I have had many initiations. Some of them I will share with you in this section. It seems that the most significant initiation of all is occurring at this present time of my life. I think it might be helpful to write about it as it happens. This page on initiations will be my format for a time.
Sitting under the stars, sky above me... clear, reaching into eternity, my back resting against the South side of the hogan, I began to explore my feelings. Before me, about 40 feet away, was the tipi. The firelight from the fireplace cast silhouettes of the individuals still inside, onto the walls. I could identify people I knew by their form and sitting place. Lodge poles extended upward, reaching into the heavens. From the main pole fluttered an eagle feather. My eyes slid down the poles to the opening in the top, the smoke hole. Wisps of smoke flowed out, carrying prayers to the spirit above. At the very top of the tipi, the canvas was stained dark with the smoke of many fires. As my vision followed the slope of the poles down toward the earth, the smoke smudge lessened to a clear yellow glow shinning through the lower five or six feet.
The songs and prayers were continuing. I stood and walked nearer the opening, just past the logs, which had been prepared earlier for this night of ceremony. Others who had exited with me, began to gather nearby. As the songs stopped we paused a moment longer, opened the flap, and returned to the gathering. We entered and circled to the left... sunwise, back to our individual places on the perimeter of the circle. When we were again seated, the cedar man rose and tossed fresh cedar on the glowing coals. We drew the smoke to us, washed it around us, then sent it upward through the smoke hole with our prayers. The staff, sage bundle and rattle began to move around the circle, passed from person to person, followed by the water drum.
It had moved only a few people when it stopped again. The person sitting next to the individual holding the rattle rose and moved around the circle to sit where another participant had been sitting. The individual from across the room came to sit and drum for the singer. They began to drum and sing.
My attention rested on the fire for awhile. The fire poles extended from the center flames into the altar circle... another three to four feet out from the fire. The coals had begun to fill the moon shape of the altar space. The firekeeper moved to the V shaped space between the logs and began to rearrange them. The top and longest logs were placed to the outside of the fire in order of length and use. The shorter and almost burned logs were pushed to the fire center, the glowing coals were then pushed beyond the fire to continue filling the half circle. The logs were then replaced in proper order. New logs were brought in from the outside stack, each 4' to 5' long and only three or four inches in diameter. They, in turn were placed appropriately on the fireplace. The last long pole was used to rearrange the coals in a perfect half circle within the altar area. The firekeeper then got his broom and swept the floor inside the altar circle and the space in front of the participants. When the area was again prepared... as it had been prepared many times during the night, he returned to his position at the North of the door.
The songs continued throughout the preparations. As the firekeeper completed his responsibilities, my thoughts again turned inward. I found myself standing where I had stood earlier in the evening. I knew that I could/would reach out, with my hands stretched before me, and once more tear an opening in this barrier between worlds. I could now see the darkness around me. I could see the world, as I usually know it, comfortable and familiar behind me. I could feel the sensation of the texture of the wall. I remembered my earlier experience of stepping through that barrier. I was ready to return to that place. I checked once more the surroundings. Assured myself that the songs would continue for a time and nothing was being passed around the circle. There was no reason to be interrupted this time. I closed my eyes and stood arms outstretched. My fingers penetrated the membrane. I began to tear the fabric apart in a jagged open doorway. I stepped through.
Again, vision was useless. Light had erased all the edges of forms. No images were visible. The sensation of liquid sunshine returned. I could feel it flow in a gentle caress over my skin, warm and embracing. I sensed Gray at my left hand and the black wolf at my right... my guides in this new place. Awareness of "energy entities" nearby was my next sensation, they seemed to be light beings, formed of the same light in which I stood. Perhaps they were the light and I stood inside them. No, I could feel them near but not here. I had no feeling of threat or danger. Sensation was one of familiarity. There was also no strong feeling of love... just awareness of presence, a comfortable nearness.
I did not move forward, I remained where I had entered. I waited to develop new sensory perceptions to allow my mind to adjust to new, original input. Curiosity, interest and trepidation all flowed through my thoughts. I wanted to know more about this place. I wanted to know what teachings waited for me. I felt I could hear sounds but they came from inside my thoughts not externally originated. Then there was a slightly heavier pressure on my arm, as a finger... digit, tracing my forearm. I wanted to reach out and touch in return, but restrained myself. I waited, curious.
