Ceremony is the very heart of shamanic practice. Intention focuses and moves Ceremony - from ceremony Power flows through participants and out into the
surrounding world - while within the Ceremony itself, the Eternal intersects with the Temporal.
There is this infusion of power, a sense of exaltation, and profound inspiration that is the result of any Ceremony grounded in shamanic sensibilities.
And it is not unusual for experiences in Ceremony to lure our attention to aspects of hidden reality that promise new relationship with Spirit. Recent ceremonies have served to do this for me and I thought to share these with you.
A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a woman who was dying and wanted to know
if I would do a Ceremony of Transition for her. While preparing myself for sessions
together, I became aware that there were new spirits hovering around me. When
I arrived the morning of our ceremony, I sensed them moving across the threshold
of her home - as though they had arrived to help and to witness our Ceremony
together. Our mutual
space was filled with these spirits and spirits that had come specifically to
assist her in her crossing over.
Obviously when we are working with someone dying, the veils between the worlds are thinner than in any of our other healing work. What I had not appreciated, however, was the fact that at such times we may expand our Openings so broadly that new spirit relationships may occur -- ones that will continue to be present beyond that specific ceremony.
This Ceremony of Transition took place a day before I started a weekend retreat with a group with whom I've been circling annually for more than a decade. When I arrived to the weekend, I knew some of these same spirits were still moving with me.
The first night of our retreat, after some circle drumming, I stood to "Call in the Spirits." As I began rattling and singing, I sensed the presence of many
Spirits and great Power arriving to our Circle. Suddenly I was simply creating
places for them in our Circle and offering welcoming gestures. Clearly some specific
Spirits and Beings were trying to get our attention and also wanted assurance
that they were welcome into our circle.
From that night and throughout the rest of the weekend, we engaged in various activities that deepened our relationship with these Spirits. We used the time to do long, extended, piggy-back journeys in which we sought new allies, teachers, ancestors, and other sources. In circle sharing, we realized that all of us had received new helping spirits and had experienced the arrival of different beings joining us in our circle itself.
This prompted me to consider two issues:
1) What are we doing when we Call the Spirits as we gather
in Circle? How do we Call... and what are our expectations?
2) Do we take time to 'update' our
relationships with the Spirit world; that is, do we consciously have times of
seeking to see if new helpers wish to align with us.
Calling in the Spirits
In our shamanic practice,
we may develop customary
ways of Calling in the Spirits
- always starting, for example,
with calling to the East,
the South, the West, the
North (in that order). Some
of us vocalize specific attributes
to these directions as we
call. And, for some of us,
it is difficult to begin
with Calling unless we KNOW
where is East... this can
signify how ritualized our
Calling has come to be. It
may indicate, too, that we
presume all Calling of the
Spirits is focused on the
compass Directions as different
from simply calling to the
Spirits and Powers that 'circle
round us' wherever we might
be at that given time and
What would it be like to simply stand to call and then 'sense' from where in the greater surrounding circle of being are Spirits seeking to be called? Begin with that place, invite them in and let them know their welcome. Then seek to sense the next direction that is calling to you and to the circle and respond accordingly. We could do this until we had a sense that all the Spirits that are hovering have been acknowledged and invitation extended.
What if we stood and waited
until we could sense the movement
of spirit around the circle,
then used our rattle in much
the same way we use a doorknob
to open the door and show some
guest the way into our home.
That is, turn our rattle (as
a way of shaking) and then
'conduct' the spirits or powers
into the circle. They are as real as this implies and the extent to which we can "act out" or
embody our interactions with
them, is the extent to which
we have a genuine working relationship.
Obviously there is no right way to Call the Spirits when we are opening Circle
or doing a specific shamanic session with someone. Yet as with all shamanic practices,
when methods become too ritualized, they lose the dynamic, flowing energy and
power that is the very essence of our collaborative relationship with Spirit,
Updating our Spirit Relationships:
Renewal, Re-membering, and Welcoming the New
There are a few people in
my life I have known for
sixty years - mostly these
are my biological family. There are more that I have known for twenty to thirty
years. There are some friendships just now developing which hold real promise
for significance in my current Eldering years. Can the same be said of my friends
and spiritual family that I call "Ancestral Beings, Power Animals, or helping
A teaching I received many years ago: "If you do not nourish your Power Animals, then they may leave you. A symptom of their departure may be loss of energy or depression." It
was this teaching that led me to place totemic objects around my home - outer,
visible objects that would remind me of my helpers and to nourish our relationships.
It is too much to expect that in our busy lives, we will always remember to do
this or even remember our Power Animals in times when we are not engaged in specific
shamanic activities. That's why home altars, with such objects, can be so invaluable.
Another teaching: "They are dependent on your body for the opportunity to dance in this world and they love to dance!" This
is what I term re-membering
our Power Animals; that is,
merging with them through
song and dance. One of our
tasks is to channel into
this world, the power of
the OtherWorld. Sometimes
we are unexpectedly called,
in the moment, to do this
on behalf of another person
or for the Land. If we have
not been re-membering and
merging on some ongoing basis,
then we may miss the signals
asking this of us because
these signals are often 'bodily.'
Or we may hesitate ourselves because we have forgotten what it is like to merge and move with these Beings. In addition, we may develop slow leakage of our own vital powers or energy because we have not been receiving the charge to our own limited physical systems... charges of power that come from merging and/or dancing of our Power Animals.
