Towards the end of August, my thoughts typically turn to the ceremonies of December. Today I am remembering a Gathering of the Spruce ceremony which took place many years ago.
The ceremony took place at our temple in Skull Valley Arizona. In our years in Skull Valley, we had many people visit us and on occasion we had as many as 30 people celebrating our ceremonies with us. This particular ceremony took place at a time when Swami Ramananda had gotten quite old. As his age increased, it seemed that fewer and fewer people would come to see him. I believe he was very happy about that because his hearing was very poor, and he could only guess at what they were saying to him.
This particular Gathering of the Spruce ceremony took place in mid-December. I remember it because it was the last Gathering of the Spruce ceremony which Swami Ramananda performed.
It was an interesting year, one of his students from 30 years previously had contacted us, and she and her husband came out to Arizona to participate in the ceremony with us.
The ceremony’s purpose is purification and rededication. The needles of the spruce tree are an ancient Native American herb used for purification. During the ceremony, as Swami Ramananda spoke, I would smolder a number of small branches of spruce emitting a very fragrant smell.
I was intently watching over the smoldering needles, while Swami Ramananda continued to speak to those gathered. One moment I looked towards Ramananda and saw that he was in a glowing golden color, that every hair on his head seemed perfectly placed, that his beard was smoothly combed, and his face looked as if he were 15 years younger.
I watched him for a while, marveling at the beauty of the scene in front of me. And I made a mental note to ask him about this experience at some point after the ceremony.
As things happen, after the ceremony, I became a very busy with those who attended the ceremony, and this wondrous event slipped from my memory.
In those years, Kerani Devi and I would make journeys to California to visit family over the Christmas holidays. The next day after the ceremony we left for California, and I didn't get a chance to question Swami Ramananda about what I observed. We returned to Arizona 10 days later.
The day that we returned, I went into the temple and realized that the back of the altar wall which was decorated with evergreen branches, was filled with very dry evergreen needles. Except for one area, the area that was right behind where Swami Ramananda had sat. The evergreen branches in this area were still fresh and moist, and had a delightful scent.
There is a story about Krishna where he incarnates in just the right form to kill a demon. The story goes on that even though the demon was lying there dead, because his foot was touching the toe of Krishna, his body appeared as though it was still alive.
In a way on that cold December night, those of us attending the old Swami’s last Gathering of the Spruce ceremony were able to experience the Life-Filling Abundant Light of Divine Blessing.
May These Blessings Surround and Enfold You