A Gathering of Shamans
By Celeste Allegrea Adams
Journey to the Heart’s (JTTH) Shaman Gathering is an annual meeting of
shamans from around the world, coming together in Big Bear, California, to share
indigenous wisdom and offer pathways to peace. I had the opportunity to spend a
week with these shamans as they shared their knowledge, rituals and ceremonies,
as well as the wounds of trying to preserve their traditions and their land.
After meeting with each other for three days, the shamans spent four days
addressing the public who had been invited to attend council meetings, healing
ceremonies, music and dance performances, and workshops on everything from
dreams and prophecy, to land rights issues and the benefits of medicinal plants.
Sharing hopes and prayers for the gathering
The gathering began with council meetings, with around 35 shamans and elders sitting in a circle, expressing their hopes for the week. “We are not just here for ourselves, but for the world.” And with these words, Hopi Elder, Grandma Connie Mirabal, opened one of the first council meetings. Elder Bennie LeBeau, Sr., of the Eastern Shoshone Nation, strongly affirms that “Those who are not doing the work for Mother Earth will leave the earth. Only those practicing the peace ceremonies will be left here . . . It is the women who will lead.”
Maori Elder Pauline Tangiora speaks about how “We must remember each other,
listen to the hurts of each other. We are here to bring harmony and peace to all
humanity.” Anank Nunink Nunkai, Shuar shaman from Ecuador, wearing a red and
yellow feathered headdress and face paint, addressed the council: “Help us to
dream a better dream for the future generations.”
In a strong, clear voice, Donna Agustine, aka Thunderbird Turtle Woman, says, “I see a great opportunity here... I see an opportunity for education, enlightenment, and peace. People can take this home and there can be a kind of ripple effect.” Choctaw shaman, Boe Many Knives Glass-child, stands tall as he expresses his hope for the gathering as a place where people can share their knowledge of changes that are happening. Later, he tells me, “I didn’t come with an agenda. I came to bring a little light. I came to help people see their own potential, so they can go out and dance in the world.”
To attempt to write about the gathering is a challenging undertaking since the
perspective and traditions of each individual shaman is so rich that t could
fill several books. Although numerous themes appeared throughout the weekend,
there were four that had particular prominence: 1) the preservation and sharing
of traditions that are threatened; 2) efforts of indigenous people to regain
land rights; 3) prophecy, divination and dreams; 4) healing ceremonies for
individuals and for the earth.
Indigenous languages are being lost, traditions are being forgotten or only half remembered, and some of the youth carry feelings of shame for the culture of their parents. Yet, as Matt Magee, (teacher and practitioner of Kamasqa curanderismo, a blend of lineages from Peru) notes, we have moved past a time when indigenous wisdom is being held back. That was necessary for a time, he explains, since you could be killed for openly practicing certain medicine ways, “but now the consciousness is changing, and there has been an almost cross-cultural shift towards bringing out these traditions so others may learn them.”
Native Hawaiians, Kupuna Carol Haunani Anamizu and Robert Alcain, Makua o‘o, speak about the land that was taken from them, as well as their language. Now they are starting to get back their language and their sovereignty. Robert says that his people were indoctrinated in Christian thoughts and notes their traditions are not in tact, but in pieces, because people have not been practicing. He says that you learn to live comfortably with the pieces of tradition you can put together.
Anank Nunink Nunkai eagerly speaks about the jungle, home of the Shuar people
and animals. He says the jungle purifies them against contamination, but now,
his people, language and customs are close to extinction and only a population
of around 1,000 Shuar remain. He adds that “the life of the Shuar people is
empty, because they have lost the power of their ancestors. Their new life is
not like before.” He compares it to having a house full of life — “then little
by little, the house is empty.” He worries because the people have lost their
culture and language, and can’t speak Shuar.
White Eagle Star brings teachings from beings called Thunderbirds, who she believes created this planet. They spent the last 40 years giving her these teachings, beginning when she was five. “By remembering these ancient ways, we can bring the world and all its people back into balance.” This tradition used to be indigenous to all the races, now there are only a few indigenous and British tribes that remember it. She draws this knowledge from the earth, and says Thunderbird Medicine is recorded in the rocks, in the trees, and in the DNA.
