Seeking Help from the First Shamans
"Greetings and welcome, Abuelo Fuego Tataiwari," I say with great respect as the first flames of the sacred fire spark into life in front of me. "Thank you for being with me once again, for enlightening the shadows, for your heat, your flowing energy, your wisdom, and your protection in the night. I offer you the food that sustains you--the fuel for your body and my energy for your mind--for I have a special request of you this night."
Yes, Jim, I know of your request. I have been waiting for you to wake up enough to hear this message. I have given it to you before, but you weren't ready to hear it. I am glad that you have progressed this far in the teachings that you hear when I call.
"So you will help me with this, Abuelo?"
Of course I will help you. But you know there will have to be offerReciprocation. As always, I will expect you to be true to your offerings.
"What would you have of me, Abuelo?"
In order for you to receive the full depth of what I'm to share with you, you must first work more on your energy. Be even clearer, and empty your vessel. First, I want you to stop putting so much energy into thinking of this new lady in your life.
"I've been working on that, but it's hard!"
This is my time to talk, hijo,1 can I expect you to keep interrupting?
"No, Abuelo, (2) I'm listening."
This situation with the new love you have found will unfold naturally; there is no need for you to give up so much of your energy to it. Release your attempts to control it. It will do you no good. Be true; that is all that is expected of you. If you are true, then there's nothing to worry about. Do you understand?
"Yes, Abuelo, I understand."
Good. Now, your garden. You have been lazy. The energy of Grandmother Growth will be needed as we spend more time together in the following weeks. Balance yourself. Spend time with your Grandmother, take better care of the beings that provide your energy. Plant more seeds so the miracle of creation and growth is infused into your being.
And one more thing.
Before you come to me next, I want you to fast for three days and then make a deep sweat in the lodge. I want your energy to be clear and strong so that you will be able to feel all the colors of my light so that you may spread it in the proper way when you write for your people.
Go now, and return when you have prepared yourself properly.
"Thank you, Abuelo."
And so it goes in front of Grandfather Fire. The only thing you can be is real. The only thing you can offer is your energy in helping to spread the light. There is no asking without offering. That is what makes this relationship so special and so balanced.
All of us feel the luminous energy in the flowing flames of the fire. Ever since I can remember, the fire has attracted me and mesmerized my mind. But it wasn't until I began living and learning from people that enjoy a happy and peaceful subsistence life--without roads, electricity, and artificial light that I began to comprehend much more about the fire--especially when the fire is brought forth with intention, connection, and the desire for numinous wisdom.
That is what the teachers who set me on this path, the Wirrarika shamans, have shared with me and what I hope to share with you.
Now you might be asking--is it really possible to receive wisdom from the fire? To actually have a conversation? Could it be true that the flowing energy of the fire can impart divine knowledge? These were questions that I wrestled with for many years when I started participating in ceremonies with the Wirrarika and got to see firsthand how the shamans would "sing the voice" of Grandfather Fire, Tataiwari, and how all the people would go to the sacred fire and speak their truths, ask their questions, and send their prayers. At first, and for quite a long time, I didn't get it. I mean, I wanted to believe, and I was able to observe and respect this tradition firsthand and see its effects on the Wirrarika, but I couldn't claim to see, hear, or feel what they did.
Then I was invited to participate in a pilgrimage to the sacred peyote desert of Wiriwhere the Wirrarika go to "find their lives" and communicate directly with the Kakaiyeri (3) by entering into their house. And it was there that my relationship with the fire changed forever. In one glorious night, after much fasting, little sleep, a lot of prayer, and surrounded by the luminous energy of that sacred desert and my human companI witnessed the fire rise up and merge with the stars. In that moment, I understood from a place completely separate from my rational mind that the energy of the fire right in front of me was the same as the energy I could see twinkling in the heavens above me. Then, as I continued to concentrate on this scene, I began to see the image of the messenger Kahullumari, the blue deer, (4) rising on the tips of the flames. It was Kahulluwho taught me to converse with Grandfather Fire.
