Posts Tagged With: indigenous healing practices

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.

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 undomesticated 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!

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*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

Collective Resonance and Healing

In Indigenous Peru, they have a way of speaking about reality that I find to be true, and a useful way to understand consciousness: There’s a left side and right side. To be clear, it’s not about the left side and right side of the brain—but rather dimensions of existence.

The right side is the everyday world, those aspects that are cultural and hierarchical. It’s anything you can physically touch, any construct of the mind—technique or ritual—ordinary reality held together by domesticated energy.

The left side is the free-floating site of the Great Mystery, the morphogenetic field, seat of creation, where intent resides. It’s non-ordinary reality containing the undomesticated energy that Quechua people call salk’a.

During spiritual travel programs I’ve sponsored in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Hopi, there’s consistent evidence for the power of focusing on the left side to create emotional and even physical healing. This is often so outside ceremony, or when there’s been no direct intervention. It may seem as though we’re doing somewhat ordinary things: eating together, sitting on the Earth, even traveling in a vehicle. But everything is occurring—unseen to everyday eyes.

When the collective desire of a group joins with the strong intent of one who offers the container, it has significant implications. An entrainment process develops. The transformation is self-organized on the left side and delivered to the right side to be grounded as a healing of some sort, resolution or even protection. Below are two real-life examples that occurred during my Peru program. The first is a personal experience excerpted from my article The Entrainment of Intent, originally published in AHP Perspective by the Association of Humanistic Psychology in 2005.

Alto Madre de Dios

Alto Madre de Dios, Peru
Photo credit: Oscar Panizo

We had traveled down the Alto Madre de Dios, a tributary of the Amazon. Our boat pushed up on the small sandy beach, the jungle rising sensuously all around us. We all clambered ashore. Our destination was a large stone outcropping near where we would perform a meditation.

I made my way toward the rocks. But I wasn’t paying attention. The place I chose to begin my ascent was slippery. One foot flew out from under me. I went down hard. Bam! I landed on the large stone—full force—on my front teeth, my legs below me in the water. Others rushed to help me. I remained seated at the bottom to do my meditation while the others resumed their climb a short distance away.

Logic said: “Better to rest here.” But strangely enough, while I was certainly a bit rattled from the fall, I had no pain. Again my logical mind said: “You must be in shock.” But pain never came in the ensuing hours or days. Even upon returning to our lodge and noting the hairline crack and abrasions on my teeth, the cut on my shin and huge bruise ranging from ankle to knee, my body bespoke no stress, just the documented lack of focus.

 This second example comes from the travelers’ stories section from Peru journeys where Fairin Woods shares her healing from chronic asthma she’d had since a child, requiring medication.

Manu Cloud Forest

Manu Cloud Forest, Peru
Photo credit: Carla Woody

…A jungle atmosphere had usually been a significant challenge to my breathing. I nearly had a panic attack the first morning as we began a walk into the jungle. I really considered not going on the walk for fear of losing my ability to breathe. I was not carrying my inhaler. I walked through the fear while encountering the inescapable humidity, the decaying and ever-renewing jungle floor, and the all enveloping flora and fauna. It seems the jungle absorbed my fears and cleansed me through the process of the meditative walk. In retrospect many fears and old ways were left behind…

That was in 2005. Fairin remains asthma-free. There are many others over the years who have been willing to publicly share their experiences from our times in Peru, Maya lands and Hopi: the things that touch the soul, old responses vacated, chronic conditions gone, clarity gained.

Expressly due to repeated examples set in front of me, I have a certainty about intent. If the body experiences injury, it is possible to forego feeling pain. Or through a pure energy state, we are able to prevent a physical or emotional response. As we entrain with a higher vibrational frequency, light energy doesn’t allow us to doubt or contract in fear. It is strong and grounded. Our task is to allow the left side in, to trust its delivery and make a place for its translation into our everyday lives—as the Indigenous peoples of the world already know how to do.

