Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Should I take pictures at a ritual?

I do not take pictures at a shamanic ritual.  But what is a shamanic ritual?  Not the beautiful gatherings of people to celebrate those human moments of birth and joining together and passing away.  Nor the gatherings of spontaneous joy or sorrow about the conditions in our loves and lives that draw us to each other.

A shamanic ritual, as I learned from studying with Martin Prechtel, are those times when we gather to feed the Holy, to feed the good food of our effort to the other-than-human creatures in the alternate realities--the spirit world.

The Holy is Nature in all its guises.  If humans are present to receive our gifts, they are not humans who dance to the same rhythms as we do.

The Holy in nature do not eat the objects of our ritual actions.  They eat the effort it takes to make those ritual actions.  When we take pictures of the result of those actions--the altars and pipe ceremonies and spirit fires--we keep the energy, our effort, of that action from dispersing and therefore feeding the other side.  The camera makes frozen what should move.

Think of creating a beautiful feast.  We do not know the creatures who may come, or what their needs might exactly be, and so we make food from the art of song, dance and gesture that will nourish all beings.

But then in our innocence, or selfishness, we sit at the table ourselves.  We want the beautiful arrangement of stones, the soaring flames and curling smoke to feed our memory.  And so with a camera or cell phone we stop the feast from being eaten, from being metabolized by time into something useful that keeps the spirit world from starving.  

And we do not know who we have made hungry.  

When next you are at a ritual, ask yourself, "Who is this for?" Who is coming to eat this great feast of color and moment and sound?  Who, and what, has been invited?  If the gathering is not primarily for the humans, then offer your effort in a delicious eloquence of  dance and song, but keep the memories only only in your heart.

These art images are from my painted shamanic drums.  I hope you have enjoyed their view into those realities where we are meant to serve, and not to be, the guests of honor.