EVER since I was an undergraduate in Oklahoma during the mid-1970s, I have been fascinated by the ways of the Native Americans and sought acquaintances with members of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
In 1992, I was in Phoenix, Arizona conducting a weekend Reiki course when I was introduced to Emmett White, a shaman in his mid-60s, and the spiritual leader of the Pima Indians. As I treated his knees, we got to talking.
When Pope John Paul II visited Phoenix in September 1987, Emmett was chosen from among all the shamans to bless the pontiff with an eagle feather. He was chosen by a special council which had to oversee the holy visit. The eagle is a symbol of courage and its feathers are considered powerful tools for healing, following special ceremonies.
The eagle teaches us that it is okay to combine wisdom and courage, and is considered the messenger of the Great Spirit.
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Emmett and I became good friends and I asked him many questions about the ways of the Native Americans, especially regarding the vision quest, which is a rite of passage, a turning point in life that is taken to find oneself and one’s intended spiritual direction.
It usually lasts for a few days while the participant is tuned into the spirit world.
He answered my questions and I told him about a four-day shamanic journey which I had done in the mid-1970s when it was revealed that the wolf is my power animal.
Blood Brothers After Vision Quest
I asked Emmett about the possibility of being initiated into the Pima Indians as a blood brother. To my surprise, he said that it was possible but I had to get permission from the Council of Shamans. The initiation to be a blood brother of a Native American tribe is very seldom done these days. I was fortunate enough to participate in a two-day vision quest in 1995 under the guidance of White as part of my initiation into the Pima Tribe. It was such a great privilege for me to be initiated by their spiritual leader.
To prepare for the initiation, I had to fast for two days and recite sacred chants. It was difficult because of the unfamiliar intonations and new linguistic sounds. The first night was devoted to chanting and the significance and meaning of the chants. I felt a tingling sensation of anticipation and awe at this very privileged sacred time and space.
On the second night, we went to their sacred mountain outside of the Phoenix area. Both of us did not sleep that night. We drank water and smoked the peace pipe for universal peace and brotherhood among all nations. The smoking of the peace pipe is symbolic of the union between Emmett and me as our prayers went skyward like the smoke from the peace pipe.
We chanted sacred songs handed down over more than 1,000 years. During this time, Emmett presented me with a fan made up of eagle feathers to be used for healing and smudging. Smudging is when the smoke from burning sage is directed throughout the whole body to cleanse it at the physical, mental, emotional and psychic levels.
I asked White how old this sacred fan was. He smiled and said: “Many many years old, brought down through many generations.” Apparently, this was a very special gift and I was deeply touched by his generosity.
One With The Universe
During this time, we were confronted by the stark desert environment and the overwhelming silence. A lot of time was devoted to listening to the silence and admiring the movement of the heavens as we looked up into the clear sky studded with thousands of stars. I felt humbled and dwarfed by the mighty mountains around me and the vast expanse of the universe above me. Somehow, White assured me, we were in total harmony with Nature.
He told me about an experience during which he had spoken to a rattlesnake and asked it to move out of his house. Apparently, high-level shamans have a deep union with all of nature which makes such communication possible.
I was engulfed and overwhelmed by the cascade of emotions — awe, exuberance, admiration of the universe — that filled me.
This heightened awareness of Oneness with the Universe was a deeply mystical experience for me. I felt as if I was being absorbed into every aspect of the Universe. I told Emmett how I was feeling and he just smiled and told me to be acutely aware of the Infinite Presence and be totally present to it.
After the vision quest, White drove me back to his house. After breakfast, we went on a long drive so that he could show me the extent of the land that belonged to the Pima Nation. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is a sovereign tribe located in the metropolitan Phoenix area. The community encompasses 21,000ha, with about 7,700ha held as a natural preserve. With two distinct backgrounds and cultures, it comprises two Native American tribes, the Pima and the Maricopa.
I was now part of the Pima people.
This Native American vision quest is part of a broader context of my involvement in various spiritual traditions. This journey led me to participate in meditation and other spiritual practices in the ashrams of India, the Buddhist temples of Thailand and Benedictine and Trappist monasteries in the US.
This vision quest became one of the most powerful transcendental experiences of my life. The after-effects of the vision quest are that I have become more sensitive to the sacredness of life and deeply appreciate the many wonders of Nature. I am more ecological in my outlook.
In its own way, the vision quest is an initiation not unlike those in the days of the ancient mystery school teachings where one learns about oneself and the mysteries of the universe, which are often revealed to the seeker. It is a time of internal transformation and renewal.