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Upcoming spiritual travel programs are The Heart of the Andes, October 24-November 2, and Entering the Maya Mysteries, January 18-28, 2015. Early registration discounts available with a portion of tuition tax-deductible to support preservation of Native wisdom traditions through Kenosis Spirit Keepers.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Spirit Matters by Matthew Pallamary

 

Spirit Matters

Matthew Pallamary has written an uncensored memoir of his journey through the violent jungle of his origins to the deep interior of his heart and mind—finally delivering him to the Amazon rainforest of Peru and the person he is today. Spirit Matters shows us graphic realities most haven’t seen: dangerous inner city streets, the struggles to leave them behind, and a form of spirituality alternative to mainstream Western culture.

Matt is a respected San Diego writer and workshop leader at writing conferences. Initially known for his horror stories, he became interested in shamanism and Indigenous cultures, producing a book—Land Without Evil—which was recently adapted to stage. Research led him toward experiential understanding of natural substances used for centuries in religious rituals in South America and elsewhere.

Years ago, Matt and I crossed paths in Palenque, Mexico and became friends. I knew he had a rough start; he referred to himself as a Boston street fighter raised in an Irish Catholic ghetto. But I had no idea until I read this memoir; it’s a miracle he made it out alive. Such life experiences instill deep-seated limitations in the mind about what’s acceptable, possible, one’s own worth—or if anything or anyone is safe. The expected path is predictive and short. But Matt had something else operating as well: knowledge that a deeper life was available for him. The honesty in which he describes his internal conflicts, which kept him in a two-steps-forward three-steps-back shuffle for years, is poignant and real.

In this memoir, he also documents academic research on the use of visionary plants in Indigenous cultures, alluding to their use in early Christianity as well but secreted. His experiential research drew him to Mexico and then repeatedly to the Peruvian rainforest where he engaged in intensive ayahuasca ceremonies, over several days at a time, with a shaman initiated to lead them … not a spiritual journey for the faint-hearted. Ayahuasca is known to usher the traveler through a threshold to truth. The truth may be an experience of the Divine, or just as easily a slide into the Dark Night of the Soul. Either way, an instrument of transformation, as he says below.*

 …I saw it in the jungle of the landscapes of my visions, the truth was that the darkness ultimately lived inside me. Ayahuasca had the ability to find and exploit my deepest fears, bringing terror in direct proportion to the depth of the particular fear it tapped into, constituting part of an amazing process of self discovery…

This is a beautiful story of one truly intrepid man, a Warrior of the Spirit if I ever knew one, who found his way out of a dark jungle, when so many of his friends and family did not. Matt Pallamary is someone to be respected for his gritty honesty and intent toward Spirit, aside from his capabilities as a writer. Spirit Matters informs us while providing inspiration.

Available in print, e-book and audiobook through Amazon. Spirit Matters was a Best Books Award Finalist for USA Book News.

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*Ayahuasca is being used in the treatment of drug addiction—its success rate now documented in a clinical study in Canada. Go to MAPS to learn more and download a copy of the study.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Music Review: Mayan Ancestral Music by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

xavierqy

Kenosis Spirit Keepers was privileged to sponsor Xavier Quijas Yxayotl in September 2013 for our Spirit Keepers Series held in Phoenix. Xavier is a composer, ritual musician, artist, healer and more. A gentle man of Huichol/Azteca lineage, I’m not sure I’ve met such a multi-talented person who practices his many arts with such humility.

His music carried me beyond this world to another realm entirely. Those nights I slept more soundly than I had in months. Every unique sound—raindrops, wind, birds—are made through instruments he made with his own hands, not environmental recordings. I was able to witness the vast array of clay flutes, whistles and other percussion instruments that comprised his compositions, all adorned with symbolic art.

He first learned to play the flute through his Huichol grandfather as a child, and shortly after began to make his own instruments. But there’s more. In the 1970s, he was called to resurrect ancestral ceremonial instruments destroyed and outlawed during colonial times. Many people are making such instruments now. But back then? No one. How does someone do so when no one else has—and all but a little documentation was obliterated?

