The Shaman Within explains how our ancient wisdoms can now be employed to tackle the big issues that trouble our minds, ravage our bodies and quash our spirits. Through a very personal journey; the travels, experiences, rituals, highs and lows of the protagonist, an amazing tapestry of insights and answers is woven before our very eyes. And the threads of this tapestry consist of the incredible healing and empowerment that our long-forgotten ‘rites of passage’ afford us. The lessons within enable us to feel more complete, at one with ourselves, our environment and the universe that created us. This book speaks to all who seek true fulfilment and imparts the tools to achieve it.
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About the Author
Known widely as The Highland Seer, Barbara Meiklejohn-Free was born and brought up in the Highlands of Scotland, where the ancient tradition still survives. She has worked with many of the indigenous cultures from around the world. She lives in Buxton, UK.
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The Shaman Within
Reclaiming our Rites of Passage
By Barbara Meiklejohn-Free
John Hunt Publishing Ltd.Copyright © 2013 Barbara Meiklejohn-Free
All rights reserved.
The Calling Yule & Vision Quest
Our world is incomplete until each one of us discovers what moves us – our passion. No other person can hear our calling. We must listen and act on it for ourselves.
Richard J. Leider
'I've got to go, they are calling me!' I said aloud without thinking. Shaun looked at me and smiled, 'Who's calling you? Where do you have to go?' I explained about the visions I was having, that I was being shown to go to Albuquerque in the USA.
'What will you do when you get there?' he asked.
'I will follow my heart and trust what I am being shown.' I was so excited; Spirit had gifted me yet another revelation. Nothing was going to stop me from following my calling. I needed to know more about Rites of Passage. I had gone through many different rituals and ceremonies in my life but when I had asked questions I was always told 'all in good time, be patient.'
My mentor, Swein McDonald, explained once, 'There will come a time when you will be able to share your stories, but until then act as if you know nothing. Go to the rituals and ceremonies as if for the first time. Learn, even though you may already know, and then watch and observe others whilst keeping humility in your focus.'
I knew that rites of passage marked a person's progress, a journey from one stage of life to another. By working through and integrating our initiation ceremonies (our rites of passage), we become whole and complete. In traditional cultures, rites of passage were there to serve and support individuals in recognising their unique gifts and potential for the benefit of not only themselves but also for the whole community. Today we have become disjointed and fragmented, separated from our tribe, our people, not knowing how to facilitate our transition from self to soul, girl to womanhood, boy to manhood.
I was ready, booked my ticket, my calling had begun. I landed at Albuquerque airport, New Mexico, in America and the Sun was shining. I felt good and, as arranged, Mary was waiting for me. I had told her about my vision in the dreamtime over the phone a few days before I arrived and she offered to drive me around the area. I checked into a local motel and as soon as I lay down on the bed I fell fast asleep and drifted into another time and place. I found myself standing on a mountain top facing east, watching the sunrise. A new chapter in my life was beginning heralding endless possibilities. From the very depths of my being my spirit connected once again to the ancestors of the ancient land of 'Turtle Island'. I felt Creator, Great Spirit, surround and embrace me – like a long lost child returning home. I was on the land of my ancestors once again. This was the heartlands, the land was alive and the birds were singing in the dawn of a new day.
I started to cry with joy. As my tears fell to the earth they created a river that flowed into the oceans of immortality. It was then that I saw him for the very first time. He was sitting on the mountain top in front of me watching the same sunrise. I felt the presence of a very old and wise medicine man. He turned around and looked at me and said, 'Look to the gatekeeper.'
I asked, 'Where will I find this gatekeeper?'
'Look to the gatekeeper,' he repeated and with that the medicine man disappeared and I woke up. I lay in my motel bed seeking answers from Spirit about my dream. I did not get a reply. It was now four o'clock in the morning and my body was still on UK time. I switched on the television. The local news was highlighting the 'Annual Native American Powwow' taking place in Albuquerque that weekend. That's it! I thought, that is where I have to go. I believed my answers were there, but little did I know what was to come ...
