SPQR Sandra Ingerman
Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life Itzhak Beery
The Keeper of the Fire:
Shamanic Initiation. A call for shapeshifting from dreamers to doers
Sacred Art Steven Ash
Sacred Drumming: Ancient Sound Healing Meg Beeler
The Despacho Ceremony
Shaman Portal Quarterly Review Issue 1 - Samhain 2019
S ha m a n P or t a l Q u a r t e r ly R e v ie w
A Note from the Publisher
TAB E L OF CO NT E N T ISSUE #1 SAMHAIN 2019
Sandra Ingerman Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life
In the spring of 1997, I traveled for the first time with John Perkins and Dream Change Coalition to the High Andes and the Shuar tribe in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. There I made a promise during a Natem (Ayahuasca) vision, to the spirit of the jungle. I promised to help it survive the onslaught of the encroaching Western civilization, to help preserve its vast spiritual and medicinal knowledge and to learn from the keepers of its wisdom.
The Keeper of the Fire: Shamanic Initiation. A call for shapeshifting from dreamers to doers Imelda Almqvist Sacred Art
Steven Ash Sacred Drumming:
Shaman Portal is part of my effort to keep that promise and to share it with like-minded members of our global community. I want to thank the members of my group, the New York Shamanic Circle, for their support and inspiration throughout the years.
Ancient Sound Healing Meg Beeler The Despacho Ceremony
Join me in creating a strong global shamanic community for the sake of our future generations.
All photography art by Elif Onalp
Itzhak Beery, Founder & publisher
Copyright. All rights reserved by each of the authers. No part of this publication or photographs therein may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author.
A Note from the Editor the spirits of the different worlds for the benefit of the community.
Welcome to our first issue of the Shaman Portal Quarterly Review. Our mission is to help preserving ancient shamanic traditions around the world and to reintroduce this ancient wisdom into the so called “West”.
I’m grateful for the support of the authors who contributed their time and effort to help birthing this first issue of the Shaman Portal Quarterly Review. Sandra Ingerman gives wonderful advice on how to design a successful ceremony. Itzhak Beery, explores in his article what it means to be a Shaman and how to become one. Imelda Almqvist contemplates on the Sacred Arts and how this topic fits between religious art and shamanism. Steven Ash will bring you, dear reader, closer to one of the oldest shamanic instruments – the sacred drum. Sound Healing is en vogue nowadays, but it’s not a new practice. Shamans all over the world have use the power of sonic vibrations for altering reality, bringing healing and restoring the balance. Restoring the balance between the seen and the unseen world is also the topic of Meg Beeler’s introduction to the Andean “Despacho Ceremony”.
The Shaman Portal Quarterly Review will be an advertisement free collection of articles written by leading Shamans, Healers and Shamanic practitioners from around the world. It will cover topics such as ceremonies, cosmology, healing techniques, plant medicine and sacred art. For the sake of simplification, we will use the term “Shaman”, well aware that this term belongs to a specific Siberian tradition. In other traditions a Shaman is called Yachak, Curandero, Sangoma, Yatiri, Paq’o etc. The common denominator for all those practitioners is the ability to bridge the gap between the ordinary and non-ordinary reality and to commune with
Many blessings, Christian Thurow, Editor
The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life. by Sandra Ingerman Sounds True, October 2018. Reprinted with permission.
Designing a Successful Ceremony
Do your preparation work. Make sure you call in your helping and compassionate spirits as well as the helping ancestral compassionate spirits of the land. Give thanks to the helping spirits to guide you in your words as you speak and lead a powerful and healing ceremony.
ere is a summary of elements to incorporate in designing a ceremony. This summary includes bringing friends and loved ones and your community into the work. 1. Keep It Short
3. Set a Clear Intention
The most powerful ceremonies are those where you open the door to the invisible realms and state your intention and keep the ceremony to the point. A key to a successful ceremony is concentration and focus. If you create a long and complex ceremony, participants tend to lose interest, lose focus, and start to drift away. The ceremony then loses power.
Be clear on the intention of the ceremony. In performing a ceremony, your intention is heard by the helping spirits and the power of the universe. These helping spiritual forces work in partnership with you to manifest your desire. Consult with your helping spirits to make sure your wording reflects the intention that is for the highest good.
I set out a big bowl or drum and invite people to place something that represents an anchor to their ordinary world that needs to be released before stepping into ceremonial space. This might be a piece of jewelry, a watch, a cell phone, or a paper with a burden written on it. Participants take back their possessions once the ceremony has been closed.
4. Create an Altar As mentioned, you can create an altar at home or in nature. You can even just bring flowers. You can invite people to bring or leave objects on the altar. Remind them to take their precious objects home at the end unless they are consciously left as a gift for the land. You can choose to work with elaborate decorations to create sacred space or simply just speak from your heart.
9. Give Clear Instructions Explain the steps of the ceremony you will be leading. In this way, people know what to expect, and this helps them maintain a focus.
5. Greet Participants When working in a group, welcome each participant personally into the circle. This will help you to relax and make people feel welcomed as they step into doing something that might feel unknown or a little scary to them. The simple act of greeting each person with a smile dissolves suspicions.
10. Invite People to Pray Before closing the ceremony, open a space for people to share prayers, asking that the goodness of the ceremony may radiate to others and the world. This is also a time to thank everyone who participated and helped create the ceremony.
6. Be Confident in Your Opening Words
11. Inspire Your Community
When leading a group ceremony, prepare your opening sentence. Once you state your opening sentence, you will find your inner spirit speaking through you. Put on an air of confidence even if you are nervous. If you do not seem confident, a group you are leading will not feel safe and will not fully participate in the ceremony. They will observe without fully participating.
Close by thanking the helping spirits and saying inspiring words to your community. Your helping spirits will give you healing words to end with, just listen to their guidance as you speak. Make sure everyone in the community is grounded. 12. Sharing Messages
7. The Opening Invocation
Leave some space for participants to share messages that came through the helping spirits during the ceremony or to share omens that might have been seen during a ceremony. A compassionate spirit might share a message with a participant such as “learn to love yourself,” “trust,” “we love you,” “you are protected,” “remember to shine your light,” “don’t lose hope,” “miracles are possible,” “trust your intuition,” “focus on the beauty of life,” “honor and respect all of life,” “let your tears flow,” and so on. People might also wish to share feelings that came up during the ceremony.
Lead an opening invocation to get people to move their energy from their thinking mind into their heart and to welcome each person into the circle. Ask people to take some deep breaths while placing their hands on their heart and welcoming each person into the circle while wishing for the best outcome for everyone who has joined the ceremony. Your opening invocation needs to end with letting everyone know that the work is beginning now. 8. Release Your Burdening Thoughts
Invite people to leave their ordinary thoughts and concerns behind and to fully join in and not just observe. You can get people into the right place by leading inspirational songs or playing musical instruments to open their heart. In some ceremonies,
If you are working with a group, you can serve refreshments after the ceremony, so people can meet each other and talk about the work. This is a perfect time for adding a grounding practice.
