As a student of the School of Shamanic Womancraft (formerly School of Shamanic Midwifery) we are privileged to learn shamanic practices through a feminine and feminist framework, with a focus on women’s rites of passage. A circle of women becomes the sacred container for doing deep inner work. One of the practices we experience is a solo, wilderness retreat (aka a vision quest).
For our group of women the quest was to leave home and go into the wilderness together for eight days, three days and three nights being alone in nature while fasting. For the three solo days this meant setting up camp. Carrying everything we need. No phones. No distractions. Rain, hail or shine. Just time alone with ourselves to reflect, write, dance, drum, pray, sleep, and cry for a vision. What insights would arise when stripped of all the regular life responsibilities and tasks?
As a breastfeeding mama with my six-month-old babe in tow I would stay behind at basecamp with the teachers and other mama-babies. I wondered what would a wilderness quest be like for me when my main focus was caring for my son? How could I navigate splitting my energy between doing inner work and taking the best care of him? What would I learn about myself?
As my dear teacher Talulah Gough of Making Sacred says, “holding base camp is no joke”. Despite not venturing out alone into the wilderness there seemed to be many parallel processes happening for us mamas. Detaching from the world outside. Leaving our family at home. Uninterrupted time immersed in nature. Time for us to work with our own stories and unravel the familiar patterns that emerge.
When we started doing our journey work (drum journeys and meditations) we mamas needed to work swiftly to travel to the depths to see what wisdom we could return with. So much magic was created when we showed up with intention to do this work. Heart open. Vulnerable. Together.
It’s a sweet feeling when all of your being sinks into remembering. A deep, in-the-bones kind of remembering. A state of knowing who you really are and what you need to do. This is how my visions came to me. As a series of awakenings that I felt so viscerally in my body that came during dreams and meditations over this time.
The dreams started in the weeks leading up to the camp and continued whilst there during the eight days. My dreams all played the same theme of being persecuted by groups of men, and all ended with being trapped or killed after running and trying to defend myself to no avail. They were surreal, haunting and otherworldly. In my meditations I felt and saw this same theme playing out. I felt like I was being struck dead, like Inanna on her descent into the underworld. Her story says “She was fixed with the eye of death”. I felt the eye had come for me now too. Something was dying. And in my bones I felt ready.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, “the deepest work is usually the darkest.”
Six months earlier I had faced the most challenging initiation of my life- the birth of my first son. And since then I had been trying to keep my head above the waves of shock, overwhelm, sadness and rage that would surface. Not to say I’m not also enjoying motherhood! It is the most sacred and amazing thing I have ever done. And this relationship just keeps on teaching me and stretching me to grow more every day.
Yet during my questing I felt the grief associated with my birth acutely in my body, coiling up from my womb strangling at my heart. A deep, penetrating sadness. A familiar fear for my safety like in my dreams. My birth experience arising again and again demanding to be sifted and sorted and made sense of. The traumatic parts held in my body wanting to be felt. Wanting to be released.
During the wilderness quest many deep “knowings” or “rememberings” surfaced for me. These were my visions. The knowing that I have always wanted to feel safe in my body. That this is a theme in my life that I can trace back to all my sacred woundings as a child and young woman. This longing for safety so keenly felt at the core, in the pelvic bowl. The womb space. The space where I have injured and hold tension and stress. Where our sexuality and birthing blossoms forth. And where we women are often wounded the most.
So what springs out of these visions? A renewed sense of knowing and remembering who I really am beneath it all. The sacred container formed by the circle of women allowed me to unravel some of the feelings, thoughts and stories. Some of the longings. To hold and release all the parts of me dying off through this transmutation. Birthing myself again. As a more embodied woman and mother. On the journey to wholeness.
With each visioning, I felt waves of trust and love. The knowing that I am safe and held. I felt an awareness that I have actually always been held in my life. And that the suffering I have felt has gifted me wisdom that has far overshadowed the pain.
And through these rememberings, and many more, I am reclaiming myself. I am realigning all the pieces that have felt dismembered and cut off. I am claiming back my power and weaving the magic back into me.