Grief-work is a community ritual held quite often by indigenous societies. Living close to the land, close to visceral suffering, and close to death of all kinds, these societies have maintained their ability to flow into and out of deeper, darker emotional states by remaining literate in the language of grief.
In our death-phobic, image-obsessed, excuse for “culture,” all of these universal human experiences are excised, anesthetized, and pathologized. No wonder we are slowly going crazy!
Grief-work invites us all to reconnect as a Community. Connect through our shared human heritage of suffering. Connect within the witness of others’ visceral process. Connect beyond the shame that isolates us one from another. Connect as we reclaim our power of Deep Feeling.
The process of grief-work involves creating a personal Spirit Stick offering to the Ancestors. Made of natural material, either prepared before hand or found on site, focus on what you wish to release, give thanks to the Ancestors for their presence, and blow your intention into the Spirit Stick.
Once the Fire has been lit and Sacred Space has been consecrated, make your way to the Shrine to the Otherworld and offer your Spirit Stick to the Ancestors.
After everyone has made their offering, drumming will commence. You are invited to sway, tap your foot or make any authentic movement you are called to express. You may also shake your rattle if you have brought one. Then the Song will be found. This is not a typical song with words and rhymes, but a vocal, nonverbal mantra for the ritual. It can be very simple, just a string of vowels in a certain modulation of tone or pitch for example. The point is that it unlocks the gate of the vocal cords, preparing them to carry our grief to the Ancestors.
When you feel that the grief has welled inside you to the point that it must find expression, make your way toward the Shrine to the Otherworld. Then…? Let. It. Out. However that looks, however that feels, Go There! You are safe, you are held in Community, you are held by the Ancestors!
Once that iteration of the process has completed itself, make your way back to the fire, back to the Community, and hold space for others to enter and traverse their process.
This ritual will go on as long as it needs to, until everyone has purged the layers of grief that have presented themselves for expression. Typically this will last two to three hours. As the energy shifts, and we begin to exit this Thin Place, Sacred Space will be closed and the Fire will be allowed to burn down to embers.
I understand that there is a lot of etiquette here. Rest assured, we will go over everything in person before the Ritual begins!