The magic of ceremony is being able to leave your ordinary life behind and step into a sacred space. In this space, you can truly participate with others who are opening their hearts along with you to create positive change and help the stated intention manifest.
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is an award winning author of twelve books, including Soul Retrieval, Medicine for the Earth, Walking in Light, and The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred Into Everyday Life, and The Hidden Worlds (co-written with Katherine Wood for children). She is the presenter of eight audio programs produced by Sounds True, and created the Transmutation App. For 35 years Sandra has been a world renowned teacher of shamanism teaching workshops internationally on shamanism and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods.
Make sure that your intention for your ceremonies carries the energy of love, honor, and respect. Please do not perform any ceremonies out of wanting vengeance or to curse someone. This is not what the evolution of shamanism is about. Performing ceremonies should only be used for healing and to share love, light, support, honor, and respect. In the chapters ahead, you will read about different ceremonies. As you read the upcoming chapters, you will get ideas of how to structure the middle of your ceremony. Over time, you will start to see that the most Sandra is devoted to teaching people to work powerful ceremonies that you perform are the ones together as a global community to manifest positive you have improvised and made your own. change. She is passionate about helping people to
reconnect with nature. Since the 1980’s thousands of people have healed from past and present traumas through the classic cross cultural shamanic healing method Sandra teaches called Soul Retrieval.
The Importance of Rituals
Sandra joined in partnership with Renee Baribeau to do a weekly 30 minute podcast The Shamans Cave. For more information visit: ShamansTV.com
“In my own practice, I use the word ‘ritual’ to imply healing work that will be repeated every day, once a week, or once a month. For example, I might have a ritual that I perform daily to honor the helping spirits who reside where I live. A ceremony is something I might perform once by myself or with a group, usually for a desired result.
Sandra is a licensed marriage and family therapist and professional mental health counselor and a boardcertified expert on traumatic stress. www.sandraingerman.com www.shamanicteachers.com www.ShamansTV.com
“You can perform a ceremony or ritual for just about anything. In my workshops we perform ceremonies in order to curtail beliefs and attitudes that prevent us from using our creative energy to create a good life for the planet and ourselves. We use ritual to create agreement between ourselves and the power of the universe for what we wish to create in our lives. When we use ceremony for manifesting something we want, we can add to the power of our creative potential by working in partnership with the creative forces of the universe.” — Awakening to the Spirit World
The Keeper of the Fire: Shamanic Initiation A call for shapeshifting from dreamers to doers By Itzhak Beery
a nomadic tribe of hunter-gatherers that spread across the taiga’s vast land. In the seventeenth century, as the Russian empire reached the Tungus, Russians adopted their word saman, which described their Earthbased elders-healers. The word eventually took hold worldwide, after an anthropologist’s congress that was held in Russia in the 19th Century.
he awakening spiritual movement and neoshamanic community are hotly debating the questions of what is the role and relevancy of shamanism in our modern world. Who is a shaman? What function must a person perform to be called a shaman? There are also the questions of who can be initiated to become a shaman and by whom? Is it only by an indigenous elder from an old lineage, by birth, or by the hands of spirits or perhaps a download during a plant medicine ceremony, through prophetic dreams, or near-death experiences?
Who is a Shaman?
In many of the now classic books and essays, the term of a shaman may mean “The one who sees in the dark” or “Miracle worker” or “One who knows.” Other interpretations are “One who can fly” or “Messenger between the worlds.” or “A wise man or woman.” The definition varies depending on the tribe, cultures, and genders. It also could describe the shaman’s abilities— for example, the ability to speak with spirit, perform healing, lead ceremonies, and rituals, or be a spiritual or psychology like a consultant. There is no one exact translation as there is no precise definition of what a shaman is or does.
“Shaman” is a relatively new word on the world stage. It originates with the Tungus people of Eastern Siberia,
‘Shaman’ has become a generic word just as Aspirin; originally a Bayer trademark brand that is now used
These heated debates are entirely relevant and could be confusing, as we all struggle to understand and deal with our rapidly changing social and environmental realities and our individual and community roles in it.
to describe all medications with Acetylsalicylic acid or Google for all searches on the Internet. It is now a universally recognized term to describe all men or women who are employing traditional folk medicine, natural medicine from Earth, or spirit. There are as many names for this vocation as there are tribes and languages, and some cultures have different names for male and female shamans. Using the word shaman for all people who practice this medicine has its benefits, as it has transformed the derogatory connotations many Western cultures and organized religions have stamped on witchcraft and witches, sorcerers, faith healers, and pagans since the Middle Ages in an effort to eradicate ancient spiritual traditions and replace them with the new church doctrines and hegemony. Today, even in the furthest places on Earth, in the Amazon and on the high mountains traditional healers use this word. Maybe it is a sign we are becoming one small village or a sign of cultural globalization.
gathers to hear their ancestors’ stories, to listen to myths, to sing songs, celebrate their togetherness and plan for the future. As keeper of the fire, the shaman has a broad and vital role as a community sustainer. We can say, a shaman needs the community as much as the community needs him. It puts the community at the core of any individual life. Shamanism isn’t about one’s powers; it’s about the strength of the community. Today we are enjoying a rebirth of shamanic practices precisely because of the destruction of the family unit and the high mobility of people who are yearning to be part of a supportive, heart-based community. Dreamer or Doer There are those in our communities who say that our role is to meditate and offer prayers of love and healing in the face of the draconian human abuse and environmental policies of current regimes, and multinational corporations. They distaste any polarizing political or social activism, claiming that this is not our role. It seems to me that complacency, under the guise of spirituality, allows governments to continue their oppression by normalizing their un-moral actions.
Some years ago, I attended a special healing ceremony held by an elder Tungus shaman in full heavy attire in a New Jersey private house, with a diverse group of people, mostly Russian speaking. At the end of this transformative evening, I gathered the courage to ask him for the true definition of the word shaman. His translator, an elderly Russian anthropology professor, replied briskly, “The keeper of the fire,” and turned his back on me. I was surprised; I wasn’t expecting to hear that—and also taken aback, wondering if he just wanted to get rid of me. But although this definition was not what I had been told, nor had read in many sources, it made a lot of sense and broadened the meaning of the shaman—as a person of service, the keeper of the community’s soul and well-being.
After all, I know the shamans of Ecuador who organized the indigenous uprising and protests the attempt to privatize their water by burning tires and blocking the roads. Some of them are now running for political office, just like one of our spiritual leader who now runs to become the first woman US president. I met the Amazonian shamans who are mobilizing their community to fight loggers, oil and agro-corporations who destroy, spoil their environment and mobilize for indigenous women’s rights. I saw the Peruvian shamans who made bonfire ceremonies against theirs and other international leaders.
Although a shaman has many roles in his community—teacher, healer, and bridge between the seen and unseen worlds—his central task is to be responsible for the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of his community.
