The Shaman's Death as Initiation
The Shamanic initiatory process includes the experience of a life-altering state of existence. Once one hears the calling towards a shamanic way of healing, loving, and interacting with all that exists in this realm and all others, and has decided to honor that calling, one has entered the process of initiation.
We in the West are not so familiar with what happens when one takes the sacred rite of passage towards Becoming what they are meant or destined to be. We have no idea, for the most part, how to experience such life-changing events because we do not honor them as such.
The shaman, and shamanic societies do. Always, all ways. For within the rite of passage to become la que sabe, she who Knows, the great shape-shifter, the wisdom holder, the wise one, one most certainly dies to any and all of who they were before this.
The Shaman's Death is the experience in life when one moves through a loss or a change so profound, that they wonder if they will ever be able to come back from it. Here, in the dismemberment of life, or an annihilation as it may feel, is the death passage to becoming more of who we truly are. I have written about change before, as change is thoroughly a part of our human existence, whether one decides to honor a shamanic way of living or not. When the crash down, removal, dismemberment, dismantling comes, the cracking open to the voice that chants and the drum that sings is what merges the shaman's death into rebirth with the total psychic, physical, emotional and energetic breakdown that comes with this total change of life as we knew it. Sandra Ingerman, a well-known shamanic teacher and healer, describes the Shamans' Death this way: "There are no safety nets during the shaman's death Our life is dismembered. During these times we feel like we might not live through all that life is bringing to us." She goes on in a further passage to say that she received this advice from one of her Spirit teachers: "If you thought you were going to live through it, it would not be an initiation."
Oof, that feels like the final breath being knocked out as we already feel like we are gasping for air as our life collapses and closes in around us. That is the shaman's death drawing us in and squeezing out whatever was no longer meant to be held within our container of Being. It is a circular process within a process of dismemberment and initiation into something else, something More. And the circle rolls forward, taking us with it.
It doesn't feel, sound, or look anything like a Hallelujah in the beginning. As one begins to emerge from the deep process though, that Light that is experienced is unlike anything known previously. I know, because I have been dying the shaman's death for the past 13 lunar cycles. And my aha moment that brought me to this very profound and celebratory realization happened only just very recently, as I have been working though a deep set of practices to help me release and clear in powerful ways.
Many of you who have been following my work know that my great cracking open was catalyzed by the collapse of the romantic partnership I was in. I will say that the initiatory process that would take me deeper into the shamanic calling had already begun previously, which very likely had a strong energetic hand in the partnership container breaking apart. I had agreed to walk this path and move towards this calling no matter what, no matter what I would give up or outgrow along the way. At the time that I had made the agreement to walk into the initiation, I did not fully realize, on a conscious human ego level, what it was that I was agreeing to. That realization unfolded in layers, as did the death process.
External Lifelines, Cords Cut
When the partnership ended, I became unmoored from any and all sense of safety and security, especially when it came to surviving without monetary income as I had known it. The fact that I was now on my own to make it along this path I had chosen from such a deep and at the time, seemingly unreachable, place of myself left me feeling extremely uncertain of how I was going to survive in the world where money was the means to survival. At the same time, I was already moving through the transmutive process of severing unhealthy attachments to my first family, including any and all financial involvement in my life. I was weeding the garden of deep codependent strategies and removing the things that had felt like assistance but were actually crippling my growth. This was a painful process that felt almost unbearable as I realized I was now truly on my own. The love I had known, for the past 29 years of my life, was now dead and gone. It had ruptured and left me without the cloth I was usually able to wrap around myself when feeling vulnerable and unsure.
So this is where the death process really began to take me down into the underworld. And it is cold there. And it can be lonely there. And it can be dark there. And it can leave a trail of thoughts that you never wanted to say aloud because they are so destructive and so harmful and so despairing that yes, you think you will never ever come back from them. And they, for a time, become the real demons, in the real life, that you really must face in order to oust and banish them for good. This, friends, is the realm of the shadow, and every initiatory phase that brings new life will ask you to show up for time in the underworld to face the monsters and other beings that dwell there and are hungry for attention. This is the place that can leave you desperate for life, that can make any other option seem like a faerie garden. And while in this place, I tried to brith my business.
"Doesn't she ever learn?" you may be asking yourself.
Yes, she does. It takes all 13 lunar cycles to do it, though.
We are on our own journey with healing our lives to bring forth the essence of our Selves and the voices and intentions of souls. The medicine is that we run on our own cycles, unique to us and our divine timing. The process of dying shamanically honors the needs of the individual and the lessons they need to learn for their soul growth and evolution. Within this story are some of mine.
Safety, Security, Validation
For the last thirty years of my life, I have been sourcing safety, security and validation (among other things) from external means. The glaring problem with this is that, when left on the path of the nomad or way finder on a vision quest for an undisclosed amount of time, there is not much of that to be found. Not in the flesh of other humans, at least. And to find those things within, I had to get really, really quiet. And still. And so that is what happened as I undertook the vision quest that was also being reenforced by the first stay at home order of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
I went days without speaking, without seeing another human. It was just me and the haunted house that was my body and my mind. And a whole lot of support from the realms of Spirit.