I said to Xavier, “Did the calling and ways to make the instruments come to you in dreams and visions?” He confirmed what I sensed. Such things often occur in Indigenous traditions whether to ritual musicians, weavers, midwives, healers, those who hold prayers in varying ways. He also told me, “When I am playing my music, I can often feel my ancestors there standing next to me.”

Xavier has been nominated several times for the Native American Music Award, played at the Nobel Peace Ceremony in Rome, featured on PBS and countless other accolades. For the movie Apocalypto, Mel Gibson contacted him to make the historic instruments used in the movie. Due to union rules, Xavier couldn’t appear in the movie, but he taught the actor-musicians how to play the instruments he made.

We are fortunate that Xavier has a number of CDs available, aside from from Mayan Ancestral Music. You can go to CD Baby to play sample tracks and purchase. Also available on iTunes.

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Our next Spirit Keepers Series program will feature Laura Alonzo de Franklin, curandera (healer/spiritual guide) of Mexhica/Aztec lineage. Mark you calendar for September 26-27, 2014 and join us in Phoenix. Check back for more information soon.

 

 

 

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Music Review | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: Indigenous Message on Water

Indigenous Message on Water

In 2012 a call went out from the coalition of Indigenous leaders of the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace (IWFWP) to Native elders, writers, artists, activists—Knowledge Keepers—for poetry, art, chants and prayers on Water, expressions from their own traditions. Over the next several months, submissions poured in, pure harvest from tribes all over the world. The You Tube video below beautifully illustrates the intent to pull together an anthology on this life-giving element that would be called Indigenous Message on Water—and why its needed.

By January last year the editors had begun the process to ready contributions for publication. From June through August 2013 an Indiegogo campaign was opened to pull enough funds together to publish the book, in print and e-book formats, and send copies back to the authors to seed their communities and elsewhere with this important message we all need to hear and hold. They were able to raise $5,000 of their $10,000 goal. I was so glad I was able to support this valuable treatise, even in a small way, having received my copy a few weeks ago.

I am deeply touched by the words and art that leap off the pages from the contributors: Chamoru, Pinay and Maori peoples from the Pacific; Sakhe from Russia; Cree, Tsalagi, Cherokee, Yoeme, Anishinaabe, Lakota, Lipan Apache, Metis, and Gitxan from North America; K’iche’, Kaqchikel, and Q’anjob’al from Guatemala; Maya and Nahuatl from Mexico; Wayuu, Palenque and Kuna from the Caribbean; Uitoto, Okaina and Tikuna from Amazonia; and Kichua, Yanakuna and Mapuche-Huilliche from the Andes.

Spiritual connection and gratitude to Water are ever present in the anthology. It may be used to open community discussions, raise awareness, and as an offering. At the beginning of the book, Juan Sánchez, one of the editors, advises that the passages are meant to be read aloud to the Water; words have the capacity to heal. Grandmother Mona Polacca suggests, “…Once you read them, you may find that you can never escape them, or you may find yourself resisting the narratives in this collection, not wanting to deal with the reality they describe; perhaps it reminds us of our own vulnerability…”

Grief for scarcity, strife and loss of life over water rights is also prevalent in these pages. Forest without Destiny by Judith Santoprieto of Mexico is an example, dedicated to the Indigenous people of Bagua in northern Peru who were senselessly murdered by special forces police during a 2009 protest about natural resources rights.

A crackling is heard in the surroundings

of a forest without destiny,

the first sign of the great uproar;

outside, the bullets:

the rainy season yet to come…

***

We can be reminded to embody the teachings offered.

 Water was our first medicine.

—Gideon MacKay, late Cree Elder, Canada

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We’re called to cup Water

carry it carefully   cradle

within bare hands or ladle

wood to pour resplendence

from ama who makes us

human,  holds us here in

memory brings us back

into ourselves each time

we enter dipping seven

times until we become

who we need to be.

