Refreshed by strong green tea and some cherries brought in from one of the participant’s garden, and basking in the compliment that I looked remarkably fresh despite my lack of sleep, I was ready for the next session.
It began with Simon explaining that journeying on behalf of others is the raison d’être of a shaman. They go to the upper and lower worlds to find answers. If I’ve said this before it’s because it was said on so many occasions.
‘There are no hard and fast rules in shamanism,’ Simon said, ‘but there are some basic guidelines for effective journeying.’
- Never interpret the journey for the client.
- Tell the client that spirit communicates in metaphors. Pass the metaphors on as you get them. Don’t try to make sense of them for the client. This is an area where spirituality and shamanism differ markedly.
- Pay attention to what happens immediately after you’ve asked the question, particularly to any sensations in the body, any sounds, visions etc. And feedback to the client anything that happens to you, for example if it was a struggle to get going, it may be that the client is experiencing a struggle getting going on the issue they’ve brought.
The emphasis, he stressed, particularly for this session, was on having a go. For some it would be the first time of journeying for someone else but trust in the process would help massively.
‘This is where you get to choose your own question for journeying,’ he said.
‘Think of an issue in your life that you’d like some clarity on, or a question you’d like an answer to. Write it down, and then choose someone to work with. It’s important that you choose someone you don’t know because then you will trust more what you’re given without wondering if you’ve made it up because you know the person.’
I couldn’t think of anything pressing, and eventually settled on asking what do I need to focus on when I go to Cameroon?
A young woman who was to the right of me who I hadn’t worked with before agreed for us to work together.
‘How odd,’ she said in surprise when we disclosed our questions. Hers was What will I gain from going to Geneva next week? ‘We both have questions about travelling.’
Not so odd I thought. People with similar issues have a way of finding each other on these courses.
Although in reality the client would not undertake a journey at the same time as the shaman, Simon said that as this was a training session each person – client and shaman – would journey on the same question/issue and compare experiences at the end. So it was that both my partner and I journeyed on my question first.
Again the blindfold, again the drumming, and again I choose to go to the lower world, even though we had the choice of either upper or lower, and again I went down the roots of the copper birch tree in my garden.
I came straight out into the village clearing and the jaguar was waiting for me.
‘Where’s grandma?’ I asked, wondering why I hadn’t gone through the room again.
‘Her job was to introduce us,’ he said as though talking to a small child who doesn’t yet understand the ways of the adult world. ‘She’s done that now.’
‘I’m so happy to see you.’ I said.
‘It’s good to have you back,’ he answered smiling.
‘Can I ask you a question?’
‘Sure, that’s what I’m here for,’ he replied and looked at me quizzically.
‘What do I need to focus on when I’m in Cameroon?’
He held his head down for a while then beckoned to me to walk with him. After only a few paces he stopped and I saw a circle of stones of different shapes, sizes and colours. I looked at them for a while expecting them to either do something or for him to explain what they were for.
When it became evident I didn’t know what to do he indicated to me to pick them up. It was as I bent to pick up the first one that I noticed there were twelve of them in the circle.
I held the first stone, a pale looking one that fitted snugly into my left palm, and watched in astonishment as it changed into a dove and fluttered away.
The second, slightly larger stone, was covered in moss. As I rubbed the moss away I instantly found myself in a brightly lit cafe somewhere in Birmingham, England, with orange and yellow decor.
I was there just long enough to think ‘how strange’ before I was back with the jaguar and the stones.
I had massive resistance to picking up the third, a very dark, almost black flat stone. The jaguar noticed my reluctance and kept quietly encouraging me to pick it up.
I finally bent down, and as I picked it up I felt a wave of energy rush through my body. It was as if someone had turned a fire fighter’s pressure hose full on and the water was being pumped through my body at full force. I gripped the stone tight, the only thing I had to hold on to as the force pushed me backward. I feared I would fall, and at that moment noticed that the jaguar had positioned himself behind me to support me if indeed I fell.
