the girls and the film makers. I felt as if everything were perfect. During the pouring libation while everyone was naming an ancestor and thanking them, a sudden wind kicked up, unusual for the still hot day, and made all the wind chimes sing. I took this as a sign that those we had named were actually there among us. The thought brought me great comfort. We are not alone (...so great a cloud of witnesses). I named my former midwife, Dee Williams. She died from breast cancer about 3 years ago. I have missed her terribly during this pregnancy and had had to grieve her all over again for having to birth without her. She was midwife for all three of my girls and I will miss her kind, sweet calming presence during this birth. The chimes reminded me that she will be there after all. This formal form of a blessing has set my feet on a determined path to contribute what I can to the world, this book, this film, this birth, this child, and have no expectations of the outcome. I choose to believe the words of that great 13th century mystic and wise womyn best known for celebrating the mother image of God, Julian of Norwich, "All will be well, all will be well, all will be well."

That night after the cermony, the girls and I slept in the tipi in our sleeping bags and woke early to the distant song of the whipor-wil. (The tipi is magnificently made and made a rather diamond shape window to the sky out of the top, with the flaps pulled back. The adjoining poles all meeting at the top made a woven pattern through which to peer the night and morning skies.) Since none of us had been dragged off by bears or wolves during the night, we adjorned to Casita for a breakfast of frozen waffles with blueberries and bananas. Morningstar and Maya (who had stayed over) were up pulling weeds from one of many garden beds when we emerged from breakfast. We said our farewells to the filmmakers, who had stayed over in Casita, and spent the day hiking the surrounding hills, napping, eating, reading, and telling stories to one another. After cleaning Casita thoroughly, we said our farewells to the Holy Land. We howled like wild wimym as our van headed toward the road leaving our sacred haven behind us.

After another uneventful 3 hour drive home (the girls were so quiet, I kept looking back to see if they were asleep. They were not- just deep in their own thoughts.) The Wilsons were packing to leave when we arrived. We all went out to dinner together and then they left to the next family they would be staying with. While we were at dinner, the boys called. They were back in town from their trip to Minnesota and at Kevin and Sarah's house waiting to be picked up. We got our boys and headed home. Once again our family was together and all seemed right as rain. After the kids were all in bed, I joined my husband in our bedroom. He had lit a candle to welcome me home.

34 comments:

Rachel said...

Sounds beautiful. I am so pleased you got to have that peace for your spirit and the joy for your baby and upcoming birth. What a nice mix of cultures.

Laborpayne said...

Thanks,
It really was a lovely ceremony.

kirsten said...

I would have named my daughter, Shayla, as my "birth hero". After enduring a truely life threatening pregnancy complication, she labored with such acceptance,and birthed with grace and dignity, even though she did not get the circumstances she had hoped for. Her quiet surrender in the hospital bed, refusing time and again the offered epidural, spoke of the strength and peace that a woman has who believes and puts her trust in God to deliver her. Made her mama midwife proud!

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I would have named my daughter, Shayla, as my "birth hero". After enduring a truely life threatening pregnancy complication, she labored with such acceptance,and birthed with grace and dignity, even though she did not get the circumstances she had hoped for. Her quiet surrender in the hospital bed, refusing time and again the offered epidural, spoke of the strength and peace that a woman has who believes and puts her trust in God to deliver her. Made her mama midwife proud!

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