By Scott Schill, Development Director
Naming ceremonies have taken place on the summit of a peak at sunrise or in a meadow at sunset. Often, each person in the group helps to make the space, and the experience, sacred.
Witness to a Sacred Experience
I recall walking into a group surrounding a medicine wheel. The medicine wheel is a stone circle divided in fourths. It measured about 12 feet across. The quadrant to the east was strewn with yellow rabbitbrush blossoms–thousands of them! They had collected dark pinkish gravel from the side of the jeep trail and covered the southern quadrant. In the western quadrant, the group had gathered black coals from their fire pit and cast them all over the ground. The northern quadrant was white with scattered ashes. It was breathtaking. Each color is symbolic of not only the four sacred directions but represents four stages of life.
At this time, staff opened the sacred circle by removing one of the larger stones on the eastern quadrant. Staff invited the student receiving his Earth Name to enter the circle. He walked to a small circle of stones in the very center. While the group stood in silence, staff closed the circle. Some stood with solemn faces, others with beaming smiles anticipating the ceremony. The staff leading the ceremony began reading the student’s write up.
The poetic write up flowed like smoke through the cedar trees as it described the characteristics of the student. Finally, the reading concluded with the question, “We give you the name…Raven Brother. Do you accept this name?” The student looked thrilled with the name. Then, as is tradition, the student shouts to the seven sacred directions, “To the east, I am Raven Brother!” “To the south, I am Raven Brother!”, and so on. The seven directions include the standard four, plus the direction upward or the spiritual realm, identified as Father Sky. The direction downward is Mother earth, who is connected to all her children. The last sacred direction is inward. “To myself, I am…Raven Brother!”
Meaningful, Lifelong Change
When the shouting ended, Raven Brother left the sacred circle. Then, the students and staff member gathered around greeted him with much hugging and back-slapping. I considered it an honor to have experienced it.
At times, the Naming Ceremony is limited by time or location, but certainly not imagination. Each one is very meaningful to the person receiving the name because it only happens one at a time and not every student receives an earth name.
The ceremonies also become a memorable experience for the staff as well because in many cases, they get to name students they have worked with and have personally witnessed the changes and the potential.
“The naming ceremony has been for me, and for my heart, the most sacred,” said Kaitlyn Jones, Field Support Manager. She answers to Crystalline Orchid at RedCliff Ascent. “Also, it is phenomenal to watch students make changes. For a long time, when students were at home, they were against the idea of change. Often, when they come to the program, they still don’t think that there is anything that they need to change.”
Overall it’s a very heartwarming experience.