The recent of losses of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glen Fry, have me contemplating death more than usual. I am grieving in some ways the loss of my youth. The music left behind during the 70’s and 80’s by David Bowie and the Eagles, was such an integral part of that time in my life. The actor Alan Rickman, who played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films, has me thinking about my children when they were younger. They grew up watching Harry Potter movies, as well as “The Labyrinth” with Bowie, and they have now grown into young adults. These events have heightened for me a deeper vibe of change, that is causing me to look more deeply at the reality of death.
My own father died in 2008, and he has been paying me visits more often in my dreams now. In a recent visit, he showed me a photo of a Native American Indian Ancestor. He told me, “this is your ancestor”. In the photo, I see a strong man in the prime of his life, wearing buckskins and a few eagle feathers tied loosely in his long dark hair. He carries a pipe in his hands.
In the dream, I wish to speak with him and so I decide to enter into the photo consciously as a portal, enabling the photo to come to life and I now stand beside him in the dream space. I see the pipe he carries is turned toward his body, so that I cannot see what the pipe bowl looks like. I ask him, “Can you turn the pipe? I want to see what medicine you carry.” He responds by turning the pipe bowl, so that I can now see it clearly. It is a human skull. He tells me, “This is your medicine.”
My father once again visited me in my dream, just the other night and told me, “You need to meet your death” and then he handed me a pair of black handled scissors.
So what does it mean to meet your death? Does it mean I will be meeting mine soon? Perhaps, or maybe instead he is pointing at the medicine of my ancestor, that of death as a bringer of change and awakening, transformation and rebirth. The scissors he offered are also of note. It connects with the three fates, one of which cuts the life line with scissors when it is time to meet death.
Prophetic Bird Goddesss
In a recent gathering, I facilitated a conscious shamanic journey for a group of women who dream with the New Moon each month. Our intention for the journey was to connect with the Three Fates for a glimpse of the year ahead. During my drumming for the group, I saw a dark sky across which flew a large, dark winged bird with the head of a woman. She made a very loud cry as she flew across a dark mountain range and cried out three times. I felt she was meant to be the harbinger of death. She lands on a shore of this dark mountain range and I see myself standing before her. She is feeding me meat from her beak, like a momma bird to her chick.
I was previously unaware of the Slavic prophetic bird goddesses, until I dreamt with her in my journey, it appears the one I connected with was Alkonost, the messenger of sorrow. The image above of the painting, “Prophetic Bird” by Russian Artist, Andre Shishkin, looks much like the what I saw in my journey. I also did seem to understand that the dark mountain range was somewhere in Eastern Europe.
These dreams all had me thinking it was indeed time to meet my death, in the shamanic sense of die before you die. I reflected on the writings of Stephen Levine, who wrote about contemplating death in his book, “A Year to Live.” If you had but a year to live, what would you do? I found out the other day that he too, has crossed over. Die before you die means the time is now, to live your life fully, without fear or hesitation.
In the Fall of 2007 , I was given the news that my Father has cancer. He had stage four lung cancer with a large inoperable tumor, and he is 83 years old. Death is inevitable for each of us, and so the news of my father’s illness brought me closer to the portal of death. It also brought a pain so deep within me I was doubled over as if a knife were piercing my soul. I was feeling pulled deeper into the darkness and pain of these events as if my soul were being pulled down into the underworld. My father had recently given all of his things away and moved in with his Sister in El Paso, Texas. The borderlands, El Paso means “the Pass” and these are lands where the ancient Aztec territory had once reached and ancient petroglyphs of Quetzalcoatl can still be found in the Hueco Tanks area. One night I surrendered to the pull that I felt in my soul, and I said a prayer for a dream for my fathers’ protection and healing. In response to my prayer, I had this dream;
The Call of Quetzalcoatl
I see an Aztec Mandala as a large circular structure built with Aztec Codex tiles. Each tile is connected to a person’s life and there is a tile for each individual soul. I see a spirit presence there who is the guardian of this place, which is a portal to cross into the other world. The first panel I was shown is connected to me and my life. I stepped on the panel with my awareness, and it lit up with golden light and the God Quetzalcoatl, the flying serpent came to life and flew away. Then this gatekeeper guardian spirit told me he was directing my father’s death. He told me my father would be going into the underworld when he passes.
