When I was a young boy, maybe ten years old, I would get these feelings during the full moon. One summer day I decided that I would make a circle in the garden by stomping on the dirt. That night as the full moon was rising, I snuck out of the house and went to that circle. I stomped around the circle until I got tired. A few days later my mother noticed the circle and asked me if I had made it. I told her that I had. She asked me what I was doing. I told her that I felt like stomping. She told me to stop doing it. It was packing the dirt in the garden. I stopped.
The feeling never left me. Sometimes as the full moon was rising in the summer I would go out in the yard wherever I was and stomp around in a circle. I didn't know what it was or where the urge was coming from. I felt the urge rising up out of the earth and into my feet. In 1992 a friend invited me to go with him and attend the stomp dance at a friend's place in Stillwell, Oklahoma. There was a feast at noon on the stomp grounds and the ball game in the afternoon. The ball game was between men and women. The women used their hands to throw the ball at the top of a pole in the middle of the stomp grounds while the men had to use short sticks with a woven cup at the end to pick up the ball and toss it. There was another feast between the ball game and sundown. All day long I noticed a fire burning on a small mound on the East end of the stomp grounds. As it grew dark everyone moved over to the fire and arbors around it. There were seven arbors in a semi-circle around the fire. One of the Elders shouted out a call in Cherokee and the stomp dance began. As I watched the first round of stomp all those urges from childhood forward suddenly made sense. I had been trying to do the stomp dance.
A few years later I had a dream that it was time to bring the fire back to the East. I knew someone who had helped setup and get the stomp dance going at Big Cove over in North Carolina a few years earlier, but I didn't mention this to the ones bringing me the dream. It was related in the dream that there would be Teachers that would come and help me do the stomp. I did the best that I could to honor the dream starting out with a mound on the grounds where I was living. It wasn't long before a lot of people were coming to take part in the ceremony. Somehow there were people from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia attending the stomp dance. It was still my job to mow the grounds and cut the firewood for the fire. After a few years I moved the stomp to a different area with more room so arbors could be built and a pole set up for the ball game. Still no one came to help with the task at hand. The feasts were always good. Everyone brought lots of food to eat. That was good.
Over the years I've learned a lot about stomp dance, mostly from doing it. There's a saying that I hear a lot. “That's my old stomping grounds.” It usually implies that the person went to a particular place to meet other people with the intent of hooking up for the evening. Stomp dance is a lot of things and courtship among the young people was part of it. Seven stomp dances would be held each year starting with the fourth full moon after the winter equinox. This would usually coincide with Passover for the Hebrew people on the other side of the planet, but stomp dance is much older as a ceremony. Each stomp dance during the warm season is associated with the planting, growing, and harvesting of corn. The final stomp dance of the year is called the Big Medicine Stomp.
In the time before the White Man came and disrupted the natural sequence of life here on Turtle Island, the villagers would fast for four days before the Big Medicine Stomp. All fires would be put our in the lodges during this time. Everyone would observe this time in silence and meditation as much as possible. In the evening of stomp day the wood would be on the mount but no fire would be started. The dance would began and the fire would be renewed. There has always been some speculation as to how the fire got started, but it hasn't happened that way in a long time. That was what the dream had shown me, that it was time to bring the fire back in the Old Way. The next morning the fire would be moved to the council lodge, and from there it would be carried to all the lodges in the village. Also during this time all the wrongs of the past year would be forgiven. There were seven sacred villages, called Peace Villages today, where a person could go and stay if they had done something wrong to someone. The morning after Big Medicine Stomp they could leave the Peace Village without fear of being harmed by that person or a family member. Throughout the society of the Ani-Yun-Wiya (Cherokee) the resentments and crimes were forgiven and everyone started the next year with a clean slate.
Over the years there have been other dreams, visions, and challenges for me. In 2003 the Seventh Challenge of a Cherokee medicine man started for me. During the next seven years I lost everything. During this time I had to survive by wits alone. The wife left me. Most of those who had been taking part in ceremonies with me stopped. The box kept getting smaller and smaller. In February, 2007, the property was auctioned off in foreclosure. I did the Big Medicine Stomp in October of that year and then packed what I could into my car and drove away in early November. I completed the Seventh Challenge in January, 2010, which is parallel to experiencing nothingness in the practice of Buddhism. I got there by following the spiritual teachings of my ancestors.
Normally a person would complete the Seventh Challenge, where they would have been banished from their village until they completed the challenge (or died trying), and returned back to the village. In my case there is no village to return to. This is White Man's world now where property is owned by individuals who have the right to say who comes and goes. Maybe things will work out so I can go back to my old stomping grounds one day. Meanwhile the ones who brought me those dreams are still here. I am of the Seventh Generation. Now the Ninth Generation is coming of age. Maybe they will wake up one day with a dream about a fire and a group of people doing the stomp dance. When that time comes I'll be here to share what I know of the challenges of manifesting a dream. Hopefully they won't have to wait until they are almost 40 years old to make sense of those dreams like I had to.
Oliver Loveday © October 5, 2017 5pm EDT Full Moon waning