I also know of an American shaman who previously worked for multinational corporations, and now confessed and blew the whistle on them, the CIA, and US government. Shamans from all corners of the world are taking an active role as Keepers of the Fire. The shamanic teaching is not a mere spiritual one; it is action-based, practical, to effect change. As any healing and prayer must show demonstrable results that manifest cosmic balance. If you have a seed, you must plant it, and nurture it to grow an ear of corn that can
According to this definition, the shaman is in charge of keeping the sacred fire, the burning embers in the bonfire, if you wish, of his community’s life going. Literally and symbolically, we see Fire as a symbol of the source of life. Fire is the principal element that brings warmth, energy, and passion and provides for survival or destruction for the community. It is around the sacred fire, during dark nights, the community
feed you. Sadly, praying over the seed would not do it. The Shamanic Initiation Shamanic Initiation is not an end for itself or perhaps a medal for hard work. In my experience, it is just merely a beginning. Initiation into shamanism is best when an elder teacher who comes from a long lineage, choose a person to be his initiate. The elder must have recognized some characteristics, which will make the initiate a fully responsible Keeper of the Fire. Qualities such as intentional life purpose, and deep commitment to bringing people together. Humbleness and respect for wisdom keepers. The courage to face adversity. A sense of higher justice and moral values. The ability to resolve conflicts, nurture from the heart, and ‘seeing’ or communicating with spirit effectively. For the initiate, the initiation rite is a life-changing moment; it is a test of some sort. A time in which the initiated accepts the weighty responsibility the shaman put on his shoulders and the realization that he is entrusted with being the keeper of his teacher’s tradition. It is a painful moment of shedding the old familiar, comfortable well-known skin and leaping into the void, the unknown future. It is a magical moment of truly experiencing becoming one with all, a divine moment of higher realization, in which every action has consequences in the cosmic matrix of life without fear. Joining the ancient lineage could give the initiate the needed support and assurance in his future work. To be initiated by a spirit in a vision or a dream can be qualified to that effect; however, in my experience, it lacks the grounding and certainty that ancient traditions so beautifully cultivated for millennia. Many people experience other ways of initiations in ways of plant medicine visions and messages, life long sickness, life-threatening events, deep depressions, what we call ‘The Dark Night of the Soul,’ which is a way to overcome their challenges, shed their old ego or skin and gain teachings of higher mindfulness that might help them become a compassionate and powerful shamans. I also know some people, who are sure they deserved to be initiated and not shy of asking for it. Usually, those are not the ones the shaman’s trust. They may ask
indigenous and Western elders, whom they recently met and hardly knew to initiate them. I also know shamans who gladly perform mass initiations for a fee, and some teachers who give initiations plaques after each workshop. This practice is not the traditional way, and it may not benefit either one of them as it comes perhaps from overinflated or weak egos and fear of scarcity. The Eagle and the Condor We are living in an exciting era of tremendous consciousness shift. We all feel it. It is in the air, in our collective consciousness. It’s a time of awakening as if humanity heeds its calling. A new Pachakuti has begun around 1993, as foreseen by the ancient Andes prophecy of the Eagle and the Condor–a 500-year period of time/space correction. This is a time that calls for harmony, unity, and collaboration between the Masculine energies of action and logic–North, with the Feminine energies of the heart base societies–South. In this era, we must use them both to create a betterbalanced world for the sake of our next generations. We should be leaving a better world than we found when we entered it. And that begins with The Keeper of the Fire actions through strong convictions of our hearts. ***
Itzhak Beery is a leading international shamanic teacher, healer, speaker, community activist and author of The Gift of Shamanism; Shamanic Transformations; and Shamanic Healing. Since1995 Itzhak bridges the spiritual and practical wisdom his indigenous teachers entrusted in him. He lead groups on healing expeditions to the Andes the Amazon of Ecuador and Yucatan. Itzhak is the founder of ShamanPortal.org, The Andes Summit and co-founder of the New York Shamanic Circle, he is on the faculty of Kripalu Center, New York Open Center, The Shift Network, SoundsTrue, Evolver, and staff teacher at Omega Institute. He received ‘Ambassador for Peace Award’ from The Universal Peace Federation and the UN. www.itzhakbeery.com www.nyshamaniccircle.org
Sacred Art By Imelda Almqvist Our Own Life Is The Greatest Piece Of Art We Will Ever Make!
hen people ask me what I do for a living and I reply “making and teaching sacred art”, they often frown and say: “You mean religious art, huh?!” My reply is that sacred art and religious art are not synonymous. Religious art is a sub-category of the far larger umbrella that is sacred art. It is interesting how committing to something, following an unusual professional calling, often involves a lot of time spent meditating on what our field, our work, is not. We become advocates, spokespeople, educators – once we work things out! When one has several “strange or even incomprehensible professions” (as I do: shamanic practitioner, seiðkona, volva, international teacher of sacred art) this can become a bit of a burden. When I attend a dinner party and consider myself off-duty I will sometimes say: I am a mother of three teenagers. It is easier! It is also true!
I spent two full decades making sacred art without finding the right word for this type of art. At age eighteen I moved to Amsterdam to attend art school. This total immersion, four years spent painting full time in a very exciting city (Amsterdam in the 1980s!), profoundly shaped the rest of my life. After years of writing and drawing in my bedroom as a teenager, I suddenly had teachers who challenged my perceptions and introduced different ways of working. They taught me to literally turn a canvas upside down to see with fresh eyes what was going on, what was seeking to take form. Four years of training in life drawing and portrait painting taught me about human anatomy and proportions, facial expressions, the rippling of muscles under human skin, the way a tired human body goes slack and loses definition. I did not realise it at the time but I was in that “last batch” of European students who enjoyed a very classical (now considered old-fashioned) training in
fine art. Today people no longer need to be able to draw and/or achieve a likeness to attend art school. Many art students now work digitally, or conceptually. Our London garden backs onto the Goldsmith’s College Campus, in South East London, and their art students often attend my Open Studio events. I am grateful for this on-going dialogue as it keeps me, (somewhat!), tethered to the way the modern art scene is evolving. The most mind-boggling thing I was ever told by this group was about a young woman who decided to make “not making art” her art project and subject of her thesis. Instead of making art she was going to write a journal on how it felt not to make art, while everyone else around became deeply immersed in their own art projects. Her supervisor had agreed to this project. I cannot report how this panned out, because I never encountered that circle of students again, but for me the conundrum was this: you have a place at a university known for its thriving and progressive art department. You have study finance in place to live on. This is your time! Chances are that you will never again have those things in the same way: you may be trying to make art while working full time, parenting several children and caring for elderly parents all at the same time. Do you really want to spend that precious gift of time, that “golden nectar”, on not making art?! Will that create the right habits for seeing you through when making art becomes challenged and squashed by other demands, as is the way of Life?! – In my day the teachers would have laughed at this proposal. My year group in Amsterdam would not have gotten away with it. I am not saying that this concept is right or wrong. I know that many people who attend art school will not continue to paint (or make their own personal art) in later life. Many will feed into related professions: secondary school teaching, museums and exhibitions, graphic design, illustrating children’s books. Some leave art altogether and become IT specialists or something very different again. So… conceivably a person who studies and closely observes her own process of not making art, will find her perfect place in life post art-school?! - All I can do is speak for myself: I did not waste one drop of painting time while at art school and today I remain very grateful that I didn’t as this created a rock-solid commitment to painting, for life.
