Granddad had placed several glowing rocks in the stone pit and, when the flap was closed, they cast a glow throughout the lodge. Sure enough, they were making a sound as they began cooling, and patterns like a dark liquid flowing over them covered their surface. As I watched, I saw a black swirl form, like a miniature tornado, and move across the rocks. As it swirled and moved, there was a sound, not like that of a tornado but like an orchestra tuning up. No, it was like a crowd of musicians each playing what he or she pleased, using different scales. It got inside my head. The only way I could think to describe what seemed to be happening was chaos and pandemonium. As I looked and listened, I had a keen sense the rocks were trying to tell me something, something very important, something about discord in my life, but what?
Suddenly, voices were added to the music but, even though I strained as hard as I could, I could make out nothing beyond the noise. Then it all stopped and the stones just looked like hot stones. Weird and beyond me. Then Luke started speaking again.
"We are beginning the third endurance, the red endurance, the endurance of the east. The east is the home of the morning star, the place of beginnings, the place of awakening. Through becoming awakened to knowledge and wisdom, we are made new and can renew our world. The Buddha sat under the bo tree until he became the awakened one. Seek, in this endurance, an awakening to knowledge and wisdom, sit waiting. Seek to be awakened."
Luke paused, then Wes started blowing the whistle as Matt sounded the drum. Then, after a few minutes of silence, Matt started pouring water over the stones as Luke spoke, "Brothers and sister, I bid each of you to pray: pray for what you desire in this life. Pray for your relatives and those you love. Pray for Jonathan."
He paused and Matt took up the bidding. "Pray for the world, for wise leaders to bring peace to the planet. Pray for religious leaders who truly act out of a knowledge of the kinship of all. Pray for Mother Earth, that she might be healed. Pray for all things."
"End your prayer with 'Hetch etu. Aloh,' so your brother or sister next to you may begin his or her prayer," Luke said.
Matt began a prayer:
"Wakan Tanka, Great Spirit, I thank you for bringing me to this sweat. May it mend the medicine wheel where it is broken in our lives. I thank you for giving me the love of Fire Thunderbird and for the love he accepts from me. I pray for our torn world and separated peoples. I thank you, Wakan Tanka for this ceremony and all my brothers and sister whose water joins with mine and with Mother Earth. I pray for my brother Jonathan. Hetch Etu. Aloh."
Wes followed Matt and his prayer was very similar except he had more to say about Jonathan, "Grandfather, I pray especially for my brother Jonathan. Show him his goodness. Shown him he has a place in the circle of life. Show him he is a warrior."
I wished I could see Jonathan's face to see, maybe, what he was thinking.
Anyway, it was my time to pray. I prayed for me and Jason. I prayed for all inside the lodge and then prayed for Granddad and Grandmom, "Grandfather, you are the pattern for all grandfathers and I am thankful for mine. Mother Earth, you are the nurturing mother and I am thankful for my nurturing grandmother. I pray for my brother Dragonfly that he may find someone to share his life as Jason shares mine. Hetch Etu. Aloh."
Jason's prayer was similar and then it was Jonathan's time.
I was listening to the prayers, mainly I guess, to get some idea of what to say. Matt had thanked the Great Spirit for Luke and Douglas and Jason both thanked the Great Spirit for each other. I liked that and kinda giggled to myself thinking about what some of the uptight religious people would have to say about that"two gay men thanking God for their lovers. Then I realized it was my time to speak.
"Great Spirit...." was all I got out before I was suddenly picked up by a wind"I mean sucked right out of the sweat lodge. It was strange because I wasn't afraid. I thought "I tried to do away with myself and failed, now I'm being carried away." I was sure I was dying, but it was beautiful.
I was sailing over the mountains and I suddenly realized I was no longer Jonathan"well, I was"but an eagle. I opened my mouth to shout for joy and what came out was the cry of an eagle! I had heard that only once before in my life and it is a fearful thing. You can just hear the power of an eagle in his cry. So I cried again.
I dived and soared, climbed and dived again. My laughter of joy was an eagle's cry. Suddenly I realized I was not flying alone. Beside me was a HUGE eagle two, three times my size. We soared through the sky together, screaming. Then we were just gliding high above the mountains below. There was a tingling in my head, then a voice.
"Little Eagle, look below. See how high you are, soaring. This is your place on the great medicine wheel. You are always to soar high to see far. You are not to be held to the ground and tied to little things. You are to soar above to protect, to keep. You are a warrior. You are no longer Little Eagle...."
"But I wasn't Little Eagle," I said. Well, not said, since we weren't actually talking, but I knew we were communicating.
