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 mi