The Give-Away Ceremony

The Give-Away

Ann Filemyr, Ph.D.

Vice President of Academic Affairs & Dean, Southwestern College

In a number of different but related indigenous cultures, there exists the practice some call the Give-Away. This Ceremony is undertaken whenever an individual or family or clan group experiences a sense of great abundance, of plentitude and joy. Then it is appropriate to share the abundance with others in the community.

As an ancient celebration of redistribution, it flies in the face of Euro-centric and American ideals concerning private property and the manufactured desire to accumulate wealth. In fact, this Ceremony suggests the opposite. It honors the desire to give-away one’s abundance. Historically, many of these give-away ceremonies were outlawed by the U.S. government, including the Potlatch of the Pacific Northwest. Yet despite the imposition of a strange value system concerning foreign ideas of object-centered property and personal possessions, the Give-Away Ceremony has persisted in importance. I learned it from the elder Keewaydinoquay, an Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) mashkikikwe (medicine woman). I thank her for teaching me this spiritual technique for keeping balance.

Today on the Southwestern College campus during new student orientation, I had the pleasure of doing a modest Give-away for our SWC community. Most of the students had not heard of this or participated in a Give-Away before. I did it to celebrate my feeling of joy as a new member of SWC. I feel that this entering class is my entering class. We are beginning the new school year together.

I had spent the week preparing. I went through my kitchen cupboards, dresser drawers, jewelry boxes, closets, bookshelves, herb garden, and assorted special stone, shell and art collections asking which things wanted to be shared. A special woven rattle was ready to go, but did I want to share it? Lose it forever? Then I realized it had been sitting on a shelf unused and untouched for at least a year. Things want to live as we do. Everything around us is made from nature, even petroleum products and nuclear bombs are the stuff of the living, breathing, natural world. The Give-Away itself is an act in imitation of Nature. The sun gives away its light. The clouds release their rain. The fruit trees let go of their apples and peaches and pears. The corn shares its many ears. If they did not, they would cease to be. To give is to live. My little woven rattle with the tiny brass bells inside was ready to back out into the world and be of use.

To receive is also necessary for the Ceremony to be complete. Giving necessitates receiving. Just as we receive the fruit of other’s labor, the skill of the surgeon or the farmer, we find purpose in giving who we are in the circle of life. This is what sustains the great balance of all being and becoming. The Give-Away Ceremony shines a light on this abiding truth, our ancient equation: To give and to receive. To receive and express gratitude. This is the persistent dance. The Give-Away Ceremony invites us to notice as holy the perpetual cycle of giving and receiving.

When you share something of your abundance with others, you bring blessings upon yourself and everyone else who participates. No matter how simple or small the gifts, they have meaning. Last night I packed the car with four grocery bags. I unpacked them early this morning placing them on a table beneath a cloth in the large Art Therapy classroom. They remained covered until the end of our morning session. Then I explain my heart’s true purpose in doing a Give-Away Ceremony. I want to share my joy, my feeling of abundance, with all of the new students as it is also my first year here.

As is tradition, I call up the veteran’s first. Warriors who are willing to place their lives in danger for others are the first to be honored. Next come the elders. They approach the table and select the single item that calls to them in a special way. After that we go row by row as the nearly fifty new students approach the table and select a single thing to carry home with them. Then the Graduate Assistants and other members of the staff and faculty approach the table.

The Chair of our Counseling Program, Dr. Carol Parker, picks up the rattle. She tells me she collects rattles and uses them in her classes. She says, “This rattle will get much use.”

I smile. I am happy. It is good to give your things away.



Autumn Equinox Ceremony Preparation

Autumn Equinox Ceremony

September 21, 2014

 The Psycho-Spiritual-Emotional-Physical Meaning of Autumn Equinox

 In the perfect cycle of our Earth Mother there is a specific and ancient dance. As She circles around our Starfire, the Sun, She enacts her deep and ongoing relationship to the Life-Giver, the bringer of light, warmth and sacred transformational fire.

Mother Earth circles around in her beautiful way, bowing to the Sun, first with the North Pole then with the South Pole. Her Balance is NOT stasis. She does not and cannot remain still. She walks her walk or dances her dance in constant motion, movement is life, and it has a rhythm and a purpose.

Through her movement the seasons change. The amount of sunlight falling on us changes, the plants are given their cycle of growth and decay to correspond with the amount of sunshine and warmth. We, too, are given cycles of growth and decay. Time for action and time for reflection. Time to move outward and time to move inward.

Autumn Equinox is the point of equilibrium midway between the longest day (Summer Solstice) and the longest night (Winter Solstice). It marks the first day of fall. It marks the point in the circle of time in which we gather the fruits of the harvest, we gather the results of our labor since Spring Equinox. We reflect on where we are and from where we have come. We take a moment, a day, away from our busy lives to reflect with the intention to learn more about the Red Road we are walking, to learn from our lives, and from Nature.

This cycle is what we live inside. We live inside this ancient dance.

To honor the Solstices and Equinoxes is to bring into consciousness this cycle that affects everything around us, and everything within us, whether we are aware of it or not.

The physical and spiritual meaning of EQUINOX is BALANCE. It is the point in the cycle in which there is an exactly equal amount of LIGHT and DARK.

Balance is the key aspiration for us as we walk the Good Red Road.

What is the Good Red Road? We can discuss this for many hours.

In preparation for our Ceremony this Autumn Equinox, you will begin a practice of finding your Good Red Road, walking upon it daily, beginning to understand ever more clearly that each day is a Ceremony and that Walking itself is an act of Balance.

Directions for Gathering Stones

As soon as you begin to collect these small Stones, you have begun your Ceremony. Once the Equinox Ceremony is begun you must agree to the following guidelines:

  • No alcohol or other mind-altering substance should be ingested from the day you begin gathering your stones until after the Equinox Ceremony is complete.
  • Remember the Stone People are our most ancient relatives. The mineral world is the basis for life as we know it. They carry the deepest knowledge of life on Mother Earth. This is why we refer to them as Grandfather and Grandmother. These are terms of respect and acknowledge our kinship relationship to the Stone People of the Mineral World.
  • You must request each stone individually to join you, to serve your need at this time, the stone can say no. LISTEN. FEEL. Wait patiently for their response.
  • Do not lift the stone up if you have not heard or felt an agreement. Then if the stone agrees, and you lift it from its resting place, feel it in the palm of your hand. Feel gratitude for its willingness to serve you on your spiritual path, your Good Red Road. Hold it to your heart. Place some tobacco, kinnickinnic, or a strand of your hair in its place. You must RECIPROCATE. Without reciprocation, there is no Balance.
  • Keep your stones with you. If you have great feelings of fear, anger, frustration, impatience, judgment (includes judging yourself as well as judging others), greed, anxiety, dishonesty (you catch yourself saying something that is not true) place the Black stone or stones in your left hand and ask them to take these feelings from your heart and mind. Release these emotions into the Black stones.
  • Hold the White stones in both your hands to remind you of your essential ONENESS with all Life. Ask these grandparents to help you rekindle your deep truth. To engage compassion, forgiveness, patience, honesty. Do this daily from the first White stone you collect.

This Equinox preparation places you on the Path toward aligning with your Good Red Road. Your Red Road represents your highest truth, your alignment with the most genuine and deep aspects of yourself, and this Ceremony will help you fulfill your True Purpose.

Prepared for you by Ann Megisikwe Filemyr

August 25, 2014