Citation: Leo. "A New Years Peyote Ceremony: An Experience with Peyote (exp2134)". Erowid.org. Jun 26, 2000. erowid.org/exp/2134
The teepee was easily seen on the flat landscape, glowing from Grandfather-Fire, already keeping vigil within. The site was, appropriately I thought, just down the road from an 'Indian Holiness Mission' church house. The RoadChief and a few church members were already inside the teepee chatting. We were warmly welcomed and advised to get our blankets and find our spots in the teepee as more folks were coming and space is always a factor. In fact, the NAC is virtually the only church I can think of where regular services are commonly standing room only, with communicants driving or flying many hours each way.
At first, unfamiliarity makes sitting in a circle of folks, many meeting for the first time, feel a little strange. However, something about sitting on the ground in the traditional lodge brings an ancient sense of holiness. The commonality of all people soon becomes a tangible perception, particularly when sitting with inter-tribal groups where native folks don't even understand each other's language. English becomes the common toungue when group discussions take place. Language barriers soon fade as the night begins to glow with ancient magic...
Peyote chanting is accompanied by the rapid, steady beat of the water drum, an iron kettle with specially tied and stretched hide, partially filled with water, which aids its tonal and spiritual resonance. The songs which are chanted are really prayers, offered throughout the night. Many of the songs are learned apart from literal meaning, and are often sung by several people together, none of the participants understanding specific words, but all knowing the rythym and accents very well. Some songs contain understandable phrases, many in english. The water drum, singing staff, and rattle, are passed clockwise around the teepee, each person having the opportunity to lead prayer. Those who pass bless themselves with the water from the drum skin and the energy of the singing staff. The effect of this shared ritual and vocalization is intense, particularly when driven by the constant heart beat of the drum.
After the reason for calling the meeting (prayer for a sick person, birthday, memorial service, etc.) is discussed with the congregation, peyote is blessed and passed clockwise, in the same manner as the drum. People are free to eat as much or as little of the sacrament as they wish.
Sitting cross-legged or kneeling becomes a difficult task when peyote is first dealing with your system. You begin to wonder how the RoadChief can maintain complete composure. This night was not my night for purging however. It was my wife's. She was suddenly leaning gorking out the green contents of her otherwise empty stomach. Folks don't seem to pay attention to this otherwise socially uncool act. The FireChief tends to these occurences with a shovel and sand. He also regularly sweeps the altar, walkways, and hot coals, keeping these orderly. This makes it feel perfectly ok to throw up in church, as it were. Usually, one feels much better immediately after vomiting, energy restored and attention focused. Sitting all night becomes a pleasure, something you hate to see end.
The altar is made of sand and shaped in the form of a crescent. A Chief Peyote is placed on the center of the crescent, to focus one's prayers. The honesty of these events is often astounding. Like other psychedelic sessions, personal issues are brought up, and the attention of the group is thus altered and applied. Grown men and women weep with sorrow, thanks, joy. Songs shared are windows into the soul of the individual.
At midnight the pace changes as RoadChief leaves the teepee to blow his eagle-bone whistle to the four directions. Midnight water is brought in, blessed, and shared by all after first spilling some for the earth to drink. Contentment and faith shine from the faces of the participants. The ability of the RoadChief to make people feel welcome really makes these early morning hours enjoyable, and a strong sense of the Divine radiates the teepee. New year's fireworks sounded in the background as we experienced our own internal diplay of light.
One very special moment was when small groups of people were invited to leave the teepee to stretch and refresh themselves. The sound of praying and drumming combined with the flickering shadows around the teepee exterior was deeply inspiring.
By morning, we all felt very close to one another, almost as if we'd known each other for ever. Morning food is brought in, one bowl is of corn, one of fruit, and one of meat. These are blessed and passed clockwise. I was happy to see that these bowls were three from my own hands, made several months ago for the RoadChief. The sense of years of making pottery and my humble little studio on the banks of the Gila River entered the teepee and my mind. I knew I was right where I was s'posed to be, doing just what I needed to be doing- with my life in general.
One of the most often repeated prayers that night was for 'good feelings'. This is how it is with peyote. It shows you that the way you feel is what you are. It is good to feel good. It is not good to feel bad. Spirit is not something imagined, it is felt.
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