We gather to pray in a traditional Lakota Yuwipi ceremony with a medicine man from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This small gathering of family and friends is held so that people can come together to pray in the powerful and healing space created by the songs, words and prayers of a traditional Lakota ceremony. In the medicine man’s words:
“The purpose of these ceremonies is to uphold the Lakota values of forgiveness, generosity, wisdom and bravery, not just for the Lakota, but for all people.”
Please arrive by 6:30 pm in order to have some time to get acquainted with the other participants and settled in the space. Please be advised that Warfield follows the timing of the sacred ceremony, not clock time, and all times given are approximate. Once Warfield is ready, he will speak about the ceremony ahead and share some teachings on healing and prayer.
The ceremony itself will most likely run up to 3-4 hours, depending on the number of attendees. It takes place in a completely darkened room. Please be very conscious of the altar area and border of prayer ties in the center of the room, and be careful not to bump into it or step over it. There will be some time while Shilo, who helps with the ceremonies, will be preparing the altar and the room. This is a good time to focus on your prayers, and come to an idea of what you would like to share during your time to pray out loud during the ceremony. (Everyone will be asked to take a turn dong this as we go around the circle. Please continue to pray if drumming starts and let the person to your left know when you are done and it is their turn to pray) This pre-ceremony time is a quiet time of inward, prayerful focus and respect as the ceremony is undertaken.
You may bring a non-reflective water bottle with you, but otherwise do not bring any food or beverages into the ceremony. Please bring cushions and/or blankets to make yourself comfortable. ( I will have a chair or 2 for those who for health reasons absolutely can’t sit on the floor.) Once we begin, the ceremony room will be closed, and will remain closed for the entire duration of the ceremony (3-4 hours). No one will enter or leave the room during this time. (There will be no bathroom breaks.) This is essential to the continuity of the ceremony.
Preparing for the Ceremony
Each participant should bring 32 red and 32 yellow prayer ties, which should all be attached together on one string…tie all of one color first then tie the other color on the same string. (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwT4YZdmUXw&t=29s)
Please try to buy your material and make your ties BEFORE you arrive for ceremony. If you absolutely cannot, then come at least 2 hours early (4:30 pm ) and someone should be here to help you. Your prayer ties will be collected and included in the ceremony as an offering, and it is important that you bring the specified number.
Commitment, intention and preparation are very important in a sacred ceremony. Your commitment is important for practical and spiritual reasons. On a spiritual level, the moment you decide to attend this ceremony, the ceremony begins for you as the prayers and spirits begin to align. We ask that you please honor your commitment to participate by preparing carefully and prayerfully, with intention.
This preparation can very much affect your receptivity to the energies of the ceremony once it actually begins. We recommend taking the days leading up to the ceremony, and especially the day of the ceremony, to practice mindfulness and keep yourself as centered as possible, whether this means taking some time off work or just spending more time outdoors or centering in a quiet space. Even if you find yourself at work or in the hectic spaces we all often find ourselves in, you can slow it down a bit on the inside and be aware of your breath, your movement and energy, and especially the focus of your prayers.
In a sense we are all co-creators of the ceremony through the energy, intention, and prayer that we bring to it. Your level of participation is up to you. While it is OK to come to this ceremony out of curiosity and a desire to observe a Yuwipi, it is quite another thing to come as a participant, bringing an open, prayerful heart rather than a passive, spectator’s mind.
· Please leave your cell phone locked in your car or outside the room.
· Please do not wear clothing that has outside zippers or anything sparkly or shiny. No shiny water bottles (glass or aluminum), food, liquid, cameras, electronics, etc. It is good to wear comfortable loose clothing.Please remember not to wear jewelry or bring into the room ANY item that is metallic or reflective in nature
· If you wear eyeglasses you will be asked to remove them once the ceremony starts.
· Dress is comfortable/casual but not too casual: for men, long pants and for women a dress or a long skirt. You can wear yoga pants or tights under your skirt for warmth and so you can cross your legs comfortably sitting on the floor. Women can also wrap a shawl around their waist over long pants if this is more comfortable for you.
· Women who are on their moon cycle (menses) are requested not to participate in the ceremony.
· All who attend must be free of alcohol and any other substances for at least 24 hours before the ceremony.