Kahullumari instructed me to release myself completely to the flames. He told me that I was one and the same as the fire, so there was nothing to fear--that the spark of the fire lived in my heart (the electrical impulses that kept it beating) and in my brain (through the firing of my neural pathways). That the fire of our sun, Tayau (the son of Grandfather Fire), was the energy in all the food that nourished my body and kept me alive and warm. To connect with the fire, then, was simply to merge the fire of my human organism with the sacred fire in front of me. All that was necessary to do that was intention.
I will talk more about the intent that goes into bringing forth the sacred fire. But what happened that magical night was that my intent was strong and clear--I wanted more than anything to talk with the fire, to be a part of the Wirrarika ceremony in a way I never could before.
I will never forget what happened next, for I started to speak. But what I was saying wasn't coming from me: it was coming from the fire. The strangest thing was that I could hear myself speaking, but I had not a clue as to what I was saying. The speaking then turned into a sort of chant-song. (5)
After I'm not sure how long, the chanting stopped, and I looked up from the fire and across the flames to meet eyes with the shaman that was sitting across from me. In that moment, I finally got it. I saw the fire alive in the shaman's eyes. Then his whole body transformed into a luminous and flowing organism of light. He and the fire were the same. I and the fire were the same.
I looked around, and all my companions appeared as flowing light. I was surrounded by a circle of fires! Then the shaman (the largest of the flowing lights) began to "speak" to the flowing light next to him. This appeared to me as his light flowing and mixing with the one beside him. They "spoke" together for a time, and then the shaman turned and "spoke" to me.
What he basically said was, "Welcome."
Time had no meaning in those moments, so I have no idea how long it lasted, but when my perception of my companions was back to me seeing them as their physical bodies, the shaman again spoke to the man next to him (his assistant, for lack of a better word), who was a younger man and a good friend of mine. The old shaman did not speak Spanish well, and I spoke little Wirrarika, so my friend translated.
The shaman told me what I had been chanting through the fire. Grandfather Fire spoke about how I was to be an emissary between the Kakaiyeri and my people-about what my role was to be and what my task was. I was to share the knowledge of the Kakaiyeri with the people. As long as I did that and did not keep the knowledge to myself for simply empowering myself, I would continue to be taught and gain knowledge and wisdom.
The shaman asked if I would agree to the terms, and I accepted. In front of Grandfather Fire and my companions, I had to state that promise out loud, and I did.
I see your energy is much clearer and stronger this time, hijo. You have balanced your energetic relationship with Tricia?
"Yes, Abuelo, and I have spoken to her about it."
Very good. And what of your Grandmother?
"I've been tending my garden more mindfully; it is starting to look and feel better."
Is that all?
"What do you mean?"
I know you have spoken to her many times in the past. Why, then, don't you speak to her now, in your garden?
"I'm not sure. I mean, I feel her when I work the soil and tend my plants. I give thanks when I harvest from the garden. I even speak to her sometimes. But in my garden, I don't hear her speak back--not like I hear you."
You must pay attention to this, hijo. Your Grandmother is very wise and speaks only when it is important. I am the helper to what you call Shaman, those that can hear my voice clearly. I am a communicator. She is all about action, creation. To hear her voice, you must be completely open. But you can do it. In the past, you have heard her voice only in the sacred places where the veil is thinner. Now you must awaken to her in a new way. You must offer her something for her time, for she is very busy. I will let you work that out with her. That is your lesson for today. Go now, and return once you have spoken to her.
"Thank you, Abuelo."
The Wirrarika consider the First Shamans to be Grandmother Growth, Nakawé, and Grandfather Fire, Tataiwari. Tataiwari is like the patron saint to human shamans because he is a communicator. Shamans receive divine messages from him. But that does not make Nakawé less important; on the contrary. She is considered to be the First Shaman. She was here before all else. She provides the energy of life to the planet, and she also instructs the moon in keeping Mother Earth on its tilt so that Father Sun does not burn us with his power.
