Author Archives: Carla Woody

About Carla Woody

The Lifepath Dialogues offer an invitation toward embodiment of all that is life-affirming and the deeper meaning of sustainability. Drawn from themes in "Calling Our Spirits Home", "Standing Stark" and latest book "Portals to the Vision Serpent" with 20+ years as a mentor leading spiritual travel journeys working with Indigenous leaders and guiding people to live through their spiritual values. Topics are meant to open conversation. The author may be reached via cwoody@kenosis.net or visiting http://www.kenosis.net and http://www.kenosisspiritkeepers.org. Follow this blog by becoming a fan on the Kenosis Facebook page.

Tinkuy: The Confluence of Relationship

When two separate entities with measures of variance meet at an intersecting point and find their core elements to be the same, something indescribable occurs. Such an encounter, the inherent energy of one to the other, is called tinkuy in the Andean world.  We learn of ourselves because of the other⎯who may seem to reside outside our zone of  familiarity. We begin to understand where we can merge expressly because we begin to see what in the other is in ourselves, too. And we can heal when we allow that recognition. I see this in myself, and I see it in others. When it does and does not occur. I aspire to complete permission and presence. A deeply spiritual path, if you think about it, altogether possible.

Thomas Hatathli is one of the few remaining true Diné medicine men and Blessingway Chanters of his tribe. Last fall I was his patient during a healing session in Arizona. In the midst of it, I had a recognition.

When Thomas began to sing I closed my eyes. Before long I was lost to this world and entered the landscape this Chanter was weaving. Somewhere in there a thought swam up. I’ve heard this before. It sounds so familiar. I grasped to make the connection but couldn’t and surrendered again, letting the songs take me…

…As the last song ended, I opened my eyes and knew how the songs were known to me. Icaros. Just a few weeks before I’d been with Don Alberto Manqueriapa, a respected Huachipaeri-Matsigenga spiritual leader, again in Peru as he sang the icaros during the rainforest rituals that hold the same intent of the Blessingway Ceremony. A return to the natural order. They couldn’t be the same language. Yet they were. And they held the same frequencies. They were drawn from the same place…

I invited Thomas to come on this year’s Peru journey as a guest for this particular reason. So, when we were with Don Alberto in the high jungle of Manu and he began to sing his icaros during ceremony…and I heard Thomas’ voice on the air singing the same words in response…my heart lifted. Later, Thomas said the very same song existed in his tradition.

A few days ago, I received this note.

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Thomas Hatathli outside Cusco. Photo credit: Betina Lindsey.

My trip to Peru was beautiful. I felt like I was guided in spiritual ways, what I saw in rainforest and jungle, is what I see when I close my eyes and do the earth prayer in Diné. I saw similarities in how we pray for connection and Hozho to earth, universe, mountain, water, darkness, early dawn, and rock formation.

 I was taken in by the Q’ero natives and lifestyle because that is how Diné people used to live prior to 1970. A time diabetes didn’t exist and Diné knew how to survive and deal with problems. There is much to learn from Native people who remain steadfast to their roots and natural laws. The trip renewed my desire to help in spiritual ways through songs and prayers here at home. 

 Ahe’hee (thank you).

Thomas

Tinkuy can happen with any form, any energetic relationship. Something timeless out of mind. An ancient song. A land. A person. The Cosmos.

 

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

When the Invisible Manifests, Part II: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part II: In which the Apus appeared.

I returned from Peru less than a week ago. My own night experience in the sacred compound, as I’ve given attention to describing it, remains foremost⎯I’ll say in my energy field because my mind can’t hold it or understand what occurred. I’ll admit to being a healthy skeptic for good purpose when there are so many passing themselves off for what they aren’t, sometimes causing great harm. I choose to be vigilant in order to protect myself and any group in my care. After the opportunity to talk with the Apus was offered, I accepted and included it for this year’s journey. Logic offers no answers here and, knowing the steward, I placed trust in him for his offering and the altomisayoq he arranged, one of three he’s worked with over some years.

I hadn’t previously noticed the anteroom where the session would be held. Perhaps the door had been closed when I’d been there before. A few of the group and I ventured inside for a brief look before we went to the temple for preliminary preparations. Immediately upon entering I was aware of the extraordinary energy, so strong it felt like my head would implode and fly off into the cosmos. We didn’t stay long.

The first order was to create a despacho, an offering and prayer bundle to later give to the Apu who governed the surrounding land. We all participated in unwrapping the many chocolates, cookies, candies⎯because the spirits very much enjoy sweets⎯crackers, sea creatures and the rest, while the steward placed all the elaborate piece parts in a particular order. Ultimately, he created a complex structure several inches high, our kintu prayers inserted⎯three coca leaves held together with llama fat topped with a carnation petal. Breath carried our individual prayers on the surface of each one we personally made. Finally, the entire bundle was completely covered with more coca leaves, neatly wrapped in decorative paper and secured. The steward was precise.

