Snake Dances

The Creeks and Their Dances (7)

By Ghost Dancer

Snake Clan is well known as a warrior clan and spiritual clan. Their role is one of strength and power and this is reflected in each of the distinct types of dances they conduct and oversee. The varied Snake Dances serve very different purposes so we will discuss each of them. Unlike some other cultures which feared and abhorred snakes, they were not looked at as being cursed or evil by the Southeastern tribes. Quite the opposite. Our stories and imagery are filled with tie snakes, winged serpents, rattlesnakes and water moccasins. Snakes were treated with respect and honor.

This first Snake Dance is a couple’s dance and courtship dance. If you have ever seen snakes do a courtship ritual, you will understand the parallel sensual dance that happens deep in the night, by the light of the fire, when the old ones and children are fast asleep. With upper bodies painted to resemble the different snakes and only the lower torso covered, the couples move in rhythm with the drum, mimicking the snake spirit. This type of snake dance is rare in modern times, but was common in the old days.

The second Snake Dance seeks knowledge from the snakes who are rulers of the underworld, the unseen. It is performed by those seeking to learn the mystical secrets of the earth and walking in between worlds through spirit travel. In the old days, many poisonous plants and even venoms were used to seek higher knowledge. Living in a world filled with poisonous plants, insects, and snakes it was imperative for the people to protect themselves and their babies from harm. Healers knew the art of diluting venoms and poisons and administering them in tiny doses to build immunity, so the dancers were afforded this protection.

In the dance, live snakes are tied to the arms of the dancer with braided grass and the dancer holds them in each hand. The snakes are poisonous, but they are being handled with love and respect. Dancing in rhythm with the drum, the dancer seeks to bind together and become one with the snakes in this dance of life and death. If the dancer is bitten, it will only hasten the desired feeling of leaving the physical body, letting the spirit free to travel. The dance continues until the dancers are all laying down. The snakes will be respectfully and gently taken away and released while the spirit of the dancer travels to wherever it needs to go to finds the answers sought in the ceremony.

The third Snake Dance Ceremony is of utmost importance to the entire community and is danced by members of the Snake Clan. The dance gives respect and honor to all the snakes for the gifts and protections they provide for all life as hunters, warriors, healers, trackers, and teachers.

The Snake Clan members dress in their finest regalia and wear head dresses fashioned to look like the snake they represent: the winged serpent, tie-snake, rattlesnake, water moccasin, black snake, green snake, coral snake, and all the other snakes. Moving in a single line to the rhythm of rattles, they are led by the winged serpent and then the rattlesnake, the dancers make their way through the whole town, between each home and building, around the ball field and the community garden fields. Along the way, the people toss tobacco, cedar, and tidbits of berries as gifts and offerings to the snake. Everyone understands that the Snake People protect all sacred places and the Snake Dance ceremony symbolizes the people’s gratitude to the snake for protecting them from diseases and those that try to sneak an attack in any form or way.

Respectfully, Ghost

Ghost Dancer July 2017 ©

Published by Edna Peirce Dixon

I am an elder in my 9th decade. I have lived an ordinary life, I’ve done all the ordinary and expected things, went to school, got married, raised a family, tried to be a good person. Throughout this life I have also been a seeker, an outsider by nature, always looking through cracks in the fences of life, questioning, challenging, learning, trying to make sense of the world and its conventions. Then in my golden years, as I sought to find meaning in my existence, some unexpected things happened and I’ve since learned it took a lifetime to prepare me for the challenge to come. My journey – indeed my calling - led me to come to know a remarkable man who happened to be an inmate in federal prison. Nothing could have been more foreign to my personal experience. GHOST DANCER Communicating daily for nearly nine years I had the opportunity to walk many paths with Ghost discussing our thoughts on many common interests with candor and respect. With enormous generosity Ghost has allowed me to share his wisdom and knowledge of his Native American heritage on Journeys of the Spirit. Over time, Ghost gradually revealed his life story in small bits, like scrambled pieces of some gigantic puzzle. Now, after spending more than 40 years in prison, Ghost Dancer is at last free and ready to tell his amazing personal story. As the saying goes, “you can’t make this stuff up” and as his friend and editor I can say this is a story so big that even after working with him for nearly nine years, I continue to be astonished as he shares new details my mind simply could never imagine. From the very first chapter, Ghost leads us on his journey and invites us to walk with him on his Nene Cate (Red Road). From the day he was born, a happy, loving gifted child, he endured heartbreaking sorrows, betrayals and exploitations. Through it all, Ghost fought a system determined to destroy him by any means, as he struggled to remain true to his calling. Through Ghost Dancer I also met and came to know Walks On The Grass, another federal prisoner whose story is also compelling even though very different. In Journeys of the Spirit, Walks has shared his decades-long journey from deep addiction to wholeness in LONG ROAD HOME and shared other bits of his story in ALONG THE WAY. Now as he approaches his August release into this crazy world of 2022 Walks shares his the thoughts and misgivings as he counts down to the big day in LIGHTS IN THE DISTANCE.

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