Archive for the ‘ Rituals and Ceremonies ’ Category

Heading West – Kind of…

Horse as Teacher Book 1

Before leaving on my road trip, my colleague and partner in the Horse as Teacher book series, Kathy Pike, had asked if I would stand in for her shamanic teacher in her workshop in June in Carbondale, Colorado. I had agreed, thinking it would be on my way back home. However, when I found out my brother and his band, Snydley Whiplash, were having a 25th anniversary reunion for the 4th of July, I wanted to be there for the performance. I also wanted to go back to Arkansas to meet with more of the women and see if the land was truly drawing me to be there.

In the end, I decided to make a dash to Colorado without stopping along the way for sightseeing. After teaching at the workshop, I would see where the road led me. At that point, I would either go back to South Dakota or head west from there.

Kathy’s workshop was the 3rd of 4 held over a year’s time for her apprenticeship program, teaching students to become Equine Facilitated Learning and Coaching practitioners and facilitators. This week-long session was focused on the internal work the participants needed to do to become a practitioner. Kathy has a shamanic colleague who had been there the first two sessions, but couldn’t teach in this one.

I arrived the two days before the start to help Kathy prepare. We went to pick up her assistant Reggie from the airport the night I arrived. Reggie is a therapist who decided to follow her path of working with horses and after living 60+ years in New York, moved to Texas just before meeting Kathy and starting to work as her assistant. Holding space for all of the horses, participants, and other people involved is a big effort. We were also all three staying in Kathy’s small casita, so being able to work well together was critical. The three of us had a great time, balancing each other throughout the week.

Coaching With Horses Workshop Ranch

The next morning we drove the 30 miles to the ranch where the workshop was being held. The drive out was spectacular, taking us into a long, gradually narrowing valley, the road winding along a tree-lined river. The pastures were filled with horses as we weaved our way to the far end of the valley. The ranch sat below a beautiful view of a show-capped mountain, the water flowing past dandelion-filled pastures, the horses grazing contentedly in the bright sun. This was a little piece of heaven.

The first three days of the week would be an experiential workshop. In that portion, there would be one person who was not part of the year-long program. The rest would finish the week, but Blaine was only there for the first session. Kathy had explained on the way that he was the husband of a woman who would be taking the program the next year, and he was there to experience some of what Tracy would explore. She had also explained that he was a minister and wasn’t sure how the Shamanic piece of the workshop would be for him.

That question was answered immediately when we met. It was an instant, deep connection. As we walked to the stand of trees by the small waterfall from the pond to the creek that I had chosen for our teaching, he started peppering me with questions. Blaine is a handsome, curious man with a deep strength and gentleness that is perfectly suited for the work he does. I definitely felt that we had had many conversations in many lifetimes.

Setting of Shamanic Teaching

The other participants were also very curious and connected to the shamanic teachings I shared with them. I taught them to journey to find their power animals and a spirit guide for the work they would be doing during the next few days. Then they journeyed to those spirits to find out what they needed to change or remove from their path in order to move forward. I also explained the medicine wheel, making sacred space, and creating rituals and daily practices, no matter how that looks for each person. There seemed to be a number of breakthroughs in the teaching session, and much more as the week progressed.

The next day, I took the other half of the group to the teaching space. Again, there were profound learnings that they shared with me. The setting, the subject, and the participants, as well as the facilitators made the week a very powerful grounding experience. But most of all were the horses. They are most amazing beings.

It’s been awhile since I made a blog post. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say. In fact, this quest became much more than I had ever imagined it would be, an odyssey that took me 13 weeks, 13,400 miles, and through 13 national parks and monuments. Somewhere along the way, as I traveled roads new and familiar, I realized it was a retrospective look at what has shaped me, and at the same time, gave me new perspectives on how to transform and move forward.

So I will go back and reconstruct some of the amazing moments, life-changing experiences, and incredible insights I was so fortunate to have.

When last I posted, I was on my way to visit family. I’ll breeze through some of this, so as not to bore you. However, there are a few things that I’ll share here because they were either shamanic in nature, or have an impact on stories I will share later.

Having had the challenges I had on the first part of my journey, with sickness, finances, and juggling work with travel, I was relieved to arrive at my eldest sister Linda’s in Omaha, Nebraska.

