About 18 months I went to a whale smoking ceremony at an isolated beach. The local aboriginal tribe, the Gundidjmara people, had organised it. The same ceremony was taking place on beaches around Australia at the same time. The impetus for the ceremony had come from an Aboriginal woman up in Broome on the far north coast of Western Australia.
It was a late winter’s day and grey clouds hung over the sea but fortunately no wind blew. Down on the beach some aboriginal guys were coaxing a fire to life on a large piece of bark shaped like a shallow cradle. People stood around looking unsure – I mean what do you do at a whale smoking ceremony? It was an entirely new experience for all of us. People huddled inside their overcoats and some of the aboriginal people wore beanies knitted in the aboriginal colours – black for the skin colour, red for the desert earth and yellow for the strong Australian sun. Many had bags in the colours slung over their shoulders and coloured ribbons were pinned on their coats.
Once the fire was going the guys shoved a pile of green leaves onto the flames to create clouds of smoke. The sound of clapping sticks came to us from over in the dunes and four aboriginal guys danced towards us in single file. Their bodies were painted with ochre. When they reached the fire one of them greeted us and gave a short speech about how it was time for white and aboriginal Australians to come together in unity. We were invited to smudge ourselves in the smoke then an aboriginal elder (a woman) read a message that the woman in Broome had written. It was a heartfelt and spiritual message about how the whales needed our love and energy because they were in danger.
Once the formal part of the ceremony was done the dancing started up again and many of us joined in. The atmosphere became highly charged and we crossed collectively into a more potent reality. We knew whales swam offshore for they come to these waters every winter to give birth. Focused intention flowed through the group and eyes stared out to sea as the energy went out to the whales. All of us were aware that others were gathered in ceremony around the beaches of Australia and at Uluru, the heart chakra of our country.
There hasn’t been another whale smoking ceremony since then but the whales will be returning here any day now for their winter sojourn. Sometimes I see aboriginal people wearing the colours around town but not often. Maybe though that elder from Broome was onto something. Our earth is in danger, people are divided from each other and the animals are suffering yet we can come together to effect change.