shamanic journeying - or - how i found Henry...

being the inquisitive creature that i am, i signed up for a Shamanic Journey class last week...

and before climbing into my car i ticked off the list of things to bring;

a blanket or mat - to lay on
a blanket - to cover up with (sometimes it gets very cold on your journey)
an eye mask or some form of eye covering
a journal and a writing utensil
a water bottle
a rattle - if you would like to use one to begin ( i thought to bring the butterfly teething rattle i keep in the freezer for tiny tornado mishaps. hindsight says i should have)

be warned; if you are a shamanic journeyer and/or a humor stone has not yet been placed in your medicine bag, you may want to move on to the next blog. 
if you read anyway and decide you don't care for what you read; don't blame it on me, blame it on the Middle World...


~ Beginning my Journey ~

my journey started in my own car one hour before i was drummed into my first decent into the lower world, because though i knew the general direction in which i was headed i was not certain exactly where i needed to end up and - as we all know - sometimes mapquest lies... 

i did miss one turn, but as it turned out i was still running far too early so when i came upon a seriously gorgeous cemetery - complete with castle - i chose to drive through it's stone gate and snap a photo...

...while i was stopped there in front of this castle a thought occurred to me; just skip the class and take a stroll through this quiet sunlit cemetery...

instead i found myself looking back fondly as i exited through the same stone gates i'd entered...

(reminder to self: quick random thoughts can sometimes be intuition, albeit quietly understated, that i would be wise to listen to)

two more turns and i was at my destination... a house. with a woman standing outside of her garage holding a bundle of smoking twigs which she was waving through the air...

though i was sure this must be the place (who else would be standing in a driveway in 94 degree heat waving smoking twigs through the air?) i introduced myself adding that i was there for the Journeying class - just in case. she didn't introduce herself, simply informed me that before i went any further she needed to "ash" me.

ash me?! what the!?!?!  i don't have to guess at the look on my face because i felt my eyebrows furrow in horror at the thought of her smashing a burning bundle of twigs onto my forehead. (ouch!)  instead, it turns out, i simply had to stand as if being searched for concealed weapons as the twigs and smoke were passed around and through me to ward off any unwanted spirits.

(i do hope i left all mine in the car, i certainly don't want to think that any of them are still running scared in her yard, the poor little beasties...)

at that point i was allowed to go down the exterior steps and into her basement  where i was to leave my payment on the table just inside the door so that all unpleasant things were behind me before i journeyed....

(parting with $35 was indeed unpleasant)


~ Preparing to Journey ~

first things first;

there were four of us in a small 1970s style room filled with books, candles, incense, folding screens, furniture, oriental/native american photos and a multitude of stones and chachkis. two of us lay end to end in one area and two (myself included) lay side by side in another "like sardines in a can" - but not close enough for energy fields to mingle. all of us waiting to be instructed by the twig bearing woman who busied herself searching for a book on animal spirit guides that was highly necessary for the class.  but oh well if she didn't find it she could wing it...

i smiled at the prospect of someone so out of sorts with her own environment teaching the discipline of Shamanic Journeying...  

she blamed the book loss on her daughter and carried on - offering pillows, knee bolsters and one amethyst filled biomat to one lucky student.

and while setting up the mat for that lucky student she explained that she only holds these classes because she makes big money so easily its ridiculous... (uh huh it is)  with which to fund her exotic spending habits. 

i lost my smile. 

it was then that i should have taken my blanket  - and my money - and ran, but Curiosity said give it a chance so i did.  (Curiosity has since been punished.)

she then debated over which of three Shamanic drums she should use...  banging on each to test the sound... boom boom bang bang... no... yes...no... bang bang boom boom... yes... no... yes...  but i really wanted to use this one but... bang bang boom boom.. no... yes... no... yes... boom boom bang bang... no... yes...

