As I sat with my sisters round the night time fire of our first Summer Gathering in 2015, I felt the ancient beat of the drums resonating through my whole being. I felt the yearning in us as a tribe to live deeply connected to each other. I became acutely aware of our collective hunger for stepping deeper into our shadows to heal our painful ancestral wounds of separation and I had a vision; a vision of us gathering at a Sweat Lodge where we could take a next step together, a vision of us creating spaces where we could continue to heal as a WiP community, alongside those we were creating for joy and celebration.
That vision wouldn’t leave me alone! For the next two weeks, I walked with it and could not escape the call of the ancestors to make it happen. I first experienced a sweat lodge during my initiation in 2008. In it I had literally found what I think we mean by God! The raging out of my pain and prayers cleared something profound in my whole being. The sweet, heavenly harmonies of women’s voices that followed took me to a place of total bliss, of orgasmic energy, of oneness, of Love! I came home to myself that day and for the first time in my life, felt a fundamental knowing that “I am ok”.
With water pourers and a woman with a Lodge site in our community that vision became a beautiful reality. On Friday 13th October 2017, 13 of us gathered as a Lodge Crew at Caz Ingall’s farm in Leamington Spa. No longer would Friday 13th be a day of superstitious misfortune borne out of the horror of the Burning Times. This Friday 13th was to be a time of healing not only ourselves, but of our ancestral lines and of our connection to the Sacred Feminine. Following a Lodge path for over 10 years now, Native American ancestral wisdom was now calling me home to my own, calling me and us to find a way back to our own indigenous roots and ancestral connections. For they are still there, buried under two centuries of patriarchal oppression, so deeply buried that I, like so many of us, had lost all sense of them. Their calling us to reconnect was strong for me throughout the whole weekend, a sense that if we honoured them we could heal not only ourselves but them too, and the line for those who follow us.
And so we gathered on this beautiful land; land lovingly tended by Caz and her husband Tom. We created our camp and got to work preparing the Lodge site for the women arriving to sweat the next day. It was physical work, digging, clearing, raking, uprooting of willows, reclaiming the fire pit following 2 years of fallow time during which nature had reclaimed her ground. The sheer strength and focus of these women was a sight to behold as I felt my heart bursting, pinching myself in order to believe that we were indeed a real community, and I was a part of it. I could have cried a river that day, of joy, of awe, of pure relief at the sense of belonging to other women who carried such a depth of love and care!
On Saturday morning, 17 more women joined us; women answering their own calling to come sweat their prayers. Some were two weeks fresh from their initiation, some had not been in touch with the community for 10 years or more, others danced somewhere in between. It didn’t matter. ALisa once said, “WiP is not a workshop”; wisdom many of us hold tight as the seeds planted in us during our initiations grow into a way of being with ourselves, with each other and with the land.
We were blessed with a sparkly, sunny autumn weekend. We shared lunch outside held by the trees, came together in circle, built deeper connections with each other, and got clear on our prayers and intentions for the sweat. A couple of hours before sundown we walked in procession to the lodge site and held a prayer ceremony to the fire before it was lit by fire-keepers, Agnes and Joanne. We prayed for our whole WiP community and felt everyone’s presence with us, knowing that many others were holding and tracking us from afar.
Just after sundown, under the quiet cover of darkness, 25 women entered the lodge and the sweat began. Gracefully poured by Debbie, with Pat as inside door, it was a ceremony that words simply cannot describe. Holding an outer position, with Geno as outside door, was a total privilege as I felt and heard all of those women digging deeper, and praying harder as the heat intensified with each round of rocks lovingly carried in by Hannah and Magali. The prayers were loud, the gratitude beautiful and I felt the strong presence of both Native American and Celtic spirits.
As I sit and write this a month later, the healing we all did that weekend continues to work in me as I follow the call of my ancestors deeper into our wild Celtic lands. The sweat lodge has been deeply healing for me for many years, but for the past couple I had felt a growing discomfort around the cultural appropriation of participating in Native American sacred tradition. The Lodge that weekend, however, somehow shifted this, as I felt the oneness of all of our ancestors when I reclaim the connection far enough back with my own indigenous roots. I can now pray to my own Celtic ancestors for healing and guidance and will always express gratitude to my Native American guides, who through the immense healing power of the sweat lodge, brought me home once again.
I look forward to seeing you, should you feel called, at our next sweat lodge as we pray to bring this as an annual ceremony for our community.
I sit in deep gratitude for the founders of WiP, without whom we may never have found each other and send love to you all,
Dancing Tigress x