First by the heart before understood by the mind – Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

Ecopsychology, Environmental and Art Therapy in practice.

We are really looking forward to Ian Siddons Heginworth coming to run a 2 day workshop for us in March ‘Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash’, an ecopsychology and practical therapeutic training.  Ian is a highly experienced and creative practitioner who is both insightful and accessible.

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Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.I have owned his book ‘Environmental Arts therapy and the Tree of Life’ for many years, and am forever impressed by the depth and breadth of how his writing links our psychology with nature, and in particular the Celtic wisdom of the trees.

For those of us who work with nature as a source of healing, learning,  creativity and inspiration, these days will lead us to understanding how our true selves are intimately entwined and connected to Nature and her cycles.  Ecopsychology, art and environmental experiences are therapeutic. From the physical experience, the absorption of plant hormones that lower our cortisol,  to emotional and psychological experiences that are supported and unravelled through nature’s language of metaphor.

About the Workshops

The training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles and promises practical ecopsychology where we can explore our difficulties and let nature transform them.   At Circle of Life we offer transformational programmes and approaches that draw on old and new wisdom and all of us are willing to learn more about how nature’s gifts can help us to ‘be’ in life, and live in a connected and fulfilling way. We also know that exploring our ‘shadow’ (See our course in April – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space) and feelings are necessary to be mentally well and enable us to transform and change.  Our work with all ages and background in nature repeatedly shows us the power of nature for long lasting well-being.

Ian’s fine work explores our masculine (the active and outward parts of ourselves) and the feminine (the feeling, inward part of ourselves that receives form the world).  It offers us a way to reconsider our daily life as the year turns around through the months and seasons.  It shows us how we can reconnect to the disowned parts of ourselves that are the compost of our health.

As a Forest School trainer and group facilitator, I hope to integrate the practical knowledge of working and offering activities through the year, with the psychological benefits that nature and these methods affords us.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

This intimate relationship with the living world was not unusual for our ancestors.  Trees have always been of paramount importance.  There is enormous cultural and medicinal value of the trees.  For us in the West, our Celtic ancestors lived in a forested land and a secret form of written language was called the Ogham.  The earliest known form of Ogham was the Tree Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet.  Each letter was associated with a name of a tree. The Celtic year had thirteen months with each month associated with a tree.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

 

 

“Each month has offered us the Tree of Life in a different guise” Ian Siddons Heginworth.

 

 

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash

This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The first of two workshops will be held over the Spring Equinox and focus on the Ash – Alchemical Ash. In ancient Britain the Ash was associated with rebirth and new life.  The beginning of March is the time of year when we feel the promise of Spring and we long for it’s arrival, but winter is still here. By the end of March, it will have arrived!

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Suffocating Ivy

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

The second in Autumn, ‘Suffocating Ivy’ – associated with death as well as life, as the female body gives life, so woman brings death. “September comes and the night creeps in…  Even before the leaves start yellowing we know autumn is here….Life is beginning to pull inwards.”  For the Celts, the ivy  is considered the strongest of trees because it can choke and kill anything it grows on, even the great Oak.  The Ivy can help us to meet that which blocks our path to freedom.

 

If you would like to find out more about our ecopsychology and practical therapeutic trainings with Ian please visit our website.

We look forward to meeting you under the trees at Mill Wood finding our freedom, love, innocence and renewal but perhaps not before we meet our loss and feelings felt too by our heart.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery

ANON: Poem found in the Plough Inn, Myddfai, Dyfed, 1998

“Beechwood fires are bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year. Chestnut’s only good they say, If for long laid away. Make a fire of Elder tree, Death within your house shall be.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn to fast, Blaze up bright and do not last. It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, E’en the flames are cold.  But ash green or ash brown, Is fit for a queen with a golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke, Applewood will scent your room, With an incense-like perfume. Oaken logs if dry and old, Keep away the winter’s cold.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold”.

Ian Siddons Heginworth - Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

 

Ian is a leading practitioner, innovator and teacher of environmental arts therapy, a practical ecopsychologist, Author of ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’.

Please see his website for more information.

 

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Circle of Life RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

 

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

Fire Quest – Stories from the Fire

In September 2016 we embarked on a weekend of Sacred Fire & Fire Quest with both adults and young people coming together to undergo a Rite of Passage. As a culture we have all but lost our traditional ways to mark transitions and to support us to move to another stage of life and relationship to the natural world.

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In 2017 we look forward to welcoming Salvatore Gencarelle from the Helpers Mentoring Society to share teachings and offer immersions through the ‘Living Fire Course’ – a four part training throughout the year commencing May 2017 (exact dates TBC). This offers an opportunity to adults to undergo a Rite, then support young people to do this in Part 3. For more information about this click here.

 

DANIEL FORD, from the University of Hull joined us in September to record his impressions and to begin to share the experience to others beyond the forest.

“We are forest people, and our stories and social networks are forest born”.
(Sara Maitland, Gossip from the Forest, 2012, p. 9)

“I prefer being in the forest than in school and I believe the more important lessons can be found there”.
(Teenage Fire Quest Participant 2016)

Stories from the Fire

It is dawn. Raven calls ring out through the wood, stark over the distant sound of traffic. The calls are not being made by birds but rather by a small group of people who, having tended a community fire throughout the night, are now making the agreed signal of return for those out beyond the encampment. Before long men, women and children emerge from the trees and gather together in a large circle. Some take seats, whilst others move closer to the fire. The man who has held vigil at the fire throughout the night, the acknowledged teacher and leader, sits on the far side of the circle silently welcoming those who are returning. When quiet descends on the gathering he asks for those present to sing the song or tell the story that has made it itself known throughout the night. Individuals are called upon to tell their stories, to share their visions and sing their songs from the solitary quests that began at dusk and that have now ended with first light. Those that have worked with these Fire Quest participants as guides gently encourage the members of their groups to share their experiences of being out in the wood, alone with their own fire.