OI!

when finally she chose and we could move forward she handed out rattles. she was one short so i was left without, making me grin just a bit at the thought of the butterfly teething rattle at home in my freezer... maybe i should have brought it after all?  

and then, there we stood with arms stretched out toward the heavens while we - okay THEY - rattled to the north, east, south, west, sky and earth to summon good spirits, not unlike native americans dancing around a fire. quietly i wondered why it has always been assumed that bad spirits are put off by repetitious noises...

we then sat on our mats to receive instructions:

one must think of a real place. a place that was not only beautiful, but contained some short of hole one could tunnel into as they began their journey toward Lower Earth to find their Spirit Guide, something like a knot in a tree she said...

so there i sat, my mind - of course - completely blank.  as many holes as i've crawled into my life time, i could not locate any that were real or beautiful.  in a pinch i remembered a chipmunk hole that was under the flowers in my back yard.  though perhaps i was led to that hole by some unknown force?

now, before one starts their journey one must lay flat on the floor with eyes covered and state their intention three times. 

"i am here to find my spirit guide." (no ruby slippers or heel clicking necessary here)

and finally we were told that once journeying we would see a beautiful world filled with all sorts of animals, birds and aquatic life forms and any one of those forms that we see four times could indeed be our spirit guide... but we must ask it to be sure.

and one last thing, she said, journeying can become quite cold so you may want to cover up with your blanket...

~ My Journey to the Lower World ~

one journeys via the beat of a drum. (click for u-tube rendition of drumming)

a loud drum.

a constant loud drum.

a twenty minute bang bang bang bang bang i am getting a serious headache can we please stop now drum.

but there i was; eyes closed; stating my purpose while burrowing down into the chipmunk hole under the flowers in my back yard... 

 "i am here to find my spirit guide."   "i am here to find my spirit guide."  "i am here to find my spirit guide."

but my minds eye saw only black shadows with bits of white light thrown in...

"i am here to find my..." hey! wait! was that a bird?  no. that's just the reflection of my own eyeball on the back of my eyelid...

damn. she was right! i'm freezing!

"i am here to find my spirit guide"

course that could be because i'm laying on a cold cement floor with air conditioning blasting down from the ceiling...

wait! i see eyes. is that a cat?  i like cats.  i'm hoping for a Bengal Tiger spirit guide... but that would be yellow and i can't see any damn colors at all... 

i wonder how long she's been drumming now...

and why did she tell us she only does this to fund her spending habits and that it's easy money... that pisses me off...

shit!

"i am here to find my spirit guide."  "i am here to find my spirit guide." "i am here to.." 

and the drumming grew louder and then ceased and my journey was over.

and i found nothing whatsoever but darkness and a pair of what i thought might have been cat eyes.

everybody else had wonderfully detailed stories about their journey and each of them had an animal spirit guide... hell they even knew their spirit guides name...

but me? i saw zip. nada. bzzzzzzt. nothing.

maybe i hadn't sucked in enough smoke during my ashing?

but then again, maybe it was a big black cat whose fur clouded my vision? 

i saw a cat eyes and black. i said;  a panther maybe? i couldn't tell... do i get another turn? 

~ My Journey to the Upper World ~

"i am here to find my teacher" "i am here to find my teacher"  "i am here to find my teacher"

this was easier - the first thing i saw was a spirit i have already encountered in real life. ( see apparition NOT exhaust) and the name Athena* popped into my head.  job done. can we stop the damn drumming now? 

what? we've only been laying here for 40 seconds?  we have 14 minutes 20 to go?  oh man, i will never make it...  i'm freezing my ass off laying on this floor...  damn, she was right! it IS cold journeying... that or she has the air conditioning up far too high... i am wearing practically zip because it's 94 degrees outside...  damn that incense stinks... or maybe i'm smelling musty basement...  hmmm... i can't believe she told us she only does this because it's easy money... even if i thought that i would never say it out loud... especially not in my classroom... right before i taught it...  if this were my basement i would take that yucky paneling off the walls... or maybe paint it white... i thought Rieki was oriental like Feng Shui...  but maybe not?... there is way too much clutter in this room to make it relaxing in any form... and so damn many pointy things....  no wonder i can't visualize anything but doom...  that, or maybe i'm just a bad spirit because the damn drum is driving me bonkers... 

