Posts Tagged With: indigenous healing practices

Thomas Hatathli: The Everyday Life of a Diné Medicine Man, Part II

At the end of the evening introduction to sacred Diné ways, Thomas Hatathli talked briefly about the Blessingway Ceremony he would offer the next day. He spoke of it as a cleansing, a restoration to full health, life-affirming choices and connection to all beings. Through song and prayer the ritual would provide a channel for healing.

I stood and asked Thomas if there was a way we all could best prepare and be ready for the next day’s ceremony. He said simply, “Just be you.”

I waited until he was free, then talked to Thomas privately. “I asked that question for myself. I’ve just returned from Peru. I was in a Q’ero village where I have relationships and learned of a death. I think I’m carrying a lot of grief.” I told him only that.

During time in the village in my role of group leader, I wasn’t able to really process the tragic story I’d been told of a young mother’s sudden, recent death and the devastating effect I witnessed on the dad and very young ones she left behind. Ever since, images had continually played in my mind of the event I never saw—haunting me. I couldn’t shake them, and I was experiencing a physical impact that was getting worse.

He gazed directly into my eyes. Perhaps beyond me, too. “Do you want to be my patient tomorrow?”

I wasn’t expecting this explicit invitation. I nodded yes.

“Then sit beside me tomorrow.” He asked no questions, nothing causing me to replay the painful moments.

The next day we gathered again at North Mountain Visitor Center, which backs up to the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. I found Thomas outside at the small amphitheater that opened to the land, already preparing himself.  He said this round place was a good one. At home he holds ceremonies in a hogan.

As he’d asked, I sat next to him. Others assembled in a loose circle. He took a small rug and woven cloth from a bag and laid both on the ground in front of him, one on top of the other. As he readied the space, he spoke about the turning basket he placed in the middle, the significance of the circle around its perimeter. There was a break in the circle where anything that was not life-affirming could be released to the east. He noted that some patients were afraid to let go and needed encouragement. He’d made sure to place the turning basket with its break to the east, the same as a hogan’s doorway.

Turning basket

Example of a turning basket.

Thomas inherited this turning basket from his grandfather who was a medicine man. It had to be over a hundred years old. I could only imagine how many ceremonies it had seen and the power it held. Even as the formal ceremony had yet to begin, I felt its energy reaching for us. We all were invited to place items—sacred bundles, jewelry, stones—in the turning basket; the purpose to represent each of us in this ritual, to clear any traumas or aspect out of balance.

Thomas talked about the sequence of ancient songs he would sing, the meaning of each one. The Mountain Song would come first, calling in the benevolent spirits of sacred mountains to provide protection and healing. Next would come the song he sang for himself, asking for the strength and capabilities required to sing the songs and make the prayers. The Bluebird Song was one to bring in happiness. The Returning Home Song was about returning home, to the natural order, coming home to your true Self. The prayers would come next, twelve of them.

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. At points periodically I experienced a lifting sensation as though leaving my body and thought it would fall over backwards. Somehow I remained upright. Every now and then my ears popped.

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.

Thomas handed me the feathered female medicine stick to hold in my left hand and a small deerskin bundle that held dirt from the Sacred Mountain for my right hand.  As I received them extraordinary energy washed over me and I knew their power, recognized how many people had held them as I was now. The Blessingway prayers began, a continual chant until complete.

He directed me to press the medicine stick and bundle up and down both legs, then the rest of my body. Pressing them to my face would cleanse the senses and perception. To my head, purified the mind.

Thomas went to the fire made earlier and threw herbs upon the flames, a further prayer for happiness and blessings. We all went up and made an offering of corn meal. The Blessingway Ceremony came to a close.

Post Blessingway Ceremony

Post Blessingway Ceremony.

I remained seated outside for some time while others drifted back inside where we would share a meal. I didn’t trust my ability to walk. I wasn’t yet fully back in the material world. And I was assessing my state. I felt different, as though something had lifted. I was much lighter.

Three hours had passed as though mere minutes. We’d been encapsulated in a timeless bubble as the world around us went on. A short distance away people were on the preserve’s hiking trails. The parking lot had been full. I’d heard nothing but the cadence of Thomas’ words moving on the air. I felt nothing but the energy coursing through my body, taking me somewhere, and only a slight warmth from the sun. Not its increasing strength as it followed its path across the sky.

Naomi Tsosie had stayed behind, too. During the ceremony, she and a few other Diné women who were present sang softly, barely a beat behind Thomas. I later learned that these echoes are sustenance to the Chanter providing strength for them to continue, sometimes many hours or even days depending on the need.

