American Indian Sun Dance Ceremony
THE AMERICAN INDIAN CULTURE
SUN DANCE CEREMONY
In the vastness of time and space of all the cultures of the American Indians, a culture of the middle plains Indians stands strong with tradition and rich spiritual ceremony. That is the culture of the ancient Lakota Sioux Indians. They exist today in reservations the area of Nebraska up north to South Dakota. Their rituals and ceremonies still are practiced and overseen by what is called an Intercessor8 who is the one who is thought to conduct this dance or ritual.
To the Lakota, this ceremony has traditionally been a profound religious ceremony, the highest form of worship of the Most Holy One. They refer to what westerners would say God as wakan-tanka. The ceremony is seen as a privilege, and only in recent times has even been made available for non-Lakota natives to even be a part of it.
The ritual occurs over a period of four days, corresponding with the four sacred directions, which is likened to the four levels in subconscious mind each corresponding with a certain element. The sixth level being earth, the fifth level being water, the fourth level being fire, and the third level being air. It involves a sweat lodge ceremony in preparation, which is a heated and covered, insulated structure that purifies the body and mind in preparation for what is to come. Devotional songs are sung and upon exiting the sweat lodge a preparation time is made to be pierced. A needle is threaded through skin in a man's chest in two places, then string attached to the instrument used to pierce the skin. These strings are tied to a sacred tree or pole, and pressure is applied to pull the person's body up until the skin breaks and the person falls back.
This practice can be done by a young man as early as age 11, as a means and rite of passage into manhood. With the preparation, the attention is focused clearly and the mind clarified and purified, and a commitment of some sort is made and sealed with the completion of the ritual. It creates a strong expectation and belief in the mind of the participant that they will uphold what they commit to do, and affirm their belief in their place in the tribe and upholding of Indian traditions of respect for all life. This strong expectation and solemn commitment made to self sets the processes of growth very strongly into motion within the individual.
There is also another very important ceremony, called the vision quest where a young person goes out for four days of fasting in a remote area, and sits in one place, roped off in a square during this time. They go expecting to receive what they call a vision, something personal to them that can aid them on their journey through life. I see this as building trust and developing believing and knowing that they can draw forth intuition from their inner mind. The fasting removes attention from the senses and stimulates the participant to draw inward, to contact the inner self.
In this heightened and purified state, the participant is more open in the conscious mind and thus prepared and ready to receive from the subconscious. The person going into the experience believes and expects they will receive a vision, and then after the experience knows that they can connect with the inner self from their own vision. No two are alike and no one need ask the participant about what their vision is. They will share in their own good time.