When I was 11, Linda came home from a summer selling books door-to-door after her freshman year in college. She handed me a tape series by Zig Ziglar, called See You At the Top. It was my introduction to personal development information, and I was hooked.

Linda, who became highly successful in sales and recruiting and is now a professional speaker and trainer, has influenced me in so many ways, I’ve lost track. Not only did she introduce me to the world of self-help, she steered me to coaching and to the idea of creating collaborative books by coaches. She has been much more than a sister to me; she’s a mentor, a colleague, and a confidante.

Linda and Reece

I stayed with Linda, her husband Jerry, and son Reece for four days before I moved on to visit Carol, my youngest sister, who lives in Sioux City, Iowa with her husband Brad, and sons Liam and Aiden. Within minutes after walking in the door, Carol looked at me and said, “You look like you need to have a massage. Let me treat you to one.” (I think she had noticed that I couldn’t even stand up straight.) Within minutes, we had an appointment for the next day.

The next morning, as I was preparing to leave for that appointment, Carol’s good friend and next-door neighbor Shelley popped in. She and her husband Brian had finished building their house in the fall, and in February they had awakened to a fire that completely destroyed the interior of the house. Luckily, no one was hurt, but they had to move out for 4 months while the house was rebuilt.

Shelley didn’t know I was in town, so was surprised to see me. We talked for a bit, then I said I had to leave for my massage with Kathy Awtry. She said that she was also seeing Kathy that day, just after me! The universe works in mysterious ways, as you will see.

During my session with Kathy, we talked about my study of shamanism and the healing and energy work I do in depossession and soul retrievals. She was fascinated and full of questions.

A couple of hours after my massage, Shelley called me and had barely said hello when she asked me what I do. After I clarified that she was asking about my shamanic work, she said that after she had explained to Kathy what was going on for her, Kathy had suggested Shelley call me to have me do some work on her and her house.

Apparently, she and Brian, as well as their children, had been seeing a spirit in their house prior to the fire, specifically a woman. Neither had ever had experience with spirits, but they felt strongly that she was somehow involved with the fire. They had also been experiencing behaviors that weren’t typical in their relationship, with lots of anger and frustration, before the fire, as well as after.

Having never had any experience clearing energy for houses or land, I wasn’t sure what I would do. I decided I would approach it the same way I would a person: call in the spirits, do a drumming extraction while journeying, and let the spirits guide me in what to do next.

What an amazing experience! I immediately saw the woman in my mind. She was afraid, but not of me or Brian and Shelley. She was, in fact, trying to help them. It was her abusive husband’s spirit that she was protecting them from. His spirit was also there, elusive, lurking, trying to avoid me and what I was doing. The woman explained that he had not only abused her, but had ended up killing her, dumping her body in the nearby lake, and no one had ever discovered or said anything about her disappearance.

She went on to explain that he was an evil man who had caused a lot of people harm. They had lived on the property, and the image I was shown was of a run-down trailer in a very destitute trailer park on the land Shelley and Brian and Carol and Brad had built their houses on.

The woman had been trying to warn Shelley and Brian that her husband’s spirit was trying to do them harm, that he was the cause of the change in behavior, and that they needed to protect themselves from him. It was not her, but his energy that had started the fire.

After I finished drumming and worked with my spirit helpers to pass their souls to the light, I shared with Shelley what the spirits had shown me. She was flabbergasted. She confirmed everything that I had relayed to her. Brian had grown up in a nearby town, and had told her that there had been a trailer park, that it was a very poor area of town not that many years before, and that there were several not-so-nice men who had lived in the area.

I suggested to her that we do a depossession for her and Brian as well. We did one for her that night, although Brian was out of town.

The next day, Shelley said that the energy in the house was completely different. She hadn’t even wanted to go into the house, but after the work I did, was now completely free of that feeling. When Brian came home a few days later, he confirmed the same for him.

I let them know that when I passed through again on my way to Arkansas, I would give Brian a session, too. They were both relieved to know the cause of their misfortune, and were eager to know more about shamanism and energy work.

The next day, I headed to my hometown, Howard, South Dakota.

