Christmas Eve here in Tampa was warm, clear-skied, and starlit. I took my pipe outside onto the back lawn, and laid out all the many things that go into a medicine pipe ceremony: sage wand, lighters, bowls for the smudge and a bowl containing all the prayers I had already placed in small pinches of tobacco, my pipe bag, and the leather pouch full of tobacco.
This was my first Christmas Eve in many years that was not chilling cold. I kneeled on the damp lawn and withdrew my pipe stem and bowl from the bag I carry it in. The pipe bag itself is the upper body pelt of a gray wolf, shot decades ago by an arial hunter in Alaska. I came by the wolf skin hanging by its nose in a Jackson Hole curio shop. When my eyes fell upon it, I felt shocked and sickened. I’d never seen a wolf strung up that way before (I’ve seen many since…) “If I put that wolf on layaway, will you take it off that hook on the wall?” Yes, the clerk told me. It took me a long time to pay off the shop, but eventually, I brought the wolf home and decided that I would make its pelt into a ceremonial tool, so that it could be honored in some small way. The wolf has held my pipe ever since, its eye holes watching me every time I conduct a pipe ceremony… Read the rest of this entry »