"You were born Little Eagle, you just weren't told. But Little Eagle you are no more. You are now a warrior and offer blood for those you love. Wounded Eagle, you are marked!!" The eagle dived at me and his talons struck my chest. Feathers flew! And then I was back in the lodge, my chest hurting as I said, Hetch Etu. Aloh.
I didn't know what was going on with Jonathan. He started his prayer then suddenly, he was screaming. Not making a human sound, but something I could almost identify. At first it sounded strange, but it was definitely happy, joyful. Then there was a very loud scream and he said in a perfectly natural voice "Hetch Etu. Aloh." Strange.
While I was trying to figure all that out, Cody had started his prayer. I remembered he had some question about what to say and had been assured he'd know what to say. I was still surprised when he started very confidently.
"Great Spirit, I'm not very good at this. That's a lot of things I'm not very good at, so I pray that I'll get better. I want to get better at being Cody, the real Cody. I want Jonathan to get good at being Jonathan. I want us to be better at being Cody and Jonathan. I'd like peace in the world and all that. But I want peace at Coldsprings especially. I'm thankful for Auntie and Uncle Nash for loving me. I want them to still love me when they know who I really am. I guess that's all. Hetch Etu. Aloh."
How was that for saying a lot and still being a mystery? Cody was a master at that.
Stone and Hank offered their prayers without any surprises then it was Beth's turn.
"Mother Earth, I, too am woman," she began.
I had been sitting in the sweat lodge with a crowd of men. It struck me as funny that I had never been safer from any male getting out of hand and I smiled. In the last year, I had spent a lot of time with gay men and Hank, the token straight, I guess. I had learned a lot about men"and much of it from my gay friends. I did know that the way Hank and I loved each other physically, in part, may have"may have?? did have!!--some different physical expressions than, say, Douglas and Jason, but their love was just as deep as ours.
Anyway, here I was in the middle of the woods in a sweat lodge with a bunch of men. And it felt exactly right. So I prayed:
"Mother Earth, I too, am woman. I know the pain and the pleasure of being woman. I pray that as I mingle water with yours and mingle blood with yours, you will make me a strong woman, a nurturing woman, a compassionate woman. I pray for your child Jonathan that he come to know the wonderful man and strong warrior he is. Increase the love we in this sacred place have for each other. I offer thanks for all that is. Hetch Etu. Aloh."
When I ended my prayer, I looked up and standing above the stone pit was the most beautiful Indian maiden I had ever seen. She was dressed in white buckskin, decorated with turquoise beads. She wore a band about her head, decorated with porcupine quills (how did I know that??) and was carrying an eagle's wing fan. She smiled at me, used the wing to fan the steam rising from the stone pit over me. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she was White Buffalo Calf Woman. She reached out and touched my head and in a single leap, leapt over the stone pit, over my head and vanished. I don't know what happened to me, but then I heard Tom praying.
Tom's prayer was all thanksgivings except to ask that Jonathan might be healed as he had been healed. It was short and to the point.
When Wesley started his prayer I thought, "Being at the end of the line is good because you get to see how it's done and it's bad because it's all been done." Wesley started pretty much as everyone else, then he stopped and was silent for awhile. Then he just said "Hetch Etu. Aloh." Strange.
I was pretty sure there were some strange things going on in the lodge. I could feel it. I couldn't have said what or how, I just sensed it.
When I started my prayer, I was suddenly back in Charlotte, sitting in the library with my parents.
"Mother, Father, I didn't know why I headed for Douglas's when I had to get away from St. Paul's, but I do now. I needed to learn what counted. What counted with people, what counted with friendship, what loving and being loved was all about. I had to learn what it is to be respected, accepted, loved for who and what you are"not what your ancestors were, not how much money you have. I didn't learn that
here. It is a great pity our family didn't learn that long ago. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it."
Dwight taught me one thing. He taught me that fucking is not caring and lust is not love. He taught me the hard way. Douglas and Jason have taught me about love and caring and about being a loving gay man and loving a gay man. I hope to live up to what they have taught me when I met someone to love and to be loved by.
You're not going to like this, but I am staying in the family which took me in and loved me. Charlotte holds nothing for me. One day I hope we can grow to love each other. I pray we can, but that's not for now."
I finished my speech and Mary Capers applauded"but made no sound"and Mother and Father nodded solemnly, but their nod was one of dismissal, not of understanding.
