Cultural Celebrations

Peggy Thompson put us into the right frame of mind for the evening by sharing a reading from her Yoga teacher:

Symptoms of Inner Peace

Be on the lookout for symptoms of inner peace. The hearts of a great many have already been exposed to inner peace, and it is possible that people everywhere could come down with it in epidemic proportions. This could pose a serious threat to what has, up to now, been a fairly stable condition of conflict in the world. Some signs and symptoms of inner peace:

•  A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experience

•  An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

•  A loss of interest in judging other people

•  A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others

•  A loss of interest in conflict

•  A loss of the ability to worry (This is a very serious symptom.)

•  Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature

•  Frequent attacks of smiling

•  An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them happen

•  An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it back to them

Lynda Fuchs shared with us her collection of beads from around the world. She first became interested in beads during a trip to Senegal to visit her daughter, who was in the Peace Corps there. Admiring the beautiful beads worn by men, women and children in the small Senegalese villages, Lynda began buying beads for herself in the local markets. From that modest beginning, her collection has grown to include beads that come from many countries and are made of a wide variety of materials. With a background in anthropology and sociology, Lynda has taken up this hobby with a passion.

Lynda held us spellbound as she described the bags and strings of beads before she passed them around our circle for us to admire. She started with hand-painted ceramic beads from Peru. She showed us “eye” beads (beads with small, incised “eyes” to ward off evil) from Brazil; she pointed out that similar beads are also made in India and Egypt, illustrating how various cultures share similar concepts.

She showed us elaborate glass beads from Venice, long noted for its production of glass. Hundreds of years ago, Venetian glassworkers were exiled to the offshore island of Murano so as to contain the fires that occasionally were ignited by the extreme heat needed for glassmaking. Because formulas for coloring glass were handed down through families, many Venetian glass colors are found nowhere else.

Lynda pulled out several African necklaces made of different-sized fish vertebrae and seed pods. She showed us a West African necklace created from coconut shell discs. She shared two lovely necklaces fashioned from recycled glass, like Coke bottles, that had been melted and formed into beads. The beads of one of the necklaces were beige with lovely green swirls; those of the other necklace were sea blue.

Some beads are scented. A multi-strand belt containing tiny bits of myrrh, a tree resin, carried a wonderful, delicate aroma. Myrrh was also used in a necklace intermixed with seeds. Lynda said that tiny eucalyptus caps can also provide a familiar scent.

Semiprecious stones make beautiful beads. Lynda had two sets of German carnelian and banded agates. In quick succession, she showed us felted beads, which she had made; paper beads; 2000-year-old beads; a string of lava rock; Hawaiian kukui seeds; vinyl beads; ostrich shell beads; Baltic and African amber beads; batik beads made from horn in Kenya; silver and copper beads made of recycled pot metal; opal beads from Australia; opalescent glass beads; black jet beads that are actually fossilized wood; New Zealand abalone shell beads; yak bone beads from China; and Tibetan beads.

The documented history of beads goes back 30,000 years, to caves in France. Historically, most beads have been made by men, but in Mauritania, women make highly decorated kiffa beads out of powdered glass. Lynda pointed out that beads can be made from recycled materials and are frequently recycled from one necklace to another.

Although Lynda had far more to tell us, time constraints dictated that we break into small groups to make our own bracelets. Each woman received a baggie of small bead spacers, a bead shaped like a dove, and a wire with a clasp already attached. Each group received a plate of beads of many types. We were to add a bead, then a spacer, and then pass the assemblage to the woman on our right. In this way, each bracelet would be constructed by all the members of the small group, with this beautiful object binding us together. When the bracelet was of sufficient length, Lynda and Sabra Reichardt added the final loop. It was wonderful fun to move around the room inspecting the various bracelets that were created!

We returned to our large circle to the sound of drumming by Jeanne Boudreau. Jeanne learned drumming from a Native American woman; she participated in this woman’s drumming circle until the latter’s illness brought the circle to an end. Jeanne has continued drumming, bringing her gift to patients at University Hospital; to students at Syracuse University; to women at the Center for New Americans; to friends at Shalom Mountain Retreat Center; to friends and family at picnics, her home, and St. Augustine’s Church; and to us! Jeanne encouraged us to join in, using drums and rattles that she and Terra Harmatuk had provided. She urged us to feel the healing energy created by a drumming community. As we kept pace quietly and rhythmically, with closed eyes and open hearts, Jeanne chanted, “O Great Spirit—Earth, Wind, Fire and Sea—You are inside and all around me.” Our drums and rattles created a cocoon of space and sound that took us on an internal journey. Participants felt connected and balanced within the space that the rhythm created, with bodies taking over the mind, and circling energy waves making a sacred space.

After the first round of drumming, we exchanged instruments and began again, this time with eyes open, moving around the room. Spontaneous dancing began, with laughter and interaction among the participants. At a drummed signal from Jeanne, we sat again, then joined her for a closing song, echoing the words to “Fly Like an Eagle.” Our physical time together had come to a close, but we left with hearts and spirits intertwined: “Ho! Mitakuye Oyasin (pronounced: ho metaque assan): We are all related.”