InipiThe first group speak a little about their unexpected experience of time throughout the night. They talk of how they spent their time in preparation for their quests, how they tackled time passing in the wood through the night, and of how they collectively believed that dawn was breaking only to realise that it was the unexpected brightness of the full moon rising. There are murmurs and nods of affirmation from the others seated in the circle acknowledging shared experiences.

Attention moves to the next group. A teenage boy, standing in the outer circle, speaks out. He makes a statement that he feels sums up his quest, “that you don’t really miss something until it’s gone, but if you look hard enough you can bring it back”. He recounts how he slipped in and out of a pattern of sleep and attentiveness throughout the night accidentally allowing his own fire to die out in the process. Despite almost being overwhelmed by darkness he tells how he was able to re-kindle his fire from just an ember. An adult at the far side of the circle celebrates both his mistakes and his determination by offering a personal insight “that we can give things away, all of us, without tending to ourselves”.

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Returning to the sharing of stories around the circle a teenage girl is called on to speak of her experience. She begins by recounting the personal question that she took into the forest with her. “How can the dark be a friend, how can it be kin, and how can I not be afraid”. She speaks matter-of-factly about how her time spent in selecting and preparing her space for the night helped to settle her anxiety and make the experience literally grounded and friendly.

As the sharing at the fireside continues a boy is invited to share the song that he ‘received’ whilst he was out in the wood throughout the night. His voice is fragile at first and the group, perhaps through solidarity of experience, begin to sing with him. The song is a simple, repeated refrain giving shape to the boy’s experience.

I’ll be climbing in the treetops,
I’ll be hiding in the bracken,
I’ll be running with the wolves,
and I will find you.

He tells the assembled group that the focus of his thinking through the night was a question about how he could learn the land and that the song was his answer. The guide of the group explains that there were also many questions from the young participants “around school and college with the question – what shall I do?” being a common theme.

A teenage girl, seated cross-legged by the community fire, continues with this thread on behalf of the next group. She speaks of how her fire bundle flared as she left the community fire at dusk on her way back alone to her chosen site and how it burnt out completely. She recounts how she retraced her steps along the path and found an ember. In the darkness she carried the ember back through the wood to her fire site and was able to bring the fire back to life. The girl continues to speak of insight gained through the process of tending fire and tending herself throughout the night. She says that she feels now “that growing in knowing is not an intellectual activity, that it is active and located in action”. To clarify her point she talks about working with her personal questions. She says that she recognised that she “had the need, the knowledge, the awareness that she had questions that needed answering but not sure about what they are or were… this led to the realisation that it is action itself that leads to knowing, and that this in turn leads to questions arising”. The teacher smiles on the opposite side of the circle.

The teacher continues by addressing the group as a community in relation to the girls sharing. He speaks of a teacher from his own wisdom tradition. “Black Elk, was an Indian elder and he had essential things to say about processing what happens out there, he spoke beautifully about this and although I not want to paraphrase – his message was this: ‘a vision without action is just a dream’”.

As the last group are invited to share their experiences attention turns to a teenage boy who decided not to venture out into the wood and instead remained behind with the teachers and guides, tending the fire throughout the night on behalf of the community, creating a link with all those out in the darkness.

Greenland sunset 4The sharing and harvesting of stories and experiences in the circle reaches its conclusion. The teacher finally turns to a woman who had joined the morning circle late and who was clearly upset and had been crying. The woman had been a key part of the ceremonies of the weekend and held an opening gratitude ceremony where all participants shared a little of their thanks for the coming experience and for life itself. She is asked if she will share her story of the night. Holding back her tears she begins.

It was a glorious night, with the strong light of a full moon and a sweet breeze. It passed slowly. I dozed occasionally, my fire dozing with me but rising back up every time I tended to it. I watched the fires of the young ones around me, rising and falling similarly to mine. I tracked the length of the night with the moon as it passed over us and with the change in traffic noise. We were near a main road and as the night wore on, the sound of traffic dropped until we were finally in total silence. In the depth of the night I heard a tawny owl call out a few times and the sound of a fox barking. The moonlight was so bright that I found myself listening out for a chorus of birdsong to confirm the approach of morning. We had been given strict instructions that our fires needed to be fully extinguished before we left them and tending the fire down to cold was an important element of the whole. I sat there, spreading the coals around with a stick and watching the embers sparkling up at me. I heard a crow call. I heard a great tit. And then I heard the traffic start up again, and the sound of traffic increasing. There was no further birdsong… The commuters were already on their way towards London and I knew that morning was upon us. And that’s when I began to drop into a well of grief. I sat there. Where were the rest of the birds? What were we facing as humanity? Going to work day in day out, by car, coming home by car, windows and doors closed to the elements, the wildlife leaving us… What have we done to the Earth? Stirring the last of the hot coals, listening to the traffic, pondering and feeling, I could not leave my site – I did not want to return. I just sat there in my well of sorrow.

At my most grief-stricken I heard the sound of movement in the branches above me. A few leaves fluttered down and then acorns started landing around me. As I looked up I saw a squirrel on one of the branches, looking down and scolding me in a way that only squirrels can. I had to laugh at myself. If nature communicates with us through signs and symbols, the different metaphors that emerge from a flying acorn brings us much information. Who knows what will happen in the future after all. Those young ones out there all night, tending to their own fires, igniting their passion and their personal fire – what acorns were being planted in them that night? How the Earth is now is how they know it to be. They have never seen a murmuration of starlings, chased butterflies or tripped over hedgehogs nightly. I realised that my grief was for how it was when I was a child and how it used to be. The weight of age.