Then I was standing on the ledge where we had welcomed the sun. I spread my arms wide saw arching over the valley a great rainbow. Behind me the sun was bright, but behind the rainbow were gray clouds, not angry, ugly clouds, but gentle gray, soft clouds from which rain fell, watering the earth. Tears of joy ran down my face as I felt, as never before, accepted and loved. Then I knew I had a new name, Rain in the Face, and I laughed.
Suddenly, I heard Luke call out and I was back in the sweat lodge.
I had a sense the air in the sweat lodge had grown thick and not just from the steam. My mind was drifting and then I heard Luke call out, "Mitakuye oyasin," calling for water. Tim opened the flap and once again, Granddad handed in a water bucket of fresh water and the dipper was passed around the circle for us to pour water over our heads. It was most welcome!
I'm sure none of us was really ready to have the flap closed when Luke cried out, "Yupayo"Close the door!" and Tim closed the flap.
"The fourth and final endurance is the endurance of the south, the yellow endurance, the endurance of healing. From the east comes knowledge and from knowledge comes growth, the gift of the south. From growth comes healing. Let us center ourselves upon healing"healing in the broadest sense," Luke said.
Matt poured four dippers of water over the rocks which were still hot enough to change the water into great billows of steam. As the lodge filled, Matt started sounding the drum slowly, softly.
Luke continued, "As I chant, center yourself in the Great Spirit and pray for healing."
Great Spirit, I pray for myself that I may be healed, made whole. Great Spirit, I pray for my brother Jonathan that he may be healed and made whole. Great Spirit, I pray for all my brothers and sister in this sacred space, may they be healed and made whole. Great Spirit, I pray for for all our brothers and sisters on this good earth, may they be healed and made whole. Great Spirit, I pray for nations who are alienated one from the other, may they be healed and made whole.
Luke fell silent and we sat in silence for awhile as the steam gradually dissipated. Then Stone said, "If you will, clasp hands. When we had done so he said, you may repeat after me, line by line:
The light of the Great Spirit surrounds us. The light of the Great Spirit surrounds us. The love of Wakan Tanka enfolds us. The love of Wakan Tanka enfolds us. The power of the Creator protects us. The power of the Creator protects us. The presence of God watches over us. The presence of God watches over us. Wherever I am, The Great Spirit is! Wherever I am, The Great Spirit is!*
When Stone finished, Luke struck the lodge with his stick, Tim opened the flap and handed Matt the pipe. Still sitting in the semi-darkness, Matt performed the pipe ceremony with the pipe filled before the sweat began. After lighting the pipe, he drew smoke into his mouth and blew it out, then handed the pipe Wes. When Luke finished with the pipe, he placed it on a stand, nodded and Matt stood lead us from the lodge.
When Luke emerged from the lodge, he grabbed Matt's hand and the two raced for the basin. Eleven bodies were right behind him as we all threw ourselves in to the cold mountain water.
The cold water was wonderful and refreshing, but it was cold! Even as hot as the lodge had been, none of us could not stand up to the icy water long and we were all out of the river in minutes. We got dressed in dry clothes and, one by one, gathered around the fire pit, getting warm.
As I walked to the fire pit, I was suddenly aware of a wonderful smell, the smell of food!! Granddad and Tim had arranged cast iron pots in the fire pit and were using long hooks to take them out. There was two large Dutch ovens filled with fluffy biscuits and a very large pot of stew. The two also pulled sweet potatoes and corn in the husk from the fire. A bountiful feast indeed and we were ready for it!
Without thinking, I'm sure, we had arranged ourselves around the fire pit as with had been in the lodge except Tim and Granddad were now a part of the circle. We all ate in silence for awhile"breaking our fast, I suspect"when Cody asked, "Luke, is it all right to ask questions and talk about the sweat lodge and all?"
"Sure," Luke responded, "but remember, you may ask, but no one has to respond. Fair enough?"
"Sure," Cody said. The young man was sitting very close to Jonathan and they were holding hands. "See, I don't really understand HOW it happened, but I sure know what happened to me in there." Cody then told us his experience during the sweat.
When he finished, he turned to Jonathan and said, "So, Hoss, you know why I have treated you like shit and you know I love you with all my heart!" With those words, he reached up and placed his hands on each side of Jonathan's face, gazed in his eyes for half a minute and then planted a kiss on Jonathan in which, I am sure, Jonathan, "got some tongue like Hank." As the kiss when on, we all started applauded and both young men, without breaking the kiss, stuck a pumped a fist into the air.
When they finally came up for air, Jonathan said, "I don't know how it happened, Cody, but I like it! Something happened to me too," with those words, he opened his shirt and on his chest were four marks, three between his nipples and a single one immediately below them.
