Inner Journeys: Surfing the Imaginal Realm as a Struggling Shamama

By Theresa Curtis-Diggs

Whatever the inward darkness may have been to which the shamans of those caves descended in their trances, the same must lie within ourselves…. The beat of the shaman's drum may still be heard, transporting spirits in flight to regions known to our visionaries and to men and women gone mad.

(Joseph Campbell)

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day…

The gate is straight
Deep and wide

Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah

(Jim Morrison)

Petroglyphs in Arches National Park, Utah, USA. Photo: Jon Zanders (Open Source)I understand the above passages to convey the possibility of melting into the imaginal dreamworld to experience the essences of life through the eyes of Shamama (a budding female shaman). This is important as I invite the presence of Goddess to guide my movements beyond the physical plane. I am attempting to attune my personal psyche with the histories of our ancient grandmothers, to interpret their words through Neolithic petroglyphs (specifically ones that hold squiggles and swirls that represent women's developmental and reproductive rituals). I have been trying to meditatively "break on through" to the resonate field of these ancient boulders to discern some type of numinous voice/message emanating from within them. I am hoping that they might reveal primordial knowings from original cultures, and that the primal pictures that they have etched onto their massive stone faces are closer in proximity to the dreamworld archetypes they wish to convey. Archetypes represent the deeper fullness of a concept/thing, from which individual instances are born. In a previous article I outline how I use somatic intuition through an involvement of my physical body in meditation and active imagination as a tool to try to attune to the wholeness of Goddess, or at least discern her needs in today's culture. How can the practices of a shamama assist us in visiting these archetypes that are represented in petroglyphs?

With shamaman practices, we look to healing ceremonies to rebalance both individual and cultural dis-eases. Puberty, fertility, and nativistic ceremonies (eg White Buffalo Woman Dance) often open portals into the personal, then collective, unconscious (in Jungian terms) where life is timeless, infinite, and complete. Within this realm we can access information that would otherwise be buried from the microscopic eyes of the modernist, scientific project.  This is also, and perhaps especially, true when attempting to connect with the encanto of Place, the essences buried under the literalizations, concrete, categorizations, and measurements of the lop-sided scientific mind.

These essences are considered to be the "charm," or encanto, of Place. This is not the physical appeal of the sacred space, but rather the spiritual core within it. Honoring the essence of Place has been celebrated since the dawn of humanity and may be necessary to heal the distortions of Soul and Soil that are in need to create balance, or, as the Navaho call it, hozho. My particular journey is in response to pressurized, ongoing Borderland distress (emotional depression due to ecological disasters, that is being felt by sensitive individuals) wherein I have come to believe that the ecological failings our planet is facing is in part due to the exaggerated animus (as unbalanced patriarchal energy) in Euro-western culture, and that a true representation of anima (as matriarchal power) might be uncovered, through symbols, in petroglyph rocks. Its revealed nature might point us toward a more complete, sacred, and harmonious way of living. As the nature of these images reintegrate into the collective consciousness, we might be more adequately equipped to deal with our current ecological failings and our ongoing violences against anima.

Borderlander Shamama

It is dawn and I am just waking in the stark, barren wonder of Nevada. The vanagon in which I lay snuggled is coated with winter, and upon arising I plaster on every article of clothing I can find. My feet sink into the crunchy snow as I step out to trudge the dirt-road mile toward the petroglyphs. It is ice cold and the wind is whipping the trees and knotting my already tangled hair. It is 10,000 years too late, yet my heart aches for the hungry bellies and chilled bones that wandered this valley in that other March morning; it is impossible for me to ignore their presence. We have seen no people here, and only several trucks have passed by since we parked last night. A sign on the roadway jokes "Loneliest Road in America." It feels downright eerie, some sort of strange combination of dead and alive. How is it we, my husband Steve and I, came to be here? To whom or what have we attuned?

