Membership to SOTEMS should be treated as a lifelong commitment and as such, consideration for membership with SOTEMS requires an existing, well established and active relationship with SOTEMS, the community and with Medicine Ways.
As such, membership can be considered something that is earnt through active involvement with the SOTEMS coummunity, not just something based on a simple desire to join the organisation. This can be achieved by building relationships with the community and existing SOTEMS members, through formal or social activities that SOTEMS provide, such as sweatlodges, summer school, the Vision Quest or other offering that are provided by SOTEMS and SOTEMS members.
Training in Medicine Ways is a system of mentorship. The period of training is not fixed or structurally defined, but varies according to the pace of development and needs of the apprentice.
Becoming a member is a matter of being accepted and endorsed by current SOTEMS members for initiation.
There are three levels of initiation in the Medicine ways path, which require very high levels of commitment, personal responsibility and a desire to contribute to the processes of healing at all levels of Australian life, and also to the world at large.
Apprenticeship in Medicine Ways
The Spirit of the Earth Medicine Lodge represents the continuation of a line of traditional ways handed on, but with the clear instruction to find a vision for our place in this world and within our lives. This commits us to a creative path, which demands that we actively envision our direction, actively seek the guidance of Spirit, and actively call upon the ancestors for inspiration.
In this context, the ‘rules’ for participation in the Lodge need to be spelled out. They are extremely simple.
- Your first and greatest obligation is to Spirit who reveals your path and sustains you.
- Your second obligation is to the fellowship of the Lodge ... the brothers and sisters who make up the Lodge. What is required here is that, in the spirit of healing, which this Lodge is committed to, we reach out to each other despite distance and differences. We seek to transcend the limitations of our judgement and perceptions to touch the hearts and spirits of our fellow travellers. This also means speaking directly to anyone in the Lodge with whom you may have a conflict or difference which needs clearing. Speak directly to that person; do not talk to others or create gossip which is not in the spirit of the Medicine Lodge. Also, you are expected to attend as much of the Lodge ceremony and activities as possible.
- The last of the obligations, and least in many ways, is to the teachings and the teacher. This means being respectful of the Lodge Medicine Chief and the rules by which the Lodge is conducted. This honours the ancestors who have passed this knowledge to us for our benefit.
Each of us has a path which leads into our lives and futures. It is essential that you acknowledge this and know it in your heart. The Lodge is not a doctrinaire body; rather, it is a platform for our life working with Spirit. You must find your way. Guidance is available. That is the role of the Ceremonial Leaders and all apprentices with respect to each other. Mutual support along the road is the stuff of life and the Lodge. Senior Ceremonial Leaders shoulder a load in this area also ... fostering the development of support processes and the realization of visions, both personal and Lodge.
After the first stage of initiation, the Ceremony of Awakening, you are expected to undertake two further steps of commitment to the Lodge in order to be formally recognised as an apprentice of SOTEMS:
- A vision quest:This can be one which is organized in September in Central Australia of the year as a group undertaking [although each takes the journey alone in this context], or one which is personally supervised by an initiated Shaman of the SOTEMS tradition. The quest must be completed strictly according to the rules; if not, then it must be repeated.
- The SOTEMS tattoo must be placed on the body. Choices for placement are upper right arm, front or back of right shoulder. Size is a matter of choice as is colouring. Remember, SOTEMS is not about doctrine; it is about choice. You can choose freely to participate. For example, you may choose not to have the tattoo, and that will meet with respect, but it is a choice not to be an apprentice. No judgement obtains. Your pathway is your pathway. This Lodge requires a tattoo for apprenticeship as a mark of respect for teachings and your commitment.
Later, if you wish to continue you apprenticeship and become a Medicine Person [shaman], then there will be more initiation. This will unfold and your needs and direction will become clear to you. Remember, this has little to do with clock time, but has more to do with primal time. Teaching within the Medicine Lodge follows this primal time, although there will be a ceremonial calendar established. This means that we move according to the movement of Spirit.