I felt the nudge from my friend and former student. The touch of his very real hand brought me instantly back to the tipi. I opened my eyes to find the bag of "medicine" sitting in front of me. I looked at it a moment, centered my thoughts and took a piece, a small dried slice, and placed it in my mouth. I passed the bag and waited for the tea. A small sip was enough. I swallowed and sat quietly.
The firekeeper was again working the fire, repeating the process, as so many times earlier in the evening. I watched as before, aware of people beyond the fire circle. All were sitting quietly, cross-legged, in their own private places. To my right, a mother sat smoking her cornhusk rolled tobacco... sending prayers and tears with the smoke. She seemed to have been praying a long time. Across the circle, another person had been brought the husks and tobacco pouch, and was beginning to roll a smoke for his prayers. I absently watched the process. I wanted to say prayers and realized that I had been doing so all evening. The words of my heart flowed freely already.
My thoughts went back to my first visioning experience of the evening. So many times, had I asked to be with Old Woman and found myself sitting before her. Here I was, with her again, this time standing. Still, she held in her hands, what appeared to be the earth. It was round, blue with white clouds... the appearance of continents and oceans. Still, she held it out to me. I once again took it in my two hands and brought it to me. This time the globe began to glow like red-orange fire and flames engulfed the globe. It entered, still flaming, my heart area. It warmed and calmed me. The flames filled my body/spirit. Peace was mine... a gift.
I asked again, "What am I to do with this".
"Care takers all, we are". "In turn She flames and sustains us".
Her reply came to mind again but she did not come to sit with me. Her gift and message had been delivered. My physical body was beginning to tire. We had been sitting cross-legged for many hours. My friend beside me told me "two hours to dawn"... that meant 4:00 AM. I reached back palms up, reaching under the edge of the tipi into the cool night air. I drew starlight into the palms of my hands. It refreshed me and the position of my body relaxed my back. I could feel the need of my body to rid itself of the poison of pain and loss I had been holding for the past few weeks.
Earlier in the evening, about 2:00 AM, when we stood to go out for a brief break, I had felt the anguish welling up inside and knew that it would come to the surface. My conscious thought was that I shouldn't have stood up. Then I would not be sick... If only I hadn't stood up. The thought was true. I could have held tightly to my pain still longer. I could have kept it buried deep inside. I could have "not been sick" and would have not have gotten well.
I walked through the doorway into the night air and the intensity deep in my gut came to the surface and poured out onto the skin of Mother Earth. She took my pain willingly. An acquaintance asked me if I was all right... my old "of course I'm OK" self took over. I said yes and sat down beside the hogan. I turned off the flow of emotion, which had been opened. My thought turned to the view of the tipi lighted internally and the rare-ness of the situation... of the unique-ness of the experience and the exceptional blessing of being invited to participate. I thought I had released most of my suffering, so I was comfortable with putting away my feelings to devote my attention to images. The image I saw was the image I opened this tale with. I gave the beauty of the image my full attention... tipi, glow from the fire, shadows of the walls, stars brilliant overhead, milky way flowing across the heavens like smoke and smoke flowing from the smoke hole like the milky way.
I had these thoughts as I sat inside the tipi, cooling my hands, resting my back and stuffing me "sickness". I leaned into my pain and felt my stomach begin to roll. I asked my partner about protocol of leaving and returning and when it was time, exited through the door flap, alone. I walked away, a short distance and looked up at the heavens. I asked to give away my pain. I let go... deeply... and released my anguish. My stomach knotted and felt like stone then emptied and became calm. Peace flooded though my body and my spirit.
I stood, silently, and sang to Grandmother Moon, to the stars, my sisters and brothers... I sang my thanks. I sang my heart. I sang my love. I sang my place in the universe. I sang my place in the circle, in the cosmic correctness of cycle.
This time my return to the circle inside the tipi was complete. I carried with me peace and calm. I took my place and rode the waves of song and prayer until morning.
