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Blessing the Arena

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  • Blessing the Arena

    Here is another thing I think gets corrupted here in the Southeast.

    Do all Pow Wows bless the arena? If so how do you do it?

    At our Pow Wow last year the head man blessed by simply having a prayer. We then had vendors complain because they didn't see any tobacco or sage being spread and burned?

  • #2
    I was taught that it is the arena directors responsibility to bless the arena. If he cannot do it becuase he doesnt know how then he has to find someone that does.
    Whenever I AD, I make sure that the circle is blessed, everytime, without fail.
    Oh and when it is done, it is without fanfare, spectators or look at me "ceremonial" antics. I do the blessing in the early morning when everyone is still sleeping and the sun is just coming up. That is the way I was taught, and the prayers are done in our language.
    This also brings up another cliche of "native" spirituality. Everyone is using sage now. Imsure there are other nations that use something other than sage to bless things with. I know the Navajo use corn pollen, we use Cedar. But that is getting off this subject.
    If you have ever been to a powwow where the circle has not been blessed there are always disastrous results. This is from my observations.
    As far as how to do it. There are some general "guidelines", but I dont think that it is something to be taught online and it can be easily learned from someone in a matter of an hour or two. Like I said, it does not take long and its not a big production but I truly belive blessing the circle is necessary.
    A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

    I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


    • #3
      I've seen or know the arena's/circles were blessed at many dances in Wisconsin and Illinois. It was typically done before people got there and with little fan fare.


      • #4
        I agree that the blessing should be done with little/no fanfare, spirituality is an individual thing and should not be spouted about.

        When I am Arena Director, I ask an elder or distinguished Veteran to do the blessing of the arena (I feel it is not my place since I'm fairly young). When they do it, they do it according to their own tribal custom. There is no one "right" way to do it, but I am sure people hack up interpretation and the crystal-rubbers try to have their say from time to time.

        Related item-- It's funny how some people complain about little kids playing in the arena because "it's been blessed." Geez people! The little ones are gifts from God (Wakan heja)- I can think of no better or safer place for them to be! (Bigger kids are a different story . . .)

        It's been discussed in other places on the board how some people/powwows get wackier the further east ya go. I'd like to see how these easterners would react if they went to SD and witnessed the occasional dog jog across the arena!
        Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.


        • #5
          I've seen every thing under the sun done to bless the arena. It seems to me that the best way is for one person to do it in the morning before everyone else gets up. No fanfare, no big ceremony, simple and to the point. However, over this way people like the big ceremonies and fanfare; makes them feel more Indian I guess. Jriverwind brings up a good point to in that all tribes don't use sage. Personally I have a problem with the arena being called sacred ground after this "blessing." Its still just a pow wow, not a sun dance. Scott


          • #6
            Not only do those dogs occassionaly jog across the arbor, At Brotherhood International a pair of dogs got very familiar with each other. This was as the thirty or so Wounded Knee Memorial Riders were trotting around the circle. I remember thinking about an eastern reply to this 'sacrilege'. Even the invocational prayer didn't affect the dogs interest in each other. I can also imagine the eastern response to the gifts the horses left in the arbor. They made for some very slippery mocs for the unwary.

            In my experience blessing the arbor has always been done so that the dancers aren't usually aware it has been done at all. At one dance I used to attend the Hochunk elder usually prepared the gounds the night before the dance and on at least one occassion a couple of days early. Unless you knew what to look for you would never have noticed the little tobbacco offerings tied in the trees around the camp.

            There is a dance out here now where the 'elder' does twenty minutes of pipe and crystal, with billows of smoke. I guess his heart is in the right place, but the old dances seemed to be much more together.


            • #7
              It seems that everyone is in agreement so far with the blessing issue. DCP said

              It's funny how some people complain about little kids playing in the arena because "it's been blessed." Geez people! The little ones are gifts from God (Wakan heja)- I can think of no better or safer place for them to be! (Bigger kids are a different story . . .)
              Again, these people down here do not have a clue. Ive seen people have a fit when a small child touches the drum, or runs across the circle. This goes back to the people down here making the powwows out to be this huge ceremonial event. They have no clue, I wish I could take them to Gathering or just a powwow out West in NDN country so the can see what its really like.
              The best thing to do is just not go to these powwows, but invariably you will always run into these types of things.
              Yes, when the arena is blessed it becomes blessed. Now lets start burying people there then it will become sacred. Then you will have the Chambers Farm crowd come and dance thereLOL
              Blessing the arena is a definite and if you dont know how then dont do it. Find someone who does.
              A Warrior without character is nothing more than a brute.

