The first shaman I ever met was a Native American woman who took me on a drumming journey that was both magical and mystical. Shamans have a long, rich history of helping commemorate important life events, so I wasn’t surprised when several shamans were on our agenda at the Afterlife Awareness Conference, and in fact, a shamanic ceremony closed our conference.
Waiting for us in the great room on our final day were more than half a dozen squares like the one above, each containing various natural offerings. We formed a large circle around the room.
Sacred space–that’s what the conference was for most of us. Sacred space. So when it came time for us to close, it seemed almost superfluous for the shaman – Linda Fitch– to formally set the sacred space. She did it by calling in the directions in a prayer that went something like THIS.
PRAYER FOR CREATING SACRED SPACE from Linda’s website HERE
To the winds of the South
Great serpent, Wrap your coils of light around us,
Teach us to shed the past the way you shed your skin,
To walk softly on the Earth. Teach us the Beauty Way.
To the winds of the West
Protect our medicine space.
Teach us the way of peace, to live impeccably
Show us the way beyond death.
To the winds of the North.
Hummingbird, Grandmothers and Grandfathers,
Come and warm your hands by our fires
Whisper to us in the wind
We honor you who have come before us,
And you who will come after us, our children’s children.
To the winds of the East.
Great eagle, condor
Come to us from the place of the rising Sun.
Keep us under your wing.
Show us the mountains we only dare to dream of.
Teach us to fly wing to wing with the Great Spirit.
We’ve gathered for the healing of all your children.
The Stone People, the Plant People.
The four–legged, the two–legged, the creepy crawlers.
The finned, the furred, and the winged ones.
All our relations.
Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, to the Star nations.
Great Spirit, you who are known by a thousand names
And you who are the unnamable One.
Thank you for bringing us together.
After that beautiful prayer, we each chose the square we felt drawn to and formed in a circle around it, until most of the squares had a circle.
Then, as we were called to, we each took whatever offerings we felt appropriate–tobacco, sage, pine cones, feathers, petals–whatever–and with our breath, blew our intentions for the departed or the living into them and tossed them into the bowl of water. One after another in solemn silence we sent out our blessings and intentions to our dear ones.
And then, several of us picked up our groups’ bowls and all 400 of us walked in a quiet line out the door and down the dock to the Columbia River.
This was our bowl.
We waited in respectful silence for the shaman to signal and when she did…
…the contents of our bowl went into the river….
and we watched in silence as our offerings floated gracefully down the river, craning our necks for a last glimpse of the feathers and petals and sage before the river carried them out into the Universe and finally, to our loved ones.
The shaman then closed the sacred space with a similar prayer, and we filed back into the hotel and then back into our lives.
This ancient and moving ceremony spoke to me, as did the Aya Despacho Peruvian funeral ritual we did a few days earlier. Even in our modern world ceremony and ritual are important to mark life occasions. I find the age-old, indigenous shamanic ceremonies particularly moving, and this was a beautiful way to end our conference. In our fast-paced modern world, it’s good to take time for ancient practices like these which remind us of the past and strengthen our connection to the Divine Source.