Mega-church or Native American inipi (sweat lodge)? Which would Grandfather use to make a covenant with the life that comes from our Mother Earth?
Hoa mitakuye oyasin (AH-HO M’TOK-OO-YEH OH-YAH-SIN) or as it is sometimes abbreviated “Aho mitakuyasin,” is the Lakota declaration that has united and reconciled Native Americans from coast to coast: “All my relations.” Simply re-stated, “We are all related.”
“We” includes all full-bloods and mixed Native Americans. “We” also includes all other two-leggeds (human beings), together with the four-legged, winged, creeping things, insects, trees, flowers, herbs, all vegetation, rocks and soil, mountains, oceans and streams and all of Creation. White Buffalo Calf Woman, who brought this ceremony to the Lakota taught that from the youngest child to the eldest grandmother and most wise chieftain or elder, ALL, bow low to the Earth and make this declaration of “Covenant with Creation” before entering sacred inipi.
Diligently seeking Grandfather in Six Directions
Inipi are Native American “prayer tents” but which resemble a “womb” and represent the womb of our Earth Mother, who Natives understand to be just as alive as the humanity and other life she nourishes. The songs and prayers sang and uttered while suffering “within” or “inside” (the meaning of inipi), also “diligently” seek Grandfather, as represented by prayers in all Six Directions, including Heaven above and Earth below. The Directions are both a “witness” and a “seal” (represented by the Apache as a 6-pointed star) to these prayers.
That harmony with the Living Earth Mother has the weight of Covenant in Native American inipi ceremonies is reinforced by Chief Seattle, of blessed memory, of the Suqwamish and Duwamish. “What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the children of the Earth.”
The Land’s rests
The two short Torah portions usually read the week of or following Mother’s Day (Behar and Bechukosai) are Leviticus 25-27. These portions, more than any other in the Torah deal with the Covenant relationship between the Children of Israel and the Land of Israel. Israel would allow the land one year’s rest in each seven, which meant Israel must remain dependent on Grandfather for its food to sustain life for more than two years before the land could again be harvested. And during the “time off” from sewing and reaping, the entire nation could be devoted to the study of Torah and spiritual pursuits. The fruitfulness of the Land made this possible. If Israel pursued Torah diligently (and not casually), the land would shower the people with tzedekah (charity), but if casual and not diligent, the land would bring forth mishpat (judgment).
The Covenant between Israel and its land was so intimate that land in Israel could not be sold in perpetuity (which means forever); that it was the eternal possession of Grandfather and those residing on it were to be both “sojourners” and “residents” WITH Grandfather.
Jubilee returns ancestral inheritances
When all of the tribes of Israel would be in the land, seven such rest periods would culminate with another entire year’s rest for the land called the Yovel or Jubilee on the 50th year. At this time, the tribes would be called back to their ancestral inheritances, which would dictate property rights exchanges, called “redemption of the land.” Each part of the land of Israel was designated as the permanent home for the descendants of one of its 13 tribes.
The Covenant with the land is further expounded in the oral traditions of the Torah from which the Halachah was formed. The portion of Torah beginning at Leviticus 26:3, reads: “Im b’chukotai TALEYCU” literally translated “If you will WALK OUT (follow) My chukot (decrees or ordinances that have no rational explanation but just beg for observance out of love for Grandfather). “Taleycu” is derived from the Hebrew root “Halach” (in the imperfect or future tense), from which we get the concept of Halachah (how one actually “walks out” the commands of Torah).
Well-being of land, people evidence of ‘diligent’ or ‘casual’ Torah observance
So the promise is made in verse 3 that if the children of Israel will follow Halachah and guard Grandfather’s commandments, rain will come in the right time in the right amount and the land and people will flourish. Nothing would disturb our Earth Mother from caring for her children.
Hosea 1 records three judgments on the House of Israel (residing north of the House of Judah and west of the Jordan River and Israelite East M’nashe). These judgments decree exile, removal from Grandfather’s Covenant and even His mercies. But in Hosea 2, after the prophet finishes pronouncing Grandfather’s judgment, he announces a coming restoration. Since the terms of the judgment did not apply at all to Judah or Israelite East M’nashe (who both remained in Covenant despite earlier and later exiles) it is reasonable to believe that these still-covenanted families are the natural choice to extend this covenant to those removed from it.
Scriptural basis for Covenant with life sustained by Earth Mother
Integral to that restoration is a restored Covenant specifically with the other life sustained by our Earth Mother.
‘And in that day will I make a Covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things on the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the Earth and will make them to lie down safely.’ (Hosea 2:20)
Sages of Torah suggest that this covenant is for the Last Days … after the House of Israel (again not to be confused with Judah — the Jewish People — or Israelite East M’nashe — Native Americans) is punished for “treating the commands of Torah and their observance casually.” Leviticus 26:42 then promises, “I will remember My covenant with Jacob and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember AND I WILL REMEMBER THE LAND.”