Near morning dawn, at the earliest hint of predawn light, the roadman's wife left and returned with water and food... four dishes, the celebration of a new day. She placed the dishes and then sat on a blanket and rolled her smoke. She began her prayers, words to the students we were honoring, words of thought... Nitsahakes, words of planning... Nahata', words of life... Iina', and words of assurance... Sihasin. Her words flowed in Dine' as had all the words of the night. She prayed words of beauty, words of joy and words of accomplishment ahead. She prayed words of hard work and proper action. She prayed words of living in harmony and balance. We began our feast. First, water and a cup were passed. We each drank and shared water with the mother. Then corn was passed, slowly, eaten with reverence. Fruit came next, sweet and refreshing. Finally, shredded meat was passed.
Final prayers were said along with words of support and thanks. Then the person sitting to the left of the door rose and began the circle of shaking hands with each participant and expressing wishes of good morning. Each person followed in turn until we had all exited the ceremony place into the morning light. Many people hugged me and commented on me staying the entire night. The expectation is that once the sacred space is entered, the commitment has been made to follow through to the end. I was surprised that they were surprised I had completed the ceremony. I found myself wondering if others had left prematurely in the past.
When I got home, I reflected on my experiences of the night before. I was tired and sleepy but couldn't stop my thoughts from racing through the events. When the Roadman had invited me, I commented that I didn't know it would be allowed for me to go. He said it would be good. I was honored to be invited and said yes. Still when I walked into the tipi and greeted the roadman, I was very nervous. The few individuals that had arrived early, like me, stared and seemed unsure about my presence. As more and more individuals arrived, each glanced my way then politely looked away. But they couldn't hide the shock of seeing my white skin and red hair in their midst. Students and people who knew me were merely surprised. They greeted me and chatted for a moment. A fellow faculty member came and sat beside me for a while and reassured me. He explained some of what was going to happen. I mentioned that I'd had similar experiences in the past but nothing where I was the only white person. He teased me and said that he had forgotten that I was a former hippie. I said that was probably true but I hadn't begun till middle age. The lighthearted humor relaxed me.
It was time to begin. The firekeeper began to prepare the fireplace. The roadman started his prayers. A moment of sacrilegious humor flittered through my thoughts. I thought, "Even a Baptist preacher doesn't pray this long". After my silent snicker, I focused on the words and found that I could understand a few of the words. With the few words I could understand, combined with the explanations and stories John had shared with me, I began to realize that I could follow the ceremony. Prayers, stories, blessings continued for awhile longer.
When the prayers were finished, the first passing of "medicine" began, followed by the tea. The bag containing the medicine was made of white cotton cloth about 12 inches by 24 inches. It was over half full of dried, sliced and crumbled medicine. I had it fresh and ground... looking something like guacamole... (tasting NOTHING like guacamole). I had it as buttons. I had it as power, mixed with liquid and formed into small balls. This was still different. I had no idea how much to take. I had tried to watch and see how much others took. It wasn't light enough to see. So I didn't know how much they got. When it was fresh and ground we began with five very large tablespoons. Dried would be more concentrated. I took a few pieces that fit comfortably in the palm of my hand, broke the pieces into smaller pieces and put them into my mouth. I chewed very little and swallowed quickly. When the tea came to me, I took the cup, filled it, and drank it quickly, without pausing to taste it. The taste was much less intense this way than when it was fresh or in button form.
For some period of time, I didn't feel any effect at all and thought perhaps I should have taken more. The first round of songs had begun so all my attention was on the sound of the Peyote songs and the drums. Few of the words were anything I could recognize but the tunes and the repetitions were familiar. It wasn't long before the bag and tea was passed again. In retrospect, It was probably longer than I realized. The fire had been worked several times and the drum had passed more than once. It was during this first phase that I called Old Woman and visited with her. I had taken my crystal topaz from my bag and stared into it until I could transcend. The stone allowed me to step past awareness of my surroundings. It was during this time that she had again given me the globe called Earth. This was a repeat, with variations, of many of our meetings. I keep thinking that I must not be getting the message, if she needs to repeat it every time.
So I repeat myself, the bag and the tea was passed for the second time. This time I took about the same amount, perhaps a bit more. The friend next to me suggested that I crumble it fine and put it in my mouth and swallow. Doing it this way, it is more palatable, I was told. I tried it, but needed tea to wash it down.
It was some time later that I went to the membrane, the film dividing realities, and decided to create an opening. It was at this time that I pushed my fingers into the covering and tore it open in that jagged tear through which I stepped. Looking back from this distant place of memory, I must have stood there for a long time. The bag and the tea was only passed five times... as I remember. It was between the second passing and the third passing that I went through the tear. It seemed a very short time but perhaps was much longer.
