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SHAMANISM

INTRODUCTION

 

Shamanism is a healing practice that has been in existence for at least 10,000 years and perhaps as far back as 50,000 years ago. Shamanism is not a religion and does not have dogma. It is a spiritual way of believing and a healing practice. Shamanism has originated from indigenous tribes from all over the globe. The most well-known today are Native American, South American, Tibetan, Siberian, Mongolian, African, and Celtic shamans.

Core shamanism is a set of common principles found amongst all shamanic cultures. It excludes anything that is specific to culture. Anthropologists, such as Michael Harner and Mircea Eliade, were pioneers in bringing core shamanism to the Western world. Cultural shamanism is the medicine practices of specific cultures or tribes and may include some practices that are not universal to all shamanic cultures.

These are the essential concepts of core shamanism:

Everything that exists is energy. Energy and matter are the same. Everything has a vibration.

Everything that exists is connected to everything else in a web of energy.

Everything is alive. Everything has spirit, awareness, and soul.

All beings have an energy body that overlays the physical body while incarnated. This energy body exists before birth and continues after death.

All beings are divine and enjoy direct access with Spirit.

There are non-ordinary (non-physical) realities that are just as real as the physical world (3D).

The unseen inner and spiritual realities affect visible reality.

These realities can be entered by altering states of consciousness through the use of sound, rhythm, movement, and/or plants.

Relationships all realities can be developed with Spirits, who offer guidance, healing, or power.

The following are some of the roles that medicine people may perform in their roles as shamans. This list is adapted from Colleen Deatsman's list in her excellent book on shamanism called The Hollow Bone:

Officiating rites of passage, training, and ceremonies

Singing healing songs for clients and to invoke, connect with, and honor helping spirits

Using plants, plant energies, and plant spirits for healing purposes

Channeling life-force, spiritual, elemental, and personal energy through hands-on healing

Learning and exploring universal laws and the ways of energy and power

Divining information, wisdom, and knowledge from the ordinary and non-ordinary worlds

Communicating with nature spirits, such as plants, animals, rocks, water, and weather elements

Acting as an intermediary between the invisible spirit world and the people in order to restore health, drive out unhelpful evil spirits, and ensure success in hunting, gathering, and agricultural endeavors

Teaching apprentices and the people certain spiritual ways

Divining the future and recognizing and reading signs and omens

Interpreting dreams

Influencing the weather

Removing possessing spirits, evil spirits, and souls who have not crossed over from a person, family, group of people, or place

Retrieving lost power and soul parts

Conducting soul-crossings to the spirit world (psychopomp)

Communicating with the dead

Performing sacrifices to appease the spirits and the gods

ETYMOLOGY & DISCUSSION OF TERMS

"There are those who argue against the assimilation of the traditions of other cultures into apparently alien spiritual ideologies. These individuals imply that this is a form of theft. However shamanism in itself is not the property of any indigenous culture. The themes and practices of the ecstatic art are remarkably similar in cultures that are separated geographically by thousands of miles." -P. M. Staunton

What is Medicine?
Medicine is derived from the Latin ars medicina, meaning the art of healing. Contemporary or Western medicine treats, diagnoses, and prevents illnesses, diseases, and injuries through medication, surgery, and other forms of therapy.

What is Traditional Medicine?
Traditional Medicine (aka indigenous, folk, complimentary, or alternative medicine) comprises knowledge about plant, animal and mineral-based medicines, spiritual therapies, and manual techniques that have been developed over many generations. This type of medicine is usually transmitted orally through communities, families, and individuals. Many indigenous communities have specific roles for healers (see definition of shaman below).

According to Native American beliefs, Medicine is an inner power that is found in both Nature and all individuals. Annie Spencer defines Native American Medicine as "a state of being in harmony and balance with ourselves, the world, and with Spirit."

The simplest definition of medicine, then, is anything that is good for you.

What is a Shaman?
The word "shaman" originated from the Siberian word "saman", meaning "he who knows" or "seer". The "shaman" word spread from the Russians to the Americas via anthropologists.

