“The Kabbalah of the Sweatlodge” by David Seidenberg, neohasid.

org1 In a symposium where we are discussing connections between Jewish and Native American cultures and traditions, one vast difference should be noted. Judaism fits with academia like a hand in glove, and talking about Jewish religion from the perspective of secular, Wissenschaft, historical-critical perspectives comes naturally. For Native traditions, the opposite is the case. If I were going to discuss things from an academic and “Jewishy” perspective, I would start with some performative intellectualizing, while if from a more traditional Native American manner, I might start with a prayer or a story. Since I’m not one to take sides in this particular debate, I’ll attempt a bit of both. My prayer is simple: that this symposium also be a convocation, a discovery of the voices of our ancestors and the promise of a future that can sustain all people. May we attain to knowledge, but also to wisdom. Now for the intellectualizing. I want to discuss parallels between Native American ritual and Jewish, specifically Kabbalistic thought, from several perspectives. As a participant in two different communities which follow Lakota sundance and sweatlodge ceremonies, I have a very personal perspective. As a student of religion, specifically from the framework of anthropology and structuralism, the question of parallels invokes its own unique worlds of thought. (Many of the things I will say complement the discussion of ritual in the paper by my teacher Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.) And as someone who is concerned about cultural appropriation and romanticization of Native American culture in this country, especially by the New Age movement, I also have a strong sense of criticism of my own perspective. What I will come to focus on are the very precise parallels between the structure of the Inipi or sweatlodge ceremony, and Kabbalistic ideas about the unification of Tiferet and Shekhinah, the divine masculine and feminine. Before I get to that, however, I want to explore further the issues of cultural appropriation with respect to both Judaism and Native American religions. We live in a time of post-modernity, which, in some circles and cohorts, is characterized by the attempt or wish to return to (or restore) some kind of tribalism. One could say that modernity is about controlling our world through technological domination, while post-modernity in this sense is about the desire to live in community with nature. I emphasize that this is a matter of desire, as much or more than actual practice, since a large part of our capitalist culture is devoted to selling community and tribalism, though neither can be commodified and remain intact. The forms of cultural appropriation can be both shallow and deep, with greater or lesser integrity. From tribe.net, to non-native folks selling shamanism seminars or running fee-based sweatlodges, to the Rainbow gathering, called a “gathering of the tribes”, the meme of the tribe is powerful. It extends into fashion, politics, and spirituality. On a spiritual level it can also include Wiccan or neo-Pagan communities, or any so-called earth-centered tradition. Native American spiritual traditions
Paper delivered at the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies Symposium on “Jews, Native Americans and the Western World Order” at Columbia University, April 25, 2010.
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One of the interesting parallels between Judaism and Native traditions is that the Jews in Eastern Europe are romanticized in much the same way as the Native American peoples in this country. there is an extraordinary interest in Kabbalah as another kind of postmodern spirituality. One could even characterize Judaism as an indigenous tribal tradition (perhaps the only tribal tradition) that has been able to survive despite its complete adaptation to modernity. which at least for non-Jews represents a kind of attenuated tribalism through its roots in Judaism. Jews have a strong sense of difference from both the majority secular culture and from Christian culture based in part on this sense of tribalism —even if the majority culture is less aware of those differences. In North America. to people seeking an alternative spiritual road. Judaism is more clearly connected to tribal roots than any other fully Western tradition. but in the creation of modernity. word. which we will not explore further here. and world. When Eastern Europeans want to appropriate a sense of tribal identity. Being an “MOT”—a member of the tribe. Jewish culture is less of a resource for those seeking a sense of tribal identification than in Eastern Europe. In both continents we find people who see themselves as part of what is perceived (with real historic justification) as a culture of the oppressor. On the other hand. One the one hand.) These tensions and needs put Jews in an interesting position with respect to Native and tribal traditions. (Because Kabbalah is often taught outside of any Jewish context or framework—i. Note also that traditional Judaism to a tremendous degree does play the function of alternative spiritual source for fundamentalist Christians seeking the roots of Jesus’ ministry. in the Kabbalah Center or the work of Caroline Myss —this attenuation is