Boe Many Knives Glasschild has pieced together the oral traditions of the Lightning Dance Pathway, which is a combination of several medicine practices. In his forthcoming book, he describes the path of the Lightning Dancer as the path of walking through the maze of life on manual pilot. It is the decision to respond to life instead of reacting. When one begins to operate on manual, the personal gifts we carry in this incarnation begin to manifest. He explains that no two Lightning Dancers have the same medicine, attitude, or spiritual energies, but all aspire to be an instrument of healing in their relative capacities. It is just one of many pathways for Spiritual evolution: “The destination is as individually unique as the journey.”
Thaayrohyadi, of the Olmec Toltec nation, is also working to preserve the
traditions of his people by heading an Indigenous University in Mexico, covering
four areas of study. Workshops are offered in traditional medicine, including
cosmic healing and shamanic medicine. There is a study program in languages such
as Otomi, Nahuatl and others. People can study indigenous issues, international
treaties, and native rights. They can also study the arts, including indigenous
music, crafts, dance painting, literature and poetry. He is currently devoting
his time to starting indigenous universities in four cities in the United
‘Your heart is your land.’
— Pauline Tangiora
Indigenous peoples, from all corners of the globe, face similar land-rights issues and have now formed foundations to regain their land. Pauline Tangiora, from the Rongomaiwahine Tribe of Aotearoa / New Zealand, has traveled around the world, and visited the office of the Commonwealth Secretary-General and one of the Lords in the British Parliament, regarding indigenous land-rights issues. Her impressive Curriculum Vitae describes her efforts to preserve the environment from a holistic perspective.
Anank from Ecuador works tirelessly to protect his homeland in the Amazon jungle. He shares that although much of his land is designated as a preserve, private interests are encroaching on the preserve. He is trying to create an ethno-biological preserve, completely run by indigenous people, in order to maintain Shuar culture.
After being evicted from the land of their ancestors, representatives of the Kalahari Bushmen came to the gathering in Big Bear, then visited the Southwest where they were hosted by the Hopi and Navajo before making presentations at the United Nations in New York.
Journalist and author, Rupert Isaacson, born in London but raised by a South African mother, works with the Bushmen in their efforts to reclaim land rights. He speaks articulately about the Bushmen and their non-violent, healing-based culture, and says it represents an authentic blueprint of a better kind of human life, which we are now in danger of losing forever. “Colonialization has caused vast amounts of human suffering, on a scale that is impossible to imagine.”
Rupert Isaacson and founder of Journey to the Heart, Kim Langbecker, along with Bushman Roy Sesana, have formed an Indigenous Land Rights Fund. Rupert remains optimistic and claims that “Things can be healed even against seemingly overwhelming odds. Look at the Xho-mani Bushmen. They were down to 30 individuals by the side of the road. They won the largest land claim in Southern African history.”
He says it is worth being part of a reconstructive process because a destructive process can only go so far. “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We’ve had too many years of this wanton, profligate mistreatment of indigenous peoples.
Now there is a growing awareness that this is not right…. The tide is turning.” Even though the mining, logging and petroleum companies are still going in, it is not as easy for them as it used to be.
Rupert makes an important point when he asserts that people in the west must
learn to substitute other natural products for the ones that require such vast
land use and benefit so few people.
Prophecy, Divination AND Dreams
For the shamans, truth is not found in the lies taught in colleges, the media, or in consensual reality, but in dreams and visions. In this critical time of change, the indigenous people have knowledge, prophecies and teachings that can help catapult the process of creating peace in the world.
White Eagle Star asserts that spirit gives us less than 50 years on the earth, unless we change our ways. “Less that 2% of the water is safe to drink. We have to come back into balance or we will be removed by the earth mother.” Piaiman (shaman) of the Karina (Carib) people of Trinidad, Cristo Glenn Adonis, speaks passionately about how “the world will go through much before it is healed. We will go through rapids before we have calm waters.”