The next morning, I sensed that something wonderful was going to happen. I was ready for Mary when she picked me up at ten o'clock and as we set off in her car, I asked her if she knew where the powwow was being held. She didn't, but suggested we drive around until we find it. After half an hour's fruitless scouting, we began to head back towards the motel when we noticed several marquees near a very large sports arena called 'The Pit'. Many Native Americans were heading through a gated area, so we drove right up. Sitting there, guarding the gate, was a man. I opened the car window and asked if he knew where the powwow was taking place. As he stood up I felt a cold shiver run down my back. This Native American's presence was all-encompassing He was very tall, had long plaited hair and wore dungarees. He bent down and as our eyes locked he said, 'I knew you were coming. I have travelled a long way to meet you.'
I was overwhelmed and began to cry. Mary asked him about the powwow and he told her that the arena was the very place, although the event was to start the next day for the public, which was Friday, and today was for vendor set-up and pre-selective dance competitions. When I finally composed myself long enough to speak, I asked him why he was at the gate.
He said, 'I am a police officer for the native people. I am guarding this gate today to ensure that only authorised people are able to get in.'
I burst into tears again for here was the 'gatekeeper' foretold to me by Spirit in the dreamtime. Once I calmed down I started to explain why I was crying.
'No need to explain,' he said, 'I already know. My name is Two Eagles and I am from Hickman, near Memphis. Come back tomorrow, we will spend some time together.' He wished us a good day and went back to guarding the gate.
Mary and I were ecstatic as we drove away. 'Amazing!' I exclaimed. For the rest of the day we explored the local area and at the end I returned to my third-floor motel room where, I discovered when I looked out the window, the powwow arena was in clear view. It was only a ten-minute walk away! What I came to find was right on my doorstep! That night I slept well, dreaming of my power animals coming to me who sang sacred songs of their ancient ways. It was an incredible experience, which continued on from my dreamtime into my waking consciousness, singing the songs alive which echoed in my heart.
Early morning I was up, dancing and singing. I could not wait to go to the powwow, so I phoned Mary to tell her I was walking over to it myself. As she had to drive from Santa Fe we agreed to meet up on Sunday, rather than her meeting me that day. I was first in the queue to buy my ticket and once inside I looked for the gated area where I had seen Two Eagles the day before. He was there again! I felt like an excited child who just discovered that fairies do exist. This was all my dreams coming true. Two Eagles got up and greeted me like a long lost friend. I had the most wonderful feeling about him, as if I had known him all my life.
He told me that he knew he was going to meet and teach me the sacred ways in order to help me remember who I was. I started to tell him about my dreams and visions and he just smiled knowingly, as he listened to me joyfully rambling on. The next three days spent with Two Eagles, at the 'Gathering of Nations', were among the most inspiring times I experienced. Two Eagles explained many things that I had been questioning. On the third day, both Mary and I walked around the powwow with Two Eagles. We caught up with people we had met through other trade shows; like reuniting with members of an extended family.
Two Eagles told me it was time for him to give me my Spirit name. I knew that to receive one's Spirit name you offered a gift as a sign of deep respect for what was about to take place. I went off and bought Two Eagles a beautiful eagle bone necklace and returned to him with the gift.
After Two Eagles accepted my gift, he looked at me and said, 'Your name is Hawk Woman. This is a sacred name and is part of your medicine way.'
I thanked him as I remembered the presence of hawks surrounding me since I was a little girl, walking in the wilds, talking to the animals, the ravens would chase the hawks away. My pagan name of Raven, gifted to me so many years beforehand by Swein McDonald, the Highland Seer, now sat side-by-side with my Native American name of 'Hawk Woman', gifted to me by Two Eagles.
As Two Eagles and I walked back to meet with Mary, he turned around and said, 'I am leaving now.'
I looked up at him, 'But the powwow is not over yet.'
He smiled. 'My work here is done. Time for me to go.' He handed me a powwow programme with his address and phone number written on it and told me that I was welcome to contact him whenever I needed him, adding that I should go to Santa Fe where more would be revealed.