Many, many people around us today are committed to doing what they can to change the world. We are planting acorns, both arboreal and metaphoric. With the energy and the optimism of youth – well maybe there is still hope for the future of my grandchildren and the future generations of all living things. I’ll keep praying that is so.

After this final story, the sharing of which leaves those listening in deep reflection, the group is invited to pay its respects to the site itself and encouraged to leave the woodland in better condition than they found it. The preparation to leave is unhurried and leisurely, with participants returning to their individual sites, raking over coals, covering fire pits with disturbed earth, and scattering leaves with the aim of leaving no trace of human activity. Once this had been satisfactorily completed people begin to clear away their belongings, leaving the wood without apparent sentimentality or the need to effuse to one another about the power of what has been shared.

The Fire Quest itself had been led by a man who openly drew on the traditional wisdom of his own culture, and of his own teachers and elders. This cultural aspect of the Fire Quest suggested that “the role of indigenous cultures” was to “ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy human being”. Promoted as a “rite of passage, which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood” this development would be brought about through “processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy”.

Although the processes of this Fire Quest had now been completed, the unfolding and blossoming of the young participants was perhaps only just beginning.

Daniel Ford is a doctoral research student and the recipient of a Freedom to Learn scholarship from the Faculty of Education at the University of Hull. He is currently working on an inquiry into what happens when young people have wild experiences within and alongside their formal education.

Correspondence: d.ford@2015.hull.ac.uk

For details on The Living Fire course with Sal Gencarelle, commencing in May 2017, please see the Circle of Life Rediscovery website.

The Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest

The Community Sacred Fire

Are you or your child ready to participate in a Fire Quest Rites of Passage? Do you want to come and support the village and Sacred Fire, whilst learning about this ancient ceremony?

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Join our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend

The Community Sacred Fire is a special container which holds space for people to connect on many levels. It is a place to remember departed loved ones, to honour the ancestors, to remember our ancient relationship with the elements, to reconnect with people, to share stories, to laugh, to cry, and to return to inner harmony. It is also a place remember the blessings of life, and to remember to live in service to the future generations.

 

 

The Community Sacred Fire is a multi generational event held at times of need. That need can include times of deep sorrow and times of great joy and celebration. It is a place that allows the safe processing for grief; and it can also be a focal point for a community during Rites of Passage.

In September 2016, we are offering a weekend of Community Sacred Fire teachings for people wanting to learn more. The weekend will be led by Salvatore Gencarelle.

People will be introduced to this powerful container and some of its applications. As part of these teachings we will be exploring our relationship with the natural elements (fire, water, stone, and air) and how to combine these elements into the event. On Saturday September 17th we will hold an overnight Community Sacred Fire for all those attending. The fire will be tended throughout the night allowing a time for people to connect. This Community Sacred Fire is being held in support of people doing a Rite of Passage called a Fire Quest.   We will also participate in an Inipi, more commonly known as a Sweat lodge – all ages welcome.

The Fire Quest

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Taking place in September 2016, Fire Quest Weekend & Sacred Fire for adult, young people and families.

Many people in the modern world so desperately want to live lives full of connection and love. Yet we were never given the opportunity to go through authentic Rites of Passage to support our growth out of childhood. People now find themselves locked into a childlike state of reactions and views.

 

 

 

How can we help ourselves and the next generation of children to become well grounded, completely connected individuals?

Historically, the role of indigenous cultures has been to ensure that each community member develops into a healthy and happy “Human Being”. The ancient cultures hold a deep understanding of the life stages, as well as how to meet the challenges that come with these life stages. They had processes to facilitate the transitions between the stages. Individuals were enabled to unfold and blossom into their own personalities and gifts, with responsibility, aliveness and incredible joy. This knowledge and understanding was necessary in order to prevent people from stagnating in their personal development and getting stuck in loops of adolescent behaviour, something we can often observe in modern societies.

The Fire Quest is a Rite of Passage which was historically used as a means to mark and support the transition from childhood into young adulthood. The quest traditionally occurs during the formative teenage years, approximately between 12-17 years of age. The quest involves a person being honoured by the community, sent out from a Community Sacred Fire into nature to tend a personal fire throughout the night. During the night the quester reflects on their life, their gifts, their wounds, and learns directly from their interaction with the fire and nature. During the night the quester is supported by their family and the people at the Community Sacred Fire. In the morning the quester is welcomed back to the Community Sacred Fire where they share their experiences from the night.

In the modern world any adult undertaking this Quest will gain deep insight into themselves and their relationship with all of life.

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Taking place 16th – 18th September 2016 with Salvatore Gencarelle

 

Please click here to find out about our Community Sacred Fire & Fire Quest Weekend, taking place from 16th – 18th September 2016, for adults, families and young people.

 

 

Date: 16th – 18th September 2016.
Location: Laughton, East Sussex.
Who should attend: Adults, families (including siblings) and young people (aged 12 – 17 years).

 

The Native American Sweat Lodge (Inipi) by Salvatore Gencarelle

The Native American Sweat lodge is one of the most profound healing and transformative indigenous ceremonies that I know. At the age of 16 I attended my first traditionally run Sweat Lodge and personally experienced the power and beauty of this ceremony. I’ve repeatedly witnessed this transformative and restorative power of the sweat lodge for over 23 years.

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Sweat Lodges Around the World

There are many forms of the sweat therapy found across the world, from the European sauna to the Japanese Sento. Understanding of how sweating in a controlled manner in combination with ceremonial approaches can bring about healing and a deeper sense of connection is a universal concept. This is a good indication that sweating as a method of healing is a fundamental principle of health to human beings.

