Native American culture is composed of many tribes, each with distinct traditions and customs. It is difficult to characterize any aspect of a wedding as being ‘Native American’. Some traditions are common to many tribes, while others are unique.
It is fascinating that just as the Vedic Sapta-Padhi (सप्तपदी) or the ‘Seven-Steps’ is the core of the wedding ceremony for the Hindus in India, in distant America, another ancient people, the Native Americans, too have the ‘Rite of Seven Steps’ at the core of their wedding ritual.
The Native American ‘Seven-Step Rite‘ vows are very similar to the Vedic SaptaPadi, where the Bride and the Groom take Seven Steps together, at a slow pace, in the north-easterly direction, making a promise at every step.
The Native Americans also have other ceremonies similar to the Vedic Hindu Wedding. The ‘Sacred Fire Ceremony’ is equally important to the Vedic Indians and Native Americans. The Native Americans build their fire with seven different types of wood. The Hindus too believe that there are seven types of energies and circumambulate the sacred fire seven times.
Generally brides belonging to most tribes wore red for the ceremony, their attire passed down many generations. Today quite a few, especially for example brides belonging to the Cherokee tribe wear white. In India, brides always wear red for the wedding ceremony.
|The Sapta-Padi in the Vedic tradition|
Another Native American ritual which they call the ‘Blanket Ceremony‘, is similar to the Vedic ‘Aashirwad’ (आशीर्वाद) ceremony. The Bride and groom are covered with a Blanket or Sheet and are showered with flowers. In the Vedic tradition the couple is taken to be the manifestation of Shiva & Parvati and flowers showered over the covering blanket are an offering to Shiva & Parvati.
|A Native American Wedding.
The Sacred Fire in the foreground.
Exchanging rings is a (comparatively) new addition to the wedding rites and was not a part of the wedding custom in either Vedic or among the cultures of various Native American tribes .
Most Native Americans believe that in the universe there exists the Great Spirit – a spiritual force that is the source of all life believed to be formless and to exist throughout the universe. Similarly, in the Vedic tradition the spiritual force is called the ‘Supreme Consciousness’ or ‘Brahman’ and is regarded as omnipresent.