We approached the anteroom and filed inside. I wondered how we would all fit as it really was quite small. We numbered fourteen but all managed to find a space on the long benches that wrapped the perimeter, or the couple of chairs finally put in front of the door. The altomisayoq was already in his place in a confined spot in the front corner. The altar to the left stretched most of the space across the front and held flowers, a few capped bottles of soda and beer and ceremonial objects. A painting of Jesus graced the wall above. A waist-high table was immediately against the altar. The altomisayoq was boxed in, no room to exit or other freedom of movement unless he crawled over Marianne and me.

Once all were settled, the steward dropped the heavy curtain over the door. We were in absolute darkness. A few days prior I had prepped the group to have a couple of personal questions ready when it was their turn to speak with the manifested beings. These could be such things as concerns about family, health or relationship matters, advice on a project and the like. While they are not clairvoyant, the beings are wise and give information and suggestions from that standpoint. They can “see” into the body, diagnose health issues and prescribe natural medicines, even surgery, accordingly. If a surgery, they will perform it themselves.* The steward had advised that this space was not yet sanctioned for that purpose. But if a surgery was so prescribed they could go to an audience that would take place elsewhere within a few days. In the darkness, the steward would come get each petitioner and guide them to stand in front of the table to communicate directly with the beings. Marianne would translate the answers given.

We sat in silence. There was no light. My eyes did not adjust to reveal anything other than complete darkness. Suddenly, the altomisayoq chanted an invocation, inviting the beings in by name…then a sharp whistle. My eyes swiveled around the room searching but saw nothing.

Commotion came swiftly. Chaos. Loud flapping of many wings like huge birds⎯or something⎯near the ceiling, it seemed. Whoomp as something landed. Then more. It couldn’t have been but a couple of feet away somewhere there at the altar or maybe the table. Announcements…loud and garbled. The room felt suddenly full of some magnificent energy. Frankly, my mind fled. I couldn’t make sense of it all and have little memory of those first proceeding moments.

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A condor. Photo: Google, original source unlisted.

I was so confused and, as it turns out, so was everyone else who was having this experience for the first time. I wasn’t sure who or what had shown up until later when their identity was confirmed for us. Those present: Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca, Señor de Ausangate, Señor de Soqllacassa and Señor Sacsayhuaman Cabildo. †

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Apu Ausangate. Photo: Carla Woody

I was glad the petitions would go in an ordered fashion beginning on the other side of the room for I certainly wasn’t ready yet. I grant that the young woman who was the first of us to approach had courage…when she’d never even been outside the US before or encountered anything like this. A soothing grandmotherly voice welcomed her to the altar and asked, “What can I do for you?” She haltingly asked her questions and received the guidance, then was led by the steward back to her seat. It went like that around the room, the majority speaking to the Santa Tierra. For some it was quite emotional. There were tears. One asked to speak directly to Señor de Ausangate for a matter that directly required his intervention. When he spoke, there was great power and presence. It was a male voice. Some asked for healing or insight to a health issue and later reported a sense of relief and physical uplifting.

Other than times anyone was speaking, noise-making⎯pounding like a drum, a pop, stomping, clicking together of stones or crystals, rustling⎯emitted periodically from different places at the altar. Once I saw sparks, like static electricity up near the ceiling, but nothing else. Across the board, I noted how fluidly answers came, kind wise counsel. There was no hesitation, no searching around for a response.

My turn came. At the altar, the steward stood immediately next to me holding my hand, the other arm wrapped around me. Gentle support. I needed it. The energy was overwhelming. For one who is well used to public speaking and does so easily, I found myself barely able to put any words together. I was disoriented. I had my prepared questions but they wouldn’t assemble themselves to come out my mouth. They finally did though, and Mamita gave her practical, logical response to one and feeling response to the other. Both things I already knew and was validated.

The steward told Mamita I represented the group and had an offering for Señor de Sacsayhuaman, with respect and recognition as the holder of the land where we assembled. When we came in earlier, he’d placed two despachos on the table. The other was from Marianne for a special personal petition.

Señor de Sacsayhuaman bombed into the room. Much to-do. The despacho sounded like it was being torn to smithereens and inhaled…and I felt more waves of energy engulfing me. The offering accepted, my time was done. But instead of the steward leading me back to my seat, he turned his attention to Marianne, who was on his other side, for her petition and offering. His comforting physical support gone, I had the strong urge to grab onto him like a little kid hiding behind a parent⎯although I restrained myself. The woman who sat next to me on the bench later told me, when I never returned, she thought I’d been spirited away by the Apus…

Marianne stated her request fluidly and made her offering, no stumbling around. But then she’d done this several times before. All was then complete. We once again heard the voice of the altomisayoq thanking these manifested beings profusely for answering his call. Mamita’s voice overlapped his, speaking for the Apus and herself, giving blessings and saying goodbye. Again, chaos moved the air, flapping of many wings…silence. The magnificent energy in the room had vacated.

A few seconds later, the steward turned on the lights. All was the same as when we entered. All were in their original places except myself and Marianne at the altar. The despachos were as they’d been placed on the table and appeared to be untouched. One exception: The bottle of beer on the altar was now uncapped.