—Allison Hedge Coke, Huron/Cherokee/Cree/Metis, USA

 ***

My oldest brother was 115 years old and died because of his age, not because of illness and this longevity was due to the fact that he used to pray to Water. The Water sang to him. For him, Water was both male and female and, as he practiced meditation, Water rewarded him with a long life.

—Lorenzo Aillapán Cayuleo, (Bird Man), Mapuche Nation, Chile

***

The e-book version is available to treasure and consult. You may go here to download for the minimal cost of $7.00. When you do, you’ll know you are serving Water. The proceeds go to support the gathering of Indigenous leaders, over 60 organizations and other like-intended folks for the Indigenous World Forum on Water and Peace 2014 held September 9-13 in New York that collaboratively seeks to resolve issues for the benefit of all peoples.  Read a 2009 collective statement from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues about the need for the IWFWP. New information will be posted soon on the IWFWP blog. Go here to subscribe for updates.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Gratitude, Healing, Healthy Living, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process?

Some years ago I had an inquiry from someone who was interested in the Entering the Maya Mysteries program I was sponsoring; specifically he was enticed by a destination on the itinerary. He’d done a search and I was the only one offering the opportunity. “But,” he said. “I’m not so sure about this ‘spiritual travel’ stuff.”

Curing ritual image

Curing ritual in San Juan Chamula.
Photo: Carla Woody

How to explain something so intangible? In one respect, it contains elements of tangibility: sites and interactions. Invisible to the naked eye, perhaps unanticipated by the mind, are myriad ways to be drawn into the deeper journey that define these potentially uncharted waters—without conscious realization in the moment that you’ve taken the plunge. Hence, enter aspects that: may have no words or audible sound, cannot be held in your hands, your eye can’t get a bead on, can seem ordinary but aren’t. Yet it produces something akin to a lightning strike that splits the rough outer covering and creates an opening, a probable pathway — and a tangible result. There appears a fork in the road inviting decision. It’s not the territory for a faint-hearted tourist but the traveler of a different sort.

I personally welcome those unending layers and outcomes, only bits and pieces of the larger picture solidifying long after closure of the initiation. I’ve had the great fortune, maybe even destiny, to create such organic spaces, through many years’ relationship-building and travel with special intent: being alert to those people and places who offer themselves as powerful conduits. These elements being necessary to push the energy—our energy—to catapult us beyond places that have grown familiar.

My brand of spiritual travel is physically comprised of sacred sites, ceremonies and those who keep the rituals and stories. The travelers who show up to participate equally act as catalysts. An entrainment occurs and each one gains what they need to further the collective and their own journey. And we find out what it’s like to be at play in a field of mirrors: coming face-to-face with aspects that call out for healing and simultaneously create beauty. I personally celebrate it all.

God pot lighting

Lighting the god pots during a
balché ceremony in Najá.
Photo: Carla Woody

The question arises: do you have to travel to experience such initiation? In some form, you do. We are creatures of habit who tend to cling to a mindset that is familiar, even if not particularly healthy. You must be willing to move outside the container: to be fearless, to be open, to explore. You must embody courage to create a wider life. That’s travel.

The fast track requires putting the daily life on pause and dropping yourself into an unfamiliar environment to rediscover what you forgot. When people gather with this common intent, magic happens. They give themselves permission to explore parts of themselves they’re not so in touch with. Add exposure to Native peoples who inherit a sense of the sacred as an integral aspect of life—and a landscape of possibility appears.

When that happens it leaves an indelible impression and shifts who you are in the world. I frequently face a challenge finding words to express the profound value of the intangible elements running through the lifework I’ve chosen. I currently live in a culture that values the immediate result while ignoring the process that’s all-important in creating something of deep meaning that endures. My sense is that if we’re able to finally find comfort floating in the abyss, it will produce all that’s ever needed–beyond what we could imagine. But it takes travel. I’ll leave you with this quote from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller:

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life; and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to the meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.

