Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Sacred Hunt

This weekend, I attended another workshop sponsored by my friend Tim Corcoran at Twin Eagles Wilderness School: The Sacred Hunt. The keynote speakers were Dr. Randall Eaton and Jon Young.

The workshop examined the sacred experience of hunters from a variety of cultural perspectives, including that of indigenous people around the world. Unlike the industrialized killing of animals within this present market economy, traditional hunters experience a deep, relational connection to the animals. Ironically, those who hunt from a place of deep connection almost universally demonstrate a profound reverence for the earth and for all living things. As Dr. Eaton indicated in his lecture, hunters have done more to preserve nature than almost any other segment of society.

Most workshop participants shared tender and heart-warming stories regarding their connection to the natural world. Some described intense cathartic experiences when they first internalized the beauty of the earth on a spiritual level. Almost everyone shed tears throughout the sharing of stories. For my part, I was deeply moved to witness the humility and love expressed by all the participants.

When not sharing stories or listening to the presentation, the community gathered to practice traditional skills. My friend Daniel brought a deer hide and enlisted the group to support him in the tanning and stretching process. The photograph above shows the people stretching the hide. At first, I resisting his invitation to help, but in the end, I just could not walk away. Afterwards, I laughed and said to Daniel, "It was very clever of you to bring your deer hide to a gathering of nature enthusiasts. You provided them with a learning experience and also got them to do all your hard work." He smiled with a just the slightest twinkle in his eye.

At one point, the hide stretchers enlisted the children. Like a scene from an Alaskan village, the adults held the edges of the hide while bouncing the children high into the air.

My friend Ethan learned to prepare sinew for making arrows.

A few participants made a tiki torch using all natural materials: willow branches, cattail leaves, and cedar bark twine. 

On the second day of the workshop, I woke up at 6:00 in the morning and took a short hike to the river. I got several beautiful photographs of the frozen landscape.

From left to right: Randall Eaton, Barry Moses, Jon Young, and Tim Corcoran.
The final day of the workshop landed on a Sunday and on my 40th birthday. As we concluded the session, the entire group sang Happy Birthday and presented me with the tiki torch as my "birthday candle."

Our friend Sandy owns Scotia House which hosted the entire gathering. At the conclusion of the workshop, she read a poem.  

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