Tribal Alliance is a nourishing, healing, and balancing event. I would consider it to be a conscious gathering of spiritually enlightened individuals rather than a festival. The gathering was focused a lot on the awakening of our inner guardian to help each other and the world with all of our intentions. The culture of the event was aimed towards developing a connection to the divine feminine, the sacred masculine, and the bond between the two. The atmosphere and the energy of the people there created euphoric feelings, although it was a drug free event.
This gathering of intentional awareness was very much focused on taking care of the body, as it is the spirit’s connection to this world. There were three amazing meals provided from all locally sourced food that kept the body rejuvenated to help you thrive throughout your day. There was an eclectic taste of different styles of music provided each night of the event. One of the highlights of the weekend for me was catching Amani Friend’s ambient side project Liquid Bloom. This set created a beautiful landscape of sounds that soothed listeners right to their core. It consisted of gentle chanting, gongs, and soft hand and wind chimes. He was accompanied by a woman with a beautiful soft voice which further heightened the relaxed mood.
Amani also played a high energy Desert Dwellers DJ set on Friday night that also consisted of a lot of his own music that he produces under Amani. It definitely got people’s bodies going all over which way on the dance floor. DJ Dakini also threw down one of the more memorable sets of the weekend as she brought her worldly tastes in music to the stage. Cualli played his whole set with a bass guitar to accompany his downtempo melodic tunes. Suns of the Earth, a live band that consists of one of the producers of the event, Aloka, brought the audience back to their tribal roots. Compersion, a two-person group based on spreading ideas of unconditional love and respect of mother nature. Cacao ceremonies were also held right on the dance floor, as people connected with the vibrations being shared with them. Cuddle sessions were all over the dance floor and sleeping bags and blankets were definitely a common thing to see.
The festival offered sweats to attendees from a hand built American Indian style sweat lodge that was built on site Thursday morning. One of the sweat lodge elders, Donny, built the lodge from the resources that nature supplied to us along with the help of a lot of hard working volunteers. There were seven sweats throughout the weekend and I participated in 5 of the 6 that I could attend. There was one women only and one men only sweat lodge ceremony held throughout the event. These gender specific sweats allowed the elders to conduct different forms of connections by using alternative sweat lodge rituals. There were three sweat lodge elders that led the ceremonial sweats throughout the weekend. Each teacher brought their own knowledge and experiences into the wisdom that they shared. Although each sweat was a challenge, participants were encouraged to stay throughout the entire sweat. The cold running river less than 30 feet away made for a nice relaxing and refreshing break afterwards.
Donny led a few sweats in addition to building the lodge. He explained to me that the point of the ceremonies was to connect back to the elements and the ancestors and to “let the spirits do the work that they need to do.” While I helped build the lodge, Donny explained that the way the lodge is built holds very unique and specialized meanings. The entrance is always to the east. The lodge has 2 beams in each of the four cardinal directions; N, S, E, W. There are 4 beams from the bottom to the top. Each beam decreasing in size as they get higher. The bottom beam stands for purity, the second is for truth, the third is for clarity, and the fourth is for wisdom. 4 medicine shakers are passed to those sitting in the cardinal directions. The sacred fire is started with flint and steel to simulate the first fire of creation that came from lightning. The sweat consisted of a lot of tribal drumming mixed with prayers to the ancestors. The sweats consisted of four sets of four hot stones in each set, which also coincided with individual prayers. The prayers were welcomed into the ceremony with pouring water and each was closed with a pouring of water.
Adam Yellowbird is another one of the enlightened elders who helped lead sweat lodge ceremonies. He explained that we conduct sweats in order to work together to help advance the community. Those attending sweats breathe in all of the elements and release that which they need to process together as one in the lodge. He placed 33 stones in the middle of a log tepee in the center of the sacred fire. As the stones heated up, the group shares their insecurities and their prayers. The Chanupa, a sacred pipe made with an ancient “Red Stone” from Minnesota (that according to legend was coded with the blood from the ancients of the stars) was then passed around so that tobacco smoke could amplify the intentions of the sweat.
Clear intentions are established for each person to go inside and take care of what they need to work on personally. There is an emphasis on respecting the space of the fellow men and women who are joining in the sweat. One of the goals is to define one’s own experience of the balance between the sacred masculine and the divine feminine. Both are powerful, yet separate entities. One cannot exist without the other. After walking around the sacred outer circle surrounding the fire, men entered into the sweat lodge after all of the women had already proceeded inside. Then the sweat had each person call in their ancestors and the spirits to help them heal whatever it is that they need to personally work on.
Yellowbird was the elder who led the men’s sweat. He again had us acknowledge that the sweat is a sacred tradition that we are lucky to have the ability to partake in, as people were once persecuted for practicing it as part of their religious traditions. The word “Aho” is used if someone else in the group is speaking a truth that is your truth as well. “Aho” means that “your prayer is my prayer”. It is said during sweats to help call in the spirits and ancestors to help prayers come into fruition. While in the lodge, one speaks out loud to the stones their intentions and what they are trying to release. During the 3rd round of sweats, Yellowbird passed his leadership role of the sweat over to Aloka so that he can connect with and “lead his people”. Aloka very humbly accepted this leadership role and led in a sweat calling in all that it is that we need to best serve our own life and the lives of those around us.
The wisdom and knowledge that Grandmother Kaarina brings into ceremonial sweats is equally matched by her sassy and outrageous humor. Her chosen fire guardians and sweat assistants used copal before we entered in order to cleanse everyone who was involved in the session. Grandmother and her assistants sang songs and chants before any stones are brought in to call in the spirits. She then had five stones brought in from the fire for each of the directions and center and adds water to the stones. In the second and fourth rounds, Grandmother just has the shot stones brought in to the pit but does not add water to them during these rounds. This creates a sauna like atmosphere in the lodge where she lets us all “cook” with the heat of the stones straight from the fire. She reminds us to always remember the intentions that we brought into the sweat with us and to try to keep that intention simple so that spirit can help initiate those intentions. After each round, we cleanse in the river together as a group to prepare again for another round. After the fourth round is over, Grandmother treats us all to papaya and watermelon to reward our mind, body, and spirit for completing the sacred sweat ceremony.
All of the events, workshops, and ceremonies at Tribal Alliance were focused on improving oneself and one’s community. Each day provided a holistic combination of programming to choose from. Community building workshops, land projects on Verde Energia (the farm where the festival was held), permaculture lessons, yoga classes, and cow-milking were just some of the many options provided where you could learn something new that could help benefit your life or the lives of others. Tribal Alliance gives able opportunities for one to expand in their connection with their community and this world that supplies them with the tools for survival. Together as one, in harmony with this planet, we can accomplish a utopia that is truly sustainable for all…
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Photo Credit: Desdemona Dallas