Naomi came over to me. She gave me a sacred gift that I will always treasure. I understand the meaning. I only wish I hadn’t been so altered and could have expressed adequately how her action and kind words truly touched my heart.

Thomas knows over 500 hundred songs. He retains them in his mind, passed to him orally, not to be written down. Each having their own purpose to be drawn upon depending on the needs of the patient.

That day we experienced an abbreviated version of the Blessingway Ceremony by necessity of the circumstances. I truly get how this is a way of healing. It has had a lasting effect on my state of being, emotionally and physically.

Thomas’ level of impeccability—the care in which he spoke his words, the seamless way I absorbed their deeper meaning, how I felt the medicine he delivered—is a rarity. He would never say so himself…but I believe we were in the presence of a true Holy Man.

 ***

This is Part Two of a two-part article. To read Part One, go here.

To learn more on the Blessingway Ceremony, go here.

I wish to acknowledge Ruth Harrison, Kimberly Ewing, Nathan Shannon and Norm Meier who were present and contributed their memories of our time with Thomas, filling in where my own memory gapped.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Thomas Hatathli: The Everyday Life of a Diné Medicine Man, Part I

In the old days there existed 200 or more traditional Diné healers.* “Now,” Thomas Hatathli told us, “There are only 30 to 40.” As I listened to Thomas’ words my heart felt a tug of sadness to be hearing again what I’ve heard so often—directly from the Indigenous healers themselves. And I imagined what it’s like to be one of a dwindling few, and perhaps the only one left in some cases, who dedicate their lives to the wholeness of their people and the planet, living the ancient principles every day.

We’re honored that Thomas accepted our invitation to share some of the work he does as a traditional healer of his people.** Tall and spare, Thomas radiates a quiet strength. He began with a prayer. Then he introduced himself by citing his clan relations, adding, “This is who I am. I know I’m never alone.” And I got the true understanding that knowing your origins, stretching back centuries, gives of itself to spiritual grounding.

Thomas HatathliPerhaps Thomas was preordained to be a medicine man by virtue of the Diné meaning of his last name and precedent set by his grandfather. But Thomas didn’t always follow that path. It wasn’t until, after being away at college, when he came home to find his family’s livestock gone—taken from them by the Federal Government—the family forced by the same to uproot from their ancestral lands and move across Arizona, to enter into homelessness while they awaited the allotted acre and house…that he made a decision. His family was devastated. His people suffered. Mental and physical health were dramatically impacted. Spiritual grounding detached itself to be replaced by the worst influences. ***

For the next four years, Thomas dogged the heels of his cousin, already a medicine man, learning the songs, prayers and rituals, the teachings of his ancestors. Until finally, he was ordained as a healer and Blessingway Chanter. That was more than 25 years ago.

He retains little time as his own. Weekdays he works as a mental health specialist at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center. And nearly every day people come looking for him, asking him to sing the songs and release the prayers that bring healing. Thomas freely gives of himself to do so. Nights and weekends are not his but theirs. To maintain balance, he runs. Thomas has run 16 Boston Marathons—soon his 58th marathon total. He shows no signs of slowing down.

That evening he dispensed pragmatic wisdom in an unassuming way, just stated fact. And even though I’d heard what he said before, presented in any number of ways, his way slipped in to find a home. Much of what he offered was about gratitude and presence, making good choices—the underpinnings of a healthy life in all ways.

He spoke of chewing his food in gratitude and what’s best for the body…

When I chew my food I taste it. I enjoy it. I break the food down to give my stomach a break. In this way I conserve my energy for when it’s needed.

The body needs movement to be healthy. People say they don’t have time.

When he spoke of people leaving their traditions in favor of technology and assimilating into Western culture…

 Go forward but reach back.

Of the ancient prayers and songs orally handed down to him…

When I pray it’s a thousand years of wisdom coming through my mouth.

As the end of the evening came to a close, he spoke of the Blessingway Ceremony he would lead the next morning. I stood and asked, “As this will be a healing ceremony, is there a way we can best prepare ourselves for tomorrow?”

He answered…

 Just be you.

His practical spirituality is comforting. And it’s evident his life is one of alignment to core values, to family and community. Yet it’s also true his life is one of great sacrifice—one he chooses.

Nothing good comes easy. We need to appreciate effort.

