Sacred Pipe Ceremony

Our healing circle occasionally welcomes others to join us in honoring our ancestors in this sacred ceremony. Together we send up a voice and state our gratitude. The native people have prayed in this way since the pipe was brought to the people. There are different stories of how the pipe came to the people depending on the tribe and lineage. All the stories I’ve heard indicate this sacred gift was given from the spirit world to help us heal in the physical world. When in the presence of this one I am told by my elders that only truth can be spoken and it has been my experience as well. It is about coming into right relations with oneself, with creator and with others

In Western Culture people are asked to place their left hand (closest to their heart) upon a bible when asked “to speak the truth and nothing but the truth.” Now there is discussion about including various holy texts into court rooms for this to be a more genuine and heartfelt gesture inclusive of people of different faiths. People raised in intact traditional native cultures have a deep reverence for the sacred pipe, as it is used to pray from one’s heart, to find peace within and without and to be in right relations.

Years ago I came upon a greeting card and on the back was written that a certain tribe (the name of which I have regrettably forgotten) had only one law: “To be true to oneself.” I was so taken by the simplicity and respect herein. If we really were true to ourselves we could not possibly do anything that would require the writing of, or enforcement of, other laws. This one law, if extrapolated out, like the ripples in the pond after tossing in a stone, reminds me of the sacred “chanupa” (pipe) for in its presence we cannot do or say anything that takes us out of right relations. It is often used when two or more people need to settle a dispute or share from their hearts. I have heard elders speak of situations where they did not trust that someone would necessarily tell them the truth if asked a question. So they requested that this person have a prayer smoke with them because they knew that with this one between them only truth would be able to be shared.

Being a pipe carrier is a big responsibility for it demands living non-judgmentally, impeccably, keeping one’s word and being a peacemaker at all times. “Keeping one’s word always begins with the self for every agreement you make you are actually making with yourself. Other people that we make agreements with are merely witnesses.” (Will Rockingbear) Pipe carriers need to be available upon request to sit with a person needing this medicine way.

Each pipe carrier uses his or her own blend of herbs, be it organic tobacco (a sacred herb to native peoples), native tobacco, or kinnick kinnick (a blend of many herbs). It is never used with illicit or illegal substances. The prayers are sent up to creator on the curls of smoke; however, it is not necessary to take the smoke into one’s body to pray. The pipe carrier can bless you with the smoke, or holding it close to your heart while praying is another beautiful way.

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Photography courtesy of David Gellatly
©Contents Copyright Miriam Lieberman 2007