If you are ever buying anything from Amazon.com, please visit my blog’s home page and click on the Bhagavad Gita in the sidebar and then go ahead with your purchase. I get a small commission if you do so. This book is about an adventure I shared.
During the interfaith period of New Vrindaban in the early 1990s when we had been cast into the outer darkness by ISKCON, I met Charles Chipps and was invited to Pine Ridge Reservation to support a Sun Dance. A Sun Dance is a 9 day ceremony. 4 days of preparation, Tree Day, then 4 days of highly ritualized dancing.
The dancers take a vow and prepare for a year before the dance (no intoxication for the year being one requirement) and fast for the 4 days of the dance. While dancing they blow in time with the beat through whistles made from the flight bones of eagles and it is an otherworldly sound. Take this heavy austerity, add in hypnotic drumming and the ancient mantras chanted by the singers for 6-8 hours a day and it makes for a very intense atmosphere.
Bhakta Rasa and I went to check it out, We arrived a few days early to help get things set up. We were told that Wallace Black Elk was going to show up with a lot of supporters but that never manifest.
Thus I got drafted to help as assistant Fire Keeper for the sweat lodges. We did at least one every day up until the dance and then did 3 a day for the Sun Dancers during the 4 days of the Dance. Which was cool because I got to be right in the heart of all the action. The dancers observe a vow of no prajalpa, silence, during the 4 days of dancing and could only be communicated to or from the supporters through the firekeepers. Plus the Sun Dance Father and the Sun Dance Leader looked to us for any assistance in any matters as necessary. So I got an insider’s view.
The drumming still echoes in my memory and the smell of smudging sage evokes deep and complex memories.
To get another more detailed perspective on this Sun Dance, read the book.