True medicine men don’t choose that path. It chooses them. It means relinquishing an everyday life and surrendering to sacrifice, one that ultimately works at a global level.

 ***

This is Part One of a two-part article. Part Two is on the Blessingway Ceremony in which I was the patient seeking to return to the natural order offered through these songs, prayers and rituals. Read Part Two.

I wish to express gratitude to the Native people who attended this offering and showed respect to this Elder: Naomi Tsosie, Lucilia Benally, De Alva Ward, Ron Interpreter and Sam Hogue. I also acknowledge Ruth Harrison, Kimberly Ewing, Nathan Shannon and Norm Meier who were present and contributed their memories of our time with Thomas, filling in where my own memory gapped.

 ***

 *The name Diné means “The People” in their own language. By the 1600s the Spanish began calling them Navajo derived from the Tewa-Pueblo word for “great planted fields.”

**Twice a year Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsors an educational outreach program for the general public in which participants can learn and experience the teachings of Indigenous peoples from spiritual leaders and healers who serve their community. We call it the Spirit Keepers Series.

***To gain an understanding of the devastation wrought from The Long Walk in the 1860s, the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act, the forced boarding schools and acts in-between, the residual trauma which extends all the way to present time for Diné and Hopi alike, read A Historical Overview of the Navajo Relocation published by Cultural Survival.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Unborn, the Ancestors

Little girl…little boy. You, the leaf! You, the new branch! Listen to me. Listen to this song I have. A word I have…a speech. You must be dreaming. You must be sleeping. Are you tired? Can I speak to you? Are you tired? Are you dreaming?

I want to talk to you. I have a word from my heart to you. Would you want to talk to me? Would you want to move?

You are the reason my heart is alive! You are the reason my life is complete!

In a lilting voice he gently coaxed then paused, just as his lineage had for centuries. He sought a cue, maybe movement, to let him know he’d made a connection.

From the beginning of March, I’d traveled with Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew to Kansas, Hopi and elsewhere around Arizona. Between journeys I was privileged to host him in my home. Now we were in the last days of the month, he stood—delicately poised in traditional dress, eyes half closed, an arm lifted, hand upturned—at the front of the room. The rest of us seated, in a meditative state.

Huichol composer-musician Xavier Quijas Yxayotl played his flute softly in the background, his music framing Apab’yan’s words. Monita Lynn Baker joined in with just the appropriate bit of percussion. I’d invited Xavier to our Spirit Keepers Series gathering at North Mountain Visitors Center in Phoenix to reconnect with Apab’yan. They hadn’t seen each other in 25 years. Their ritual music-dance teachers were friends but both had long passed.

Apab’yan had spoken at length on K’iche’ Maya worldview—originating from the Guatemalan highlands—and his responsibilities as a Daykeeper working with the Cholq’ij calendar. During the course of the evening he revealed that he’d acted as a traditional midwife for the last 16 years. He had a patient with a difficult pregnancy, the baby in a questionable position, awaiting his return home. This mention naturally led into the singing speech we experienced, the intervention meant to guide the baby to reposition on its own in utero, to align correctly with the birth canal.*

The song ended. The room was silent, the energy palpable. I think we must all have been touched in ways indefinable. Perhaps there was something enlivened that had been asleep. Or a dream grounded into this reality. Perhaps there were aspects we each may have carried into this life from our mothers and fathers—inner vulnerabilities—that were soothed, shed. This was a perfect portal to usher us into the fire ceremony the next day.

North Mountain Visitors Center abuts the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The beautiful grounds are pristine, belying its poignant past. It was here, from the 1890s until 1930s, that many Native families camped, attempting to see the children taken from their homes and subjected to forced assimilation at the Phoenix Indian School. Interspersed were the tuberculosis camps in the early 1900s for those seeking the curative properties of dry desert air.

We gathered, in the shadows of the small ampitheatre, and Apab’yan consecrated an altar space where he would guide the fire ceremony. And it was here that he would call upon the ancestors. In his own words

Everything is alive. Everything has a form of communication. Everything has meaning and belongs to a natural system.

The Maya ceremony consists of preparing a ceremonial pyre. It is called a gift but also a payment in the sense of reciprocity. The K’iche’ ceremonial pyre is not a bonfire; it does not burn a long time. It does not need to last. The importance has to do with what happens while the fire is active: There must be a dialogue.