In Siberia, shamans are chosen by the spirits at birth but are not struck down (dismemberment and rebirth) until later in life (usually in their 20's). There are only two ways of being struck down: shaman's sickness and being struck by lightning. Those with the potential to be a shaman are called "butur" (cocoon). There are 9 degrees (levels) of shamanism and it takes years of training to reach each level. The 9th level is rarely reached.

The word "shaman" is often substituted or is considered synonymous with medicine person, witch, wizard, sorcerer, magician, seer, sage, healer, herbalist, dream interpreter, priest/priestess, and spiritual advisor.

The word "shamanka" is Russian for a female shaman. In the Russian language, the feminine form has an "a" at the end.

The label of "shaman" should not be self-assigned but is an honor bestowed out of respect on an individual by others of the community. Sometimes term "shamanist" is used to mean a person who uses shamanic principles and techniques in everyday life for the well-being of him/herself and others, but who does not claim to be a shaman. I prefer to use the term "shamanic practitioner" to explain what I do. A "shamanic practitioner" uses the practices of core and/or cultural shamanism in one's healing work.

Personal View on the Use of "Shaman"
The word "shaman" is becoming a mainstream term for earth-based spirituality much the same as "Xerox" has become a generic term for "copy" or "Kleenex" for "tissue".  Many medicine people of many different cultures are now called "shamans" when in fact they may not even use all of the "core" practices that are traditionally considered "shamanism" by anthropologists. Examples of this is calling the Q'ero paqos of the Andes "shamans" and calling Native American medicine people "shamans". Neither culture owns the term "shaman". In addition, there are Siberian shamans that do not appreciate the world taking their term "shaman" and applying in to other cultures.

I believe it is important to try to honor each culture by learning the correct terminology. Whenever I am invited to speak on radio I make an effort to explain differences of terminology so people can become informed. Perhaps the world in need of an overall term that "medicine" people can be called. As the consciousness of the planet evolves and as quantum physics begins to prove concepts of the spirit world, it there is an increasing interest in alternative healing practices. There is a much needed coming home to our indigenous roots and beliefs.

THE SHAMAN'S CODEX

I believe a shaman is not defined by how s/he practices shamanic healing but how s/he strives to live every moment of every day in right relationship with the Universe. I wrote the following to express what shamanic belief includes:

A shaman knows that everything in the Universe is a sentient being and so shows respect and courtesy towards everything. S/he knows that everything is connected, originates from one source, and that nothing happens without a reason.

A shaman practices non-dogmatic spirituality. The entire world is his/her church and s/he serves the Great Spirit 24/7. S/he tries to make every thought prayer-based.

A shaman knows everyone has Free Will and that only that which is for one's highest good can be manifested.

A shaman ritualizes daily activities in order to raise them above the mundane, to honor and appreciate life.

A shaman is the master of ceremony. Ceremony keeps him/her in right relationship with the world.

A shaman can easily enter into a trance and freely travel to Alternative Realities and Dimensions.

A shaman communicates often with ancestors, spirit guides, and animal guides. S/he is guided by and channels Higher Spirits. S/he receives messages through feeling, knowing, and hearing.

A shaman honors and expresses gratitude to all the Nature Spirits, Gods, and Goddesses.

A shaman understands the Energetic Laws of the Universe and knows that everything in the Universe is energy. S/he is an alchemist with the ability to shift and transform energy.

A shaman develops a rainbow body by clearing, balancing, and energizing all of his/her chakras and energy channels.

A shaman is a master tracker and energy reader. His/her intuition is finely tuned.

A shaman is a spirit seeker. He/she uses soul sonar to find other soul connections.

A shaman embodies the archetypes of the Seer, Mystic, Prophet, and Elder.

A shaman is a Peaceful Warrior and courageously faces his/her fears.

A shaman is on the learning path and his/her quest for knowledge never ends.

A shaman recognizes that every concept has its polar opposite but that a person can be at any point along a continuum between the two poles. After experiencing the distant poles, a being will eventually come to balance in the middle.

A shaman is charismatic which means s/he is grounded, conscious, energized, and exudes love.

A shaman balances his/her life between meditative aloneness and interacting connectedness.

A shaman walk's his/her talk. His/her most important quality is integrity.

