We recently hosted Wendy Lotter, a knowledgeable local Aboriginal woman from ‘Platypus Dreamin’, for a traditional women’s smoking/cleansing ceremony at Santi. We invited her to come to teach us more about the history of this land, particularly as it pertains to the Aboriginal people who may have lived or travelled through the country around Santi, and to heal and cleanse the area in the traditional Aboriginal way. Wendy informed us that most of the land at Santi was traditional women’s area as there is an abundance of bush medicine which the women from the Gundungurra tribe would have collected and used for a range of different purposes.
As a small group of women who joined the ceremony here we formally acknowledged the traditional owners and custodians of this land – the Gundungurra people – and asked for forgiveness for any wrong doings that we (or those associated with Santi over the years) might have caused on this land from a lack of respect or mindfulness – whether intentionally or unintentionally. Acknowledging the traditional owners we also asked for permission to be here. And we acknowledged in our hearts and minds the wrong doings of the past by our own ancestors, as there were many massacres that took place in Bundanoon and nearby, as well as Missions set up in Bundanoon where children of the stolen generation were forcibly taken to live and learn the white person’s ways.
We also have the history of an old coal mine that adjoins Santi property, where for years men dug deep into the earth creating an extensive tunnel many kilometres long to extract the coal. Interestingly, the Erith coal mine was not a huge financial success for the investors as the coal was of poor quality. But no doubt men would have died doing such dangerous and arduous labour and living in very rough conditions on this very land. So, there is much to acknowledge, heal, and say ‘sorry’ for.
‘Bundanoon’, in the local Aboriginal language, means “place of deep gullies” – those of you who have visited will be aware of these and the spectacular views that such a landscape affords. There is a powerful energy that rises up on the wind from the deep gorges and valleys, and people who stay at Santi sometimes comment on the strong energy they feel here. There is a peacefulness here to be sure, but at times the upsurging energy can be intense and challenging too.
Wendy affirmed for us that the land at Santi is good and very welcoming. During the various smoking ceremonies that we did around different parts of the land she called on the Aboriginal ancestral spirits to come and ward off any negative forces that may be hanging around. She asked for protection and harmony for the land and people here, and the country surrounding Santi. Wendy was particularly amazed at what happened when we did the smoking ceremony inside the Big Cave. She felt there was very powerful energy in there and the smoke was actually blown back into the cave and hung around for a long time. She felt and sensed that the ancestral spirits were coming to heal what needed to be healed in and around the cave as we asked for forgiveness for any harm that may have been unintentionally caused in this area.
Altogether, it was a beautiful and touching morning of ceremony; a chance for us as women to connect with the land and make amends through the traditional Aboriginal way, and to affirm our commitment to living mindfully and respectfully in this place – a land which does not belong to us, but rather (as the Aboriginal people know) that we belong to, and will one-day return to again.
We feel and hope that doing this ceremony with mindfulness and an open heart will help heal any past grievances and pave the way forward for us and future generations of women who wish to live on this traditional Aboriginal land within a nuns’ community to successfully practise the Buddha’s wisdom for Awakening.
With much gratitude and thanks to Wendy, who was so generous and warm and fun to be with – she taught and showed the community here that day so much, and it was lovely to spend time with her.