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Author’s note: Those years ago I must have found the right words. I’m happy to report that the man concerned about the “spiritual travel” stuff has since traveled with me twice. And even more importantly, in the process, we’ve become friends.

For information on our upcoming “Entering the Maya Mysteries” programs, go here. For other spiritual travel destinations, go here. A portion of tuitions are donated to Kenosis Spirit Keepers for projects that help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions.

To view other stories on the subject of “Journey” go to the Daily Prompt.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Hopi Spirit Keeper’s Travels in Mayalands

Note from Carla Woody: In December 2012, I offered a special Winter Solstice “Entering the Maya Mysteries” program. Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsored Charlene Joseph, a Hopi Spirit Keeper from Moencopi, on this journey as a part of ongoing efforts to bring together Indigenous Wisdom Holders for mutual spiritual support. Char’s presence, and the heartfelt connections she made with her Maya relations, brought even greater depth to our shared experiences. Truly, it was a gift to have her with us. Below she has generously shared her journey and what it meant to her.

My Mexico/Guatemala  Spiritual Adventure

By Charlene Joseph

What an adventure!  I traveled to Peru in 2009 and had a very rich cultural and spiritual experience.  Knowing the Hopi ancient history and growing up in the traditional Hopi way, I was able to connect to the indigenous people and their way of life.  My travel to Mexico and Guatemala in December 2012 was just as spiritual and the connection to the people culturally and traditionally was immense, just as it was when I went to Peru.

Charlene Joseph and Carla Woody departing for Chiapas, Mexico.

Charlene Joseph and Carla Woody
departing for Chiapas, Mexico.

I spent one week in Tucson with my daughter’s and son’s families the week before my trip. The day before we were to fly out of Phoenix, I left Tucson for Phoenix to meet up with Carla Woody, the organizer of the trip, and spend the night.  Not only did I have trouble finding my way to the hotel, but the next morning as I was reorganizing my luggage, I discovered that I didn’t have my passport! I had left it in Tucson.

It was still early enough to drive back to Tucson and be back before our plane left at 3:00 p.m. so I called my daughter.  Even while studying for her final exams at University of Arizona, it was very thoughtful of her to bring my passport halfway to meet me at Casa Grande. So now, I’m set with my passport and ready to board the plane to Mexico, wondering what laid ahead for me.

San Cristóbal de las Casas


As we were driving to San Cristóbal from Tuxtla after spending the night, I thought about my family back home, the upcoming Hopi New Year and prayers that I will miss for the first time in years, my father who taught me about the Hopi migration from the South. At the same time, I was enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Arriving in the colonial town of San Cristóbal and checking into our hotel felt to me like we were in seclusion.  It was chilly in the hotel lobby and I was wondering why the heater was not on. Once we got checked in and made our way to the room, I found it was just as cold there.  Soon found out that there are no heaters.  We had to dress warm at night or even wear our jackets to bed.  During the day the weather got very warm so we soaked in as much sun and warmth to our liking.

Processional during Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe.©2012 Carla Woody.

Processional during Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
©2012 Carla Woody.

It was lively day and night in downtown San Cristóbal with fireworks, parades honoring the Lady of Guadalupe, locals selling their art and craft work, food, and even fresh boiled corn, which was my favorite! Also many tourists walked the streets looking, eating, buying from locals, and just enjoying their time.

Family kitchen.©2012 Carla Woody.

Family kitchen.
©2012 Carla Woody.

One evening we drove about twenty minutes up to the indigenous village of Chamula to participate in ceremony with Don Xun Calixto.  As we were driving through the village, I saw ladies and young girls washing clothes at the water spring, just like we used to when I was growing up.  That scene took me way back to my childhood days. I felt at home seeing the people working in their gardens, fields, drying their harvest, carrying water from the water spring to their homes, and firewood for the evening loaded on the person’s back and everyone working in harmony, it seemed.