A vision quest is, in fact, a part of the traditional shamanic initiation. Initiates go out in to the wilderness and must survive on their own, with the power of the spirit realms, plants,
animals and the Earth Herself to be the guides and givers of life as one moves through the quest. Yes, mine was non-traditional. I can assure you though, the end result was quite the same. The intention, as the name strongly suggests, is to gain vision beyond what one has previously been known to see. And to do this, one pushes the limits of one's mind, body and energetic existence.
To reiterate, I have identified all my life as an extremely social being, and the codependent hooks there were the need for other people to see me, hear me, reassure me, and provide me with a measure of safety. So, you can imagine how much that identity crumbled and shapeshifted as I spent those lunar cycles away from everyone and everything I had previously engaged with.
And I found new vision; vision that would aide me in redirecting my creations in this realm of matter that were more aligned with what my soul intends for this incarnation. When I finally came out of the vision quest, it was springtime, and I was ready to begin crafting the words and structures of what this would look like when presented out into the world.
It is important to mention now that this has been a year of death/rebirth to my heart. Not in a physical way, though there have been many, many physical effects of this process. And I knew that in some ways as I worked through the layers of this process. However, I was impatient, thinking that my heart needed to heal from loss of relationship and that container of love. Oh no. It was beyond the form of any human container, including my own sense of self and love. This was the deep and wide work of the Shaman's Death for me.
The Heart Unfolds, and Blooms
All spring and summer was a time of creativity. It was a cycle of deaths and rebirths within the overarching death process. Does that sound overwhelming? It might, a bit. At the time, though, I was not aware of the undulating and overarching death process. I continued to experience my life within these smaller cycles of life/death/rebirth. And everything continued to shift and change. Shift and change. Shift and change. Energy was moving in and out of my life. Carrots were dangled and it was up to me to say "no". All of my old strategies of survival, sourcing safety, security and validation from the outside were activated and asking to be healed. There were times when this was an extremely loud process as the voices of others that had taken up permanent residence in my head bickered with each other and with the much quieter voice of my inner Wise One who offered the Original Medicine of the truth, all ways, always. Of course, there were times of quiet dismantling as well. Things would slip away without me having to give much effort. The old would give way to the new fairly seamlessly. My personal power as I returned to my body was growing and reinbahiting every part of me as more of what wasn't mine left and did not come back.
Reaching for the end of summer and into the early days of fall, I was called to enroll in a mysteries school offered by a great teacher who would be a powerful mentor for me, I knew. I committed to this without hesitation. I knew I belonged in this container. And I was so completely committed to the process of healing my life to get where I desired to be that I was willing to do whatever it took.
As I began the first lesson, I was cracked open again. Not shattered, just cracked. Those old pots of stickiness with labels "Money + Material Abundance" and "Codependency in Relationship" were open and I was stuck in them. And I knew it. It was shown to me by a powerful and sacred mirror. Oof. Back into the bag of despair--but, no. Not this time, actually. This time, something greater, the greatest force I have ever experienced, came through. And that is Unconditional Love. Connection to the Allness that is this life, this universe, the multi-layers of tangible and intangible. It was the true invitation to open to my soul's existence and intentions for this lifetime.
It was a deep stirring within ME, within the sacred temple of my body. Within the cauldron or basin of my Being, my very essence. This was the awakening after the sleep of death. This was the first finger and toe movements after being called back from sivasana, corpse pose. This was the re-memberment process.
And it is this piece of the process that I am moving through right now. This is where it all sounds, looks and feels like Hallelujah. It's the voice that shouts "Just LOVE ME!" across the canyon, and the voice that echos, the medicine of truth, says "Love yourself!" And the strength of that Truth reaches to the bones and beyond, through the blood, into past generations, calling up the trauma and survival patterns of ancestors known and unknown. We are releasing, my ancestors and I. We are moving out of these limitations, together. This is unfolding as a shamanic practice and process of healing ancestral karma, inherited patterns and beliefs, including matrilineal pain that has been carried for generations once the woman has made the transition from maiden to mother. No more running from this pain that has been with me since I conceived my son.
I sat fully with this pain body and lived in it for several days before it released me. I asked what it wanted to teach me, I loved it, I affirmed it as part of me, I thanked my ancestors for passing it down to me so that I could heal it. I watched myself experience it and transcend the perceived limitations of my physical, mental and emotional bodies when it came to pain. I moved with it and we danced a healing dance until it was absorbed back into the energy from which it had come down from and gotten stuck somewhere. It was and is the lifting of the veil on the stored memory that has come through the DNA of our human line since the beginning of time, and clearing it to regenerate and restore DNA. Total renewal.
That, again, takes us back to the big picture. Total Renewal. That is the shaman's death.