A shaman does his/her own personal work before s/he expects others to do theirs.

A shaman expresses unconditional and nonjudgmental love. His/her heart is love and light.

A shaman uses his/her empathic skills to know how it feels to walk in someone else's moccasins.

A shaman always carries his/her medicine bag, both literally and figuratively. A shaman has learned many healing tools.

A shaman is a healer, helping others to tap into their own healing powers and knows that each individual has the power to heal themselves. The shaman is the facilitator that makes the individual aware of the ability to heal.

A shaman is a caretaker. S/he mentors and nurtures others.

A shaman listens well and directs without Ego. S/he is a hollow bone, allowing the healing spirits to work through him/her.

THE SHAMAN'S COMMANDMENTS

A shaman or shamanic practitioner has access to a lot of spiritual power therefore it is absolutely critical that s/he always acts with the highest ethical standards.

1. Always follow the 8 words of the Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none do what ye will" (Do what you will as long as it harms none).

2. Remember the Law of Three: That which is put out into the universe will return to you threefold.

3. Understand your responsibility. Magick, shamanism, and medicine are powerful things. When preparing to perform a healing, always ask Ego to step aside to allow you to source from your Higher Self and the Healing Spirits.

4. Avoid bending the will of others or forcing your beliefs on others. You must not ask to manifest anything for anyone other than yourself. As incarnated humans we cannot see the big picture and do not have the wisdom to know what is best for another being. We cannot specify what healing is to take place for other souls. However we can transmit the purest form of energy, unconditional love, to others.

5. Always get informed consent before performing any healing work. If you are going to work with a pet, you must have the owner's consent. If you are going to work on a minor, you must have the parent's consent. If you work on someone that is unconscious, you must have the family's consent. If you are performing healing on a geographic area, you must be the steward of the land or get permission from the Spirits of the land.

6. Be aware of what you wish for. When you ask, be specific with your intentions to avoid any unwelcome results.

7. Honor nature in all you do. Never injure or take the life of an animal without following specific guidelines to honor that animal and then use every part of the animal.

8. Always ask permission of the plants and stones before taking. Always leave an offering in exchange. Never remove anything from protected areas.

9. Always ask permission from the Spirits of the land where you are before conducting rituals/ceremonies. They are the caretakers and you are the visitor.

10. Always give thanks to the Universe and Mother Earth for their bounty. Always express love and gratitude daily.

 

THE SHAMAN'S MEDICINE BAG: TOOLS OF A SHAMAN

DEATH RITES (PSYCHOPOMP SERVICES)
A shaman often performs psychopomp services. A psychopomp is a guide that assists souls as they cross from life to death. Dying is the final rite of passage. Death Rites help the dying person cross to the Afterlife. Functions performed by a psychopomp may include:

1. Recapitulation and Forgiveness - Listening to the dying person's confessions and life review. Assisting the dying person in coming to closure, which may include actions of atonement.

2. Giving the dying person permission to die.

3. Chanting, praying, and reciting a guidebook to the dying person.

4. Assisting the soul as it exits the physical body. Assisting the energy body's release from the physical body.

5. Sealing the chakras after the soul has left the physical body.

6. Assisting the soul "go to the Light" when it is ready.

DESPACHO
Despacho is a Spanish word used to describe a type of ritual offering. The most common offerings are made to honor Pachamama (Mother Earth) or the Apukuna (Sacred Mountains). The despacho is a gift, a reciprocity of what we receive every day in our lives. The despacho places us in right relationship, right ayni, with Pachamama. The offering consists of natural items arranged on paper, prayed over, infused with gratitude and thanksgiving, and then folded into a bundle to be burned or buried. Every ingredient has its own meaning and is placed on the paper with specific intention.  All the participants blow their prayers into kintus (coca leaves). The despacho can be created for many occasions such as births, deaths, marriages, good luck, prosperity, longevity, celebrations, memorials, and space blessing.

DRUM
"The Drum is the Great Spirit's favorite instrument. That's why we were all given a heartbeat." -Mano, Navajo Elder

The drum is healing as it sounds like a human heartbeat and vibrates at the resonant frequency of the Earth. Drums serve various purposes. One of the main ones is aiding the shaman move into the theta state for shamanic journeys. The drum (beat at approximately 180 cycles-per-second) is called the "horse" the shaman rides to non-ordinary realities.

