This wonderful ritual was written and performed by Birch Von Baum, member and leaders of Fort Lauderdale CUUPS. This is the first place I held my workshop (text posted in this website, among the first). Apparently those efforts took seed. Birch encountered Lady Florida independently, and her revelations are part of this work. The directions used in this ritual are place-specific to Broward County, on the southeastern coast of Florida. Different locations may require some reshuffling, or substitutions, to make work.
Written by Birch Von Baum
*Birch* I call upon the four representatives to take their places in this circle. (To Circle) after each of our four representatives tells us about themselves they will lead us in a chant. They will say the line then everyone else repeat the line after them, together.
(Panther, Manatee, Key Deer and Alligator stand at the four directions.)
*Birch* Manatee, We call upon you to speak from the East.
Manatee (Karl), holding manatee totem:
I am Manatee. I swim, slowly, in the shallows and bask in warm sunshine. Life at my pace may seem too slow, but I welcome you to spend a day in peaceful buoyancy, unmoving except to graze on that tasty bit of grass. Then you can just shut out the noise and rest. Yet when I feel the slash of propellers from a careless boater or taste the pollution of red tide water, I know this is not the way of things. These dangers left only a few hundred of us alive in the 1970s, and even though we are no longer considered “endangered,” I would not say we are out of danger. Some of us live here year-round, others migrate to Florida for the winter, like the people you call “snowbirds”. We do not like the cold water on our skin. That is why we love the power plants so much. People will watch us, and drop lettuce to us, and we swim in the broad, shallow waters of the coasts and canals, never hurrying, but always watching for more tasty plants.
Manatee: “I am Manatee”
All say “I am Manatee”
Manatee: ” We are Manatee”
All: “we are manatee”
*Birch* Key Deer, we call upon you to speak from the South
Key Deer (Dragonfli) stands in the South, holding Deer totem:
I am Key Deer. Small, compared to my brothers and sisters to the north. I may look like a fragile creature but I am a creature of the Key Islands, bred and adapted to these islands. I can wander for food in the swampy marshlands, or among the mangrove trees, but it is the pine rocklands that I must go for fresh water. Not so many years ago, we were almost all gone. Even now, our numbers are not what they should be and the pine rocklands continue to disappear. So we struggle to live beside the humans who have invaded our islands in such numbers, but it is hard. So we take the food you give to us, and it makes us sick to our stomachs, or you drive your cars and kill us where we walk. We watch over the spirits who live in the Keys, and sometimes bear messages for them. Sometimes we are called upon to watch over those spiritual beings and protect them from harm. I hope that we can learn to live with humans in peace, for many years to come.
Key Deer: “I am Key Deer.”
All: “I am Key Deer”
Key Deer: “We are Key Deer”
“We are Key Deer”
*Birch* Alligator, we call upon you to speak to us from the West.
Alligator (Opal Luna) stands in the West, holding alligator totem:
I am Alligator. My armor is thick and my speed incredible. I can sink through the still waters of the alligator like the logs that are often mistaken for me, and then I can seemingly fly through the air in attack of my prey … looks hungrily at key deer … yum yum … I have watched dinosaurs walk the lands and swim in the seas and fly through the skies. I have seen beasts great and small come and go through the millennia and still I linger on, forever a survivor. I can count dragons among my many kin, and many other beings. Some great, some small, but all of us have the spirit of powerful lizards inside us. Yet even that could not save us, when we were hunted nearly to the last alligator for our hides so that you may have leather in your purses and clothes. I defend the secrets of the quiet Everglades waters. I lurk through and hunt in and always protect this sacred river, for it is my home. When you call upon the guardians of the watchtowers of the West, know you are also calling upon me.
Alligator: “I am Alligator”
All: “I am Alligator”
Alligator: “We are Alligator”
“We are Alligator”
*Birch* Panther, we call upon you to speak from the North.
Panther ( ) holding Panther totem:
I am Panther. Once my cougar brothers and sisters and I had the largest territory of any mammal in the Southeastern United States. By the 1970s I was lost to Florida, when eight females became the Mothers of us all, and we returned to eke out a struggle for survival in the Everglades. We call to you from the North not because we are here, but because this is where we must go if we are to continue to survive. Panthers are not meant to hover in tight spaces, overlapping with one another. We must roam, and roam far, but there are too few safe spaces to go, and too many cars and people wherever we travel.
We manage only because there are as few as 100 of us left, we who once were the kings of the Everglades, no matter what the Alligators might think. That is because I am the Master Hunter. When the Creator made Florida, he loved me best of all the animals, and I was granted the honor of being the first to walk upon this land, before even the winds
and the birds. To this day I am honored to walk up to him and have him stroke my velvet ears, although if anyone else were to try that I would not be amused. I can wait, patient as a stone, for the precise moment to leap upon my prey and snap its neck with a single bite. Learn from me, if you want to take action in life.
Panther: I am Panther.
All say, I am Panther.
Panther: We are Panther
All say: We are panther
*Birch* (High Priestess Florida) stands in the center.
Read excerpts from Everglades, by Jean Craighead George
“I am Florida”
“I am Florida”
“We are Florida”
“We are Florida”
Like the panther, the manatee, the alligator, the key deer, we live upon this land and depend upon it for our survival. Many things threaten Florida: the rising seas and swirling hurricanes, the pollution of our waters and the carelessness of those who treat the waterways as a dumping ground. The actions of humans to harm the ecology does more than hurt us, as humans, it hurts all who live in this land and try to survive in it. We must fight together to keep Floridians safe, whether they walk on four legs, or swim
in the waters, or lurk in murky depths, for we all depend on the same web of life that exists in this place.
(The response is, “we are part of it” – repeat after me)
The morning mist and the swirling storm –
we are part of it
The long rooted mangrove and the curling gumbo limbo
We are part of it
The rushing ocean and the quiet everglades
We are part of it
Create it, Live it, and may everything be a part of it.
So mote it be!
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