The Sacred Embrace

"Between your mother in the East and myself in the West, all life from beginning to end is placed. My son, you are the connection between birth and death."
Sarah Schroeder

Sarah Schroeder

Nourish the Word

A few months ago, I came across some interesting things in Edward Benton-Banai’s The Mishomis Book that would stand out, I think, to any current or formerly endowed LDS Mormon. I showed these things (one was an illustration of a man in a particular pose, the other a passage that I will include below) to someone I know with an LDS background (a temple worker) and Ojibwe ancestry. These things also stood out to him as being familiar.

The context of the passage I mentioned has the culture hero, Waynaboozhoo (aka Nanaboozoo, Nanabush), coming home after an epic battle with his father. This battle is reminiscent of the Old Testament Jacob’s wrestle with an “man.” It should be noted, the manitou father acknowledges his son as his equal at the end of this battle, and gives him a symbol and tool for peace (the peace pipe).

And Jacob was left alone. And there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh. And the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go except you bless me. And he said unto him, What is your name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel. For as a prince have you power with God and with men, and have prevailed. And Jacob asked him and said, Tell me, I pray you, your name. And he said, Why is it that you do ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peni-el, for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Peni-el, the sun rose upon him and he limped upon his thigh. Therefore, the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day, because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank. Genesis 9:44

It appears that this “man” Jacob fought was something a great deal more than that, as the name given to the place becomes a testimony that he saw God face to face during this encounter. A explanation of this wrestle is explained thus:

This could also be appropriately understood as a sacred embrace. “When one considers that the word conventionally translated as ‘wrestled’ (yē’āvēq) can just as well mean ‘embrace’ and that it was in this ritual embrace that Jacob received a new name and the bestowal of priestly and kingly power at sunrise (KJV Genesis 32:24 – 30 [Genesis 9:44]), the parallel to the Egyptian coronation embrace becomes at once apparent.” Hugh Nibley, T&C Glossary: Jacob’s wrestle with the Angel

Returning to Waynaboozhoo’s own battle in The Mishomis Book, here are some of the significant words the father says to his son at its conclusion:

“Between your mother in the East and myself in the West, all life from beginning to end is placed. My son, you are the connection between birth and death.”


“You are half spirit and half man. The Creator has instructed me to send you to live among the people of the Earth, even as one of them. You are to be a guiding force to the men, women, and children that will follow you. You are to give them examples to make their lives happier and more meaningful.”


“When you have finished your work on Earth, you will be given your eternal place and reward. After you have disappeared from the Earth, the Anishinabe will search for you by name and will honor you by clasping hands with each other and saying your name–Waynaboozhoo! They will say this both when they come together and when they part. Your name shall be the greeting of new friends and relatives. Your name shall signify a brotherhood from which there is no good-bye or parting.”

All of these should stand out to a Christian observer.

The relevant passage begins on p. 59 as Waynaboozhoo returns to civilization:

“Just then, Waynaboozhoo was startled to hear a greeting called out from a short distance ahead. His presence was discovered. He was approached by a group of men. Their right hands were raised into the air with their palms forward in a gesture of friendship. Waynaboozhoo raised his hand to return the greeting. One of the men stepped forward and extended his right hand to Waynaboozhoo. Waynaboozhoo accepted the handshake and placed his left hand on his brother’s shoulder. His brother, in turn, placed his own left hand on Waynaboozhoo’s shoulder and greeted him with much joy. ‘Waynaboozhoo!’ he said. Each of the men exchanged greetings with Waynaboozhoo in the same way. They said his name as they clasped his hand and shoulder. It was already just as his father had said it would be!”

What is described above should be familiar to some. Though I won’t say more that, I will share this scripture of similar meaning:

And as thou hast said in a revelation given unto us, calling us thy friends, saying, Call your solemn assembly as I have commanded you, and as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom, yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom. Seek learning, even by study and also by faith. Organize yourselves, prepare every needful thing, and establish a house. 
Even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a House of God. 
That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with uplifted hands to the Most High. Teachings and Commandments 123:2-4
 And finally, another relevant passage from the glossary of Teachings and Commandments:

Sacred Embrace: 
In a ceremony of recognition and sacred embrace, you will find that the rites of the LDS temple are a wonderfully accurate preparation for the real event. In 3 Nephi 8:6 the Lord reminds the Nephites they are to remember the body “which [He] has shown unto [them].” The sacred embrace and ceremony of recognition, a term I coined in The Second Comforter, should return to the mind of those present whenever they received the bread again. The Lord could give no greater testimony of what He had done, who He was, and how He served them than by showing to them His risen body still bearing the marks of crucifixion. T&C Glossary: Sacred Embrace

I was struck by these similarities. Different peoples, same concepts. Is it coincidence? I don’t think it is. Maybe it can help us recognize a brotherhood in each other.

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