Today, after two years of waiting, Nicole’s handcrafted mandolin arrived in the mail – just in time for our Pipe Ceremony.
Somebody placed the instrument in the middle of our cushion circle, and Celinda Kaelin began the ceremony. We spent a long time in focused prayer, passing the pipe clockwise, twice around, accepting it left hand first, puffing four times each. Closing my eyes and focusing on my own prayers, I forgot about the mandolin in the center of our circle. When the prayer had finished, Celinda spoke about the energy she felt coming from the mandolin, the increased wocangi. She asked Nicole to play a little from the now-blessed instrument.
The second Nicole’s fingers plucked the strings, tears blurred my eyes. They surprised me, really, and stuck around for as long as she played in that echoing side chamber. What was that? That mandolin had moved me – it had agency, power. Did I just have a phenomological experience? Did Nicole’s mandolin become sacred through Celinda’s blessing and our prayers, sacred and vibrating with power? I thought I would use Lane’s three models of understanding the sacred to try to better define my Pipe Ceremony mandolin experience. Though Lane uses these models to understand sacred space, I feel that the approaches can also lend insight into sacred objects.
Cultural – Nicole’s mandolin contains no magical power, rather the sacredness is a “social construction of reality” (Lane, 57). Our group designated Nicole’s mando’s sacredness by setting it inside a sacred ceremony.
Ontological (Eliadic) – Nicole’s mandolin has always been sacred. It just hadn’t manifested itself to me, to us, until the ceremony. Lane describes a sacred space from an ontological approach, “a sacred place is radically set apart from everything profane, a site recognized as manifesting its own inherent, chthonic power and numinosity. It is a place of hierophany, where supernatural forces have invaded the ordinary” (Lane, 55).
Phenomological – A place becomes sacred through a personal experience, a “reciprocity” with the place (or object). The mandolin and I interacted with each other, and the mandolin showed me its sacredness through its song. It was a subjective experience; the mandolin did not affect everyone the same.
It is possible that all three models came into play inside Shove to lift Nicole’s mandolin to an extra-ordinary level. Firstly, by setting the mandolin inside the circle with designated specialness, we culturally designated sacredness or blessedness. But perhaps, ontologically speaking now, Nicole’s mandolin has inherent sacredness, power inside its strings to move people, to cause emotion and greater spiritual connection – one just needed to tap into it. But did everyone in the room experience the results of this tap, this raising in spiritual connection when the first sounds plucked through, the way I did? Or was this a phenomological experience, one specific to me, in which my soul communicated with the instrument?
I don’t know. But I don’t think that I was the only one affected by the mandolin. Bruce and Celinda felt energy from the instrument; Bruce specifically felt that the instrument would always have a special connection with children. I look forward to our trip to Pine Ridge, to see how the mandolin affects other communities.