Most drums used for shamanic ritual are a wooden circle (12" to 24") with animal skin stretched across one side. A mallet is used to beat a rhythm on the skin head. The spirit of the drum has a totem animal. A drum is sacred and should not be touched unless the owner gives his/her consent. Always keep a drum face up when laying it down and place it on a special square of material or mat.

A drum circle is a group of people that gather to play drums, rattles, and other percussion. The drums are played impromptu, each individual playing off the rhythm of the others.

EXTRACTION
There are 2 basic types of energy that can penetrate the aura: crystallized energies and fluid energies. If the intrusion is another soul, the shaman can convince the soul to leave for its proper destination in the spirit world. The extraction process consists of scanning the client's energy body to identify the crystallized energy, extracting the energies and then illuminating and re-energizing the chakras. After the extraction, the shaman can fill the void left in the client with a power animal retrieval or soul retrieval.

Crystallized Energy - Some negative energies can crystallize within the energy body. The sources of these energies include ill will directed at one person by another (whacks) or energetic remnants of how one died, was hurt or killed, in former lifetimes. Symptoms include: anxiety, depression, addiction, and mood swings.

Fluid Energy - Fluid energies consist of intrusive energies and entities that are disincarnate spirits trapped between this world and the next or one of our own former lifetimes that has been awakened and wants to live again. Intrusive entities feed on the energy of the chakras and central nervous system. They have to be extracted using a crystal.

The symptoms of spiritual intrusion are: feeling low on power, sudden change in personality, desires, or additions, confusion or discomfort, illness, injury, organ transplant, or localized physical or emotional pain with no obvious cause.

ILLUMINATION
The Illumination process has been practiced for thousands of years by the medicine people of the Andes and the Amazon. It clears the imprints (toxic memories or fears) of karma and disease from the energy body and transforms the heavy emotions associated with trauma and disease into light. During illumination, the chakras are cleaned out. The process can eliminate negative energy, promote longevity, and strengthen immunity. The imprint is the source, the chakra the pipeline, and the nervous system the distribution network. The process includes cleaning the affected chakras and embedding them with healing light. During integration after an illumination, one may experience vivid dreams or have sudden insights.

MEDICINE BAG
A bag of varying sizes usually made of animal skin or hide and usually decorated with fringe and beads. The bag is used to carry spiritual objects. The Druids call the medicine bag a crane bag but it has the same purpose as the medicine bag. (Also similar is the gris gris, mojo, or ouanga bag.) All items in the bag as well as the bag itself should be smudged and can be energized in a special dedication ceremony. The bag and its contents are considered sacred to the owner and should never be touched or opened by another. The medicine that the bag creates is the energy from the combination of items inside the bag and the energy bond created between these items and the individual. Some suggested items for the bag are:

Plant World:
Plants, Herbs, Seeds, Leaves, Twigs, Roots, Pine Cones, Nuts, Bark
The 3 Sisters = Corn, Bean, & Squash
Sacred Ceremony = Tobacco, Sage, & Sweetgrass
Good Aromatics = Lavender, Cedar, Juniper, & Pinion 

Mineral World:
Salt (represents the earth), Rocks & Soil, Minerals, Crystals, Sea Shells

Animal World:
Hides, Feathers, Fur, Claws, Bones, Teeth

Human World:
Hair, Nails, Blood, Body Fluids

Other:
Oil, Incense, Prayer Scrolls, Personal Symbols, Totems of Animals 

MEDICINE WHEEL
A medicine wheel is a circular cosmology based on specific cultures. It is a circle that encompasses the 4 directions (East, South, West, and North). The wheel represents the unending cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The medicine wheel comes from many ancient cultures all over the world. Physically manifested, it can be a small circle hung like a dream catcher or it can be a large group of rocks out on the Earth. The wheel itself is considered sacred space and is used for many rituals. The wheel becomes a mini vortex of power or a sacred altar.

To view medicine wheels from various cultures, go to http://www.drakeinnerprizes.com/shamanmw.htm.

