Sitting in ceremony by the fire in Mexico, Tata Juvenal stopped at my blanket and requested I sing four songs. As he proceeded to walk away, I nudged my longtime friend and curandera Maria Teresa Valenzuela and asked her, "How does he know I have any songs?" Was it possible that he could see that my songs were buried deep in the compost pile, along with my faith that was not yet mulched into rich useable earth? As requested, I borrowed a drum and sang two songs for the group, and then floated melodies for the other two songs over the next twelve hours, searching for the worm that could turn the missing words into soil for the garden.
That evening, before we began the group ceremony, I asked the others in our smaller American group to claim their intention for the work. We had traveled a great distance for our seats at this fire, and I for one was clear that I had come to heal a wound—I had come to rekindle my faith. Before the journey began that evening, I had requested to know where faith lived in the body. My request was partly for me, but equally important for my coaching clients who also needed this life or death connection to heal.
In the years following a sitting in the Lakota Inipi, the songs and ceremonies had been put away, and I had become a healer, a witness to other people’s pain and suffering. I was the reluctant shaman, the one the villagers sought out for healing long before I knew why they were knocking at my door. Recently, however, I noticed that coaching has become my full-time work. This new responsibly has made my exploration into deep faith even more crucial—I need to hold the pitchfork steady for my clients as they embark upon their healing journeys.
The modest fire, shaped like an arrow, gave off enough heat to keep us warm and light to keep the group in view. As the stars danced across the heavens, moving from light to dark and back to light, I was transported back to my hemblache (vision quest). Back then I was eager to embark on the journey on the red road and did my best to pray for three days and nights in a sacred hoop (Hechoha) that I had painstakingly created with prayer ties, beginning over each time the string broke, until my gratitude was aptly reflected in 403 colored bundles.
For three days and nights I sang the one song I committed to memory and a scattering of others over and over and I sat in my small fortress watching the subtle changes in the night. Still today when the birds sing in the night, I am aware of the time left in the night. On this night in Mexico, I searched for my vision quest song, and it was nowhere in the dark sky. By morning, I had compiled a list of other songs and a glimpse of where my faith had gone.
At the end of each lifecycle—pachas, as they are called in the Inkan cosmology—there is a gap where there is space. Several years after the vision quest, the elders holding this Lakota Inipi community transitioned, and with their passing, dissention split apart the group. One night, after the newly appointed caretaker of the staff held a ceremony, the opposing group went out and burnt the Inipi structure and outbuildings to the ground. As the sacred hoop went up in flames, so did my faith in the tradition. At that time I could not see the difference between the song and the vocalist.
So as the morning sun came up over the fire, I asked again with the urgency of a dying woman, where does faith live inside of me? The answer was simple; faith lives in the same place as no faith and they cannot co-exist within. Armed with this information, the journey continued revealing more feelings, connection and a deeper understanding of my life and the service I am here to give.
The next day we made drums. My new drum is La Luna Luz, and she has come to help me remember the songs.
Insights from Maria Teresa on the Peyote Ceremony with Tata Juvenal
That night of the peyote ceremony we pointed three logs—the three arrows to the west, as we call it—in the direction of the curandera, the healer, the women in the time of the ancient Mejicas (Aztecas) who gave birth but died during childbirth. In our peyote ceremonies we point the three arrows of the fire depending on what our intention is for that night. You rebirthed your song that night and rebirthed the answer to the question of faith as a woman healer.
We have being working for some time with this particular fire on "our personal liberation of consciousness." This is for us exactly what this nueva era (new age) we are bringing forth is all about: liberation of a new consciousness in ACTION. No more time for visions—that was the last era. Now time to be free in our actions.
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Renee is a mentor, healer, coach, teacher, and writer. She has trained with a long list of traditional shamans and modern-day mystics.
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