Monday, September 17, 2007

Shaman as Deathwalkers – Part I.

To follow up on our topic of a shamanic view of death and dying, we move on to the role of the shaman as a “Deathwalker” or “Psychopomp” (from the Greek word psychopompos, literally meaning the "guide of souls").

As a shaman, we may be called to assist those who are making their spiritual transitions or those who have already left the physical body that need help completing their transition and returning to their spiritual home.

The shaman may wait with and comfort the soul of a person who is dying and guide them across at the moment of death. Or they can also be with a person who is dying, when they lose consciousness and communicate with them. This is the time when the person who is about to leave the dying body is mostly on the spiritual side but is still anchored to the body. The shaman can ask the soul where it wants to go, then show them where this place is, so they have an idea about which way to go after death.

Most often, in today’s spread out society, we are called upon by a family member and are able to attend to the person making their transition from the spiritual plane. We come to help to soul to prepare for his or her rebirth. We can usually assess how close the physical death process is by the location of “Light Beings” present in the room. These beings actually help the person to cross into the spiritual realm. The closer they are to dying person, the closer the actual time of physical death.

So, just how do we assist the person to release from the physical body? One of the important things we do is to retrieve any energy or soul pieces that the person is missing. It is important to have these back to make an easy transition. And, often the person who is dying will want to return any soul pieces of others that they may be holding. In a recent case, I was called to the hospital room of a client who was extremely ill and was positioned with one foot in each world. The Light Beings were present in the and when I entered the room in altered state, Rose (name changed) sat up in the bed. She immediately started handing me all these little gift wrapped boxes and asked me to return them to their owners. There were many small boxes and my guides collected them all and immediately distributed them (we don’t ask who they belong to, the guides know where they go). She smiled and relaxed and drifted back to sleep.

In another case, a client asked me to journey for her Mother who was approaching her crossing over point. The client stated the doctor gave her Mother approximately three weeks to live. When I journeyed to her, the Light Being’s were in the room, about one half way to her bed, indicating about 3 to 6 weeks before crossing over. With permission for the Mother’s Spirit Self, a soul recovery was done to bring what she was missing and return what she was holding that belong to others. We then specifically cleaned up her chakra’s which were binding her to the physical body, then had a chat with her Spirit Self explaining the process she was in. We also assisted her to become aware of the Light Being’s and her Ancestors which were present to assist and greet her when she choose to make her transition. We then left her in a very relaxed state in the company of ancestors and Light Being’s.

The following morning, the client called to inform me that her Mother had passed around 3AM, very peacefully and with no struggle. This is the beauty of assisting a person at the end of their earth walk, so that leaving of the physical body is as normal as closing your eyes to go to sleep. Working shamanically with someone who is getting ready to make their physical transition can help them to eliminate the fear of leaving the physical and the struggle of clinging to a physical body that no longer can support living.

The final installment on death and dying will cover helping those who are stuck to complete their transition.

Until then….

Mitakuye Oyasin ( A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),
Gary & Debbie

Friday, August 17, 2007

First, to those of you who keep checking out BLOG and finding that we’ve been out of touch for almost two months, we apologize. Life has been extremely busy. Gary’s wonderful 90 year-old mom took ill and we spent many days away from home assisting his sister and brother-in-law with her care. We were caring for her around the clock in her home as she stood at the doorway of death and decided it was not her time to pass through. It has been a tiring but enlightening time for us.

But, this brings us to the subject of today’s BLOG – Shamanism, Death and Rebirth.

To quote Jose & Lena Stevens book Secrets of Shamanism, “Every shaman knows that in order to create something new, something must first be destroyed. The old form is taken apart and from its energetic source, something new arises.” This is the power of transformation. And, death is simply put, a transformation. It is the change from the physical form back to a spiritual form.

From our perspective (Gary’s and mine), death of the physical body is a time of celebration. It is the time when our friend or loved one gets released from this earth walk and is re-born to Spirit. We feel we are spiritual beings living in a physical body, we are being released from our post and get to return home. This is time for celebration.

Now, this doesn’t mean that we don’t mourn the loss of the friend or loved one, as we will miss their physical presence. But it is a time of great joy that they have the opportunity to return home once again.

We were blessed with the opportunity to share this experience when my mother made her transition over six years ago. We were able to be present and witness the Light Beings or Angels and family members who were already on the other side coming to assist Mom. It was certainly a mixed bag of emotions, as through my tears over losing “Mommy” and knowing she wouldn’t be there to physically hug me again, there was a tremendous sense of awe and wonderment as she finally overcome her fear of leaving the physical and transformed into her spiritual self right before our eyes. The closest I can say that I ever came close to such extreme joy was with the birth of our children.

