I apologize for not writing more this summer, and I truly appreciate how so many have you have taken this opportunity to catch up on old blog entries…
It’s been a strange summer. It started slow and by the time it reached “strawberry season” (end of June for us on the South Shore of Montreal) we weren’t quite convinced it was ever going to get hot. I was lucky enough to leave for Calgary, Alberta in early July, for a workshop where I appreciated 30 degrees Celsius weather and pure sunshine for twelve days straight.
In the last twelve years I’ve been lucky enough to visit Banff National Park at least eight times. It’s amazing how much things can change in a decade. On this latest trip I was sadden by the condition of many of the conifers. Lots of them were dead, blacken by wind and swinging dryly through live trees like zombies lost in a crowd. It truly gave me an eerie feeling and certainly explained why forest fires were blazing up in the Northern Territories and through Alberta.
What impressed me the most was how the smoke from distant fires was covering the Rocky Mountains to the point where we could barely see them. I was also totally shocked with how little snow covered the peaks. Just a decade ago, the mountains were still beautifully white. This was not the case this time… I was quite surprised at how much the smoke affected us. We were all struggling with breathing: Our nostrils and throats were burning as if we were inhaling the fire itself. From a shamanistic point of view this trip certainly shifted a few of my perspectives on fire and smoke (two important elements in Shamanism and traditionalism).
The Medicine Wheel teaches us that FIRE is life: It fuels needs, intentions, desires, prayers, and it is absolutely crucial to our survival. In the NE of the Wheel where all things are born, Fire leads the way, keeps us warm, and keeps us safe. As a First Nation traditionalist Fire is important to all of our ceremonies whether we are looking at the Sweat Lodge, the Sun Dance, the Pipe or even in the celebration of the Medicine Wheel. We believe that the smoke of our Sacred Fires brings forth our prayers to Creator.
On this trip, Fire seemed to want us to notice its power / medicine: How it could strike anywhere, destroy huge sections of forestry, and threaten our survival. Honestly, I wondered if we even existed in “its” reality. Fire wasn’t only about triggering and feeding life (East); but also about accepting death and letting go of the earthly shell (North). It was about releasing us from the body and giving us access to the Spirit realm.
Since I had just finished a Moonlodge Workshop where I had guided 24 women to contemplate the fact that their feminine body was created in the image of the Earth (Goddess): All hills and valleys, curves and forms --- I saw the last week in Banff as a kind of confirmation. It just seemed befitting that I was there, in the midst of it all: Blaring heat, burning trees and smoking landscape. It certainly captured many of the stories we had shared all week through.
· How we struggle with shame.
· Hide who we are.
· Feel burnt by life and responsibilities.
· Looking for ways to be Goddess: Stronger, better, happy!
Synchronically, we started the workshop with a Fire and Water smudge. It was actually quite beautiful. AMF, our initiated Fire Keeper, along with LP guided the prayer outdoors on the patio overlooking the mountains, while I offered purification through water around the Wheel. On a few occasions during our time together, the women felt called to connect to water, earth and fire. We were hoping for “as little wind as possible” considering the crisis …
It was wonderful to mirror nature and the stars through simple rituals. It certainly brought us together not as humans who often lose their way; but as women seeking out the Goddess within and the Goddess way. With the help of the story of Adam and Eve, I showed the women the difference between “myth” and “indoctrination.” Who would have guessed that in the end : “All of us were quite keen in eating the apple…”
Who knows it may have been a forest fire that drove all the animals, Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden? Whatever it was, I believe we were all ready for it. We need to remind each other that we are Keepers of this Earth; and that we are all here together, might as well join hands and make it work!
It seems strange to say: “… but it seemed like I was noticing for the first time how life and death knotted together in the NE exactly where fire resides on the Wheel.” Suddenly, it wasn’t so much about my prayers traveling up to Spirit; but about ME soaring to heights unheard and unimagined. Goddess work! It seemed so clear that by doing “my work” (my healing and learning) I was contributing to my soul taking its final journey to the Stars.
A few people teased me during the trip, suggesting that I “dance for rain.” It seems it’s a stereotypical behaviour for a Shaman (I’m told). Little do they know that such rituals actually do work! Nevertheless, it didn’t seem time yet, to suffocate the smoke and get rid of this natural element that can inspire life through death. I felt it was more important to be attentive.
On a few isolated moments, I snuck out on my own to connect to nature. It wasn’t surprising to hear a few tourists complaining how they could barely see anything and how disappointed it was. Strangely enough every time I went out, the most beautiful natural scenes appeared: The kind you would never see without forest fires.
One evening, the sun was blaring red and setting over the mountains while smoky mist travelled through the trees. It felt like a veil was lifting and ghosts were stepping out of the in-between.
“Ashes-to-ashes,” the smoke whispered to me as I smudged with water and sacred herbs; keeping my eye on the path that would soon be filled with lots of hikers. It seemed time to let go of anything and everything useless; let go of old ways and old skins; and surrender: Purify.
If anything I came home appreciating the beauty of Quebec: The lush trees and the greenery. I stepped off the plane ready for change, ready for wings, and ready for the next trip out of Eden...
P.S. Please, I’d love to hear from those who shared the Moonlodge Workshop. Add your story to the blog and complete what was left between the lines. HAU!