In America the indigenous structure used to induce sweat therapy is commonly called the Sweat Lodge. There are many variations of the sweat lodge among the different Native American peoples. One of the most common versions of the sweat lodge has comes to us from the Lakota Sioux. The Lakota Sioux version of the sweat lodge is called the Ini Kaga (E-nee Kah-gah) – To Make Live or commonly the Inipi (E-nee-pe), which simply means – We Live.

Legends of the Lakota Sweat Lodge

The Lakota Sweat Lodge is ancient. According to one legend, the Inipi originated with a cultural hero called Stone Boy. This young man was a sacred being who had great knowledge at birth. He was the first to construct and use the Inipi to bring his uncles back to life after they were bewitched by an evil sorceress.

Another, less known legend, tells the origin of the Sweat Lodge back in time when the first peoples began to have conflicts over territory. At this time the population of humans grew to a point where people began to compete over natural resources. People began to become more physical orientated and less spiritually connected. Conflicts erupted and people began to shoving matches that soon led to greater violence. These battles were just external expression of what was occurring within people on a deeper level. During one of these conflicts a person killed another, intentionally. This was the first time a human ever murdered another human. After this, people’s spiritual connections weakened even more and they began to experience hardship and difficulty in their lives that was previously unknown.

During this time a young man was internally guided to seek a way for people to come back to a deeper spiritual relationship. He was guided through a series of Vision Quest to the west coast of an ancient land. There, at the place where the earth, stone, water, and air mixed he Vision Quested in the mist of the Ocean. Through his quest he was given a gift of the first sweat lodge. He returned to the people with this new powerful gift of purification, healing and rejuvenation. The Sweat Lodge ceremony aided people to once again live in physical and spiritual harmony with themselves, each other, and the land.

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Sweat Lodge and the Helpers Mentoring Society

For the past 23 years I’ve been educated in Lakota traditions and ceremony, becoming what is known as a Helper. During my training I came to a deep understanding of the power of the Inipi ceremony and how it can benefit modern people. Over the course of my training as a Helper I was taught every aspect of the ceremony; from stacking the fire, to singing the sacred songs, leading the ceremony, and even teaching others how to become Helpers.

The time for many others to become Helpers is now at hand. We, the people that understand the current disconnected and dysfunctional state of humanity, are being called forward to help return balance to human existence. In this task we have been given powerful gifts to assist us – such as the Sweat Lodge. Now is the time to learn how to competently utilize these sacred ceremonies to ensure the continuation of human life upon the earth. If you have the heart and mind to learn then now is the time.

Salvatore Gencarelle
https://manamongthehelpers.com/

This November Salvatore will be travelling back to the UK.  He will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland as well as Life Initiation & Rites of Passage – a four part training commencing February 2016.

Please click here for details. These introductory talks, ceremonial and teaching workshops are for anyone looking for an immersion experience in Life Initiation, Rites of Passage and Advanced connection techniques. The day workshops will include an Inipi. The experiences and content is especially applicable to people looking to understand how to enhance holistic relationships and bridge this into the modern world and systems.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Women in Culture – Native American Wisdom

mum and child

This way of life is based on observation of energy movement and how the energies are related. By developing this understanding we begin to see creation as the movements of the Great Mystery. We can witnesses the creation born off of the Great Mystery in the wheeling of the stars, the beauty of a sunrise, the song of the birds, and the movement of the seasons. It is all becomes an expression of the Mystery.

This knowledge of energy movement isn’t just applied to the world of nature but also the world of humankind. We understand human nature by this same perspective is a manifestation of the Mystery. Human beings are part of the creation so how could this not be true.

The ancient stories of creation that we still hold speak of major cosmic events which long ago altered the dynamism of the Earth. These alterations and combinations changed the context of the earth reality and through the process, re-ordered the previous reality.

These stories tell about a time of change which blessed all females of the Earth with a number of “gifts”. These gifts are process which occur internally within woman, so sometimes they are called internal ceremonies.

  • Women’s Intuition – The ability to understand something immediately without conscious reason.
  • Internal Purification – Menses, what we typically call Moon Time based on the woman’s cycle being connected to the moon cycle.
  • Child Birth – The ability to regenerate new life from their flesh.
  • Breast Feeding – The ability to create food (milk) from their flesh.

Just as any gift from the celestial powers, there comes great responsibility with these gifts. Each of the gifts are about continuation of life, as it is with anything in nature. This means that women hold very specific responsibilities to ensure the regeneration of life. These gifts make women the conduits of life; the door keepers, if you will.

The Moon Time

The 4 gifts to women also created certain life stages that occur naturally and are marked by physical changes in a woman.

The gift and physical change that we will focus on is the menses, often called Moon Time. The Moon Time begins when a woman has her first menses and ends at menopause. Each month the cycle continues during this entire life stage, only divided during times of pregnancy and lactation.

The start of this cycle is marked by the young woman’s first Moon Time. The first Moon Time is considered a Right of Passage in every culture I’d researched. It is universally honored as a ceremony in itself and typically a ritual of honouring and teaching takes place during or shortly after a woman’s 1st Moon Time. It is a puberty Right of Passage.

There are many variations of this how the Moon Time ceremony is conducted amongst indigenous people but they hold similar patterns. They often teach about how the young woman should remain healthy in the coming years as she develops into a mature mum and childwoman. They teach about how her conduct should be in relationship to her family and other people. They teach about how to be industrious according to the “tribe” standards. They teach about love and future intimate relationships with a spouse.

