Thursday, June 8, 2017

Earth's Vision Quest

“Earth is on a vision quest,” one of my sisters wrote to me. I understood her to be referring to the current tumult playing out in nature, culture and government as well as to our interrelationship as human residents of our planet with each other and with the earth.

Photo by Steve Halama


A vision quest is a ceremony practiced by Native Americans. In the Lakota tradition it is referred to as hanblecheyapi (literally "crying for a vision") and is one of seven main rites. It is a quest for truth and purpose, for soul-searching and personal growth, for spiritual guidance. It is an experience of seeking a deeper understanding of Nature and Spirit. It does indeed seem as though our earth and everything that is a part of it is crying for vision.

Not a casual undertaking, a vision quest is prepared for by cleansing of body and mind through the inipi, or sweat lodge ceremony, and is accompanied by solitude in the wilderness, fasting from sleep and food, deep prayer and observation. It entails suffering. And then, hopefully, a vision.

Photo by Juskteez Vu

Black Elk, a holy man of the Oglala Lakota Sioux (1863-1950) described a part of the vision that he received during his hanblecheyapi: “Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”

Photo by Luis Perdigão


It is a gift that we have this record of Black Elk’s life and visions due to his own decision near the end of his life to impart his story to ethnologist John Neihardt, who met with Black Elk and transcribed his words in the book Black Elk Speaks.

Heroic resistance warrior, also of the Oglala Lakota Sioux, Crazy Horse (circa 1845 – 1877) was a cousin and contemporary of Black Elk. This description of his vision, spoken only four days before his death, is also well worth pondering today, approximately seven generations later:

“Upon suffering beyond suffering; the Red Nation shall rise again and it shall be a blessing for a sick world. A world filled with broken promises, selfishness and separations. A world longing for light again. I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred Tree of Life and the whole Earth will become one circle again. In that day there will be those among the Lakota who will carry knowledge and understanding of unity among all living things, and the young white ones will come to those of my people and ask for this wisdom. I salute the light within your eyes where the whole universe dwells. For when you are at that center within you and I am that place within me, we shall be as one."

Photo by @Hikersbay

We are longing for light again. Let us go with the earth in a quest and cry for a vision with her. Let us learn to live together like one being, many hoops making one circle, all children of one mother and one father. May we, in this time of the seventh generation, humbly receive the knowledge and understanding of unity from the ones who carry it, and by that means may our sick world be blessed. May we recognize and salute the light within each other’s eyes where the whole universe dwells. This is my prayer.

Photo by Neven Krcmarek

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