Evening Star Ceremony
Peyote Mentor, John Pedro
The ‘Original Hippie Indian’ they called him. John Pedro, by name, was an Arapahoe out of Calumet, Oklahoma. His personal history was woven of fascinating events and embellished tall tales, and we all loved his stories. He had fought in the Korean War, which was where he lost his leg in a battle. Or was it when he jumped from the second-story window of his lover’s bedroom when her husband unexpectedly came home, and he landed on a picket fence? No one really knew for sure, as both versions had come from John’s recounting. We didn’t really care. John regaled us with stories and we loved him for it.
I met John in Taos, New Mexico at a peyote ceremony in the early 1970s. In the morning (peyote ceremony, or as we called it Tipi Meeting, begins at sunset on Saturday and goes on through until sunrise Sunday), before the feast, we had tied up a drum and were practicing songs. John leaned over to me and said: “If you give me a ride home, I will teach you some g-o-o-o-d songs”. Hey, I wasn’t going to let a chance like that slide by, so I said “Sure!” John Pedro was a well respected Roadman (ceremonial leader) of the peyote church, and to learn directly from him was an immense opportunity for a young fellow such as I. When the gathering was complete and we were all ready to leave, John followed me over to my truck, set his crutches inside, then hopped in. I fired the truck up and began to pull away. Just before the dirt road we were on met with the highway, I asked him where he lived, so I would know which way to turn. “Oklahoma” he replied! I looked over at him. He smiled a contained smile of mirth. “Ok, let’s hit the road then”, I said. I mean, I had agreed, right? Five hundred miles later we pulled in to his place. He introduced me to his family as they fed us and prepared a bed for me. The next morning John tied up a drum and we set me to a’ learning some songs. G-o-o-o-d ones! We spent an entire week practicing songs of different tribes, as each has its unique style. Come Friday, John says, “Well, seems that it’s time to go put those songs to use. Ready to drive to Taos?” So off we go back down the highway.
As time went on John Pedro continued to take me under his wing and teach me the peyote ways. And I continued to drive him around when I could. Not so much to Oklahoma, though. That was just his way of seeing what I was made of. One evening, when I had picked John up in Santa Fe and was driving to a Tipi Meeting in Taos, John turned to me and began asking about LSD. “Is that LSD much like peyote? How long does it last?” I looked at him, curiously, and asked him, “Why do you want to know about LSD all of a sudden?” He replied, “Because I just ate two of them tablets.” A look of shock, I am sure, crossed my face, then I burst out laughing. “John, I guess I am babysitting you tonight!
Many, many Tipi Meetings we shared in New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Just before a Meeting at his home in Calumet, he told me that he had been praying hard on something and had come to a decision. He was adopting me as his Brother. My heart came into my throat, so overcome with emotion was I. So right then and there, during the Tipi Meeting that night, he adopted me. In the ways of his people, a spiritual relationship was a bond as powerful as by blood.
Back in Taos, a few weeks later, John sat with me and said to me “Now that we are brothers, there is something I can show you that I couldn’t before.” I nodded in acknowledgment that I was listening. Lifting the water drum (a very unique drum made of an iron kettle with a sopping wet smoked hide covering it, which was tied to the kettle with a wrapping of rope upon stones inserted between the kettle and hide) he showed me the way the criss-cross of ropes formed a seven-pointed star. “Brother,” he said “I am going to now show you how the magic of this ceremony is done using this star pattern.”
Evening Star Ceremony
John Pedro, my mentor, and adopted Brother in the peyote ways, showed me how the water drum was tied. First, a cast-iron kettle was filled 3/4 with water, to which was added four pieces of charcoal from a previous peyote ceremony’s sacred fire. A naturally tanned and smoked buckskin, which had previously been soaked in water, was laid across the top of the kettle. One by one, seven marble-sized stones were wrapped into place equidistant around the edges of the hide, snugging the browned hide, usually moose, elk, or deer, around the sides of the kettle. Then the long tail end of the rope was drawn across the underside of the kettle, and cinched around another stone, using an every-other pattern. In this manner the drum was laced, the rope being pulled very tight with each new stone wrap. John then showed me how this created a star pattern on the bottom of the water drum. There being seven rocks, it made a seven-pointed star. He brought the drum to his lips and blowing hard, forced air into the air cavity inside the drum, causing the hide covering to bulge up slightly. That is to breathe life into the drum, Brother. Now the drum has lungs to sing.” Taking a long slim drumstick carved of a dense hardwood (favorites were beau d’arc, ebony and rosewood), John began to play the drum with a very rapid, even stroke. He kept a finger placed upon the drumhead, depressing the skin to create just the right tone. The sounds emanating from the drum were ethereal. Undertones and overtones combined with the rapid beats to create an immediate state of entrancement. With a flourish, John drew the drumming to a close.
“Brother,” John said, “look there,” he said, pointing to the evening sky. Before us in the western sky was a beautiful conjunction of the Crescent Moon and Venus. “The Moon you know from the crescent shape of the altar inside the tipi.” Wrapping around the open fire inside the tipi is always a Crescent Moon made of sand, a Chief Peyote sitting centered in the thickest, most western, position upon the Moon. “That Chief upon the Moon, that is that star, right there,” he said, indicating Venus alongside the Moon above us. “This kettle is tied with a seven-pointed star. That seven-pointed star is Venus. It has seven points because Venus meets up with the Crescent Moon seven times during its time as the Evening Star.” He looked at me to see if I was understanding what he was presenting. I guess he was satisfied, as he continued speaking. “This water drum sings the song of that star. It is the Chief Peyote.” Let me say here: As Earth Peoples, we do not see a separation between things that are related. To us, they are one and the same thing. The Chief Peyote upon the Crescent Moon altar inside the tipi is Venus, is the water drum. They do not represent or symbolize each other. They are of one Spirit. Likewise, the song the water drum sings is the song of Venus, it is the song of Chief Peyote.