In my days at art school making spiritual art was viewed as not cool. I was encouraged away from the spirit-led themes that came so naturally. I met my Swedish husband in that period and started spending time in Scandinavia. My teachers described the paintings resulting from this as “vibrant, illuminated by the Northern Lights and Midsummer Sun”. That body of work allowed me to graduate with flying colours. I moved first to Sweden and next to London, where I trained as an art therapist. That still was not “the perfect fit” (the spiritual dimension was lacking. The cure for spiritual diseases and disorders needs to have a spiritual dimension!) Years later I trained as a shamanic practitioner – this was a far better fit for me. People often ask me what called me to shamanism. The true answer is that shamanism called me, I painted my way there. I spent two decades making very shamanic paintings – but I lacked words for what I had been doing since childhood: talking to spirits, receiving guidance and visions from other worlds, helping the souls of dead people cross over, talking to spirit children and learning from them. One day someone said to me: “You art truly is sacred art!” That was a very emotional moment: after twenty years I knew that the only art I had ever wanted to make actually had a name. I had “come home”! I have been fortunate in that my paintings have always sold, made it into collections, appeared on book covers and even on TV. In the years that my three children were tiny I always had painting commissions on the go. I considered my life perfect: I had three beautiful children and a studio where I could snatch precious hours of painting. The “perfection” was not to last! The searching and questioning were to continue! The spirits demanded that I undertake shamanic training and new worlds literally opened up. I learned the technique of shamanic journeying. In the first workshop I ever attended, some of my own paintings appeared before my eyes and I stepped into them. They opened portals on worlds I could navigate. That was a major discovery! Over time I realised that these worlds did not only exist in parallel (energetic) realms but also in my own psyche. In a very real way shamans are “psychonauts”:
intrepid explorers of the human psyche. They will defy conventions and break taboos, they will visit the places deep within us that call our everyday identity and assumptions into question. “Your mind is like an unsafe neighbourhood; don’t go there alone.” Augusten Burroughs “We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” Brian Cox I have always loved painting in that zone: the place where I meet spirits and otherworld inhabitants, where my perception shifts, where deceased people live on and their guidance can be sought. Cycling back to the question what sacred art is and what it is not: in my new book, Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism), I have tried hard to arrive at my own definition of sacred art (it appears on page 38 of my book).
sacred art. In my book I use the metaphor of a rainbow umbrella (you know those umbrellas with different bands in all colours of the rainbow?!) You could then say that sacred art is the rainbow umbrella and that religious art is one of the segments, one colour band – if you like. For instance: “the yellow band represents religious art”. Following this metaphor Christian art would appear as a very small sub strip in this larger yellow band (or band of yellows), as obviously many world (as well as smaller scale local) religions produce their own unique arts, crafts and devotional images. Think of Tibetan mandalas, Hindu depictions of Shiva dancing, Navajo sand paintings, African masks and so forth. Following my chosen analogy Christian art might then be the “lemon yellow” band while the total spectrum of shades of yellow also includes cream, saffron yellow, lemon chiffon, canary yellow, cloverlime yellow and so forth. Yes, I had fun researching that but for painters, such as me, colours are comparable to Inuit words for snow. There is a limitless spectrum of colours within just one colour band! When I say, at dinner parties, that I make sacred art, people assume that I paint icons of saints or murals for churches, depicting scenes from the Bible. Not quite! Instead – when I am not busy in my own studio - I lead groups of people through powerful healing ceremonies and I create safe sacred space for them to discover “what seeks expression through them”. The beauty of this way of working is that writer’s block or artist’s block does not exist. The moment we yield and master ways of stepping away from human ego, creativity is the fountain of immortality that flows through us. Time dissolves, healing occurs, we take our proper place in the miracle that is Creation. We become co-creators of All That is. We become unstuck from the loud shrieks of our own ego and the voices that have imprinted themselves on our soul during this lifetime: you should – you should never, you are – you are not… We rise above all that, we discover just how powerful we are!
The core principle of sacred art is that it is created to honour and express something beyond the realm of the visible. It seeks to express the Divine and map the timeless realm of all things sacred (as opposed to the everyday or profane world). Sacred art is not primarily concerned with the name or greater glory of the artist. (Medieval art did not carry the signature of the artist!) Sacred art is art in service of powers and realms greater than ourselves, to Divine Beings (or Higher Powers if you prefer) as we understand them – a humbling experience. In contrast, some Modern Art has become conceptual and ego-led. It often shows a fragmented world where the artist is central: “Look at me!” To make sacred art we need to move beyond the desires and ambitions of our own ego and work in partnership with the timeless and eternal realm that is the spirit world.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us.
Only very few people make a distinction between sacred art and religious art. After three decades of talking to people about this, I often explain it as follows: religious art is only one very specific type of
-Lines from the poem Our Deepest Fear, by Marianne Williamson.
This covers the making and teaching sacred art, but what about my other “incomprehensible professions”: shamanic practitioner, seiðkona, volva? People trained by Western teachers running a shamanic practice in Western culture generally call themselves shamanic practitioners. This is done to honour tribal shamans who follow their calling (and receive their training from the indigenous elders of their community).
Sweden is the place my soul calls home. The ancestral voices speak to me so clearly in the forest there, and guide me in the old ways. Recently the guidance came to honour the healers and seers in my own ancestral line by calling myself a Forest Witch instead.
It has been said that everything is sacred. That only duality imposes a division between “sacred” and “profane”. (Mircea Eliade wrote a well-known a book The word “shaman” comes from a Tungus-speaking titled The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of people in eastern Siberia known as the Evenk. It was Religion). Personally speaking I feel that it is helpful only in the 20th century that the term shaman came to think of things as having a higher octave expression into general use after anthropologists used it in their and lower octave expression. And yes, all art is sacred reports. Today it is used to describe a large variety in the sense that it is a sacred expression of something. of practices centred on the spirits, all over the world. However, not everyone who creates things would Some people feel that this constitutes an act of cultural choose to self-identify as making sacred art. Yet I appropriation, of taking something that does not observe that many others, just as it was for me, find belong to us, without consent from the place of origin. that they “come home” when they realise that their Perhaps “spirit worker” would be a more neutral term?! spirit-centred (not ego-led) art process has a name: The Old Norse equivalent would be seiðmadr (male) Sacred Art. or seiðkona (female). A traditional British word used by author Elen Sentier is awennyd (healer, person who performs spirit work on behalf of their community). I trained in shamanism with Western teachers and dutifully followed the guidance about calling myself a shamanic practitioner. Over time my perception (and ability to put words to phenomena) shifted once again because the Norse Gods (my ancestral lineage, the cosmology and wisdom teachings of Northern Europe) called me home. (Here I would like to refer back to the Northern Light and Midnight Sun that are said to illuminate my paintings!) A sacred journey, the journey of the human soul, has no beginning and no end. It is more of a spiral of consciousness, where certain themes are visited and revisited, resisted and worked, as our own perception shifts and deepens. There are many initiations along the way. Spirit-led art process is the most powerful way I have found of working through those dark nights of the soul! Some ancestral (Northern European) words or what I do are seiðkona and volva (and there are many other related – words for spirit workers, the word count for this article does not allow me to introduce them all). Seiðkona refers to a woman who practices the magical arts and the word Volva refers to a prophetess, sibyl or seeress, a formidable woman with visionary powers.
*** Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her first book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit for Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019. She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She appears in a TV program made for the Smithsonian Channel (the series is called Mystic Britain) about the Mesolithic site Star Carr in Yorkshire talking about arctic deer shamanism! Imelda divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She has just finished her third book “Medicine of the Imagination: Dwelling in Possibility”. www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk YouTube channel: (art videos and rune drum videos) Contact: email@example.com
Sacred Drumming: Ancient Sound Healing By Steven Ash â€œFirst born, the grandfathers told, had emerged from
quivering mud to the rhythm of his own heart and so man had known the true rhythm from the beginning. Soon afterwards man had learned to use this rhythm for making songs. And then certain ones had discovered the true power in song, the power for making spiritual contact.â€? â€“Hanta Yo (p 28 by Ruth Beebe Hill Published by Doubleday 1979)
he drum is the first instrument, an elemental; a wet skin dried over a hollow log, beaten in the glow and warmth of the fire it has the power to unite the circle, so the grandfathers said; bringing the people together, allowing for the movement of voice and body. Imagine way, way back in the lodges and stone huts of our ancestors the drums beating in the long winter nights, lifting the spirit and inviting the songs to be remembered and created. The stories and lives of our people, people of the earth; their survival, challenges, rituals and ceremonies recorded as living experience,
handed down from generation to generation, holding and held in memory. Etched into the eternal and circulating wind, sounded into the trees and the land upon which we now walk. Sacred drumming is a bewildering way to play this most ancient of instruments. It is not entertainment, it is intertainment. With the drum you are going inside to seek, this may be going into yourself, others, plants, environments or diverse situations. It is opposite and completely different to entertainment drumming where the drum is being used to add tempos, rhythms and complicated beats as a foundation to music. Using a drum for medicine takes you inside of your self and others. Let me clarify the word medicine in this context. Medicine is not a pill as in taking a medicine for your headache; medicine here is your journey through life, your medicine journey. What are you learning?; where is your peace, inside of you, outside or both; are you learning not to hurt your self, are you finding who you are, are you healing or are you still in the outdated mode of self destruct, with that resonance
filtering into your earth walk. There are so many questions relative to our medicine journey, this is just the filtering into your earth walk. There are so many questions relative to our medicine journey, this is just the beginning.
water and when I was born I was over 90% water! Now if you Mr. Mind will please give me a break; I wish for you (which of course is me) and the I AM part of me to re-connect with my elemental self and become free of you controlling me with your day to day fears and needs to stay within artificial comfort zones, chit-chat and trivia.
I learnt a great lesson from Grandfather Wallace Black Elk when he spoke to me over the phone from Denver USA, giving me the introduction to my book Sacred Drumming “Look son, what you hear on the movies with the cow boys and Indians, “BOOM…Boom, Boom, Boom…BOOM…Boom, Boom, Boom” that’s Mickey Mouse drumming….Medicine drumming, sacred drumming has no accents, no breaks, it is even beats, one after another, just like the heart, just like the breath; it just keeps on going without a break. It is the sound of the Earth Mother, go and find her with your drum, she will speak, she will listen when you beat your drum” I understood what grandfather was saying; because that was the only way I found I can drum! Boom…boom…boom, just like walking down a long straight road.
Here is when the drumming becomes a living meditation; your mind is now on your side. The drum has become a useful tool enabling you to travel and yet be anchored into the here and now as you explore realms “beyond the veil.” This territory beyond the veil does have hidden dangers.
I had always felt incapable of beating intricate rhythms using both hands, embarrassed by my lack of skill I opted for the hoop drum used by the Native Americans and Siberian shaman, here you hold the drum close to your heart in your left hand and beat the tight stretched skin of the drum with a soft ended piece of wood with your right hand. The single even beat places you in a dream, invites you into a trance; yes of course, your mind will object and suggest many reasons for you to stop this boring and uneventful noise! You just keep going and enter the sound and the feeling that the gentle thump, thump, thump makes within you. You begin to watch the way the beat of your heart and the thump of the drum become one as if you are bringing an invisible part of yourself out to be viewed, your beating heart is held now in your hands, finding a place to be heard. The mind will come in again and say “Hey, this is making me sick! When are you going to stop?” You can justify your steady drum beat continuing with an explanation like this. Now look here Mr. Mind did you know that sound moves six times more efficiently in water than it does in air and my body is over 70% water, my brain is 80%
Here is where we stop for now, because stopping is appropriate. To go onto the next step takes preparation. In the beginning you are OK, like a baby in the pram you are being guided and protected, but you will not always stay a baby! For as you continue you will begin to realize that in order to go further your inner teacher and your mind will need some strong anchor points, places of pure and strong safety, your source, “the place you are coming from”. The ancient people knew this and handed down “structure” within which to work from master to apprentice, mother to daughter, grandfather to grandchild for the safety of the healer and for the integrity of the knowledge a firm foundation was and is essential. Sadly we in the first world do not have this cohesive cultural and family teaching structure to learn from; yet like a flower bursting into bloom, and by gleaning from existing spiritual teachers, shaman and exploring simple techniques the drum is teaching us how to awaken the ancient medicine of sound that seems to be held within our group memory. The circle found and held sacred by our forefathers and ancient grandmothers is awakening and quickening as we lift the drum, as we find our voices and sing the songs that make spiritual contact, making spirit real. The Essential Foundations of Sacred Drumming Medicine drumming is very different to entertainment or social drumming because the intent of the drummer using the drum beat as a healing tool is both investigating a cause and bringing a change. A protocol has been developed in many cultures that both protects
and enhances the overall experience and this protocol I am calling the essentials of sacred drumming. The two distinct sections of this protocol are smudging and the medicine wheel. Smudging can be carried out by wafting the smoke of aromatic herbs such as sage, Artemisia or frankincense in the body energy field in order to cleanse the unseen dross that is held in the mind and memory around the body. In some cultures especially those of the Pacific Islands toning clear sounds around the body is used in the same way as the sweet smoke. The medicine wheel is a form of prayer or invocation in which archetypes are arranged in seven directions, the four points of the compass, above, below and within. In the foundation of all the natural energy medicine systems from around the globe there is this medicine wheel code called in Africa the circle of life, in North and South America the medicine wheel or the Seven Sacred Directions. The traditional Aurvedic medicine of India call it Vastu; In TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine it is the Bagua and the generative cycle of the five elements; and in Tibet it is the sacred mandala or Tanka. The theme of all these ancient and deeply shamanic systems is the same; firstly each one of us is in the centre of our universe, where the veils of the soul are condensed within a physical form. Secondly as individuals we are here for a reason, to sense out from our centre and to grow from our understanding of the resonances between our inner world and the outer universe, “Awaken whilst you are in this body for everything is within it” are the words of the master Jesus from the book of love. Sacred drumming is one method for exploring and clearing away anything that ought not to be held with in the soul body so that our soul purpose can be realised.
