|Maggid ben Yoseif / Jerusalem Torah Voice in Exile|
Monday, August 31, 2008 / 30 Av 5768
Native Sundance: Made to order atonement for a covenant people who could be M’nashe
NOTE: The entire Sundance is Holy. Some parts of it are Most Holy. Just as certain aspects of Hebraic worship are known only to the priests of the “Holy place” and the high priest of the “Most Holy place,” some details of the Sundance are too Holy about which to speak or write. But the following “imagination,” hopefully will leave the Ephraimite Joe and/or Orthodox Jew to whom this writing is directed with an image of a people more civilized and advanced in spiritual matters than most of the “civilized” world.
By Maggid ben Yoseif, mokhiah
Imagine you are a Hebrew priest who has found his way to the land now called America within a few centuries after Babylon destroyed the Jerusalem Temple. You are surprised to find people who celebrate the new moon and many who have a tradition that they came from “Jose” or “Joseph.” They practice many laws of Torah by nature, including ritual separation for women on their “moon,” a variation of Succot in which the four directions, Creator and “Mother” Earth plus the “Spirit of Creator within” are recognized. And their spiritual purifications and prayers are made fervent and effectual with various sufferings and “afflictions of the soul.”
From the traditions and the history that relate to Joseph and the “indwelling Spirit” evidenced in the Torah solely by Joseph, you deduce that this people is likely from the biblical M’nashe “separated from his brothers.” Since M’nashe – the name of the eldest son of Joseph -- comes from the verb in Hebrew “to forget,” you understand that it may have been foreordained that he forget his covenant with the God of Israel, forget his brothers and forget even the Torah. (Joseph gave his son this unusual name as Joseph tried to “forget” how he was mistreated by his half-brothers and sold into slavery. So perhaps this same mistreatment – at the hand of brothers -- and slavery also have been part of the experience of this name. But Joseph opened a portal for his sons to eventually rule over those same brothers during their exile.)
Parts of the forgotten Torah have become “lifestyle.” There also exists evidence of profound spiritual revelations in symbols, designs and imagery especially with animals and nature.
After earning their trust, these Natives invite you (the priest) to learn their tongue and see their holy writings. You learn in those writings and from observing their spiritual beliefs and practices firsthand that there exists no decree as the one in Hosea 1, (explained in Jeremiah 3) that cuts off the remainder of Joseph from being a people of God. Neither does this people have an innate need to “reconnect” with anyone or anything outside of their ceremonies, as they always have connected solely with the Creator.
Righteous in covenant
They would be righteous not because of their appearance, which in earlier times may have looked heathen or uncivilized to a judgmental, overdressed and over-accessorized European or someone brought up in another culture. Nor would their merit or good deeds make them “righteous” in the manner the civilized world understands the term. But they would be “righteous” because of their right-standing or “biblical covenant,” which is still intact for the biblical family of M’nashe separated from his brothers, even though it has been “manashed” or “forgotten.”
How would such a people worship their Creator, who the biblical initiates in the “civilized world” and “first tribes” knew to be the God of Israel?
The priest might minimally remind them of things like atonement that should take place yearly and involve the shedding of animal blood to atone for their souls. He would re-introduce the basics of rituals that purify and sustain the soul, all detailed in the Torah. But the priest should also know that Hashem (literally, "The Name," which Natives chant in permutations of Y,H and W sounds) is no longer pleased with these blood sacrifice rituals that mean the deaths of innocent animals to atone for the habitually sinful souls of men.
Death of a ‘tree-person’
“We can’t use animal blood anymore,” he reasons, “nor can we build an altar for sacrifice anywhere but in Jerusalem, nor can we have steps leading up to an altar.” After a fast by the entire community of four days and nights, the elders arrive at a means to satisfy the priest while maintaining their instinctive need to remain close to the Living Creation and Living Earth.
Instead of an animal person, the atonement will involve the death of a “tree-person.” Since trees do not have “blood,” warriors from the community would pledge to be vessels for this atonement by being pierced and attached (with ropes) as limbs to the “killed” tree person until the warriors break from it under their own power. The bits of flesh and blood they leave at the tree, come from non-life-threatening piercings on their chests and backs (or arms in the case of women). These are scars, which this supposed Native family of Joseph even today wears with pride. So today’s Native “warrior” proves his/her mettle in a spiritual arena, their own flesh and blood evidence of the seriousness of this pursuit, which may appear to the biblically trained observer to be a blood petition to the Divine on behalf of the shortfalls of the community.