Before she left, the Santa Tierra⎯Mamita⎯advised that if we wanted to be in contact with her, we could burn a white candle. We wouldn’t see her, but she would be there.

I have mine.

To read Part I of this accounting, in which the foundation is laid, go here.


*From someone who had undergone a surgery by the Apus, it is a physical matter that involved some pain. When over, a thin red line remained on the person’s body for some time at the site of the surgery. There was no blood or stitches. The explanation given was the wound closed up immediately. The result was relief. This from someone who is credible and would have no investment in relaying something other than the actual experience.

† Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca was the director of this session. She is also known as the Virgin Maria de Lares Calca. Calca is a village in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. Apu, being Quechua, also translates to El Señor. Apu Ausangate is considered the supreme witness, one who has powers of increase and healing. Apu Soqllacassa has nursing capabilities. Apu Sacsayhuaman Cabildo is a keeper of knowledge and wisdom.

 

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

When the Invisible Manifests, Part I: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part I: In which the foundation is laid.

An open secret exists just beneath the bustle of everyday life in Cusco. It’s actually a phenomenon that occurs in pockets across the Andes. It’s unknown to outsiders, even expats who have lived there for decades…unless they accidentally stumble upon it and are invited. That’s exactly how it happened in this case. I’m no longer amazed how one thing leads to another because I’ve been shown over and over that I’m led to what I’m supposed to experience and who I’m destined to meet that supports this work.

It all started two years ago when I needed to find an appropriate place near Cusco to hold a ceremonial space for the teachings of Don Alberto Manqueriapa, a respected jungle paq’o.* I queried my long-time friend Christo who told me of a hidden compound, a site with small temples and a garden honoring all sacred traditions, its stewardship held by a spiritual man of great humility and sweetness.† As I was then at home in the US, I asked another friend, Marianne, if she would make the connection and see if we could make arrangements for a time during last year’s spiritual travel program.

At the high stone wall, an oversized wooden door opened into a place not unlike something you might see in a movie. The informal garden held small altars and religious statues from world traditions placed here and there. A huge domed adobe oven sat across from a cloistered seating area. Several chickens, a fancy breed with feathered topknots and naked necks, scratched the dirt in-between. I’ve since noticed the collective intake of breath for those who haven’t entered here before. Indeed, it was of some other world, not Peru. Yet it contained all that, too. It was inclusive.

A few steps beyond were the temples, one round and the other a small antechamber. Then the kitchen building and living quarters. Flowers, shrubs and trees took up every bit of remaining ground. It sounds as though all should be strewn over an acre or two. But part of its beauty and the stillness it lent had to do with how all fit in a surprisingly small space, the sacred and daily life coexisting, one within the other. As it should be.

At our first visit, the steward told us how he came to be there after intense dissatisfaction with a material life, traveling to far reaches in search of his soul, finally finding himself in Peru where this special place was unexpectedly given to his care. He was soft-spoken, unassuming. He did not pronounce but simply told his story as though still amazed it had all happened to him. When he talked briefly of the angels and how they spoke directly, it caught my attention but not long at that point. We experienced Don Alberto’s teachings there, and I’m quite sure whatever was resident helped us receive them.

Little did I know how all this would evolve over the coming year, for my friend Marianne took to heart the steward’s mention of the angels⎯what the local people also referred to as talking to the Apus, with an altomisayoq as intermediary.‡ She said to me, how did she not know about this when she’d been living in Cusco for thirty years? But then she’s Dutch by birth, not Cusquenan. Over the year between then and now she attended a number of these sessions, introduced to them through the steward.

Moray-Apus

Apus of the Sacred Valley. Photo: Carla Woody.

It’s said that during the times of the Inca, people’s sensibilities were developed to the extent they could communicate with the Apus in daylight. As those capabilities waned, such visible encounters would have somehow overcome them. Now it’s all confined to complete darkness with the necessary presence of an altomisayoq. But only to call in the coordinates for these beings to materialize in the place where the people are gathered to receive them and request counsel. The altomisayoq is not a medium. Those Apus, Santa Tierras and Mamitas of sacred places or villages who manifest during a session are completely separate entities from each other and the altomisayoq. They speak directly in their own voice to the petitioner, not through the altomisayoq as channel.

It’s hard to know how common this practice is today in remote Andean villages. With sadness, I heard that it is no longer so in Q’eros as no altomisayoqs remain in the villages, having passed long ago or moved to Cusco or elsewhere. But there was a time when the Apus did still appear there to give counsel when called upon. Q’ero Santos Machacca told me of the time when they were consulted about his grandfather’s health. Don Manuel Quispe, who passed in 2004 at 99 years old and well-known to many westerners, was the intermediary and provided his rustic home. There were offerings of chicha⎯a fermented drink⎯and coca. The Apus somehow entered through the thatched roof with a great flapping of wings, announcing their arrival by first landing on the back of Don Manuel, bending him double before taking their place on the mesa with much stomping and noise-making. In most ways, the process has not changed.

I was soon to find out…and truly believe the ambience of the hidden space, and sacred way the steward held it, set the stage for what was to happen…

Read Part II in which the Apus appeared here.


