It's springtime in north Georgia. Fiddlehead ferns unfurl as ivory dogwood blossoms herald the arrival of the season. The sweet fragrance of dazzling pink and flame azaleas wafts through the forest as they show off against a muted canvas of bare trunks and saplings. A chorus of cedar waxwings rises from a stand of Georgia Oaks. You glimpse a white tailed deer running through the Loblolly pines. A Great Blue Heron glides over the water. You are immersed in the splendor of spring bursting forth at Stone Mountain Park.
Towering above the awakening forest is an enormous
granite mountain standing as a solitary sentinel that can be seen from miles away. It is considered the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 7.5 billion
cubic feet. Rising 880 feet from the base, this
wondrous and rare geologic phenomenon extends
downward 7 miles and reaches as far as parts of North
From the base of the mountain, within the deep forest,
you begin to hear synchronized rattling and chanting
in a native language. As you are captivated by the
rhythm, the chanting and rattling become louder.
Surprisingly, three persons emerge, walking in formation along the Cherokee trail. They are dressed in ceremonial regalia representing a deer, human, and
bear. These three people, known as walkers, have been
fasting for 7 days in preparation for this journey around this mountain, held as sacred, and supported by a retinue of people from across the country.
After nightfall descends upon the land, these walkers will have circumambulated the mountain 7 times totaling 38.5 miles without food or drink. Clouds will gather, winds will arrive, lightning will strike and the rains will begin to fall.
Throughout history, people have engaged in extraordinary endeavors for extraordinary reasons. This is one of those times.
We are living in a time like no other.
Almost 20 years ago, the land in north Georgia, and most of the southeast, grew parched. The entire region had been plunged into the worst drought recorded in the preceding 100 years. Crops were failing. Lakes were receding. Streams vanished. Aquifers were depleted. And the wells that had provided for the people began to run dry.
At that time, in the year 2000, a woman named Sherry Boatright, born and raised in Georgia and who lived just outside Atlanta, traveled to a remote village called Nepopualco, in the Central Highlands of Mexico. There, she approached her teacher, a Nahua elder named Don Lucio Campos Elizade, and asked what could be done to mitigate the drought.
The Nahua still live in small villages tucked amongst the tall mountains of this land.
One of the traditions that is deeply held for them is their relationship and work with
the weather spirits to bring rains and to calm destructive storms so that crops can
grow and people are protected.
Ms. Boatright had discovered almost a decade earlier that she had the calling to work with the weather. These individuals are known as quiatlzques in Nahuatl, graniceros in Spanish or weather workers in English. There had been a prophecy amongst the Nahua people that when the earth was in a bad way and the unhappy weather spirits turned destructive with drought or storm, the souls of some of the Nahua quiatlzques would migrate to other places in the world so that there would be weather workers to help the people once again be in right relationship with the weather spirits and the land. This prophecy had come to pass.
Don Lucio Campos Elizade
Ms. Boatright sat with her teacher in his dimly lit
Consultorio. It was a cement block room with a dirt
floor located in his humble family compound.
Chickens roamed in and out as did his grandchildren.
The women cooked on an open fire just outside. A single lightbulb was suspended by a
frayed cord from the soot stained ceiling and a simple altar held, among other things, his
beloved cross, candle and a ceramic vessel burning a fragrant incense called copal. She asked what could be done for her people. He told her, seeing from a great distance in
a trancelike state, to find a particular sacred mountain described as Stone Mountain and
that this mountain had the capacity to speak to the weather spirits on behalf of the
people living in the area. Don Lucio, being 94 at the time and never having been out of the Ajusco mountains, much less to the United States, could not directly guide the work. Therefore he asked one of his most qualified former students and granicero, Don David Wiley, to help. Don David is recognized as a traditional “fire medium” in both the Nahua
tradition (teotlixiptla in Nahuatl) and the Wixáritari (Huichols) of the Sierra Madres,(axhuatakame, spirit speaking man). He’s also considered an elder (tsaurirrakame) marakame (medicine man) in this tradition. In the Nahuatl tongue the spirit of fire is called Huehueteotl and the Huichols call him Tatéwari, or in English, Grandfather Fire.
When the Georgia weather worker initially approached Stone Mountain, also known as Tsantawu, later in 2000, Grandfather Fire spoke about the mountain originally being a sacred place shared by the three regional peoples, the Ani-Kituwah-gi (Cherokee), zOyaha (Tsoyaha or Euchee), and Mvskoke (Creek). These peoples no longer practiced their ceremonies as a result of colonization culminating in the Indian Removal Act passed by Congress on May 28, 1830. Learn more here and here.
One of Stone Mountain's gifts was bringing rain. He spoke about the rituals, formulas and stories of the mountain being lost as a result of The Removal. He said that in order for the mountain to hear what was being asked for, the work would need to reintroduce something close to the original approach.
The weather worker sought counsel regarding contacting the Original Peoples of this work and was told that these peoples were still heavy from the many years of disenfranchisement and that to produce interest would require years of work while the damage from the drought would continue to persist. She was also told that
the work needed to begin with descendants of those who colonized the land, a form of atonement for what had been wrought.
A decision was made to begin and Grandfather Fire provided the approach and protocols, which required women to begin and perform the work on a yearly basis. The work began in 2003. After three years of practice and dedication the rains began to return and shortly after, the drought was broken. Since then the region surrounding the mountain received an abundance of life-giving rain. The lakes were full and the streams were running. The harvests were plentiful. This continued until the fall of 2016 when Stone Mountain again plunged the people into drought. This drought was broken by a rededication on the part of the Stone Mountain Ritual Team to educate the public regarding the importance of bringing awareness, respect, and appreciation for the weather spirits and this sacred mountain.
The women continued this work for many years on behalf of their people. After 14 years, the mountain allowed men to join the Ritual Team. Currently, the Ritual Team performs the ceremony each spring, aided by a dedicated Support Team, and returns in the fall to lay offerings of gratitude during the Harvest Festival. In this way, these ceremonies are building relationship with the mountain and bringing the beneficial weather to the region. This work demonstrates that petitioning and engaging nature actually produces a response.
When we begin to reduce the natural phenomena of the world into expressions that have no volition, we reduce our lives to a mechanical view of the world. When the world is alive we feel alive. When it's mechanical we don't feel anything.
Be a part of the world again...
Engraving circa late 1950’s, Photo credit: Carolyn Carter
The work with Stone Mountain is a miraculous tale of our times: modern people facing an epic struggle, the cessation of the rains, the disappearing lakes and streams, water for crops and drinking water, and nowhere to turn in terms of secular science. Then a door opens. Modern people turn to indigenous peoples who have never forgotten how to live in the world. Indigenous peoples have always known that we are a part of nature, not apart from it, that the world around us is alive, and that the weather spirits have volition. They have never forgotten that ancient ceremonies are part and parcel of keeping the world in balance.
Moreover, it was discovered that not only did this mountain provide the beneficial weather, it has a profound impact on the lives of those who perform the ceremony and those who serve on the Support Team. Participants describe having their hearts opened and developing a profound connection with divine. They have been able to live in a heart-centered way. Many have experienced physical and emotional healing, newfound prosperity and a new or rekindled sense of well-being.
It opens the door so one can truly feel alive and part of the world again...our birthright as human beings.
Because of this it was decided that the opportunity to participate in this work should be shared with others. If you feel called to explore this work, we invite you to contact us. We also invite you to view the world through new eyes: as alive and generous; and we encourage you to cultivate this life-giving kinship in your daily lives.