“Our stars within are tied together like this drum.” As he said this, John indicated the seven stars within (you might refer to them as chakras). “Venus, that is our Uncle. When we really need something in life, we can ask our Uncle. If he finds we are worthy, our Uncle will make sure we get it.” Once again John had put me in shock, a state of awakening to the ways of Medicine that were, heretofore, incomprehensible, beyond the realms of even being able to imagine that such as dynamic exists. True to his word, John was showing me the magic of how things work in the peyote ways.
Now, a side note. Should I even be sharing with you these inner workings? Am I breaking some taboo by doing so? Well, not only did John not say to not share these things, he instructed me on how it was to be done. And yes, some do hold that what I am doing in revealing these ways is breaking a taboo. There was a time when my life was under direct threat because I chose to bring these ways out to the world. However, my Grampa Peña told me that the time of secrets was over and that I must bring these ways forward to the people, to all people. I am doing as my Brother John Pedro Instructed me. I am doing as my Grandfather instructed me. I trust in their wisdom. Now, back to the remembrance of this transmission of John Pedro’s.
“Now, my Brother, I am going to show you how to tie this ceremony like I showed you how to tie that drum.” With that, John pulled some coins from a pouch, held them in his hand and stated “Jade, I am gifting you these seven Buffalo nickels. This is a gifting ceremony. In order for me to show you how to work this ceremony, I must gift you seven of something, and you must be willing to receive those seven things. Okay?” I held forth my hand, saying, “Yes, John, I accept your gift.” With that, he placed the seven coins in my hand. Then, John being the sly trickster that he was, said “And when you have worked this ceremony that I am now going to show you, you must gift the Gifter seven times those seven. Each time.” This was just how it was. Once again, I had agreed to something John had offered before knowing the fine print! Now, ya gotta understand, Buffalo nickels were held in great esteem amongst tribal folks for a few reasons. The coins had an Indian’s head in profile on one side, and the image of a bison on the other, so these coins were seen as an honoring of their culture. Remember, for tribal peoples the symbol is the thing it represents, so the coins hold the power of that honoring. Because of that esteem, they were also prized coins to be used for jewelry, moccasin buttons and the like. They were quite valuable, and hard to come by. I was now committed to finding and procuring forty-nine Buffalo nickels for each time I would work this ceremony during upcoming Crescent Moon and Venus conjunctions!
My Brother, John Pedro, told me of how to ‘tie’, i.e., connect, each of the stars within in a specific manner. Each star within has a prayer that goes with it. By prayer, think of holding attention upon a theme, rather than petitioning for intercession. Each point of attention/star-within has a verse of a song that activates it. John told me of how the purpose was to ask our Uncle Venus to ‘bring things our way’. Renewed health, good fortune, well-being, love, like that. He also told me that he had seen it used for personal gain, like getting a fancy new truck, winning at the casino, etc. He advised against those indulgences in the strongest manner, as nothing comes without its balance.
“Our Uncle, he can do things for us that a Mother or Father cannot, or will not do,” John told me. “Maybe a kid wants that new red bicycle. But the parents can’t afford it or think the child isn’t ready, or mature enough or deserving of it. So the kid goes to their Uncle and tells him how much they really want that bike. The Uncle will check out the nephew or niece’s desire, and if he finds it to be a real desire, not a selfish one, then that Uncle will find a way to get the kid that bike. The parents, they might disagree, for whatever reason. But the Uncle, see, he has a special relationship not bound by the rules and responsibilities of the parents. He will tell the parents that it is a matter between himself and the niece/nephew, and they have no say in the matter,” John explains to me. “So maybe someone is suffering from a lifetime of not taking care of themselves. Then they realize they really do want to live and to do something good for once. That person might go ask Uncle for help to live and be a better person. Uncle will help them, even though they have not taken care of their health and they are going downhill fast. Uncle will bring them around,” John says, “But only once. If that person blows it, goes back to their old ways, Uncle walks away and then that person is finished, done for. You don’t mess around with these ways, my Brother. What you receive you gotta give back seven times over. That’s how it works.”
“I’m going to show you how to move along the star and sing the song to wake it up now,” John says. With this he…
Engaging the Evening Star Ceremony
Alright. You have come this far. Do you really want to know how to engage this relationship with the Evening Star, Uncle Venus, to bring into your life your heart’s desire? You know what is required. I am willing to gift you $7.00 to receive the activation of this Evening Star Ceremony. If so, go to my website and click on the Contact tab at the top of the Home page. Fill that out and send it off to me. Make sure to include your PayPal account email address, or inform me if you have a Facebook Messenger Payments accounts, so I can send the $7 to you! When I receive your email, I will email you back a hidden link to a page that gives detailed instructions, as well as a graphic instructing you how to ‘tie’ the stars within together, as well as an agreement to gift the Gifter sevenfold ($7 x 7 = $49) for each time you utilize this ceremony for each of the remaining Moon/Venus conjunctions of this Evening Star season (February 27, March 28, April 26, and May 23). I will also send you a recording of the Evening Star Song – which activates the entire ceremony – for you to listen to while performing this ceremony.
Jade Grigori ©2020