*Paq’o is a Quechua word with no direct translation, the closest being a cross between shaman and mystic in the Andean tradition.

†This steward prefers to operate beneath the radar, as do most altomisayoqs working strictly within their communities, knowing that those with pure spiritual intent will find their way to what is offered. Any mention of their name in writing on the internet is strictly forbidden in their lineage. To maintain respect, the exact site location and name of the holy men who provided our direct encounter will go unmentioned.

Apu is a Quechua word that translates to mountain. But the meaning goes deeper. The Apus are the living entities of the Andes, no less than Pachamama (Mother Earth), Mama Quilla (Mother Moon), Inti (Father Sun), Mama Cocha (Mother Ocean) and other elementals comprising the world. As mentioned, angels are also referred to depending on the influence of Catholicism, so prevalent in Peru, or other world traditions where the reference is generally accepted. An altomisayoq is the name given to the highest level of Andean priest, one who communicates with other dimensions. They are said to have been initiated directly by the Apus and thus able to call upon them for the benefit of the people. While increasingly rare in these times due to the great sacrifices required of them, there are a number who live in or near Cusco.

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

My Annual Pause, 2017: Tuscany Part II

When I left you in Part I, I was leaving Florence to venture farther into Tuscany and sequester for a ten-day intensive to study with artist Serena Barton. I landed just outside Contignano, one of those tiny hilltop villages sprinkled throughout the region, as part of the group of eight. La Montalla, which held our rooms, common area, dining room, kitchen and studio, is actually a renovated 16th century farmhouse, the kind where family and farm animals cohabited under one roof. Not so today, of course. I could just imagine what it must have been like back then, where the family lodged and the cows, pigs and what have you bedded down.

Owners Giuseppe and Paola welcomed us as though we were family, and collaborated beautifully with Lisa Statkus who put fine detail to our time in Tuscany. We lacked for nothing. Lisa and Serena put their heads together and gauged when we all needed a pause from our artwork in order to soak up the richness that is Tuscany. I’m sharing just a few photos to give at least a sense of my experience.

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Fountain of the World in Siena’s main square.

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The stunning 14th century cathedral in Orvieto, Umbria Region.

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Lucious figs from one of the plentiful outdoor fruit and vegetable stands.

I can’t say enough about the cuisine and freshness of the food. Plus, I ate more pasta than I probably have in twenty years…with no ill effects whatsoever. At home I avoid it. I can only guess that my lack of symptoms is due to the wheat being GMO-free, local and organic. One day the baker came out of retirement to make (way too much) pizza from scratch in the old brick oven that is something like three hundred years old. It was extraordinary. Needless to say, leftover pizza was an option for breakfast, too.

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Martino making our pizza from scratch start to finish.

Resident cats Ernesto and Blackie visited us in the studio, curled up in some of our rooms and were otherwise consistently on hand. That made it feel like home even more so.

 

 

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Blackie sunning himself.

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Ernesto at dawn the day I left.

I’m guessing this sampling would whet your appetite for a trip of your own. I did want to mention one particular place in case you get to Montepulciano. It’s a little hole in the wall along Via Ricci. Libreria Magnanet holds floor to ceiling treasures. Antique books and stacks of pages that are possible to purchase. I could have stayed there all day poking around, and the (surprisingly) young-ish man behind the desk would have happily accommodated it. He looked the part of the bibliophile who perhaps had been there as long as the books. As it was, I found three gems in the piles that I decided I must have. He wrote out the authentication certificate in longhand, which was only proper, noting the line drawings of Psyche, Venus and Jupiter dated to 1834. More than likely I’ll incorporate them into some artwork.

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Gleaned from my treasure hunt at Libreria Magnanet.

I suppose this is actually a three-part article. To read about my pilgrimage studying oil and cold wax, which includes more examples of what I created, hop on over to my art blog to read A Tuscany September. An art intensive with Serena Barton is more than learning about art…

 

Thus ends my Annual Pause for 2017. I came away inspired, renewed…and further convinced there’s absolutely no doubt that such time set aside like this, just for myself, is of utmost importance.

 

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

My Annual Pause, 2017: Tuscany Part I

Florence-3-lowThe white-haired server smiled at me in recognition after raising his eyebrows. He probably didn’t see visitors return much. But I was back at Trattoria Cribari on Piazza Santo Spirito, a little more than a hole in the wall, because I learned that not all bruschetta and gelato are created equal. Plus, it was around the corner from the airbnb place I’d rented–perfect for my needs–and they didn’t mind how long I stayed tucked just inside the open doorway watching the human world go by outside. Something of an education, a pastime I’d forgotten I enjoy.

