According to Wikipedia a vision quest can be defined as a turning point in life taken before puberty to find oneself and the intended spiritual and life direction. In many Inuit and other Native American groups, when an older child is ready, they will go on a personal, spiritual quest alone in the wilderness. This usually lasts for a number of days while the child is tuned into the spirit world. Usually, a Guardian animal will come in a vision or dream, and the child’s life direction will appear at some point. Once the child has experienced this they will return to the tribe and pursue that direction in life. The vision quest can be a part of shamanism, more exactly, the learning and initiation process of an apprentice for achieving the ability for shamanizing, mostly under the guidance of an older shaman. Taking both of those definitions into account I’d like to share a spirit quest I had the privilege to experience recently.
My parents bought a Native American music and chanting cd recently. It is said that the Chieftan, who recently passed away, who created the cd with the music artist was one of the last remaining that actually understood the power of chanting and how to harness it for connection into the spirit world. My father, a very spiritually connected man who I believe he is a Shaman in his own right listened to the cd and informed me that I needed to listen to the cd without interruption, without spouse or children around and I needed to listen in a state of meditation. What he told my mother that they did not tell me until later was that he knew something important would happen…to me…for me…when I listened to it. He said, “My daughter will hear this and be able to reclaim a part of her that was missing. It’s very important!”
When I was told over the phone by my parents that I needed to listen to the cd. Tears immediately sprang to my eyes and I felt the deepest desire to simply let go and cry. I had a hard time catching my breath and instinctively knewit would impact me greatly. A kind of nervous anticipation held me captive for the rest of the afternoon but it was uncertaintity that I would want to hear the cd that kept me putting it off until late evening. It was 8:30 before I finally headed to my parents house. Making sure that I was grounded and centered I sat in their living room, just me and my mom, lights off, the only sound in the room the cd and within moments was whisked away on a spirit journey, a vision quest of my own.
As the music began, the sound of the wind blowing, a Native American flute and faint almost imperceptible chanting filled the room. In my minds eye a journey began so deceptively simply I didn’t even realize it had started. I saw an eagle soaring through the brilliant morning sky, wings spread wide to embrace the current he graced with such magnificence. He dipped, soared and dove calling to me and each cry felt as if it came from the depth of my soul. He dove through the sky and crossed a treeline in the wilderness that drew my gaze to the forest.
As if my eyes were telescopes I honed in on a mountain lion loping along with sleek grace and quiet intensity. I watched as the mountain lion crossed miles of forest floor, bounding effortlessly over fallen logs and through thick undergrowth. I watched the mountian lion until he crossed paths with a small turtle. My focus was immediately diverted to the turtle and I watched it grow in size until it was as big as a large sea turtle. Suddenly the sea turtle stood on it’s hind legs and became a Native American man wearing a sea turtle shell as clothing. His eyes were black as night and he had green paint on his face. He was frightening to look at and spoke not a word but offered me a turtle shell filled with a milky white substance. I understood I was to drink it so I did and the man disappeared.
I looked around me and realized that the drink had to have been some kind of hallucinogen. As I walked through the forest I could see the life in all things. Every leaf, every flower, every blade of grass gave off a pulsing glow of life. I could literally see the trees breathing and I felt completely connected, one with all things. I seemed to drift through the forest absorbing the knowledge that I am part of the whole and that life is in all things. I came to the edge of the forest and as the trees fell away I saw the Pyramid of the Sun. Nothing was left of the people or the lives that were lived in that once vital community but I knew where I was. It was a sacred place, the place I had come to seek…something.
As I climbed each step, 365 steps in all, I had to say a prayer. I could not progress to the next step until my prayer was complete. I never heard what I was praying but I feel as if it was a chant of some kind, a plea for the divine mother to listen to my call when I reached the peak of the pyramid. At the top I climbed upon the alter and sat upon my knees bowing to the sun, praying earnestly for the source of all creation to hear me, to assist me and to guide me in the direction I was to go. I knew in my heart that I was seeking the same enlightment and wisdom that had been sought through the ages. I spent all day there praying and crying to the heavens. As I turned to leave and began desecending the steps each step I took brought the darkness of night closer.
At the base of the pyramid I meandered through the quiet remains of the once great city and found myself facing a river. I could see the moonlight rippling across the surface of the river and I dropped to my knees on the riverbank and stared into the swift but quiet river. A lok in the water reflected back the image and shape of a human body but there was no reflection, no face to see. It was blurred and unclear. I disturbed the water where the face was supposed to be in the hopes that the waer would clear but instead the image began to fade away altogether and in frustration I threw myself back against the shore and wept myself to sleep there in darkness.
As dawn broke over the river I awoke and discovered a tattoo had appeared on my arm. It was the sleek and dangerous black panther. The sight of that permanent mark on my skin was frightening at first for how did it get there? But as I gazed at it I felt a sense of rightness steal over me and joy began to unfold within my heart. I rose and headed back to the village. I had let my Chieftan down for I had not found what I sought but I did come away with something.
