What is?… is a series that helps to illuminate the people, the medicine, and the inner workings of the Dance For all People. The puhakanten is someone who becomes the hollow bone for ceremony:
A puhakanten [pronounced boo-hah-gan(t)] is one who carries and moves medicine. He or she is a person who calls the power down into a ceremony or a healing circumstance or into a special place for sacred work. That person must behave in the way that the people expect him or her to, and in keeping with what the specific work expects.
Puhakanten literally means a clay vessel. When the power is called down, it comes in and through the vessel. The goal is to be the best possible vessel— clear and clean. It is a life-long task and improves (or weakens) throughout one’s life. Some think they can avoid the gift or even “retire” and put the gift aside. They are just fooling themselves and looking for a period of frustration. Once bitten, you’re bitten. It is a part of your life for ALL of your life.
All gifts must be approached with true humility. Power and ego have no place in medicine work. Consequently, you don’t put a price on the work but accept whatever the person or community served offers as a gift of their heart. Power and ego are not unique to any culture. All races who traverse this earthwalk have the challenge of overcoming these pitfalls, especially when the power to call down energies becomes strong and the person becomes revered by the people. Should the power be misdirected in anger, these powers can hurt and even kill. It is therefore important that the individual stay balanced and not get angry or put themselves in situations where anger or harmful thoughts can be provoked. A puhakanten tells others that he is nothing, for, in fact, he is nothing but a hollow bone for pure spirit to flow through to the people.
Some medicine work is black or white. When the work and the related powers reach into the gray realm, things become nebulous and require discernment. Things can go either way quickly, transporting one into bliss or into confusion and pain. How the puhakanten discerns what lies before them and how they carry themselves becomes more and more a delicate but forceful weaving. And as always, it is vital that one be mindful of how they use the work, how they conduct themselves in the work, and how they live and act outside the work in their daily tasks.
The Blackfoot people knock three times on the door of the ceremonial space before entering. In so doing, they not only announce their entry into the space but also that they leave all problems and animosity outside, hopefully not to pick them up after they finish the sacred work.
In a group ceremony, there should be no judgment of each other regardless of how you see others outside. For instance, if a man who is known as an alcoholic in his everyday life enters the space for sacred work and does so in a good way, he should not be dismissed as such, but rather as a humble two-legged doing his best. As we enter sacred space we need to honor ourselves and walk with pure heart and good intention.
Those in the Working Circle are in service to the community and “work” the dance. The dancers whom they assist “dance” the dance. The dancers are the power force of the Dance For All People. The Working Circle folks help direct the energies that the dancers generate and channel the arrival of various powers, ancestors and spirits. They are not higher or more-than the dancers. If anything, they are in service to the dancers and Great Mystery.
It is very important to honor and respect ALL medicines and their carriers. There are bodyworkers, seers, pipe carriers, two-spirits, stone-connected people, healers, cooks, artisans, bundle keepers, the list goes on. All tasks in life— when done is a good way— are medicine since they are vehicles for Spirit to enter our everyday lives, not only during ceremony. In this way all of life is a ceremony, lived in the honoring of Spirit and the ancestors.