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Women Ceremony

Ceremonies evolved in indigenous communities to meet various needs, based on a deep understanding of the natural energies of both men and women, and also two spirits (genderqueer).

The woman’s internal processes, which includes the menses, or what were called the Moon Time, were regarded as sacred ceremonies in and of themselves.  It was especially understood that a woman on her Moon Time is in a very powerful ceremony which can interrupt any other ceremony.  Women on their Moon Time are in a type of purification which needs to be respected.

There is a lot of confusion about this, even amongst traditional peoples.  Some people have created a view that women on their Moon Time are unclean and have manipulated this taboo in unhealthy ways.  This can create a sense of shunning or rejection, as if Moon Time is a punishment or curse.

The older belief holds that Moon Time and the menstrual blood is the manifestation of the unfulfilled capacity for creation.  It holds the female power of creation and the mystery.  The woman is the only one who can bring new life into the world.  A woman’s blood flow during her Moon Time is full of the mysterious power of childbearing.  To be able to create new life from one’s own flesh is incredibly powerful, even the most powerful thing possible.  Man can do nothing compared to this.  So we respect the power and all that which is attached to it. It is for this reason(s) that woman do not participate in many of the external ceremonial practices.

The Inipi (Sweat Lodge) workshops that we are offering welcome women and children.  In this tradition, if a woman is on her ‘Moontime’ she is considered as a experiencing her own ceremony, with it’s corresponding purification and connection attributes, so would not take part of the Inipi.

By Salvatore Gencarelle

Ceremony and the Modern World – by Salvatore Gencarelle

CircleRocksYou might be asking yourself “How is it possible that a “primitive” ceremony could possibly help the modern world.

The answer it this, the indigenous perspective is based on survival and how people relate to the Earth. Because they recognize that their life depends on a number of essential factors (connections) – they hold these to be sacred components of life.

The first sacred connection: How do you relate to the natural world?

The second sacred connection: How are you in relation to yourself?

The third sacred connection: How do you relate to your fellow human beings?

These are the three points of connection that indigenous life styles and philosophies continually reinforce. The natural mind recognizes that we have to consider these three factors every time a decision is to be made. Decisions that are healthy will positively reinforce these connections; decisions that are unhealthy will weaken the connections.

What I witness on a continual basis in the modern world are individuals and groups making decisions that are dis-connective. Dis-connective patterns quickly lead to dis-ease, which if not resolved will eventually lead to disease. Many people in this modern life are living in a perpetual state of dis-ease. We are all familiar with this state of being. It has become the norm in so many ways. The modern world makes it easy to disconnect. Dis-ease is now considered a standard part of life. Tension and stress is perceived as a normal state of being.

This internal tension is forcing us to become aware of our past – of how we got to this place of conflict with ourselves, each other, and the natural world. We often find ourselves searching for the wisdom of ancient indigenous peoples. Through this search we are brought back to the transformative healing connection power of indigenous ceremony.

Advanced Connection Practices

Passed down for generations of indigenous healers, these transformative and re-connective techniques have remained in hiding until recently. From the Native American traditions the universal ceremonies have been re-introduced to the modern world. The ceremonies of sweat lodge, vision quest, sacred drum, and sacred pipe have been taught to select individuals of the modern society to help bring these transformative ceremonies out to the modern people. These are the 4 universal gifts to all of humanity.

DrumSweat Lodge – Purification Rite through the power of the elements

Vision Quest – Connection Practice of deep immersion and isolation in nature

Sacred Drum – The heartbeat of the earth and the unity of community

Sacred Pipe – The tool of connection to creation, self, others, and spirit
These ceremonies, what I call the Advanced Connection Practices, are returning to the people of the world. As the patterns of trauma and disconnection are revealed we finally have the opportunity to transform and become healthy once more. We CAN have fulfilling lives of connection and love! We can heal the grief of the past and move towards a bright future of love, peace, and purpose.

By Salvatore Gencarelle

Salvatore has been through an intensive mentoring period with a Native American healer that required both dedication and sacrifice for 17 years as a ceremonial guide, creator, singer, and mentor, under the direct supervision. It was through this process he earned the responsibility to pass these teachings on. Salvatore is also an artist, photographer, freelance writer, a musician, and a former Paramedic. He is a healer working with both Native American traditions and those of the modern world.

Sal is the author of a book on his experiences entitled A Man Among the Helpers and has worked with 8 Shields for the past five years bringing his skills, experience and expertise as a teacher and mentor in advanced connection practices through the Leadership Initiation Project.

Sal will be visiting the UK this Autumn and will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland. To find out more and to read details of our Transformative Learning training commencing in 2016, please click here.

The Sacred Pipe – The Legend of the ‘Canupa’

The Sacred Pipe is known as the Canupa in the Lakota language. The Canupa is an essential tool of connection. Of all the tools, it is the one which develops the deepest awareness. It creates an amplified connection with the intelligence that is commonly known as intuition. According to legend, the Canupa came to people a long ago in a time of great need. It was brought to the people to show how to live in right relation with the earth and all of creation.

The Lakota stories of how the Canupa came to the people hold important lessons and contain great wisdom, if one knows how to hear it. The following legend was told to me by Godfrey, my mentor. This story was passed to him from Horn Chipps, his grandfather. I now pass it on to you.

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Legend of the Canupa

The Canupa came to humans back in the days when “the grandchildren were few.”

People were new to the Earth and did not know how to survive in this new environment.  They were dying. People did not yet understand the concept of sacredness, but they knew there were powers in this world. So they “sent a voice out” –  a prayer – to anything that would listen and respond to their cries for help.

An elder in the group had a dream.