When Lauro Hinostroza Garcia was asked, “How can we come together in one truth with all traditions?” Lauro, who carries the legacy of ancient Peruvian traditions like the Inka and Shipibo, answered this by assigning the names of countries to a handful of cocoa leaves, and throwing the leaves on the ground. From their position in relationship to each other, he was able to find out which nations were talking to each other, and how they were all relating, and he also offered suggestions for each nation. His ultimate diagnosis was that we have to work in a group, stand together, and find a common ground for our problems.
Although many catastrophes have begun, including war, pollution, and genocide, Thaayrohyadi explains that we can work together to begin the process of healing. “Our elders taught about prophecy with 8,000 sacred drums. When the sound of 8,000 drums sounded together from all parts of the world, it would be the start of a new humankind.” That prophecy was completed in March 2004, at a ceremony held in Mexico. Now we are crossing a bridge into a new cycle, which will strengthen peace, Mother Earth and humanity. While leading a ceremony at the gathering, he delivered the 13 prophecies of his nation, which included a vision concerning the sacred children, a need to return to ceremonial centers, the resurgence of ancient languages, and the vision of the Rainbow Bridge.
Donna Agustine has been instrumental in bringing the traditional spiritual ways back to the Migmag people of Canada. She speaks of the white buffalo calf born in Jamesville, Wisconsin in 1994. “Prophecy tells us when this calf was born, it would represent Buffalo Calf Woman, the spirit woman that brought the original sacred pipe to the Sioux. It represents a time when the four races would come together and unite.”
In addition, she speaks of the Harmonic Convergence and the Solar Eclipse, which also tell us changes are taking place. “We are in a time of the Seventh Generation, according to prophecy. The Seventh Generation is our youth and our children, who are awake. Our youth will bring back all that was lost — they will know what to do.”
Offering a unique perspective, Boe Many Knives Glasschild says that “Once upon a time I entertained myself with prophecies. As I live now, and understand it, it is all about choices. I don’t think there is one prophecy that defines the future… As people evolve through the theater of life, they will make independent choices. For some people there may be an Armageddon, for others there may be a paradise. I can’t foresee one big major anything for the entire planet.”
I asked if he was speaking for himself, or as a representative of the Choctaw nation, and he said he spoke only for himself, since there is so much diversity in what the Choctaw feels about life. In regard to dreams, he explains that “the great dreamtime is the pathway of the mystic.” The theatre of the dreamscape is much more real than the mind can comprehend.
Valerie Wolf, known as Little Mother Dreaming Bear, describes how everything begins with the dream in the shamanic tradition. “The Dreaming is the place of birth, of beginnings. So if we want peace in this world, if we want healing for the earth, we have to become the kind of peo-ple who are capable of dreaming with the spirits and the ancestors, capable of dreaming such a possibility into existence.
We have to clean up our hearts and minds and bodies, to become ethical, loving and compassionate enough to dream a big dream, a deep dream of healing and peace. If we are ourselves, often running the energies of anger, resentment, bitterness, greed, judgment, despair, this is what we keep dreaming into being, over and over….
Changing our lives is the key to dreaming deeply, to dream weave the broken
threads of the web of Beauty back into a pattern that is not human-controlled or
defined. Only this kind of dreaming is capable of restoring humans into right
relationship with the cosmic order, the sacred laws of the universe, on behalf
of All Our Relations.”
The shaman gathering addressed many individual healings through plant medicine, as well as a healing between nations through dialogue or the universal language of music, and healing of the land through ceremony.
Virginia Rathele, on a pilgrimage of prayer, peace and light from South Africa, explains how she works with individuals in the healing process. “You must understand that the patient is being sent to you because of the ancestors. You must never say you can’t treat a patient. If you refuse to treat that patient, then you are going against the will of the ancestors.”
