The Prayer Vigil for the Earth

Washington, DC

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The 20th Anniversary of the Prayer Vigil for the Earth

After a very small and quiet Prayer Vigil for the Earth in 2011, it was wonderful to have a large Vigil again this year and see so many old friends and so many traditions gathered. Many participants commented that it was a very special Vigil and for many of us it was the final year, the 20th. Our fire keeper for many years, Bill Rolph, and Eleanor Kibrick drove down from Canada and Ben Perchik and Sue Conklin timed their return from New Zealand to support the Vigil. All are long standing members of the Prayer Vigil organizing committee.

On Friday for set up, we were joined by Jennifer Hudson and a crew from the One Heart, One Mind Center in Charles Town, West Virginia. The Center is a Native American interpretative center designed to teach Red Road concept to others of all traditions. They have their own Sun Dance, lodges, and drums. Their 3 tipis and poles and the crew were a wonderful help with all the other tipis - supporting our own logistics superstar Chris Llinas. They also came with a ceremonial drum and singers. 

The 2012 Prayer Vigil signalled the return of the energy of the Divine Feminine. Tracy Wilson humbly graced us by leading the opening pipe ceremony Saturday morning and later with a jingle dress dance in honor of her late husband Dave Wilson, who participated in many past Vigil’s. 

Rabiah AL Nur of Spring of Light spoke about the new cycle we have entered into as the time of the Divine Feminine. This is a time to bring balance as we honor and elevate this energy in all of us — a time for women and men to develop peace and humility and to end the harsh energy of war and domination.

The water blessing and healing was gifted by the Coalition of African Spiritual Traditions from Washington DC. Iya Mari, who brought greetings from Elder Mother Taylor of the African Houses, led the prayers so beautifully as she poured waters from around the world from places such as New Zealand, Canada, The Czech Republic, Guatemala and the shrine at Lourdes, France. Some of the other Priests sang, danced and offered healing and blessings as the participants moved through a healing tent. 

The Japanese Shumei Taiko Drums were led by a young woman from Shumei. We were blessed with two young boys around 6 years of age playing the Taiko drums, who amazed us all with their strength and ability to keep pace with the adult drummers. 

The Buddhist nun from Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC) temple, Ani Renchin, circled the peace village with folks praying and walking with incense sticks as the KPC youth drummers set the pace. 

Nina Gibson offered songs and prayers in Gallic from the Celtic Tradition, while bringing in Bridget's presence as she did so; Bridget is the Celtic goddess of fire, poetry, healing, childbirth, and unity. An altar for the Divine Feminine held space across from the Sacred fire and at the full moon a circle of drumming and singing by the women took place softly and powerfully. 

A big highlight for all of us at the Vigil was to host ten Ainu from Japan – they are the “People of the Bear” – the first people of Japan – with a much-reduced population living on two islands in Northern Japan. They performed their sacred ceremonies and traditional dances on Saturday and Sunday.  

Bill Rolph arranged a beautiful altar for Inuit stone carvings beside the sacred fire. The sculptures were lent by Janet Tamalik, who lived in Nunavut (in Northern Canada) for many years and was in relationship with many Inuit friends and especially a spiritual elder named Aupilaarjuk, who knew William Commanda, the Algonquin Chief who came often to the Vigil. The Ainu Elder at the Vigil this year was delighted to see the carvings and note the resemblance between himself and the photo of the Inuit Elder.  

Children were more present than ever at this year's Vigil. The Ainu people brought some of their own youth, and the Elders said they were very happy that the young people experienced and participated in their own traditions on the National Mall and to have them so well received.  John Oakgrove, an Ojibwa from Minnesota, came to sing traditional songs while three of his children danced in ribbon shirts and full dancing regalia. The impact was colorful and moving to see those young folks so involved and so good at the dances as their father and others sang at the drum. 

Saturday evening at Sunset our friends from Osmanlı Nakş-ı'bendi Hakkani Derga Sufi Center in upstate New York conducted a wonderful Sufi Zikr in memory of their beloved Sheykh Abdul Kerim al-Hakkani el-Kibrisi, a long time friend of the Prayer Vigil. During the ceremony, Ojibwe Clyde Bellicourt, MC for the Vigil, and Sharon Franquemont, co-founder of the Vigil, were honored by the Sufis. 

Later Rabbi David Shneyer shared songs around the fire and the full moon drumming brought a soft, calming and peaceful energy as Wapje and Maimuna (daughter and granddaughter of Mountain Eagle Woman, an elder of the Prayer Vigil) inspired the gathered women in singing and prayer. 

On Sunday morning, Howard Bad-Hand led the sunrise Pipe Ceremony and gave a beautiful talk. Later he conducted an adoption ceremony in which Lukman of the Sufis, Clyde Bellecourt and Sharon Franquemont adopted each other as brothers and sisters, wrapping their hands in a red ribbon. 

Estella Yeung brought choke cherries for the wiping of the tears ceremony as is traditional in feeding those who have passed on and those who gather to honor the memories. She was assisted by Claudia Mantila and Ayisah Yusuf, who placed the offerings by the pictures of those who have passed on. Clyde Bellecourt led the ceremony is his powerful way. 

Reverend Charles Gibbs with support from David Berry, co-founder of the Vigil, conducted a Christian Service on Sunday Morning. Reverend Gibbs took the participants deep into what the symbols of the communion represented and David, rather than a reading from the Bible, gave a brief reading of the nature around us at that moment. Later on Sunday we again enjoyed songs and programs with the children led by Mary Sunbeam, Cherokee, and chanting by Shumei and the Ainu. 

We concluded with a "joyful noise" of all of the drums together then channeled the energy in the commitment ceremony called "Taking a Stand, Taking a Step in Spirit" in which participants chose what they were committed to as they stepped back into their daily lives from the Vigil and raised their hands to show they supported each other in keeping those commitments. 

This year we did not have a full food service on the Mall so we invited people to bring food pot luck. Many thanks go to Rabiah al Nur for organizing the food and for arranging many donations in kind from food stores around Washington D.C. Many thanks also to Denise, Caleb, Claudia, Willie, Robert and all of Chris’s crew for preparing and ferrying food back and forth to the Vigil site. 

Throughout the Vigil our long time photographer Bill Sanda captured images of those special moments. The images of the 2012 Prayer Vigil for the Earth can be seen at 2012 Photographs. 

With deep gratitude, we thank you for your participation in the Prayer Vigil for the Earth over the course of the past 20 years. We are honored to have been of service to you, to our children and to the Earth. Be in Peace. 

The Prayer Vigil for the Earth