We have been journeying with practiced attunement to this sacred land. Following dusky dream images and intuitions to this sacred depth with Attunement seems to demand of us certain values: acceptance, willingness, discernment, courage, trust. Attunement to the liminal voice of Sacredness has become the oxygen in my blood and without it I hack off every part of me that I love and smash the rest into this tiny, inadequate ego to cavort around in my self-will-run-riot suit. But this is difficult going; I have lapses, and fear stops me. I remember the night before this walk, how I was unwilling to participate in the transrational realm, due to fear:

In the middle of the night a call from the dreamworld visits, directing me to walk alone through the flurry and moonlight and, well, just be with the petroglyph rocks, listening and learning.  I usually respond when I sense a calling. This time I do not because…I am too scared. Following Psyche has landed my psyche too far from the clarity of the solid realm of matter. The spirit of Place seems more real, more immediate, than the physical rocks and trees. I don't know how much more I can venture; the vagueness is terrifying at times. I explain this as a prayer to my higher powers, through my ancestral grandmothers: I am unable to muster up enough Trust to act on their biddings. How this will affect my overall attunement; will I be punished? Am I failing? Will the goddess abandon me?

Instead of rejection, though, the goddess has found another way in. In the dark before dawn, before Steve and I started out walking that morning, I had a spontaneous vision. Here is a quick scrawl from a journal page laid down that night, regarding this visit:

On a jagged, rocky slope a mountain lion has a fuzzy coyote pup in his mouth. I startle myself by grandly, loudly admonishing him to put the pup down. This startles him and he does. Fuzzy Pup is floundering, dazed and lost; I try to call for his people. No one comes. I begin to question my interference of the natural order and take two peanut butter sandwiches out of my pack and give them to the mountain lion. But, it dawns on me that two sandwiches will never fill a cougar's belly. So, not only does Mountain Lion remain hungry, Pup will also starve without his People, and now, I will too. I wonder, what I have done?

Mountain Lion says, "Follow me." I am worried about Coyote, and ask, "What about the pup?" Mountain Lion states, "There is no coyote pup," and sure enough, there is not.  At this point, Lion morphs into a beautiful youth in full native regalia: a fine bone vest and buffalo head covering. I follow him to a place where there are many mountain lions.

They begin to devour me, and as they do, I am able to see all the world through their eyes, their breath, their muscle. I clearly see and completely feel the energy of this Being. Coyote comes to feast after they are done. I call them all to me, Hawk, Eagle, Vulture, to pick at my bones. The more they feast, the more I am dispersed. And there are more eyes to see out of. It's as if the more I die, the more alive I become.

I wake up, to explain this as a tale to the council group that is gathered in a tribal lodge. They clearly do not like me. One man, much older, has had his brother and son killed by a mountain lion and is much comforted by my message. He listens. I begin to feel a glimmer of kinship.

The vision itself is obfuscating to me; I feel somewhat frustrated with my mind's inability to wrap some logic around it. Human-body boundaries can be fragile and easily penetrated by outside emanations, but how can we logically explain this? Where is a + b = c? But, somehow I know that by allowing this ripping apart and altered focus, I am being witnessed and supported. I am re-membering this vision to Steve as we hike closer to the petroglyphs. Steve speaks of Dionysus and shamamas, and the importance of these rituals of rupture or dis-memberment. We arrive at the little entrance to the petroglyph site. There is a brochure box with a pamphlet that explains the "scholarly" interpretation of these motifs: the representations depict "hunting grounds." Perhaps we can circumambulate a + b = c, to see if these petroglyphs might reflect something else, from a feminine perspective.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada – photo by David Jolley (Open Source)We begin to "feel" the massive rocks, even before we see them; the very air is charged with lost history and power. Now speechless, we arrive. I stare at the awesome structure before me and it reeks of secrets, rituals, and birth. I see, feel, sense the forms of the stones to be wombs and portals into those wombs. There are thin birth canal passageways leading to uterine pockets: the rocks themselves are charged with chthonic, anima energy. Rock, with its Face of particular etchings, leaves me flabbergasted by the probable miscalculations of masculine purpose printed on the government brochures. Whose voice has been silenced? 