influencing each other” Chapter 13 Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen (2697 BC) The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal medicine is the foundational text for all students of Traditional Chinese Medicine and here it states twice that each of us is made up of, and receives information from the six sacred directions (in this text it excludes the seventh direction of within). It is one small step to state that since each individual is standing in the place from where this observation is being made, that “each human is in the centre of their own universe” and how similar the above is to the saying below from the Native North American wisdom keepers. “A true Cherokee knows that no matter where he is he is in the centre of the universe” The four quadrants in conjunction with the perpendicular axis have been used in many ancient cultures to provide a means for creating sacred space because each of the seven directions has a distinctive spiritual component and clear aspect of personal learning. Each of the directions has a realm of influence relative to colours, season, time of day and time of life. Spiritual guardians, plants and animals are connected to a direction. Since each one of us stand in the centre of our own universe within the medicine wheel we send intention out in all directions, saying that everything in all directions is Sacred or Wakan. We let this living prayer go round and round, adding more power and intention as we go, if you forget an item do not go back keep going forward, sun or clockwise and keep adding to the sacred and generating brew. The Medicine Wheel prayer imprints a constant recognition into your sub conscious of your place in the universe. Stir it into your home, workplace and Inner life. You choose the colour and qualities according to your experience or belief, I have placed the qualities of my understandings of life into the directions below as an example not a rule; you place into each direction your vision of the universe as you see fit.
“From earliest times the communication with Heaven has been the very foundation of life. This foundation exists between Yin and Yang, Heaven and Earth, and within the six points, the four cardinal directions, Nadir and Zenith” Chapter 3 ,Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen (2697 BC) “The sages combined water, fire, wood, metal and earth, the four seasons and the eight winds, the four cardinal points, the Zenith and the Nadir, and they held them as inseparable and constant. They underwent changes and transformations by mutually
SOUTH Colour is yellow. Archangel Raphael. Time of day is noon and the element is Fire. Teaching comes from the plants animal and mineral spirits. Sense organ is feeling. The season of summer, child and youth. Awakens laughter, creativity, growth, expansion, healing and release of pain. Animal guardians the dog and deer. Stones Topaz, Yellow calcite, Limonite and Honey quartz. WEST Colour is black. Archangel Michael. Time of day is sun set and evening and the element is Water. Teaching comes from those who have gone before us, our ancestors. Sense organ is listening. Season of autumn and adult. Awakens cleansing, insight and prayer. Animal guardians the bear and badger. Stones Black tourmaline, Iron stone and Jet.
Awakens new beginnings and the conception of life and ideas. Animal guardians are the eagle and hawk. Stones are Rose quartz, Jasper, Carnelian and Ruby. BELOW Grandmother Earth. Colour is green. Direction is down below the feet, the oceans and landmasses. Time of day is now especially daytime. Teaching comes from gratitude, nurturing and substance and drawing up. Sense organ is our digestive, absorbing and eliminating systems. Season is now, being in tune with the elements of her cycles, weather & pulse. Awakens appreciation, gratitude and service to Earth Mother. Animals are those that live within the earth. Stones dark green Jade and Black Tourmaline. ABOVE
Colour is White. Archangel Gabriel. Time of day is night and the element is Earth. Teaching comes from Angels, Spirit Guides and White Buffalo Calf Woman. Sense organ is taste and smell. Season of winter, old age and death. Awakens Wisdom, stillness and purity. Animal guardian the buffalo. Stones White quartz, chalk or flint.
Grandfather Sky, the sun, moon and star nation Colour is blue. Direction is above your head, the stars, sky, clouds and air. Time of day is now and especially night time. Teaching comes from prayer, meditation and drawing down. Sense organ is the brain, pineal gland, lungs and breath. Season is now, being in tune with the happenings in the Heavens. Awakens prayer, and connection to spirit and Heaven Qi. Animals are the birds and flying creatures. Stones Aquamarine, Lapis Lazuli, Blue lace Agate and Sodalite.
Colour is red. Archangel Uriel. Time of day is the sunrise and the element is Air. Teaching comes from the living teachers. Sense organ is sight. Season of spring, conception, gestation and birth.
Colour is pink or violet, your spirit guide or guardian angel. Direction is centred within looking out. Time of day is constantly remembering from where you are coming from. Teaching comes from feeling gratitude and
appreciation. Sense organ is the source of the breath and feelings. Season is staying in the moment and enjoying all around you. The inner world awakens you to your connection to the source. The animal is you and your animal guides. Stone is any special mineral that helps you to stay centred, your favorite friend. In order to become effective as a medicine drummer a level of preparation is necessary for the process of entering and moving between the veils for you to work in safety. You will stay at the level that you choose, relative to the degree that you wish to take in committing yourself to the deepest and yet the highest possible order. The drum takes you into the experiences and areas beyond the veils, you may call it going into trance or journeying. The factor that we will be addressing in drum medicine is that you will be doing it with others and therefore you are responsible for the outcome; so you will need to develop a quality of integrity that allows you to stay ahead of anything you may meet on route. I recommend that these two protocols are used before and after a drum healing session.
Steven Ash was born in Cornwall, South West Britain and at the age of six, he went with his family of six brothers and two sisters to live on Native American reservations in Canada. Wikwemikong, on Manitoulin Island on the north shore of Lake Huron and Oshwegan near Brantford, Ontario,became their home for the next few years. His father Dr. Michael Ash was the reservation doctor. Steven became the apprentice to his father, learning healing, geo-pathology and natural medicine. He started creating healing songs at the age of 16 and went on to learn the guitar, flute and Medicine Drum. In 1977 he travelled through North America, teaching natural medicine and meeting with Native American teachers. He lived and studied with Ted Williams, Chief and Medicine Man for the Raven Tribe and was given the name of Tatanka Wanagi Wichasta, Buffalo Spirit Man and awarded the honour of being a pipe carrier by Ed McGaa Eagle Man. Steven was adopted as a spiritual grandson by Grandfather Wallace Black Elk Lakota Medicine Man, who wrote the foreword to his best-selling book SACRED DRUMMING. He has been part of a team doing spiritual and shamanic work within Stonehenge, Avebury and Glastonbury and other sacred sites in England, Europe and worldwide to help anchor the new energies of the 21st century into the energy grid of Mother Earth. Steven enjoys a deep connection to the natural world and he has the rare gift of communicating with the spirits of animals, plants and stones in order to invite their support for his healing work. He is a qualified acupuncturist, cranial-sacral therapist, GeoPathologist and Feng Shui consultant specialising in The Healing Home. Steven has been teaching shamanism and sacred drumming for the past 15 years and is recognised worldwide as an authority on the healing Drum. His book SACRED DRUMMING is regarded as a classic on the subject of working with the Native American Hoop Drum. www.sacreddrumming.co.uk â€ƒ
The Despacho Ceremony By Meg Beeler
espacho describes the Andean practice of making and sending offerings to the mountains (apus), Mother Earth (Pachamama), and other spirits of nature in reciprocity, reverence, and thanksgiving. The Quechua term for this offering is Haywarisqa.