The people’s cries for help had been heard. Help was coming. In this dream, the elder was instructed to send a young man into the wilderness to greet the help that was on its way. The elder told his dream to the people, and everyone gathered to hold a council.  During the council, they chose the best young man in the camp to go to meet whatever was coming.

The young man was made ready and walked out into the wilderness. As he left, another young man snuck out of camp and came to walk beside the first. This sneaky one was bad and only sought to benefit from the situation. The good young man allowed the bad one to travel with him into the wilderness as he looked for something, not knowing what.

After some time, they climbed a hill, where they could see out across the land. There they saw an object moving toward them, so they waited for it to come closer. As the object approached, they saw it was a beautiful young woman carrying a red bundle. Now, when the bad man saw this woman, he said they should rape her, because no one was around or would ever find out. The good one told this sneaky man to not say such things and to put those thoughts out of his mind, for she was “approaching in a mysterious manner.”

Finally, the woman reached the men and set her bundle down upon dried buffalo dung.  She told the bad man, “What is in your thoughts? Come do it.”

The good young man watched his companion go to the woman. A mist formed and covered them both. From within the mist, a scream like a dying animal resounded. The mist cleared and the woman stood there, but all that was left of the bad man was his bones. When the good man saw this, he was afraid and began to run away.

The woman commanded him to stop. She instructed him to have the people build a tipi with the door facing east, and that she would arrive at his camp when it was complete.  She told him that she was bringing something for all the people.

The man returned to the camp and told all that had happened, and explained what the people were to do. Over the next days the tasks were completed, just as this woman had instructed. When the people were done, the woman appeared, coming from the east towards the tipi they built. As she walked, she stopped four times and raised the bundle she carried over her head. After the fourth pause, she entered.

The people would normally have offered her something to eat, but at this time there was nothing but water with sweet grass dipped in it. After she took the water, she held council and gave instructions to the people. She presented the Sacred Pipe to the people and explained how they were to use it to pray. She also provided instructions on how people were to live upon the Earth in balance and harmony.

Before she left, she gave this warning: “If you ever do away with the Canupa, then a nation will be no more.”

After she completed her instructions, she exited the tipi and walked to the North. As she walked, she paused, and then wallowed in the dust four times. Upon the fourth time, she stood as a woman, and before the eyes of the people she turned into a buffalo calf and ran off to the North.

Just after the White Buffalo Calf Woman left, a man stepped forward. No one in camp knew this man or had ever seen him before. He also presented a gift to the people: the first bow and arrows. He then showed the people how to fashion bows and make arrows themselves. He taught them how to hunt and kill more efficiently.

From that day forth, as long as humans followed the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s instructions, they flourished in harmony with the Earth.

The Sacred Pipe brought life, and the bow and arrows brought death.  This is the balance.

By Salvatore Gencarelle.

A Man Among the Helpers.

Salvatore will be visiting the UK this Autumn and will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland. To find out more and to read details of our Transformative Learning training commencing in 2016, please click here.

The Next Stage

With the more orthodox side of Circle of Life Rediscovery’s work being known to me, it was time to experience what makes this particular CIC all the more distinctive – the work led by Salvatore Gencarelle. Teaching the traditions of the Lakota people, one of the Transformative Learning courses that Sal leads allows the participation of the Rites of Passage or life-stage honouring; that is the ceremony of honouring the transition from one stage of our lives to another. And so, Marina allowed me the opportunity to see Sal at work.

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My initial view on the concept of life-stages was seen through an extraordinarily narrow scope, insofar as, to me, there could only be so many of importance: youth, adulthood and old age. How can such a complex culture with such deep-rooted ancestry contain such a simple notion? My naivety has become shame in hindsight. Despite this, there was some accuracy to my preceding anticipations and that was the stark reality of how we, in todays society, treat age, be it children or the elderly. The youngest generations are constantly met with hyper-sensitive restrictions, pre-teens suffer underestimation that borderlines on the patronising, ‘the youth’ of today are misrepresented and marginalised, the elderly are surplus to requirements; I mean come on adults, what are you(we) doing! While these are somewhat general, I think every one of us can admit to conforming to at least one of them, somewhere down the line.

The point remains that age is divisive in society and that cannot be good.

Premeditations in hand, I was ready to support Marina and co. for the weekend, while absorbing as much information along the way. My main role over the weekend was to help Mark and Jill entertain and educate the children, while parents continued on their rites of passage; though I was delighted to hear I had been given the chance to partake in the evenings sweat lodge. After arriving at the beautiful venue, to which we are all grateful to Penny and the family, and setting up the camp for the kids, there was time for a few brief introductions, at which point I had already begun to question my prior conceptions. Families and individuals, younger or older, the diverse nature of the group had become apparent and even the children, ranging from 5-12 years old, were all driven by varying curiosities. I was still unaware to the degree of importance that age held but at least had begun to see the complexities that even a difference of a year can make. I believe that can be owed to the children themselves, it is far easier to recognise the affects of age upon children, so the first afternoon was spent noticing the explicit differences. A younger child would be more engaged by interaction with surroundings, an older the interaction with other members of the group. The underlying message I took away is that humans don’t reach a point where they stop learning, stop pursuing curiosity, stop wanting to further relationships with one another; just because the differentiation of affecting factors attributed to age becomes more implicit, does not mean it should stop being valued and respected. Keeping that in mind was crucial to what followed.Community sacred fire

I was called back to the main camp due to the impending sweat lodge. My prior engagement with one was only as a spectator and even that brought out a certain compassion but it still didn’t serve as an accurate precursor. With the sacred fire well on the way to heating the grandfather stones, there was time for some heavy hydration and light nourishment, while queuing beside the relinquishing fire, I whispered in Feather’s ear for one last run-down of the procedures before foolishly remarking “I’ve prepared for the heat”. Sal stood and, after receiving a cleansing of cedar from Marina, entered the lodge while offering a blessing of gratitude to all relations, followed by all the women and the men – who followed his every action. As I sat, in a space with no more than that which my body filled, I listened closely to Sal’s words on suffering and the relation it holds to the purification process. We spend our entire lives trying to avoid suffering, many of the statements I made about age are obsessed with it and yet so actively produce it but here all twenty of us sat, willingly exposing ourselves to it.