As soon as he saw them, Matt looked at Luke and both nodded. "I have seen that happen once before," Matt said. "Our brother Michael has much deeper marks, like he had been pierced. You spirit guide is an eagle, Jonathan. Right?"
Jonathan just nodded.
"What is your new name?" Luke asked. His tone indicated he had no doubt at all that Jonathan had a new name.
"Wounded Eagle. He said I had been Little Eagle, but I didn't know it. Anyway, he gave me my new name, Wounded Eagle."
We all were amazed to say the least and Matt and Luke talked about how some people get further into the spirit world than others during a sweat. "I'd say you've been there and back," Matt laughed.
Tom said "Derrick's spirit appeared to me, except it was like he was really there"almost. Anyway, I was able, finally, to let Derrick's spirit go. I certainly didn't come here expecting to get into this spirit world stuff," he grinned, "so it kinda caught me off guard"a whole lot off guard. I'm glad. I think I'll be able to move on now and I really haven't been before."
Wesley said, "Tom, you told us you had a lover who died"was murdered"that's all. I mean, I don't want to pry...."
"No, no, I think it would be good and right that you who have taken me in know the whole story. See...." Tom then told us about his falling in love with Derrick and how quickly their love developed. He also told us about Derrick's death. As he talked, I wondered if I could ever get over Jason's death should be be taken from me. I didn't think so, but I guess deep down I couldn't imagine it happening.**
The three certainly had an experience in the sweat lodge much different from mine and I guess everyone else's. We talked some more about our experiences and I suddenly realized Beth had been very, very quiet.
"I don't want to force anyone's hand," Luke said, "but I had the distinct feeling there was a visit from White Buffalo Calf Woman during this sweat."
We all fell silent, looking at each other when Beth finally spoke. "I guess I didn't want to talk about it because it might seem like bragging. But, yes, I did see White Buffalo Calf Woman." She then told us about her "vision, dream, whatever."
When she finished, Matt said, "Women are the true warriors. They shed blood on behalf of the people each month. Maybe some of us will become fathers one way or another in the future, but it's a pretty painless process for us."
"Speaking for Mr. McElrath and myself, I'd say it's all pleasure and no pain," Hank said.
"You are right, my boy," Granddad chuckled, "but not really. You aren't a father"yet. The pain comes later and when you least expect it. There is no pain, I think, like the death of a child."
We all were very still and quiet and in that quietness, I realized I had heard Granddad say very little about Dad's death. He had suffered silently.
After a few minutes, Matt said, "Each month a woman sheds blood and experiences pain to one degree or another. Then, when she gives birth she sheds more blood and endures greater pain bringing a new life into the world. She suffers to bring the people new life through her pain. For that reason, Lakota men have a woman select and make the first cut of the Sun Dance Tree where they will shed blood and endure pain on behalf of the people. So Beth was the presence of woman and White Buffalo Calf Woman for us and she was honored for her offering by a visit by the spirit of woman, White Buffalo Calf. I give you a new name, Beth. You are White Buffalo. Hank, you are to honor this woman."
Tom laughed and said, "And you might better be careful about wicked and evil thoughts!" We all joined in the laughter as Hank turned redder and redder.
told us he had chosen his family and hoped one day to be reconciled to his biological one, "but so far as I am concerned, I am a McElrath. Also, I didn't realize it at the time, but when I said Charlotte held nothing for me, that included Dwight and the anger I had held for him. Guess I am now a free man and it feels good."
We could have sat there talking for hours I supposed, but finally Luke said, "Gang, a sweat is a very powerful thing and I am sure there will be others for some or all of you, but right now, I'm exhausted. I see by the sun it's about 5:00." He laughed as he added, "Better get moving 'cause it'll be milking time soon."
I realized I had been renewed by the sweat, but was also very tired as we quickly gathered up what we needed to take with us and headed for home. Wes said we could come back and take care of getting everything back in place later.
As we walked away from the sweat, couples were holding hands, talking together quietly. When I looked back over my shoulder, Cody and Jonathan had stopped and were engaged in yet another passionate kiss. Jason, who had turned to look as well, said, "I guess the mystery is solved."
Yeah, I answered and kissed my own mystery.
********************** Thus Mountain Magic ends.
*There is no way I can improve upon this wonderful prayer by Ed Mcgaa, Eagle Man, which is in his book "Mother Earth Spirituality".
**The story of Tom and Derrick is found in MOON WATCHING, found at awesomedude.com and at [ http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SequoyahsPlace/] and [http://sequoyahsplace.com].