Indigenous Grandmother’s Fire Ceremony – Roslyn Glen, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Yesterday, July 23rd I was invited to attend The Grandmother’s Fire Ceremony in Edinburgh with my Sweat-Pouring Fire-Sister and veteran Sun Dancer, Liz Scott. I was delighted to be travelling with her to give us some catch-up time together, as we rarely get the chance to spend long periods together.
We’d had a telephone conversation a day or two before in which Liz had told me of a dream she’d had in which I was dancing, not just any old dance but a Sun Dance. It was quite a story but it didn’t have full impact until I was standing in her kitchen when she explained it fully; I was in tears!
Now, I’m not so easily moved these days but Liz’s story touched something very deep inside me; I could see and feel what she was saying with more than my eyes and ears. In that moment, a thousand wounds were healed. I also knew that what she was describing has still to come.
I don’t yet fully understand the Sun Dance but I know it’s a test of inner strength, focus and determination – in prayer. I know that I will expose my ‘self’, to myself and perhaps to others. I am afraid yet excited; I feel that this is truly what will bring me closer to me – the journey of this lifetime.
So… flask and drums packed, we set off to the small town of Roslyn, chatting all the way. It was on this part of the trip that Liz ‘remembers’ my name – not my Lesley name – my Native one… the one which comes from the heart of the elder naming, the one who ‘sees’. What was surprising to me was that I seemed to already know it – and I guess you want to know it too. I was named ‘Strong Hearted Woman’.
Apart from one minor glitch in directions we arrive at a house to be greeted by a multitude of familiar faces! I was so surprised to find that one of the organisers was a friend who’d changed her name and I hadn’t recognised her. There were lots of others with whom I’ve ‘travelled’ on a variety of occasions – all in the task of developing ourselves.
Liz was ‘holding space’ until the time was right to leave for the glen; it was raining hard outside but the energy remained high. Liz opened the space with sage, smudging our instruments and ourselves, cleansing, purifying and bringing us into the present; ready to be in service. I was given the task of smudging new arrivals while Liz attended to other things.
When everyone was settled Liz introduced herself and began beating the sound of the heart… opening the singing and drumming with the Morning Song, teaching a line at a time until we had it all – sounding powerful and sincere.
I was using one of Liz’s drums – one I’d never even held before. (I have my own bodhrain but it’s kept in my bedroom because I’ve never had the courage to play it.) It was deep, full of base but for some reason, I wasn’t afraid to play it. I might not have played it well, but I gave it my best.
We sang a few more songs and not for the first time I found my voice – something ancient stirring inside – winding its way out to the Great Spirit.
My own spirits soared.
It was time. We all made our way, in the pouring rain – sharing jackets, umbrellas and smiles as we walked towards Roslyn Chapel and into Roslyn Glen.
At a glance there were about 50 or maybe 60 men, women and children gathered around in a small grove to light the fire. Daru, a local Druidic Storyteller opened the circle again, including everyone as he began weaving his tales of the area and of our reasons to be gathered together, introducing and welcoming all, especially our most special visitor Grandmother Susan, of the Indigenous Grandmother of Turtle Island (USA) Susan Kaiulani Stanton, from Haudenausonee tribe, Wolf Clan.
Grandmother Susan spoke with kindness and compassion of how we can build a future based on love and respect, for ourselves and for each other. She spoke of the importance of the Fire, the symbolism and the community. She spoke with love as the drums gently beat out the heart sounds once again. Voices were raised, and offerings were placed on the fire with prayers from locals and from visitors from around the globe.
Grandmother Susan also brought with her and allowed us to see the crystal which is being carried on her travels throughout the UK and Europe.
A very interesting woman stood to my left – she carried a beautiful staff, intricately carved and burned. She introduced herself as a Templar. She spoke of light and dark, of seen and unseen and of our need to pay attention. I didn’t get a chance to speak with her but I would dearly love to spend an afternoon (at least) in her company!
Liz led the drumming and started the songs of prayer. She sang as if her life depended on it – truly immersed in her heart and completely in service.
As offerings were placed on the fire and chanting voices rang out through the glen, there were tears and laughter, joy, sorrow and pain – in minute doses, but they were there as each person stepped up with an offering and a heart-felt prayer for humanity and our planet.
I had chosen an unusual offering for the fire; a Birch Polypore mushroom. This shroom is very special to me, it has many uses and represents opposites; it sharpens your knife and acts as a styptic pencil if you cut yourself in the process!
It grows on dead birch trees; birch, beith or berkano in the old Ogham and Runic systems were later translated or interpreted to represent the eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth – and of new beginnings. I understand the mushroom growing on decaying wood to be nature’s way of explaining a life after death.
My prayer was to bring the opposites we experience into one-ness, to eradicate learned ‘rules’ of duality. I asked that we realise our potential living and loving as One; that we focus on similarities and not difference. And I asked that Great Spirit would hear our prayers.
As Daru closed the ceremony we joined hands and shared space together, as One united in love and peace.
Never have I seen so many happy, smiling faces in torrential rain as I did last night.
Many thanks go to the organisers and local residents of Roslyn for making us so welcome. We drove home happy, fully sustained and satisfied. In fact, even the rain stopped and we witnessed a most beautiful skyline of reds, blues and gold as we left Edinburgh.
And I’ve been glowing ever since.
Aho! Mitakuye oyasin.