I can easily imagine a great number of sceptics who would be adverse to the spirituality that Sal whole-heartedly embodies but firstly, there are a great number of fundamentals of appreciation and awareness of the natural world, to which we owe absolutely everything. Our self-important, technological age has spent so much time doing its best to destroy it that its become an issue of desperate importance. Secondly, interpretation is pivotal. Cultural learning is not about conforming, its about educating, its about realisation and its about how you shape your actions going forward. Be willing to listen.

preparing for community fire

The first stones began to fill the blanket-covered structure with a heat that surprised me. This was the first one of fourty. More and more piled in and already questions of whether I was even up to it haunted my peace of mind. Sweat was in full flow and my heart began to race. As the last rock filled the now shallow hole, the door closed and we were about to start. So I thought. Rays of light were picking through gaps in the blankets, something that was unacceptable and against protocol for Sal and the traditions of the ceremony. Is this really happening? I asked myself more times than necessary. Thankfully, a member who was the doorkeeper helpfully solved the issue, much to my pleasing. Now we could really start. Sal began to pour water on to the luminescent relics, each pour blessed with thanks (a reoccurring theme for all actions) and a song followed, supported by the circle around him and as the drum kicked in, so did my heartbeat. All the philosophical questions I had been pondering were lost. Instead sheer panic resided. I fought to contain my breathing and try to refocus on all the days messages of gratitude, awareness and respect. I had heard from many people knowledgable on this ceremony that facing the dirt was the best way to get a cool breath but fought that inclination with all the testosterone I could muster. Focusing solely on the song that filled the lodge, the surreal nature of the experience really took ahold and allowed my panic to settle, somewhat. I’ll make no allusions to feeling physically comfortable though, at any point. As the first bucket of water was emptied, the door was briefly opened and that was a magical moment. Air reminiscent of the seemingly ancient outside world was a treat and a reminder of just how affective the procedure is for appreciating the things we constantly take for granted. As ladles of water were passed around, one for each person, the liquid seemed to disappear through my system indescribably fast but at least I knew my sweat supply was not empty… Yet.

the inipi

The second bucket came in and this was the most crucial for my own experience. This was the round of prayer, a term that was stigmatised by none other than myself due to my adversity to religion. Yet, during the lodge, I truly did pray and pray with such a degree of intent, I shocked myself to just how much emotion was surfacing through me, something I would have otherwise felt embarrassed of. I thought not only of the hardships people dear to me were suffering, the debts I owed to those who make my life just as enjoyable as it is but also to the people around me, who a few hours ago were strangers. Yet I felt part of this group. We all suffer and we all have hardships but when others are facing trials that are mountains compared to your molehill, you begin to appreciate your own suffering and hope that they can conquer theirs. This was the pivotal moment in there, I had realised Sal’s words and seen them manifest within my own emotions – something that if you struggle to believe, I can only suggest trying it for yourself.

Having now conquered the physical aspect, well I say conquered; my head was now buried in the dirt. My problems were put into perspective and it was time to hone in on the reason why I was there. This ritual, though led by a man who was mentored for over 15 years within this Native American lineage, is a global ceremony of indigenous people, it is not indoctrinate to one culture and instead spreads universal truths, the reason I think it was far more hard hitting than one may consider religious ceremonies. There is objectivity in relation to the natural world, it is our lives on it that are subjective. The final two buckets were each poured in the same manner as their predecessors and I began to think about my life-stage, being a student who’s approaching his final year at university but through a newly found positive scope. I have been battling issues of identity and purpose, issues that had become quite an obstruction to everything I was doing and while I’m not stating that these were overcome and I “found myself”, I am merely trying to show how these issues had become positive. They seem like exciting trials to challenge myself with.

I became focused on all the people that are dear to me to whom I am so thankful for. Something that may appear to an outsider as cliche but I was as pessimistic as they come and yet here I sat. As I writhed in the mud, not even a cough spraying dirt all over my face could damage my content; which may seem very contradictory but that’s exactly how I interpreted the sweat lodge, the extreme discomfort enables a mental calming and recognition. The final songs finished and Sal gave his last blessings before, leading the group out of the lodge one by one. When my face was fully immersed in the outside world, the rush that followed is incomparable to any experience I’ve had. After initially lying down and gazing at the sky, not far from the lodge, I came to my feet and made for a nearby patch of long grass, all I wanted was to be fully engulfed by the surroundings and connect.

our group

It took some time to truly soak up all that happened inside that inipi and the purpose behind this particular one. Whether you were young or old, we each had a new stage of our lives to face. Some had children to raise, others had careers to define and there were those who had seen their children grow to become adults themselves, with their time to appreciate that on the horizon. The complexities that every year of life adds to us as an individual cannot be overstated, when you truly think about the impact that even the most minute moment can have, it seems cruel to rigidly categorise age as we do. That is why I have found Sal’s work on Rites of Passage so inspiring, it allows the seemingly unbreakable boundaries we ourselves apply to age to be broken down into far less frightening entities. We can reflect on what we leave behind with fondness but also making sure that it is left behind, while we focus on nothing but moving forward, staying thankful for all that we have.