BOOM BA BOOM BA BOOM...

yes ma'am i did have better luck that time; my teacher is a spirit i have seen in real life and her name is Athena.  what do you mean what did it look like up there? ... hmm... um... well, do you remember that field in the Twilight movie where Edward starts to sparkle?  ....

that is when she told me i was thinking of the Lower and Upper World as Hell and Heaven - which is why i found it difficult to descend.  i assured her i wasn't,  but was careful not to add the fact that the drums were a huge deterrent, second only to freezing my ass off on a cement floor. she told me these worlds weren't reality and nothing could hurt me in them - although in the Middle World there were all sorts of nasties and curses and bad elements and there you could not tell lies from truths so whatever i do i should not venture there...

wonderful.  how much does one want to bet that is exactly where i am headed?  is the door clearly marked i wonder? damn! even if it is, might they mark it with something enticing just to intrigue me? 

i. am. doomed. 

~ My second Journey into the Lower World ~

drums and darkness.  period. though for a brief second or three i mistook a bit of light filtering underneath my eye covering as a hawk. 

but, i sense fur so maybe my spirit guide really is a panther!  yes. that must be it.

and though i cannot see clearly a black panther winds around my brain and informs me his name is Henry* after which he snorts a laugh and adds that if she (the teacher) should ask and i want to appear impressive i should tell her his name is Mika*... 

instead after the drumming stops i keep mum while the others detail their journeys. though i do notice that the teacher is wearing clothes more suited for winter and is wrapped up in a thick fur lined quilt and i am goose dimpled and near on to teeth chattering.  but after every one else tells their story i am asked point blank and have to admit again that i saw only darkness.  she only moves from her warmth to surround me with various stones and crystals meant to inspire clarity and tells me i can envision a light switch and turn it on...

~ and we Journey once more ~

and as i lay there in the darkness, i retreat to my thoughts of Henry, whom i find to be a playful sort who thinks the same way i do, and together we laugh about my spending $35 bucks to freeze my ass off for four hours on a cold basement floor so the teacher could buy something new.

and together we thank the gods that this is the last time we have to hear that irritating drumming...

i grin silently to myself - and maybe to Henry - and we are done with this charade...

i open my eyes before the drumming stops rub my temples, plug my ears and bury my feet inside my blanket...


~ My Journey Home ~

once dismissed, my body was freezing to the core, my head was throbbing and i couldn't pack up my things fast enough - i thought to pack up my check as well but damn if she hadn't pocketed it already...

and as i drove away muttering about wasting $35 and an entire saturday afternoon i passed by the cemetery, slowed a bit, and smiled at the stone gate.

and the castle.

and at Henry the big black panther...

Henry - who was now sitting in the passenger seat casually licking the back of his paw to smooth his whiskers.

You realize, of course that this wasn't a total waste of time don't you? 

what do you mean Henry? i'm still frozen to the core and i've a headache from hell!

True... very true... but, if you think about it.  I mean really think about it...  you did learn quite something quite important...

he stuck his head out the window to catch the breeze while i thought...

it was then that i realized i have known how to journey all my life...

and that learning how to journey outside of my reality to escape the horrors i endured as a child was paramount to my survival - and in many forms it still is. 

he pulled his head back in with a sly smile;  Do you see now?  he asked.

i answered, not with words, but with a single tear.

he then reminded me just how much i lean on that realm which i cannot see; because more often than not it is correct. and how that realm guides my gut even when my head and heart might say otherwise.

You, my friend,
he smiled; simply need to learn to trust yourself....

Henry was right. i smiled back and ruffled the fur between his ears...

i like Henry.

i think i will keep him around....   



* interesting facts - or not - i looked up name and spirit guide meanings after writing this, here are the results:

Athena - female name - Greek - goddess of wisdom
Henry - male name - English - rules his household

Mika - male name - Hebrew - gift from God  - Japanese - New Moon


Black Panther Spirit/Power Animal
(spirit animals are said to be a reflection of self - so, for those of you who know me - tell me if this seems accurate)


Panthers are generally loners, extremely comfortable with themselves and are often drawn to other solitary people. Women with Panther, Leopard or Jaguar power animals frequently find themselves raising their children alone, whether it be through divorce or circumstance. People with this power animal can develop clairaudience, the ability to hear communications from other forms of life or dimensions. They must trust their thoughts and inner voice/visions as they are based in reality...