Y12 Nuclear Complex, Oak Ridge Tennessee
To The United Nations
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Talks
New York, New York - 2005
As we continue to join others of different cultures but with the common goal of working for peace we absorb other ceremonies that these cultures have to offer. The Nipponzan Myohoji prayer, "Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo" for example as well as the drumming while the prayer is chanted. The Jewish Blessing Over Bread Before Meals and others that we are drawn to.
First Ceremony-Stop the Bombs International Peace Walk
In the early morning hours of March 13th, 2005 an intrepid band of diverse souls gathered in the rear yard of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance headquarters (also known as Ralph Hutchison and Lissa McLeod's family home). The 44 or so people there formed into a circle for the Beginning purification ceremony of the Stop The Bombs International Peace Walk. The circle represented the millenium old first symbol for The Unity, God, Great Spirit, Creator, The One or any one of thousands of names given to the ineffable mystery throughout human history. This specific circle was formed in honor of the Native American ceremony of strength and purification about to be performed by Billie " Turtle Warrior " Ledger, a Mic-Mac native from Vermont.
Turtle Warrior began by lighting some desert sage in an abalone shell at the center of the circle. Once the smoke was rising in a good sized cloud, Turtle Warrior walked around the circle of people and fanned the smoke on to each person individually with some red tailed hawk feathers. This is called smudging, and each person turned in a circle to cover all of themselves with the smoke. Native people believe the smoke has several functions. The first is to purify the individuals energy field or aura of negative thoughts and feelings and carry them away, the second is to carry the prayers skyward to the Great Spirit for fulfillment, and the third is to give strength to the body, mind, and spirit of the one being smudged. After completing the smudging, Turtle Warrior returns to the center of the circle, and puts down the shell. He then begins his prayer ceremony, offering sacred tobacco, as he says his silent prayer to the four directions, one after the other. It is acceptable for any or all to offer their own silent prayers with Turtle Warrior as he turns from one direction to the next until completing all 4. These represent the four cardinal points on the medicine wheel (or circle), north, east, south and west. When he is done with the 4 directions of the medicine wheel, he offers prayer up, or to the sky for Great Spirit, and kneels down and touches the ground for Sacred Mother Earth. This would then conclude the prayers and the ceremony would end with the circle going round and round until everyone had greeted and hugged or shaken hands with each other. The ceremony today was special however, as Billy had brought talisman pins for all the walkers who would go the entire distance of the walk. These pins in the shape of a turtle would be a momento as well as focusing the will of the walkers.
Since many in the group had learned cross country running and walking with the Sacred Run led by native elder and activist Dennis Banks, Billy's ceremony has special meaning. Many of us participated in circle ceremony, sweat lodge ceremonies, and pipe ceremonies with Dennis (his Anishinabe name is Nowa Cumig), and developed respect and honor for these ceremonies. I feel it is a great blessing to have learned about these sacred and ancient rituals. Because of this, we wholeheartedly desire to keep ceremony involved in the actions and events in which we participate. Nipponzan Myohoji has provided a much honored and loved Buddist form of ceremony for the group with their drumming, chanting, and prayer rituals, as well as a beautiful, diverse, interfaith ceremony. I have come to see the entire process of doing the miles and praying as a continuous ceremony all while we are on the road, we have named this continuous ceremony "Putting Down FootPrayers". We are motivated by the simple value Dennis taught us - "All Life Is Sacred", and we carry this within our hearts as we move across "Turtle Island" (the name some native people have for North America), whether the specific cause is peace, nuclear (or nucular as some people say) disarmament, resisting the nuclear power industry, protesting the School of the Americas, advocating the protection and healing of the environment (AKA Mother Earth), or any other worthy cause we choose to support. Because what we DO is at the highest aggregate level (the Spiritual) our entire energetic activity as we move "down the road" is a form of devoted ritual and ceremony. It has been said by wiser men than I, "Pray without ceasing; pray until you transform your entire life activity into a prayer", Then we will have created perpetual ceremony as we walk and run along the roads of this world. Then our energy in passing will affect all those who see us, then some will join us, then slowly - heart to beating heart - positive change can at last slowly transform our world into the better place many of us can envision. All beginning from a committed person fanning some smoldering sage onto his brothers and sisters in a meaningful way.
Billy "Turtle Warrior" ledger has the smile of a saint, or perhaps more of an impish grin with sparkling eyes, he likes to play the trickster, he is as fit if not more so than his younger counterparts and likes to chide them about their frailty, and sometimes he even plays at complaining, but when you see him perform ceremony, he is as serious and committed as you can get. I suspect some of his playfulness may be used to obscure how much he really cares in his heart, and how much he is committed to the mission as a whole and how seriously he takes the spirituality of his ceremony. If you are observant, you will see him praying and burning sage even when there is no community ceremony being conducted. It is always good to travel with one who trys his best to "walk the Red road". Our events would be more barren without committed people like Turtle Warrior, Jun San and others, who provide ceremony to help strengthen and focus our efforts.