It was an absolute pleasure to take another step to manhood with the help of Sal and the Circle of Life Rediscovery team, I will forever be indebted to them for installing peace of mind as I approach the most tumultuous period of my life.

Bradley, the intern.

 

Beyond The Walls: My First Camp

Having joined the Circle of Life team on an internship, Marina and I agreed that the best way to truly understand the work that I would be promoting would be to submerse myself in it. With the first camp of summer fast approaching, it was decided that my latest camping experience since Cubs would be located in, hopefully-not ironically named, Battle. Memories of unassailable tents and chillingly awkward wash basins preoccupied my thoughts. Upon meeting the team, all apprehension was somewhat dispersed and instead I was feeling remarkably content – despite still being plighted by my tent pitching skills. A whistle-stop tour of the camp ensued, while also dabbing my hand at some fire-making, before an overview of the timetable; one of the few but precise staff meetings that enabled such a fluid running of the camp. And so, I was left to tend to the fire while the greeting party was sent to the coach, periodically poking the burning branches, I sat as the previous apprehension rose back up, before the voices of twenty young men began billowing through the woods. So it begins.

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After the melee of tent-picking and bag-dropping, we were able to gather round the fire for some introductions, with the members of staff up first my response (mostly made up of assurances that anyone new to this was not alone) was delayed having momentarily forgotten that I was said staff and not a participant. Introductions over and responsibility resumed, the team fanned out into a clearing to get in to some team games. While cliques were evidently in place, you could already begin to see communication and teamwork developing among boys who otherwise wouldn’t, in a classroom environment. It’s here that the first theme of the John Muir award could really be seen: Discover. You can expect a trip like this to evoke the discovery of new surroundings and characteristics you were otherwise unaware but of relationships, and the willingness to develop them, among already familiar acquaintances was a surprise for me. As the afternoon moved to evening, the boys were required to help out with building a sweat lodge, dormice houses and safe fires; split among the newly discovered ‘clans’. The aforementioned teamwork was now being applied to a productive medium, facilitating the safe and efficient use of otherwise dangerous tools. A quintessential motive considering the backdrop. With the days duties over, attention turned to dinner and then some more games but this time incorporating camouflage, requiring an awareness of the surroundings; something that was the theme of my bed-time ponder – that and why it is that all tents seem to smell the same. It is the awareness of the natural world that can beset the most divine appreciation of it, when you appreciate the world around you, you can be nothing but content; even when you have forgotten your pillow.20150606_110949

Feathers and Marina performed the wake up call, Tunkashila is a song of awareness, consideration and gratefulness. This surreal commencement of the second day set the tone for what was surely going to be a tough one for the boys, with just how much activity was planned but the message was to stay aware and stay focused. The continued timetable of physical exercise woven with educational crafting was the order of the day once the morning duties were completed. It’s this balance of leisure and education that allows Circle of Life’s work to be so unique. You can’t just jump up in class and launch a frisbee around when you’re not feeling engaged. By the early evening, we had a finished sweat lodge, eight Dormice houses, hand-made atlatls, foraged, prepared and cooked nettle pakoras and a lesson on safe fire extinguishing for good measure; all by early evening. By the stage of preparing the fire for the sweat lodge, attitudes had become spiky and requests began to be ignored, so a short break and a staff check-in allowed a momentary rest bite enabling the camp to remind ourselves of todays message of gratefulness. Queue the sweat lodge. All pessimism was left outside of the lodge, the boys were left with only their minds to explore, allowing compassion to blunt the edges of the spikes that had feebly threatened to spoil the days energy. Instead, the groups appreciation of the lives they lead was complimented with well-wishing for those not as lucky and, through self-exploration, the group were able to incorporate the days message into their approach for the rest of their time at camp; and hopefully daily life. Again, exploring the natural world can be expected but to explore ones self to such a degree can be a profound lesson.

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After a night spent round the fire as one group, typifying the events that preceded it, Sunday’s duties were resumed and then it was all about enjoying the moments we had left in light of our experiences so far. Once the tents were taken down and the bags packed, the group set about putting up the Dormice houses, excited at the prospect of aiding in conservation, it served as a fitting precursor for the eventual wind down and farewells, each group able to make their contribution, symbolising their time at the camp; before my favourite event of the weekend. The sit spot. Taking a moment out and finding a secluded spot to reflect on all that had happened, all the growth I had witnessed and all the contemplation I myself had endured, I was able to truly quantify the magnitude of natures power. Its ability to transfuse the peacefulness and tranquility into a scope for rationalising thought is a truly wonderful gift, a realisation that I will never forget. As the group rejoined, we headed to the yurt for the final exchanges, each member bringing a gift to give to another, on top of what the camp had already gifted us. Having discovered, explored, conserved and shared, it was time to wish the boys well and say our final goodbyes, ending what was yet another successful camp for the ever-deserving Circle of Life team as the boys were adamant the learnt lessons would be influential in their daily lives.

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With the most important part concluded, it was time to contemplate what I had learnt; that being just what an inspiring gift the natural world can be. It is a strange feeling finding something that had never actually been lost.

Visit our gallery for a closer inspection of the weekend’s events: https://www.circleofliferediscovery.com/index.php?page=tiffins-camp-2015

Or our YouTube channel for some responses to the time we shared: http:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_mdfm9Yp6Y

Bradley, the intern.

 

 

Elders as Culture Keepers

My parents tipi in at the Chipps' countrySafeguarding the Continuation of Life

By Salvatore Gencarelle

How did we become so far removed from the natural state of honouring and respecting elders? How has our modern society become so removed from this natural and innate way of being?

Find out more by clicking on the link to download the full article.

Sal’s next training in the UK is Life Stage Honouring: A practical application of Rites of Passage. 

Read now.