often extreme. though both can be found. Other vectors for this transference of identity include African-American culture (especially in the form of music) or AfricanCaribbean culture (in the popularity of capoeira. they are more likely to seek out Jewish (as well as Gypsy or Romani) cultural forms of expression. despite the fact that Native rather than Jewish culture is the more significant source of alternative identity in this land. We see then that one of the characteristics for being useful as a tribal meme is that a culture has been subject to genocide. than they are Native American forms. Jewish culture is a full participant not only in modernity. The concept of Judeo-Christian civilization (emphasized here by Jews who wanted acceptance and Christians who wanted to accept them) to some extent erases differences between Jewish and white or majority Christian culture. and a generation who want to disassociate themselves from that culture by adopting the culture of the oppressed. is not just an expression. a martial art/dance form associated with Latin American slaves).. indicated equally by the wholesale adoption of bourgeois suburbanism in the previous century as by the influence . perhaps paradoxically. (The latter tension is of course much more pronounced in Western Europe than it is here.e.) The fact that North America is the land in which genocide against the Native peoples took place also makes Native cultures much more accessible. while political dynamics in Israel and Palestine significantly muddy the delineation of oppressor and oppressed that is so fundamental to the appropriation by Westerners of tribal cultures. Nevertheless. as well as other minority cultures.are romanticized and symbolically appropriated by people looking to connect with this sense of tribalism. whether in North America of Europe.

or the current explosion of Jewish reggae-rap. the level of cultural immersion for those that become part of the community. the strict ritual standards they employ (i. which was led by Buck Ghosthorse. or in efforts both in the last century and contemporarily to go back to the land. 2 Some of these agricultural experiments also draw on Native spirituality—often not directly but as a model for how we should interpret and practice Judaism. this is an area we will not really explore here). especially younger Jews. for red. run by a Native couple named Wolf and Lisa Wahpepah.Spinoza in the 17th century. I would not feel The Kayam farm is based in the Pearlstone Center in Maryland. are also part of stereotypical cultural phenomena and can be critiqued from that perspective.. which also speaks to Jews seeking a kind of postmodern (though often quite bourgeois) form of Jewish spirituality. My own encounter with Native “religion” started in Los Angeles. 2 . and support for and engagement with Native American groups and causes. Jews. there is the Kabbalah. is based on the following criteria: the Lakota pedigree or spiritual lineage of the founders and leaders. Thus. based in Eastern Washington. as best I can. the absence of New Age lingo or forms.. any lodge that charges a fee or is led by a white person who is not tied directly to a Native-led community would be verboten to me. The author teaches in all of these programs. the principle of never charging money for a ceremony. most recently (though without the Zionist trope) in the creation of back-to-the-land farming centers such as Kayam Farm and the Jewish Farm School.e. or in adopting aspects of Native American and neo-pagan (or earth-centered) spirituality. and sometimes by amalgamating Native symbols with neo-Pagan and New Age ideas (as we will discuss below in the example of the “Jewitch medicine wheel”). All this is to say that my experiences.g. Similarly. Sungleska Oyate. My own standard for judging the integrity of these ceremonies. Last but far from least. have dealt with this contradiction of being both tribal and modern in interesting ways. And in many individual cases. with respect to moon time. the Jewfro of the 70’s. Under normative circumstances. in a sweatlodge community called Descendants of the Earth. Jews find meaning directly in Native practices or symbolism—sometimes by participating directly in Native rituals or by working in and on behalf of Native communities. A”H. or with respect to the number of rounds and kinds of songs). while full of meaning and I hope integrity. or all races. most famously in the music of Mattisyahu—again. these ceremonies are conducted only for Native Americans and the leaders of these ceremonies were in some sense renegades.e. including seeking the tribal or indigenous in the translation of African-American cultural forms into Jewish forms (e. who inherited a tradition of doing “four nations” sweatlodges—i. the creation of real communities of caring and mutual support. That encounter deepened when I was invited to the sundance ceremony of another four nations tribe. both outgrowths of the Adamah farm program in Connecticut. The Jewish Farm School is located in Philadelphia but has branches in other locations like Long Island. who was given a vision of an inclusive all-nations tribe. as they tend to be divided up by Native Americans—from their elder Fred Wahpepah. white brown and yellow peoples. One could say then that Judaism survived because of its complete modernization.

