I’m lying down on a yoga matt among a circle of about 20 seekers. We’re attending an all-day workshop led by shamans Itzhak Beery and Robert Murphy on Amazon Medicine, taking place on the 5th floor of New York City walkup, celebrating the life and teachings of their dear friend and fellow shaman Ipupiara who died in May of 2011.
We place our heads facing towards the middle of our circle and I prop a pillow under mine, closing my eyes as instructed, readying myself for what I hope will be another exciting, fruitful journey. Itzhak and Robert play the drum and shaker as I begin to feel my body relax.
According to Shamanic Journeying by Michael Drake http://shamanicdrumming.com/shamanic_journeying.html:
“When pulsed at around four-beats-per-second, rhythmic drumming induces a theta wave cycle in the brain. Theta activity reflects the dreamlike state between wakefulness and sleep. Theta rhythms are associated with meditation, prayer, spiritual awareness, and the deepest states of shamanic consciousness. Theta increases creativity, enhances learning, reduces stress, and awakens intuition. Researchers have found that if a drum beat frequency of around four-beats-per-second is sustained for at least fifteen minutes, most people can journey successfully even on their first attempt. Shamanic drumming continues to offer today what it has offered for thousands of years: namely, a simple and effective technique of ecstasy.”
So, I ready myself for that “ecstasy” by focusing on my breath and allowing my body to sink into the floor as the rhythms take me down and down and down. Within moments, huge large-leafed towering plants dripping with moisture surround me. I stand in the rainforest as my female self, but feel uncomfortable – something inside doesn’t feel quite right.
I notice the drum and shaker again, sink down and down, and re-enter the forest – feeling changed. I look at my body; sweat pours in rivulets along my muscled chest and strong, male arms. Now, comfortable in my skin, I walk briskly, barefooted, hair flying whipping back and shaking long and brown. I break into trot. The hot breeze softly caresses my body as calves strain against leather wraps on my tattooed arms and legs.
A shadow blocks the sun from above – I halt. With hand shielding eyes, I gaze up into the sky. The tips of a scalloped black and brown winged bird with a span the length of my arm, tinged white-hot from the sun, circles above.
I follow her – up.
Climbing, parting stiff green stalks, slashing with my machete through the thick damp undergrowth, I rise step by step by step up to the mountaintop. Once at its peak, I stand tall and still as the large bird hovers above and a cool vapor mist rises in delicate wisps, dissipating into a bright blue sky. I search the distance down below into the valley. My eyes fall upon a large patch of blue reflecting sky … a lake with gently curved white sandy shores.
Enlarging my pupils, my eyes collect more light and color as my expanded vision hones in on the scalloped sandy edges of the lake, then into the blue water.
She comes into view. Standing waist deep in the cool pool, a beautiful female creature feeds a brown and white spotted fawn. Her skin, a caramelized brown – her breasts, peaked in darker brown swollen nipples, are full of milk, ready to burst as they float above the clear water.
Yes, I am certain – it is She, Yara, the Goddess of the lake.
In that moment, I want her blossoming sweetness.
The soft earth and warm flat rocks press against my bare feet as I find my way down the narrow path snaking towards the lake. A thin leather strap encircling my waist holds my loincloth. On my left side, a white hide pouch wrapped tightly in yellow and red string contains a handful of flat black elliptical river stones and a bright red ruby. On my right, a similar dark brown pouch holds green and white tender herbs. As I walk, the pouches bounce against my sides and a string of wide-petaled red and white flowers surrounding my neck floats gently along my chest. The jungle path leads me easily towards my destination – the Water Goddess Yara, bathing.
I stop in my tracks, suddenly realizing the Goddess may perceive my approach as danger; I must announce my presence so as not to instill fear. From a small stiff leather pouch tied around my neck, I remove the sacred sage and copal. Smacking my flint against a stone, the wrapped bundle of dried herbs quickly ignites into flame and the musty-scented smoke makes its way upwards between the dripping plants cut back along the path. Cupping the smoke in my hands, I lift the musky scents upwards towards the sky. As I walk, I hold the smoking herbs torch-like above my head, arm extended to the sky to signal my approach. I announce myself to the Goddess Yara with smoke and fragrance lofting on the breeze flowing towards the lake.
As I approach, the surface of blue glimmers between the trees and I am aware of a powerful feeling growing in my groin. I must not walk towards the Goddess – my desire is too strong.
Prostrating the length of my body along the ground, I feel the tiny soft spikes of damp moss against my thighs. With only my head lifted, I pull myself along the path in a steady crawl the remainder of the distance towards the lake. As I approach, the forest widens itself and opens onto the shore. Suddenly, there – I see the Water Goddess Yara with rounded belly and deep dark almond shaped eyes standing tall and proud in front of me! I sink down, flat, onto Mother Earth – motionless.
I hear only the sounds of the forest.
Slowly, stretching my fingers as far as they will extend, I gently brush the Earth in a swimming, circular motion – sweeping away all of the rocks and tiny pebbles on the path in front of me, then flattening the ground smooth, packing it down firmly with my thick palms.
Cautiously, I raise my head to gaze upon her. Behind the Goddesses’ thick black hair, to her left side, I catch a glimpse of a moist gathering darkness – it is as though she carries behind her voluptuous beauty, a raging storm, ready to be unleashed at will.
So as not to startle the Goddess, I move slowly as I gather a handful of sand from the beach, sprinkling a small stream of white grains from my fist – a white dry sandy dust to barely cover the dark brown circle of packed earth.
With eyes cast down, I pull myself to my knees. One by one I place the smooth oval black river-stones in a circle atop the white sand with the largest and flattest in the center. Removing the scented herbs from my pouch, I scatter them in a circle around the outside of the dark stones. Removing the red and white flower lay from around my neck, I create yet another circle around the herbs. From a pouch lined with a large flat green leaf, I remove a thick sticky honey-sweet porridge, placing the sugary mass at the very center of the circle on the largest river stone. Atop the white sticky-treat, I carefully balance the large red ruby.
Reverently backing away from my offering, I again lay the length of my body along the ground – waiting in silence and stillness.
From my cast-down position, I can just see the tips of Yara’s delicate hands select a single green leaf. The fawn, who first twitches her nose sniffing, gathers the delicacy in her soft lips and pulls it into her mouth, chewing. Then, directly in front of the circle, Yara sinks down to her knees and leans forward. Sniffing the sticky porridge, she inserts the tip of forefinger into its sweetness, bringing it to her lips, then licking her finger with a slight smile. With a stroke, she plucks the ruby off the top and sticks it on top of her third eye.
Still prostrate with my body into the Earth, I feel myself glow and smile in response.
Carefully, pushing myself backwards, I crawl in reverse along the path – exiting as I came. Then, once out of sight, I stand, turn my back and walk up the path, blending again into the trees – heading home.
I sense the sound of the drum and shaker. As they subside, I hear a voice calling me back and I feel myself returning to myself. I am again in my female form, relaxing on a soft matt and pillow on a shiny wooden floor in a loft in New York City.
I am pleased with my offering.
Photo by Trix Rosen
Judith Z. Miller
aka Artist Soul Speaks