Culmination of a year-long renewal of spiritual life
But the dance is much more than just a personal or community atonement via the preparation and suffering of spiritual warriors.
“It is a yearly renewal of ALL Creation” (at least in the Western hemisphere), says Jimmy Tenrivers, for which, he adds, “dancers prepare almost the entire year.” The spiritual co-leader of Geronimo’s Apaches who are reassembling around the Sundance in southern Colorado, directs a weekly “warrior” purification lodge in Walsenburg, CO., from the time of the completion of the Sundance until after the snows end and the Sundance site is accessible again in the late Spring. He was told by the Spirit to “build it (the sweat lodge) to prepare spiritual warriors and story-tellers and elders would come.” He concedes that the “other side of the world” may be kept alive spiritually by other means, but this is the function of the Sundance for this side of the world.
“Human persons, tree and shrub and grass people, the stone people, ant and spider persons, our winged people and four-leggeds …. no life could exist without the spiritual life in them that comes from the yearly renewal of the Sundance,” says Tenrivers. The Orthodox Jewish community in Jerusalem shares a similar belief that the morning Shacharit prayer daily “renews” Creation.
A word about the purification lodge and Grandfathers
Any who believe that “inanimate” rocks do not have this life force, learn differently from Tenrivers in his Apache purification (sweat) lodge. “Grandfathers” for whom tobacco was offered when they were removed from their homes high on a volcanic mountain, are reverently hoisted by the fireman of the purification lodge toward the Creator and the Sacred Directions. They are chosen from the mountain with prayer and prayer accompanies their selection for the sacred fire pit. The fireman prays then places the Grandfathers with great reverence in the specially prepared pit, atop which the combination of wood, fire and wind prepare the Grandfathers to “teach their lessons and relate their messages.”
This combination of rock, fire and water also is a natural means employed by Tenrivers as he prays, leads the worship and pours water over the Grandfathers, to be brought into a “lulled” or altered state of consciousness. But usually one must attend a few lodges to first overcome the anxiety of being cooked alive! -- and learn the lessons of the lodge itself. The most basic of those lessons are greatly humbling: First, that we are “all related” as is evident from the greeting when entering and leaving, Hoa mitakuye oyasin (To all my relations). Second, when the flap of the sweat lodge door closes, it won’t open again until the round is over. You like everyone else in the lodge are consigned and resigned to suffer therein. Accepting this and not fighting it, is a spiritual victory in itself.
Prayers in this “charged” environment, especially when suffering, are spontaneous, inspired, fervent, effectual and understandably brief. Often, the Spirit will speak through someone’s prayers or thoughts they express verbally. On a few occasions, in this altered state of consciousness, I have heard the Grandfathers themselves speak, like a voice whispering from the dust, but what is said is not always shared publicly nor is it intended to be.
Sundancers prepare as spiritual warriors
Long ago, it was decided that to be a Sundancer, one must prepare as does a warrior. The entire year beforehand there are mandatory weekly purifications (sweat lodges) whose heat gets increasingly “hostile,” charitable service, and progressive spiritual disciplines. A dancer pledges to do a hamlechkah (vision quest), which entails a fast of food and water for up to four days and nights while remaining in a circle (in some places it is a square) about 7 feet in diameter atop a mountain or high hill or other secluded place, with only a buffalo robe and a Channupah (pipe for ritual smoking used to elevate his/her prayers). After four days of purification before the dance, the four-day dance itself involves another four day fast in which the dancers remain apart from the community, since they have now entered into a “holy place.”
Perhaps you, the priest, tell them or perhaps this is something they remember from the mystical side of the family of Joseph who came from Jerusalem. But their mystical nature and “heathen” appearance has made them just the perfect “foolishness” those many centuries ago, to “confound the wisdom of the wise” and the perfect repository for Creator to hide His 26-letter mystical name, a mystery still unsolved among Orthodox sages.
