Monday, March 08, 2010

Wooden Ships on the Water

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored" in the wake of the 2010 East Coast Vulture Festival! Beloved "Buzzy" has been shipped back to Akron Design and Costume Company, which is far and away the best mascot rental company in the world! Such nice people work there, and you could want to be a meerkat and they would make it happen.

Every Vulture Fest is memorable and wonderful, but this one topped all the rest. It started with a nice 55-degree afternoon, very amenable to wearing a big vulture head and a poncho of "feathers." It then proceeded to another fantastic flyover. And it was a sunny evening. A huge flock of buzzards landed in a deciduous tree right at the roadside so they could catch the final rays of the sun in their wings. I parked right under the tree. They decorated my car as only great big birds can. I must get The Heir to take a photo before it rains. Only the rain will wash away the baptism of the Sacred Thunderbirds.

My daughters The Heir and The Spare both accompanied me to Vulture Fest. We got to the venue early and got a parking space near the door. We sat there for awhile, listening to music and talking over all things vulture. Then I looked out my window and saw a smudge ceremony taking place.

The featured performance at this year's Vulture Fest was a Native American drum circle group called One Heart. The group members were being smudged by the Elder prior to the beginning of the evening.

You would never believe it from reading this web log, but I am a very cheeky person. I go plowing in whether invited or not. I didn't even know that Native Americans used sage sticks, that's how poorly informed I am. So if the smudging is meant only for them, or only for men, or tied closely to their culture, I should have kept my place.

But I didn't.

I asked them to smudge me too. The Elder bathed me in sage smoke and then, when finished, tapped me once on the shoulder. To say that I was deeply moved -- and so happy to tie this sacred piece to Vulture Fest -- is an understatement.

I was also glad that they all laughed when they saw me put on the Buzzy costume. I didn't want them to think I was disrespectful. I told them that I'm the resident Vulture Shaman for the festival, which is what I am ... only the Vulture Fest folks just think I'm a crazy wicked talented mascot.

When it was their turn to perform at the Fest, One Heart proved to be very dramatic and very, very interesting. Unlike the Celts, who each have their own drums and play in concert, the Native Americans in One Heart all sit around one drum and play it simultaneously. This unites their heartbeats in harmony. Their two female dancers basically swayed around the drum holding bird wings. The ceremony was something I would definitely like to see out under the sunshine or the stars.

Though the hour was growing late, the Elder gave a talk. Not a talk, a sermon. He talked about how Native Americans celebrate Mother Earth, and the turning of the seasons, and how everything is animated with a soul. He said that vultures are special because they move in the air. And the air is alive. It has a spirit of its own.

Whoa. I had seriously never thought of that before, but now that I've heard it, I can feel the energy of the air all around me! It's like being blind all your life and suddenly seeing something that's been there all the time!

So much of what that Native American Elder said in his talk was similar to Druidic thought and practice. Reverence for the land. Appreciation for Spirit. He called it God, but hey. We at "The Gods Are Bored" are okay with whatever you want to call it. Maybe the Great It doesn't even have a name to begin with!

When the program ended and the drummers were packing up their things, I came over and thanked them for their music and words. I told them I'm a Druid, and many of the philosophies seem to overlap, beginning with the smudge stick.

One of the men looked at me and said, "Well, we really don't know how many boats came and went over that water, do we?"

Whoa again. We don't know. A smattering of Vikings, and Columbus. Possibly the Egyptians. But does history record everything? How many boats came across that water? Who was in them? How long did they stay? What about from West to East? The wind favors America-to-Europe. Could we owe some of our most ancient Western philosophies to visitors from North America? I don't see why the hell not. The Mandan Indians had blond hair and blue eyes.

At any rate, it was an honor to share a smudge ceremony with Native American drummers who respect Vulture. I hear that this group does Work down in Salem County. Something to look forward to this summer.

And something to inform my Work with Mountain Tribe at the Fairy Festival.

Blessed, blessed buzzards.

Photo by the peerless Birdchick.


Sarita Rucker said...

That sounds amazing.

I have actually seen Native American drumming like that at a local Pow Wow. I don't think I was paying particular attention since there was so much going on there, but the drumming was quite something.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a wonderful Fest you had this year! Sounds like a smashing success!


sounds like a wonderful time..i wish i had been there..

Maebius said...

I've never seen a single drum used for multiple poly-rhythms like you describe, but I bet it was awesome.

Very cool you got to be smudged, and connected to another group of respectful Earth-reverence types.

I had to laugh though at the description of your car's "baptism". If Only my own Path included grackles as a Sacred bird, since our trees are swimming in them lately, and our feet almost swimming too. :/ (hmm, why's the yard still white, the snow melted, right?!)

Emily Lilly said...

People generally realize that the word "Iroquois" meant "fierce ones" and was a name not applied by the Iroquois themselves, but by neighboring peoples.

What most people do _not_ realize is that this word has origin is Basque, which became the root language of a trading tongue (or pidgin) that developed all along the rivers from Hudson Bay, because the Basque (who are very fond of some small sea fish whose name escapes me at the moment) had to send their fisherman out further and further afield to get their preferred treasure (they had overfished their own waters), and ended up in North America.

About 200 years before Columbus.

So, yeah, there has clearly been a _lot_ more cross-cultural contact over the centuries than the history books would have us believe.

We are all one, and have learned from each other throughout the ages.

I'm so glad to hear the report on this year's festival!