James Milner Mrs. Holding HRE3M1-11 24 September 2012 The Importance of Rituals and Ceremonies Aboriginal religion, like many other religions, is characterized by having a God or Gods that created people and the surrounding environment since the beginning of time. Aboriginal people are very religious and spiritual, but rather than worshiping a God they cannot see, each group believes in a number of different deities. These deities are often seen as a recognizable form such as a landscape feature; an illustration on a rock and an animal or plant.
The role of nature plays an important part in the Aboriginal religion because Aboriginals have a strong connection between the natural and spiritual worlds. In order to maintain their bond with these spirits of nature, Aboriginals practice rituals and ceremonies. For instance, the “Sun Dance” is practiced in order to acknowledge the sun as the giver of life. These rituals and ceremonies most often include a shaman. The shaman enters a trance state during a ritual and practices divination and healing.
The role of the shaman is to interpret messages from the spiritual world to the human world in order to get solutions to problems affecting the community. However, to achieve the prestige of a true aboriginal one must go through a process called the “vision quest”. The vision quest is the pursuit a teen Aboriginal must take to officially enter adulthood and to find spiritual guidance and purpose. The youth must leave camp into the wilderness and fast from food and water to await a “vision”. Usually, a guardian animal or force of nature will come in a vision or a dream and give guidance for the child’s life.
Rituals and ceremonies are an important part of aboriginal culture and religion to maintain faith and spirituality. A common ritual practiced by the Great Plane Nations is the Sun Dance. The cottonwood pole (“tree of universe”) is an important part of the Sun Dance because it symbolizes the universe. During the Sun Dance, Aboriginals offer sacrifice to the creator, the sun, by attaching hooks to their chest from skewers connected to the “tree of universe” and ripping open their flesh. This tree is an important symbol in Aboriginal religion because it is known to connect the earth to the heaven.
Another ritual would be the Shaking Tent, practiced in the Subarctic and Great lakes. These nations believe that they can communicate with present spirits by capturing them in a “Shaking Tent”. This tent is constructed from birch bark poles, birch bark, and hide. After the shaman would enter the frame, it would completely be covered with bark and cloth. All the people would gather and sit in a circle facing the shaking tent. Singing and drumming summoned the shaman’s spirit helpers who were used in curing and antisorcery. The tent would shake because of the strong connection to these present spirits in the spirit world.