The Chanuppah song
However it was learned, the entire community learns songs that contain chants of various permutations of the sounds from only the three consonants, Y, H and W: Yah, Yo, Hay, He, Hi, Ho, Wah, Wo, Way, etc without ever reciting the order of Yod and Hey followed by Wah and Hey, which as a Hebrew priest, you know to be the Shem Hameforash (the Creator’s Name pronounced by its letters). Out of respect for Creator, you, the priest, explain that this name is forbidden to be pronounced except in holy precincts, on holy occasions by those made holy to pronounce it: The priestly family of Zadok, son of Aaron. Only these have been given the correct pronunciation. And there is one song – the Chanuppah song – in which two stanzas of 13 syllables are sung in a masterful permutation of Y’s, Ws and Hs.
Again, you (the priest), and the community fast and pray. You remember a Psalm that begins: “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.”
Priestly influences of the Sundance
So it is decided that for four days a year around the time of T’sha b’Av , that the community will sing from sunup to sundown and chant these permutations of the Creator’s Unutterable Name. Since you are a priest, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, when the moon will be its fullest in four days when the dance begins -- usually in mid to late July or August is the date you recommend for the celebration. This is because the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed by Babylon and again by Rome on the same day 792 years later. It therefore would be a natural day to resume the praise of the Name, although now on another continent and within a Sacred Hoop rather than a Temple.
Hunt for the ‘one’
The hunt for the “one” who will atone for the community via the warriors in the community’s own flesh and blood begins with a scout who reports to the community leaders that he has found the “one.”
The entire community – men, women with children in arms and children able to walk -- armed with makeshift imaginary weapons proceed toward the “one” upon the direction of the scout. The warriors (sundancers) take down the tree person after a scout first climbs the “one,” attaching ropes, stripping the lower limbs -- collected without hitting the ground by others below -- as he descends.. The first four blows of a new axe are laid in the four directions by four young maidens. True to Hebrew mystical tradition, the Apache recognize these directions as the source of both four winds and four spiritual powers (or angels) sent as helpers by Tunkas(h)ilah, similar to the Four Winds summoned by the Hebrew prophets and the archangels, Raphael, Michael, Uriel and Gabriel who each are assigned a direction in the Hebrew Bedtime Sh’ma. The four maidens deliver “compassionate” blows, then each of the dancers take their turn at the axe until the tree is ready to fall, picking up their wood chips at each cut of the axe.
Permutations sung as the ‘one’ is ‘killed’
Others have cut “crutches” or branches from 6-8 feet long to lay horizontally under the tree as it is lowered by the community manning the ropes. From the time the tree is examined by the spiritual elders before it is “killed,” drummers begin drumming and the community singing the ceremonial songs that include permutations of Hashem’s name.
The now “killed” tree person (“the one”) is lowered reverently so that the trunk never touches the ground. It is carried on the shoulders of the community using the crutches – no one touches the trunk and main stem of the tree -- to the center of a prepared arbor, called a Sacred Hoop entering through the Eastern of the four Gates. This is the only time that the community may enter the arbor through this gate for the duration of the dance, as it is believed to be the gate for spiritual powers to enter and should therefore be kept as pure as possible. An elder is often assigned to sit beside this gate to guard its use only for the dancers. The community will later gather at this gate, although they enter from other gates, for the healing services.
Help from the 4 Directions, Heaven and Earth
Each dancer over the previous year has tied hundreds of prayer ties containing tobacco, in small squares of Yellow, Black, Red and White cloth (to a Hebrew priest, representing the four directions and the spiritual powers managed by the archangels Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael and Michael). These also decorate the inside of the sweat lodge. As in the succah, however, the directions are “six” including Heaven and Earth, which are represented by blue and green ties. But again, the indwelling spirit, characteristic in the Torah only within Joseph among the sons of Jacob, is portrayed by a seventh purple tie filled with tobacco. And this is the color purple that is very close to the t’chelles of the tzitziyot,(fringes), which the Hebrew people wore/wear on four-cornered garments.
Tobacco: The new incense
As a priest, you know that the 14 ingredients that make up the pitu’um haketoret (the holy incense) may not be duplicated nor may the incense be used anywhere but in the Jerusalem Temple and the Tabernacle of Moses. Sage, cedar, and sweetgrass have become the smoke of various purifications. Tobacco becomes the new “incense” to elevate prayers. But you warn these supposed children of M’nashe that for them to use tobacco in any other way could make them sick as it would be an unholy use for something Most Holy.