As a shaman, we are often called to assist those who are making their spiritual transitions or those who have already left the physical body that need help completing their transition. This will be our topic next time.

Death and dying is such a taboo subject in our culture here in the U.S.. People generally perceive death as a negative or something to be fearful of, not something to be embraced. There is much to be gained from examining our thoughts, ideas and feelings about death and dying. I encourage you to sit with those feelings and thoughts and try to separate your true feelings from those that have been programmed by society, religion or family. This takes courage. We wish you the courage to explore.

Until next time,

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sumdging Ceremony Part II - Sacred Herbs

In my last BLOG we discussed in detail the smudging ceremony.

Smudging is used by all indigenous cultures and in many metaphysical practices. Today, we have a wide variety of herbs readily available to us from around the world. But, before the time of mass transportation, each culture and locale used the sacred plants that were readily available to them. Today I’ve listed some of the plants that are commonly used for smudging along with their spiritual properties.

This first group of herbs are commonly used for cleansing and purifying:

White Sage (Salvia apiana) - This plant will drive out negative energies, spirits and influences. Use this as a smudge to purify people, places and tools before any sacred ceremony. Many people prefer white sage because of the sweeter aroma it gives off. White sage is usually found in the higher mountain areas of the south west. This is our personal “herb of choice” and we lovingly call it “California White” as we harvest for personal use in the mountains of Southern California.

Desert Sage (Artemesia tridentata) - Desert sage has the same properties as white sage. Desert sage is what grows in the deserts as its name implies. This is what we wild craft here in Arizona and we have also found in the deserts throughout the southwest all the way to the high deserts of Oregon. The plant itself is spindlier and it has much smaller leaves. It does not have the pungent smell that white sage has. As a friend so gently put it the other day, “it smells like burning stuff”. But, remember, the smell isn’t what we’re after here. It’s the purifying smoke.

Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens, Thuja occidentalis) - Cedar is also used to purify, especially for negative emotions. Cedar is commonly used in the northern regions where the cedar trees grow. A couple years ago, I was at a sacred ceremony in northern Wisconsin and cedar was what we used for a smudge as it was local to the community. It gives off a wonderful smoke and does smell nice.

Juniper (Juniperus ssp.) - Juniper is also used to purify and to create a safe and sacred space. Juniper was often carried in a medicine pouch or a pocket for protection.

Smudging is not strictly for use in cleansing and purifying. It can be used to draw in positive energies or as a means of creating smoke to carry your prayers to Great Spirit.

Sweetgrass (Hierochole odarata) Sweetgrass is probably one of my favorite smudging herbs. It is also one of the most sacred herbs used for smudging. This herb is used to bring positive energy in after you have cleansed with sage. Sweetgrass is indigenous to the plains regions of the United States. It grows tall and is harvested and woven together in braids. Although it always seems like I can never keep it lit enough to make a good smoke, it is worth the effort. The smell lives up to its name and is a very powerful and sweet aroma. Ah, such a wonderful smell.

Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicus) Yerba Santa can be used to purify and to set and protect boundaries. Its name tells you exactly what this plant is - Yerba Santa means sacred herb.

Lavender (Lavandula officianalis) Lavender restores balance and creates a peaceful atmosphere. It will also draws loving energy and spirits.

Mugwort (Atemesia vulgarus) Mugwort is used to stimulate psychic awareness and prophetic dreams. The Lakota also believe that when Mugwort is burned it "makes the bad spirits sick”.

Copal (Bereseru microphylla) Copal is a resin used by the Mayans as a food for the Gods. They believe that as the smoke of the Copal would rise, it would carry their prayers to the ears of the Gods. Copal is used in divination and in purification ceremonies. We use Copal in the Inipi Ceremony (Sweat Lodge) to carry our prayers to Great Spirit. Copal is the Frankincense of the Western Hemisphere.

Red Willow bark (S. lasiandra) – Red Willow bark is an important herb used in sacred smudging ceremonies (and again within the Inipi Ceremony). It's woody aroma surrounds you with a sense of soothing calm, like being “surrounded by a huge Medicine Blanket”. Red willow an ideal herb for use with clearing purposes and during quiet sessions of meditation. The Red Willow is a tall tree that can grow to fifty feet, mainly along streams in western North America.

Osha (Ligusticum porteri) Osha Root or Bear Root can be burned as an incense or carried for good luck and protection from bad influences. Osha is also a preferred gift for Native American elders.

Don’t be afraid to “mix and match” herbs to suit your particular ceremony. I have a lovely blend I use frequently called Sweet Medicine Smudge Mix that contains White Sage, Cedar and Lavender which cleanses, balances and brings in blessings. It makes a lovely aroma. Also, smudge sticks are available in a combination of herbs.