In the summer of 1995, I camped most of the summer - alone. So many life-changing experiences occurred that summer. Some of them will be included on this page. I refer to it as the summer I was a Buddhist. That is an "in jest" statement. I do not claim any affiliations, Buddhist, Christian or otherwise.
My first completely out of the ordinary experience, the one that turned my life upside down, occurred in the early '80's and begins my Shaman Within book. I include it here for you.
To this day I cannot tell you where one reality ended and another began. I know that I traveled through many realities, many worlds, and many times.
NO SANE PERSON
"Perhaps, I'll be the subject of a story on the evening news."
"Mental health professional mysteriously disappears on business trip to mountains of New Mexico. Family fearful. Her abandoned auto was discovered near I10 on Hwy 157. She was last seen, late Friday night talking to an old woman at the Indian Reservation. There are no leads at this time."
"Don't be so dramatic," I chastise myself.
"Parents warn daughters about this: alone, in danger, no protection. Remember? Don't talk to strangers. Stay close to well lighted, public places, wear clean underwear in case there's an accident. Don't go off in the dark with Indian women."
"This is ridiculous, I'm being silly... over reacting. I'm safe in my car; doors locked, and I'm on a public road."
"Carol, you're following a crazy old woman through a dark forest on a night with a full moon and a storm is building."
"I haven't passed a house or car in at least 20 minutes."
This sounds like the beginning of a slumber party story that scares you silly.
"You're as crazy as she is."
"I'm sane, rational and following my intuition. And a full moon, storm and forest doesn't have to be scary. Get off the fear stuff."
"Intuition hell, you're going to be raped, killed or both, at least robbed."
"If things get uncomfortable, I'll turn around and go back into town. I'll find the highway and go back to camp."
"So, why am I not turning around? Why am I following this strange old woman?"
Her car is so old and rusted, I can't determine the make or year. And, the license plate is unreadable a real "Indian car".
"What difference does it make?"
Do I intend to locate the legal authority in an Indian village and report, "an old woman kidnapped me?"
Then, I could explain why I followed her home.
"She asked me," I could say.
It was crazy. My thoughts raced erratically... first to logical analysis, then denial or fear, followed by attempts to explain bizarre actions.
"Talking to myself. It's not the situation that's crazy, I am."
"Carol, you are a mental health counselor. You know you're not crazy."
"I'm lost. I can't find my way back." A moment of panic, then calm returns.
And it is dark. There are no street lights, no lights at all. The trees block everything, the moon, even the sky. The lightning, so brilliant only moments earlier is hidden behind forest darkness.
"What if we meet another car? There isn't room to pass."
"Of course, we could pass." Only there are no cars, only hers and mine.
My mind continues to jump from place to illogical place; first, to fear... then, to humor... then, to logic... and finally, to total trust. I try to stop thinking. It is almost beyond understanding. Me, cautious, careful, Carol, following a mystical apparition, I've lost my mind.
"When did I first see her? Was it only a half-hour earlier? "She was waiting in the brush beside my car at the cafe. When she beckoned and said, "Come... follow me," all conventional thought left my mind. My heart spoke. Without hesitation, I followed.
Now, here I am alone... late at night, on a one-lane, dirt, reservation road. She's in her vehicle, I am in mine; far from anything familiar. I'm glad for the brief driving time. This allows my racing thoughts to shift into this shadow world. It would prove to be more a place of shadows and mind shifts, than I could have predicted.
She stops her car in front of the house, before I realize the house is there. It is almost hidden from the road by trees and shadows. It seems to be completely deserted and dark. The windows show no light. Then, I see a faint glow inside. Window coverings darken all but the faintest glimmer around the edges. A blink of my eyes, and the house seems to disappear into the blackness of the night, only to reappear as my sight readjusts to the deep darkness of a cloudy night in the country.
As soon as the motor dies, the soft silence of the woods embraces me. A warm secure feeling begins deep within me. I recognize it and it begins to swell, to fill me with an essence of peace. My bouncing thoughts still... merging with the silence of the night. The tug, the seeking of my spirit quietens. I have reached my destination. I belong here, here at a reservation dwelling with someone I've never met. I know the feelings do not make sense, but I trust them anyway.
