The first time it happened was when my brother, gkisedtanamoogk prayed in class. My professor prayed in his own language after we had gotten to know him and issues of the First Peoples in Native American Spirituality. It seemed to me i was drawn into holy sacred space and it didn’t matter that i didn’t understand the language. It was beautiful the sense of being on holy ground.
The next time it happened my brother and i were on a walk near the water and he stopped and offered tobacco and a prayer. Again i was ushered into holy space and time. It was a brief prayer but powerfully beautiful to be reminded that even on a walk we are in God’s creation and honoring this.
i have heard people gasp and seen tears come to their eyes when my friend prays because they don’t know their language. The Wampanoag people have had to reconstruct their language at least that is what i have read. gkisedtanamoogk sounds as if he has always spoken this way, and people are surprised because so many First Peoples do not know their language, or history, or prayers, or spirituality because we have taken this out of them through residential schools and shame.
So when i went to Lui South Sudan and heard people pray in their mother tongue and ask me to pray in english and not translate i was surprised. Plus i was nervous, usually this was before a service where i was to preach or in class where i wasn’t sure of the procedure (whether Noel, my translator, would translate or not). Then one day it happened, Ishmael prayed as fits who he is, quietly, reverently and i was transported again into holy space. It didn’t matter that i didn’t understand, what mattered was the words flowing over us to God. A holy time made as i heard him pray.
the holy incense rises up covering each of us and then all
blessing of home and safety rises forth
from each tap of the feather flying
us to another world and joining
with all the prayers of warmth, compassion, love
blessing of doors, blessing of the kitchen, blessing of one another
the community woven in the sweet smell of smoke
a sacred blessing blown on the wings of Spirit
coming to rest in the heart of a circle