As normal, those assembled took part in the building of the altar, some given special roles. One held the fire stick. Some were called upon to make the first lighting. Two others to pass out candles. And the fire began to burn. Puffing on the ceremonial cigar, Apab’yan called for the Grandmothers-Grandfathers to be present. He made the prayers. Placing candles, we made our own prayers. At long last, the fire started to die down, the conversation coming to completion.

But not yet.

Apab’yan went over to Xavier and Monita, whispering to them. After asking me to lead the circle in holding space, those three walked into the desert. And then…on the air…from the distance…we heard flute and voice rising and falling…singing to the land…to any lingering ghosts of sadness…offering up prayers. And some strange force blew through. It overtook my body. Ever so slowly, involuntarily, my body began to arch backwards until it was in an impossible position. Held. For what seemed like forever. Until it let me go. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Diné woman across the circle crying.

When they re-entered the circle, Apab’yan knelt before her and asked her to ritually bless him with burning sage. That image and the power of it sticks in my mind: Diné woman, Maya man.

The ceremony now closed, the sense of what occurred remained. A communal undertaking. Correctly done. Even as I’m writing this now, I’m feeling into the sacred space…all over again…we all created. I imagine it still hangs in the air in the ampitheatre, the people who pass through wondering what has touched them.

I’ve been in powerful ceremonies before. Fire ceremonies, too. But none ever as compelling as this one. Perhaps it was the culmination of all the energy accumulated from all the ceremonies over a month’s time, carried with us…from Hopi…to private land outside Wichita…to private and public sites in Tucson and finally in Phoenix. And some particularly precious energy remains within my own sanctuary.**

With much respect and gratitude to Apab’yan  and those who showed up in these ritual circles. The journey continues in January in Maya Land with the strength we gathered in March. Anyone drawn is welcome.

Below I’m adding a piece written by Pam Hale Trachta with her own reflections.

 The Power of Ritual and Ceremony

The smoke from the copal grew thicker in the room, as Apab’yan fed the small container fire with the granules of incense, and his prayers. People seated around him and behind him prayed too, mesmerized now by the hypnotic chanting in the Mayan language, punctuated by English phrases so we could all track where the prayers were being directed.

The room was darkened in order to suggest the atmosphere of the caves where this water ceremony is usually performed. A bowl of water resting on the table received the blessing, and participants would eventually be offered sips of it, as in communion. Finally, roses were dipped into the water and used to shake drops of water on all those gathered.

It was a potent blessing, because the intimacy and power of ritual transcends cultures, language differences and even philosophical details. Spirit is Spirit in any language. And the language of Spirit is ceremony.

Water Ceremony

Water Ceremony at Tacheria Interfaith School of Spiritual Direction in Tucson. Photo: Pam Hale Trachta.

Read more

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 * Apab’yan Tew is likely the only male Maya midwife that exists. He knows of no other. Indeed, it’s not traditional. It occurred because, when he was a lost young man wandering in the Guatemala highlands, a Maya midwife took him in. And before long he assisted her in the process. He became her apprentice until he began to birth babies on his own. He remains readily sought after as a midwife. When in the highlands he does everything from the beginning: talks, sings, moves and delivers the baby. In the city, he prepares everything until the point of delivery then sends the mother to the hospital for final delivery by a doctor. This was the case recently in Mexico City. Apab’yan and the mother were able to bypass the difficulties of the pregnancy. She successfully delivered a baby girl.

**With many thanks to the following people and organizations for hosting us and making the March beauty possible:

  • On Hopi: Charlene and Harold Joseph;
  • In Kansas: Lonetta Lollar and John Brack, and Belle Dessa and the Great Plains Earth Institute;
  • Elsewhere in Arizona: Pam Hale Trachta, Frank Williams and Tacheria Interfaith School of Spiritual Direction, Leslie Spencer-Snider and North Mountain Visitors Center, and Cindy Heath.
Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: The Andean Cosmovision

AndeanCosmovision

This is a precious book on a number of levels. First, it is written by a Western man, a dedicated seeker on the Andean path through the teachings of Don Américo Yábar, who has consistently held intent to integrate his learnings back into life at home…and share what he’s discovered over more than twenty years. He touches on some of his struggles to do so coming from a Western intellectual perspective.  This honesty is important. It shows possibility toward core understanding beyond the mind and a way of incorporating it into daily living, an evolutionary process.

I can state these things with confidence having known Oakley Gordon over a very long time, witnessing his process as much as being a fellow traveler on the path. I know his heart. We were introduced to the Andean way through the same spiritual teacher, literally at the same time and place. He has also served on the board of Kenosis Spirit Keepers as Vice-President since our inception.

