Muskogee Creek Stomp Dancing

By Dale Taylor and Michael Kendrick

What is a Stomp Dance?

A stomp dance is actually a demonstrative prayer.  Prayers may be delivered in many different ways.  They may be spoken out loud or given silently.  They may be in the form of a song, a chant, or a dance.  When we dance a prayer, we are actually praying together as one.  There is great spiritual power in a group prayer that is raised up to the Creator in unison.

Stomp dancing is another way of worshiping the Creator.  Our breath, chants, prayers, calls, responses, and the joyful sounds we make, along with our unspoken inner thoughts – even our unconscious thoughts – are all carried up to the Creator while stomp dancing.

Stomp dancing expresses emotions of joy, happiness, and gratitude.  We forget our individual selves while stomp dancing.  The sounds, movements, and rhythm begin to match the order and harmony of the universe, which proceeds from the Creator himself.

We stomp dance because we need each other.  Human relationships are difficult at times.  We occasionally slight or hurt each other.  Stomp dancing soothes these altercations.  It is practically impossible to harbor anger or bitterness while stomp dancing.

We also stomp dance to honor our ancestors.  We connect to that unbroken spirit of dance that preceded us and will indeed follow us.  We stomp dance in prayer because we were taught to do so.

Why do Muskogee Creeks Stomp Dance Counterclockwise?

The reason Muskogee Creeks stomp dance counterclockwise is so they can stay in balance with the natural world.  To further explain this idea, consider the following points.

Muskogee Creeks dance counterclockwise so their left side, the side their hearts are on, will be closest to the fire.  We believe that the Creator is with us during ceremonies and He resides within the fire.  This is not unlike our Christian belief that when two or more are gathered together in His name, Jesus will be there also.  It is also a similar belief akin to the biblical story in Exodus when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  The fire is therefore a physical focal point to remind us of the Creator.

The people believe that dancing counterclockwise will allow them to stay in true balance with other people, with the natural world about them, with the spiritual and the secular, and with the Creator himself.  This balance was of supreme importance to Muskogees.

An example of staying in balance with the natural world is that the Muskogees discovered the earth spins on its axis counterclockwise.  They reasoned that since the sun “rises” in the east, the earth must therefore rotate under it, counterclockwise, for it to “set” in the west.

Our Muskogee ancestors also knew the earth had a very slight “wobble” in its rotation.  This “wobble” was discovered over a long period of time because different star clusters would slowly become visible.  This “wobble” is a counterclockwise wobble and it varies only one degree every 72 years.  But 360 degrees, to complete the sweep, times 72 years is 25,920 years – the exact length of the Muskogee Calendar

Three other examples of staying in sync with the natural world and thus reasons the Muskogees danced counterclockwise are:

  1. Our Muskogee ancestors knew that the sun spins on its axis counterclockwise.  They could literally see that sunspots moved left to right across the face of the sun – which meant the sun must be rotating counterclockwise. 
  2. The Muskogee Creeks knew of the 6 planets in our solar system that were visible to the naked eye.  Today they are called Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.   The people knew that all of the planets rotated around the sun counterclockwise.  This rotation was determined from observing the positions of the planets at different times during the year.
  3. The Muskogee Creeks also noted that the hotvle rakko, literally big wind, or hurricane, almost always rotated counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere where we live.

Our ancestors learned these facts from observation and deduction over time.  Further, they developed the style, procedures, types, and specific dances to follow when stomp dancing that allowed the people to stay in sync.  This attention to detail helped the people stay in balance with the Creator. 

This information has been handed down orally through the generations and it is why the Muskogee Creeks dance counterclockwise to this very day.