I see a friend with me in my dream and she stays on the perimeter of the circular space that makes up this portal. She is talking with this spirit and he gives her a very large ruby that he takes out of the side of the earth that is the wall of the perimeter. It seems to be some kind of cave maybe or part of a temple or a pyramid. Another part of my dream is showing me another layer where the Aztec Codex tiles are floating up in space like an Aztec temple but on the etheric realm. The spirit offers a simple bowl and sets it on a tile and the bowl flips over to the other side and it disappears immediately. This is a place where offerings are made to the ancestors or spirit realm. I am given the information that if I put my hand on one of those tiles it would disappear just like the bowl. Instead I take out some Milagros which means “miracles” they are small metal medallions in different forms such as a hand or head or a house offered as prayers of healing and protection. The Milagro prayers are received, but they don’t disappear. It shows me the importance of making offerings of prayers in Milagros or tobacco or sage to be received in the spirit realm. The prayers for assistance offers an opportunity for the ancestral spirits to be of service from the other side. – End of Dream
I shared this dream with my friend who had appeared in my dream. She has Mayan Ancestry and speaks Spanish and I told her I felt I needed to go to the Pyramids in Mexico and make prayer offerings for healing. I asked if she would accompany me as my translator since I did not speak Spanish and also since she was one of the people in my dream with me. The next day, we were flying to meet in Mexico City on a quest to the Pyramids in Teotihuacan to explore my dream healing ceremony. We stayed very near the Pyramids where there was a small village, my friend felt she wanted to explore the village nearby that evening in search of a Toltec Elder who might know how we could participate in the annual ceremony of the Aztec Moon Dance. She asked several people in the village if they knew anyone who might help, and finally we were directed to a house where a Toltec Medicine Man lived. We knocked on the door and spoke with a delightful young woman, a cousin who explained he was not there but he could give us a tour of the pyramids in the morning if we came back then. She also explained we would not be able to participate in the Aztec Moon Dance without a written letter of referral, which had to be submitted in advance. She let us know the Moon Dance would be taking place the next day in Mexico City. We left and returned to our hotel for the evening with a plan to return in the morning. It did not look promising for us to participate in the Moon Dance from what this woman had told us, but I left it up to spirit to decide. My sights were set on doing ceremony and making offerings to the ancestors in the territory I believed I had seen in my dream, the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan.
Before retiring for the night, I realized we were actually sleeping on sacred grounds with ruins on the property located walking distance to the Pyramids. I made the intention for a dream of assistance for the quest we would embark on the next day. My dreaming was difficult and disrupted, I awoke in the middle of the night with a feeling that chilled me to the bone. It was as cold as death in our room and I could not get warm no matter how many blankets I piled on me. I looked at my companion and she slept peacefully without any signs of discomfort.
Over breakfast the next morning, I described my lack of sleep and dreams to my friend and we determined she would go and seek out the Medicine Man we believed lived in the nearby village while I waited at the hotel. She would then bring him to the hotel for me to meet him and I could tell him my dream. She returned with his wife who spoke some English and I told her with the help of my translator of the dream of Quetzalcoatl that had brought me before her. I spoke of the need to offer prayers for my father. She understood immediately and went to retrieve her husband. Upon our meeting I felt as though my dream was opening up and I was falling back into my dream. I recognized the man standing before me as the guardian spirit I had seen in my dream. This Medicine Man is the keeper of the Staff of Quetzalcoatl and the guardian of this sacred place for his people. He offered to do ceremony at the pyramids with us and asked us both to accompany him and his wife as his guests to participate in the Moon Dance in Mexico City later that day.
Before we entered the sacred grounds of the pyramids, the Medicine Man and his wife offered me colorful stones as offerings of healing for my father and myself. They explained to me that it was through my own healing that these healing energies would be made available to my family. They also gave my traveling companion a stone that was the color of a red ruby, we both looked at one another with a knowing grin understanding this was actualizing a part of the dream. We were on the path of my dream and together we went to the pyramids and offered prayers with traditional Copal and also Sage which I had brought and offered out of respect and gratitude. It is the traditional way as I had been taught in my past years of study practicing ceremony with my teacher, a Lakota Sioux Medicine Man known as Ten Bears. The teacher before me now was an Aztec Medicine Man and he was young as was his wife, and they had nothing but smiles and concern for my well being on my healing journey with them.
We offered the prayers without the flame to burn the sacred herbs as the traditional ceremony would be done. The four of us stood in each of the four directions offering prayers in Nagual the language of the Toltec people. It was sad for me to see the indigenous peoples living in this area on the land of their ancestors forbidden by the government to practice their rituals with an open fire and so the ceremony we did was without flame. After we made prayers, we went to the temple of Quetzalcoatl to open a portal of healing energy. We climbed the steps of the temple in a zig zag serpentine fashion to connect with the energy of the feathered serpent. When we reached the top, the guardian of this portal spoke the sacred prayers and told us to concentrate our energy and open up to the power of Quetzalcoatl. We stood looking down on the ancient carved serpents that covered the temple holding our hands out over the temple breathing in the energy. I could see in my minds eye a V shaped opening occur where golden light poured fourth and then two giant golden serpent eyes were staring back at me. The energy of the feathered serpent had been released and it had made contact with me. I could still feel the energy coursing through my body as we made our way down the many steps of the temple back toward the earth in a serpentine direction.