The prayer ties are wound around the trunk of the tree. Each tie represents a petition by someone in the community about which the dancer has prayed and/or smoked his/her Channupah or that dancer’s personal intercession. Only dancers (the thoroughly prepared spiritual contact of the people with the tree) place the ties on and in the tree.
At the conclusion of each round of the Sundance, different dancers present their Channupah’s to the community to smoke so that the prayers of all ascend during the dance. The dance of the dancers is strictly regulated according to an ancient choreography that entails the migrations of the Buffalo people. The return of the Buffalo herd, so that the herd may complete its own sacred circle of migration – interrupted by European settlers and buffalo hunters -- is integral to Native American prophecy. Dancers follow orders barked by a designated “intercessor” and cannot speak as they have whistles made from eagle wing bones in their mouths throughout the dance.
The whistles are “breathed” usually in time with every drumbeat or every other drumbeat as the community chants the permutations and dances in place under the covered portion of the arbor, eyes fixed on the tree as a focal point of prayer. With the dancers and anywhere from 300 to 400 supporters all focused on the tree, it serves to “magnify” the power of the prayers in the same way a magnifying glass would focus and magnify something.
Because of their fasting and prayers and prior year-long spiritual preparation, Sundancers often receive visions while gazing into the tree or, when facing the sun as part of the ritual, gazing into the sun itself for short periods. They are also able to transmit healing virtues by the laying on of hands, which usually occurs on the third and/or fourth day of the dance.
The origin of piercing
The idea for piercing dancers came, according to Native legend, when an eagle flew down and clawed someone’s chest as they were pondering this idea of yearly spiritual renewal, so none of this supposition of a priest’s involvement should be absorbed as fact. It is merely an illustration of how the dance – from an Hebraic priestly perspective -- meets the basic spiritual needs of a community never removed from covenant with the God of Israel yet separated altogether from the Torah and the family of Israel.
Place of Y’shua (Jesus)
In no way is the tree person idolized or worshipped. Only the Creator is worshipped and praised and most importantly – thanked -- in the songs that include permutations of the Name, which are sung from “the rising of the sun to the going down of the same.” Since this purported family of M’nashe was never removed from covenant, it has no mandatory need for the renewal of covenant offered by Y’shua (Jesus), yet many Apache are Christian in the context of being part of Y’shua’s atonement as well, Catholics and even a few charismatics. A young prophet in our community has had conversations with Y’shua, who he said Y’shua told him to call him (Y’shua) his “bro.” Since those who come to Y’shua are entitled to the “free gift of the Spirit,” spiritual vistas have opened to the understanding of the Apache who view Y’shua (Jesus) as OF the same Great Spirit. I should add that those who do not openly profess this covenant via the atonement of Y’shua, usually hold to the traditional Native belief that their intercessor for prayer is their Channupah when they smoke it. More than one Native has said the same thing: “You have Jesus. We have Channupah.”
A people of ‘Shibboleth’
The Great Spirit, known to the Apache and Lakota as “Wakan-Tanka” (the Highest and Most Holy One) is responsible for the “sending” of “Tunkasilah.” (although it is pronounced TUN-KAH-SHEY-LAH, as if a reminder that M’nashe was the people of “Shibboleth,” not “Sibboleth”). If Tanka/Tunka refer to the Holy or Great Spirit, then “Tunka-s(h)ilah” would, in Hebrew, mean “the shaliah” or “one sent” of the Holy or Great Spirit.” The idea communicated is that this Spirit or one sent by the Spirit was SENT from one place to this place.
‘Old Lord of the Holy Men’
The great Oglalah Sioux intercessor, Chief Frank Fools Crow (Eaglebear) was instrumental in publicly re-instituting the Sundance 27 years ago. It had been a ceremony practiced secretly for almost a century since it was outlawed by the Federal Government in the 1890s. Fools Crow wrote in his memoirs that his instructions for the ceremony were “according to the direction of the Great Spirit.” He recognized the Great Spirit as coming from the “Great Mystery,” who was the same as the Creator God recognized by the World’s monotheistic religions. In this, he and his uncle, the renowned, Black Elk, another Native giant of the Spirit, agreed. “The Supreme Being they worshipped was the One True God of the Bible.” Fools Crow referred to this “God” and the source of his healing gifts as the “Old Lord of the Holy Men.” (“Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power, by Thomas E. Mails, 1991).