The book is a primer on Andean worldview. If you want more beyond the introduction, Oakley provides endnotes and anthropological resources. In this book though he writes to you as a friend would, not as an academic. It’s easy to take in and comprehend.

But ultimately it’s a guidebook, a how-to. It’s a compilation of meditations gleaned directly from Don Américo and exposure to other paq’os⎯a general Quechua term for healer, shaman or mystic⎯or created by the author from what he’s learned while in Peru. I don’t think another such book exists. This is important. From my own spiritual travel programs, people periodically express the fear of not being able to recreate the same state of being upon their return home. I share and show them how to do so. But The Andean Cosmovision provides it in print with many different examples to explore with step-by-step instruction.

Oakley states that, although much of the book is taken from the teachings of one specific teacher, he believes any paq’o would validate them. I’ll take it one step further. The tenets covered in this book are found at the core of all Indigenous traditions I’ve worked within: Maya, Hopi and Andean, as well as others where I’ve had exposure.

Highly recommend. Available in print and e-book through Amazon and on Oakley’s website.

♦︎♦︎♦︎

 Oakley will be covering the material in his book during a weekend workshop June 3-5, 2016 in Rockville, Utah to benefit the Heart Walk Foundation who work within the Japu Q’ero villages in the areas of education and agriculture. For more information, click this link to a pdf flyer: Andean Cosmovision Workshop

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Meditation, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Film Review: The Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness

I will tell you up front that this is a difficult film to watch and can bring up all kinds of emotion. But if you’re going to watch it, then do so until the end because toward its finish there is much hope conveyed.

During our recent Spirit Keepers Series held in Phoenix on the subject of PTSD and Native healing ways, I had invited Eli PaintedCrow, an Iraq War veteran of the Yaqui Nation and co-founder of Turtle Women Rising, to take part based on her own experiences and to frame further aspects of our Series. She showed a portion of Wellbriety Journey to Forgiveness, a documentary produced by White Bison, Inc. They’re a Native American-operated 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to culturally-based healing for Indigenous peoples.

The film starts out with a prophecy given by the Old Ones about the light skins who would arrive, create confusion and great destruction. How everything would be taken from the Native American but their spirituality. There would be tremendous suffering, genocide and a time of testing. But opportunity for healing would present itself. After this time of healing, the buffalo, Native people and all manner of sustenance would return. Harmony would prevail. Native people believe that we entered this time of healing in the early 1990s.

This is the story of that destruction, particularly centered on boarding schools and their effect. If you’re not familiar, in 1879 the first Indian boarding school was opened in New Carlisle, PA. Native children were forcibly taken from their families and shipped off to such schools around the US where they were stripped of their language and anything having to do with their culture. They endured ongoing violence and humiliation in silence—many didn’t survive—and it had horribly detrimental effects reaching all the way to today. This is called intergenerational trauma, certainly a form of PTSD.

As a part of the Wellbriety Movement, Native organizers undertook a 7000-mile journey all over the US to give Elders and their children a chance to tell their stories, perhaps for the first time, and express grief. In this undertaking they hoped to break the cycle of addiction and violence, begin the road to forgiveness and a return to spiritual traditions. The film covers Native values and how to live in harmony as taught by the Old Ones, along with a model called the Four Directions of Forgiveness and a call to Greater Purpose.

This is an extremely powerful film and could be called the Schindler’s List for Native Americans. It was created as an Indian Give-Away by White Bison for purposes of truth-telling and healing.

Whether you have Indigenous members in your family line who suffered the atrocities, have ancestors who perpetrated any part of it, or are born of mixed blood as many of us are…the message presented here is relevant to all. The effects of genocide, abuse and shame are equally carried through the family line. This is a film for anyone whose ancestors have experienced anything of the like. That doesn’t leave out many people on the planet.

This is a move for truth—no more secrets—and healing accomplished when we live in harmony as the Old Ones taught. Seeing the complete film instilled even more significance to me in how I personally live and greater understanding of the important work Kenosis Spirit Keepers does, even if we reach only a few.

This is a film for the Next Seven Generations. Critical mass is important. View the film for free on You Tube and share widely. Length: 1 hour, 13 minutes. Also visit White Bison to learn of their healing institution and classes.

