by Krystle Cole – September 3, 2009
About sixty percent of the NAC’s devotional ritual is made up of singing, which is usually accompanied by a gourd rattle and a small drum that is pounded rapidly. The singing is most often in the local native American language but sometimes it can include English phrases like “Jesus only” and “He’s the savior.” About twenty-five worshipers usually participate during each all-night peyote ceremony, also known as a peyote meeting. Each ceremony is always held for a specific reason, whether that may be a healing, baptism, funeral, or birthday. When it is time to take the peyote, it is eaten or consumed as a tea, and it is passed clockwise around the circle a number of times throughout the evening (Fikes,1996).
NAC members attend peyote ceremonies as often as two or three nights in a week or as little as once a year. Although most members attend an average of one ceremony a month (Halpern et al., 2005). The ceremonies are guided by healers, also known as road men. They are referred to by the term road man because they guide a person’s journey through life on thepeyote road (Garrity, 2000). Fikes (1996) noted that:
Peyote is regarded as a gift from God. It counters the craving for alcohol and is not eaten to induce visions. It heals and teaches righteousness… …morality is basically Christian and stresses the need to abstain from alcohol and be faithful to one’s spouse. Other prominent values include truthfulness, fulfilling one’s family obligations, economic self-sufficiency, praying for the sick, and praying for peace (p. 4)
Fikes, J. (1996). A brief history of the Native American Church. One Nation Under God. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers. Retrieved on September 1, 2009 from www.csp.org/communities/docs/fikes-nac_history.htm…
Garrity, J.F. (2000). Jesus, peyote, and the holy people: Alcohol abuse and the ethos of power in Navajo healing. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 14(4);521-542.
Halpern, J.H., Sherwood A.R., Hudson J.I., Yurgelun-Todd D. & Pope, H.G. (2005). Psychological and cognitive effects of long-term peyote use among Native Americans. Biological Psychiatry. 58;624–631.