She finds answers to treating people in her dreams. At seven, Virginia was sick and in her dream she saw a traditional Zulu healer. She was told that she wouldn’t heal unless she herself did healing work. In a demonstration of how she works with her patients, she asks permission from a plant to give it the name of her patient, and asks if it will help. If the plant agrees to help, and agrees to take on the sickness, she waits for the right time to give the patient her plant medicine.
The Peruvian shaman, Lauro Hinostroza Garcia, describes how many people believe traditional medicine is only folklore. Although he is not against modern approaches, he asks that the two approaches work together.
Technological cultures think that living in nature is a primitive lifestyle, yet modern culture is killing its people with soft drinks, canned foods, preservatives, and the energy fields of people are being blocked by exposure to computers. He asserts that traditional medicine has resources from ancient times and can treat many modern diseases that conventional medicine cannot treat. Lauro works by transferring negative energies from a sick person into the petals of a plant, or he has the patient hold fruit so the negative energy is transferred into the fruit when the body is rubbed with that fruit. Unfortunately, tpp many powerful plants in the Amazon with healing properties are now endangered species.
Emissary of North Circle Traditions for the World Council of Elders, Ove Svenson, suggests that changing the world comes through changing oneself and that healing of the earth has to begin inside ourselves. “Healing,” he explains, “will occur when people go back to the tribal way and return to nature. We need to live in groups of 35-40 people, so everyone can know each other. We also need to live off the land and care for the land. If the land is dying, we are dying.”
Cristo Adonis stresses the need to use our energy for healing, not for getting back at someone because of wounds they have inflicted. He asserts that “Dialogue between nations creates healing.”
Member of the Larrakia Nation and Australian indigenous recording artist and Didgeridoo player, Ash Dargan, is an ambassador of his culture through music. The healing music he performed at the gathering reflects the power of the natural and spiritual world.
Sound healer, Richard Grossman, Ph.D. also demonstrated the healing power of sound in several performances. He explains that “Music is the one place where people can communicate without mental, cultural, or psychosocial barriers. I know it’s cliché but music is the universal language. You get a drumbeat going and everyone understands. It gets people dancing, it’s cross cultural, it’s universal.”
Bennie LeBeau, leader of the Big Bear Medicine Wheel Ceremony, performs earth
ceremonies in different parts of the country to reconnect laylines. He explains
how acupuncture needs to be done on the earth and that we need to reconnect the
energy lines to heal the earth. In his biography, he writes that his mission is
to inform “all cultures of the importance of protecting and preserving all
indigenous sacred sites within this country and all across the world.”
The gathering is an invitation for all to access the shaman within
While each individual shaman had their own unique and rich perspective to offer at the gathering, there was a unified _expression of agreement that the time of change was upon us and that human survival depends on changing our ways through honoring the earth, instead of exploiting her. All the prophecies, from whatever tradition they came, cried out for people to awaken now, to reevaluate, and become healing forces.
The gathering is a place of inspiration in that it provides the opportunity for each public participant to come forward, seize the day, and recognize that now is the time to move into personal mastery and celebrate the wisdom carried within — wisdom that all too often goes untapped. As we all begin connecting to this greater wisdom, and work towards bringing it out into the world, we will most certainly move beyond challenges that come our way on a personal and planetary level, and cross a “Rainbow Bridge” (to use a term from Thaayrohyadi’s prophetic vision), to a new world.
Reservations are currently being taken for the next Shaman Gathering, which is open to the public in Big Bear, California on September 8-11, 2005. Attending this gathering is a transformational opportunity that should not be missed.
Journey to the Heart is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of
cross-cultural awareness and formation of collaborative partnerships with
peo-ple of diverse teachings and spiritual traditions, and based on the
principle of spiritual ecology. For further information, please visit
www.journeytotheheart.org, or e-mail to:
firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (800) 540-0471.
Celeste Allegrea Adams is the author of the visionary fiction novel “Keepers of the Dream,” now available at her website: www.CreatrixStudio.com. A meta-physical journalist, screenwriter, documentary narration writer and story consultant, e-mail her at CreatrixStudio@aol.com
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