Manataka American Indian Council

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Manataka Council Fire




A Night On The Sacred Mountain

By Lee Standing Bear Moore



During the full moon on the eve of July 4th, six men survived a harrowing night on the sacred mountain.  Lighting flashed and cracked across the dark sky as torrents of rain poured down all day across the Valley of Peace at Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.  A break in the rain came in the evening around six-thirty, just minutes before men gathered at the fire circle on the Manataka Sacred Grounds. 


Lee Standing Bear Moore and Kanil Grunawaldendena cleansed the circle with white mountain sage, sweet grass and tobacco.  Kanil brought a special preparation of Frankincense he acquired from his home in Sri Lanka.  He lit wonderful little burners that turned the olibanum or al-lubān milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree into wonderfully aromatic smoke that hung in the air to bless the circle. 


Mike Eye of the Eagle Feather Burton, his son Kris and Father Bruno Ruel from St. Mary's Church arrived.  Everyone was in good spirits so solemn ceremonies were temporarily halted while newcomers shared their enthusiasm and happiness at being there.  After prayers of thanksgiving, the group loaded into vehicles for a short trip to Gulpha Gorge Campground where Rev. Tom Haley of the Antioch Church of Tull welcomed them. The six men walked into the fire circle and more prayers of preparation were given before going on the sacred mountain


But already something was wrong.  Seven or eight were to meet in the Sacred Circle, but only six were there.  It turned out that two invitees were ill and it appeared that the journey on the mountain would be postponed.  Then, Bear's wife, Rebecca Owl Woman Moore, arrived to help transport everyone to the top of the mountain.  A quick vote was taken and it was the unanimous decision to accept Becky as the seventh and key member of the party.  She will carry our prayers to the Creator and insure our safety. The sacred Mother of the Mountain, the Rainbow Woman will listen to Becky's heart and all would be well.


Kanil Grunawaldendena, a Buddhist and retired astro-engineer later commented, "All seven participants including Becky were meant to be the "seven" that accomplished the "Gratitude" sacred walk trusting that the Universe shall guide us, or a Christian would have said, "The Father shall guide us" and the Buddhist would have said, "Enlightenment, Righteousness and Truth shall guide us"; and so forth as per our beliefs and faith what ever that incomprehensible supreme force is."


During short ceremonies at the Gulpha sacred circle, Rev. Tom Haley was honored by the Elders of Manataka when presented with a red-rainbow Manataka finger-woven sash to be worn over his shoulders and around his neck when officiating sacred ceremonies.  The Manataka Rainbow Sash can be worn around the waist while dancing in the circle or around the head when defending the people.  The Elders of Manataka will again honor Rev. Haley in July when he is formally inducted as a member of the Elder Council. 


Tom Haley also received a personal gift -- a star blanket gifted to Lee Standing Bear Moore in 2013. The star blanket is a symbol of Manataka's protection and love.


The rain continued to hold off while the process of moving the entire group to the top of the mountain by vehicle was done.  Once we were ready to begin the journey, we held hands in a circle and gave thanks -- gratitude.  The only request made during prayer was, "Lord God, Father-Mother God please allow everyone to return safe."


Everything was wet and soggy as we began sloshing our way through the mud down the north side of the mountain. There was little or no talking as we surveyed the darkness ahead with every cautious step.  Kanil recalls, "I think we passed a major test- In the pitch darkness."  The sharp stones beneath our feet and scattered rock outcroppings on both sides let us know we were on the path.  The full moon was of little help as the low clouds consumed the mountain and shrouded our vision.  It was a murky, breathable darkness. 


Tom Haley recalls, "...About 9 pm six of us began our journey down the Manataka Mountain.  The land was a bit wet after the early rains but at this time it was beautifully damp.  The sky was black but every now and then light was given by the Creator's lightening bolts..."


At a sharp bend in the trail, Bear stopped the group and pointed out the way to Hawk's Point and other features of the mountain.

Tom appeared to be a bit exhausted.   His leg was aching from a recent injury and punishment of the mountain.  Father Bruno and Kris Burton stood next to him and helped him over rough points along the way.  Tom was happy though.  He was honored when the Elders signified their acceptance of him as a new Elder of the Manataka American Indian Council.  He earned approval and recognition with his new red-rainbow sash.  He had the star blanket of protection for his own ceremonies.


The group made good time on the first leg of the journey, even if our steps were small and measured due to the darkness and slippery conditions.


According to Kanil and others, Mike Eye of the Eagle Feather Burton "led the group flawlessly" often calling out "Drop-off!, Sharp Stones!, or Waterfall! as he forged ahead leading everyone into the darkness. 

Tom Haley recalls, "...Father Bruno and Kris made sure I didn't fall down on the uneven rocks and waterfalls on the way down. Many times I felt like giving up. My ribs were hurting from a fall on my concrete driveway a couple of days earlier. My mouth was dry. I had drank the water I had. I could feel my legs becoming weaker and weaker. I thought of all the tribes who walked on this sacred mountain and who were with me now. I prayed to God, "Please help me get down safely from the mountain along with the others."   "...I had to push through the pain. I had to overcome. I had to complete this journey. And I did."


