I have been asked to offer description of the Earth Renewal Ceremony for Caretaking the Earth. I offer the following as I know this ceremonial and consistant with the way I conduct it. There are several people who have been authorized to conduct Earth Renewals and each one will bring the dance forth as dictated by their unique spiritual relationship with the Earth. While their will be subtle differences from one dance to the other, the foundations will never change.
The Earth Renewal Ceremony came about as a result of a request by a San Juan Pueblo elder by the name of Juan Peña. Sometime in 1978, Grandpa Peña, who was 100 years old at the time, explained to his protégé Jade, how the people were failing to take care of the earth. He told Jade that the changes in the weather patterns and such were the direct result of this lack of care. During this meeting, Grandpa showed a dance, a series of steps, which use to combine with a song that the people of years past had performed to empower and heal the earth. Unfortunately, the song had been lost—maybe the one who was responsible for it was killed by the "invaders" before he could pass it on.
On the Spring equinox of 1986, Jade was praying and making dedication to the Earth when she returned the song to the people. Later that year, Jade began bringing forth the returned, Earth Renewal Ceremony to small groups of people. I was honored to be in one of those first groups. Over the next few years, the structure of the ritual solidified as dictated by the nature of spirit and ceremony, and about 1990, I was authorized to run the Earth Renewal Ceremony on my own. While the current Earth Renewal surely looks very different from how it appeared 100's of years ago, the is no doubt by those who have participated over the years, the power of this ceremony.
The ceremony is preformed by a group of dancers who position themselves within the four directions around a central dance pole like the spokes on a wheel. Beginning with those in the east, the dancers in each direction begin the dance as originally taught. First the east dancers dance, then those in the south, followed by the west dancers, and finally the north. As each dancer dances to the four directions, presenting him/herself to the Grandparent of that direction, he asks for life-force to be sent through him to fulfill the needs of the Earth. The dancer directs that power with his intent to the Earth as she has directed him personally. Additionally, some of that life-force is utilized by the dancer for his own and his family's healing and wellbeing.
As the dance progresses, the power and intensity increase dramatically. During the course of the longer dances such as the Durango/Ignacio Earth Renewal, it is not uncommon for a dancer to enter into spiritual relationship with the Grandparents of the directions as well as the Earth. The Earth Mother has even been known to carry a dancers spirit off, returning the dancer with blessings and gifts.
It is sometimes said that a person does not choose to dance the Earth Renewal, but the Earth Mother chooses the person. To dance and sing and fast for the three days of the Durango/Ignacio Earth Renewal is a dedication that is to be acknowledged by all people. From the time a dancer steps into the dance circle on Friday until the finish on Sunday morning, they only leave when specific breaks in the dancing are called. Rain or shine, cold or heat, the dancers maintain their dedication and commitment. The dancers do this for the Earth, for themselves, for their families, for all of us.
At the completion of the dance on Sunday, several more aspects of the overall ceremony take place. First is opportunity for supporters to enter the dance circle and receive blessings from one of the dancers. Subsequently, a Give-Away Ceremony is held. In this particular ceremony, each person in attendance is invited to release some personal possession to which they have become attached. (Dancers always participate.) These possessions are returned to the Earth Mother by placing them at the dance pole. After all possessions have been released by the participants, one of the women who has been designated to act as the hands of the Earth, distributes the gifts among the participants. This give-away opens up the spirit of each participant, allowing greater blessings to come into their life. Following the give-away, a pot-luck feast is held for all to celebrate the bounties of the Earth Mother and acknowledge the good that has been done in this enactment of the Earth Renewal.
I know that I have left out many details in this brief writing. I have not gone into detail as to the coming of the ceremony which is shared with those present on the first day. I did not even mention the sweat lodge that the dancers utilize to prepare themselves mentally and spiritually. I have not discussed the nature of the drumming and the dedication and service provided by the drummers and singers. Nor have I mentioned the value of the supporters who bare witness to the happenings and eat on behalf of the dancers thereby offering great support. I have not particularly described the dance and song themselves. Some of these things are not appropriate for publishing— they should only be shared in person at the appropriate times. Others hopefully reveal themselves through the essence I have tried to convey through these words.
If you have felt a call by the Earth, then maybe she is telling you about the Earth Renewal. Maybe she wishes you to be a supporter, a singer or drummer, maybe she has called you to dance. Listen to her call. Respond as your spirit dictates.
May many blessings come your way.
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