(Prayer ties. to the West. 1. green or white cloth.comfortable supporting a sundance not led by Lakota medicine people or elders. It’s easy enough to sum up the parallels with Kabbalah that I found in my first sweatlodge or Inipi ceremony. and the colors. yellow. the four directions. nor would I want to go to a sundance where.org/kabbalah/symbols/ for a preliminary introduction. was a yellow flag. a black flag. and focus on what I learned. I’m going to skirt the issue of whether it is wrong simply to participate in these ceremonies as a white. you will find several Native websites that denounce him as a fraud for charging money for ceremonies. prayer ties are made out of purple cloth – a color only employed in New Age contexts which is not part of traditional ritual. along with other accusations. ritually created within the lodge. (See for example the Looking Horse Proclamation on the Protection of Ceremonies and the Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality. I found flags in each of the four directions. to the South a white flag and a green flag together. non-Native human being. the hearth. I can confirm that that charge is false. Usually red and white are reversed. in relation to fire. are strings of little bundles of tobacco. by the way. Jewish. and tied onto the roof of the sweatlodge or onto the tree at the center of a sundance. but they are not arranged in the most common way. opposite the lodge. wrapped traditionally in red. But it is obvious that the mere fact that Buck Ghosthorse offered ceremonies to non-Natives was enough to engender all the other accusations. both promulgated in 2008) If you search on the internet for Buck Ghosthorse. Fig. 1] To the East. [Fig.) For many in Native communities. and any lodge that welcomes non-Indians is viewed as fraudulent. However. and to the North a red flag. these standards are not enough. The colored flags here represent the first lodge I went to. The line from the center of the firepit through the altar to the lodge is never crossed. the direction of the lodge. The position of earth/womb. 3 . for example. by the way.3 The wonder for me is in the details. blue. all corresponded precisely to the system of Kabbalistic symbols called the Tree of Life or the Sefirot. In the first lodge I went to. For a list of Sefirotic symbols and correspondences go to neohasid.

the earth. are heated until they glow. as they are called. the womb. connected with sin and fire (red). and the moon. which is symbolized by the phallus and represents the principle of union between masculine and feminine. the central masculine principle that represents balance and harmony and is symbolized by the heart (i. among many other significances. and sometimes objects that participants have brought to receive the energy of the prayers made inside the lodge. or even pictures of people for whom prayers are being made. all circular paths must move clockwise (or sunwise. sometimes with new rocks being brought in. Gevurah (Judgment) in the North or left. except for that it made the ceremony exceedingly heimlich. for me. connected with purity (white). The firepit is arranged like a circle inside a larger circle. In between prayers are offered and Lakota songs are sung. In the Inipi ceremony. 1] After participants “smudge off” with sage and file into the lodge. That’s not exactly what these symbols mean in Lakota spirituality. the domed lodge sits covered in blankets. This larger circle is roughly the same size as the lodge. around which participants gather before the ceremony. This process happens four times. also called Shekhinah. At the same time. which is the origin and highest point of the tree and the source of light (yellow). In between the two sits the altar. tobacco.To anyone trained in Kabbalah these colors and directions quite obviously map onto the mystics’ tree of the Sefirot: Keter (Crown) in the East. The correspondence of the Inipi ceremony with Kabbalah is uncanny. 2] . 2] The green flag would correspond to Tiferet (Beauty). and Malkhut (Kingdom) in the West at the bottom of the tree. the “stone people” are brought in and dusted with medicine herbs. It is forbidden during the Inipi ceremony to step across the line running from the firepit to the altar to the lodge. then water (mne) is brought in and ladled onto the hot rocks. the cannupa or sacred pipe. where the stone people. [Fig. as it is understood). what Freud would call “unheimlich”. The firepit corresponds exactly to Tiferet or Beauty. symbolizing the earth and the womb. [Fig. And the lodge is an exact correlate of Malkhut or Kingdom. as well as the fundamental feminine principle that nurtures the universe. familiar and comfortable. whose symbol is black. tied as it were to the same pole as the white flag of Chesed so as to draw the energy of the whole towards love and away from judgment.. in the west. God’s presence. hearth). Chesed (Love) in the South or right. which leads to the path of circulation that you can see in the diagram.e. [Fig. However. In the center towards the east is the firepit. the womb and mother (black). we’ll leave that point for now and focus on what is even more important: the ceremonial structure itself. The altar that stands between the firepit and the lodge is the Sefirah of Yesod or Foundation. a small mound where one finds eagle feathers.