As we reached the main arena, where the grand entry of the dancers was about to take place, Two Eagles turned around and said, 'When you turn around next time I will be gone.' Sure enough, one minute he was right behind me and the next minute there was no sign of him. I found Mary and told her that Two Eagles had gone. She did not seem bothered by this news because she was focussed on getting a seat in the arena for the grand entrance. So I decided to look for him myself.
Despite all the people making their way into the arena, I knew it would be easy to spot Two Eagles because he stood well above nearly everyone there. After searching inside, I went out to the parking lot where I knew he kept his camper van. I could not find it either. I went to the gate where I had originally met him and asked the guards if they knew where Two Eagles might be. They looked at me and asked, 'Who?'
'The native man, he was six foot four inches tall. He's been at the gate for the last three days.' I attempted to jog their memories. They looked confused and said they had no idea who I was talking about. This was weird.
I looked at them and said, 'You know me, right?'
They all agreed.
'Well, how can you not know Two Eagles? He's been the gatekeeper here for the last four days,' I insisted.
They just shook their heads. 'Sorry, we still have no idea who you mean.' I made my way back into the main arena stunned and perplexed, questioning everything that had just happened.
Confused I went to the trade stand of my friends Tom and Mary. They smiled and said, 'Angels come in many disguises. Don't worry. All will be revealed in due course.'
I walked around in a dream state, going over all the events that had unfolded over the past four days. What next? The only clue I had was Two Eagles' message to go to Santa Fe and so I left Albuquerque with Mary on Sunday night to go there. Once in Santa Fe I hired a car and drove to a local motel. After a rather restless night's sleep, I went across the street to a diner for breakfast. Whilst eating, I nearly jumped out of my seat when I glimpsed a man entering the diner who looked just like Two Eagles. He was the same height and had the same braided hair, yet he was a white man!
He sat down at a nearby booth and struck up a conversation with me. He told me his name was Joseph and after a few minutes of telling him of my recent days at the powwow, he invited me to join his drumming circle on Thursday night.
'But I don't have a drum,' I sheepishly replied.
'Go to Red Bird at the Cochiti Pueblo and I'll see you on Thursday,' was all he said before paying his bill and casually heading out the door to begin his working day. I checked out of the motel and drove half an hour or so to the reservation. Once inside the reservation, Spirit led me straight to a small house. I got out of the car and walked round to the back yard. A native man had his back to me as he sat carving a two-headed skinned drum. I walked over and said 'Excuse me. Are you Red Bird?' Without turning around or looking up, he said, 'The Elders told me you were coming. I must teach you the native drum because you will be sharing this wisdom with many.'
We talked for a while about why I was here in New Mexico, both the vision that led me to the powwow as well as the practical side of my trip. Because the business Shaun and I ran involved me sourcing original merchandise from around the world, I had promised Shaun that I would take the opportunity, while in New Mexico, to go to Gallup, the central trading town of Native American jewellery and crafts. Red Bird suggested that he accompany me on the four-hour trip to Gallup because he could then use the opportunity for some drum business there. Surprisingly, without hesitating, I agreed. While Red Bird went inside his house to pack, it dawned on me exactly what my family and friends would say if they knew I, a 30-something lone woman, was driving off with a man I had only just met!
On our way I told Red Bird about the drumming circle I was invited to. Red Bird knew the two-headed drums he made were not yet right for me, so he suggested we stop along the way at his friend's shop in Albuquerque to look for my first drum. We walked in to a shop where many All-One-Tribe shamanic hand drums were on display. One immediately called to me. Pictured on the hexagonal drum was a hawk in the centre surrounded by ravens in each of the four directions. I placed it against my heart and cried as I felt the joy of coming home to my long lost friend. I knew this drum could express the feelings that, until then, I was unable to voice from my head. The voice that needed to speak was from my heart and not my head. In a few seconds I could feel the difference between head talk and heart-talk. My first drum had found me!
