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IMG_0354When I made plans to be in Savannah, Don Black Feather asked if I would offer a despacho during my visit. My yes turned out to be bigger than I could have imagined.

Arriving a week before ceremony gave me time to become more intimate with land that was unfamiliar to me. On one of our first outdoor ventures animal bones were found lying near a pond. I knew right away they would be part of our despacho and were placed on our altar.

In Peru, prayers are offered to the despacho in a kintu made by blowing intentions into three coca leaves. With no coca leaves available in IMG_0410North America finding a kintu before ceremony was important. Along a trail in Skidaway State Park we discovered Georgia’s state flower, the Cherokee Rose. Its leaves are similar in size and shape to the coca leaf. How beautiful to have the Flower of Love hold our prayers.

My infatuation with the rose seemed to cloud my memory to the plethora of thorns that protect its beauty. Harvesting and preparing a hundred or more leaves for ceremony was a painstaking ritual not without some blood being shed. The Cherokee Rose held another story, the Trail of Tears. A story of ancestors waiting to be told.

The last the ancestors would speak before ceremony was through scorching hot sand leaving my feet full of blisters.

This ceremony was working in ways I did not fully understand from my stinging hands to my burning feet. Never before had the ancestors spoke so loudly.

I confess my ignorance to the Trail of Tears. I wanted to know more of the story behind the Cherokee Rose. What I came to learn left me humbled in tears.

The Cherokee had lived in western Georgia for generations. In the early fall of 1838 the United States Army began the invasion of the Cherokee Nation through a ratification of the “Indian Removal Act”. Driven from their homes with little food or provisions, the Cherokee were forced to march a thousand miles to Oklahoma, arriving during one of the most brutal winters in the state’s history. Four thousand people were reported to have died on that journey.

“The mothers of the Cherokee grieved so much that the chiefs prayed for a sign to lift the mother’s spirits and give them strength to care for their children. From that day forward, a beautiful new flower, a rose, grew wherever a mother’s tear fell to the ground. To this day, the Cherokee Rose prospers along the route of the Trail of Tears.”

The blisters on my feet were nothing compared to the journey of a thousand miles the Cherokee nation took that year. Whatever pain or suffering I may have known pales in comparison to the suffering of those who have come before me. The ancestor speak in ceremony was an opportunity to honor the pain and suffering of the footsteps walked before we have come.

To honor offers healing. To honor allows us to stand in gratitude for the privileges we are graced with. Privilege born of the pain and blood of those that have come before.

This ceremony was a walk in humility. A walk of respect to the calling of our ancestors. A bow in gratitude to all who have suffered and paved the way for our footsteps to follow. May we never forget the walk of our ancestors.

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