The Spiritual Mechanism of Sacrifice

We are very grateful to our friend and teacher, Cree Indian spiritual leader, Jody Ground, for taking time away from his family and community back home in Montana, and for what he brought to share with our Mesa “tribe” this past (Earth Day) weekend.  He did a fabulous and meaningful job of conducting the tipi blessing ceremony for the two dozen of us who braved the weather on Earth Day to enjoy it.  We also received much from Jody’s 3 workshops, learning new things about Native American culture, ceremony, and personal spiritual practice.  We are still experiencing the energy and changes from them.

Every time we have a special teacher come to The Mesa we end up with at least one “takeaway”.  That is our word for the defining concepts imparted to us by each teacher that make all the work we have done to set workshops up worthwhile.  These nuggets are “aha” moments when our eyes are opened with things we had not considered.  They are surprising bits of wisdom that we know will stick with us, profoundly affecting our point of view, way of thinking, and approach to life in the coming weeks and months.  While we learned much from our time with Jody, our takeaway this time was about sacrifice.

In his Saturday morning workshop, “Working with Personal Animal Spirits and Totems”, Jody talked about reciprocity with the Spirit World in a new way that came through loud and clear for us.  He explained the importance and spiritual mechanism of sacrifice—not just giving of our ourselves, or making a token offering, but giving up something specific of ourselves in order to get needed or desired help from the Spirit Side.

Jody explained how in Native culture, one would go outside and put an offering of a can of fish and some berries on the ground for the Bear Spirit in exchange for his help with specific healing.  He told the story of having given away blankets, groceries, ceremonial objects of great value, and even a pickup truck in order to ensure the healing of his wife’s grandmother.  She lived 7 more years after being given only months by her doctors.  He emphasized the importance of giving something up to show the spirits that we are willing to share and give as well as receive, whether by fasting, setting aside bits of our meal before we eat (setting a “Spirit Plate”), giving up a favorite food or activity for a period of time, or through the rigors of Sundancing.

In Native culture, when a gift of tobacco and red cloth, a week’s worth of groceries, an expensive blanket, or some treasured personal object (Jody once received a pistol after having gifted his own away) is given to the medicine person when asking for a healing, this is not seen as a gift to the human facilitator alone even though they may use/consume it, but giving to the spirits he or she will call upon for the seeker’s benefit as the healing comes through into matter.  The sacrifice doesn’t have to be massive or debilitating, but is not viewed as barter.  The exchange is seen as occurring with Spirit while still respecting the healer.  This is different than the New Age-y concept of the need for an “exchange of energy” (code for “I want to be paid!”) from recipient to healer.

So many times we have heard from people who wanted healings or to take classes from ourselves or visiting teachers but lamented that they couldn’t pay for them.  Usually, we have told them to pay us what they can or come for free.  Rarely have they offered anything else in return because they have not had this tribal understanding of the power of making some kind of sacrifice, nor were we aware enough of it ourselves to be able to articulate it to them.

We’d often joke that we’d love to give all healings for free, but that for some reason the grocery stores won’t give us any food without those green pieces of paper.  Certainly all could have given (up) something, if only to offer their time to sweep up in our gift shop or to fast for a day.  This concept is missing from our European world view with its emphasis on the distribution of money, and another reason why the “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret” don’t work for many people; they offer to give up nothing in return.

We had previously learned to leave food offerings at meals and gave offerings of tobacco or cornmeal for what we took from Nature.  We made tobacco ties when asking help from the Spirit World and even made Peruvian despacho (offering) bundles to rebalance our world with theirs, but they were tokens of acknowledgement rather than sacrifices of substance.  Through Jody’s words Kate and I found new meaning in sacrifice above and beyond the nebulous concept of “the more you give the more you will receive”, and discovered the Native view on how reciprocity really works.  We sent our friend home with many gifts he’ll use for ceremony.  We now know we will benefit greatly from their use.

While we have received much from the Creator over the past 9 yrs, we now see that we need to ask for spirit help and name and exact our sacrifices in order to get faster and more powerful results.  The Mesa tipi is evidence of this.  Over the years we had been putting in lots of hard work in order to keep The Mesa afloat as a platform for Spirit, but had not always recognized our sacrifices as willing.  Without thinking of it in that way we proposed to sacrifice our time and energy to make a tipi a thing of beauty, and as its caretakers share its healing with others.  As a result, the sacred lodge was literally given to us.  What are you willing to sacrifice?  Spirit is waiting to help you.  Mitakuye Oyasin (“All Our Relations”)

About Brad Silberberg

Brad Silberberg, director of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA (Pittsburgh area) is an artist, holistic healer, spiritual leader, and change agent.
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