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Florence-7-lowI love the work I do, a destiny of sorts that fell into my lap over time. I find there’s reciprocal value in it. I can’t imagine I’ll ever turn away. But. And. It requires a lot of energy. Sometimes a pause is required. Rather than leaving The Pause to chance, I made a commitment that I’d set aside time–and make it special–on an annual basis. A time when I had no responsibilities to anyone but myself. A time to rejuvenate. To experience something new or revisit something beloved. To read. To walk. To write. To learn. To create. To meditate. To talk to strangers or be silent with my own musings. To do things I love. In the past I’ve taken the mini-pause, sporadically–a camping trip here, a short road trip there as I could squeeze it in. Oh, I do all those things in my daily life I listed above–but not without interruption.

In 2015 I made the first declaration by walking the Camino de Santiago, which turned out to be quite the odyssey. I’m still integrating. My Pause in 2016 was equally memorable but in a different way. I studied with master beadists Nancy Josephson and Jan Huling, who show regularly in museums and galleries in the US and Europe. I had no way of knowing when I was drawn to Puerto Vallarta for this express purpose, that I’d be catapulted into a whole new territory of artwork. One that still won’t leave me alone.

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Florence-6-lowThis year it’s Italy. This is my last night in Florence. I’ve wandered the streets, churches, museums and gardens for four days. I’ve appreciated the architecture, sense of history, the locals, the visitors. The bustle is sometimes a bit much for me, and being on top of my neighbors… I’m not used to it, living out in the boonies in solitude as I do much of the time. But the live piano music coming through a window as I walked down the street and the saxophone just next door have stirred something in me.

I’m taking all this with me as I travel farther into Tuscany where, over 10 days, I’ll be studying with an oil and cold wax artist. An old art form, I’ve worked with this medium for a few years and greatly appreciate its multi-layered depth and versatility. I want to go deeper.

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Film Review: Facing the Enemy

This 2001 film by Everyman, BBC Two, is for today. Right now. The times, the unprecedented questions and emotions, that must be dealt with are still relevant. The more that we challenge ourselves to face them, the more we can individually change the world⏤one by one, step by step.

In October 1984, Sir Anthony Berry was killed, with four more, by a bomb planted by IRA bombers at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England where Margaret Thatcher’s party gathered for a conference. Patrick Magee, one of three bombers, was caught. The other two never were. Convicted of murder, he was remanded to prison for 8 life sentences with a minimum of 35 years. But in 1999 he was released under the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement.

In the expanse of time from her father’s murder, Jo Berry held the desire to understand why such a thing could happen. She wanted to hear directly from the one who committed the act. She wanted to move through trauma and despair. She wanted to open her heart.

This is a documentation of meetings between Jo Berry and Patrick Magee that began in 2001. It’s an opportunity for us to witness two people speaking directly to each other, dealing with the action that brought them together and all the resulting emotions on both sides. It can give us courage to do the same in our own lives where it’s needed.

In September 2015, we at Kenosis Spirit Keepers collaborated with the Quad-City Interfaith Council to bring Jo to Prescott, Arizona. We viewed the film Beyond Right and Wrong in which they are featured. Then she took questions. You can see that video here.

In Facing the Enemy, Jo spoke haltingly of all the pain Patrick’s release from prison brought up for her, even though she thought all the grief was squeezed out, and so many years had gone by. Patrick received the expression of Jo’s pain and spoke of his own. Both of these individuals possess enormous courage not only to face each other as they did. But also having chosen to work together all these years in the hopes of allaying such tragedies in the world. Since then they have appeared together more than 150 times.

Truly, this video should be viewed as widely as possible. Recently uploaded for streaming on You Tube, 60 minutes. If you’re unable to see the embedded video below, go here.

Note: Jo Berry will be in Arizona, Washington and Colorado in October 2017. If you would like to book a venue in the US with Jo, please contact Karen Marchetti via email imaginepeace0928 (at) gmail.com.

 

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Film Review, Global Consciousness, Healing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Cajun Healers of South Louisiana

Doc Moses Cajun Traiteur 1974 48x36

Doc Moses, Cajun Traiteur, 1974 by George Rodrigue, oil on canvas.

In 2012 I was invited to South Louisiana by Shala Fontenot and Faith Moody, who had been on one of my Peru journeys. I still carry gratitude for their generosity. It was the start of a love affair. I quite fell in love with the people and rich culture of those lands. While there I interviewed Becca Begnaud during her monthly Healing Arts Collective gathering. Becca is a Cajun traiteur, a tradition indigenous to the area that I didn’t know existed. Not only is she well versed in her healing art, Becca is a wealth of information on Cajun and Creole history and lifeways.

Traiteurs are faith healers, a heritage in danger of sliding into extinction. These days they have few, if any, apprentices willing to undertake a trade that involves a lot of personal sacrifice. Most are way up there in years. Traiteurs are known to selflessly give of themselves – many on call around the clock – caring for those in need. If they’re paid for services at all, it’s customarily a chicken or other practical item. They heal through what they call “the gift.” A prayer comes through them for the person it’s meant, often by laying on of hands. But there’s no requirement for the person to be present. Long distance healing is often done as well.

Below you’ll find the original interview I did with Becca during which she talks about her own process of taking on the mantle, and the origins of those who live in the area.

