World Religions class recreates Native American ceremony


Kathy Fang

Aditi Khanna (10) waves a white scarf and shakes a rainstick to represent calling in the Spirit of the East, which represents air. Each student brought in visual representations of the element they were assigned to.

by Mahika Halepete, Winged Post Lifestyle Editor

Six students gather outside Shah Hall and listen to the beat of an Indian drum, each calling out invocations to the four nature directions. “Go, take yourself wherever your spirit leads,” world history and philosophy teacher Dr. Ruth Meyer told her students.

While this scene might not be familiar in the Harker campus, for Dr. Meyer’s World Religions and Philosophy class, it is the culmination of several weeks’ study of indigenous religions.

Last Thursday, Dr. Meyer’s World Religions class simulated a Native American spiritual ceremony and animal walk. After spending the first few months studying the major three religions—Christianity, Judaism, and Islam—students began to study various indigenous religions and the running threads among them.

“The first big chapter of World Religions is about native or indigenous religions. The practices which we look at which we have information on are based on the Native Americans,” Dr. Meyer said.

The World Religions class is not a well-known class on campus, with only three sophomores and three seniors enrolled in the class. Nevertheless, the students who do take the class are passionate about the subject matter and enjoy the class.

“Religion has always been my favorite part of history. I chose this class because I wanted to have a better understanding of my spiritual self,” Aditi Khanna (10) said.

The period began with a ceremony. Students assigned to different elements created “altars” for those elements. Meyer led students in explaining the entities in nature that are connected in nature with the four directions and four elements.

“Praying to the four directions is a Native American practice. So, we made little altars and we all stood in our places of North, South, East, and West and we called in our animals,” Meyer said.

Kathy Fang
Jenna Sanders (12) and Alix Robinson-Guy (12) use pieces of tanbark to create an art piece of concentric circles around a geode crystal. Concentric circles and circular “medicine wheels” are frequently represented in spiritual art.

After studying the ritual they were about to recreate, students gathered tools like masks, drums, and items they had brought from home to represent their element: some one student brough stones to represent earth, another brought a white scarf to represent air.

Following the ceremony, Dr. Meyer invited students to take a medicine walk.

“[The medicine walk is] a way of walking quietly and meditating that everybody can do to calm down life’s stressed, which we experience at Harker from time to time, especially as we’re coming upon AP week,” she said.