The ceremony of the Vision Quest is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose. A Vision Quest can provide deep understanding to people, helping them to understand their role in life.
Vision Quest is one of the original ceremonial techniques, practiced by all people of every culture. In many ancient cultures these types of ceremonies were part of a person’s learning journey in life. The Vision Quest is often used as a Rite of Passage, marking the transition between childhood and full acceptance into society as an adult. A person’s first Vision Quest is typically done during their transformative teenage years. It is when a child’s mind begins to understand complex abstract concepts that this ceremony is the most applicable – and needed. Through a Vision Quest, a young person develops a healthy relationship with this newly forming power of the creative mind. A Vision Quest helps the teenager to access spiritual communication and form complex abstract thoughts. Through this Rite of Passage the child becomes an adult, taking responsibility for themselves and their individual contribution to a healthy society.
A traditional Native American Vision Quest consists of a person spending one to four days and nights secluded in nature. This provides time for deep communion with the fundamental forces and spiritual energies of creation and self-identity. During this time of intense spiritual communication a person can receive profound insight into themselves and the world. This insight, typically in the form of a dream of Vision, relates directly to their purpose and destiny in life.
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The Lakota Sioux word for Vision Quest is Hembleciya (ham-blay-che-ya). The word Hembleciya translates to “Crying for a Dream.” This refers to the “Quester” both physically and internally crying for a Vision or Sacred Dream. Sometimes this ceremony is called “going up on the hill,” because people would often be go to a nearby mountain or butte to complete their Vision Quest.
Typically the quest is complete deep in nature, far away from civilization. At times it can be done closer to where people live, but located in a pit dug deep into the ground. The person on the Vision Quest either chooses or is told the location for their Quest. They are also instructed in all preparations and on how many days and nights the quest will last by a Medicine Person. This Medicine Person will guide the Quester in all aspects of the ceremony and provide spiritual support and guidance.
Before a Vision Quest is started the Quester is purified in a sweat lodge, often over many days. On the day of the quest they start their fast at sunrise. The quester should not drink water or eat from that point on. They should not take a shower or put any liquid into their mouth, unless directed by the Medicine Person who is guiding them. They also forgo sleep and food. They give up all that is takes to live in the physical world and rely on the strength of spirit to sustain them for the duration of the quest.
The Quester is purified one last time in a sweat lodge ceremony and then taken to the designated place of the quest. There they will stay without food, water or sleep for one to four nights. During this time the person focuses their heart, mind, body, and spirit on the guidance they are seeking. They must overcome their earthly wants and desires and face their human nature to fully receive the Vision that is waiting for them. They willingly give their life to spirit, knowing that it is spirit which truly sustains life. Now the person is ready to receive a Sacred Dream!
Upon completion of the Quest they are brought back to a sweat lodge. There, the Quester speaks of his or her experience to a Medicine Person who provides spiritual guidance and interpretation of the Vision. The Medicine Person helps the Quester understand his or her experience.
The Vision that is received will provide guidance to the person for the rest of their life. Some people are called to do many Vision Quests over the course of their lifetime.