I went to a Sundance yesterday afternoon here in the Cree community where I live. It touched me on so many levels that I’m not sure where to start. I invite you to look into the meaning of the Sundance ceremony. I don’t want to explain something that I don’t understand fully. It spans a few days and is composed of different rituals. I was there for only one hour, so I don’t want to go into any deep explanations of the symbolics and of the purpose of the Sundance. I only want to tell the story of what I witnessed there.

I witnessed the most powerful event of healing of my life. I saw a people reconnecting with something deep and forgotten. I saw people exposing their hurt and reclaiming their power. It was a beautiful thing to see.

The way the Sundance was set up was like this: There is a central tree planted in the middle of a circle made of smaller trees. These trees are tied together with branches so as to make a tight circle. Unless you are standing in front of the entrance, you cannot see inside because of the trees and their foliage. There is an outer circle and an inner circle of trees and people stand within this corridor. At the entrance, there are some branches continuously smoking to fumigate the entrance. Whenever people go in and out, they clean their feet by passing them through the smoke. Men are on one side and women are on the other. It made me smile that Natives also use a circle to contain their ritual.

Like I said, the Sundance is composed of many different rituals. What I witnessed was the piercing of three women. What happens is that a woman decides to get pierced to let go of some pain or tragedy or to bear someone’s difficulties in this sacred ceremony (Correct me if I’m wrong here. That’s the way it was explained to me.) So, the woman gets pierced with small pieces of wood over the shoulders. The pieces of wood are then tied to ribbons that are attached to the central tree. While this is happening, people around are drumming and whistling and dancing and they raise their hands to the tree. It was such an amazing thing for me to see. I knew a few of the people there. I am so used to seeing them in mundane tasks at work that to see them here, dancing and raising their hands to the tree was a true revelation. They became powerful, they were connecting themselves to something so great and rich that the little people that they are in their daily lives was but a shadow. As I witnessed this, something spoke straight to my heart. It said: I am pagan. Tears welled up in my eyes and I knew this to be true with my whole being. No matter how much I am attached to my Christian tradition, it was so clear that I believed in what was happening in front of me. I believed in reaching deep within and finding you power and raising you hands to the sky and being filled to the brim with what came from it. I believe that with all my being.

Then I listened to these women sobbing and holding on to the tree once it was over. Sobbing in pain, but I think also in liberation. They had walked right up to the pain and had looked fear straight in the eye and had not wavered. Pain is a big heritage in Native communities. So the pain that these women feel is very real and it is often a daily occurrence. To face up to that and show to the world that they will be victims no more, is the mark of the true warrior. Only a ritual of this magnitude can truly bring you that close.

In the car on the way back, another revelation filled my mind. I thought about these women who stood up and faced their fears without flinching. Something inside me said: Be that person. It became clear that the best person to teach me that was Jesus. He was the one who did that best, looking to the fear and walking straight into it with complete surrender. In my experience of this world, he is the one that can best show me to be that person.
Please, a side note: As I was listening to the stories of the women that were getting pierced, I got very angry because I felt that the root of all the hurt these people were facing was indeed Christianity. I got angry at the hypocrisy of the Church. I got angry at myself for not having the will to walk away from it. So, to bring Jesus back into this at this point of the story makes it sound like everyone should turn to Jesus to be saved. It is not my view at all! Following Jesus feels familiar to me, much as someone else will follow Eagle or Gaia. For me, he personifies this lesson that I want to learn, his person and his example do that, not the man-made doctrine that we are told to follow. Him. That’s all. I hope this point is clear to everyone.

So, the two lessons I took home were that I am pagan more than anything and that my best guide to find my personal power was where I had always found it: in my lord Jesus.

I’m sure that all you Christian pagans out there have picked up some very important pieces of symbology in the rituals outlined above…. Well, this post is long enough and a little suspense never hurt anyone. So, I’ll be back for a little Christian mythology very soon.