There are at least 300 variations of despachos in the Quechua-speaking Andes (primarily Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador). While there are certain elements common to all despachos, the particular healing intention— such as bringing harmony and balance to the earth, honoring new beginnings, or getting rid of an illness— determines the design of the offering, some of the contents, and the way that offerings are added.
A despacho is an act of love and a reminder of the connections we share with all beings, elements, spirits, and sacred places. At the deepest level, it is an opportunity to enter into the essential unity of all things, the living energy of the universe. It is a way to experience what we in the West refer to as shifting our consciousness. Despachos offer us a vehicle for moving and shifting energy for the participants, a relationship, or a situation in the world. A despacho is created during a celebratory ceremony. In the cosmology of the Andes, all life is perceived as one grand, infinite ceremony. Because physical survival is so hard in the high mountains, life is experienced as a true gift to be lived, not a problem to be solved.
The ceremony brings participants into alignment with their personal intent, the group intent, and gratitude to the earth, which supports us in all our endeavors. It also brings participants into internal alignment with the “three bands:” physical (yankay), feeling and heart (munay), and spirit, or energetic wisdom (yachay). (The alignment of these bands is comparable to alignment of the seven chakras or the fifteen chakras of other cultural frameworks.) In turn, the three bands parallel the three worlds perceived in all shamanic cultures.
The despacho harmonizes the community through the sharing of coca leaves and gifts of stones, all of which strengthen the luminous fibers that connect us all.
intent. The sacred geometrical patterns used create both maps of consciousness and luminous threads of connection.
A traditional despacho is created by medicine people (paqos) who work in alignment through their spiritual power. As the ceremony begins, red wine and white liquor (pisco) are offered to the spirits of the mountains and to Mother Earth. The medicine persons and all the participants feed each other coca leaves— one of the sacred plants of the Andes—into which their prayers have been blown. These gifts are a sign of community and strengthen connections.
After the initial “bed” is created, physical representations of living energy are prayed over, offered up, and added. These might include: fruits of the earth (seeds, raisins, grains, nuts, corn, quinoa); sweets (wrapped candy, chocolate, sugar); representations of the sea (an open shell representing the womb of the earth) and the stars (a starfish, the five-legged star of return, unfolding into the Fifth world); silver and gold papers representing threads from the earth to the cosmos; confetti (celebration); miniature tin figures of animals, people, and tools; beads; llama fat from while llamas (symbolizing the sun, our star); a baby llama fetus (representing that which is unborn or not yet manifested); white cotton (for the clouds that surround the mountains and bring rain and represent dreamtime); red cord (for the red road) and white cord (for the road to the stars/Milky Way); many-colored wool (for the rainbow bridge into the cosmos); condor feathers; and so on. The energetic essence of prayers and intent is blown into every element before placing it in the offering.
Choosing and Adding the Contents The offering is created on Andean weavings (mastanas and uncunas) that represent the masculine and feminine in balance. White paper, for clarity, is folded into 9 squares and placed on the weavings for a base. A bed of incense is laid, to carry the prayers of the offering into the cosmos.
A despacho contains symbols of everything alive: elements, weather, clouds around mountains, rainbows, the four directions, lakes, rivers, fruits of our labors, earth, stars. Every item represents a part of the Andean cosmology—the organizing principles of the universe—imbued with intent for connection to the mountains and the cosmos. A despacho ceremony affects the totality of energy in the universe.
Don Humberto Soncco and Dona Bernadina Apasa, 2008
Flower petals (red for Pachamama, white for mountains) are laid in a pattern, commonly in a circle, four directions, cross, or flower pattern, depending on the intent. Sets of coca leaves, called kintus, are prepared with intent by each participant, then collected by the medicine people and placed in a pattern on the offering, again reflecting the particular
When the offering is complete, the bundle is folded, tied, and wrapped in sacred weavings. The shaman may circle the group with the despacho bundle, cleansing the luminous bodies of each participant to remove any heavy energy, and blessing everyone. These heavy energies, or hucha, become part of the offering, as the earth eats heavy energy and composts it. Finally, the offering is burned. Participants do not watch the offering burning, symbolizing our non-attachment to outcome, so Apuchin (the old condor) can come to eat any remaining hucha, and because watching might hold back some of the filaments being sent into the cosmos.
Don Manuel Q’espi Speaks Q’ero Elder Don Manuel Q’espi, in a presentation at Canyon de Chelley in May 1997 (translated by Jose Luis Herrera), spoke of despachos this way: “The despacho is a gift--a giving back of what we receive everyday in our lives. We seek, through the despacho ceremony, to bridge the ordinary and non-ordinary realms; to establish new patterns of relationship and possibility. The despacho places us in right relationship, right ayni, with the Pachamama. It establishes a linkage between our three centers of interaction in the kaypacha (the physical universe); our llankay (our personal power and source of action, located in our solar plexus), our munay (the source of our love, located in our heart chakra), and our yachay (wisdom, sourced from our foreheads or “third eye“). “The contents of the despacho are in part determined by its purpose. The various elements that comprise the despacho energetically interact to permit access to portals or bridges from the ordinary and nonordinary worlds. When working in ceremony with the despacho, one is accessing the non-ordinary energetic dimensions, the source of things. Though the contents may have symbolic significance, the despacho, when performed with the correct intent, transcends literal and symbolic domains and directly accesses the archetypal and energetic realms. “In order to build a good co-existence with nature, the only real choice we have is to enter with our heart, wisdom, and our action. We call upon the spirits of the waters, of the mountains, and of the Pachamama to come and help us prepare the offering. We have the intent of seeking to establish and maintain a continuous dialogue with the Mother and to bring balance and harmony to our lives, and to all our relations. It is through the dynamics of love, of right thinking, and of right action that our lives become bountiful. He described several types of despachos in this way: “The Pachamama despacho is an offering of thanks to Mother Earth and an invocation for her blessings. “The Apu despacho is an offering to the mountain, which is the provider of the waters. When the
mountain glaciers melt they provide the water that feeds the high mountain streams and lagoons. The mountain is the bringer of the weather as well. “The Chaska despacho is an offering to our star, the sun. This despacho is not prepared as often as the offerings to the Pachamama and to the apu. Most of our business has to do with living in this world. Only when very big events (such as a earthquake) are occurring, or whenever an offering is made for the benefit of a great number of people, are Chaska despachos prepared. In this case, the stars as well as Mother Earth and the apu must offer their contribution. For example, in the case of earthquakes or large-scale environmental events which affect larger numbers of peoples, one wishes to bring together the power and the blessings of the earth, the mountain, and the star to bring them into right relationship. This is to help assure that the people go on the right path.1 “The Ayni despacho: Ayni is the operating principle in Incan shamanism and refers to ‘reciprocity’ and divine exchange. The intent of the Ayni despacho is to bring balance in our lives and relationship between our secular and sacred worlds. “The Aya despacho is performed to aid the luminous body of the dead or dying to step outside of the physical body gracefully. It is said that the spirit of the dead lingers in the vicinity of the physical body for seven days. The medicine person knows when it is necessary to help the luminous body to sever its connection with the physical. “The Cuti despacho: Cuti literally means ‘turning back’ or ‘shielding off.’ It is an offering for protection. This despacho is typically created with the left hand only, and all motions of placing items in the despacho are performed in a counter-clockwise (or ‘unwinding’) fashion. The right arm is in ‘dreamtime’ while the left arm performs the action.” Contemporary Despacho Ceremonies Those of us who have studied with indigenous shamanic teachers and medicine people (in the Andes and elsewhere) want to honor the deep cosmological underpinnings, teachings, and wisdom we have received, while at the same time making certain practices accessible in contemporary settings. Our
teachers in Peru and Ecuador understand that the cosmology and symbols of their culture are not the same as ours, and do want us to share the intent of the despacho. When we create contemporary despachos, we are bridges between cultures, between the heart of the Condor and the mind of the Eagle. For example, in working with small community groups, and in guiding people to make their own offerings, traditional form can be fluid. Intent is essential as we bring forth our experience of and information about the ceremony as strongly as we can. However, presenting a traditional despacho ceremony at a conference—without full understanding, reverence for, and communication of the cosmological consciousness mapping the ceremony represents— would be ethically inappropriate. It would be like demonstrating a Native North American pipe ceremony without the training required to be a pipe carrier, something we hope none of us would do! As they say in the Andes, it is our intent and focus that create shifts in the energy of the universe. With this in mind, we can create contemporary despachos that honor particular sacred places; that represent our thanks for a connection or teaching; or that offer a gift back to the spirits of the land, the spirit helpers who assist our work, the spirits of the elements and ancestors, and the essential unity of the cosmos.