Yet, I have known her. She is familiar. Faint memories stir in the deepest, hidden parts of my mind. I've met her many times in the night as I sleep. I walk with her through dream memories. We journey together while my body lies in sleep. Now I'm here in her presence in both spirit and in body. She "dreamed" me here. She calls me to her through Medicine. She's been calling me for days... weeks, perhaps much longer. Calling to awaken me, to remind me why I chose to return, to remind me who I am, and why I am here. I don't understand what I am saying and thinking, but I do not doubt its truth.
"Am I crazy? Where are these thoughts coming from? This can't be real ... a dream ... I'll wake up soon."
It is the summer of my life. My children almost grown, I find myself with time and energy to further my career. My counseling practice is established and I am doing workshops with regularity. This is increasing my exposure in the community. I am reaching a satisfactory income level. Husband, children, home, money, career... what more could anyone want?
My story begins here....
It was early... the morning of the day I met Old Woman. I left my home in the desert plains of West Texas before sunrise. It was a five hour drive to the mountains, and I could stretch the time two or three hours through frequent explorations and side trips down beckoning dirt roads. The air was dry and clear, giving sharp definition to vistas before me. As the flat horizon gave way to rolling foothills, the temperature cooled a bit, and I lowered my car windows, allowing the mountain air to blow away the weight of work and life. The drive was brilliant with sunlight, not a single cloud. Every detail was sharply defined.
With left-brain logic to justify the trip, it was easy to ignore the unsettling, not so gentle, pull I was feeling, had been feeling for days. The vague sensation of urgency and purpose, I attributed to business, not to divine guidance through spirit messages and dreams. I was looking for a retreat, an inspiring place to hold a workshop .... That was sufficient justification.
A year earlier, I expanded my private counseling practice to include personal growth workshops, called "Quest of Me". Several participants had suggested a retreat environment to continue working. An excellent suggestion! I was taking a long, secluded weekend to locate a place, have personal time for meditation and ... relax. In my mind, it fit comfortably: I did not question my motives as mysterious.
That was my rational mind! Certainly, I had formulated vague hopes of seeing ceremonial dances at the reservation, but my primary purpose was locating a resort spot in the mountains. I would reserve it, spend some quiet time and return to my practice and my life refreshed. I always am ready and looking for interesting new experiences, but I had no thoughts of a secret meeting in dark woods and wouldn't have defined that experience as interesting. It would have been thought too frightening and dangerous to contemplate. I had no plans to meet "sisters" from a former time to reawaken ancient memories. I had no plans to alter my philosophy of life or totally change my life style.
On my drive, I took many of my usual side-road excursions, traveled every place my little, red sports car would go. I discovered thick forests, grassy glades and hidden valleys. I chatted with campers and village people. I sat and watched ground squirrels scurrying around rocky ledges. Each mile I traveled and each breath of clean mountain air filled me with new vitality. I began to realize how much I needed to be near earth, air, mountains and trees, how much I needed renewal... all were new feelings for me. A friend had once commented that I probably would have been happy if the world had been created indoors. At that time the statement was true. The walk from the front door of my house to the car was sufficient 'outdoor stuff' for me.
I had only recently become aware of a connection with the Earth, a connection I had previously ignored. In the past, anyplace without soft beds, hot and cold running water, and a full range of temperature control, equated with primitive camping conditions and held no interest for me. Creepy crawly thing nearby ... out of the question! I counted my camping trips on my fingers. There were few, I didn't even need my toes.
Things were changing! I was changing! This trip to the mountains was a profound adventure for me. My life, me inside, the externally visible me, would never again be the same. This change would, in turn, alter those around me. My life would change completely; no dream was creative enough to present a picture of the future that would come to be. Had I known what lay ahead, I might not have gone. My fear might have been too great.
That day, I continued to follow side roads. On one excursion I found the perfect resort and reserved it for my workshop. The strange feelings I had were explained, I now understood. I assumed it was my eagerness to find this perfect place that had created the adventurous spirit within me.
"Perfect" describes exactly the resort spot... acres of wilderness, miles of forest path and privacy. Still it had all the comforts anyone could want. The lodge was only two miles from the highway, but the area was an isolated haven. I unpacked and settled in for a lazy evening and quiet night. Then I felt the 'pull' again. Vague tendrils of thought wrapped around my body, tugging me to action.