We stopped at the bottom of a hill and walked up the steps to Don Xun’s family home, a traditional brick home with an outside shed-like kitchen where they also kept their harvest of corn, beans, squash, variety of melon, and cauliflower stored. On the open fire-pit was a pot of boiling stew being prepared for our meal with the family.  In the yard chickens were being fed, and the group gathered talking and admiring the craft work the family had for sale.

Don Xun Calixto, Spiritual leader of San Juan Chamula, and Charlene Joseph.©2012 Carla Woody.

Don Xun Calixto, Spiritual leader of San Juan Chamula, and Charlene Joseph.
©2012 Carla Woody.

Don Xun  started the ceremony in the main house in front of the altar as we sat around him on wooden benches or chairs.  We sat quietly and watched while one group member did the interpretation.  After ceremony was over, I gave a talk and encouraged Don Xun to continue his and his people’s way of life,  that it is good to find that they are still growing their own food and eating off of the land.  I shared with him that my people, the Hopi, live that way also but that we are slowly forgetting.  I told Don Xun that what I shared are my father’s words that he had wanted me to tell our people from the South and that we are connected.  We are brothers and sisters.  Don Xun was happy to hear this.

I presented him with a katsina rain spirit doll (Corn Boy) and asked him to remember my people on Hopi when he is doing his prayers because we need rain for our corn to grow. I asked him to send the rain clouds to Hopi with his prayers because we have been getting little moisture and we need it for our corn to grow.  Don Xun chuckled and said that they did not get enough rain this year either.

Southern Guatemala

Charlene Joseph and Don Nicholas, who attends San Maximón, in Santiago Atitlán.©2012 Carla Woody.

Charlene Joseph and Don Nicholas, who attends San Maximón, in Santiago Atitlán.
©2012 Carla Woody.

A few days later, we left for Guatemala and were on the road all day.  On the way down to Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, there were cornfields everywhere, all the way from San Cristóbal, Mexico to Guatemala.  I was happy because this made the connection for Hopi, and me personally, even more significant.  Corn is very important to Hopi just as it is to the Maya people in the South.

Lake Atitlán is very beautiful, especially at sunset and sunrise.  The weather was much warmer at night which made it very comfy to sleep.  In the morning, after a night’s rest, we got on the boat to take a 40-minute ride across the lake to Santiago Atitlán, below a volcanic mountain.  There we participated in ceremony with Don Nicholas honoring San Maximón.   After ceremony, we headed back to our hotel to board our private bus for Antigua.  It was a 3-hour ride and we got there around 8 p.m.

Ajq'ij Felipe Mejia (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq’ij Felipe Mejia (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.
©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq'ij Apab'yan Tew (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.©2012 Carla Woody

Ajq’ij Apab’yan Tew (Maya Daykeeper) at Iximche.
©2012 Carla Woody

This time we checked into our hotel for three nights.  On December 15, we drove to Iximche for a fire ceremony with Maya Daykeepers Felipe Mejia and Apab’yan Tew at a sacred place where there are pyramids.  It felt very welcoming to see school children playing games and having a cookout.  It was very lively!  The ceremony was interesting and was very colorful.  Again, I felt a strong connection to the Mayas when offerings were made to the fire with food.  I shared with them that Hopi does the same thing.  We also feed the fire and make food offering to the sun.  There were other similarities that I observed that reaffirmed the history of the Hopi to the Mayas of the South.

Palenque

Temple of the Sun at Palenque, Winter Solstice 2012.©2012 Carla Woody.

Temple of the Sun at Palenque,
Winter Solstice 2012.
©2012 Carla Woody.

Nearing the end of our travels and looking forward to Palenque in the jungle.  We left Antigua, went through border checkpoint, and got back into Mexico on December 17th.  Took the whole day to get back to San Cristóbal where we spent two more nights before heading to Palenque where the great pyramids are in the jungle.