the vivification of the earth. Keter in the east is the source of light and blessing. the left and right (north and south) colors are white and red respectively. The tree of the Sefirot on the left was created by the author. As in the Medicine Wheel. that is. For a general summary of these ideas see Scholem. Mitakuye Oyasin—for all the species and beings of this world. The ten Sefirot represent qualities with which God created the world. Malkhut in the west is the receptacle or womb that receives the light and in turn nourishes all. as well as the universal pattern of the image of God found in all things and levels of reality. Two different versions of the Tree of Life of Kabbalah. On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism. from masculine to feminine. Note that in one normative version of the medicine wheel (see Fig. idealized as K’neset Yisrael. the colors of the Sefirot may differ. separating the masculine from the feminine divine principles. To cause this separation would correspond to walking across the line that runs from the firepit to the lodge entrance. 4 This separation is equivalent to cutting off the flow of blessing into the universe. wrong action separates them.Fig. but the basic pattern is the same. 4 . Both sets of ritual symbols and meanings are about unification of masculine and feminine. the reverse of the Kabbalistic system. alongside a schematic of the sweatlodge with Kabbalistic correspondences superimposed. north is associated with winter.) We go to the lodge to pray for the people and for “all our relations”. The one on the right is found on innumerable sites on the web. the womb and the people. In Kabbalah there is a specific prohibition against making a separation between Tiferet and Malkhut. (Just as Malkhut is symbolized by the people. and the flow of blessing to all of creation. 2. 4). In both however. See further discussion of colors below. Right action on the part of human beings increases the connection and flow of blessing from Tiferet through Yesod to Malkhut. Directions and terms in yellow and were added by the author. that is. Every Kabbalistic and Chasidic text is rooted in this conception. This is not just a fanciful overlay of two different religious systems. The lodge is the symbol of the earth and the feminine.