This time I didn't struggle. I surrendered to sensation, got in my car and drove, following an almost visible spirit. Afternoon air was vibrant with the electrical charge of accumulating storm clouds, but rain didn't seem eminent nor threatening, so unconcerned, I continued my journey. The storm dissipated, leaving a clear sky... temporarily.
After a time I found myself on the highway through the Indian reservation. I'd traveled this twisting, country road many times. It always generated a smile of peaceful satisfaction. This area retained the magical feeling of history and powerful events, of slipping into a time before asphalt and fences. There was the ever present, but unexpressed, expectation of discovering buffalo hide tipis and dark-skinned families going about the routine of living.
I found a side road leading to the local Indian village. Although, I had never followed that road, I decided this was the time for me to go
It was still light in the western sky, when I located the town's only cafe. My conscious intentions were to eat and return to my room, miles away. Two groups of Indian men, five or six in each group, stood near the front door, talking and watching. Stories I'd heard about Apaches gave me momentary second thoughts. I also recalled the empty alcohol bottles on the nearby hill. Second thoughts about food were also created by five large dogs who greeted me as I parked and opened the car door. Two, were taller than my small car. However, I discovered that all were friendly and greeted me with dripping tongues and heavy panting. No one else seemed friendly.
It must have been rare to see a woman, a white woman at that, traveling and eating alone in that village. No one spoke or smiled. I felt tolerated ... but barely so. I asked the waitress about dances, but she knew nothing.
It was dark when I finished eating and left. I had parked at the rear of the building, one floor lower than the street level, front entrance. It hadn't seemed far in daylight. The darkness was complete as I walked around the building and down the hill. I wouldn't say I was frightened, but I was more cautious than usual. I wondered about the men who had stared so long and hard at me and I wondered if the dogs would be less friendly in the dark.
There beside my car, I first saw the Indian woman. She was standing... waiting... in the shadows. She was less than five feet tall and almost as wide. A plain, ordinary, nondescript person seemingly advanced in years. Someone who blended into a crowd and could be easily overlooked or dismissed as insignificant... if that was what she wanted.
Tonight she allowed her medicine to shine through the guise of commonness. She spoke a little, broken English and I did not speak any of her language, but the invitation was clear, although, it was more of an instruction than an invitation, to come to her home. I can't explain my agreeing to follow, at least not in logical ways. This wasn't rational behavior. I won't explain or attempt to defend my actions. When she said, "Come... follow me", I did. I followed her down that dark, one lane, dirt road to the meeting prepared for me.
My rambling thoughts returned to the dark road and the immediacy of the situation. There we sat, she in her car... I in mine, in front of a house in dark woods. Time took a long pause. When the clock began to tick again, I stepped from my car and waited. She moved slowly, deliberately, as if the only time and place that existed was the moment containing us. Perhaps this was true. Her round body, long skirt, and blanket-sized wrap created a formless shape moving slowly across the small, dark clearing. We stepped out of ordinary time and out of ordinary space. We were in a place with different laws of order and nature. She didn't look back or signal for me to follow, but I knew what I was to do.
The house was small and low to the ground, slightly taller than the door frame. We walked on hard-packed dirt, no grasses or brush. I feel it beneath my feet but saw only darkness when I looked down. She walked only a few feet in front of me; I could barely see the ancient round form. It was more like following a ghostly, floating light.
Five women were inside awaiting our arrival. No other vehicles were evident outside. I momentarily wondered, "How did they get here?" It was too far to walk. Questions. Unanswered questions.
The women were replicas of each other. Each was short, round, looked very old and wore a simple print dress... partially covered by a shawl around the head and shoulders or placed across the lap. Hair was pulled back in convenient containment. They seemed to appear, then disappear in the blackness of the room.
The light was too dim to see much color, but I was aware of rugs, spread here and there on a bare concrete floor. There were vague, unfamiliar shapes hanging on the walls and from the ceiling. The smell of herbs, cedar, wood and smoke filled the air. There was one vacant chair with a small stool next to it. I politely sat on the low stool.