If you find this all too confusing or simply too much work, check out my Sacred Space Spray. It is an aromatherapy spray made of the sacred herbs of cedar, sage, and lavender with vibrational essences of several of the sacred herbs and gems. The aroma is light and clean. Make creating sacred space short and sweet!

Until next time –

Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Smudging Ceremonies - Part 1

Throughout our blog, we will explain some of the tools we commonly use as we live in connection with “All Our Relations”, walking a Shamanic path.

One of the very common ceremonies we (and many others in the metaphysical practices) use is smudging.

Smudging is a simple ceremony used to cleanse a person, place or an object. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either fanning the smoke around a person or place or passing an object through the smoke. The smoke from the sacred plants, then cleanses the person, place or object of unwanted energies, spirits or influences. Pretty simple, huh?

Smudging is like taking a shower for your energy system. Just like in the physical, we get dirty in our energy bodies too. Smudging cleans out all the junk we pick up as we move through our day. Just like the air, the energy in the world is polluted and simply collects on us and in our space. Not good or bad. It just IS. But, I shower routinely, on the physical and energetic levels!

We also use a smudging ceremony before we begin doing any sacred work, like a ritual bath. Also, before we start any classes or circle work, we smudge everyone just to be sure we are all in a good space to start our work. We also smudge the room before (and sometimes after) doing classes or healing ceremonies to remove any unwanted energies that are hanging around.

The easiest way to smudge is to use a smudge stick. These can be found in most metaphysical stores and in some health food stores. A smudge stick is a wand made of the leaves of a plant(s) tied together and dried. You simply light the end of the wand and extinguish the flame by waving it around once it has a smoldering end. It is best to have some kind of pottery bowl or an abalone shell under the smudge stick to keep from dropping ash. (It can leave ugly burns in the carpet, believe me!) Loose herbs can also be placed on self-igniting or incense charcoal or simply lit together in the bowl to produce smoke. Either way is effective. Find the one that works best for you.

So, what about when you can’t have smoke or if someone is sensitive to smoke? It works the same. You simply don’t light the smudge stick. You are working with the plant’s ENERGY. Wafting the energy around someone or an area will have the same effect. If you want something more physical though, check out my Sacred Space Spray. It is an aromatherapy spray made of the sacred herbs of cedar, sage, and lavender with vibrational essences of several of the sacred herbs and gems.

If you are cleansing person have them stand facing you and pass the wand back and forth in their energy field starting at their feet and moving upwards. You can also use a feather to direct the smoke. They can also use their hands to move the smoke close to them and into their energy field. When you reach their head, have them turn, clockwise and pass the smudge down their back. Sometimes it's a good idea to pay close attention to the heart area. Remember, when you smudge, you are asking the spirit of sacred plants for assistance and you must honor their healing power.

To cleanse a room or outside area, simply carry the smudge stick or bowl, sunwise (clockwise) around the area, making sure to smudge in the corners and behind doors.

When you have completed the smudging ceremony, thank the sacred herb spirits and simply leave your smudge stick or herbs in the bowl and let them go out naturally. These sacred plant spirits work as long as they need to clean the space. Allow them to work until the smudge goes out. Putting out the smudge is like interrupting someone’s conversation. It’s not an open flame so it won’t catch fire, but don’t leave it next to the newspaper or curtains, as there are ashes. If for some reason you must put out the smudge stick, thank the herbs and simply break it off just above the smoldering tip and allow the end to burn out or simply tamp it out.

Well, enough for today. Off to the store with you to pick up your smudge sticks. Next time we will discuss some of the sacred plants and their specific uses.

Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),


Monday, April 23, 2007

Birthing the Sacred Drum

This Sunday was the eighth month of a shamanic study group that Gary and I are facilitating. We were really looking forward to this segment of the class as we get to be "midwives" again to the birth of new drum spirits for our "shaman's in training". This is a powerfully spiritual and healing experience for all involved.

Follow us in the creation process and see if it doesn't make you want to give birth to your own drum. If you are not near Phoenix, AZ, we will travel to do drum birthing classes. Please feel free to contact us.

We were all born with a drum – our heartbeat. We hear the heartbeat of our mother in her womb, and the drum is the heartbeat of our Earth Mother and our Ancestors. Making contact with a drum awakens our sacred, awakens our soul.

The drum is a powerful tool for a Shaman. The Shaman uses the drum beat to access an altered state of consciousness to perform journeys for self, others and the earth and universe. We follow the drum beat to other dimensions and other worlds, travelling where no time and space exist. The drum beat also acts like bread crumbs being left along the trail that we can follow to return home to this reality.