The lodge is traditionally made of willow branches bent over each other into the shape of a dome and covered with heavy blankets in order to make it completely dark inside. symbolized also according to the Bahir by the etrog or citron (another one of the four plants used in the ritual). which is not as concerned with the indigenous interpretation of symbols and meanings. Here I want to bring the example of the willow branches which form the skeleton of the lodge. the reincarnation of the soul. and their similarity of arrangement to other traditions. an 11th century text. Willow branches appear in the ritual of shaking the lulav (a rain ritual that uses a set of four plants representing the varied ecosystems of ancient Israel). because they are called arvey nachal. Willow branches. Sec. Please listen. they ask our prayers to be heard. (This perhaps may be a good working definition of what tribal means. 6 Since the sea is again the feminine principle and the womb. the connection is only made strong by the Kabbalistic interpretation of Sukkot. we can look at the messages in the Lakota prayers and compare them to Jewish or Kabbalistic prayers. the Sacred mystery. However. and the root of the soul. root]? To teach you that if you would take a branch and plant it. also symbolize the streams that lead to the sea. I have already mentioned the colors.There are other correspondences which are less strong. 81. In Sefer Bahir. “See. in the Torah. It turns out that willow branches are an extremely important symbol in early Kabbalah. As the Bahir says: “What is the function of the repeated letter Shin [in the word Shoresh. we are suffering for the people. but also because the Lakota ceremonies are fundamentally not theological in their orientation. It is in fact in that realm that we find 5 6 Sec. the willows of the lulav symbolize the principle of rebirth. What the two traditions share in these respects is shared by nearly any prayer tradition that is rooted in a community that defines itself as a people. stream willows. By comparison. 178. it should be obvious how how much stronger is the correlation between the lodge and Malkhut. to which I will return below.) The fact that we find our correlations in the realm of material culture more than in theological or metaphysical meanings gives some justification to a structuralist approach. not only because the categories and symbols are so different. but they would be tenuous at best.”5 It is the case that the willow branches of a lodge sometimes do take root. especially in Sefer Bahir. It is evocative but not decisive with respect to seeing patterns shared by the two cultures. the root grows back. and they say. or speak about Wakontonka. Their special characteristic is that if one takes a willow branch and sticks it into wet soil—even upside down—it can take root.” I could try to draw theological parallels. Lyrics often give thanks to Grandfather (Tonkashila pilamye). as it is with internal differences and relationships between symbols within a specific tradition. Further afield. . This example of resonance between the material culture of the lodge ritual and that of the Sukkot holiday (when the lulav with its willow branches is shaken) is evocative. the willows represent the masculine principle.

red is in the south and white in the north. The entry of the stone people into the lodge is a union of male with female. Most importantly. and the people who come to support the dancers by singing and prayers may not cross this open space. this is one of the most central motifs in every aspect of Kabbalah. (There is of course more to say about the sundance as well. [Fig. where he adds that the unification of male and female is part of the root origins of the lulav. and the altar where the pipes rest stands right between the two places. the opposite is the case: red is the north and white the south. 4] The Lumbee and Cherokee tribes. (This is also discussed in Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s paper. It is the unification of male and female. in the west. put red in the East. within which the dancers stand in a circle before the tree. is also highly theologically developed. In the opposite direction is the place where the dancers go to sleep and sweat.com/Government/Legislative/Ordinances/2006/Ordinance%20No. 3] More rarely. it would suggest that the holiest moments of the sundance ritual allow direct access to the energy of Keter. red and white were placed in these same directions where they are found in Kabbalah. 7 . the cannupa or sacred pipe is made of a stone bowl and a stem – female and male. while fitting into this framework. yellow in the South.such strong parallels. The image very specifically is one of drawing down male and female energies in a way that creates union. The architectural and ritual focus on the east makes the sundance quite different from the sweatlodge. we might add to Scholem’s characterization of Kabbalah as the return of the mythic. we can amend this statement to say that Kabbalah is the return of the shamanic. The same directioncolor correspondences can be found in the following Lakota figure. For example. which. As we have already noted. except in special ritual moments. to give an example of a different set of correspondences. This is one of the few aspects of Native and specifically Lakota spirituality that is clearly and frequently articulated. the tree of Life) at the center of the dance is a cottonwood (preferably) that has grown and is cut into the shape of a Y – the two branches of the Y again symbolizing male and female.7 The Lumbee tribe’s seal is described in the following document: lumbeetribe. The medicine wheel colors are not standardized to the degree that colors in Kabbalah are.) Now I want to return to the color correlations discussed above. The Kabbalistic version or vision of Judaism is the place where this idea is very clearly articulated. hidden from view. Translated into Kabbalistic symbols. the circular arbor. long before Kabbalah interpreted it.%202006-000_%20Official %20Tribal%20Seal.) Noting this. is completely open to the east. something which is not available in the sweatlodge nor suggested by its architecture. That element we have already referred to several times above. It was somewhat accidental that in the first lodge I went to. [Fig. the tree (one might say. It is also forbidden to cross the line from the tree to this resting area. which is a crucially important dimension of indigenous tribal traditions. united in the trunk of the tree. In fact.pdf. There is however one symbolic dimension. as in Kabbalah. And in the sundance. Most often.

