A formal introduction to my work as a spiritual leader:
Aho Great Spirit! Grandmother! Grandfather! Heavenly One!
Giving thanks for this moment and for the opportunity to be here now.
Giving thanks for the Earth and the Soil
Giving thanks for the Air & the Four Winds
Giving thanks for the Water and Rain
Giving thanks for the Fire & the Sun
Giving thanks for all Beings,
Who are an embodiment of the Spirit of Life;
The Trees and Plants;
The Insect; the Fishes; the Birds;
The Four Legged Beings;
The Cloud Beings, Rain Beings,
Thunder Beings & Lightning Beings;
The Planetary Beings & Star Beings.
Thank you for the Grandmothers & Grandfathers through which all that is this life came to be!
Giving thanks Great Spirit for the lives of all those who read this…for all their Ancestors, their Families and all of their Generations to come…asking in this moment that you may bless each and every one of them.
Ometeotl Tklasokomati Mitakuye Oyasin!
For All of My Relations!
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I have been asked to present myself, and in this way give you a short introduction to my training and my work.
My name is Gregory William Seeger - Red Willow - Toltecayotl. I was born and raised in Yorkshire in the north of England. My mother's family originated in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland and my father's family originated in Germany & Scandinavia.
I have lived and worked with numerous First Nation Elders, and over the last 30 years i have fulfilled my initiatory commitments in both Vision Quest and Sundance. With the traditional blessing of my Elders, I have held a monthly Sweat Lodge in my local community for the last 12 years.
The first teacher who brought me to attention is a man called Aurelio Diaz Tekpankali. Aurelio is a medicine man of the Purepecha Nation from Michuacan, Mexico, and is the recognised Chief of Chief's of the Itzachilatlan Nation. The Fuego Sagrado de Itzachilatlan is a millenary tradition that originates with the Ancestors of the Toltec peoples of pre-Colombian Meso-America.
My Elder, Teacher and dear friend Migaze Kanucas Littlefish was a member of “the Otter-tail pillager Band, of the Turtle Clan of the Anishinaabeg Nation”. He always had a way with words, “Get ahold of your own attention, and then get out of your own way!” His humour tinged wisdom, was always seamlessly woven with his capacity to see and affirm the goodness in people, to such a degree that they couldn't help but feel good about themselves. “You're gonna get a blessing and you're gonna like it! So don't make me pray for you!”
I don't honestly know if I will ever be able to fully appreciate the enormity of Kanucas' influence on my life and work. Whilst alive, he was a holy man and minister of the Native American Church. I met him here in England 16 years ago, and soon after, he invited me to visit him and his family in the USA. We became the best of friends. He passed over in March, 10 years ago, though this was by no means the end of our relationship! In April 2017, I was ordained as a Road-man of the 'Fire Place of Man' Chapter of the Native American Church. Through this traditional, ceremonial blessing, I will now carry the altar that my Uncle himself carried, for the rest of my life.
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The Sweat Lodge -
A Traditional Purification Ceremony
The Sweat Lodge Ceremony is ancient, and is regarded as the first ceremony of humankind. In Meso-America it is referred to as “the ceremony of the memory of the first breath”. It was an integral part of the ceremonial trinity of spiritual practices of the mastodon hunters of the ancient world, along with the yuwipi ceremony and vision quest.
The sweat lodge has always been employed as a precursor to all other ceremonies as a recognised means to purify the body (actions), mind (thoughts), heart(feelings) and spirit(awareness) prior to presenting oneself in the medicine ceremony, the vision quest ceremony , the sun-dance ceremony, the yuwipi ceremony and spirit dance ceremony. These ancient ceremonial practices are neither a game nor a religion. They are quite simply an integral part of a way of life.
The Sweat lodge is and always has been, a complete and unified ceremony in it's own right. The purpose of which is that we humans may continue to live our lives in a good way; that we may humble ourselves to simply be grateful for our lives, and that we may find and implement ways to seek help to overcome the struggles, problems and illness (of mind, body, heart & spirit) that we may well experience in our lives.
