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SunDancer Spirit of Sacrifice Painting with Meaning

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

Here's a painting in a series called, SunDancer. My sister was adopted into our Native American local tribe and for years she was a Sundancer. To witness this holy dance is something really special.

She told me a story once. She said you know there is this old man who is pretty much a drunk, and all the nasty ideas that go along with that image. But when we created the circle, found and cut the sacred tree, built the altar and the 3 days dancing without food or water in sacrifice, that man that "old drunk" some might call him, he tied up (hooks into his upper back) dragging two buffalo skulls. The land in the circle is filled with gopher, hole and the horns of the skulls would catch and tear him. That year, the Dance was for the People with Disabilities.

So you never know, I consider, the nobleness of our fellow humans.

The community builds that Sun Lodge together, it takes time, patience and intent to create that sacred space. Sacred Sun Dance: The medicine lodge is constructed of pole rafters radiating from a sacred central pole. However, the best-known and most widely practiced contemporary form of the ceremony is that of the Sioux, who do not construct a medicine lodge. Instead, the Sioux make a hocoka, or ritual circle, with a sacred cottonwood tree erected in the center and a circular arbor built around the entire perimeter, except for an open entrance to the east, so that the dancing takes place within a central arena that is completely open to the sky and to "sun gazing." However, both traditions, whether that of the medicine lodge or of the hocoka, involve ritual ways of making local space sacred as a setting for renewal of the people's relationship with the land itself and with all the beings of their life-world, both human and other-than-human.

When a community of people work together towards a sacred intent or idea, it builds in our psyche and somatic bodies, the intelligence of "holding ceremony" or "sacred intent" and that translates into the ability to be a normal person in the world, but then we have "learned" the capability of moving into sacred space to create with intention. This is a practice, and cannot be done at once, it take years to build and gradually. This is what Kristena West Art is for, an online community, to bring together like-minded women who wish to build/learn/support/communicate the ways of walking in a sacred manner. Over time, years of this kind of work it eventually will become second nature to dwell with our feet in two-worlds.

In the North America we have just celebrated the Autumn Equinox, and now the Great Sun starts its' lowering of Light until we reach the renewal of Light Holidays at Christmas time. It's the time of transitions, moving, shape-shifting and transformations.

This painting in particular, the SunDancer, has the most peculiar trait. It refuses to be photographed. I have taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions of photographs in my fashion and art business and am a professional photographer. But. There is something elusive about this painting, and for me, I am okay with it. The Sun Dancers were "Sun-Gazing" (and this is very deep medicine and sacred to this tradition) looking for the Light Being, the Being of the Sun to bring a healing vision. Now Sun Dances are based on "sacrifice" to offer up the pain of suffering without food or water for 3 days. Three days is the same time as Christ on the cross and the resurrection. Three times is the "magic" number in Fairytales and myths. This idea of offering oneself up as a sacrifice is found cross-culturally in religious traditions, in shamanic and indigenous societies. We in the West, have lost this inherent human-to-God conversation. We are engaged in the game of life and social media, and we can over time have some soul loss. But for three days, these men and women dance, and then they are surrounded by the community of supporters that offer their energy to the dancers. I have seen those dancers holding sticks in the middle of the night in order to continue standing. I have watched young beautful men stripped to loin clothes drenched with sweat holding each other up by dancing shoulder to shoulder...all this for The People. I think this idea of suffering, or sacrifice is a rich ground for pondering. There is a story of the young Mary who would become the Mother of Christ, when she was taken to the temple when she was five years old...All the maidens give up certain foods, or something they like, to offer up as a sacrifice, Mary did that but her heart was so full of devotion at five years old, she even offered up her most favorite favorite food! (The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Anne Catherine Emmerich) In the years of my shamanic training, over time and from my heart I let go of this and that. This inwardly strengthened me, and all that energy that was tied to those "this and that" was released for my life's work. This is something every shaman understands at the core of their being. Michael Harner said, Sorcerer's go for personal power and Shamans sacrifice themselves for the healing of the People. Which brings us to that wonderful question in the Wizard of Oz put to Dorothy by Glinda, "Are you a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?" We celebrate St. Michael and the Dragon now, at the end of September. Again this iconography over overcoming the lower self by the higher Self. When we gaze at these traditions throughout the world of so many people doing their best to help others, heal others, support the effort of others for the greater good. This is a good time to consider giving something up, that may be holding you back. And also doing something Courageous for the World. Happy Equinox & Michaelmas!