A few days ago, Becca sent me a note about coverage on traiteurs in a local publication. You can read it here. Her message gave me the final nudge to write this additional article, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

Just prior to my return to Cajun Country in 2013, my friend Shala called and said a few cryptic words, “There are some folks I want you to meet.” Nothing more. After arriving, I discovered she’d set up sessions with three traiteurs. Her method: She put out a general announcement to friends and acquaintances, a request for names. When she received the same recommendation three times, she arranged a meeting. Luckily, I had my recorder with me, and they freely answered my questions. I asked each one about the same things: any criteria for being a traiteur, how they received the gift, and what effect it had on them personally. They filled in the gaps.

We pulled up to an unassuming house in the small town of Opelousas, the home of Sostain and Dorothy Lemelle. Mrs. Lemelle greeted us at the door and brought us right into the kitchen where Mr. Lemelle sat at the table. She returned to watching a TV show in the seating area just beyond, but piped in periodically as we talked with Mr. Lemelle.

He was 83 years old at the time, having begun his healing work suddenly at the age of 10 when a veterinarian was unable to staunch blood flow from a horse’s deep wound. His mother told him to point his finger at the horse and send the prayer. He did, and the bleeding stopped. He’d been doing his work ever since. Mr. Lemelle said his mother told him his daddy died six months before he was born, and that’s why he had the gift. No other reason and nothing else specifically done to learn his craft. But he was known many places in the world, regularly receiving calls from far-flung places.

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From left to right: Shala Fontenot, Sostain Lemelle, Becca Begnaud and Carla Woody.

I experienced his work myself. We sat knee to knee in that kitchen, TV going in the background, as he passed his hands over me and said prayers. I felt an enormous amount of energy, a force moving though my body, flushing out anything that could be out of sorts. Later, I asked him what he felt himself. He smiled and said, “Nothing.” I queried him, was he sure he didn’t experience any sensations, any energy? He smiled even more broadly and insisted, it wasn’t for him, only for the one who sat in front of him. So he didn’t feel anything. About that time there was a knock on the door, someone else showed up for healing. We placed the chicken we’d brought on the kitchen table, thanked him profusely and left.

Mr. Lemelle, a sweet humble man, passed this life in August 2014. He was kindly remembered in the world and left a gap hard to fill. Our unedited interview is below. A bit garbled in the beginning, it’s well worth the listen (27 minutes) and gets clear the more this elder launched into recounting his life.

I’m going to call her Mrs. Benoit, then a 78-year-old traiteur who preferred to remain nameless and didn’t want the actual recording on the Internet. I’m sharing some of her story.

I come from family of 10 and have 10 children of my own. My mother was a traiteur who would treat just two things—the blood and the burns. That was back in the day of the horse and buggy. They would turn into their drive calling out ‘Madame, Madame.’ And my mother would look out the window. If she saw red, then she’d know it was a bad cut. Walking to meet them, she would already be working on the wound. I’d run beside her. I found it fascinating! When my mother got to the buggy they would be squeezing a bandage that was dripping blood. But when they unwrapped it, the wound had closed!

I said, Mama! How did you do that?

She said, it was just prayer. It’s a treatment that was handed down to me from the elders.

Mama, can you teach me?

I’m sorry. I can’t. I can only teach someone of the opposite sex.

So I had to learn from a man or a boy older than me. A woman couldn’t teach me. But they wouldn’t teach me then because I was too young, they’d say. But finally someone taught me at 7 years old. I first learned for the blood. I saw a dog get hit by a car and it was bleeding. I treated him and it stopped immediately. Thank you, Jesus!

I learned one at a time from those who would teach me.

Then my sister-in-law was somewhere and saw this old man. She asked him if something was wrong. He said he was sad because he’d traveled the world and learned all these treatments. But he didn’t have anyone to pass them to.

No one ever asked me, he said. I’d love to meet a woman younger than me who speaks both French and English that I could pass my treatments to her.

She said, Oh my God. This is my sister-in-law’s answered prayer! She’s been praying for years to meet an angel that would tell her treatments from the old days. And she’s never forgotten a treatment she learned.

Thank you, Lord, I said. I called him until he got home. I went and spent 3 days with him. He even taught me the treatment for cancer. When someone needs to come, God sends them.

A woman came to my door. I could hear her coughing before she got there. I said to her, that’s a heart cough. Not a lung cough. She’d just spent 5 days in the hospital, but she was no good. I told her I learned a treatment from an old lady who lived with the Indians. She taught classes, and I went to all of them. I told her, there’s a treatment for that cough you’ve got with some tea. It was blue malva tea. I treat 3 days in a row, pretty much at the same time of day. If they can’t come here I treat them here [long distance]. In 3 days this woman was not coughing. I treated her [with prayer] and she drank that tea.

This lady called me one day when I was doing reflexology. She said [crying], I was making some roux and the pot fell on my shoulder. It burned so bad! There’s nobody around! I’m by myself! Can you treat me?  

This lady I was working on [with reflexology] was a very religious lady. I said, we’re going to treat you. We’re going to pray for you. Me and my friend are going to hold hands. And I’m going to pretend to hold your hand. Did you remove that roux on your shoulder?