Categories: cultural interests, Film, Healing, Indigenous Rights | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Video: Coyote Medicine with Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD

In January 2015 Kenosis Spirit Keepers was pleased to collaborate with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health to bring Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD, to Baltimore to speak on Coyote Medicine: Lessons in Native American Healing. Dr. Mehl-Madrona, Lakota-Cherokee author of the Coyote Trilogy, shared about historical trauma, lessons about community healing and resilience that come from Native communities.

We were able to video his presentation and offer it to you here. Enjoy…

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Special Notice: Coyote Medicine with Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

SPECIAL NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce our special collaboration with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health bringing Coyote Medicine with Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD to Baltimore for a free public talk, January 15, 12 noon-1:15 p.m.

Dr. Mehl-Madrona, Lakota-Cherokee author of the Coyote Trilogy, will share about historical trauma, lessons about community healing and resilience that come from Native communities.

Location: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room 1020.

To reserve your space contact Nicole Pare, John Hopkins University, npare1@jhu.edu or phone 410-955-6931.

KSKMehlMadrona2-page-0

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With special thanks to Mike Weddle, MD, KSK Board Member, and Dr. Allison Barlow, Associate Director, John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, in their efforts to make this event possible.

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Film Review: Q’ero Mystics of Peru

Seti Gershberg has produced an important documentary containing key elements for Westerners to fathom the mysticism of the Peruvian Andes: the descendants of the Inka who embody it, their history and traditions. The film is rich with interviews of Q’ero mystics and breathtaking vistas that perfectly enveloped this viewer, taking me back to all the times I sat in circle with these beautiful people. The energy they carry came through the screen.

We are offered teachings from the Q’ero worldview about interconnection, the inherent birthright of prosperity for all—not just a few—and how ayni, or sacred reciprocity, creates flow and balance. The Q’ero people are living examples, incarnating the natural laws that we all must embrace for global transformation. Segments show despacho ceremonies offering gratitude to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (mountain spirits), and blessing prayers. How lightning is a message from the Apus signaling an individual’s role and healing methods are disclosed.

Paq’os (shamans) outline initiations and practices for the life of a healer and mystic—how the process happens over years of commitment, often with strong challenges. One young paq’o describes how, in earlier years, he helped gather materials for the despacho. Then at fourteen he assisted in the making, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he was deemed ready to do them on his own. I was personally glad to see this distinction included. Hopefully, it conveys to a Western audience that such a path does not happen in a weekend workshop; nor is it a romantic undertaking but one of humility and sacrifice to community.

Juan Núñez del Prado, Joan Parisi Wilcox, Elizabeth Jenkins, Holly Wissler and J.E. Williams share their understanding from an outside perspective as scholars and authors but also as practitioners of Andean Cosmovision.

The Q’ero are a people of dynastic lineage and strength, who only within the past sixty years have broken out of indentured servitude, having maintained their core identity throughout. These words are spoken during interviews:

 Our work is sacred.

We will not forget or lose this knowledge.

 Q’ero Mystics of Peru came at an opportune time, just as I’m preparing to return to Peru to be with Q’ero friends in the village of Ccochamocco for an unprecedented occurrence during The Heart of the Andes. Hopi Elder Harold Joseph from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, is accompanying us, as an emissary of his religious leader, to seek prayers for the preservation of Hopi traditions. He says: The Q’ero spiritual leaders are strong in their prayers. So they are.

I personally thank Seti Gershberg for documenting the wisdom of the Q’ero Nation so effectively.

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In Memoriam: Don Miguelito – Paq’o and Spiritual Guardian

A star shines more brightly now. A week ago I received word that Don Miguelito—pa’qo and ever-present guardian of Salk’awasi—transitioned this planet and took his place in the sky.*

I write this to honor him. He touched a multitude of people, both literally and figuratively, in his 90-plus years. For sure, all the people who traveled with me in Peru will not have forgotten him. Memories of him are carried within us.

Maria and Miguelito

Doña Maria and Don Miguelito, 1996.
Photo: Carla Woody

Looking back I realize the many things I learned from him over the years. I never knew the kind of things that are common if we’ve known someone long: his last name, if he’d had a wife or children, if he was born in the village of Mollamarka above where he’d lived. He was a solitary fixture, sometimes appearing in front of his small adobe, hand in his coca bag, when visitors arrived at Salk’awasi. Watching.

But I did know that witches from the small village on the next mountain made their way over to consult with him periodically. We called him Miguelito, an affectionate diminutive, which did not at all express the power he held. Although, it did note his small physical stature. I’d be surprised if he’d brushed 58 inches. He did not demand recognition as some do. He was not flamboyant. He spoke few words. Yet, if you paid attention, you’d be aware of the teachings he conveyed.