Fate and Destiny

The realness of leaving the Lodge is starting to sink in. Today I awoke with all that I have to do, and with the realization that in less than two weeks I will be on the road to a new stage of my life.

Feeling sadness, with a touch of doubt about my choosing to leave for three months, I sat down to do my daily ritual of drawing a Sacred Path Card: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings.

Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams

I also have a new deck called Wisdom of the Hidden Realms by Colette Baron-Reid, a very beautiful set of cards that help bridge the worlds of the material and the spiritual.

Wisdom of the Hidden Realms by Colette Baron-Reid

The question on my mind the past day or so was “why not just move into Portland instead of hitting the road?” The first card I drew was Painted Face, which speaks of self-expression, to use my creativity to express my feelings, talents, and desires.

Yesterday I taught the third day-long workshop in Shamanic Writing Level II, which is all about how to be creative and what to do with that creativity. One of the principles of my teaching is that creativity is healing as well as productive, which the card reading said in black and white. The card pointed to this time of allowing the Medicine of the Self to emerge, to offer the gift of my Medicine to others who may have need of my talents. The card went on to say that changing appearance, attitudes, and activities to match the healed me is called for at this time. It’s always amazing to me that the cards reflect exactly what is happening. I’ve been dying to the old in many ways, and leaving the Lodge seems to be another reflection of that in my life (read Shaman’s Death post for more on dying to the old).

Then I went to shuffle the Hidden Realms cards and saw at the bottom of the deck the Mapmaker of Destiny card. I thought to myself, now wouldn’t that be the card to draw. I shuffled thoroughly for about a minute, and lo and behold, that’s the card I drew!

The card reading says it’s a sign that I’m being given an opportunity to transform Fate into Destiny. A Map of Destiny shows all the places I’m meant to visit, places where I will be challenged to evolve into the highest aspects of the Self. Fate represents the events in my life that were meant to happen and that I can’t change. Fate is transformed into Destiny according to how I respond to my circumstances. Destiny offers me the ability to make great opportunities out of fated experience, so free will and choice are possible at certain points on my map.

Apparently, NOW is one of those times. I’m faced with a circumstance brought to me by Fate. How I respond will lead to my perfect Destiny. The Challenge is to face the things within me that must change in order for me to express my highest good.

No matter which form they take, all challenges and allies are perfect expressions of Fate inviting me into my Destiny. The final line of the reading: “Remember that Fate makes the map, but Destiny is determined by the manner in which I engage my journey.”

I wasn’t given the choice to leave the Lodge, but now that Fate has shown its cards, it is how I proceed that is leading to my Destiny. I just need to breathe and trust that all is being shown exactly when I need it.

Blessings on Your Path,


The Shaman’s Death

The sight before me was all too familiar. I had seen it years ago, before I had begun my shamanic studies. The head sliced from the body, attached only by a narrow piece of skin, the mouth opening and closing, gasping for air, eyes staring, seeking but not comprehending. Only a thin connection remained to what was left of the snake’s life, a single thread tenuously grasping on to what it knew just moments before. I watched as the unscathed and beautiful body stilled. I stood stunned, knowing I could never reverse the fatal damage I had inflicted.

The horror I felt was overwhelming, images flashing of the first time I had been witness to this ghastly scene of running over a snake with a mower. I felt queasy as a wave of nauseating energy swept through my body. It was as if my own throat had been cut, my own body dismembered, dying, with so much life left unlived. The pain, sorrow, and guilt that surfaced caused my body to tense, my mind to reel.

I ran from the scene, no longer able to bear the passing of life. Overwhelmed by emotion, I cried to the spirits, “Why?” An innocent life, ended so brutally. What kind of universe is it that something so cruel can happen, not once, but twice in my life? I was dizzy with anger, frustration, sadness, and disbelief. I stumbled to the front yard, dazed and confused, filled with rage and sorrow, so many unanswered questions swirling in my mind. What more could happen? What other challenges would I have to face before the seemingly unending series of failures that had happened in my life would stop?

I sat down on the bench overlooking the river in front of the Lodge and stared, unseeing, at the beautiful scene in front of me, a stark contrast to the death I had just witnessed. And as if in a movie where all the scenes pass on the screen at breakneck speed, images of my life’s struggles, the obstacles I had faced, the mistakes I had made, the choices I wished I could undo, swept through my mind. So many things had brought me to this point.