Mails, who had been a Lutheran minister has written a number of best-selling books on Native Americans, including the Cherokee, Hopi and Pueblo. He had this to say in a chapter entitled, “Postlude to the Sundance,” his conclusions about the Sundance based on his 1998 account of the 1994 and 1995 revived public Sundances on Rosebud and Pine Ridge Sioux reservations:
It is fair to ask how the Sun Dance compares to other traditional forms of worship. In my estimation, it compares very well indeed. All of the proper elements of worship are there: confession, petition, reception, sacrifice and service. There is no reason whatsoever to consider it inferior, heathen or even primitive – if anyone would happen to think of that as a negative word, which I do not. The healing ceremonies themselves are the most impressive and effective. Therefore, while I can appreciate the reasons for doing so, it remains a serious blunder for the United States government to have interfered with and suppressed the performance of the Sun Dance. (Sundancing: The Great Sioux Piercing Ritual, Council Oaks Books, Tulsa, OK., pages 192-193).
The Native understanding of a Supreme Being as it existed long before European colonization is the subject of a later writing which will relate even more directly to the Torah of Moses. But that is later when Ephraim may be better equipped to “handle this Truth.”
Unique place of M’nashe
Modern Native leaders are quite open to elements of faith that combine traditional ceremony and the Bible. For European assimilated Ephraim and Native M’nashe to find common ground that would appear mandatory. But Ephraim must keep in mind that the place of the family of Lehi ben M’nashe ben Yoseif in covenant with the Creator is unique and has become “priestly” through the possible interaction with descendants of Zadok, who may also have found America. The incidence of the extra Y-chromosome that identifies the Hebraic priesthood of the sons of Aaron occurs from 27 to 30 times greater than in any known totally Jewish population sample among Native American, Chicano and Hispanic males whose ancestors are native to Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. This appears to be fertile ground to locate the “hidden” Zadokite priesthood, who the prophet Ezekiel predicted, would “decide in all matters of controversy” in the Last Days and -- like Moses -- teach the people the difference between what is "clean and unclean, holy and common."
Changing of the spiritual guard
Possibly as early as this past T’sha b’Av of this year, (August 10-11, 2008 and certainly by Yom Kippur, the Great Day of Atonement, October 10-11, 2008), the spiritual sovereignty of the House of Joseph-Ephraim was/will be restored. It may already have been restored to the Native family descended from Lehi ben M’nashe ben Yoseif. That possibly happened last summer – at the Native commemoration of the Jamestown settlement of 1607 -- with the end of the 400-year failed experiment called, “Manifest Destiny.” Failed, I contend, because the European immigrant leaders did not honor a single one of the 500 treaties signed with Natives. Not one. (See “500 Nations,” narrated by Kevin Costner). Failed, because the immigrants were anything but their brother, M’nashe’s, keeper.
As we have written elsewhere, 2008 also signals the end of the 2,730 years of judgment that fell on the House of Joseph-Ephraim and the House of Joseph-M’nashe who was exiled to Assyria. Ironically, this judgment never applied to the House of Joseph M’nashe that remained in Jerusalem at the time of the exile of the Northern Tribes. One such family, the family of Lehi ben M’nashe ben Yoseif, kept a diary, which comprises much of the Book of Mormon. This is a written record of a family of M’nashe “separated from his brothers.” Both Jacob and Moses related prophesies near the end of their lives that spoke of the blessing of Jacob landing on the “crown of the head of Joseph – the ancient inheritance of Joseph in the land of Israel -- and the one (M’nashe) separated from his brothers. The set-apart family of M’nashe, priestly by that very definition of being “set-apart,” appears to be Native Americans who spread across the Americas via Hopi migrations, according to correlations with the Book of Hopi and the Book of Mormon.”