It was amazing!  I can’t even begin to express how I felt when we went to the pyramids in Palenque.  Magazines, movies, and pictures are never the same as experiencing the real thing.  Driving to Palenque through the mountains was awesome, too.  All of a sudden a person or people will come out of the forest, people walking along the road with hoes, wood, carrying traditional pottery filled with water.  Wow!

We visited the pyramids on December 20th.  We did a great amount of walking and climbing at the pyramids.  I managed to climb up several with the help of my group members, and especially Ed from Prescott, Arizona who pulled me up and helped me down.  It was interesting to find that the temples are named for the sun, moon, snake, corn, and others I can’t quite remember.  Hopis honor those same things.  There was a ballcourt and a shrine representing the Twin Warriors and the Grandmother which Hopi includes in the Hopi Way of Life ceremonies today.

December 21st was the day of Winter Solstice in Mayaland.   On Hopi, Winter Solstice is also happening at this same time when the men are in the kiva praying and preparing for the New Year.  A time of sacrifice without sleep, praying and working hard so life can continue. They do this for, not only the Hopi, but for all life on earth including animals, plants, sun, moon, water, Mother Earth and all humankind.

On this Winter Solstice Day, the rain was coming down hard and it had started the night before.  Hoping that the rain would subside, we left at seven in the morning for the pyramids to observe Winter Solstice. Sitting on the steps of the Temple of the Sun waiting and getting drenched, after a couple of hours, some of us decided to go back to our cabanas to dry,   We didn’t get to observe the Solstice because the rain took over until five in the afternoon.  As I always say, things happen for a reason!

This journey to Mexico and Guatemala reaffirmed the Hopi migration and some history from the South for me and the Hopis.  My father talked about Palatqwapi , the Snake Serpent, the Twin Warriors and their Grandmother, and more that they brought with them when migrating from the South.  These are all still very much alive today in the Hopi Way of Life.

My father always emphasized that we need to keep faith and continue the Hopi Way to keep the world evolving. I feel very humbled to have participated in this journey and to be able to honor my father and his knowledge and wisdom in this way.

Categories: cultural interests, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lineage: Calling on the Ancestors

January 2012

The nondescript address promised little from the street. I opened the old wooden door to slip through the walled entryway and found otherwise. Carol Karasik and I had arranged with the group to meet at Laughlin House, one of the oldest houses in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, then owned by anthropologist Robert Laughlin and his wife Mimi. Carol had been staying at the venerable hacienda—and, with all its rustic charm and lush garden, it seemed the perfect place for our evening gathering.

Dusk was coming quickly. I wandered through the narrow, uneven paths admiring the beauty of the garden, down to the small greenhouse at the far end. As I passed by the main house I noticed a woman kneeling in the grass separating the dwelling from the garden. She was carefully digging a shallow circle, exposing the dirt, already preparing the space. Copal smoke rose from the pedestal burner.

Floridalma (Flori) Pérez González, a traditional  Ajq’ij, a Maya Daykeeper from a Mam village in the mountains of northern Guatemala, was there to offer us a fire ceremony, so sacred to her people. As the rest of the group drifted in, she invited us to join her and sit in circle. We watched in silence as the altar grew on the bare dirt: sugar drawn in a symbol reflecting the day in the Maya calendar, fist-sized balls of resin mixed with shredded wood, candles laid in a circle as offerings to the Nawals, Day-Spirits of the calendar, and Four Directions, sticks of pine pitch, rose petals around the perimeter.

Fire Ceremony Altar

Fire Ceremony Altar

By this time it was dark, just the glow from the incense burner reflecting on our faces; we were cocooned, a timeless place separate from the everyday world. Flori spoke softly and asked me to express the collective intent of the group, then invited each one in the circle to offer their individual words. She lit the fire and invoked the presence of the spirits, praying intermittently in her Maya dialect and Spanish.