I was a bit discouraged by the damp, dank and dark welcome of the mountain.  I was expecting to perform seven ceremonies as we descended the winding paths, but instead the divine feminine presence of the mountain unleashed the wind and lightening and dowsed us with waters of purification.  I laughed to myself, "How could six nasty, sweaty men come to her without taking a bath first?"  We observed fasting purification customs prior to the journey, but it was obvious the Lady of the Mountain felt that more purification was needed for this motley bunch.  Besides, the Mother was having fun giving us a good bath. 


The journey down the mountain was treacherous and fear for each other consumed our thoughts.  Concentrating on physical well-being consumed our time and little opportunity was given for spiritual rites.  Frustrated by not being able to light smudge, sing a song, dance or form a circle, there was nothing else to do but slog forward into the night.   It was obvious that each man was silently praying throughout the journey.


After a hour or so of slopping through the mud, we came to the stone stairs leading up to Goat Rock.  It was a tough climb to the top and everyone arrived puffing but in good spirit.  As we gathered on the stone platform, Kanil was asked to tell about his recent discoveries about the Tula people who were the Keepers of the Great Water at Manataka.  It was difficult to hear him speak above the din of thunder and wind, so we huddled as best we could when the rain started pouring down with a vengeance.

The forest around us erupted into a wild dance of strong wind and driving rain. Lighting flashed all around us and like cattle in a windstorm and without warning the group shifted to moving quickly back down the stone steps leaving the teaching area.  Instinct spooked the men into moving toward safety and I was again disappointed that we did not calm ourselves against the furor of nature. 


We negotiated through torrents of water pouring down the mountain side and across the path.  Several places were extremely steep and slippery.   Several times I found myself calling out to the man in back of me, "Walk to the left" or "Walk Right!" fearing the soft mud along the edge of the path would give away causing someone to fall down the cliff.  Treacherous sharp rocks in the trail seemed to reach out and grab at our feet and legs.  It was not long before we came to Maya Rock, an outcropping of dark stones forming a small grotto with an altar-shaped stone in the center, perfect for ceremonies.  


Lee Standing Bear climbed up to sit in the back of the small rock cave next to the altar as others gathered around.  He told the story about one of the thousands of ceremonies performed at this place when a Maya priest on a pilgrimage to the sacred mountain built a small fire on the altar.  Smoke from his fire created a huge dome envelop enclosing the area against all outside eyes as two spiders came crawling from the back of the cave, entered the circle and bowed before the fire.   A huge face appeared in the smoke and spoke a message.


Though their dripping clothes and drooping heads, the group did not appear to be interested in the story about Maya Rock and were in favor of moving down the mountain anxious to find the campground and their vehicles.  The journey continued down the mountain at a fairly quick pace even though everyone was clearly exhausted.  It was about this time that I began laughing to myself.  Again, the Lady of the Mountain had chosen to teach us a lesson -- one that we could not easily see through the pouring rain. 


The trail finally met the creek in the gorge and I laughed even more when seeing the water raging over the crossing stones.  Another challenge to negotiate somehow made the trek more acceptable.  Our fearless leader, Michael Eye of the Eagle Feather made a quick decision to cross at the highway bridge and everyone was relieved to touch civilization again.


Rev. Haley remembered, "...I staggered to my truck with enough energy to give a goodbye to all and jump in the driver's seat. Those who were not exhausted came to the cab of the truck and embraced me like brothers.   I made it home about an hour away wearing rain soaked clothes and a tired body but a strong RED HEART.


A Journey on the Mountain

Kanil asked Bear, "Have you made this walk at night before when there was no moonlight?"


Yes, over the course of several decades we have experienced hundreds of lessons taught by the Lady of the Mountain in the deep darkness.  At midnight, December 31, 2000 a horrific ice storm blanketed the sacred Manataka mountain and hundreds of trees began to break under the strain of ice.  When huge pine trees crashed to the ground dozens of other trees were demolished with them.  The sound of the cracking and crashing trees was deafening.  Watching the trees falling in every direction was horrifying.  All the trails became blocked with debris and failing swords of ice stabbed the ground everywhere.  It was a good night to learn from the divine feminine in action. 


There are many stories about walking the mountain at night.


Father Bruno wrote a few days later, "...may the Lady of the Rainbow reveal herself more and more to all the members of Manataka. May the Unbroken Circle grow wider and stronger.  May Peace be in everyone's heart."


Kanil also wrote a few days later that he was amazed "...none had a fall, nor any injuries not a single stone or rubble hit my toes, nor any thorn pricked nor scratched my legs."   


The Symbol of Fragrance Of The Universe Is --- Gratitude.


The physical condition and age of some participants increased the risk of injury even on a clear night, but they came with gratitude in their hearts and that protected them like a magic bubble -- the Rainbow Woman was watching.


We quickly forgot about being soaked to the bone when several went for breakfast after midnight.  We laughed for a good hour or so.  Laughed more on the way home and woke up laughing later that day.


Yes, revelations of the Lady move across the sacred mountain in a thousand spirit voices.  Each one shows a different facet, a divine aspect that appear in a not-so-random fashion, but continually and forevermore leads to the path of Love and Peace.   


May peace be in everyone’s heart.