Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all,
and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world.
And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and understood more than I saw;
for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,
and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being . . .
And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle,
wide as daylight and as starlight,
and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree
to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.
And I saw that it was holy . . .
But anywhere is the center of the world.
OGLALA SIOUX, 1863-1950
The Gathering is a traditional gathering of tribes to bring the vision of Black Elk into fruition. (see the articles 'Circles, Cycles, Spirals and Spheres' and 'Mitakuye Oyasin' on my web site.)
As the above extract from the account of Black Elk's vision indicates, when we are centred and in balance with our spirit, emotions, body, and mind we are at the centre of the world and we are seeing in a sacred manner. This is when we see the connectedness, oneness, and interdependent (not independent) nature of life. As Eckhart Tolle' says there is only one life and everything we see that appears separate are just the myriad of forms that life can manifest, of which there is no limit. All forms are impermanent and so come and go, but the eternal life that animates all forms is never changing.
So if we are going to live a good life in harmony with 'All Our Relations' (see 'Mitakuye Oyasin') and in a sacred manner we must keep these things in mind; be aware of the eternal Spirit and follow it's guidance. The material world of work, money and all manner of form are impermanent and are of secondary importance. When we have a good relationship with Spirit, both the personal God, Great Spirit or whatever you call it; and the impersonal Great Mystery aspect of God, then all the other aspects of our life will fall into harmony.
The first and most important aspect of living with the physical body is for the whole community or tribe to put equal effort into the 'Hunting and Gathering'. This is preparing, getting, building all manner of food, fire wood and shelter; that is, everything that is needed physically. Here we find ourselves tested by Great Spirit to see if we are truly committed to this act of life, if we are dedicated to Spirit or if we think it all too much of a hassle and interference with job, school, money and the impermanent little things of form.
Only when everything is prepared and ready can we begin the second stage of performing the 'Ceremony'. This is usually guided or performed by the Shaman or person who has the strongest connection to Spirit. When this is done properly everyone will feel the awesomeness and sacredness of life as it is lived through every aspect, all the things that have been hunted and gathered will be as if they were glowing with the sacred blessings of Great Spirit, God or whatever. The Shelter and fire at the centre will be the sacred place, the church for all to commune with Spirit.
When the ceremony is fully completed only then does every one join in the grand finale of the 'Song and Dance'. If all the previous stages have been done by all to the best of each one's ability, the song and dance will be in perfect harmony with 'All Our Relations' and the experience for all will be unspeakable and indescribably blissful, but if anything is left out or done half heartedly, the song and dance can turn to disaster; and that can be individually or as a whole group. For example one person sits back and lets everyone else do all the hunting and gathering and is in their own little mind during the ceremony. When the time comes for the song and dance everyone would have a marvellous time except the one who knows not why, but just doesn't enjoy any part of the experience of life; all manner of things seem to go wrong for them.
I was recently (May 2015) retold this by Marilyne Nicholls at the 16th SUT gathering; the first time I heard it was at the 2004 Wood Wood Gathering (4th I think) by Doug Nicholls. She started with Ceremony, and this makes sense as it would make the Hunting and Gathering a sacred act too.
The four day ceremony will be centred at the Sacred Fire that will burn from the beginning of ceremony until the end. During this time the fire and everything regarding the gathering is to be respected as sacred. The fire will only be fed by the rostered fire-keeper who will ensure that no rubbish or cigarette butts are accidentally thrown in.
There will be a separate camping area away from the Sacred Fire and you are asked to also treat this area as the sacred land it is; not coming and going, but staying for the duration of the gathering if possible. Vehicle traffic must be kept to a minimum, not only to avoid too much disruption to the land, but also to avoid disruption in general
Gatherings are drug and alcohol free events.
Nudity is inappropriate at gatherings. Talk to Sitting Owl if you want to know why. And some cultures consider topless men as inappropriate.
Drumming, music, and personal ceremonies must be discussed with the attending Elders.
There are no spectators at a gathering; we are all participants sharing who we are and what we can offer, so join in. Be present in the moment; the past is dust and the future is being written with our awareness of everything and our actions in the now.
There will be one communal meal each day, either lunch or an evening meal. You need to bring all your own food for other meals and snacks.
Bring all of your own drinking and cooking water.
Bring food to donate to the kitchen for the communal meals, and some extra sundries (such as bread, milk coffee, tea, sugar and water) if you would like to donate to the Elders kitchen.
Bring all your own crockery and cutlery, camping and sleeping gear, toilet paper is always handy too.
There will hopefully be a compost bin for food scraps only.
All rubbish that you bring with you we ask that you take back with you. The land is sacred land and we don’t want to see any rubbish or cigarette butts around; if you see any pick it up and dispose of it properly.
There will be a roster for fire-keeper to attend the Sacred Fire; don’t forget to put your name down and make sure you honour your commitment.
There will be a roster for helping in the kitchen and cleaning up. This is just as much a sacred job as any, so please put your name down and honour the commitment. Sharing everything - jobs (Hunting and gathering), stories (Ceremony), and joy (Song and Dance) - is what community is all about.
We ask that you keep noise to minimum to respect Elders, children and whatever is going on in a sacred manner.
All Ceremonial areas and the kitchens are smoke free zones. Please take all your butts home (birds use butts to line their nests, and the nicotine kills their babies).
In addition to the auction there may be a raffle with some pretty awesome prizes. Don’t forget to bring that something special for the auction.
Cameras and other recording devices are not to be used at the Sacred Fire or Inipi except after the fire has been extinguished. In respect people should be asked if it is OK to take their picture.
Please, no pets at the gathering.
There will be no proselytising; which was originally trying to turn a Gentile into a Jew, but generally refers to preaching or badgering others. You could add here selling ideas or goods; gatherings are not market places.
It would much appreciated if possible for people to bring any extra food, blankets eating utensils, or what ever for Elders and communal meals. Also any shade cloth hessian or any shade material for the arbour.
I look forward to seeing you all at the next gathering and sharing some sacred time together. If you have any questions; about the gathering; what spiritual gatherings are about; or any other concerns feel free to ask.
To bring to the people medicine through ceremony to preserve and in some cases re-teach elements of the old ways of living. To enable the vision of Black Elk which was for the reunification of all peoples, all colours, all religions, all classes. To work towards the sacred unity of all.
Black Elk Lakota Holy Man
"With tears running, O Great Spirit, Great Spirit my Grandfather with running tears I must say now that the tree has never bloomed. A pitiful old man, you see me here, and I have fallen away and have done nothing. Here at the center of the world, when you took me when I was young and taught me; here, old, I stand, and the tree is withered, Grandfather, my Grandfather. Again, and maybe the last time on this earth, I recall the great vision you sent me. It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives. Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds. Hear me, not for myself, but for my people.
"I am old. Hear me that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree."
from Black Elk Speaks by John Niehardt