Our next destination would be the underground ruins of the Jaguar Palace. I followed my guide as he lead me to the ancient ruins and found myself in the territory of my dream. Inside the underground palace, we were led to a location that had once been a waterfall. It was obvious where the water had once run down where the sides of the earth where smooth. I was directed to stand underneath it, as if the water were flowing today. I leaned my face and body up against the earthen wall under the barren water fall, and I could imagine the once plentiful waters flowing over me washing away all of the wounds of my past. I stood taking in this energy for a long time until I felt my spirit replenished, the water was long gone, but the healing energies of it remained and I was grateful to be in this amazing place. We then went deeper inside the underground ruins known as the Jaguar Palace and I was shown what seemed to be a covering over some kind of opening. When the covering was removed it revealed a dark hole that went deep down inside the earth. My guide pointed down into it as if he wanted me to enter this portal. I looked at him like he was crazy and exclaimed, I am not going inside that! It was so deep and dark you could not see the end! He laughed and had me place my hands hovering over the opening and told me to draw the energy of Mother Earth up into my hands and through my being. I stood positioned over what was an ancient well that lead deep inside the earth and drew from the healing energy of Mother Earth.
I was feeling lighter with each step along the way of our journey and now it was time for us to travel to Mexico City. My companion and I had decided we would accompany our Medicine guides to participate in the Ancient ceremony of the Aztec Moon Dance as their guests. I was profoundly grateful to them for their generous spirit, and all the love and support they had shown me and my friend. It was here in the Moon Dance Ceremony that I was able to make my prayer offerings for my father. I had brought the Milagros with me, and put the stones that I had been given in a small bag that I carried with me. I danced with the bag during the ceremony, and I was amazed at all of the colorful costumes and the many different people from across the region who arrived for the dance. The Medicine Man and his wife who accompanied us, wore the costume of the black jaguar while his wife was dressed in the beautiful flowing colors of water. I did not come prepared with a costume for the dance, however my friend provided me with a headdress of colorful parrot feathers that she and I wore during the dance. The dance began around 2:00 in the afternoon and it went on until the Sun was down around 8:00 we danced the entire time without taking a break on concrete in the middle of the busy square in Mexico City. There were different Aztec tribes there from across the region and well over 50 dancers who participated. I was accepted as one of the tribe as if I had been there my whole life without hesitation or question. The Moon Dance was so hypnotic and yet I felt so completely alive with the sounds and smells and the movement of the dance. I thought my body would collapse in the waning hours of the dance. I could feel the energy of the dance take over and I was no longer one person struggling against the difficulty of my physical challenges but surrendered to the dance and became one with the movement of a whole community. The energy of us dancing together as one took me and lifted my exhaustion away. I felt lifted ever higher by the energy of this Sacred Moon Dance and I knew my dance was a prayer that was offered to the ancestors of this sacred place.
When the final words of the closing ceremony had been spoken, we all gathered in the square to join in a sumptuous meal of chicken mole, beans and rice with even a shot of Agave Tequila to take the edge off tired muscles. The night wore on as it was getting late and I was ready to return to my hotel to rest and asked our guides to please escort us back home. They had other plans however the ceremony and the night was not yet over! They insisted that we accompany them back to their village to join in a small group of people to do a temascales purification sweat ceremony. They insisted this was a crucial part of the day of ceremony. They had both shown such tremendous concern for my well being all along the way in the course of our journey always checking in to see how I was feeling, and if they insisted on this final step I had to trust them. We arrived at the temascales where the rocks to heat the lodge had already been well heated in a ceremonial fire and everything was prepared. I was given a simple white cotton gown to wear in the lodge. Special herbs were burned over the hot rocks and then poured with water to release the steam. In the lodge we sang songs and prayed deep in the night and into the early morning. Several of those who shared the sweat lodge with me that night kept complaining about it being cold inside the lodge. The Medicine Man whom I had come to love and trust, let everyone know the reason they felt cold was because they were experiencing the trauma they held in their body. This rang a bell for me, that must have been what I experienced in my dreaming the night before when I woke up freezing and was unable to get warm. The Medicine Man checked with me to see if I was cold, I shook my head no. He gave me a warm and knowing smile shaking is head in agreement. The healing was complete. Now I knew I had received healing through the day of ceremony and ritual. I was the only one in the lodge who was not cold.
We then finished the healing lodge and prepared to leave. I gave a donation for the services of creating the space for the lodge and I offered my faithful guides money for the healing I had received. They thoughtfully declined, knowing I was called to them by the dream and through spirit, and it was their honor to be of service. These were indeed people of beauty and faith and love and integrity. They had helped me find the miracles I came searching to find. Now I could take this energy home with me and share it with my loved ones. It was hard to say goodbye to these special people that the dream had answered in response to my prayer but I knew this was a place and a people to whom I would someday return.
My father later died peacefully surrounded by family and I feel strongly that through the dreams and ceremony and sacred dance and prayers offered a pathway that was prepared for him to travel into the afterlife. The day he passed my daughter had this beautiful dream of his death.
The Butterfly Tree
I see an old two story house with a front porch and grandpa is sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. The family is gathered around and everyone is coming up to speak with him and tell him goodbye. My mom and I go and speak with him and say our goodbyes. We see a butterfly land on his shoulder and then he dies. A tree in the backyard holds many butterflies who now flow around him, as they do he begins to transform from his older self to his younger self of about 40 years old. He looks happy and peaceful. End of Dream
There are stories about butterflies in Mexico that the return of the butterflies each year during the migration are the souls of departed ancestors coming to visit. The Butterfly Tree is a migration of the soul and the end of the journey we call life.