I use the term “birthing” in relation to creating a drum, because it is truly a process of creation. Like human procreation, the drum is the combination of two individual spirits - the tree spirit and the spirit of the animal that contributed the hide. Bring the two together in ceremony with intent and a new spirit is conceived. Much like our human children, this new “drum child” has chosen you as a parent, to be your friend, teacher, mentor and healer. Each drum is unique and brings its own character to our lives. This group of participants have spent time over the last month journeying to meet the spirit that was to be born into their drums as part of their training exercises.

Before we begin the process, the hides and hoops, which we have purchased must be ceremonially prepared. We always take time to honor both the animal and tree spirits for their gift. Each are smudged (cleansed with the smoke of sage) and we journey with each piece to remove any trauma that may have occurred to the tree or animal and to negativity that may have been invested during the preparation process.

After “conception”, the process begins by actually cutting the head of the drum from a full animal hide, which is the easy part. The second stage involves punching sixteen holes evenly around the drum head using leather punches and hammers. Fortunately, everyone we've worked with has played nice :) We really get to test our participant's perfectionism patterns here. There are sixteen holes as we do a four direction tie of four groups of four gathered together like a medicine wheel in the back.

Next comes the lacing. There is approximately sixty feet of lace to be strung in a particular pattern across the drum – this is what I would call “third trimester” – slightly cumbersome and awkward. Throughout this time you are connected to the spirit of the drum, feeling it developing and growing within the circle.

Then, with great anticipation and expectation, “labor” begins. People laugh when I tell them they will spend a considerable amount of time in labor. Later they fully understand. The lace needs to be tightened to pull the head of the drum taunt. This is truly a labor of love as you pull and straighten the wet, slimy, lace across the drum, pulling and tugging, with sweat running down your face until you can pull no more. This usually takes several passes until you tie off the ends, cut the "umbilical cord" and thump this new spirit to hear its first cry. And then, like any proud parent, you sigh with relief. We all whoop and holler as each new "drum baby" emerges.

As the“drum child” is welcomed into this world with ceremony, tears of joy are shed, each person knowing that their journey has just begun.

(Click here to view pictures of some of our drum birthing classes)

The drum takes your prayers to Spirit. It contains within it's circle, all that is, was and will be. All the answers can be found within it's circle. As you awaken to and honor your rhythm through the drum, you awaken to inner growth and healing which manifests outwardly to heal the planet.

We are one voice. Mitakuye Oyasin (A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related).

Until next time -

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Little About Gary & Debbie Gent & Shamanic Connection

Gary and Debbie Gent a.k.a. Shamanic Connection are Shamanic Facilitators from Phoenix, Arizona. Their mission to help people to reconnect with themselves, Spirit and Mother Earth through Shamanic and other healing practices. They view their role as two-fold -- to assist our clients in re-acquiring the tools for their growth and then to hold a safe space for them to do their work. It is by using these new tools that growth and healing happen.

Gary and Debbie came together as life partners almost three decades ago, neither seeing the journey on which they had embarked.

Gary Gent is a traditionally trained Shaman of Cherokee/Irish descent. Gary began his shamanic training at the age of six. His father was one-quarter Eastern Cherokee of the Wolf Clan and what Gary calls a "Closet Shaman". As is typical with traditional training, Gary's training began without explanation spending many hours on focus and concentration exercises, as well learning to work with Spirit, animals, and nature. After experiencing "life" for a time, Gary was called to finish his training.

As Gary returned to his shamanic studies, Debbie began refining the psychic and healing abilities that were forbidden throughout her childhood. Her close connection with Mother Earth and the Elemental realm assisted her in the teachings of their two children and raising them in a shamanic household, as well as taught her much about plants and animals. She has also re-learned a number of body/mind/soul therapies including shamanic training, hypnosis, flower essences, Reiki, aromatherapy, and energy balancing.

Together, they began walking the shamanic path and helping others re-gain their connections with Spirit and Mother Earth. Their journeys have taken them many places in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona. Although they live in the city, they continue to walk the shamanic path in their daily lives.

Gary works full-time as a Shamanic Facilitator, doing journeys or shamanic healings, both in-person or by phone consultations. He conducts workshops on soul recovery, energy work and connecting with self, spirit and nature -- walking a shamanic path.

Debbie Gent currently works as a Shamanic Coach, Hypnotherapist, and EFT Practitioner. She has studied a number of body/mind/soul therapies and draws on these many skills and blends these disciplines into her nurturing style. She also conducts self-empowerment workshops such as Reclaiming the Goddess Within, shadow work, and Past Life Regression, as well as facilitating group hypnosis programs and performing Comedy Hypnosis shows (Laughter is the best medicine!).

Gary and Debbie co-create workshops and conduct ceremonies such as sweat lodges, naming ceremonies and weddings. Both are Ministers and Diplomats of Earth Stewardship of The International Assembly of Spiritual Healers and Earth Stewards.