If you were fooled by appearances, you’d think he was the gardener. In worn, simple clothing, we’d see him raking one of the many paths that wind through the compound with a handful of branches. He built magic ‘rooms’ where given opportunity by a fallen tree and nearby vines to drape. He kept the flowers

Miguelito 2011

Don Miguelito, 2011
Photo: Bobbie Owens

neat. In his last years, he tended them less. The land suffered his absence, going back to nature—perhaps symbolizing Miguelito’s own symbiotic journey. Nevertheless, he touched the Pachamama, Mother Earth, and created sacred containers, leaving his imprint on the land that will never dissipate.

It was only during certain times that his outward appearance gave a hint of who he really was. We would invite him to the circle. He would come—always at night—dressed in full regalia: brightly colored poncho and hat, carrying his mesa.** We’d make sure he had a small table on which to open his mesa, candlelight and pisco to refresh himself. Contained in his mesa were coca leaves for divinations and smooth black stones that had been struck by lightning. He used them for limpia.***

Miguelito had been struck by lightning himself—twice—a known shamanic initiation in many indigenous traditions. He ran his lightning stones over our bodies removing hucha, or heavy energy.

His coca readings were spot on, seeing things in us that we needed to attend to in order to further the journey and foretold futures perhaps not even a blip on our own radar yet. The coca leaves told him so. My own first experience with Miguelito is forever emblazoned in my mind. I was a real newbie, not really knowing which end was up, feeling my way on an invisible-to-me path. I wrote about it in my first book Calling Our Spirits Home. A bit is excerpted here.

Miguelito was bent trance-like over the leaves, sifting them with his gnarly fingers, muttering under his breath…he picked up a few coca leaves and began chewing them…he spit them out on the table. Moving his hands…he seemed to be noting where the pieces fell…he began to speak…Stopping, he turned and looked me directly in the eyes as though searching for something…Miguelito’s words [translated from Quechua] seemed quite unlikely to me. ‘That storm we had the other night?’ I nodded. How could I not recall it? I had started awake in the middle of the night…Lightning lit up the room from its savage dance across the mountaintops right outside my window…’The lightning was for you and its filaments are inside you now. I’m surprised that it was for you.’ No more surprised than I was, unclear of his meaning…Abruptly, he got up from his chair, came over to me and started rooting through the hair on top of my head with his fingers. ‘Ah, there’s where it went in.’ Seeming now satisfied with his finding he sat back down.

Miguelito 2009

Don Miguelito, 2009
Photo: Shelley Wolfe

He went on to tell me of the work I would begin to do, a large part of it bringing groups to Peru with spiritual intent. That was in 1996. Indeed, the reading held true and has evolved from there to include other Indigenous traditions and countries. The last reading I had with Miguelito was in 2011 when he told me that my work would continue to be difficult. This was not something I wanted to hear but recognized what is typically so when anyone is going against the grain of the status quo and mainstream culture. My intent is in holding the challenges lightly.

Miguelito was not afraid of being blunt. In fact, he used no filters in advising what was causing obstructions. Sometimes I saw people wince. It was always interesting to me in that the same issues would come up for the person to deal with during our travels. He also instituted healings. I wrote of one in the recent post Collective Resonance and Healing how the jungle absorbed a woman’s chronic condition.

He was often out in the dead of night. Perhaps he was communing with the mountains, stars and planets, perhaps spirits that best showed themselves in the wee hours. Now he may show himself in just that way.

On June 23rd I wrote my longtime friend Oscar Panizo and told him of the news none of us wanted to hear. He wrote back, “The glaciers are melting and the times are a-changing. Salk’a energy is returning home.”

So he has.

The Coca Reader

The Coca Reader
Oil on canvas
©2011 Carla Woody

*****

*Paq’o is the word for shaman in Quechua. Salk’awasi is the ancestral home of Peruvian mystic Don Américo Yábar. Salk’a means undomesticed energy. Wasi is place or house.

**Mesa is the Spanish word used for medicine bundle.

***Limpia is the Spanish word used for rituals working with clearing energy in and around the body.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with Video)

I’m coming up on the nine-year anniversary of an occurrence so significant that I wanted to share it with you, giving it the special transmission it deserves. In numerology, a secret fascination of mine, the number nine is related to convergence of the three worlds—matter, mind, spirit—holy mission, creation, harmony, rhythm and development. Its meaning is given sanctified space in such religious doctrine as the Kabbalah and Bible, and elevated across a number of cultures: Maya, Egyptian, Greek and more.