· After the ceremony there will be a potluck. Please bring a “finger food” or something in a crock pot for about 6 – 8 people. Please keep it simple! Food should be ready to eat after the several hour ceremony with no further prep or cooking needed.
One thing I learned in medical school is that, even though medicine is a science, it is also an art. So no 2 doctors (medicine people) think alike. Each has their own “rules” and ways of doing things. This is also true for those medicine people who do ceremonies. And even with the same “medicine person”, the same ceremony may actually be quite different in some way from other similar ceremonies they did in the past. This is the “art” of ceremony. As we all know, the Spirit World inspires many types of artists. They often give direction to the ceremony at hand. So there is no “Dogma” in any of this. But we asked you to check here for some things you should know if you attend one of Vinny’s ceremonies. With that in mind, I’ll give a short “bio” and then some nuances you should be aware of when attending his ceremonies. Since they are done in Lakota, of course, this widespread protocol remains true: No women on ‘moon time’ should be present during, nor prepare any food before, these ceremonies.
Here is a short “bio” for Vinny:
Vinny Narr grew up in Sicily and Germany and moved to America as a young adult. As a teenager in Sicily, he was aware of the spirit of a buffalo with a human face that followed him around. When he described this to some Native Americans who were visiting an Army base in Germany, they suggested he learn about Native American medicine ways on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. There, he participated in sun-dances and learned about Lakota (Sioux) ceremonies from several medicine people and elders. In doing so, he became very familiar with many Lakota (Sioux) ceremonial songs and also learned how to speak Lakota. The buffalo spirit he saw as a youth still works with him, and is joined by other spirits in his ceremonies as well. He has been over-seeing vision quests, yuwipi and lowanpi ceremonies, and a sun dance in Germany for over 15 years.
When making prayer ties or cooking food for Vinny’s ceremonies, he requests you do so with no pets in the house if you are in the house. Put food in the car where they are not, or make or put the ties there, or at least put ties in a plastic bag with sage after making.
Making Prayer Ties:
Here is a link to the first of 3 YouTube videos I made on this.
Vision Quests, Lowáŋpi Ceremonies and Money:
…How do I write about these ceremonies in a way that won’t offend and yet will educate? As with all native ceremonies (yes, even the expensive lodge building workshop in Lily Dale) there is no charge for the ceremonies themselves. But the leaders of these can’t live and survive on “tobacco offerings” alone. They have spent countless hours and years learning to help others by using what the Spirits have taught them. In addition to the transportation, food, and lodging expenses of their stay, they also have to go back to feed families and pay the mortgage! In the “old days” traditional natives understood these needs and the “medicine men and women” were well taken care of. They, in turn, took care of others. These days, folks (even some natives) don’t seem to do that anymore.
I have already paid the roundtrip airfare for Vinny’s July visit. I hope that I can get enough in donations to pay myself back and still offer Vinny a decent amount for his time and effort to come out here for us. The last time Vinny was here, in February, the donations to him were not very generous. I felt that I could not take out of those donations the $760.00 I had spent on airfare to bring him here. So I gave that to him instead of keeping that part of the donations given for the ceremony to reimburse me. But I am now retired and cannot afford to subsidize ceremonies out of my own pocket anymore.
Without a decent honorarium, there is no incentive for folks like Vinny or Warfield to leave their homes and families and spend the time and effort to travel here to help. Without a decent offering, I also end up paying for hosting them and arranging all the details. So there is no incentive for me to keep doing this either. The same is true for Warren and Mychael and other mediums I bring here for seances. But because they are not doing native ceremonies, I can get away with asking a fixed fee for folks to participate with them.
So here is a suggestion: I ask $100 to attend a seance with Warren Caylor or Mychael Shane. So I will ask that I get $100 to attend one of Vinny’s ceremonies too. Yet I realize that if there is a grave need for someone to attend, I would hate to turn them away because they could not afford $100. So if this is you, feel free to call me to discuss a “sliding scale”. Also, know that the Spirits understand “energy exchange” which means where there is a great effort, there are great results.
The same “energy exchange” idea also has merit to consider when attending a sweat lodge. There you pray for an hour or two. If you went to a church for a Sunday service for an hour or two, what would you put in the collection basket? Even lodges on the Cattaraugus Reservation ask you to consider giving something towards the heat and upkeep of the area.
OK. I hope I have made my point.