by Brian Collins
Grandfather Fire has planted vital seeds within the soil of our human lives. Watered through iyari, or selfless service, these seeds have born the fruit of heart connection and community. So too the milpas, or fields of corn, which stand at Casa Xiuhtecuhtli in Tepoztlán, Mexico, were once again filled with fruit-bearing stalks, thanks to the efforts of representatives from the three Sacred Fire organizations, as well as the Huichol marakate, the Nahua graniceros (weather workers) and the local Tepoztlán community.
Despite the rich volcanic soil in which corn has been grown for millennia, resources both material and human are required for it to thrive. When the cry for sustenance is great in the world, nutrients can become depleted. Similarly, individuals dedicated to providing for the spiritual hunger of their communities need support and resources to continue their work in a good way.
In response to that need, Grandfather Fire gave the instruction to “plant prosperity.” As we have reported before, the Prosperity Ritual is a ceremonial planting, tending, harvesting and sharing of corn. The people of the Americas relate that the gods gave them corn to feed the needs of their communities. Corn is abundance. The corn used in the ritual is heirloom seed passed down from the ancestors. It is planted with love and prayer, and harvested with gratitude. Some is eaten, some shared and the rest saved for replanting.
Now in its third cycle, the Prosperity Ritual has been a great learning for all involved, bringing divine lessons and encouraging heart-led solutions. Having persevered, there is much evidence that prayers are being answered. New donors, talent and unique opportunities are gracing the three sister organizations, and the graniceros, the marakate, and the local Tepoztlán community. Here are some examples:
Bill Sutton, executive director of the Sacred Fire Community organization, reports that the biggest gift over the past few years has been an awakening of shared purpose and mutual support between the Sacred Fire Community organization, the firekeepers, and the community itself. Many things that were obstacles in the past have just fallen away, and people are starting to be really inspired by the larger movement of what we are all doing together in the world. Bill Sutton shares,
Our mission is to bring the experiential gifts of Fire and community to a world in increasing need of guidance and connection. We initiate firekeepers and provide support for local fire hamlets, bring guidance and initiations to help people navigate the cycles of life through Lifeways programs, and work to make this precious opportunity of encountering the Fire’s presence available to more people through Grandfather Fire events. Donations to help support us in this work, evolve our presence, and pay for necessary infrastructure have been growing steadily in the last years.
Since the beginning of the prosperity ritual, the Sacred Fire Community has gained its nonprofit status and the organization’s donation revenue has grown from $5000 to over $100,000 per year. While that might be considered a humble start for the average nonprofit organization, this growth has been huge for us, providing the critical support we need to accomplish the many projects Grandfather has envisioned for us.
Along with the monetary growth, many talented volunteers are joining or rejoining us in fulfilling our mission, bringing renewed inspiration and a strong determination to work together with us and help us succeed in the mission Grandfather is laying out for us.”
Sofia Arroyo, executive director of the Sacred Fire Foundation, shares exciting news about the organization’s work to support ancestral indigenous traditions.
The most remarkable things have happened. I came into this job and found we had an invitation to talk to the Ford Foundation. This has led us on a path to cultivate a whole new level of our mission. New team members Neva Morrison and Elyse Portal have taken on the positions of Grant-making Director and Events Director, respectively. Neva was co-Founder and Managing Director of First Peoples Worldwide, an indigenous-led organization providing funding directly to indigenous communities. She brings valuable experience from the grant-making world. Elyse has worked and studied with many indigenous elders through the years and has a particular interest in bringing the wisdom of the elders to the youth. Another new addition to the team is Mary Fifield, Director of Strategic Partnerships. Mary will bring her experience as Founder and Executive Director of the Amazon Praetorships Foundation to serve as a fundraising and strategic development consultant.
My work is dependent on cultivating relationships and so many important new ones have sprouted. Just this last quarter of the year, as the corn was ripening for harvest, I attended the Ancient Voices Forum in Canada, the Latin America Indigenous Funders Conference (LAIFC) in Peru, as well as the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy in South Africa. This last trip was made possible through some generous scholarship money. Similar to the Foundation’s flagship events, Ancient Wisdom Rising and Voices of Wisdom, the Ancient Voices Forum seeks to deepen relationships with traditional elders and connects people who share a passion for this work. The LAIFC in Peru was an opportunity to strengthen relationships with other indigenous funders as well as to increase the visibility of the Sacred Fire Foundation. The Global Summit offered an opportunity to learn about what is happening in community philanthropy worldwide and allowed networking with like-minded organizations from around the globe.
Part of the Foundation’s mission is to fund indigenous community projects that ensure the continuation and revival of traditional knowledge. Donations have been strong, the 2016 fundraising goals have been met, and I definitely feel the Sacred Fire Foundation has been blessed with a flow of abundance. For this I also offer deep gratitude to all of the Foundation’s staff and board, as well as to our many donors.”
Mark Gionfriddo, executive director of the Blue Deer Center, is responsible for the administration, facilities, and staff support of programs that provide transformation and healing for those who visit. He also reports that the prosperity ritual seems to have blessed the Center in many ways:
We received over $200,000 in donations since August of 2016 and have hosted more new groups this year than any previous year. We are also collaborating with Plant Spirit Medicine faculty to develop the College of Plant Spirit Medicine at Blue Deer. In concert with this, Plant Spirit Medicine Healer Training courses will take place off-site (in the United States) for the first time in 10 years. The first satellite class will be hosted in Charlotte, NC in April.
Eliot Cowan, a tsaurririkame (elder shaman) in the Huichol tradition continues to lead powerful healing camps as well as Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner training courses on the sacred land here. He is just one of many healers and teachers who find the Blue Deer Center the perfect, welcoming setting for their groups.
We have also experienced prosperity through our relationships with the bees here. Our Center Director Kate Barrier and Program Director K’Anna Burton have engaged with a local beekeeper and our bees produced 60 pounds of honey to share this year!”
Casa Xiuhtecuhtli, home of the Huichol ceremonial Tuki and Nahua templo mayor, has recently been purchased and is being paid for by the marakate and graniceros. This is a big bill and has stretched many financially, but the payments are being made, securing a permanent home for the traditional ceremonies performed by the two groups. We are all hoping that continuing the yearly cycles of the Prosperity Ritual will allow the flow of abundance to continue for all of these dedicated people.
Perhaps it seems somewhat ironic that these groups, who come from the so-called “land of plenty,” are asking for more. But on deeper inspection, it is utterly apparent that the people involved are pouring everything they have into their work so that our hamlets, communities, regions, and humanity will all benefit. The Huichol people call this selfless action done to benefit future generations iyari. Even the labor of growing the corn as part of the Prosperity Ritual is a form of iyari. May the fields fertilized with such care and love continue to bring vital nourishment to all.