MUNAY KI RITES (RITES OF ENLIGHTENMENT)
Munay-Ki rites are initiations that help an initiate become a person of wisdom and power. When a person receives the rites, they are connected to the lineage of the Inka healers and priests. Munay-Ki comes from a Quechua word that means "I love you" and "Be as thou art". The rites are derived from the Laika, the Earthkeepers, from 30,000 years ago. The rites activate the Energy Body and its power to manifest and create. The rites plant seeds in the energy fields of the chakras. They help the initiate acquire the rainbow body where the chakras glow with their original radiance. Once implanted, these seeds need to be germinated and grown by light rituals. The first 9 rites are:

Bands of Power (Chunpi Mesayok) - Protect and break down any negative energies.

Healer (Hampe) - Activates healing powers.

Harmony (Ayni Karpay) - Connects one to the organizing principles of the universe.

Seer (Kawak) - Awakens one's ability to perceive the invisible world of spirit.

Daykeeper (Pampa Mesayok) - Brings healing and balance to the Earth. Heals the inner feminine.

Wisdomkeeper (Alto Mesayok) - Helps one to step outside of time and taste infinity. Heals the inner masculine.

Earthkeeper (Kurak Akuyek) - Holds stewardship of the entire Earth and brings healing and balance to any situation. Helps one to dream the world into being

Starkeeper (Mosak Karpay) - One acquires stewardship for the time to come and all future generations. Downloads the final codes into one's energy body and anchors one into the future now.

Creator (Tai Tanchis Ranti) - Awakens the God-light within. One acquires stewardship for all of creation. 

PLANT MEDICINE
Shamans recognize that plants have specific spirits. They journey to the spirit of the plant to find out what purpose the plant is to be used for. Many plants are used for healing purposes. Some shamanic cultures use plants that have hallucinogenic properties to connect to alternate realities. These plants are used in sacred ceremony and are led by experienced medicine people. Note that not all shamans use plant medicine. Some common plants used for these purposes are: Ayahuasca (the spirit vine), San Pedro, Peyote, and Mushrooms.

POWER OR TOTEM ANIMAL
A power animal is an animal spirit guide that watches over a person from birth. A person can have multiple power animals that serve as guides and spirit helpers. Each animal has specific traits that can be used to provide positive qualities for an individual as needed. (To read about specific attributes of power animals, refer to Animal Spirit Guides by Steven D. Farmer.)

A power animal can be retrieved on a guided meditation by an experienced practitioner, by having a shaman journey for the retrieval, or by an individual journeying for his/her own animal. During a power animal retrieval journey, an animal should appear a minimum of 4 times. Power animal retrievals help restores a person's personal power. After a person is introduced to his/her power animal, a long term relationship is established by honoring the animal through communication and paying respect by "dancing the animal". A power animal will provide protection in all 3 realms of body, mind, and spirit.

RATTLE
Rattles are usually made of natural materials, such as dried gourds, turtle shells, or rawhide filled with dry seeds, beans, or pebbles. The rattle is another vehicle (besides smudge) used to cleanse and purify or to use (besides the drum) for traveling to non-ordinary reality. The rattle is a gentle way to call or release the Ancestors from the 7 directions [East, South, West, North, Sky (up), Center, and Earth (down)]. A rattle is sacred and should not be touched unless the owner gives his/her consent. It should be covered when it is not being used.

SHAMANIC JOURNEY
When shamans journey to the spirit realm, they enter a trance-like state of consciousness. In this trance state the brain generates theta waves. One can journey successfully listening to a drum beat frequency of 4 beats-per-second for at least 15 minutes. This is a consistent beat of between 205 to 220 beats per minute. The drum is called the "horse" that one rides into the journey state. Other vehicles that can also be used to travel to the trance state are: rattles, ecstatic dance, hypnosis, and hallucinogens.

The shaman's world consists of 3 levels of non-ordinary realities: the Lower, Middle, and Upper World. The shaman journeys with a specific intent and meets power animals, spirits, and guides. 