Covenant with Creation reinstituted in inipi after 390 ‘sh’mitahs’ appeased
The chapter goes on to explain that the land would be bereft of the House of Israel specifically to appease for the sabbatical rests it was denied during the House of Israel’s residence. The prophet Ezekiel had given a sign to the Northern Tribes that they would be exiled for 390 years, but for acting casually toward the commands of Torah, a seven-fold multiplication was decreed to 2,730 years so that the 390 years represented appeasements for only the years the land was denied its rest or 390 sh’mitahs. Calculated from the exile of the Nothern Tribes in 722 BCE, the land completed its last appeasement of judgment in 2008, meaning the Land Covenant prophesied is now on the horizon perhaps before the next sh’mitah year.
I would like to submit that this Covenant is now being instituted in the Native American inipi. Any from Ephraim who are serious about reconciling with the family of Israelite East M’nashe may do so in inipi. Grandfather has decreed that a condition of this reconciliation will be a Covenant with our Earth Mother.
Inipi is for spiritual birthing of prayers
The inipi sometimes irreverently called a “sweat lodge,” is constructed like a womb of a pregnant woman. Prayers and suffering in the inipi are intended, among other things, to bring about spiritual birthings “inside or within” (which is what “inipi” means). An Apache woman stated in inipi a few days before Mother’s Day, that since she left her “mega church” with its “cushioned seats and air-conditioning and multi-media sermons” and returned to inipi, “the distance between “the birthpangs” has considerably lessened. “My prayers are being answered the same day,” she testified. But we all know that this grandmother today walks in the highest spiritual power of the repentant.
Pipe-carriers function the same as Hebrew ‘tzaddikim’
On those occasions when Heaven appears stubborn as brass, or one FEELS estranged from Grandfather, at our inipi, we call on those who carry sacred channupahs (sometimes irreverently called “peace pipes”).
When the spiritual preparation to be a “carrier of a sacred channupah” is considered along with how the channupah itself is protected from worldly defilements, the picture emerges of the pipe carrier as the equivalent of the Hebrew “tzaddik,” who assists Jews who feel estranged from Covenant.
Sinners are not judged by pipe carriers or tzaddikim
The tzaddik is a link between this world and the World to Come from the time the tzaddik becomes a tzaddik. From the Hebrew root tzadak, it means one who is “righteous.” From this the Hebrew sages determined the tzaddik was one who had “overcome his evil inclination” so that he could live to intercede for the less “righteous” while still alive in this world and once they have passed, from the World to Come. The tzaddik has one foot in this world and one foot in the World to Come. BUT, and this is an important but in the Native American community, the work of the tzaddik NEVER judges the sinner, only the sin. Should he judge, he would do more damage than good, preventing the judgment of Grandfather.
Sometimes, Grandfather’s personal judgment is first necessary to change personal habits and cleanse one from the encrustations of sin and defilements. As the Cherokee specifically understood, “Grandfather is a Just God.” As the Hebrew sages put this, God is a Supreme Tzadik Himself. Part of His justice we are learning forbids “double jeopardy.” This is why those who “judge” others merit on their own heads, the very judgment they judge. Their judgment has circumvented the judgment on the guilty and brought it instead onto themselves. The way psychology works explains this as one tends to judge the things in others he or she does not like about himself or herself.
Chanuppah made sacred with carrier’s own flesh and blood
In my inipi community, to become a bearer of the Sacred Chanuppah, one first must be gifted of a channupah stem and/or bowl by a Native American spiritual elder – which is considered like an “anointing” or “smichah” to carry a pipe. Or as sundancers, they must whittle and shape their own stems and bowls.
Regardless, flesh and blood is taken from the left arm of the channupah carrier (in the region where the arm t’fillin is layed) before the stem and bowl may be joined for prayers. The bowl is loaded with piki (a mixture of ritual tobacco, sage and other herbs which all have meaning and significance) while singing centuries-old songs telling us always to load this pipe in this same sacred manner. Finally the songs include singing permutations of the Divine Name. In fact, the last pipe-loading song is an invocation by the Yah and Hah to welcome the Wah (representing the Holy Spirit).
Inipi: Means to diligently seek Grandfather
During the inipi ceremony, the Sacred Chanuppah loaded with piki remains on the altar between the fire pit and the inipi but outside of the lodge. After inipi, with the intent of the prayers of the people still lingering and in mind, the people all bring smoke out of the stem, never inhaling it but blowing it in the six directions. In this sacred manner we have observed for centuries before Christian missionaries arrived, we seek Grandfather diligently with our prayers in all directions, East, South, West, North, Above and Below (from our Mother).