For women, due to the womb and their inherent creative energies, it is easier to converse with Nakawé. But even so, Nakawé tends to let Tataiwari do most of the talking with humans. She is always there, she is confident in her power, and she will speak up when she wants to make her point. At the time I am writing this chapter, I have conversed with her directly only a handful of times--but those times have been powerful, life-changing events for me.
When Tataiwari told me to awaken to her more fully, I instantly understood why, especially for the task I had been given in writing this book. The truth is, I had initially prepared the outline for this book from conversations only with Tataiwari. Boy, would that have been a mistake! I understand balance, but it didn't occur to me that Nakawé was a shaman who could speak to me the way Tataiwari does. I'm grateful that the First Shamans are so wise ...
You have built me a shrine, hijo, how nice!
"Yes, Grandmother. I know that we have spoken a few times before, when I have entered the earth during ceremony (6) and in some of the sacred places. But my intention is to get to know you better, and I would like to invite you to join me with my work."
It is good that you have come to me. Your people have forgotten the face of their Mother and of their Grandmother. You will help them to remember, yes?
"I have received the message to do so, Grandmother. But there is so much I don't know, don't understand. I need guidance and knowledge. I know so little about what is truly happening. Sometimes I just want to cry or yell with frustration over what I see my people doing."
You are not alone in your work, hijo. Continue to act with care and respect toward your Mother. She is injured and crying. Help her and you help everyone. If you do that, I will be there for you. When your Grandfather speaks, he speaks for all the Kakaiyeri. And he knows my mind. But in certain moments, I will instruct you myself if you stay true to your path. You have much work to do; it's best that you start right away. I fear time is running short for your people. Transformation is needed and will come, whether they know it or not. The way this will happen will be decided by their actions. Listen to your Grandfather. Do the very best you can. That is all that is asked of you.
"Thank you, Abuela."
Our Mother is injured and crying. Transformation is needed. The outcome will be determined by our actions.
Strong words. What exactly do they mean? Of course, I have plenty ideas of my own, but what is the truth? Lots of people are talking about a transformation in consciousness that is happening right now. But what does that look like? Are we better off helping it or hindering it? How does this transformation relate to the earth changes we are also experiencing? How can we further help Mother Earth?
These are the questions that led me to ask Tataiwari for guidance, once I realized the answers, in some cases, were better off coming from a purely nonhuman sphere of thinking. But where do the answers from the First Shamans come from?
When I connect with Grandfather Fire and Grandmother Growth, there is no doubt that in some moments there is a melding of my energy with theirs, my thoughts with theirs. This happens in a similar way to what happens when we talk with people. So one could say that when the First Shamans speak through me, there is certainly a part of me that comes through. For example, when they speak through me they use my words and my language. When they speak through the Wirrarika shamans, they use their words and their language.
But be sure that this is much more than my simply projecting my mind and thoughts to somehow imagine that the First Shamans are speaking through me. Most of what they tell me is completely new to me and unexpected. Many times I don't even know what I'm saying, so I either have a tape recorder running or someone else there to tell me what was said.
So how can this possibly happen? I will attempt to explain; there are two main components to this. The first is intent, and the second is experience. Neither one can do this alone. You can have all the intent in the world that you want to connect with the fire, but without the experience of interacting and learning little by little how to do it, you stand little chance. It is like someone who has never played baseball wanting to hit a ball thrown by a professional pitcher. It takes years of dedicated practice and thousands upon thousands of swings of the bat during countless games in order to acquire that skill.
The same goes for experience. You could be someone living outdoors your whole life, using fire for warmth and to cook your food many thousands of times, and never hear the voice of the fire speak to you.
