By Ymani Simmons of the Fellowship of Reconciliation
Beaver Creek ambles through the arid Arizona land revealing a spreading community of stone-beings that make the waters dance and sing as they roll and tumble on their endless journey. Thursday, March 20, 2014 was Spring Equinox, and I was blessed to be stepping into Ceremony, the first Women’s Gathering, with the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers and sisters from all parts of this beautiful world. The Grandmothers are an international alliance of indigenous female Elders that focuses on issues such as the environment, internationalism, and human rights.
As women continued to arrive that day, our tent community began to grow and spread until we were a sea of dwellings nestled beneath the ancient Sycamores that lined the clear creek and welcomed us to our temporary home in the desert. An air of excitement and shared anticipation began to waft through camp as we edged closer and closer to the Opening Ceremony that would provide a doorway for us to step through, together.
Women around the planet heard the call and 400 were able to take the action required to make the pilgrimage to Soda Springs Ranch, near Sedona, Arizona. This life-changing opportunity, organized by Indigena and Mystic Momma, enabled us to receive the wisdom and Teachings of these remarkable Elders who ask us to connect through prayer and Ceremony for our Mother Earth.
Many Elders from many Nations have been speaking of this time, a time when women would rise together to ignite the Feminine Spirit on the planet. Our Mother is calling us to restore balance, and to awaken our remembrance, and we are listening.
The gathering was hosted by Grandmother Mona Polacca, a spiritual elder of Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa descent. The intention was to come together for World Water Day at Montezuma Well, a sacred site serving as refuge and inspiration to many over the centuries. Ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs mark it as a unique historic site and its constant flow of 1.4 million gallons of water each day uphold a sense of mystery as the source of the water is still an unknown. Local tribes, such as the Yavapai-Apache, Hopi, and Navajo still gather for sacred ceremony at this most blessed site.
“It is said that a great plumed snake has one of his numerous homes here, and that in those deep mysterious waters that flow from deep inside the heart of the mother, the feathered snake dwells.”
So, on Thursday evening the observance began with a Welcoming Ceremony led by the women from the local Yavapai-Apache Nation. Prayer, song, drums, and a sense of sisterhood that knows no boundaries or restrictions were the foundation laid to hold us close in our Medicine blanket for the next few days. We gathered as many and began to feel the surge of energy that swirled around us as we felt our hearts unite and we became One.
Women from all walks of life, all ages, backgrounds, levels of life experience and beliefs had heard a call from beyond that touched our hearts and would not let go. Some answered knowing what was being asked of us, others simply responded through a strong sense of faith. A faith seeded in deep understanding and awareness that things are terribly wrong in our world today, and a firm conviction that it is the bringers of life, the women, who hold the key to the change that must begin to happen to make a safe and healthy home for the next seven generations.
We had already been told that some of the Grandmothers might not be able to join us because of travel distances, health issues, etc., but we were blessed to be in Ceremony with:
- Grandmother Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Confederated Tribes of Siletz
- Grandmother Rita Blumenstein, Yup’ik
- Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota
- Grandmother Rita Long Visitor Holy Dance, Oglala Lakota
- Grandmother Bernadette Rebienot, Omyene linguistic community
- Grandmother Maria Alice Campos Freire, Amazonia
- Grandmother Clara Shinobu Iura, Amazonia
- Grandmother Flordemayo, Mayan
- Grandmother Mona Polacca, Hopi/Havasupai/Tewa
The days were warm and sunny, and were shared with the Great Blue Herons who flew the path of the creek and the pair of Red-Tailed Hawks who nested in one of the stately Sycamores above us. We watched the hawks circle overhead as they seemed to play in the wind currents, at times appearing to be sharing private messages with each of us. Nighttime brought a sharp drop in temperature as we settled in to the high desert chill with several communal fires to warm us and an endless canopy of stars that served as a reminder of the paradox of our existence. We are such a small piece of the whole, and yet have our significant roles to play.
Grandmother Teachings by the Fire on Friday continued to touch our hearts with a sense of remembering who we are as women, as sisters, as care-givers and nurturers. A strong sense of promise and recognition that we are not alone in this struggle to protect and defend our beautiful Mother Earth seemed to envelop our camp as if we had been covered in a loving shawl.
We were not strangers; there was a strong sense of familiarity as we moved through the days and nights, paying close attention and caring for one another as individual needs arose. Our space was shared withTurtle Women Rising, a ceremonial drum collective founded and led by Indigenous women who continued to hold us within the heartbeat of the Mother throughout the weekend. We also were blessed with the enchanting music of the duo, MaMuse, and the powerful poetry of Climbing Poetree.
We gathered in the meadow on Saturday morning, World Water Day and walked the one-half mile on a gravel road in pairs, in silence, to Montezuma Well. The Park Service worked in cooperation with us to assure a private ceremony at the well. As I walked, I felt a strong feeling of gratitude for the opportunity to be part of such a sacred event and felt tears of joy moisten my cheeks as I entered a space that knew no time, a moment that knew no restrictions, an opportunity that knew no boundaries.
Four hundred women lined the walkway that borders two-thirds of the Well, and the Grandmothers settled in to their respective places in the four directions along the rim above us. Their voices could be heard floating down as blessings and prayers were offered to the water and then we all began to join them in one moment of timeless, sacred unity. We opened our hearts wider and deeper to the prayers, intentions and healing for the waters of our planet everywhere and for the animals, birds and fishes that are affected. Such a powerful moment to be alive, awake and fully engaged in affecting change for people around the world also gathered at water sources in their communities to speak to the water, to bless it and offer prayers of gratitude.
Life is always complete with its teachings and there is never an indication as to when and how these Teachings will surface. Grandmother Bernadette was informed on Saturday morning that her son had been killed in Gabon and plans were being made for her emergency trip home. She faced a long, sad journey home to help make the preparations for his funeral and to be with her daughter-in-law and grandchildren who were left behind. Once again, our collective heart space opened as tears of sadness were shed as we mourned with her, prayers offered for his soul and for those left behind and a combined outpouring of love as we offered donations to assist her with what lay ahead.
The final ceremonies were held on Sunday with gifting to us from the Grandmothers and an opportunity to gift them a token of our appreciation in return. So much joy and laughter could be heard as we came together one more time In the Name of the Mother.
As we broke camp, said our tearful goodbyes and began to move back towards that break in time where we first stepped into this Ceremony, we realized that something significant, life-changing and monumental had happened within each of us. We had answered the call. We had shown up with open hearts and minds for ourselves, our families, our communities, our ancestors, the next seven generations and for our beloved Mother Earth and all of her children. We signed up for this work and choose to move forward together as we join hands and hearts and circle this planet with the love and nurturing spirit of the Sacred Feminine.
“We are who we’ve been waiting for.” ~ Grandmother Mona Polacca
Ymani Simmons (Chickasaw/Celt) is a peacemaker, writer, mentor, and facilitator of women’s circles and retreats. She participated in a March 2007 Fellowship of Reconciliation delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran and is an advisor/co-founder of the Kashmir Center for Peace and Reconciliation, a youth initiative. Regardingher usage of capital letters throughout her reflection, Ymani writes, “The Red Road of spirituality is my path and certain words are capitalized as a way to honor and respect the entity. The Fire and Well are sacred beings to us.”