I know that every piece of this long cycle has brought me to where I am right now. And where I am right now is perfect. Perfectly imperfect. I am still moving through it, not yet fully reborn.
My heart is not only opening, but also expanding in such a powerful way that it takes up all the space in my Being. As I embody this, feel it more and more as Who and What I Am, I have done and said things to people in my life that I never ever thought I would ever do or say. I experience myself in ways that speak of my Allness, my abilities to move out of anything and all things, ways, and beliefs of what it means to be this human in this life. I watch as the priorities, ideas about what my external life should be, what my work will look like and how it will be recognized in this greater world all have fallen away and shapeshifted into the divine and pure intentions of my wise one within. She creates and guides All within the powerful Love that I am here to BE. I am re-newing the sacred contract I made with myself to be a Light always, all ways. Even for myself, especially for myself. Amen!
It has been a destruction of the ego almost entirely. My ego was no longer helping me, saving me from harm, or mitigating internal or external damage to my Being. It was stifling me, cutting me off, keeping me in a box that I had outgrown. It was painful, and it had to go. It was like losing a lover all over again--all I had known, all the safety nets I had in place, had dropped out and fallen away and would not return again. My myopic vision and focus that was constricted and narrowed suddenly opened up to so much More. More of who I am, More of what this world can be, More of my part to make it so.
Dying to all I thought and believed about life and the ways I wanted it to be has cleared and expanded my connection to what actually IS. To the Original Medicine that is the grand design for my life in this incarnation. The higher state of thinking, feeling and being that I can now access and live into after this extreme release of all that was heavy and limiting. Now, I can truly live into this shamanic calling because I have cleared the space, held the space and created the space to do so. It will take all of me to create the life that my soul intends, and that is why this retrieval process from past karma has been and continues to be such a deep healing and expansive container for my growth and evolution.
This goes beyond the realm of spiritual work or working with the divine mind. The spaciousness that has been created from this shamanic death process is recognizable within my soma, my human container of form--the body. I have never wept so much, sobbed so much, used my breath to move my own energy so powerfully, or been so quiet and so still for so long. I have seen and felt myself in ways that I did not even know were possible or had not imagined I could ever do. Not in all the years I have walked the Earth bearing the name Kristi. Not until death came for me and I opened the door to it and let it in.
I Know Unconditional Love because I AM Unconditional Love. This is the reclamation, the restoration, the renewal that comes before the true and mighty rebirth into the full Shaman's embodiment. On the other side of this process is the freedom to Be. I mean, True Freedom. And I am continually re-filled anew with deep Knowings that rise to the surface of the ever-expanding awareness of my consciousness. I feel, know and live that safety, security, validation are all found within. I am safe in this world, and the life I want is well within the realm of existence. I can feel it. Abundance, generosity, beneficence, joy, laughter, the desire for a quiet life in harmony with the great Mother, loving relationships that match the Divine Love I Am have all replaced what I thought I wanted previously. I have come full circle. I began the shaman's death with the scarcity fears attached to money and the myopic focus on a community of others to love me and support me. I am preparing to birth anew with the healed sense of myself as the abundant, loving Being with the strength, love, joy, beneficence, generosity, support and spaciousness of a community inside her.
Sounds like hallelujah.
Into the Light
Transcending the wounds we carry creates the doorway to the New Life that we so deeply want and desire. That our soul is ready to create. Even when we don't know exactly what we want, or think we do know, we probably don't. Not when the voices of the past are carrying on our conversations and exchanges for us. It was surprising (and not!) to me how much of my life had been created by a voice that was not my own. I had mistakenly believed it was. Until now, it had been a combination of ego, inheritance, and somewhere in there, the voice of Soul. What I have inherited, though, is not a curse. My ancestral line and lineage is a great blessing to me because it has showed me the areas of life where I experience limitation, where we in my bloodline have experienced it for generations, connecting all of us as we move through our epoch of time on Earth, and it has shown me how I can heal it.
Love and honoring, and surrender to death. That is the way. That is the way of the Shaman.
The light heals, and one can Know the Light through a great and mighty death process.
Through the season of Sagittarius energy, I continued to move towards my full light of my rebirth. Now, on the night where the fire of Sagittarius energy shakes hands with the Earth energy of Capricorn, and Jupiter and Saturn are conjunct for the first time in 409 years, the Light begins to burn again. The dawn is breaking. It will only grow and go forth from here. We aren’t going back. I am out of the womb.
I will close this story with a poem and a blessing:
As I died, my soul whispered "hallelujah" from a place where my human ears could not hear it.
As I re-membered, my cleared mind whispered "hallelujah, I am free"
As I re-awoke and death released me to rebirth, my heart wept joyously.
"Hallelujah," she said "we are Truly Awake and Alive, Amen."
Please feel encouraged to leave your expressions in the comments below. You are encouraged to share your sacred stories and journeys to be honored here alongside my own.
We are walking in Light, together.