To what can I possibly attribute this (mis)attunement by the Nevada BLM?* And, am I also shutting out voices that are clamoring to be heard? I need to create space for equal attunement within the field for the emergence of all points of view. The Native ancestors bare a strong presence, as well as past scholarly voices. Marija Gimbutas has written extensively about the goddess culture in the ancient Romanian, Hungarian, and Greek lands. The 10,000 year old symbols she found in the Mediterranean area are, unbelievably, the same symbols that I am glimpsing before me. How is it that this has not been investigated?

I am in awe of the power of attunement on so many levels: the different ideas, felt senses, and feelings clamoring to be heard within the individual psyche of me; a myriad cultures whispering in some lost tongue; the various voices and silences that resonate through these images; the language of Land itself; and the massive blindness of any interpretation that may befall each of these modes of speech. Attuning to the field means: no voice left behind. What might be "knowing," without tangible evidence?

I have been using intuition, meditation, synchronicities, texts, energy readings, and active imagination as my shamama tools of attunement, and also, as validation from the surround. The fact that we had landed that morning in Nevada is the result of following those rituals. We "happened" there, were called, and clearly the resonance between the individual I and the ancient field was strong. This "feels" like a validation of discernment. Can this be explained without attunement? Without attunement there is a You and there is an I, with nothing connecting one to the other. Without attunement I explain everything in terms of I and mine, space and time, and there is no way to explain anything beyond. If I attune, I can enter a less explainable realm: in a third space that connects, in a vibration that moves us toward the irrational. Yet, I have been traveling toward irrationality all along, to show up as this character in this chapter of my life.My willingness to re-member and devote my self to Attunement as an archetypal force and reality seems to have delivered me to this moment.

So, I am beginning to understanding the importance of dismemberment. I fall apart and god/goddess re-members me into a whole-er me. A deeper me. Archetypal invisibles seem to offer us a paradigm to validate our attunements: I allow them to rip me into shreds, fall into the unknown, then receive a new way of seeing. If I "let go" and allow myself to fall into the transrational realm (the space between rational and irrational consciousness), potential life can bud forth into conscious life. The gods/goddesses supplied a context to help me fall apart which landed us at this Neolithic Summit. I have connected with the liminal field and allowed witnessing (my husband, peers, synchronicities and images from my "invisibles") to be the corroborative factor in validating the non-measurable. Now I travel back, further in memory, to trace this trek that began with a powerful rupture and descent, a vehicle in which to fall apart. This is the tale in which I first find my way to these petroglyph boulders.

Rupture, Descent, and Validation

I am finished with my business in Santa Barbara and begin a very long, northern trek home. But, my guts gnaw at me, and caution me to drive south instead. This sense visits in my body as a feeling of dis-ease when I start home, and as Ease when I point southerly. I have had three coincidences/synchronicities in class (reading books and talking to classmates) that have validated to me that today the goddesses may lead me elsewhere, and I need to be attuned. I begin to drive against logic to I don't know where -first south, then east. Further, further. After several hours I call to tell Steve I'm having a bit of a detour. When I cross the Colorado River, we talk again and decide to meet at the airport in - Phoenix.

After connecting with Steve, we continue "soul-journeying" and end up at the gates that imprison the Grand Canyon. It is very late, and for some reason, there is no one guarding the borders. We sleep on the rim of the canyon, several feet from the edge and awake to an explosion of colors and sounds, and a ripping wind. We are toppled upside down visually as birds soar and land on treetops far below us. It is hard not to fall forward into the picture as my brain has trained my feet to walk upon the solid base of earth. I can't stand upright close to the edge, because my brain thinks that the edge is calling me in, to walk a-ground, and I don't trust my perceptions.

