Spirit Leaves: A Sacred Feast


red-featherEastern wisdom enjoins, “The body is the Temple. Care for it; respect it.” Going beyond a glib reception of the words, we awaken to the deep beauty of this teaching. Upon reflection, we come to understand that healthy eating is a Sacred undertaking: another step toward highest enlightenment.

The body is an illusory vessel harboring the Soul. The Soul is infinite — a piece of the vast Ocean of All That Is, so the body cannot truly “contain” it. We are spinning Chakras of energy. Each wheel contains vibrating light. It’s no wonder that even the thought of certain foods instantly resonates within: I feel different imagining a stuffed-crust pepperoni pizza than I do visualizing an organic salad replete with thin radish slices, crisp snow peas, and Annie’s organic dressing.

Some foods have become lifeless, “dead” foods. They are synthesized, paltry imitations of the real thing. Others are laden with chemicals and lifeless. Even before most foods touch our lips, they’ve been chemically sprayed, covered with additives for shelf longevity, canned or jarred with preservatives, stored, shipped long distances, and warehoused. Ultimately, our future sustenance arrives at the store where it sits on shelves until we buy it, take it home and store it once again.

Imagine, instead, the way of our ancestors. A Mandan woman sings and prays while tilling her garden with a rake made from the shoulder blade of a buffalo. No part of the buffalo is wasted, and prayers have been said for his Spirit. That same woman harvests the foods seasonally in a ceremony under the waxing moon. She cleans the food in water that has been blessed. The woman chops and grinds herbs and seasonings using organic handmade deerhorn knives, carved stone mortars and pestles. She combines the foods while singing and praying, and then cooks them over a fire blessed with tobacco. Portions of foods and water are blessed and offered to the Spirits in a clean, saged wooden bowl. After expressing gratitude to the Great Spirit for the hands that prepared the food, and for the beings who gave their lives so that the humans may eat, a magnificent feast is shared.

The people could taste everything that went into the food, because it was all in its natural state. The medicines and prayers used to purify and bless the foods contributed an energetic frequency so high that eating itself would have been a spiritual experience. That is in stark contrast to our lamentable visits to fast food concessions, ordering items cooked on oily, dirty grills by angry, stressed-out, underpaid chefs under exploitation by corporate giants taking more than their share of labor’s output.

No wonder we find ourselves perpetually tired, sad and overweight. We visit doctors and attach labels to our condition and live under that onus. As our bodies decline, we take pills for comfort. These are mere chemical clones of their natural complements (aspirin, for instance, is really White Willow Bark). Additives and alterations bring with them inevitable side effects. The speed of Western medicinal remedies is impressive, but its artifice wreaks havoc on our bodies.

Our bodies are Sacred. With that high level of regard, we would more carefully filter every food, drink or substance we ingest. We would exercise and take in more oxygen and sunlight. The living beings that are our cells would elicit from us such compassion that we would listen to even the slightest distress call from them and immediately make an adjustment. Instead, we wait until the whole organism cries out in anguish from the etiology of a “dis-ease” that has been brewing in smaller stages for months — even years.

Ignorance is not bliss. My Higher Self has patiently waited for these words to surface that I might heed them and internalize the message. I have been told by The Red Feather Man that he has seen me in a dream, and I am to live a long life. I can’t meditate in a temple that has clogged pipes, cranky support beams, or a depleted flow of oxygen. Part of being spiritual involves caring for my physical self.

From this day forward, I shall consider scrupulously everything I proffer to the Holy Temple.

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Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., is a ceremonial singer who has learned over 60 traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota and sings in nine different languages. Janet was a full-time defense litigator in California for nearly eight years. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. A regular columnist for The Edge, she has also appeared in Psychic Guidepost, FATE Magazine and Species Link. Her book, Song of the Wind (2014, Galde Press), dealt with her experiences as an empath, and her journey through Mandan spiritual culture. She is currently a full-time, tenured English faculty member at Normandale Community College, having taught Composition and Literature for a span of 20 years.


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