Michael Harner calls ordinary reality the Ordinary Sate of Consciousness (OSC) and the altered state of shamanic trance the Shamanic State of Consciousness (SSC). Mircea Eliade referred to the shamanic trance as ecstasy. The 4 Spiritual Worlds (Realms) consist of:

Lower World - Non-ordinary reality of the subconscious.

Middle World - Ordinary reality of the conscious. The world we currently live in.

Upper World - Non-ordinary reality of the superconscious. This is where the Higher Self is.

Below the Lower World is the Under World, the place of the unconscious.

Above the Upper World is the Celestial World, the highest power, the realm of the gods.

Here is a chart listing the characteristics of each the shamanic levels of consciousness:

CHARACTERISTIC

LOWER WORLD

MIDDLE WORLD

UPPER WORLD

Level of Consciousness

Subconscious

Conscious

Superconscious

Brain Wave State

Theta

4-8 cycles per second

Beta & Alpha

8-30 cycles per second

Theta

4-8 cycles per second

Time

Timespace

3 dimensional

Spacetime

Linear

Timespace

3 dimensional

Typical Entrances

Cave or crevice in a rock

Through a tree knothole or roots

Through an animal's burrow

Through a worm hole

Down a well

Through a doorway or gate

Into a waterfall or stream

Under the ocean waves

Out the door or a window

Leaping into a gap in the sky

Cave mouth high up a cliff

Climbing a tall tree

Climbing a flight of stairs

Through a mountain that pierces a cloud

Up a ladder

The Landscape

Rich with jungles, meadows, forests, swamps, rivers, mountains, deserts.

Most communication is in symbols.

A direct parallel of ordinary reality although many features may be changed.

 

Light, bright, ethereal, and airy.

Most interactions are verbal.

Entities

Spirit Helpers

Sprit Guides

Spirit Animals

Natural & Mythical Animals

Indigenous People

Elfin Creatures

Low Level Souls

Lost Souls

Nature Spirits

Spirits with Ego

Spirit Teachers

Ancestors

Ascended Masters

Angels

Light Beings

Humanoids

Ask About: Questions on guidance, power, & healing Questions about finding objects

Questions that are existential:

"Why am I here?"

"What is my path?"

"What is my next step?"

 

Here are some basic ground rules to formulating questions to journey on:

1. Ask one precise, clear, and concise question.

2. Use the following words: Who, what, where, why, and how.

3. Avoid divination questions, such as questions that ask when, unless you are doing a specific divination journey. Asking about the future, changes the future.

4. Use simple and positive language.

5. Do not ask compound questions using  "and" or "or". If you want to ask additional questions, make additional journeys. However, you can ask questions for clarification while on the journey.

6. Only journey for yourself. Never journey for someone else unless you have their permission. Remember, it is not ethical to exert any energy towards influencing someone else's path.

SOUL RELEASE
A client may be possessing soul pieces from others. In the complete process of soul retrieval, it is important for the client to release these bits. This can be done through a personal ritual. The important point is the intent behind the ritual. 

SOUL REMEMBERING
Soul remembering is a way to find your true self after a soul retrieval. An analysis of what one was like at incarnation, what habits replaced the lost soul bits, how to eliminate the habits, how to bring passion back into life, and what beliefs are roadblocks, will help integrate the newly returned soul pieces.

SOUL RETRIEVAL
Soul parts may be lost in one of two ways:

Soul Separation: During traumatic events, soul parts may be separated by the individual for safe keeping or as a means of defense or left at the scene of a trauma.

Soul Theft: Parts of one's soul may be taken by others that want to hold a piece of someone.

The symptoms of soul loss are many and include: trauma, post traumatic stress syndrome, shock, immune deficiency problems, chronic illness, coma, chronic depression, suicidal feelings, inability to heal, inability to move forward, long term grief, addictions, disassociation, lost memories, spaciness, inability to feel, feeling lost, incomplete, stuck, dispirited, or feeling unable to move forward, feeling out of control, feeling like a part of you has died, like something in life is missing, like someone stole a part of you, or like you want to return to a person/location for no good reason, or lost something you can't get back. 

