Last summer, my group of Great Medicine Wheel Students and I had gathered on Friday night at the mountain home of Larry & Charlsie Baer to start the work of the South. I was going to begin to teach the gathered students–all new to shamanic systems of healing and transformation–the magic and power of the Wheel and of a medicine bundle created by interacting deeply with the powers of nature and the forces of the elements.
The mountain was stunningly beautiful in the showy, deep green of midsummer. Even though the Baer’s property is up a mountain and in the woods, most wild animals are kept at bay by their old, German Shepherd mix dog, Stoney. Stoney is a loving yet fiercely protective presence on the land. He greets humans with warmth and love, but makes clear to all other non-human beings that he is the boss!
We began the evening calling in the Powers of the Directions, Earth, Sky, and the Great Divine Mother-Father Presence, as all earth-based ceremonies do. I then gave a lecture about the lessons of Deer Spirit and we danced her to life after calling her energy into our own bodies. After a satisfying evening of contemplation, mystery, and companionship, we all went to be at 10 pm tired and looking forward to the next day. What happened the next morning–and on every Saturday morning of our 4 weekend workshops–reminded us that there is truly something mysterious and magical about the ceremony of the Great Wheel!
When everyone arrived back at the Baer household the next morning, Larry told us that when he got up and looked out the floor to ceiling windows facing the western woods, a deer stood several feet across from him and looked into his eyes. Deer Spirit had sent an emissary.
Over the next year of workshops–the West, North, and East–we were visited by the physical presence of each of those directions on the Medicine Wheel: on the Saturday morning of the West weekend, Larry once again saw a black bear amble across the eastern yard of their home. On Saturday morning of the North weekend, we awoke to an inch of snow blanketing the ground even though no snow had been called for that weekend. And whenever we did ceremony outside at the Earth Wheel in the East, we were visited by one or two hawks. The first time hawk visited, her shadow was cast across the ground in the center of the Earth Wheel. In each case, we were working with the powers of those great beings–the bear of the West, the peaceful white snows of the North, and the condor/eagle of the East. These physical manifestations of the powers of each direction of the Medicine Wheel were a reminder of the magic we invoke when we enter the space of ceremony and when we build and engage with a Medicine Wheel.
In the western world, we have forgotten that magic such as this is possible. Yet indigenous peoples the world over have always known that the human interrelationship with the Earth and the invisible powers of spirits is real and physically tangible. All we need to do is fine tune our subtle senses and awareness through practices such as meditation, contemplation, prayer, and ceremony.When we merge them with belief and feeling, we will be amazed at the miracles that can happen–both in the world around us and in the healing we call into our own lives. Unlike the western medical model that only recognizes the power of mind and the mechanisms of the body, these systems harness what some call the dimension of soul and spirit. At those levels of experience, we are able to tap into a world that is just waiting for us to call for its assistance.
Before the western world drove a wedge between the realm of mind, matter, and instinct–and thus between ourselves and Mother Nature–all human beings lived in dynamic and rich interconnection with the Earth, the cycles of the seasons, the stars, sun, moon, the weather, land, and animals. We learned from the animals both about how to survive and live on the land, but also about what it means to be human–how to live in balance with our inner selves and everything around us. The Earth and all her kingdoms were a sacred and visible text that taught us how to live, love and heal. The plants provided medicines and the animals provided food. The rivers and lakes provided water and food. The mountains and forests provided shelter. And every physical, tangible presence in the environment provided a mirror of our own interior world, the world of human to human and human to spirit relationships. They were also a mirror of and a gift from the Great Mystery–the Great Divine Presence known in some traditions as God or Goddess, the Divine in All Things. All physical manifestations were recognized as extensions of Source–of which we were an intimate part–both Creator and Created.
Therefore, to work with the Earth energies in the Great Medicine Wheel of the New Earth is to relearn this way of living and perceiving reality and ourselves. We reclaim an area of our innate human entitlement to these dimensions of spirit and thus end a kind of spiritual impoverishment that plagues our world today. I hope you will join us this summer!
In the South workshop to take place July 6-8 in Broadway, Virginia, we will connect deeply with the energy of Deer Spirit and will begin the process of creating our own personal medicine or healing bundles known as mesas in South America.
Deer walks softly on the Earth and is extremely sensitive to her energy and conditions. They are therefore masters of kinesthesia—the finely attuned state of bio-perception. The legs and hooves of the deer are designed to receive the raw, vital life force of the Earth into their physical bodies to make it compatible with the celestial energy from above. In this sense, they are a conduit of what is known in Peruvian shamanism as kawsay.
As a prey animal, this extraordinary sensitivity to Earth energy and vibration means that they are able to sense danger very quickly and to run or freeze when needed. Their finely honed fight-flight receptors reflect the primal physical, Earth power of the South in which all creatures on the planet must be keenly tuned in through the physical body and the neurobiological alarm system for survival and effective operation in the physical universe—the middle world. Deer can also be both gentle and fierce: they are known to be willing to walk up to humans without fear, but a male whose territory is threatened or a female whose fawn is at risk can quickly become dangerous and swift in striking out with hooves and, in the case of the male, with antlers.
Deer are also herd animals and thus hold strongly the energy of community and interdependence. The herd itself operates as a single bio-organism that senses danger or the source of food for the whole. Deer also procreate very easily and quickly. When they are in abundance, it means that food—physical sustenance—is also in abundance. However, without enough predators, deer can also quickly get out of balance. In this state, they easily starve or begin eating plants that are not their normal fare and thus strip a landscape of its vital life force and deprive other beings their livelihood. The fact that deer are prey animals who need their predators to stay in balance represents the state of ayni or balance that is important for abundance to reign in our lives. The fact that deer meat is nourishing to its predators shows the power of the offering of one’s own body in service of life on Earth.
Therefore, deer energy helps us notice the subtle shifts in our inner and outer conditions and helps us make necessary changes in order to stay in balance and reciprocity with the Earth and the world around us. The male’s antlers also bring down celestial energy and balances it with earth energy. In this way, the masculine aspect of deer is the meeting of both worlds in the physical—as above, so it is below. The fact that each season, they shed their old antlers and grow new ones relates to the way we constantly change every cell in our physical body everyday and, as such reflects the cyclical change processes that are basic to life on Earth. As the deer sheds his antlers, so in South work, we shed our personal histories and old stories as we grow and develop.