A Baptism by the Creek . . . . .

In the mid-1990s, a young couple from our congregation approached me about facilitating a baptism; requesting a private conversation as there were some extenuating circumstances. I was a little curious as they were sporadic attendees, had never been formally introduced and never seen them at our services with a child.

They came over to the house a couple nights later to explain that their daughter, an 8-year old named Jessica, of her own volition, had decided she was going to orchestrate a baptism for herself. Refusing her parents offer to assist creating and moderating the event, she finally agreed that a facilitator was needed; that her parents were here hoping I would agree to be interviewed by her for the position.

They were somewhat apologetic that Jessica had been raised in a very permissive way with an emphasis on offering her choices rather than using the emphatic “NO”. Lastly, Jessica insisted that her parents have no input and thus it would be necessary for me to play one-on-one with Jessica, maintaining a confidential relationship without consulting her parents. By the end of our meeting, my curiosity had morphed into intrigue, and I accepted the challenge.

A few nights later, I met with Jessica for the first time alone while her father sat upstairs with one of our Westies while Gita decided to chaperon Jessica down in the den. To say the least, she was forthright bordering on precocious; though clearly innocent, she probably even understood what that meant. Indeed in the first half-hour, knowing from my Jewish roots her name meant “gift”, I came to the realization that a gift had entered my realm. She was going to lead while I would offer some aspects of rituals that she may decide to incorporate.

Of course, I started with the power of the drum to bring us all into one space; that 20 minutes of drumming would leave us all en-trained to be in your ritual together. That I could provide 13 hand drums and she could ask for others. Suggested beginning with a circle in the center drumming; then forming a circle hug inviting the calling out of ancestors they wanted to joyn us.

I explained to her the Native American concept of the “hunka” (hoon-KAH), relatives by choice. That most tribes honored the hunka over the soul lottery of your birth family. Expanded the concept of hunkas into forming a 'Council of Elders' to witness your aspirations and hold them in their hearts. Given her determination, thought she would appreciate that there is no feedback from the Council unless requested; that they were primarily there to witness.

Exposed her to the 'medicine wheel'; that by placing certain people which reminded her of specific elements such as the sun, moon, grandfather, grandmother, etc, in particular cardinal directions around the circle, her intention would create an energy field of her making.

Suggested possibly using the ritual of 'talking stick', allowing one to speak while the many were implored to listen deeply; that, if they were thinking of a reply, they were not truly listening. Additional we discussed the power of storytelling; of raising the energy of our wishes and desires.

Also spoke of the traditional use of water around the world to have Mother Earth consecrate her baptism. Up to this point, she had been pondering the possibilities, but she was adamant that there would be no water used in her ritual! I was taken aback but eventually demurred.

A few days later, Jessica's mother called to say that fortunately, I had passed my job interview; and asking if I would be willing to continue? Knowing I was in for a ride, I gladly accepted. At the beginning of our second session, after due consideration, Jessica laid out how the ritual was going to be performed. It was to happen in early May at 11:00 AM on a specific Saturday so as to not conflict with the Christians. It was going to take place in her favorite copse of trees on a grassy knoll next to Minnehaha Creek. There would be thirty-some-odd people invited with hand-written notes from her. Each invitation would invite them to bring a non-material gift in the form of a story, poem or song. If that person possessed a certain type of gift she was aware of, she would ask for it to be in that genre. She would make up cards to pin on the grass, creating a seating arrangement of her 'council of elders'.

I raised my concerns about not only the weather in early May, for it could be snowing; and that the spring floods could overflow the creek to leave her spot underwater. Once again, without using the adult trick of asking me to trust her, she was adamant that the weather nor the creek was going to be a problem.

Her ceremony would begin as suggested with us all standing, drumming together, inviting the ancestors, then all taking their assigned place in the medicine wheel Jessica wanted to create. I would make some brief introductory remarks informing them of Jessica's intentions for her baptism. One . . . that she would move her meditation pillow around the circle, sitting in the lotus position in front of each gift-giver. Two . . . that she expected some of the gifts to be very emotional for her, and she did not want to feel the need to respond in any way. Three . . . that she did not want anyone anticipating their performance instead of being fully present, so no one would know who is next as she was going to do the circle randomly by sitting in front of the next gift-giver of her choice.

So Jessica's day dawned as she had devinated . . . one of those Midwestern spring days with a warm sun shining through cool air. Her guests arrived in 'flower power' clothes with coffee mugs, colorful blankets, pillows, drums and instruments galore to weave a tapestry of a 50-foot diameter circle where Jessica had gifted each and every one of us with a heart-smile before the first drum beat.

And that was just for starters. Turned out most of her clan were musicians of the repressed hippie culture with songs, stories and poems to regale in such a way that I often had the thought 'what else could possibly top that'. It was no accident we were sitting near a creek named Minnehaha. Jessica sat on her pillow facing the gifter, sometimes in tears, sometimes in laughter. Sometimes she would whisper a comment; most time not. Always though, upon standing, a deep bow before spinning around, devining who was next.

After an hour or so the blue sky turned white, then gray and then towards the end it began to lightly mist, what I call 'liquid sunshine'. We were all so enthralled, no one cared, nothing changed except a few instruments made their way back into their cases. Eventually, Jessica, with her hair now plastered on her forehead, placed her pillow in front of me last. I had prepared but was not even sure I would be included from not being a member of her clan. Jessica smiled, and in that smile, she empowered me to break a promise.

I shared, having been sworn to silence about the top-secret negotiations that resulted in this ritual, that I was time and again taken aback about Jessica's being adamant as to no inclusion of the traditional blessing from our Mother Earth of using water to sanctify the child's name. That I had talked at length about the powerful energy encapsulated in a name; that for that reason, I personally shied away from nicknames or shortened names.

Furthermore, there is a now a mark on every forehead, across every third-eye in this circle that our Mother Earth was not having it. That in this ritual every one of us has been renewed by the grace of the one who sits before me; now baptized like it or not.

Never more apt: HO TO THE FLOW for only it knows. Sometimes Spirit just pours it on your head

Love is . . . . .