Floridalma Pérez González

Floridalma Pérez González

The fire’s flame rose. She called on the Nawals and Ancestors, Grandmothers-Grandfathers, inviting them to accept our petitions and blessings through the smoke. Every now and then she reached her hand into a bag and threw herbs upon the flames. The fire changed shape, moving against the light breeze, not with it. Flori told us the meaning and said it was a good sign. We were drawn into her soft prayers, the flames and, otherwise, the stillness.

After a time, she passed thin, white tallow candles asking us each to take eight, then instructing us to separately approach the fire and, as we settled the candles one by one into the fire, call out the names of those who have gone ahead of us, our Ancestors, to welcome them to our circle, to bless them, as they who are part of who we are, to hear our prayers.

I started. In that moment, I realized that I knew so little about my own family line—but a few names, not nearly enough for the candles I held in my hand. I attempted to sweep the corners of memory to see if anything arose. It didn’t. And when it came my turn to kneel at the fire, beyond three names I could name no more. I placed the remaining tapers, intending they would find their match.

But sadness arose; a hole was uncovered. I didn’t know My People.

I recognized then one of the reasons I’m so drawn to Indigenous traditions. Upon introduction, a number of Wisdom Keepers I’d met would identify their villages and clans going back a few generations. I’d been told that the purpose was to offer any mutual connections. But it’s also a clear statement of identity, place in the world. Those who maintain their traditions are grounded through lineage, lending spiritual strength. Hearing these pronouncements always stirred something poignant in me, as though I was attempting to reach out, to find my own conscious grounding. But I had none in that way, not of the blood that ran in my veins, the places My People had walked, or what aspects of them resonated through time to find residence within me—beyond my own mother and father. I discovered I wasn’t alone. Several of the members of the group struggled in their own way. It was a powerful ceremony.

Fire Photo

It is said that the fire works on you over time.

Its work with me began immediately. I emailed my folks the next morning mentioning the intent of the fire ceremony and my sadness for lack of knowledge of the family line. My mother wrote back saying, “It’s strange you should mention this because yesterday we started cleaning out old boxes…and found papers tracing your father’s family tree!” One of his distant cousin’s had undertaken the search years ago. The papers had been forgotten. We were both astounded at the timing of their urge to clean. I asked my mom if she’d begin looking into her line; she had little knowledge either. She promised she would.

Tracking genealogy is something of an art, sometimes an endless maze with dead-ends, particularly if you have little information at the outset, or experience. My mother got discouraged, having come up with few leads, after much time spent. The project stalled.

December 2012-January 2013

When I visited my folks over Thanksgiving, we talked of family line again. Don Boyd is an old family friend who has become something of an expert in tracing genealogy. I contacted him to see if he would be willing to give my mom some pointers. I then left for my Maya spiritual travel programs over the next two months.

Immediately, there was a flurry of emails between my mom and Don, with copies to me in Mexico and Guatemala. In no time flat, Don was able to produce information that led to a fairly extensive maternal family tree. Although some of the data petered out, thanks to Don and my dad’s distant cousin, I now know most of my lineage.

We still don’t know anything about my dad’s maternal line. But, for the rest, My People were all from the South. My paternal grandfather’s line traces back to 1724 England—and, a curious aside, includes Arthur Woody, the “legendary barefoot forest ranger” one of the first pioneering forest stewards in the US. My maternal grandfather’s people go back to 1766 Ireland. Cherokee lineage exists on both my maternal grandparents’ sides, for sure one documented to 1867 North Carolina. There’s a possible trace of another Cherokee ancestor as far back as 1797 Tennessee, but that one is difficult to prove.

Sunset over San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Sunset over San Cristóbal de Las Casas.

Less than a week ago we met Flori at dusk. The fiery sunset announced the fire that would be lit in ceremony on the ground, perhaps already mirroring back to us our prayers that would rise. And when it came my time to approach the fire and lay the tapers, I called on my Ancestors, My People, clearly by name. I’ll never know all their stories but I can now intuit their lives—and feel their influence on me, rising up through time, running in my blood, to my place in the world.

I am grateful to the fire.

Fire Ceremony Photo

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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