So it is the combination of strong and clear intention coupled with the experience of thousands of fires brought to life in a sacred way, not simply for warmth or cooking but specifically for connecting, that allowed me to break the barrier of purely self-reflective thought and connect to these sources of divine energy.
After my first connection to the fire that was deep enough for him to speak through me, which I have briefly recounted previously here, it took me many more years to develop the skills used to share the wisdom I write about in this book. You see, on that first magical night I was being helped by people and forces that I didn't have in my everyday life. The Wirrarika people have such clear energy and such a deep connection to the First Shamans that just being with them helped raise my energy and shift my perception. The sacred peyote desert that was the setting for that magical night has an energy conducive to visions like I have never felt anywhere else. And the arduous trip to the desert, filled with periodic stops to sacred sites along the way, also contributed to enhance my psychic abilities that night.
You can imagine how frustrating it was to return from that trip and not be able to reproduce what had happened to me that night. I felt like I had done something wrong so that the fire did not want to speak to me again. And in a way, that was true. It is so easy to fall back into the hypnotized state of modern humanity (which is something I will get into more in upcoming chapters).
The thing that saved me was my continued devotion and desire to change my life. I spent years and hundreds upon hundreds of nights sitting with the sacred fire and speaking to him before I slowly began to hear his responses. As we will see, Grandfather Fire shares with us how consciousness and matter are but ripples in the same pond. All knowledge is thus interconnected, and touching the wisdom of the fire is about learning how to swim to other areas of the pond. This first started happening to me as I attempted to share the light of the sacred fire with work groups. Having groups of people come to the sacred fire and open their hearts slowly proved to the First Shamans that I was true to the path they had set me on. I began to hear the fire respond to the people I was working with. Gradually, group after group, I began to hear the fire speaking through me in order to help the people that had come to the fire with intention.
Although I would never compare myself to those old Wirrarika shamans that spend a lifetime with Tataiwari as a central figure in their lives, I know that through the sheer volume of intentional experiences I've had swimming with the fire to other areas of the pond, I now have a similar light behind my eyes as they do. I now see the fire behind my eyes even during the course of my everyday life, even while sitting in front of this comAnd that is why I can now connect as a conduit for the fire and share the wisdom that the First Shamans are requiring me to share ...
You have spoken to Grandmother, hijo?
"Yes, Grandfather, and she had some powerful things to say--many of which I don't truly understand."
It is good that you do not pretend to know the answers. We have much work to do in order for you to fully understand. Much of this work you must do without me, so that you can claim the knowledge yourself. That is the only way to truly learn.
"I'm not sure I understand, Grandfather. I thought that you would help me in deliveryour message to the people."
Yes, hijo, but first you must realize for yourself where your people are and how they got there. That is your first assignment. Look to the cultures that have not forgotten the face of their Mother. Then look at your culture. In a deeper way than you have ever seen before, look what HAS happened and what is happening NOW. Your Grandmother has told you about the imminent transformation. But do not simply take her word for it. Thoroughly investigate this on your own. Look for signs, trends, omens. Open your heart and your mind. Use your intellect combined with your intuition. Once you have peered into the mind and heart of your people, we will speak more of the transformation, for then you will be better prepared for what I have to tell you.
And so it was that I started on this journey of knowledge. At first, it was inspired from a silent calling from Grandfather Fire, for he felt it was time for the people to hear his message. Next was awakening to Grandmother Growth. Now I was being asked to become a seeker of answers again, as I have been most of my life.
1 hijo = son
2 abuelo = grandfather, fuego = fire
3 Kakaiyeri = Wirrarika name for deities and spirits of nature
4 Kahullumari is the blue deer spirit who is the guide, messenger, and guardian of the sacred Wirikuta
5 I write about this in my book Ecoshamanism; a chant-song is a spontaneous, free-flowing, dynamic interaction
between the individual and nature.
6 Information on the embrace of the earth ceremony can be found in Ecoshamanism.