Yes, but it burns so! It burns through my body!

I asked the lady to pray with me for the burn. We did it 3 times. She had stopped crying. We did it 3 more times. She came and showed me the next day. It didn’t even blister. I’m overwhelmed when I see something like that! She said when we stopped praying it was no longer there! So it works.

Rebecca Henry is known as a Creole folklorist who runs the Creole Heritage Folklife Center in Opelousas. Located in an old home, it contains items from the early parts of the last century that document African American life of the times. But Mrs. Henry is also a traiteur, and certainly a clairvoyant. Unsolicited, she told me things about myself that she had no way of knowing. I regret not writing them down. While she gave permission for me to record our conversation, and openly spoke of hidden things the others hadn’t, I could see she wasn’t sure about my motives. And even though the recorder batteries had plenty of juice, the record light was on…and even tested prior to beginning our discussion in earnest…when I went to listen to it later, nothing was there. Blank. I tell you this was one powerful woman that I look forward to visiting again.

I have a very strong pull to spend more time in that region. The folks there were liberal with their storytelling. Still, I have the distinct sense that the stories proffered were an invitation to go deeper. I’ve been in such places before. I recognize the waters running there.

 

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Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Healing, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: A Chosen Exile

ChosenExileThere have been any number of books that exposed the horrors of slavery in America. But few have focused on a particular segment of slaves and descendants of slaves: those whose race is mixed to the degree it’s largely undetermined. In slavery times, these were the children produced from union by a black mother, usually not consensual, and a white slaveholder father. This is a history on racial “passing” into white society, how it was accomplished, the weight of that choice and any relevance today.

A Chosen Exile is full of examples of those who made the transition to living as white in white (usually urban) communities, those who were discovered and returned to slavery, and those who were mistaken as white but openly identified as black ⎯ and made a point of correction.  Importantly, it goes into the emotional sacrifice of turning away from a part of yourself and disconnecting from family. That’s the payment extracted in the hopes of gaining a leg up, to live with dignity, to feed a family, to do more than just survive. The choice didn’t stop with the end of slavery but continued well into the 20th century.

One story detailed the escape of slaves Ellen Craft and her husband William. William said he came up with the complex plan.

It occurred to me that, as my wife was nearly white, I might get her to disguise herself as an invalid, and assume to be my master, while I could attend as his slave, and that in this manner we might effect our escape.

But it was Ellen who made her transformation so successfully to white southern gentleman. It worked to the point that, on the way to Philadelphia, young southern women fell all over Ellen saying what a “most respectable looking gentleman.” News of their method soon trickled southward, became legend and was replicated to varying degrees.

The term “racial ambiguity” is frequently used in the book. First to identify those of mixed race, but finally pointing to a larger meaning: when “passing” is no longer even relevant.

Highly recommend this book. It goes into great depth on the meaning of race, identity, loss and the need to thrive. Even though political backlash and racial tragedies are the consistent news of this day, through the details presented in A Chosen Exile, still I witness our slow march to freedom for all people.

I found my copy at the public library. Otherwise available on Amazon and elsewhere books are sold.

 

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Mama Coca and a Story of Intent

In 2009 when I heard a reporter on NPR infer that the Indigenous peoples of the Andes were addicts because they use coca, a nutrient in its natural form, I was incensed. I was compelled to speak out in my newsletter and again years later on this blog. We have too many incidents of dominant cultures misunderstanding those who are different than their own, supporting marginalization.

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I met dear friends Dr. Emma Cucchi Luini, a humanitarian doctor who modeled herself after Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Christo Deneumostier Grill, her research partner, in 2001. Finally, their legacy is receiving more recognition. The Coca Museum in the San Blas District of Cusco is the location of what was their second storefront K’uychiwasi Qosqo. The original storefront was located within the walls of Koricancha in Cusco.

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Without their dream and persistent research, alternative coca products like candies, soaps, even ice cream, would not be flourishing all over Peru now. All were derived from Emma’s and Christo’s determination and products to give coca farmers other choices than dealing with narco traffickers or the Peruvian government who paid them a pittance for their crops. They won the coveted Slow Food Award in 2002. Others took notice and started copying their products. Although, in my opinion, none of them match the quality of those from K’uychiwasi. In the process though, nutritional coca products are more available for wider consumption.

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Both Emma and Christo have gone on to other things having accomplished their mission of training the Quechua staff to take over, and encouraging the product spread as they did. But the story of their beginnings should not be forgotten. It’s one of strong intent in the face of much adversity. For that reason, I documented it in my 2004 book Standing Stark. I’m sharing an excerpt here.

…The bulletin board on the wall just outside the tiny shop front had some very detailed information posted about preventing high-altitude sickness. Alongside was an article on Coca-Cola. I thought it mighty strange that a display partnered the story of the evolution of a commercial product with data on medical advice. Then I realized that the common denominator was the use of the coca leaf. The sign over the door said K’uychiwasi Qosqo, Rainbow House of Cusco. Curious, I glanced inside the small space and was invited in by the brightly colored wares…

 A diminutive woman wearing clothing that seemed to swamp her small frame and a large brimmed black hat covered with folk art pins busied herself with something behind the counter. As I walked in, she glanced up, immediately broke into a big smile, her eyes, crinkling up behind wire-rimmed glasses, greeting me. I took a leisurely turn through the shop looking at cookies, candies, teas and artwork. By then, my friend had caught up with me and came in to investigate as well.

