I love all my friends for various reasons. Some are silly yet trustworthy. Some are strong and yet remain very kind. Some are bitches yet full of love. I know one thing, they are devoted to friendship, loyalty, and plain old reliable.
My thoughts today is on one of my friends. She was brought up very religious. From the moment I met her, I knew we were not cut from the same cloth but our hearts spoke to each other. We were drawn together and have stayed there since third grade. This year, we will be celebrating 50 years of friendship.
Being a Native American Spiritualist, I have become the healthiest and happiest I have ever been in life. Sure, life struggles are always present but I have found me after many years of my spiritual endeavors. After years of assimilation through various teachings of churches, I have settled into my own spirituality.
The other day, my Becky came over to spoil me. While we colored my hair, her eyes searched my room and settled on my alter. She knows that I am different than she and she has always accepted it without question. However, for the first time, her eyes were wide with questions.
With a confused expression, she asked me, "Sheila, what is that?"
"My alter, where I pray everyday.", I smiled into the mirror at her reflection.
She glanced over to the dresser top and back at me, "You pray at that alter?"
"Yes, I do. Not just there but out in nature too." I smiled at her.
With a creased brow she asked, "Aren't alters a bad thing?"
With my dimpled smile I responded, "Not at all. I am not worshiping the devil or anything, I am just praying."
As I watched her lather on blue hair dye over my grey I watched her expression as she processed my words. You see, we are close but religion and spirituality hardly ever comes up because, well, we are not the same. She and her husband are devote Baptist and I accept that. However, Pagans, well, to her teachings have been taboo to their sect. I smiled at her as she continued her work.
Tinfoil in place and the timer was set and we had a little time to reconnect. Usually, the conversation is light hearted between us two but I could see she was battling conflict in her mind. As a trusted friend, I took her over to my alter and began.
My dearest friend, I may not kneel next to my bed once a day to pray, instead, I stand before the creator as an Annishinaabe Kwe [Native Woman]. I accept that I am a Native Elder who is responsible for the well-being of myself, family and friends.
The first thing I do is I turn on the light to chase away the darkness. I reached for the matches and lit my candle. I stand in the creator's light so I can be seen and ready myself to be heard.
I reached for a cup and held it up. A butter beer mug with a Harry Potter logo on it. The cup reminds me to honor my own personal magic. Inside this cup is sage to keep my magic clean and pure, I removed sage leaves from the cup and roll it into a small ball and place it in my cast iron pan.
"First I wash and clarify my soul. I am not perfect and I make mistakes and think not so good thoughts at times. I use the sage to clean my soul as I prepare for prayer." I said as I lit a wooden stick and lifted it to light the sage afire.
She watched as I smudged myself in the smoke and grab my eagle feather to do the same to it. I leaned over the pan and took in a few deep breaths and expelled the negative burred inside of me. She watched as I gathered the smoke over my head, around my back and down to my feet.
"You see, I have an alter to remind me of all the things I am thankful for and also the reminder of things that need resolution. You see your painting? I thank the creator everyday for you and all my friends in my life. The picture you made also reminds me to call in my ancestors from every direction." I said as I turned to welcome the ancestors who reside in the north, south, east and west.
"See my little tea set cup we use to use to have our tea parties with? It holds my sacred tobacco." I said as I took a pinch of it in my left hand and laid it on the sage so it could begin to burn.
I lowered my eyes and raised my feather and began, to touch various items on the alter:
Gem stones: "I ask for protection of mother earth and her loving grounding touches as she brings forth life through my hands."
Picture of lighting shooting through the clouds: "I am willing to be the gateway in which I serve you. I am only the willing servant for thy will."
I reach for the sweetgrass in my polish pottery cup, "I am a woman, mother, grandmother. I pray you protect my son, daughter, and grandbabies as I touch each item of theirs on my alter."
I uncover a turtle pot and pull out my cedar, "I burn cedar to purify the negative thoughts, or doings in my life." I turned and placed the cedar onto the smoldering sage and asked, "replace all negative thoughts into understanding today."
As she stood there watching me, her countenance dissipated into understanding as I laid my feather back on the table.
I reached over to the little plant on the table and stroked it's leaf. "Thank you little one for purifying my air and growing with me."
My finger drifted to a little black ball of my grandson's hair laying on the cup's saucer, "Please be with my grandson so he can thrive even with the challenge of autism."
Lastly, I grabbed the bottle that was on the alter and turned on the light inside. The green glass and the light shone in the darkness, "Give me the strength to always move with love in my heart."
Becky's eyes searched the contents of the alter with understanding eyes. For the first time, she understood my path was somewhat different but the same as hers. I may pray differently than she, but I do pray and practice in my own unique way.
"My prayers are just as good as those said on the knee. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I do kneel. Most of my prayers are said in conversation with the creator during the day. But my alter assures that no one is left behind at the start of my day. There is no evil here my friend."
The buzzer dinged and I went downstairs and washed my hair and returned to her standing in front of my alter. The air lingered of sage and the light of the candle and the green jug silhouetted her frame as she stood there. She turned as I walked through the door and smiled. She didn't say anything. She just smiled.
A new understanding had been built that day. I had no fear in sharing with her for I trust her so with my most private moment. I do not expect anything more from her other than acceptance. She has always been accepting but, well, some zealous moments have occurred in the past but I never held them against her. This moment between us helped her to see that her attempts to convert me were for naught.
As I gave her a hug I said, "Every road to the Creator is different, our roads can meet in prayer and love for each other."
About the Creator
Welcome to my world.
Welcome to my thoughts.
I am proud to be a Native American Elder born and raised in Northern Michigan. Thanks to my hard work I have a B.A. in Education and a Masters in Administration and Supervision in Education.