“A full harvest moon, especially on Friday the 13th, is an opportunity for us to pull the veil thinner between our two worlds.” Sand Symes told us.
Sand is a modern medicine woman who leads people through shamanic journeys and sacred ceremonies to help them tap into their innate wisdom.
I’m here because I’m curious about shamanic journeys. Since my mother died in 2009 I’ve become a spiritual seeker, while also hanging on to my slightly cynical and discerning nature. I look for ways to connect with the unseen world around us.
There are three parts to this sacred journey. The first is called the opening. The second is about the breath, as we all breathe together in a specific way that Sand demonstrates for us. And the third part is the cleansing and purification. Our breath is a powerful force that can take us to an altered state of consciousness.
Sand explains that the medicine we most need is inside of all us. And this is one way to connect with ourselves for our own healing and growth.
So what is Shamanism?
Shamanism is one of the oldest spiritual practices in the world. There is evidence of Shamans from over 40,000 years ago. It was born in the Siberian, Indian, Native American and South American ancient cultures.
The actual word “Shaman” is derived from the Siberian Tungastic word for a spiritual leader, or “one who is raised.” But rather than being based on a particular faith or dogma, Shamanism is based on the belief that everything has a living spirit. In indigenous cultures, Shaman’s hold the role of mystics who are able to connect with the spirit world in order to heal, contact deceased ancestors and uplift consciousness. Their role is to serve the health and wellbeing of the entire community, including plants, animals and the whole environment.
The Journey Within
A shamanic journey is the art of using rhythm and intention to enter a deeply meditative state and connect with the unseen world. It’s a remembering process that helps access parts of ourselves that are buried; partly because of our modern, chaotic lifestyle.
Lying on a cozy meditation cushion I begin to relax into the rhythmic sounds of chanting, drumming and a playlist designed for the night.
The journey begins as Sand calls in the four directions around an alter she’s created in the middle of the room. Something about her joyful and powerful tone makes me feel both supported and nervous at the same time.
I hear drumming, a rattle and whispers of her voice around the room. A pop of brilliant white light sparks in my minds eye and then everything is dark again under my soft eye pillow. The person next to me quietly begins to cry.
“Now we’re calling in all our female ancestors. Call them in everyone, open yourselves up to their wisdom, we need them right now,” Sand tells us.
I can feel my Mother’s presence just like I’ve felt her many times before. And hearing her voice isn’t always a relaxing and supportive experience. I open myself up to trust that whatever I’m experiencing is coming up for my own growth and inner development. I believe that. Yet I also hope that she has some real wisdom to share. Something that’s less critical and narrow minded than what she was like when she was alive.
Someone else begins deeply sobbing on the other side of the room. I have to wonder who’s talking to them. Quietly I say a prayer for them to feel the medicine they need.
Drifting off into the music, I hear a rattle in my ear as Sand chants over me. Softly she whispers, “You don’t have to try so hard.”
When she guides us to call in our male ancestors her voice is bold and loud. “Relax, let them in, ask for their help,” she tells us.
And in that moment I feel the presence of one of my most influential Uncles who died when I was three. He was the patriarch of our family and this is the first time I’ve felt him in this way. I can’t see him, but I can hear him talking to me about a particular room in my apartment he likes. There’s a room that has a bookshelf with old family photos and candles on it. In India every home has an “ancestral alter” and I love that tradition so, I created one in my home. He explains how meaningful it is to have a place that respects my family lineage.
As we go through the third part, the cleansing and purification, we’re guided towards the closure of our journey. I feel so connected to these people who were so influential in my life. Those sensations linger in my body, even after I stop hearing their voices or feeling their presence.
Coming Back to the Room
Gently I start to stretch and move around while my body is buzzing with energy.
People get up and walk around but I’m not ready to leave the warmth and security of my meditation cushion. I have a deep desire to speak with Sand about certain parts of my experience. And I’m clearly not alone because she has a line of people waiting to share theirs with her.
When we do talk I’m curious about the sacred objects on the alter in the middle of the room. All four elements are represented, water, earth, fire and space. But the most important thing I learn about this alter is how she feels guided around what to include. It’s the both the bridge and the foundation of the transformational energy we’re all calling in with our intentions.
“An alter is a sacred living organism,” she explains, “And I feel directed to include specific objects at different times.”
Because everything has a living spirit.
As I turn to leave the room, I glance in a mirror on the wall. Written on the glass next to my reflection are the words, “You are enough.” And I think of my mother.
Jen Baxter is a copywriter and content strategist. She helps businesses tell their story creatively online. You can read more of her work at JenBaxter.com