We resumed our drive to Gallup and Red Bird continued his storytelling all about his family's tradition of making Native American drums handed down from generation to generation. This was his life's work and passion, and through his deep understanding of how the spirit of the drum works. The spirit of the drum shows us how to change our ways of both thinking and living in a natural environment. For the next three days we did our separate business during the day and then met at the motel during the evenings in order to continue with his storytelling and teachings. His wisdom and knowledge of the drum helped me to form a deep relationship with my own drum so that I could listen to what it was teaching me.
The first words the drum spoke to me were, 'Get out of your head and into your heart, then you will know where to start. It's not the thinking, it's the feeling, it's the knowing and believing ...' There, my first song was gifted from the spirit of the drum. Little was I to know at that time, that it would lead me to the awakening of my heart-voice and that I would go on to record many CDs of songs and chants.
Very early the next morning, we checked out of our rooms and drove from Gallup to a sacred mountaintop for my Sunrise Naming Ceremony, which Red Bird had informed me about the night before. I did not want to offend Red Bird by telling him I had already been gifted a name by Two Eagles, just four days ago, so I chose to say nothing about it. During this ceremony on the mountain, amidst burning sage and prayers, he lifted up his arms just as the Sun broke the horizon and spoke loudly in his native tongue. Then in the middle of the words which I did not understand, I clearly heard 'Morning Star'. He continued to pray, whilst I was asking Spirit what I would do with both native names of Hawk Woman and now Morning Star. At that very moment I heard a piercing cry. I looked up to see a beautiful red-tailed hawk circling above us, and knew my name to be Morning Star Hawk Woman. Both Two Eagles and Red Bird had gifted me with my Spirit name. When Red Bird had completed the naming ceremony, I told him Two Eagles had given me the name of Hawk Woman and that when the hawk had flown above us, I had seen the vision of the two names coming together as one.
Red Bird said, 'Time to become your medicine name, to gain a deeper understanding of its meaning. Only when you are ready, and not before, will you use your sacred name as you call to the Spirit of your ancestors. You have been on a journey, gifting you many visions, and will now lead you on to discover the rites of passage that will heal your life.'
Red Bird gifted me with a deeper insight – it was the understanding that there is no separation, that we are all connected to the One. I had spent four days with each of the medicine men, walking the sacred wheel and honouring the four directions. It was time to head back to Santa Fe for the evening's drumming circle with Joseph. As we started back down the mountain I thanked Red Bird for all his teachings, I felt sorry to leave this sacred place, but knew one day I would return.
I phoned Joseph that night when I reached Santa Fe. I had a quick shower and met him in the motel lobby. We set off with my new drum firmly clutched in my arms. We arrived at the meeting house and I was introduced to the other drummers in the group. I was so excited to play my drum for the first time with other people. Joseph explained that the intention of this evening's circle was a group journey into the lower worlds to meet our power animals. As I sat on the floor I could feel the vibration of my drum coursing through me. I could hear voices talking in very soft whispers but as I looked around the room I noticed that nobody was talking. That's strange, I wondered, who's speaking? Joseph picked up his drum and commenced drumming with a very fast beat. I was aware of all the drums coming together as one voice. It was like a high pitched drone. I tried to recall where I had heard this sound before, it was so familiar.
The next thing I remembered was spiralling down a tunnel into the Earth while observing my drum and hands having a life of their own. I asked, 'Who is drumming?'
Excerpted from The Shaman Within by Barbara Meiklejohn-Free. Copyright © 2013 Barbara Meiklejohn-Free. Excerpted by permission of John Hunt Publishing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword: By Ed 'Eagle Man' McGaa.................... 1
Chapter 1: The Calling – Yule & Vision Quest.................... 8
Chapter 2: The Awakening – Imbolc & Naming.................... 36
Chapter 3: The Transition – Spring Equinox & Inner Child................... 57
Chapter 4: The Knowing – Beltane & Split-Apart.................... 97
Chapter 5: The Experience – Summer Solstice & Four Losses.................. 130
Chapter 6: The Gifting – Lammas & Giveaway.................... 166
Chapter 7: The Initiation – Autumn Equinox & Elderhood.................... 195
Chapter 8: The Totality – Samhain & Death and Rebirth.................... 226
About the Author.................... 264