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What I Learned from a Full Moon Ceremony

On a warm August night in north-western Ontario, I was walking up a hill when I saw, barely above the treetops, a supermoon. Just coming off the horizon it was large and golden, lighting our way to a full moon ceremony.

In 2014 I had the amazing opportunity to participate in an Indigenous Peoples Solidarity delegation of the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) to Kenora, Ontario where we visited Grassy Narrows First Nation. It was a time to “walk in solidarity, live out reconciliation, support Indigenous land defenders, and learn what it means to be an ally.”

We received a last minute invitation to the full moon ceremony once some women connected to CPT met us and said we (females only) were welcome to participate. Not wanting to pass up this opportunity, the other female on the delegation and I accepted the invitation. It was like nothing I had never experienced before. I felt honored to be invited into the sacred space. I felt honored to be a woman—in this world of sexism, it is not everyday that I feel valued as a woman.

I chose to participate in the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Delegation out of the sense of needing to recognize my role as a North American white woman in the world.

...As the full moon rose higher in the night, women started gathering at the Women´s Place Kenora. We formed a circle around the sacred fire and in a fluid clockwise motion the circle turned, giving each woman present an opportunity to be at the head of the circle to offer up a prayer of tobacco to grandmother moon. There was young. There was old. There was me, in the middle of a full moon ceremony, a sacred ritual. I prayed for the strong and fierce women in my life. I thanked God for the phases of the moon and the beautiful connection it has to a woman´s cycle, to the creation of life and the sanctity of it.

I chose to participate in the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Delegation out of the sense of needing to recognize my role as a North American white woman in the world. I had (and still have) this inherent need to know who I am, where I come from, the land I grew up on, and what I call home. Knowing that the First Nations of Canada and Native Americans of the United States have a painful parallel history drives me to learn more, no matter where on Turtle Island I find myself.

For over 500 years the Indigenous cultures have been suppressed into the shadows of this land under the influence of the Doctrine of Discovery. What if we were to start listening and learning? What if people of European descent (like me) started listening for what God can teach us through our Indigenous neighbors?

What if people of European descent (like me) started listening for what God can teach us through our Indigenous neighbors?

Do some Indigenous ceremonies have things to teach Christians about God and ourselves? I think so. We can learn so many beautiful things. It is rituals like this one that have helped me feel God the Creator’s presence in my life; it has helped me feel connected to my faith again. I, as a settler, have much to learn from the hosts of the land.

I find it helpful to come back to a question my former colleagues and I debriefed with after attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Vancouver: “Equipped with the testimonies of the survivors, what in your life will you turn away from, and what will you turn towards God? How will you back this repentance up with action?” What I am turning towards is a holistic engagement of myself. Not just physically being somewhere, but also mentally, emotionally and inviting God into that space. I hope to continue to holistically engage with Indigenous cultures by rejecting the the Doctrine of Discovery and embracing the Spirit´s presence in the rich connection of Indigenous rituals.

Chief Lawrence Hart, in the book Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry, reminds us that “The biblical story in the first chapter of Genesis invites us to do the same [sing]: ´God saw that all that he had made, and pronounced it good.´ From a Native American perspective, the created earth is a song made visible...the song of the Creator. We should be so inspired by her (Mother Earth) that we sing, too!”

My heart sings praises to God every time I see a full moon.

A step for unlearning the Doctrine of Discovery: For hundreds of years, we have learned about “our history” starting from Columbus. There are rich Indigenous cultures that span far longer than when Europeans settled this land, from which we can learn. Take time to find your nearest Indigenous/Native American cultural center; see if there are events and/or ceremonies open to the public. One common practice you can learn about right now is smudging - you can find a brochure on the Christian Indigenous practice of smudging on the toolkit of the CRC’s Canadian Aboriginal Ministry Committee.

This month on Do Justice we are working to unlearn the Doctrine of Discovery together through our series "In 1492, Indigenous peoples discovered Columbus". Welcome to the series! To see other posts in the series and make sure you don't miss a post, visit this page.

Update: This blog post was part of a conversation at Synod 2017, where some delegates expressed concern about whether its content adhered to Reformed Theology. You can read more in the Acts of Synod here. In an effort to maintain transparency, this post will remain available to readers.

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