              I have lots of freinds, you just cant see them:)


              • #8
                Paul, in reference to the vendors. I think they were upset because they did'nt get any advertisement for the "spiritual" goods they sell for rediculous amounts of dough. The crowd loves the spiritual indian.

                The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.


                • #9
                  Here in BC one sees the common act of the arbor being smudges with sage or cedar. At home we use sweetgrass, usually early in the am. However the main and most important blessings happen early on the mornings of the pow-wow when pipes are smoked inside a tipi which houses the eagle staff and colors. The staff and colors are prayed over and songs are sung to invoke spiritual support.The colors are never posted in the arbor as one sees often in BC, they remain in the tipi.

                  A few days prior to the gathering beginning, a recognized medicine man is asked to pray at the pow-wow site. This is down after the blessing sweat for the colors.

                  I will not get into the ceremony at the site, but it is an old ceremony where medicines are layed down to perserve the sacredness of the site and the gathering so no outside influences will harm anyone.

                  At the conclusion of the pow-wow, the colors are hung in a private place with offerings leftas required.

                  This has been the way I have known since I was old enough to understand. As in our Sundance, the committee hold a sweat and feast every three months where they pray for fine weather and a good celebration. I can not remember the last time it rained at our pow-wow.



                  • #10
                    WOW! Everybody here is pretty much on the same page. Of course you must bless the Circle where your dancers will be dancing &/or your drum will be playing, but I do have a problem with one thing here. What exactly is an arena? Isn't that the thing where they have horse & pony, oops, i mean cow shows? Bless the Circle in which your people will be celebrating. I know some pow wows are held in places with arena in the title & I know that most pow wows have an arena director, but when you are doing a blessing, let's refer to it as the Circle. I feel more comfortable with that term. Here again, just my personal opinion. I know what they say about opinions. Just like something else that everybody has one of, you know!


                    • #11
                      Here we go again with the proper terminology. My suggestion to all those who want to discuss the use of words in blessing an arena/circle is to refer to the definition of both terms. You'll find that either/or will work and can be used interchangeably. Should we use one term throughout the dance and the other when blessing the "dance area"? Only the person who's blessing the "grounds" knows what term he's using, unless you're making a big public show of it. Oh and to let you know I've heard that a tribe in South Carolina is using the term wheel to refer to the dance arena.

                      [This message has been edited by HeyDad!! (edited May 26, 2000).]
                      Just my thoughts.


                      • #12
                        WOW! What is proper terminology? I think it is personal preference. Circle, Wheel, arena. Who cares what you call it as long as you are inside of it for the right reason? Personally, money/competition is not the right reason. All this about SC. Is this board based in SC, or what? SC must be very controversial for some reason or another. What's up with that, eh?


                        • #13
                          Devil's Advocate:
                          For the most part, the powwow scene here in SC sucks. There are however a few people who have a clue about what is going on. I can think of one dance here that is worth going to.


                          The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.
                          The expressed opinions above are not particularly the opinions of the author's friends, family, or employer.


                          • #14
                            Actually, there's a blessing of sorts before the arbor is even set up; feeding the pole. Obviously this isn't a Cherokee or Lenapi thing. When there's a flag pole in the center, the whole the pole is set in is sometines "fed" by placing specific foods in the hole.

                            Otherwise, I think the topic is fairly well covered. oh, didnt see that tobacco is offered to the 4 "corners" to unite them in the circle.

                            (I use the term arena too.)

                            Peace, the bum


                            • #15
                              I must agree about blessing the circle. Personaly my husband always blessed the circle at sunrise. As for children playing in the circle I agree here also. They are protected there, so they are safe. Our children are our future and all small ones will play. I learned a new phrase this weekend (just goes to show you us old folks learn too) I heard an elder state that he prefers to call himself keeper of the circle instead of arena director. Some people use the blessing as a show thing for the non-natives. As for blessings are we not praying when we are in the circle? Just think of all the prayer power going on at that time.


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