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Planning your own Ceremony

Copied from TheTrail to the Sacred Mountain by Steven Foster and Meredith Little

During the threshold time of solitude and fasting, you will perform your own ceremony, use your own symbols, pray your own prayers, sing you own songs. You are under no constraint to be anyone else than who you are. Plan to utilize ceremonies that are relevant to your own life situation and the questions of your existence. Without the value system of the participant, the vision fast is merely an empty form. You will flesh the ancient skeleton with the stuff of your own life passage. Though other: can be of help to you as you plan your own ceremonies, the actual creation and performance of them will be up to you — and your sacred ancestors.

Here on this mountain I am not alone. For all the lives I used to be are with me. All the lives tell me now I have come home.

- Nancy Wood, "Ute Song"

The study of your own ceremonial process begins with the following questions. Your answers to these questions will help you to understand your own unique orientation to the creation and use of ceremony. If you consider yourself to be a non-ceremonial person, read on anyway. It may be you will discover that you have unknowingly performed a lot of ceremonies during your lifetime. Remember, it is important to formally mark only what you are ready to mark. Don't force a ceremony that you are no prepared to enact the results of.

1.  The first question you must ask yourself is: What am I marking (formalizing, celebrating,


2.  When you are clear what you want to mark, then you must ask yourself: Where would my

ceremony fit within the three stages of the rite of passage?

   a. Do I want to mark a severance (separation, termination, parting, letting go, conclusion)?

   b. Do I want to mark a threshold (transition, change, adjustment, shift in role, status, or task, period of extended depression, transformation, renewal)?

   c. Do I want to mark an incorporation (return, joining, union, reestablishment of harmony, new responsibilities, new beginnings)?

3.  When you are clear which stage of a rite of passage your ceremony falls under, then you must

ask yourself: What symbolic actions would best express my intentions to mark this severance, threshold, or incorporation ceremony?

Examples: burying, burning, smashing, changing name, bathing, crossing thresholds, masks, vows, cutting flesh or hair, heaping stones, aligning stones, chanting, use of sacred pipe, rattling, singing, being silent, changing clothes, use of candles or fire, nakedness, dancing, exchanging gifts, self-purification, tying or untying knots, smudging, sprinkling, playing an instrument, praying, etc.

4.  When you have an idea of what actions would best express your intent, you must ask yourself

the questions: "What symbols human or natural do I want to use as part of the ceremony? As you will be traveling light, you cannot take along everything that is meaningful to you. What symbols would you want to have with you on the day of your death? These symbols will lend power and meaning to your ceremony.

5.  As you become familiar with the components, symbols and actions of your ceremony, you must

also ask yourself if you intend to speak to anyone or anything. If so, what do you want to say, and to whom?

6.  Knowing what you want to say, you must arrange the events of your ceremony in order,

making certain that the ceremony has an ending, middle, and beginning, as all things do.

7.  When you have planned your ceremony, you must then decide whether or not you want to

have witnesses ("in spirit" or in flesh). In the vision fast rite of passage, only the threshold phase excludes the physical presence of other humans.

8.  Finally, your ceremony must be located in natural space and time. Ask yourself where you want to do this ceremony and when.