It is not unusual to have spiritual experiences inside the darkness of inipi. We sometimes see small blue lights that speak to us (ministering spirits) and sometimes Grandfather will speak directly. And so, after last Mother’s Day in 2011, I reported on the Word of Grandfather given in inipi a few months earlier:
‘Until Ephraim can respect Your Mother, Ephraim cannot respect the life that comes from Her.’
– The Word of Grandfather
Pipe-carriers are usually sundancers
Usually, those who carry the sacred Chanuppah are also sundancers. Among some nations, this is required. Sundancers spend the entire year of the four years most will dance occupied with spiritual preparations also similar to the spiritual preparation demanded of a Hebrew tzaddik.
Sundancers are not allowed alcohol for the duration of their vows, which can be up to 16 years in some nations, but which is usually 4 years. They are also expected to exemplify model moral behavior, avoid gossiping and excesses in everything. He is expected to pursue charity and unconditional love and load his channupah every day for prayer. If someone in the community needs and calls for prayer, the channupah carrier will be quick on the scene.
The manner of carrying Chanuppah
As a peacemaker, the pipe-carrier will also pray for any situations that divide the community. He (or she) will engage in a 4-day vision quest inscribed within a 7-foot diameter circle with no food or water for the duration (or some choose to lay in a hole in the earth for the four days). On their quests they are allowed only a buffalo hide and their chanuppah, while firekeepers keep a fire going the entirety of their quest which begins and ends with inipi purifications. They will fast another four days during the dance itself, which is called the sundance because the dance is observed during the hours the sun is out. (Contrary to myths and false rumors, neither the sun, nor the tree to which the dancers lend their flesh and blood are worshipped. Only Creator (Grandfather) is worshipped by Native peoples, although his Creation is always respected and honored.
The manner of prayer with the channupah also is most holy. Except for Heyoka (spiritual clowns who do everything backwards) and the Cherokee Kituwah (who represent the Cherokee priesthood), the Channupah is always turned clockwise and the bowl only held in the left palm.
Tzaddikim empowered to bring Covenant to the people
Pipe-carriers would appear to be the perfect tzaddikim to institute this “Land covenant” between Grandfather and the House of Israel commonly called, “Joseph-Ephraim.” Tzaddikim were so empowered in ancient times to actually be a covenant for the people, a role exemplified by the sundancers who bleed on behalf of the “Chosen One,” a tree. No Halachah is violated since no animal was sacrificed in this “shedding of blood” necessary for the annual Covenant renewal. In fact, the sundance appears orchestrated by an ancient Hebrew priest, who was aware of Grandfather’s disdain for animal sacrifices. Israelite East M’nashe is known to have assimilated with the ancient Hebrew priests of Gilead, with whom they went into Assyrian exile 17-23 years before the remainder of the Northern Tribes were exiled.
Today a remnant of these M’nashe priests reside in the Four Corners area: The five nations of the Apache and the Navajo. Here the extra Y chromosome identifying Hebrew priests occurs from 20 to 24 times more often than anywhere in the world. Gilead also was the haunt of Elijah the Prophet.
Intimacy with our Earth Mother
It is a “mitzvah” for the skin to touch the Earth from which the Teton Sioux Chief Luther Standing Bear is remembered with blessings for teaching us that in “Her” soil we find “soothing, strengthening, cleansing and healing” beyond the capacity of the love we found in our dear mothers’ wombs. This is why elders and grandmothers often walk barefoot without moccasins, which allow at least the feel of the contour of the bare ground. For the same reason, Native altars are only made of earth and tipis are preferred to houses. So purists sit on the bare ground inside inipi, which can get wet. The “mud” we bring out of inipi is just our Mama’s love. “One is able to think more deeply and feel more keenly; he can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer to kinship to other lives about him.” — Chief Standing Bear
Feminine Hebrew noun proves ‘life’ of Mother Earth
In Hebrew, the noun describing the earth (adamah) is feminine. Anything with the designation of “feminine” in the Torah has the ability to transmit life of its own kind and is dynamic meaning it will grow or shrink, increase or decrease, live … and if we are not careful and mindful of our Covenant, die. This validates the very first Native teaching, or for that matter, the first teaching by all indigenous people — that the Earth is our Mother who is alive and we should do nothing in our lives to cause her to die and should do what we are able to keep her alive.
The problem has been the immigrants without this natural tie, who do not honor or respect our Mother and who treat her like a disposable napkin or their own private and corporate latrines. But, even for these, Mama is calling.
“Mother’s Day,” has a special connotation in the inipi. It is year-round.
Maggid ben Yoseif