As I approached an empty field and the sun shone down I felt the desire to dance take ahold of me. I began to spin in circles and those circles were performed within one large circle around the meadow. I danced for joy, I danced with gratitude, I danced for the sun God and Mother Earth. When I could dance no longer I continued on my hourney to the village and came upon it soon enough. I walked through the village and no one looked upon me. I approached the teepee of the Chieftan and as if he knew I was coming to see him he stepped out to greet me. He said not a word but stared into my eyes, stared into my soul and I knew he saw what I had feared. I had gained nothing. I knew nothing. I had let him down…my vision quest had not been fruitful.
He led me to the sweat lodge and I laid down upon the grass mat that was prepared for me. I stared up through the smoke hole of the teepee and was aware that three people were with me. The Chieftan, Mantou my spirit guide, and Sari my guardian angel. They are with me on every spiritual journey and they were here with me. I knew that I was being put through a ritual to unlock something….to somehow set something within myself free. They chanted, the prayed, the saged me with feathers and cleaned my energy. It went on forever….and suddenly I was standing in front of the Chieftan instead of lying down. He stared into my eyes and then with one great breath he blew on the center of my forehead, just above and centered between my eyes…the place of the third eye where we “see” spiritually. As his breath hit my third eye it was as if a huricane blew throught my entire being. I felt myself falling back into nothingness.
When I came to I was standing at the edge of a forest, My father stood at the edge of a cliff in front of me, back to me, playing a Native American flute. He played to each of the four directions, North, South, East and West. He played to the Source of all and as I listened to the haunting melody I knew that he was praying for me. Suddenly Sari appeared between us and she began to dance to his melody. It took me a moment to realize that she was transforming into a Phoenix. As a glorious Phoenix she soared into the sky, dipping, swooping and somersaulting in delight. She called to me….”Just like the legend of the Phoenix…out of the ashes comes life and it is a glorious thing. You can find freedom in flight…find freedom as the Phoenix.”
I watched her in the sky and suddenly faces began to flash before my eyes. I knew all four faces but could only name three. ***Flash, a face*** and I would say “Chieftan”. ***Flash, a face*** and I would say “Mantou”. ***Flash, a face*** and I would say “Sari”. ***Flash, a face*** I knew the face, knew I should know the name but it wouldn’t come to me. The faces would repeat and each time I would get more and more frustrated that I couldn’t name the four face. (outside of the vision quest in the real world – my father called home – my mother told him we were listening to the cd and he said he would call later.) The second my mother answered the call I had the name. It was Isaro, my father’s spirit guide. As his face flashed in front of me I called his name just like I had with others. “Isaro” and with the sound of his name leaving my lips I was sent spiralling through some kind of vortex.
The only way I know how to describe it was like on movies when people are time travelling and the eveything is moving so fast, colors stream by and you are tossed about through the tunnel of light free falling toward something. I heard as of from a very great distance the cd clicking off. I heard my Mother getting up ad moving about and I knew that I had to get back to my body. I had to return. I became aware of my body and a new experience began. I felt my spirit self trying to fit back in to my physical self. I was aware that I couldn’t move any part of my body. It felt like I was pushing through mud and each inch of pogress I made I felt a little more of my body. It seemed to take forever to get past my eyes but as I did I tried to open my eyes and struggled. They felt as if they were weighted closed. I became aware that I had been crying. As I sank into myself I could feel the tears on m cheeks. I could begin to move my fingers, then my hands. On and on the progression back into myself went and the more I returned the more control I had over my body. My entire body felt like…well tingly, almost painfully so like when your foot goes to sleep and you ‘wake’ it up. It took almost fifteen minutes to come back fully.
My mother told the story of how they came across the cd, who the Chieftan was, the experience they had withthe cd up to that point and how certain Dad was that it was important for me to listen to. I listened, I absorbed and then I asked for paper and her Native American Medicine cards. I looked up the things that seemed important to me. This is what I know and have interpreted of the vision, so far:
- The Hawk is the messenger of God, when hey appear to someone they are there to tell you that a message is coming and that it is important. Pay attention the message is from God.
- The Mountain Lion represents leadership. What I got out of the message in the mountain lion card is to lead yourself where your heart takes you.
- The Turtle(Man) represnts Mother Earth and being grounded. It also represents knowing how to use protection.
- I, we, are part of ALL and I had to be put in a position where my personal filters were removed to really see life as it is.
- There were 365 steps – one for each day of the year.
- The Pyramid of the Sun was once the center of a religious center and a highly powerful place. You have to walk the Avenue of the Dead to climb it.
- I believe the river to be the river of life and from past exeriences I know that I don’t see myself often out of fear for who I truly am.
- The Black Panther is highly revered. It represents the darkness and facing your fears. The black panther represents seeking and finding answers, accepting healing and accessing the hidden light of truth.
- The Chieftan was a shaman my spirit guide and guardian angel were working with to free me – from what I don’t know yet.
- The Chieftan cleared some blockage out of my third eye..opened some kind of ability to see.
- I already know the legend of the Phoenix – it is several cultures and has intrigued me for years.
- Isaro, my fathers spirit guide has something to teach me – I know and I get pieces of it as I go along. We are connected somehow.
Do I understand it all…do I think about it daily..yes. Do I know where to go from here..no. Has this changed my life..definately in ways I don’t even understand yet.