Seeing our apparent interest, Emma Cucchi Luini introduced herself and began to tell us of K’uychiwasi Qosqo’s mission. The central purpose of this nonprofit organization was to educate about the uses of the coca leaf and its connection to the Andean culture. Actually, rather than connection, Emma emphasized that the coca leaf was the backbone of this ancient tradition, its practices and health of the native people.

Beleaguered with the discovery of a chemical extraction known as cocaine, the sacred coca leaf is now being threatened with extinction. Through tighter and tighter governmental controls and concurrent illicit operations, the simple coca farmer has been squeezed. Trying to scratch out a meager existence raising the same crops their ancestors have raised for centuries, these people are being directly affected by an encroaching Western culture in which a number of people substitute nose candy and greed for real experience.

In the last couple of decades, the national governments of Peru and Bolivia, pushed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, have targeted the coca leaf as the enemy, totally disregarding its cultural and quite innocent, but important, use by the indigenous peoples. The chewing of coca leaves is standard practice among the natives in the Andes, not to give them a high, but to increase their stamina for living and working in an environment that is often very difficult. Instead of inducing any undue alteration in their normal consciousness, which the coca leaf cannot relay at all in its natural form, its nutritional makeup provides them with energy and a plethora of nutrients not as available elsewhere in their sparse diet. Also ignored is its elevated status in the spiritual traditions and rituals of the Andean Indians. Mama Coca is the plant spirit invoked and Her leaves used in divinations, blessings and ceremonies. An analogy would be the chalice of wine symbolizing the blood of Christ in the communion ritual of many Christian religions.

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As Emma so aptly put it, “There are many, many alcoholics in the world. Do they destroy the grape?”

That question certainly does make one think, particularly relative to what other motivations, political or otherwise, could possibly exist for the shortsighted methods used for eradicating cocaine trafficking through a focus on coca crops…

…Enter Emma. With the in-country support of two Dominican friars, this Italian woman founded K’uychiwasi Qosqo in 1999. Christo Deneumostier Grill, a young Peruvian man, has since joined her in her efforts. In addition to educating about the traditional and medicinal uses, they research new ways to use the coca leaf.  In their quarters they help women, girls and young men in need by training them to produce cookies, candy and folk art using the coca leaf as an ingredient. They look forward to eventually create additional goods such as soaps…

…Emma and Christo are currently making small but painstaking steps within the bureaucracy of the Peruvian government toward wider distribution of their coca wares, the regulation of coca being tremendously tight. The only export of the leaf currently allowed is to the Coca-Cola Corporation in the United States. Ultimately, the success of Emma and Christo will benefit the Andean culture and help to maintain the growing of the coca leaf by offering products to be used by mainstream society.

As she finished her monologue, Emma shrugged and opened her hands in a characteristically Italian way and said, “I’m Italian. This cause doesn’t even belong to me.”

Reviewing our encounter in my mind later, I thought to myself, “This is a cause that belongs to the world. It belongs to us all. Emma chose to take it up.”

StandingCover72Emma’s story continued with a recounting of her remarkable life and humanitarian service that took her to dangerous, remote areas in Haiti, Sudan and Bolivia. It was deep in the jungles of Bolivia that she first met the coca farmers who befriended her and further informed her path. They educated her in the chewing of coca and told her of their difficult lives. When she became their outspoken advocate she was thrown in jail in La Paz, beaten and deported to Italy. But that didn’t stop her.

Both Emma and Christo embodied intent and humility. To me, they’re primary examples of the many unsung heroes the world over who believe in something and get it done.

For the complete story and others on the path of intent, read Standing Stark.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Rights, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review – Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk

Years ago I began to read books by researchers challenging the resurrection of Jesus as traditionally depicted in the Christian faith, as well as the role Mary Magdalen played in Jesus’ life. So when I stumbled upon the BBC documentary Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk, I was naturally drawn.

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Prophet Series: Warrior of the Spirit. ©2013 Carla Woody                  

It asks questions that, for some, would be considered heresies around the resurrection:

Would a man really die after only 6 hours on a cross (when it would normally take several days)?

Was he drugged?

Was he rescued?

If he didn’t die, where did he go?

Then the film methodically goes into the politics of the times, why a resurrection story might be a strategic means to an end, legends and historical references of Jesus’ appearances in other parts of the world after the crucifixion. The viewer is asked to contemplate the boat that landed on the shores of Southern France, the Cathars and findings of the Knights Templar. And what of a man named Issa, a long life in Kashmir and a burial site in Srinagar?

The documentary does a neat job of asking the questions that deliver answers depending on your perspective. And, if you’re so inclined, follow the threads to additional research.

Available for free streaming on You Tube. 49 minutes.

Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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