During shamanic journeying the shaman will determine what soul pieces are safe to retrieve and bring them back for the client. The shaman then blows each piece back into the client's body. Since negative habits or health has filled the holes the missing soul pieces have left, the soul retrieval process requires work to reintegrate the lost pieces.  

Benefits of a soul retrieval can be: feeling more present, feeling more connected, moving forward easier, making decisions or changes easier, feeling self-empowered, and feeling integrate or whole.

SMUDGE
Smudging is the ritual burning of grasses or herbs. The smoke from the plants is brushed over a person either by a hand or feather. Smoke carries away negative energy and carries positive intention to the Sky World. Smudging can be used for the following:

To clear your physical and energy body of bad energy picked up from others or negative emotions.

To begin a special ritual or ceremony.

To cleanse your physical environment such as home, work, and vehicle.

To clear your crystals, medicine bags, and other sacred ceremonial objects.

Different plants have different purposes. Sage is the most popular and is used to purify or cleanse by removing negative energy. Sage can be followed with sweetgrass, which brings in positive energy. Common plants used for smudging are:

Cedar, Juniper, & Sweetgrass - Attracts good influences

Blue Corn & Tobacco - Ceremonial offerings

Sage & Cedar - Cleanses and purifies

White Sage - Clears sacred spaces

Lavender - Promotes peace of mind and inner calm

Pinon - Protects and clears

SWEAT LODGE
The sweat lodge ceremony (inipi, initipi, or inikagapi) is a sacred purification ceremony. It is performed inside a lodge made of bent willows covered with blankets and heated with stones placed in the center. The lodge represents the womb of the Earth Mother. All behavior surrounding the lodge is conducted in a sacred way. The ceremony may only be led or performed by those who have been trained in how to pour a sweat. 

A standard sweat lodge is constructed in the following manner: 16 willow saplings, approximately 1" in diameter at the butt end, are peeled and imbedded in the ground in a circle approximately 6 to 9" in diameter. The saplings are then bent over and tied with rawhide thongs to form a dome structure, approximately 4" high at the center. The saplings are arranged so that there are 4 on each side of the lodge, with an entrance on the east. The saplings are covered with blankets and tarps so that when the door is finally closed no light will be admitted into the lodge. The hole approximately 2" in diameter and 2 feet deep is carved out in the center into which hot stones will be placed. The earth which is removed is used to form a sacred path approximately 8 paces from the entrance. At the eastern end of the path the ground is cleared for the fireplace. One person, the fire tender, lights it and maintains it. As the ceremony begins, s/he hands in the rocks through the entrance.

Participants always move clockwise when entering and exiting the lodge. When entering one says "Mitakuye Oyasin" (all my relatives, meaning we are all connected). Once the door is sealed the leader or pourer sprinkles a ladle of water on the hot stones. Prayers and songs are recited during each round. There are usually 4 rounds and the total process lasts about 3 hours. If prayer ties were prepared for the sweat, they are hung from the willow frame during the sweat and then burnt in the fire after the last round.

 

VISION QUEST
Vision quest is a time set aside to be in isolation usually in nature and usually while fasting. Solitude and meditation allow the mind to be receptive to visions and/or messages from the spirits.

A rectangle, approximately 4 to 6" wide and 6 to 8" long, is created by placing prayer ties around the perimeter. The quester brings nothing in from society with the exception a blanket (and sometimes water). Vision Quest usually lasts 4 days within this rectangle and the quester only leaves long enough to relieve him/herself. 

Anthropologists have found that there are 3 universal stages of vision quest:

1. Severance (Departure) - Preparation includes separation, detachment, letting go of the old, and preparing to die from one's old life.

2. Threshold (Trial/Initiation/Transformation) - This is the time of aloneness, hunger, exposure and the trials that will test one's spirit and purpose. Threshold is entering into sacred space, ritual and ceremony, and being with Great Spirit, one on one. In order to be filled, a quester must empty out that which no longer serves. Then s/he can be filled with all the Great Spirit has to give. The quester is awakened to a new way of seeing.

3. Incorporation (Return) - The quest will never really end because the vision will be brought back to make the world a better place and create changes for all the people.

 

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Copyright © 2014 Drake Bear Stephen. Except as Acknowledged. All Rights Reserved.