Coming Home to Sacred Ground
October 23, 2016
“We are the Ancient Ones who have returned for our people (ALL people). Once we filled their bellies, sheltered their bodies and taught their Spirits… We have returned.”
The ancient spirit of the buffalo
In Sept 2016 I found myself travelling with my friend, adopted aunt and teacher Brooke Medicine Eagle to the Crow reservation in Montana. Brooke and I had met as if it was destiny when shortly after I had come across her books and medicine songs, she ‘happened’ to be at Heyoka’s place when I had arrived in the Spring. We fell in love with each other immediately and both knew that we had been matched by the creator to do important work in the world. We have been playing, travelling and learning together ever since.
I was at a place in my life where I was being called to listen deeper than I have ever listened before. I have by now learned to recognise the signs that beckon us out of our comfort zones and towards the mystery of the universe. That voice had been dancing at the edges of my consciousness all year and when I mentioned to Brooke that I wanted to find some time on the land to tune into the messages, away from distraction and noise, she smiled saying, “I know just the place”.
“Is it in balance, is it in harmony with everything and everyone involved?”
Sacred Ground International. Founded by Tanah Whitemore, an exquisite artist of the soul, wisdom keeper and global visionary. In her own words, “Sacred Ground International is an organization designed to inspire, inform and demonstrate the Sacredness of all life. The Ranch is our school, the Buffalo, the Paint Mustangs, wildlife, land and water, our teachers. A Living Learning Center”.
Tanah was to become a dear friend and elder sister to me and from the moment that I saw her and Brooke waving to me from the bottom of the escalator in Billings airport, my heart warmed. I knew that we were all being brought together for a reason that would reveal itself in the days and years to come.
Sacred Ground is a 3500 acre preserve on the Crow reservation in Montana where Tanah has lived on and off for most of her life. One of her names ‘Buffalo Woman’ was the omen that years later would call her back ‘home’ after the collapse of her international clothing business to become the sacred mother for a herd of Buffalo that grace the mountain slopes today. Held by the ancient Pryor mountains, laced with crystal caves and earth energy lines, Sacred Ground is a unique and powerful place on the planet. Its sacred spring waters are tested amongst the highest and purest quality on the earth and once you drink of them, their essence merges with yours to catalyze powerful shifts in your vision and action. Angels, nature spirits of all kinds and the ancestors are as much residents of this land as the buffalo, bears, eagles and humans. Their voices are clear and their invitation to step into a greater experience of who we really are is insistent. They cannot and will not be ignored.
The ranch merges science and spirit, playing host to a wide range of international teachers, researchers, writers, healers and medicine people. Learning takes place amongst the daily life of caring for the ranch and its plant, animal and spirit inhabitants. What are we all learning here? To remember balance and co-creation within the laws of nature and the universe. To remember what it is to be human in these times of global change.
“There is unquestionably great change on the wind, promoting a global movement to seek new ways to understand and support ourselves, our relationships and the environment we live in. There is no question we must live more balanced and harmonious. A great question being asked is, “how do we do that and just what is the best path to pursue in such a diverse world?
Our experiences teach us what sustains and what falls away, what empowers and endures. We take what is known, use what we learn from our own experience, combine them, and share the outcome while constantly listening and adjusting to achieve the highest results”.
One important aspect of the education in sacred balance that Tanah teaches here is that of the sacred hunt. My experience of opening the 2016-2017 hunting season here was so profound that I share it here directly from my book. May you walk with me whilst reading, feeling what I feel so you too may be changed in the sharing.
I opened my eyes from the cocoon of blankets in which I had been asleep on Tanah’s couch to see the first threads of a golden dawn weaving their way across the horizon. It was the first hunt of the season and I wanted to be ready for the ceremony. Rising quickly, I pulled my boots and jacket on, noting that Tanah was already up and preparing. She bustled into the kitchen and after giving me a long hug good morning, handed me a bundle of things to take out to the alter in the atrium. Don, the sacred hunter was there with his two young daughters, preparing his guns and hunting knives. He greeted me warmly, enfolding me in a big bear hug and I immediately sensed why Tanah had chosen him to lead her hunts. The buffalo were dearly loved as family members here just as they once would have been by the ancestors here. Hunts were done in the traditional manner and each soul that offered their life as a give away was honoured for their sacrifice.