I took a deep breath, and my mind slowed. “It was a snake,” I said to myself. “I used to hate snakes. Why does its death feel so significant? What message am I supposed to be getting?” Then, very gently, a voice whispered in my ear. “There is a reason for everything. Remember what you asked for. Now is the time to live it.”

What I asked for? This was it? I couldn’t see the connection. I thought back to last year, as I was preparing for my fourth vision quest practicum, the last direction of the Medicine Wheel. North, the place of insight and wisdom – and perseverance. The final quest was to be a culmination of a journey, bringing together all that I had learned in the previous three years of seeking and understanding my path in the world.

I had asked for grace so that I would have a clear understanding of what I was writing about in my book, Stumbling Through Fear, Falling Into Grace. Be careful what you ask for. At the time of the snake’s death, I had just experienced my most heart-wrenching, difficult, and challenging year of my life. Time after time, I had been reminded to walk with grace as I faced each obstacle and loss.

As I sat wondering what the spirits were trying to show me by the severing of the snake’s head, I suddenly realized that being in grace meant accepting the unwanted, of dealing with pain with understanding and significance, to honor those things that were showing me the way, no matter how challenging or unwanted.

Gathering a candle and a few altar items, I went back to the snake in the back yard and helped its spirit pass to the light. I sat there for hours crying, letting my emotions spill out until there was nothing left.

And in that empty space, I heard another message: “You must die to the past. How you have been choosing no longer serves you. It is necessary to change all that is holding you back.”

Then I remembered one of the first Shamanic Journeys I had ever done years ago. It was a dismemberment journey, where my power animal, the snake, came to me and disassembled me to help me “re-member” my true self. The snake came directly to me and without any fanfare proceeded to bite off my head. Nothing else, just my head. He chewed it up and spit it out into a fire. From the fire, a whirlwind of the pieces formed a tornado, the force of the energy reforming my head into a bright light of iridescent colors. He then carefully replaced it onto my body.

At the time, I took the meaning to be of getting out of my head and back into my heart. As I sat there mourning the loss of the snake in my back yard, I realized that I hadn’t really done that. I was still letting my head lead the way, allowing fear to influence all of my choices. The snake’s death culminating a year of setbacks seemed to be amplifying the message. How I had been operating in the world wasn’t working. It took the severing of my power animal’s head to show me that.

That night, the summer breezes blew through my bedroom windows, gently rocking me into a deep sleep. The emotions of the day had exhausted me. In the middle of the night I heard my cats playing in the room. When I got up to use the bathroom and switched on the light, I saw that they had captured and killed a bat that had apparently flown in through the screen-less window.

Two deaths in a day. I felt horrible that it was taking the lives of these animals to show me life lessons. I immediately went to the Medicine Power book by Jamie Sams to read about the medicine of the bat.

What I found was that the bat symbolizes rebirth. How appropriate. The cycle must continue, first death to the old, then rebirth. The passage continued that the bat reflected the Shaman’s Death. In some cultures, the Shaman is put through a ritual so demeaning and difficult that some do not come through with their sanity intact. In order to heal and know what others are experiencing, the Shaman must know the shadow side as well as the light. The rituals they endure are called the Shaman’s Death.

I realized that I had been experiencing the Shaman’s Death for some time, in particular the past year. The choice I had was to fight it and continue to experience more of the same, or to embrace what the spirits were showing me and truly die to my old self, the self of fear; of making choices based on an external, egoic view; of worry and regret; of patterns and habits that were harmful. It was time to step into a new me, or rather, the true expression of me that has always been there, but hidden behind self-created masks and beliefs.

That day was a turning point. I saw a new fork on my path. I could choose to continue the patterns that had gotten me to this point, or I could begin to let go of what no longer served me, no matter how deep I needed to go to unravel their hold on me.

As I fell back to sleep, I felt a sense of relief and release. I thanked the spirits of the snake and bat for their sacrifice to help me see my path more clearly, and fell back into a deep, dreamless sleep.

So much has happened in the past two days. Not only am I moving from The Raven Lodge, but I found out yesterday that my space at Healing Waters & Sacred Spaces will not be available after the end of the month. My belief is that spirit is directing things, and this is another sign that dramatic change is meant to be for me at this time. I can resist the signs, or pay attention and go with the flow. I prefer the flow.