Despite all of the inherent therapeutic benefits, it is good to understand that the sweat lodge isn't a 'group therapy space' where we talk about our problems – on the contrary, it is an opportunity to step inside ourselves and hopefully gain perspective on our lives; to firstly give thanks for all the blessings we have in our lives that are truly and simply good, wholesome, helpful and here.
Once we have expressed our gratitude in acknowledgement of all the blessings we have been given, we can then ask the elementals and invisible, benevolent spirits for help in the areas of our lives where we are experiencing real problems.
In this way the Sweat Lodge Ceremony presents an invitation and an opportunity to make a good relationship with the natural living elemental powers of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. In acknowledging these living beings as vital essences that are inextricably connected to our lives, we create opportunities to humbly ask these ancient spiritual beings to share their awesome power, and help us to deepen our awareness and thus become healthier, more wholesome and useful versions of ourselves; that the form our lives take may ultimately become of service to that which is bigger than ourselves!
The lodge structure, fire-place and altar are all created in an ancient and traditional, consciously prayerful way. Using sacred Tobacco as a medium of intention, clarity, focus and protection, all parts of the ceremony's infrastructure are 'glued' together as a unified whole. In so doing it is possible to assemble a beautifully fashioned conduit that will help court the Spirits to come and watch and hopefully wish to interact and help us humans.
Whilst the fire is being prepared by the fire-keeper and a couple of helpers, all of the other participants will be asked to help 'dress' the Altar and prepare the interior of the newly completed earth lodge. Once this is complete the lodge is regarded with the utmost reverence as an ancient, living Grandmother.
The Fire is built in a very specific and traditional way, creating a 'nest' for stones to be heated up. Then once the fire is kindled and lit it is helpful to be mindful of one's thoughts and actions in the presence of the Fire, which is again regarded with the utmost reverence as an ancient, living Grandfather. The ceremonial space will be laid out in alignment with the cardinal directions: the lodge structure will be in the East, with the door facing towards the fireplace in the West. The Fireplace is demarcated by a crescent moon altar that runs from the South, through the West to the North. At the mid-point of this alignment sits an earth altar. Once the fire is alight we endeavour to not cross the invisible line between the Lodge (Grandmother) and Fire (Grandfather). In this we find ourselves in the presence of a timelessly ancient reunion; a marriage of the Earth and the Sun.
A Brief Synopsis of The Sweat Lodge Ceremony:
4 doors/stations/rounds: 8 stones brought in at the beginning of each round
- then a short prayer- then 4 songs (**except 4th door):
1st door - presentation – east – fire – each introduce themselves - then 4 songs
2nd door - prayer – south – water – all pray out-loud and simultaneously - then 4 songs
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WATER PRAYER leading into the 3rd door - healing – west – earth – healing - then 4 songs
4th door - thanksgiving – north – air – **all sing a song each
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Having read this, and if you feel that you wish to participate in the ceremony then here's a list of what you will need to bring:
- Your Songs and Prayers
- An unopened pouch of chemical-free Tobacco wrapped in red cotton cloth as an offering.
-Suitable clothing for inside the lodge:
In this tradition men wear shorts and women wear a cotton dress or sarong and teeshirt.
Please no bikinis, swimming costumes or speedo style swimming trunks.
Warm clothing for before/afterwards
Food to share
A recommended minimum financial contribution/donation of £………..per person to help cover cost of rent and firewood (if you wish to contribute more then please feel free!)
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Any women who are having their Moon-time/Mensus, please inform a female member of the
facilitation team BEFORE we begin, and they will give you some red cloth, red thread and some
sacred tobacco and show you how to prepare prayer ties for yourself.
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I very much look forward to meeting you all and sharing this ancient ceremony. Until then I take this opportunity to wish you Open Roads and Warmest Welcomes!
Greg Willow Toltecayotl
Omiteotl Tklasokomati Mitakuye Oyasin!