for on the side of the North the waters congeal. found at squidoo. it is also associated with cold and winter. in any case the West is called “dark” and has a positive valence.8 Other differences between the medicine wheel directions and colors are not as great: for example. The most common delineation of the colors of the Medicine Wheel. 3] In this aspect. west is almost always black. 3.htm. The Cherokee symbolism is described here: powersource. while north is associated with white and winter. The seasons such as they exist in the physical world are merely reflections of the hypostatic reality in the Kabbalistic way of thinking. 8 . Different tribal traditions exist as to which colors go where. with south being associated with red and summer. normative case.com/nativeamericanartandculturesn. This is of course is radically different compared to a Native American approach to ritual and testifies to the distance from which Kabbalah is connecting to the indigenous origins of Jewish ritual. whose colors correspond to the first lodge I attended. 174) The winter of the North in Kabbalah is a hypostatic symbol for what happens within the divine.com/cocinc/ceremony/fourwind. watering all the beasts of the field…” (Matt. East is in the direction of the yellow arm of the wheel. Then the waters that were congealed on the side of the North are released and flow. [Fig. Zohar 1:29b: “This ice. with red in the south and white in the north. 4.In the first. while the North is still reflective of death and the North wind’s “countenance [is] stern”— and fairly exact description of the North in Kabbalah. Note that the West is brown and the North is black (or blue). the colors represent the seasons in a more obvious manner. and from the side of the South the waters they are released and flow. A Lakota medicine wheel. but sometimes it is blue (which is the most similar color). this frozen sea—its waters flow only when the power of the South reaches it.g. See e. drawing close. even though the north in Kabbalah is symbolized by red. Fig. Fig.

If I were interested in amalgamating the traditions—which I am not—the complexity of how to map colors onto the directions could prove problematic. I want these two spiritual paths to be parallel because I want to be able to walk them both – a task which may not in reality be possible. and formally correct.In all cases.com/2006/11/kabbalistic-medicine-wheel_24. created by someone who calls herself a “Jewitch”.blogspot. Fig. Though this example is quite distant from my own approach. I want to bring the example of a New Age medicine wheel I found online. No one in any case would mistake this figure for a Native American medicine wheel. high church. [Fig. the feminine pole seems to have a kind of universal valence in all these traditions. More descriptively. concerning color only heighten my sense of wonder about how precisely the sweatlodge ceremony corresponds to the Tiferet-Yesod-Malkhut relationship in Kabbalah. As it stands. as a Jew. despite its similarity of form. Yet I think the parallels I . from jewitch. A neo-Pagan “Jewitch medicine wheel” that appropriates Native and Kabbalistic symbols. I am highly motivated to see parallels between the traditions. We could ask here whether amalgamating these traditions is valid or not. has a right to appropriate Kabbalah). Appropriation of the wheel may not be such bad news. 5.html. the correspondences. and contradictions. 5] This “Jewitch medicine wheel” is example of the cultural appropriation of both Native American tradition. Kabbalah itself has differing color schemes. which from an academic perspective makes me a suspect observer. especially for some of the more secondary Sefirot. the Lakota version of any ritual or symbol is generally viewed as the most catholic. the Lakota rituals are seen as the original ones by most people. This itself is a fact that would interest any structuralist. and Kabbalah (though one might say that the creator. even when people follow differing traditions from their own tribes. One thing that is utterly consistent in Kabbalah and in Native American traditions is that the west is the earth and is symbolized by black or blue. and they tend to be stricter and more ornate. However. as long as no claim is being made as to representing Native traditions.