Nine years ago outside Cusco something unusual happened that continues to unfold all these years later. In July 2006 during my spiritual travel program in Peru, we were gathered with Q’ero spiritual leaders for ceremony at the edge of Huaypo Lake. We had just come to closure, the despacho burning, prayers ascending…when Q’ero friends began murmuring amongst themselves. Some were pointing directly overhead. A condor and eagle were flying together.

And in the minutes that followed, an inspiration came to me: the compelling urge to somehow start bringing Native people from the US Southwest for intimate circles with their counterparts south. I say “somehow” because I knew no Native people in my home area at the time. Also understand, at the time, I’d never heard of the Condor and Eagle Prophecy.

Long story short: I came home from that journey with a vision. Synchronicities occurred. The next summer I returned to Peru bringing David and Clarence Washington, a Hopi father and son from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona. More Q’ero Wisdom Keepers gathered with us than ever before until we numbered nearly forty. That journey had incredible affect on us all, especially David and Clarence.

Coming home, I endured intense labor pains to establish Kenosis Spirit Keepers as the nonprofit extension of Kenosis. Anyone who has done this knows what hoops the IRS makes you jump through. It isn’t pretty. I couldn’t have done it without the support of our fledgling board, particularly Doug Easterling and Lucinda Brogden who knew the territory. I didn’t. In October 2007 we became a legitimate nonprofit whose mission helps to preserve threatened Indigenous traditions.

In 2008 Hopi elder Harold Joseph came as our guest to clear the way for other Hopis to safely follow, returning along their migration paths, in the manner given him by the secret society he belongs to. Quietly, he would move away from the group or stay behind while others went on, just for a few minutes then rejoin us. In a number of those places we traveled through in the Cusco and Puno regions that summer, Harold recognized symbols—in a Pachamama cave, in the way the stones were placed in an Inca wall, something carved and almost hidden, in the eagles flying alongside us—which created validation for him.

Harold also paved the way in the highlands and lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. In 2009 his meeting and offerings to Don Antonio Martinez, Lacandón Maya elder in the tiny rainforest village of Najá, came at a vulnerable time—and made a difference. That story and the effect that followed was published by Sacred Fire Magazine in Fall 2012 and may be downloaded.

Since that time, we have sponsored a number of traditional Hopi Spirit Keepers on programs in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. With the help of Hopi friends, I’ve started a program in their home villages. Anyone who is drawn may participate and also support preservation.*

In this ninth year from that flight of the condor and eagle and the birth of my personal vision, I’m pleased to offer a video documenting spiritual travel programs with Native leaders and healers from Summer 2007 through Spring 2014.**

 

 In October 2014 Harold returns to Peru with us. Once again he is acting as the emissary of his religious leader, Lee Wayne Lomayestewa. But this time it’s to seek prayers from the Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuation of the traditional Hopi way of life, now very much threatened. Council will be held in the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco.

Lorna Joseph from Shungopavi will be joining us in January 2015 for our Maya Mysteries program in Chiapas, Mexico. She has heard the stories from those Tribal members who have traveled with us. Now she wants to experience her southern relations personally and what comes from overlapping creation stories. Such validation creates spiritual strength.

The number nine also symbolizes the human gestation period. I never could have predicted all that has occurred since that time I was sitting in circle with Q’ero spiritual leaders in 2006. I had no preconceived notion. Nor do I now.

And yet…I sense we are again upon another threshold with this work. I can feel it. And I invite anyone who wants to be part of it, holding intent, to stand beside me with integrity, and take the step.

We look for the burning bush. But truly, it’s the subtle, quiet moments that open us…

 ☀ Individuals from different cultures share a meal and discover camaraderie, even though they don’t understand each other’s spoken language.

☀ Two Indigenous people, with common ancestors, put their heads together and compare notes.

☀ A brown hand is extended to a white hand to offer help up a steep trail.

 Then the recognition comes: You are my brothers and sisters!

*****

*A portion of tuitions for spiritual travel programs are tax-deductible to fund these efforts. Early registration discount for the October 24-November 2, 2014 Heart of the Andes program ends June 20. Early registration discount for the January 18-28, 2015 Entering the Maya Mysteries program ends September 12.

** Thanks so much to Sunny Heartley who composed and produced the soundtrack for this video with his beautiful Native flute music. Visit his website.

Categories: Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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