This pandemic has many grieving tremendous loss of lives and our communities continue to be affected as we enter the third year of this new reality. In those early months many were not able to get close to their ailing loved ones due to the lockdowns and risks of contracting or giving covid to volunerable or aging elders. We heard difficult stories after story about many who were not able to say goodbye to family members or hold their hands to comfort them as they transitioned. Not even in person memorials were able to take place. The chance to grieve well was short changed. Even in my own circle of family/friends, zoom funerals were the new norm and some didn’t get organized because not everyone had access to that technology. As an earth ritual artist, I wanted to do something to help us greive and honor lives in a meaningful way even if physical contact was a challenge and an opportunity came along that aligned with this intention.
I had the honor of being asked to join up with SNAG Magazine (Seven Native American Generation) in 2021. SNAG is a Native American/Indigenous magazine dedicated to uplifting the communities represented in the magazine by featuring personal stories and land-based protector movements taking place in the US (& globally). I came on board for Issue 11. We decided that the issue should be about healing, being the second year of the pandemic it made sense. The theme we came up with was, Rise and Thrive, the Self-Love and Healing issue. We showcased traditional arts, protector movements, Native organizations, traditional foods & medicines that spoke well to this theme. (SNAG link below)
A COLLABORATION As a key support to the design and production of the magazine, I felt that it was important to acknowledge the many lost lives due to covid, especially hard hit were Native & Indigenous communities. And so I had proposed to dedicate our center spread to this. It was the memorial spread and is a moment of silence, the pause, and prayer for all lives lost. An earth mandala image spans the two pages with the words: "Who We Remember, Live On In Us". I wanted to include a special prayer or poem with this altar, so I reached out to someone who could assist in this way. Tara Trudell, who thankfully agreed to provide this piece was a blessing. I met Tara at Bioneers some years ago. At the time I felt a deep connection to her and her beautiful sacred bead work. What she ultimately offered was a special poem called, Celebrate Them, which was written by Simon Ortiz who wrote it for the Trudell family after the tragic loss of family members in a fire in 1979, a devastating event in the Trudell family. This poem is not only powerful and encouraging, but it is a timeless piece. You read it today without knowing when it was written or what it was for and its words speak to today as much as it did for the Trudells back in ’79. That’s what makes this piece powerfully relevant today, as I read it for the first time. The poem is available to read in the SNAG issue #11. An online pdf is also available. (link below).
OUR CALL TO SACRED ACTION The other piece that evolved with Tara was the launch of a Call to Sacred Action. As Sacred Activists, we invite you to make your own prayer beads and/or earth altar in the name of your loved ones who you wish to honor in a good way. This Call to Sacred Action is also featured in the SNAG magazine Issue #11 (link below). I have an 8 step guide for doing earth altars and we include a bead making template on the back inside cover. The collage image that is underneath the template is made with the Celebrate Them beads (all 279 beads made by Tara) arranged in a circle over an earth altar image. A bead making workshop is being offered by Tara in Spring 2022 as well as An instructional video to be posted on her website, so watch for that!
MAKING EARTH ALTARS
Beginning with a circle, we bring to life a creation of beauty, a unique act of love to remember, to honor, to give thanks, and to celebrate life. This art form calls on each of us to sacred action. We gather materials, offer our words in prayer to share, heal and witness the radical beauty that comes through.
Participation is what makes this co-creation alive and potent. With heart, openness and imagination people are invited to bring materials or create using what is found nearby. The community is guided and encouraged to make designs and patterns within the circular template that is defined by rocks, pine cones, soil or other organic materials. All get immersed in a process by which cooperation and creativity unfold in divine presence. We each bring our essential selves into the circle and together with presence and our hands guided by heart and spirit, anything is possible.
An elder once shared with me that sacralizing our spaces with sacred art is so very fundamental to our revolution. I deeply feel this to be true and believe it’s true for our evolution as well.
A GUIDE FOR MAKING EARTH ALTARS
Feel free to make changes in the following suggested steps to reflect your own cultural practices. It's for all ages!
1) Start with Intentions/Prayers however that is for you. Who are you doing this for? Invite others to participate.
2) Gather elements into baskets or paper bags. These could be small rocks, pine cones, seeds, flowers, herbs, shells, or anything that speaks to you. Ask for permission before removing something in nature and only gather what is needed. This often works out to be just enough.
3) Gather at your home, park, yard or somewhere accessible to the outdoors. Organize all of your elements into bowls, baskets or bags.
4) If you have some dried lavender, sage or cedar, light some up in a bowl to begin blessing all of the items, as well as the land, yourself and others. Thank all of the elements, yourself and Spirit/Creator/Allah/God/Goddess/Source/ or other name you wish to invoke for being present and joining you in this sacred work.
5) Select something special to represent the center. It could be a heart rock, crystal, or flower that calls to you.
6) Draw out a circle adding the 4 directions or simple design. You can use sand on soil or rocks, seeds, or flowers to do this. Find your own creativity in the process.
7) Begin laying down the rest of your elements to fill out the design. Invite others to join you in it’s creation and in prayer until you feel complete; you will know when that moment arrives.
8) Thank all who showed up for this creation, including your personal guides, ancestors, the elementals, the Creator, Love-Source-Energy.
Photos of your sacred actions are so very welcomed - Let's spread the word and share with others! Please use these hashtags:
hashtags with your earth altar post: #makearthaltars
hashtags with your prayer beads post: #prayerbeadpoweringup
Also inlcude this one each time for the Call to Sacred Action campaign that Tara and I are beginning to use: #sacredaction4healing
Grateful to you all and to our ancestors who brought us this far!
SNAG Mag Issue #11: Rise & Thrive for your printed magazine order
SNAG Mag Issue #11 for the online PDF
Tara Trudell www.taraevonnetrudell.com