Spirituality in the Native American Culture
What is it about Native American culture that draws us to better understand their spiritual traditions?
Native cultures have a variety of beliefs and rituals unique to their individual tribes, but all have some common themes, primarily the understanding that all things are connected and that we are all bound to one another by the great spirit.
Native American cultures all embody a deep reverence for the Earth, the mother that provides for us. They also revere all creation as an expression of the Divine. They are taught to honor every living thing, and they focus a great deal on personal spiritual development. Knowledge and understanding of our oneness with all creation, that we are a part of the all, and that the all is a part of us; this interconnectedness brings not only great respect for all experience, but opens the eyes and heart to the deeper understanding and wisdom that lies beneath every experience we have.
In modern times, it seems many people have become disconnected – from themselves, from one another, and from this world we all share. Many are seeking to fill a void or find a deeper understanding or sense of purpose. This is where Native traditions come in, because they inspire us to find our sense of connection with life itself. The beauty and reverence of Native American spirituality has led many to seek more spiritual understanding in their own lives.
There are many traditional Native American tools used today by a variety of people. Some of the most popular include items like dream catchers, smudge sticks, and sweetgrass braids. So what are these tools and what do they represent?
Dream catchers are made of a willow hoop that contains a web woven with heavy thread. The webs may be plain or may have beads, stones and other things included. Long strands beneath the hoop contain feathers. Dream catchers come in a variety of sizes, patterns and colors.
Dream catchers are hung near your bed and allowed to swing freely in the air. In Native cultures, it is believed that the night air is filled with dreams. They are caught as they flow past the dream catcher.
The good dreams are able to pass through, sliding down the feathers., where they can impart knowledge and wisdom to the dreamer. The bad dreams become ensnared and are burned away when the morning light hits the web.
Smudge sticks are made of sage and other purification herbs. They are burned and the smoke is pushed throughout an area to cleanse it of negative energy and to remove the presence of unwanted spirits. The sacred smoke can also be used to purify one’s own energy. Smudging cleanses, purifies and promotes healing at a spiritual level, connecting us to both Earth and spirit.
Sweetgrass braids are also used for purification and healing. Many Native American tribes use it during prayer and for initiating ceremonies and rituals. The sweet scent of the grass attracts positive energies and spirits. It is often used after sage. The sage smudge sticks are used to cleanse and purify the energy of a sacred space, and the sweetgrass is then used to draw in positive spiritual energy.