“Something ancient in us bends us toward the origins of the whole thing. We either drown in the splits and confusions of our lives, or we surrender to something greater than ourselves.” Michael Meade
This last week found Return To Origin http://www.returntoorigin.org.za trainee leaders, from the Indigenous Knowledge Leadership Program, in the Cederberg Mountains, Western Cape participating in a vision quest.
A vision quest is a beautiful practice where change inside catalyzes a deep outside change, outside change catalyzes a deep inside change. Its warrior work and a profound gift to oneself, family and community.
Following the heroes path Angelique Michaels, Lindsay Burch and Arnoldt Michaels, undertook a vision quest, two days of fasting on water and solution, camping on the mountain and then two days of processing the experience.
A vision quest is a powerful ritual process that includes three core elements:
2 Nature, often a wilderness setting
When we say ritual, we are referring to an experience, consciously undertaken, designed to create a change in the participants… a change that may be in their physical or sensual bodies, emotional make-ups, mental attitudes, or spiritual perceptions.
Although often associated with Native Americans, vision quests have been undertaken by people in diverse cultures for millennia. (Unknown)
I have led four Vision Quests in the USA and participated in three led by a beloved teacher the late Dr Angeles Arrien. They changed my life and on my first quest so many years ago, I visioned the very work that I am doing now with Return To Origin. As a facilitator I draw from the Native American concept of Morning Star work, work with self, Rainbow Work, work with another, Medicine Wheel Work, work with a community. I also ask the participants to include the work with the five elements, Fire, water, earth, nature and of course mineral based on the Dagara cosmology, whose medicine I have been gifted as an initiated stick diviner. The Cederberg, close to the Sevilla trail, where rock art still lives on the rock face and as we sit and look out at the deep red crags in the mountain range, the Bushmen who once walked the land, seep into all we do, they have left their mark in among the rocks, the soil, the trees, plants and the waters.
These three brave souls, ventured at dawn into the hills and spent the the next two days deeply immersed in death arrows, letting go, fasting, re -visioning, re- dreaming and re- remembering what they are here to do. They were alone, with no contact with the outside world, only themselves and nature in its utmost mystery, divinity and magic.
Many mystics, ascetics, and seekers of spiritual truth have gone on vision quests to find their direction and purpose; come close to God or Spirit; or have an authentic and profound encounter with the Source of life that would guide and sustain them in the challenges of their times.
The word authentic comes from the same root as author and authority. Discovering one’s authentic purpose, gift, voice, medicine… requires becoming author and creator of your own story. To do that, one has to listen deeply to oneself and say goodbye to all the other authorities — parents, teachers, television, priests, peer groups — and the stories about the world and ourselves we’ve inherited, mostly unconsciously, from the time and culture we were raised in. (Unknown)
With the questors gone for two days I am left with my 9-year-old, and we take a walk. Five minutes into the walk, we encounter a black cobra pretending to be a black pipe. It rose up to meet my son’s eyes and declared loudly ”get back, my boundary my territory” I felt I was looking into the eyes of the divine. For a moment I was immobilized and as per instinct also moved quickly away, drawn to look back, until it finally dropped its large hooded head back to the land.
Both our hearts took sometime to return to its normal beat. That afternoon my friend who arrived to assist also encountered this auspicious being. More prayers were made to the ancestors that day to keep us all safe and protected. My sense though, that she was our protector and keeper of the land. I should not have worried. Our questors returned safe and mesmerised by their time of solitude. It was indeed a beautiful sight to behold, all three of them slowly walking down the mountain where we had set up a welcoming ritual, my nine year-old drummed them in.
Fresh mango and hot miso broth were the only foods that passed their lips until lunch and the look on their faces, as if they were tasting nectar of the Gods, helped them to remember the importance of “mindfulness” even when eating. It was a joy to behold.
We have evolved and grown out of the living Earth. The human organism has been shaped and molded through millions of years of call-and-response interactions with this Earth. Returning to intimate contact with that living Earth awakens forgotten senses and atrophied ways of perceiving. Our authentic nature is found only when we re-member the primal bonds with Nature herself. (Unknown)
As we ease back into conscious eating we also ease back into conscious living, remembering that the one life is the quest, at times the magic, unknown mystery and very definitely everyone’s hero’s’ journey.
“I felt in the “right place” in nature”. Lindsay Burch
Returning is a gentle process where there are few teachings other than to guide the questor to reach deep into what is now already emerging. After the quest its a two day process where I am privileged to hear and feel and share what is being revealed from a place of soul longing. A snake has entered each ones dreamtime whilst on the mountain, reminding them too of life, death and rebirth, and as one questor put it, possibilities. Profound confirmations of spirit at work and the medicine the animals offer, from the tiniest ants, mice and a baboon reminding one of boundaries, hard work, community and sustainability.
“the boundaries that I set for myself, is what defines my integrity” Arnoldt Michaels
RENEWAL AND RECONNECTION:
The passage of time and demands of daily life can result in a sense of loss… loss of the sense of wonder experienced as a child… loss of dreams once so important… lapsing of a commitment to a path, purpose, or practice. In a vision quest, the rules, roles, and routines of normal life are left behind, and — in both simple and profound ways — we experience a resetting of our compass, a renewal of the core truths and commitments that serve to guide us through life. (unknown)
It is a place where dreams are accessed on a level of deep significance, and where every sighting, sound, animal, vision is a prayer, that honors the wild soul. Where the words that spill out into the ether, or on paper or to nature is worthy of the destiny to which you have been called. “That has enough healing to gain the ointment of divine forgiveness for your wounds; enough truth and vigour to challenge your blindness and complacency; enough graciousness and vision to mirror your immortal beauty.” John Odonahue
We make masks of the inauthentic parts of our selves once worn for protection, to fit in to look good, be good, be bad, all at one time necessary, but now time to leave for the earth and nature spirits where they will disintegrate and return and are no longer needed.
We make our life arrows winding towards us all our dreams and visions requesting the manifestation of what we have been brought here for, so we no longer are the walking dead and with all warrior work enter the realm of courage- heart work.
“You can’t take in more until you have emptied yourself, I need to make time for the things that feed me.” ( In response to the experience of fasting) Angelique Michaels Trainee Leader
A final creation of who we are becoming to remind us daily of the infinite preciousness of all lives, and an “acting out” in front of the community, to show us the seeds planted now ready for nurturing and watering.
“Our stories are not for hiding, but for bringing people together” Arnoldt Michaels in essence.
No day starts without an offering to the ancestors, and the deep practices worn moment by moment in our daily lives. The questers are guided to make an object, walking stick, mask, blanket, talisman, as the old ones did to mark what they have come through.
The greatest respect and honoring is that I embody it (the quest) and bring it to this world by manifesting, if I do not follow that, then I do harm to my relationship with the spirit world.
‘I’m going to take action on it’
“These are the seeds that have been planted, there is more growth to come, the seeds must be nurtured now” Lindsay Burch, Trainee Leader
If you would like to know more and are interested in forthcoming Vision Quests in South Africa, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Internationals welcome.
I offer the work of this quest to all my teachers, in every form and to my mother, the anniversary of her death on April 17, always reminding me of the legacy she left, her adventurous spirit, her strength and rock hard resilience, but mostly her deep love of the land of her birth, South Africa.
May all worlds bless and protect you, always. Mbali