And, this garbled perception assists me to fall deeper into an attunement on a less-rational plane of knowing. We travel out of the canyon in this dream-state, past the occasional dot of blanket-doored, cardboard homes on First-American lands: the Navaho reservation. There is no relationship between the intense deprivation I see, and what I have read in books and seen on television. Even in this bone-chilling air, the earth is parched and scorched. No utilities, no water, no trees; even the weeds are sparse. I am wearing Big Eyes, I am feeding my lungs with quick, shallow breaths, and feelings of shock and awe are churning in my gut. We are embedded in a field of unmentionable poverty; this is the truly unimaginable reality behind the smoke and mirrors of political spin, secreted outside the boundaries of any mainstream media. If Evil lurks beyond the oceans, in a country that we see on TV… then what is it that has seeded in my heart to consort with the system that created this? There is something unbearably wrong and I can't anymore identify what is the sin, who is the savior. And, I am horrified at my whiteness.

Have I colonized with my silence? Have I manipulated my station by accepting a broken construct of a social order manufactured to keep my extravagant status? Hundreds of miles later, we turn off this lonely road onto Hickison Summit, and are hit with the petroglyphs for the first time. In all its paradox, I feel the rocks calling this broken colonizer to them, in irony, reparative justice, or forgiveness, I don't know –but I have paid some dues. These Blue Eyes in my sockets now painfully absorb a broader identity into the wholeness of who I am; I needed this falling-apart and fullness and truth before I entered the field. And now, the lens is one more than it was before. Identities topple and reform as do social and even cosmic structures. Let go, trust Goddess.

I needed to crash several times, become dismembered, fall apart before a deeper connection to the petroglyph images could manifest. As a woman with an introverted-intuitive-feeling typology (as indicated by the Myers-Briggs personality scale) I believe I am adequately equipped to interact with transrational/ transpersonal phenomena.  But, perhaps with the dawn of quantum understanding (the scientific explanation for a spiritual field of transrational/transpersonal reality) we all might more fully include shamaman perspectives into our ways of being and understanding. We may learn to re-connect with lost ancestral memories by tuning into the frequency of the lost voices (for me, on petroglyphic rocks) because we are "intrapsychically related" in the infinite field of the collective unconscious. By subjecting myself to sacred healing I can commit to an intention to de-center my ego, which keeps trying to run the show. This is an important aspect to consider when trying to discern that which is coming to, or "visiting" us from the dream realm/collective unconscious, not through my own powers, but through the gifts of the Sacred.

If shamama-ism involves wounded healing, en-trance, and relationship to psychic realms, then shamaman strategies can be employed to increase access to images that heal, not only personal affliction, but also cultural distortions. This can be accomplished with expanded practices of depth psychology, as experienced above. These are rudimentary steps, but steps that can be employed by many planetary nurturers regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity, age, or affiliations. As I continue to work through this passion I have, with the lost goddesses behind the petroglyphs in ancient America (I call them the "grandmothers"), I hope to unravel subtle messages and healings. I believe that we are historically dangling on a precipice between life and death. Catastrophe awaits our future present moments if we continue to control nature with unbalanced energy. Moves to more natural, post-scientific modes of healing (based on pre-scientific models) must come to the fore, and engage us in the ways of the Goddess. Continuation of the modernist-scientific project may assist us in some ways, but when it is used exclusively it denigrates Goddess. It then threatens to doom our species and indeed our planet, to the irrelevant power-medicines bent on soul-murder.

©Theresa Curtis-Diggs

*Nevada BLM: Bureau of Land Management

 

Theresa Curtis

Theresa Curtis

Theresa writes: "I accidentally got old and was accosted by Goddess to enter into crone-hood and complete my PhD dissertation on Her divine secrets invulving Vulva, as divulged by Herself. She pulled me to a powerful petroglyph sight in Nevada, and I was hit over the head with Her energy. Later I received a psychic reading and was told, "I see a large 'V.' There is some ancient knowledge that has disappeared due to the genocide of women and the influx of the (patriarchal) sky-gods." Anyway, my job is to allow myself communion with the collective unconscious, reclaim Her sacred knowledge, and welcome it forward. This is to retrieve the divinity of Vulva from Her distortion through the sterilization of medical science and the defication of pornography .
Theresa Curtis

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