The most recent teaching I have received: "Just as you, Carol, have different life cycles, so too do the various Spirits who will help you through your life's journey....seek them." For
the last thirty years, I have partnered with one specific Power Animal and one
Teacher. There have been...and are...others but these two have been with me through
these many years and major life events. I had come to so rely on them that I
forgot to even imagine that other, equally important, Spirit Beings might help
me and with the same profound power as those accompanying me over previous years.
I encountered one such Spirit Helper two years ago and another one this last
weekend. I know from the nature of our encounters that they have come for
reasons not completely clear to me just now but that are connected with entering
the Eldering phase of my life. They are both teachers and sources of power in
matters related to how we can give of ourselves (to descendants) in the last
great cycle of our lives.
On one journey they gathered in Council with all my other Spirit Helpers and explained the nature of their roles and how we might all work
together both in my teaching and my healing work. They represent my soul's Medicine Wheel and the powers that have accrued through the seasons of my living. I feel that I've just begun another great round of discovering with the appearance of these two new Spirit Powers.
All of us are in some phase of a life cycle and it may be that this is a different stage from when we first started practicing shamanism and encountered our Power Animal, Teacher or some other Helping Spirit. If so, it might be that there is some new and different Being just awaiting for your approach. Again, this is an area in which some shamanic training might indicate that we have a limited number of Spirit Helpers.
Or, if we have more than two, then they are usually assumed to be situational limited: that is, they have appeared because of the specific focus of our shamanic work at the time: e.g. a healing session or working with a place on the Earth. However, if we think about
living in parallel worlds or mirroring realities, consider friends made in our early years...those made sometime later. We are different through the years and different friendships develop --- all together these are the rich relationships of our lives. Likewise I think we are offered such diversity in our walk between the worlds with our Spiritual Allies.
A striking difference in these relationships is that our friends may be many in number while our Spiritual Helpers may be very few yet present variations: this is part of their shapeshifting powers. I have found it is important not to assume, however, that different shapes are connected with the same Being. This is one reason why I like to have a 'council or circle meeting' with all my Helpers. In such a journey gathering, they will share with me the nature of their medicine and indicate how I can work with all of them at any one time, in some given situation... for example, in my sessions with this woman
dying... they were all present and for different reasons... including the engaging with her Helping Spirits in order to assist a graceful and pain-free crossing over.
New Adventures in Teaching
Quite clearly both older
and more recent Spirits have
influenced what I am teaching
in forthcoming workshops. I do think there are emissaries from the Spirit
World who speak to our collective challenges, call us together in times of crisis,
step into our dreaming worlds, and offer us images by which to vision and to
manifest. From last weekend came the appearance of the 'Buffalo People coming
to us,' the rising up of Dragon or Phoenix energy, and Circles of Ancestors gathering
to support us.
I know that this "gathering of the Powers" is in motion and awaiting the Circles
that will be gathering this June and July at the workshops in the Santa Cruz
Mountains. We experienced them last weekend at the retreat center and we heard
their promise of return. As Susan and I prepare we are both receiving guidance
as to how we all might work well with these Beings, how we might channel the
help that they are promising.
I am deeply stirred by the transformations that are being conceived and emerging
in our global world... this seems to me the strongest time of such change I have
known in my lifetime. The outer economic, political, and social challenges are
the 'caution bumps' in the road: ways of getting us to slow down so we don't
miss our true turning, our true destination for where we are going is stunningly
different from where we have been before - so it's easy to get lost!
Listening and watching those road bumps is analogous to Calling to Spirits in
a new way...it is not so much 'calling' as welcoming their coming! Where we are
going is not something easily located on a GPS system... we need to locate and
walk with our Spirits of Power... and we need to walk together supporting one
In closing, I wish to share my gratitude to this woman who ask of me a transition
ceremony to help her cross to Elsewhere. Sometime I plan to write of this experience...
both because it was invaluable to my own shamanic education and because I think
we are called to share our learnings with one another in community.
One thing I can share is that in being together, with the attending Spirits,
I continued healing the illusion of separation within me. We truly are of One
Source and are blessed in such awesome moments of experiencing this One. In those
moments, when only the Truth of Now is acceptable, we find unimaginable Forgiveness
and Light at the doorway
and in the very Center of ourselves.
On behalf of Shamanic Circles
Workshops in Santa Cruz June and July
A full description of each workshop is available at www.shamaniccircles.org and www.shamanicvisions.com.
Registration forms and coordinator contact information are also available online.
If you are interested, please contact Pirkko,
**Scholarships are available for those needing financial support.
June 26 - 28: Shamanism and the Medicine Wheel Way (see description)
July 17 - 19: Giving Voice to the Animals - Healing Our Souls (see description)
July 23 - 26 Buffalo and BearMedicine for our Present Age (see description)
We will soon be posting
materials (stories, reflections, songs, & information) related to the themes
of these workshops. I invite you to bookmark the workshop web pages and return
to peruse these materials.
- Complete information about workshops can be found at Carol's website or will be sent to you upon request.
- These workshops welcome commuters as well as residential participants.
- Partial scholarships are available and can be applied for when registering.
register for one or more
workshops with Carol, contact
the Coordinator for
Pirkko Miller at Pirkko@embarqmail.com
P.S. We invite you to visit
Page to see if there
are other shamanic activities
listed there in which you
might be interested.
Or if you wish to join in
a Circle, check our Global
Circles web page to see if
there is one in your area.
If not, then please start
one because Circles can be
powerful places of support
for each of us on the shamanic