The woman I followed, turned and looked at me for the first time. As her eyes met mine ... the fog I lived in, since the moment of my birth began to clear. I began to see in a new way ... I remembered ... I had feelings coming from distant memories. She continued to look at me. No words were spoken but I rose and moved to the chair, my assigned place. When I was seated, she brought a low table, placed it in the center of the room; then she turned and entered a blanket-covered doorway leading to the back of the house. I heard a dog barking followed by a distant howling in answer. Then ... there was only silence.
No one spoke to, nor looked at me, so we sat in silence while she was gone. In the dim light, I looked around. Furniture was similar to what I remembered from my grandparent's house: low solid, sturdy and well worn. Most of it was second or third hand ... very old. It was covered with blankets and fabric. Nothing was distinct, everything blended into shades of gray. I momentarily wondered why I felt so comfortable in such a strange place. I felt safe, as I had as a child surrounded by a loving family.
In my thoughts, the woman who guided me became "Old Woman", a title of honor, a wise old grandmother. As I sat lost in thought, Old Woman returned with some sort of dish, a shell perhaps. Inside, coals glowed red and white. She placed the dish in the center of the table and sprinkled something over the coals, giving off a pungent, pleasant fragrance and a few wisps of smoke. She then took a feather from the table and pulled smoke toward her and around her body, speaking a melody of sound. Then she moved slowly around the table clockwise, she faced the smoking dish and waved wispy breaths of smoke and fragrance toward each of us. The threads of smoke accompanied the sounds of a soft chant. I now recognize this to have been a smudging ceremony, an act of purification and prayers. I did not understand at that time what she did or why it was done. I trusted my intuitive feelings; everything was good and comfortable. I no longer felt the slightest trace of fear.
At first, I couldn't understand her words, but it no longer mattered. The other women began to speak in unison. The rhythms and patterns of sound began to form images in my mind. I began to see what they saw, and I understood. With understanding, the walls of the house ... blanket-covered furniture ... pitted concrete floor ... all faded away, and we were in the womb of our mother, the Earth. We returned to the beginning, to the place of origin.
My initiation of awakening had begun. The table was now a raised, crescent shaped, dirt altar with a small fire in the center. The light from the flames reflected off the earthen walls surrounding us, the "sisters". The seven of us danced a slow, methodical dance in a circle around the altar. I knew the words of the chant, and I was one with the others. I had returned, we were together, again. Still, I didn't understand! I became slowly aware of drums and drummers, of ancient ancestors and helpers seated in a larger circle forming an outer energy circle. Time was compressed into that space. Existence was there, also.
The Earth womb contained all that ever was or would be. And, I knew and understood in one moment. I understood the workings of the universe. I knew about cycles and seasons, how time folds and re-folds in on itself. I remembered ancient skills and ways of being. I remembered earth changes and the death and destruction that comes with changes. I remembered my role in being here to awaken once again.
I, Carol, whose body remained in the room on an Apache Reservation, slipped into an even deeper level. I returned to a more ancient time when I was standing on a high mound in a sacred place with my heart sisters, the same sisters I joined in the moon lodge, the same sisters guiding me on this memory journey, the same sisters on the Apache reservation. I looked across the circle and saw Old Woman in her youth-time. The air was filled with hot, red winds whipping our robes. Long hair was pulled from ties, following the wind's path to the yellow, ash-filled heavens. Cinders burned skin and scorched clothes. We were tugged upward, by invisible fingers of fiery turbulence.
The whirling pull of the searing winds gave strength to our purpose. We prepared for this, knowing it was the last moments to accomplish our task. Hands joined, and the path of energy began. The force inside the circle caused a stillness like the eye of a tornado. We placed individual and collective wisdom into that space of quiet expectancy. Then we began to generate our cone of power. It spun even faster than surrounding winds. When we escaped bonds of time and space, we projected knowing, memories and powers into the future ... to women, to feminine energy, as we would be in other times of readiness. We went forth to other times of earth change, times when we could awaken ancient memories, times to reclaim personal power, times when we might avoid catastrophic destructions of Earth - Man - Spirit conflict.
Memories lay upon layers of older memories. The collective records of all that had ever been or would be, fringed my conscious thought. Flashes of Atlantis and Mu, and travel through invisible tunnels of crystal light sped through my thoughts. I remembered conversing with the rock/bone structure of Mother. I became water and flow. I flashed with lightning and caused fire in the forest. I observed the wheels of life with never ending motion. I knew and understood this passing of human time was a small nod to the elements... to the Mother planet and the Father heavens. I recognized the significance of Earth school in the cosmic plan of the common soul.