I was still holding the stone and trying to steady myself when I heard the call back tempo. I said a quick thank you to my jaguar teacher and ran, still holding the stone back up the roots. I left the stone on my drive before returning to the room.
After I told my partner what had happened, she apologised and said nothing quite that dramatic happened to her. She said she saw a big cat lying chilled out on a beach allowing the waves to wash over him.
Was it a black jaguar?’ I asked intrigued.
‘No, it wasn’t black, a bit mottled and I think it was a leopard.’
He kept disappearing and appearing again until she asked him to stand still long enough for her to get a good look at him. Then he was suddenly ‘in her face’ but not in a scary way.
The beach was a small cove with cliffs behind it, and the leopard encouraged her to lay down with him and let the waves wash over her too. The odd thing was that the waves were rainbow coloured, not the usual white foam.
There wasn’t time to process the information to any great degree because we had to move into changing over.
I went straight back down through the roots again to ask the question on her behalf, but this time there were some obstructions that I had to get past, so the ride down was not as smooth.
The jaguar was there waiting for me as before.
‘Back so soon?’ he said half jokingly.
‘Yes, I have a question about someone else. Can I ask you on someone else’s behalf?’
‘I’ve told you, it’s what I’m here for,’ he answered patiently.
‘Well, the question is ‘what will Trina gain from going to Geneva next week?’’
He was still for so long I wondered if he’d heard me, and I was just getting ready to ask the question again when he began walking around in a big figure of eight.
‘Anything else?’ I asked when he stopped.
‘Tell her she will learn to climb.’ Then he showed me two ladders. ‘Tell her she will learn to climb quicker without the ladders.’
Then he rapidly showed me Trina flying a kite on a hill. The green body of the kite had a pink tail attached and was flying free.
Next he took me down what appeared to be a grove or a tropical orchard. On the right was an orange tree with one orange on it. On the left a pineapple tree with one pineapple on it, and straight ahead a hibiscus bush with a fully open stunning cerise flower.
‘Tell her she’s wiser than she knows,’ he said. And just when I was thinking it was a lot to remember I heard the call back drums. As I was saying thank you and getting ready to leave he said, ‘show her the bear skin rug,’ and showed me a bear skin rug.
As I did her feedback her eyebrows raised further and further up her face, and when I mentioned the bear skin rug her hand flew to her mouth. The only thing she asked me was whether a hibiscus is similar to an orchid.
She shared a bit of her story. The trip to Geneva is to see a partner who had recently become her ex. As the ticket was already bought and they were still friends they’d agreed that she’d still go.
It was her intention to climb while she was there, her ex-partner was mad about orchids and the reason her hand had flown to her face was because he’d always said he’d buy a bear skin rug to put in front of the fire place and make love to her on it.
She could not yet make sense of the other pieces of information, but those three pieces had been convincing enough.
This is where I felt a strong conflict between working spiritually, psychically and shamanically. (Is there such a word?) Working psychically I would be trying to make sense of the metaphors for her. I’d be looking at the fact that the kite was green and pink and therefore connected to the heart, that the ladders were not necessarily about physical climbing, that the orange, pineapple and hibiscus represented tropical regions. But I couldn’t, and as I held my thoughts to myself I realised that it probably wasn’t a good thing to try to interpret the metaphors. I’d never have known the meaning of the bear skin rug.
A few days later when I was telling a friend about my part of the journey she was fascinated that the stone turned into a dove. She googled ‘stone turning into a dove’ and came up with an RSPB project called Dovestone Reservoir Memory Bank Oral History Project
It’s a project using volunteers. It would appear that at least some of my volunteering in Cameroon should be spent looking at oral history.
With some reflection I think the other images were about looking at or supporting an enterprise project, and certainly the black stone represented a deep and powerful connection with the land.
I know that this is a long blog, but if you have any comment on any of it at all, however tiny I’d love to hear from you.