At each Sun Dance there is a sweat lodge that is used for the participants prior to the Dance actually beginning and for the supporters and singers nightly throughout. I never ended up participating in that part during my time in South Dakota. It just didn’t fit in for me at the time as mostly I was in bed and asleep by the time they had the rocks red hot for the nightly sweat.
This time around, I did participate in the supporters sweats. It was always with the Native American singers that were there to provide the drumming and singing for the seven daily rounds of dancing. I’m sure all sweats can be incredible experiences, but the power of their voices inside the small, enclosed space – void of any light save for the glow from the stones until the water poured on them cuts the glow and leaves a pure and total darkness is a potent event. The four rounds of each nightly sweat was again over my expectations.
Those sweats were so incredible and rejuvenating that I would feel like I could do just about anything afterward as I was filled with so much energy.
I don’t know if it was during or after a sweat or sometime elsewhere in prayer during the week, but another clear thought came into my head that I needed to tell the butterfly story to either the person that was in charge from New Mexico or the one from Tennessee.
I really hadn’t spent much time with either of them but I felt more comfortable going to the one from TN. I had not relayed any of my previous years experiences with him or of how I felt before and after the event.
There are no experiences that surprise this group as they have all experienced and heard stories that would make most people think it was a Hollywood script . He just listen intently as I told the story of having the one colorful butterfly on my leg and then the hordes along and in the road as we left the state and of my experience that the Mourning Cloak one was not about a death to someone I knew (or myself) but was my invitation to the memorial service the year prior.
He asked if I knew what the other masses of butterflies meant. I confessed that I did not and felt that I was to tell him. He asked what color they were. I might have said they were all one color when telling the story, but can’t be positive of that. Anyway, still a little leery of saying out loud that they were all black, I said they were dark.
I was then told that from how he was taught by the Medicine Man, the swarms of black butterflies are symbolic of an emotional release.
Wow. Nothing could have been truer of how I had felt when that Sundance was over the prior year.