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Walking the Red Road
Cherokee Ceremony, Seven National Festivals
Cherokee ceremonies are held in concert with cycles of
Mother Earth. During ceremony, positive attitudes are far more
important than rituals. Ceremonies offer opportunities for
community worship, socialization, and bonding.
Ceremonial musical instruments used for dancing and
festivals include drums, gourd rattles, and turtle shell rattles
(leg shackles). As part of worship, stomp dancing is held
around the sacred fire and is accompanied by drums, singing,
and leg-schackles worn by women. Other dancing occurred in
a 'square', a social area, usually around a center pole or social
fire. This was usually an area near the Council House, or the
Long House. Our Cherokee ancestors tried to make each
ceremony unique in some way-they were creative. Music,
dancing, feasting, stick-ball and storytelling were joyous
expressions of thanksgiving and occasions for Cherokee
bonding at all cyclical ceremonies.
A sacred fire containing seven different types of wood,
to represent the seven clans, was prepared and lit prior to
ceremony according to sacred rites. Direction of movement
around the sacred fire during Cherokee ceremony in counter-
clockwise. A complete, unbroken circle of "Red Heart' people
around the fire produces powerful energy of Creator's presence
carried by the positive attitudes in the heart of the participants.
1. Great New Moon Ceremony - Celebrated at the first new
moon in autumn (October). The Great New Moon Feast begins
a new cycle at the end on nature's previous productive year. This
ceremony gave the Cherokee an opportunity to give thanksgiving
to the Great Spirit and the ancestors for their blessings on us. It
was a time to feast, and give thanks to Creator that the cycle
2. Propitiation of Cementation Ceremony (Friendship
Ceremony) - Celebrated 10 days after the Great New Moon
Ceremony. This ceremony symbolizes the unity between
Creator and mankind. Traditionally two men publicly
exchanged clothes, one piece at a time. They were then
brothers for life. A blood adoption ceremony would be
appropriate during this ceremony.
Purification rites followed the Cementation Ceremony,
removing any unforeseen barriers that stood between us
3. Bouncing Bush Ceremony (Exalting Bush Festival) -
This was a joyous ceremony where Cherokee expressed
unrestrained joy giving thanks to the Great Spirit and his
helpers, acknowledging them as the source of our blessings.
It followed shortly after the Cementation Ceremony. Dancing
and feasting abound, and thanksgiving was expressed by
everyone tossing an offering of sacred tobacco into the sacred fire.
4. First New Moon of Spring Ceremony - Celebrated in March,
at the time the green grass began to grow. Fruits from the
previous fall harvest were brought to ceremony and consumed
to remember the continuation of Creator's care and blessing.
All fire were put out, and fresh fires were started from the new
fire, symbolizing fresh beginnings, and renewal of life from
5. Green Corn Ceremony - Celebrated in July, or August,
when corn is still green but fit to taste. A thanksgiving ceremony
including a sacred fire, dancing, feasting, and story telling
(especially the traditional legends of our wandering, and creation.)
A Priest must make an offering of firts-fruits of corn to the sacred
fire before corn may be eaten or harvested by others.
6. Ripe Corn Ceremony - Celebrated about 40 to 50 days after
the Green Corn Ceremony, when the corn is matured. This is
the end of the national cycle of ceremonies. Thanksgiving is
offered to Creator for the harvest of mature, ripe fruit.
7. The Chief Dance (UKU Ceremony) - Celebrated once every
seven years. The Principal Cherokee Chief is carried into the Sacred
Circle of the Sacred Fire, on a white chair, and acknowledged as
Chief of all the people be each of the clans. This ceremony reminds
us of the one true Chief, the Great Spirit-Creator. Dancing and feasting
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