This morning I drew the Counting Coup card from the Sacred Path Cards: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings deck by Jamie Sams. The idea of Counting Coup has been skewed over history to mean scalping. This was not the way of the Native people, but came about from those who sought money from the wealthy settlers . Originally a way to honor the victory over an enemy or challenge, the traditional Native prizes were horses, weapons, Medicine Bundles and Medicine Shields. Scalps were not honorable prizes before the Europeans came here.

The Counting Coup card signifies Victory. Ironic, since it seems I’m actually losing a lot. But as I read on, it says that I have overcome a long-time challenge. To me, that is the shedding of old habits that no longer serve me, of changing long-held beliefs that hold me back.

The card represents “forward movement and the acknowledgment of right action. You have been true to yourself and are being rewarded for staying on The Sacred Path.” In dying to my old self, in changing my acceptance of my path, of letting go of trying to control what happens, I have been released. I feel a paradigm shift not like any I have experienced.

One of the basic tenets I’ve learned on The Shamanic Path is to look for signs that provide direction, understanding, and many times validation. That can be in the form of seeing a hawk and paying attention to what messages are coming my way. Or to see a heron and know that I must be focused and attentive. To read a card and understand a different perspective on what’s happening in my life. To have money come in unexpectedly, and in just the amount needed to move forward. Like breadcrumbs on a path, these signs lead to new views, new beliefs, and new cycles.

I woke this morning with excitement and realized that for the past year and a half, I’ve been waking with dread, not knowing what was coming next. Now that I’ve been released to a new adventure, I am energized. I’m ready to step off into the abyss and find a new landing. The signs are all there. It’s my role to pay attention to where they lead.



Daily Ritual and Prayer

Every morning I have a ritual. For years, I thought I could do without having this routine in my life. But I have seen the tremendous benefit from taking 15 – 30 minutes to meditate on a subject; thank the spirits for their guidance, protection, and gifts; and pray for what I want to have happen in my day. What I have been doing recently is upon waking, I will read a book on spirituality, personal growth, or some other forward-looking writing for 5-10 minutes, then sit down at my altar and pull a card from the Sacred Path Cards: The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings deck by Jamie Sams.

Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams

These cards are an invaluable tool for spiritual growth. The cards help cut through the illusions of self and the world. They provide a reflection of what’s happening in life. Jamie Sams writes insightful stories that provide a perspective on Native American culture, history, ceremony, and ritual, as well as specific lessons for reflection. Her work focuses on bringing balance back into our lives.

After reading her card and meditating on its message, I tie 7 prayer ties for each of the directions: East, West, South, North, Above, Below, and Within (see my post on the Medicine Wheel). Eventually, I am guided to burn these prayer ties to release their energy to the universe.

Since I have been following this routine, my life has dramatically changed. I’ll share with you some of those changes in these posts, as well as daily insights from this ritual. If you’d like to follow along, subscribe to the RSS feed in the upper right corner of the blog page and you will be notified of any updates!

Tomorrow, I’ll write about the Medicine Wheel and the Cycles/Movement of life.



In the nine years I’ve studied Shamanism with Jan Engels-Smith, founder of LightSong School of Shamanic Studies, I have witnessed an ever-increasing shift in the willingness of people across all beliefs to talk more about their spirituality, about energy frequencies and how they affect what we create in our lives, and about a need to strengthen our connection with what I call Creator Energy (God, Spirit, Source, or whatever you choose to use to describe that energy). Even media icons like Oprah are regularly discussing these changes. Although everyone uses different metaphors, archetypes, mythology, symbols, rituals, ceremonies, etc. to connect to the Creator Energy, we are all, ultimately using the same basic principles to reach our higher purpose by how and what we create in our lives.

This blog is meant to give you different perspectives on how energy works, mostly from a Shamanic perspective, but also incorporating understanding from the different belief systems my path has revealed to me. I will share resources, insights, and observations that I hope will stimulate your creativity and transformation as our world moves to a new paradigm of consciousness, discovering new ways of utilizing energy to make change within, as well as changing our world.

Welcome to the Journey!