but also the belief that blessing for the entire year is brought down at this ritual time. versus the hyper-intellectualism and textualism of the Jewish tradition and its insistence on interpretation of rituals. Nonetheless. by the way. which is conceptualized as a kind of suffering or offering of flesh. The difference between appropriation and what I hope I and some others are doing may be this: as I said above. if I may be blunt. From a structuralist perspective. and I submit them to you for your judgment on that very question. is close to the interpretation that Native elders might have given to Jewish rituals if asked to interpret them according to their own symbolic systems. We could almost imagine that Kabbalah. and not just in the two traditions. while Judaism certainly prays through fasting. including not only fasting and non-stop prayer. It is not my own tendency to seek such essentialist meanings in these correlations. But the symbolic parallels are so strong that they make these other differences irrelevant. If these theological/symbolic/spiritual parallels are meaningful. however. but it is certainly possible to do so. and can even include the opportunity for anyone to offer a small piece of flesh as part of one’s prayers in the sundance. The idea of ameliorative suffering is hardly alien to Judaism.have drawn would make sense to anyone knowledgeable about both paths. One sticking point to the idea that this is a connection between specifically tribal traditions is that the Kabbalistic interpretation of Jewish rituals in terms of male and female is so much later. also some conspicuous differences between Native and Jewish spiritualities. One could even say that one has in the example of Kabbalah and of Native Lakota rituals an example of highly correlated symbolic systems that are being extended and extrapolated. I . Another huge difference is that the Jewish tradition is rooted in an agricultural and pastoral society. etc. the union of male and female that happens by way of the same configuration in both traditions may point toward something more fundamental in the human psyche. alien worship.) Other differences we have already alluded to: the tendency not to interpret or analyze rituals in Native traditions. which includes chest piercing for the men sundancers and fasting for four days for all the dancers. In Lakota rituals. then. There are. while the Lakota tradition is rooted in a hunting society. (It is no accident. minus the focus on textuality. that the closest thing in Jewish worship to the sundance is specifically the Yom Kippur fast. physical suffering is considered a normative form of prayer. more than two thousand years later perhaps. This leads to some rather interesting contrasts in the culture around food—especially in the treatment of roadkill. using two different modalities. than the origin of such rituals. This suggests one last dynamic with which I may conclude. then they can provide the framework for a way to participate in Lakota spirituality as a Jewish person that is more than just a form of cultural appropriation (on the condition of course that one allows the Native rituals to speak their own meaning independently of any fancy Kabbalistic interpretation). Sundance is quite concretely the Native version of the Jewish High Holidays. the offering of a piece of flesh would be strictly forbidden as avodah zarah. into two radically different social realities.

Fundamentally. one more essential point remains. though of course in my own self they integrate in some fashion. for all our relations. Ultimately. the Lakota and Jewish traditions remain separate. I am not trying to reduce one to the other.am not trying to integrate the two traditions into one. Aho Mitakuye Oyasin! . The lessons of one may deepen the experiences and teachings of the other. That is both a Jewish and Native value. Adding the two together is not like adding two magnitudes to get one sum. That perhaps is one way to define tribal religion versus more Westernized religion—even though the tribal dimension is far more defined and manifest in Lakota ritual than in Jewish ritual. and I wish that it may be true not just for my own experiences and experiments. nor am I running away from one in order to embrace the other. I believe I can answer unequivocally that it does. Whether or not this kind of comparison of religious traditions is appropriation or appreciation. but rather like identifying new dimensions that are orthogonal to the dimensions one already knows. This is the question of whether drawing on these two traditions and connecting them leads to a spiritual practice that is more connected to the world and more able to heal the world and to heal our relationship to the world. like fellow travelers on this human road. but also for the work of this symposium. we are talking about two traditions that embody their wisdom and teachings in very physical rituals rooted in elements taken from the earth around us. May it be so. but they are not a continuum. hopefully as neighbors and maybe even sometimes companions.

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