So as Ephraim is “liberated” from his judgments, I contend that the next order of business for Ephraim is to honor the sovereignty of Native American M’nashe, the only family of Joseph never removed from covenant. And the place and means to do this is by supporting the Sundance and the Sundancers at the Eastern gate of the Sacred area. These dancers yearly sustain this covenant and renewal of Creation with their own flesh and blood. And the vision of reuniting M’nashe will require financial help to assist the needs of elders who the Spirit has promised are coming and who already are arriving.
Runners bring staffs and eagle feathers to Sundance
So that all things will be done in order, it is necessary for the now or soon-to-be “liberated” Ephraimite Joes to seek the leadership and wisdom of this family of M’nashe who can be found in the American Southwest and behind the borders of Mexico, Central America and South America.
On the second day of the 2008 Aztlan Sundance here in Southern Colorado near Gardner, we were surprised with a visit from a running troupe of Natives. They each run two miles a day and are running from Alaska to Panama and from the tip of South America to Panama. They are running to unite the indigenous peoples of the Americas and bring attention to ancient ceremonial sites. Each Native tribe so far visited has added eagle feathers to the staffs of the runners. The runners were led by Wakan-Tanka to our Apache Sundance at Aztlan (the Aztec name for the Sacred Homeland in the North).
Repeated confirmations place the Eastern Gate of this region generally called the Four Corners of SW Colorado, SE Utah, NW New Mexico and NE Arizona at or near our Sundance site. Ancient Oglalah Sioux prophecy – we believe -- is being fulfilled through the spiritual vortex at Aztlan – see our article about the dramatic spiritual sign that validated the dance and this vortex in 2005. But the Sioux prophecy predicts a place for the assembling of elders to be located near our Sundance site. I should add that Geronimo’s Apaches were the last – and today, the descendants of his warriors again, the present stewards – at this Eastern entrance into the Sacred Four Corners Area.
Staffs spend night with Sundancers’ staffs
The runners allowed their staffs with the eagle feathers in true biblical fashion, to spend the night in the same teepee with the staffs of the Sundancers. Later that evening, the runners attended a purification sweat, (for which I was honored to be their fireman) including a Buffalo round in which the purification lodge worship included six songs of worship with the permutations. In case no one recognizes the miracle of that, a Buffalo round usually does not consist of more than one or two songs and rarely more than four, as the heat is quite intense and suffering beyond the previous four rounds in the purification sweat. Add to that the fact that the glowing Grandfathers were so large for this Buffalo round that it took two pitchforks and a shovel and three men to carry them in. And most of these runners had never attended an Apache purification lodge!!
‘Jose’ may predate St. Joseph of Catholic Church
After the purification sweat, one of the runners and I had an opportunity to talk. I spoke of my work involving the House of Joseph and its return. That caused him to remember a legend that a people who had come from “Jose” (Joseph) was known to the Natives in Central and South America long before the Catholic church introduced them to “St. Joseph.” I say this with a little hesitancy and a great deal of “fear and trembling” but it is entirely possible that the identity of the indigenous Americas with Joseph could be a major factor leading to this unification sought by the runners. And this appears to be the result of the Hopi migrations.
Invitation to South country
Anyway, the bottom line is that a door has opened for me to bring the message of the Return of the House of Joseph further into Central and South America beginning with a stop in Zacatecas, Mexico. From Joes who attended our 2005 Return of the House of Joseph seminar in Cleveland, TN., we have invitations as well to Guatemala and Panama and possibly Brazil and Argentina. However, the people of Zacatecas and most Central and South American villages are even worse off financially than the Membreno Apache in Southern Colorado and that is saying quite a lot.
This means that I must raise my own expenses for this mission and not be dependent on any offering plates.
Are you your brother’s keeper?
I am calling on those of Ephraim who truly recognize the spiritual sovereignty of M’nashe in the Americas to assist not only the Sundance community at Aztlan, and the elders who are beginning to arrive, but also to assist with this outreach toward “b’nai Jose” (the sons of Joseph to the South). The Good News that the judgments against the House of Joseph exiled to Assyria have expired, removing a major obstacle to the Return is one thing for that branch of the House of Joseph. But before these Joes may be returned, they must evidence the fact that they are capable of becoming “their brother’s keeper.” And Joes of North America, your brothers and sisters here at the Eastern Gate to Aztlan and to the South, give you that opportunity.
Maggid ben Yoseif