Contemporary despacho beginning on traditional Q’ero weavings
While it is possible to bring “kits” from the Andes, or to purchase traditional components of a despacho on the web, it is perfectly fine to work with local items. It is also important, as with any offering, to think about the source, energy, and intent put into each component. For example, home-grown or organically grown seed and grains carry strong personal and healing energy: why not try to use them? In the Andes much wrapped, sugary candy--special and rare in a culture where nearly everything is home made--is used, whereas in the north, what is more special is the purity of the organic. On a more practical level, we substitute local leaves for the traditional coca leaves, which are illegal in the north; in California we use bay laurel leaves, which are a similar shape, though not so nutritious. “There is very minimal structure involved; we seek to step outside of all structure so that we are not bound by form,” said Don Manuel. To decide what to put in a despacho, it is useful to journey and spend time in prior ceremony with each item, asking for the gift it would like to impart to spirit. For example, brown sugar might ask to represent an appreciation of the “sweetness of life” in ceremony participants, or to bathe our prayers/lives with “sweetness.” Quinoa (a grain) might ask to be a bridge between north and south, as it is grown in the North but is native to the Andes. To create your own despacho, either alone or with friends, think of the ceremony as a fiesta. Bring both joy and deep seriousness to this honoring of the connectedness of all things.
The sacred geometry of everything in a despacho is chosen according to the intent.
Beginning: Kintus Begin by laying a square of paper on some cloth or the ground. Sprinkle the paper with incense and sugar. Arrange your kintus of 3 bay (or other local) leaves pointing in the same direction, blow your personal intent into the leaves, and align your three bands (body, heart, and spirit) with your leaves, then place them on your despacho. Repeat this for each kintu, making a mandala of the leaves. Blow your intent into the other offerings you have chosen and place them on the mandala.
top down, so you have a small package, tie with gold thread or twine, and place a flower on the outside.
Kintus—three Bay or Coca leaves imbued with intent—in mandala
Flowers The sacred geometry of everything in a despacho is chosen according to the intent. Here are some examples:
Blessing Participants with the Despacho
The Process A simple star (ch’aska) despacho, showing the progression from k’intus and flowers, to seeds, to sweets. See above for what these symbolize: Completing a Despacho When it is complete, fold the offering as follows: fold the bottom corner in towards the center. Fold the left side, then the right, towards the center. Finally, fold the
When your despacho is complete, bless each other gently with it, starting at the crown and moving the offering down the front of the body, then the back (do this as you would a sage blessing). You can use this blessing as a limpia, because the despacho removes and consumes dissonant energy (hucha). You can also use to feed the participants with all the beautiful intent and offerings that have been placed in the despacho.
Offering to the Spirits: Burning or Burying Finally, offer your despacho to the fire, or bury it if you are on a mountain or other place where a fire is not possible.
Meg Beeler, Author, Shamanic Guide, and Spiritual Mentor—offers training, guidance, and ceremony for healing your soul and spirit, moving your energy, and finding your luminous presence. A lifelong explorer of shamanic, animist, and meditative consciousness, Meg has studied Andean mysticism extensively with the Q’ero. She is the creator of Energy AlchemyTM and the online Earth Caretakers Wisdom School, and author of Weave the Heart of the Universe into Your Life: Aligning with Cosmic Energy. Meg lives on Sonoma Mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area. www.megbeeler.com
In 2009 I began to be shown how to make offerings to “connect the mountains with the stars, to bring star energy down to earth to assist us in the difficult times that are coming.” Thirteen of these ch’aska (star) despachos have been offered in the Himalayas and in California Bay Area mountains, creating subtle energy links between our own meridians, earth’s ceke (ley) lines, and the star beings.
Five Essentials for Your Daily Practice Follow these five guidelines to help yourself establish a practice that works for you. 1. Find practices that nourish and feed you.
The star beings advise us, “Open your energy fields to us. Think about us. Journey to us, asking your questions, asking to learn, asking for help… If you call on us, we can teach you to shine through everything. To draw on our energy to fuel and fire and transform your work and your lives. To access our ancient wisdom held in glacier water, crystals on the mountains, and cenotes…What you humans really need to do is learn to shine all the time and weave your webs of connection with all beings on a regular basis. We love it when the earth is lit with your inner lights.” In these challenging times of Pachacuti (turning over) and Taripay Pacha (meeting ourselves again), I encourage readers to explore with spirit how to make ch’aska despachos. See website or contact author for further information.
2. Find practices that are easy for you to incorporate into your day. 3. Connect the practice to your intent. 4. Use what you know. 5. Get support.
The original version of this article, written by Meg Beeler and Gregory Miller, appeared in the Proceedings of the First Annual Society for Shamanic Practitioners Conference, 2005.
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The SPQR is an add-free quarterly online publication of articles by leading Shamanic practitioners and teachers about Shamanism - Ceremonies...
Published on Nov 1, 2019
The SPQR is an add-free quarterly online publication of articles by leading Shamanic practitioners and teachers about Shamanism - Ceremonies...