‘Woman power’ memory countered, with ‘man power’ memories. Through the eyes of a "male me," I watched and felt quiet, controlled actions of the hunt, pride in providing food and the intensity of sex. Vividness was muted, sensations softened, but reality unvarying. I learned from opposing experiences. I contributed and destroyed on both sides of the gender coin. I understood and understand still, that masculine and feminine do not equal male and female. Recognizing and balancing paradoxical opposites is my lesson, merging physical and spiritual with the mind of knowing.
I explored future memories, progressing into the future rather than regressing into the past. I watched optional deaths of this physical body I now occupy and call "Carol WhiteWater Dawn." I explored the possibility of future existence in realities beyond this physical plane. I began to examine the impact I've had on others in this lifetime; Then ... sound and movement stopped. I was called back to the gathering of the sisters.
I was instantly back in Earth Mother womb with my spirit sisters. Old Woman and the sisters merged with the outer circle, leaving me alone in the center. The altar fire provided the only illumination, a soft red-orange glow diffused into blackness before revealing individuals as cavern walls. A single, slow, steady beat began from the perimeter of the circle. The undeviating, uniform lifting and dropping of feet added to the sound. Four great drums at the cardinal direction completed the pulse. It was a huge powerful sound, as if the cavern was the inside of a drum. The resonance of the drumbeat filled the air. Soon, sound was the only sensation in my awareness. Then the beat became faster and louder, until I became the sound. The sound, me, the earth ... we were one throbbing heartbeat until the sound split into two halves of silence parting wholeness in two. Total stillness provided a place for my awareness to return to the physical-ness of ME ... me in the cavern/womb. Then, I experienced a consuming consciousness of a presence behind me. I knew that I was back to back with another entity.
This other entity and I began slow, silent deliberate movements; perfectly matched, mirrored movements, choreographed by unseen power. The backward dance continued with silent movements around the altar, circling round and round, back to back. There was no physical contact but the bond was undeniable. Then, in unison, we turned to face each other.
I saw a male ‘me’ reflected. My right hand held a prayer fan of eagle feathers with long fringe of leather and shells. The white, brain-tanned leather was stained... dark with age and use. In my left hand was a gourd rattle filled with small red crystal stones. Each hand was painted with black stripes extending from the wrist to the fingertips. Each arm had four cross stripes just below the bend of the elbow. Ash covered exposed skin. Neck and shoulders were weighted with strings of bone, beads and crystals, items handed down for generations. A small scar under the third rib on my right side had a red circle around it. Beneath the skin was a seeing crystal, planted there long ago by my teachers. A waist wrap was decorated with magic items; stone, teeth, fur, feathers... claws, carved wood, cedar and leather. I looked down and saw these items on my body and I looked at my counterpart, as if into a mirror. Every movement of ankles and knees vibrated a multitude of shells hanging from straps. As we continued the dance, our bare feet stirred dust on the floor, where it swirled up and around, reflecting reds and yellows of the flames.
Hawk and eagle feathers adorned our hair. Red and yellow ochre markings decorated our faces with ancient, sacred symbols. The two of us danced, each a mirror image for the other, one female and one male. I was dancing the two sides of myself face to face. With this recognition came the returning sound of the drums, slow in the beginning, increasing steadily in speed and volume until a frenzy was reached.
Again, silence and stillness penetrated this sacred space. We moved toward each other in slow, rhythmic movements. The space between us narrowed to inches, to less, to nothing. We moved into the same space, male and female together. We danced to wholeness. Spirit and body merged. We became one, with an open doorway from one reality to another. Silence. Stillness. The earthen walls receded. The others, drums and sound slipped into the distance. The flames gently died away. Feathers, stones, bones and paint remained in that reality. Darkness was complete. Nothingness was complete. Wholeness was complete.
Then, seven women were again in the room of Old Woman's house, sitting quietly. One by one, they rose from their place and left, no conversation, no fanfare, no good-bye. When there was only Old Woman and me, we talked. Talked without talking, frequently without words, or simply, "It is good." "Not come again to this place." "We are done."