The five of us gathered around the alter and after explaining the purpose of the ceremony, Tanah honoured the four directions, smudged each of us in turn and then cleansed the weapons laid out on the alter. Given it was the first hunt of the season she also invited us each to place a pinch of tobacco into her sacred pipe and shared with us that the theme of this years hunt would be ‘rejoice’. Smiling as I breathed my prayers into the tobacco I reflected on how much ‘joy’ could be present in these important transitions in life. That we could rejoice just as much in death as we could in life and not judge either one to be preferable to the other. We all sent out blessings and prayers to the sprit of the young buffalo cow who was going to offer her life to us this day. Tanah had told me that when a hunt is done in this way, the animal always knows its their time and will step out of the herd to offer the hunter a clean shot. They never panic or run. Each being participates in the cycle of life, playing their role. Hunter and hunted honour each other with the gift of life / death in equal measure.
After another hug to us all in turn, Don gathered up his equipment and bustled his girls into the truck that was also smudged before leaving the yard. Tanah and I stood watching it go with tears of gratitude and grief in our eyes. Experiencing the grace of the polarities merging within us.
The next few hours went slowly as we entered into meditation and quiet contemplation, each of us with half of our attention tuned into the land and the herd. I almost jumped out of my skin when Tanah’s phone beeped next to me, indicating that a text message had arrived. “It’s Don,” she said confirming what we all had known. “It is done. One shot and she died cleanly,”. Realizing that I had been holding my breath, I sighed with relief. Life was in balance.
Not long after the text, we heard the rumble of the pickup heading towards us on the dirt track and scarcely thinking, I ran outside to meet them, my feet bare and my long skirt flapping in the autumn breeze. As the truck pulled into the yard, I smelled the dark, rich blood of the buffalo cow before I saw her. She was loaded on the back of the truck split down her underside, her entrails having been removed in the field. Her now lifeless eyes, stared back at me and instead of any feeling of sickness or sadness, I felt only peace and love as I said my silent thanks to this beautiful being. Joining Tanah and Brooke at the side of the truck, we silently sprinkled more tobacco on to the cow’s beautiful head, saying final prayers to her spirit. Don and the girls watched smiling at a ‘hunt done well’ and in respect for the being who had offered herself to them. I felt something warm hit the skin on my feet and looking down noticed that some of the cow’s blood had dripped down from the truck and sprinkled my bare feet. I felt blessed and honoured by her. My heart felt full, truly rejoicing in her life and my own being inextricably linked to the cycles of life, death and rebirth on earth.
Walking slowly back to the house I knew that I would never eat another creature that hadn’t been treated with this level of respect and ceremony ever again.
“When consuming or surrounding ourselves with the gifts of their bodies, we take on the imprint and qualities of their spirit. The courage, the honor, the wisdom and the enormous love and joy they share and live! This is their teaching we share. The Harvest is Sacred, The Hunter is Sacred, The Buffalo is Sacred…because the spirit of respect and honor flows through each in collaboration and clear purpose.
My experiences here with Brooke and Tanah were beyond special, beyond educational: they changed the way I understand myself, my relationship to the earth and my place in the universe. All of this was found within the sacred container of daily chores, by listening to the voices of the ancestors in my dreams and by watching the ancient wisdom of the buffalo as they roamed across the land. I share more of these experiences and insights in my upcoming book Tough Bliss but suffice to say, that I will be returning to sacred Ground every time it calls me. That I am placing my energy, expertise and resources in service of this place and all places, spaces and people who create ‘stories that unite’ us back within the web of life on earth. Perhaps one day you will also visit Tanah at Sacred Ground and remember that we are one part of the vast web if life expressing itself on earth and in the universe.
“This is our life, our ongoing journey without destination. Our dream is to live it and share it. This place powerfully unravels our dilemmas and beautifully reflects our personal truths”.