2014 has alread been a year full of reminders of the sacredness of water. Just 10 days into the new year, hundreds of thousands of residents of West Virginia learned that they could not drink or even shower in the waters coming out of their tap because of a Chemical spill in the Elk river. Freedom Industries, a company that manufactures and stores chemicals used in the coal industry is responsible for the spill. One of their tanks ruptured and dumped thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals into the Elk river poisoning the land and the waterways for miles surrounding their tanks.
West Virginia residents have been hit hard by this spill. They have been lining up collect drinking water that has been brought in by the National Guard in the wake of this disaster. The effects that this spill has had on the land, the non-human beings of the land, are not yet known but undoubtedly there will be long lasting effects on all life around the Elk River. You can donate to efforts to support West Virginia residents hit hard by this spill here.
On the other side of the land that is known by many as Turtle Island or the United States, the state of California is experiencing one of the worst droughts in recorded history. There has been a weather pattern present in the state since December 2012 that weather experts are calling “the ridge” that has prevented any substantial rainfall over the last year. This year’s rainy season is being hailed as the driest in recorded history and just this past Friday California Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought asking cities and counties to voluntarily reduce water consumption.
This weekend I went down to Indian Canyon, some of the only federally recognized “Indian Country” along the Northern Central California Coast. I had the honor of attending the first Naraya: A Dance for All People’s Ceremony held at the canyon in July of 2013. It was hot and very dry at this time in July. There is a beautiful waterfall that runs through the canyon that has supported the water needs of the First Nations people connected with this land for generations. During July, the waterfall was a small trickle. Much of the ceremony was connected with prayers for the land and prayers for the return of the waters.
This past weekend, I had the honor of returning to Indian Canyon to support the rebuilding of their traditional sweat lodge. There land was dry and each step kicked up dust. The bed where the waterfall is usually flowing this time of year is bone dry. After a long day of work, as the sun was descending over the horizon, we lit a small ceremonial fire and shared in a small ceremony to pray for the healing of the waters and the return of the rains.
As I sat in ceremony, I began to breath with my heart as I listened to the prayers of my brothers and sisters. Between the words of the human beings in the ceremony were the prayers of the non-human beings on the land. The ancestors also whispered their prayers into the circle. I sat listening and in the flames of the sacred fire, I saw a water ceremony. I saw people gathering in small and sometimes large groups. One glass that was filled with water was lifted up to the heavens in thanks for the waters. Then the water was passed around the circle and each person offered a prayer for the waters with words, or sometimes a song, or at times just a breath. After each person in the circle had connected with this water blessing, the glass is passed around the circle and each person takes a sip of the water, calling this sacred water into their bodies. Once each person has drank of the waters, then a small portion is returned to the earth.
This simple ceremony is what I saw this weekend. I saw clearly that this is a ritual to be shared and shaped and shifted to whatever feels right for you and your beloveds. What is important is that we share the water that is life together and give thanks.
It is communion with the waters, communion through the waters, that will sustain us through this drought.
It is communion with the waters, communion through the waters that will sustain the land through this drought.
It is communion with the waters, communion through the waters that will allow us to remember the sacredness of water.
It is this communion with the waters, communion through the waters, that will call the rains back to the land.
And so I share this vision with you.
A Liturgy for reconnection with the waters
This communion can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like it to be. This liturgy is intentionally kept simple so as to increase accessibility.
For this ritual you will need:
1 Cup or Vessle for Water and Potable (safe for drinking) Water
Optional: A potted plant or bowl of Earth and Non-Potable waters collected from a sacred site, holy well, or polluted river and candles, an Altar, or other Ritual Items from your tradition
- Begin by gathering in a circle and taking some breaths in silence together. You could add opening words, a poem, and/or a song here if you want to create a more elaborate ritual.
- Pour the potable water into the cup. One person will lift up the water towards the sky or ceiling. Imagine the rains falling down onto the earth as you do this.
- Offer a prayer or blessing into the water. This person will then lower the glass and speak their prayer or blessing into the water in the cup. This can be offered with words, song, or in silence. Connect with gratitude for the waters of the earth and the waters inside your body as you do this.
- Pass the Cup to the person to your left. The next person will lift the water to the sky and then offer a prayer or blessing into the water as described in the previous steps. Pass the cup around the circle until all participants have offered a blessing.
- Drink or Anoint with the Water. Each person should take a small sip of the water or anoint their body with a drop of water. As you drink or anoint your body with the water, I invite you to feel your human connection with water through the water that is inside your body and your human dependence upon water for survival.
- Offer the water to the Earth. Take the remainder of the water and pour it onto the earth. You might have a potted plant or a small bowl of dirt that is inside the circle with you that you pour the remaining water into symbolically representing a return of the waters to the earth. You may want to perform the ritual outside where you can directly pour the remaining water onto the earth. Or you may want to as a group walk outside together, gather again in a circle and pour the water on the earth together. Here would be another good place to add closing words, a song, or a prayer or blessing from your tradition. If you have non-potable water that you would like to add to the ceremony, you can add this water to the glass before you return the waters to the earth.
I invite you to consider changing this ritual adding elements that may make it feel more resonate for people in your circle. Perhaps adding prayers or songs from your religious or cultural tradition would make it feel more powerful for people in your circle. Perhaps passing around the cup and only a silent breath of gratitude would make this ritual feel accessible for your community. The ritual actions can all be completed by one person or they can be shared by many. Please don’t be afraid to modify and share this ritual widely. Please Share your Visions, Experiences, and Prayers in the comments below!
Blessed Be the Rains
Blessed Be the Oceans
Blessed Be the Waters.