Brooklyn to the Adirondacks for a Shamanic Mother’s Day Dance in the Spirit World

Vibrant/dying multi-colored leaves flutter on the hillsides as I drive.  I’m zipping along in my newly purchased 1991 Chrysler LeBaron along windy Adirondak mountain roads past massive glistening bodies of water towards my new home. Driving, I envision myself slaloming the cleavage between the gently sloping breasts of Mother Earth.

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Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2014

20 years in Brooklyn – 20 years! Loved years –  and still, I had been desperately longing for Nature. Once, late at night, when the streets were nearly empty in Park Slope, I walked down quiet streets with my dog, my Great Dane “Zuli,” to our local community garden.

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Zuli Photo by Adrienne Gruberg

I  turned my key in the  iron-gated lock and the gardens’ scented beauty wafted into my nostrils.

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Tulip in Warren/St. Marks Community Garden Park Slope Brooklyn NY Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2012

I was so hungry to feel the earth! Z and I walked in among the sweet flowers and green vines, along the jagged dirt path, weaving our way inside. The full silver moon shined more brightly than any street light. As I gazed upwards, slowly, I sank to my knees, then to my belly, to my breasts and face. I lay my face down upon damp soil  and finally my whole body rested on the Mother in her sacred scented garden. I wept for wanting her, for needing her in my life. I knew I could only stay alive in Brooklyn if I had her surrounding me. If only I could stay there in her garden, belly to belly, forever! I wept salty tears into her ground. Weeping thankfulness for supporting me, for loving me – for allowing me to love her. Yes, the City is vibrant and creative – every day brought new surprises. Gifts in the form of music and art and fashion and the mass of humanity in all of its diversity and color and form. And I vibed right back  – hey, I am the funkiest City grrrrrrl! But a deep, lonely part of my soul longed for Mother. Finally, it happened, and one day 6 months ago, I found myself driving up into the Adirondack mountains, towards my new home. Soothed by the beauty all around me: Lake Champlain, the Green mountains of Vermont in the distance – here it was, the inner landscape of home. Welcoming and spectacular; the natural environment literally and frequently takes my breath away. I step out onto the balcony of my apartment which overlooks the Lake, and gaze at brilliant blue sky at shimmering clouds reflected in the glistening lake. Golds and pinks and yellows in the sunset.

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Sunset on Lake Champlain Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2014

With each glance outside my window, I see a different, stunning picture – ever-changing Glory. It is not unusual for me to exclaim aloud, “Wow!,” at the sudden exquisiteness right outside my door.

View from my balcony

View from my balcony Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

Oh, but all too soon, fall changed to freezing, bitter-cold winter – unlike any I’d ever experienced. At times it was 39 degrees and windy INSIDE my apartment. I shivered in the ice-cold, all the while marveling at the ice crystals that formed in intricate feather-like patterns on my windows.

Icy Window

Icy Windows Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

But where are the people? Nowhere to be seen! I walk into the center of town at  8 pm on a Saturday night and encounter no one. No music playing – not even from cars going by.  Here everyone seems to dress alike, look alike. Suddenly, because of my unusual hair, I am the “weirdo,” garnering stares everywhere I go. 20 years in Brooklyn followed by 6 months of massive culture shock. But I am saved by the Lake! She is diverse as the Port Authority in rush hour. Moody, dark, angry, shimmering, flat, frozen, rushing .  She is a massive changing body, rippling and flowing – assuming a multitude of forms . And all her forms are Power.

Icy Lake Champlain

Icy Lake Champlain Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

Longing to be be close to her, despite winters freezing cold, I donned layers upon layers upon layers upon layers of clothing. I became “Nanook of the North”! Out I went into the frozen landscape, surrounded by floating ice and howling winds. My beautiful Zuli passed on years ago, and now I am blessed to be accompanied in my explorations by my newest best friend, my majestic Great Dane, “Z.”

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Z Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

I braved the cold daily, I discovered hiden places, slippery glass-ice, mounds of hard snow, huge icicles, and soft feather-bed drifts.

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Icicles Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

I breathed the frigid air in deeply, peered off into the icy blue skies, flung my body down into the snow.  I danced on her and sang to her – I sounded like her wind, and called to her scratching trees, raised my hands to her sky, listened to the creaking, booming, voice of her frozen lake. I danced, whooped, clapping sticks accompanying my chants.

Ice on Lake Champlain

Ice on Lake Champlain Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

I found it easy, plearuable to explore my senses, trusting in letting myself go. Because of Z’s company, I felt safe being the only human on the frozen shore. With no one watching, I felt no self-consciousness – how, after all, could I be embarrassed in front of the Mother? I belonged. Perhaps a part of my soul lived here before – an ancient part that recognizes this place as home? Through the winter, no matter the cold, through fierce winds, and 20 below zero temperatures, I donned my boots and hat, stuffed Hot Hand packets into my gloves, wore as  many layers as anyone could possibly put on – and I went out every single day to make my mark in untrodden snow.

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Partially frozen Lake Champlain View from my window Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2014

I am a Jew studying Shamanism with the wonderful Sandra Ingerman.  Encouraged to  move and sing any which way I feel,  I began to journey. In my journeys I encounter a Helping Spirit. I opened my mouth and a strange yet familiar language came forth. Perhaps it is an ancient language that I embody but do not yet fully comprehend? As I chant, dance, play my shakers and journey, my relationship with my Helping Spirit is developing – and in the process I am slowly transforming.

Often the moment I close my eyes and begin chanting, I see/sense a dark-haired female Spirit above me in the Upper World. She stands on the dirt ground of an isolated place in the center of a group of long-haired male drummers. naked to the waist, seated cross-legged. She is clothed in a white wool poncho with  symbols in red. She is clearly the Shaman/Spiritual Leader of the group with much power and honor. I feel my Spirit Guide sending energy down from where she stands way above me in the Upper World. She stands like royalty – brave, powerful, simultaneously old and young – a commanding presence.  She sends energy down towards me via an angular almost imperceivable cone that travels down, infusing me with song and very subtle instruction. I don’t feel any personal emotional energy coming from her, but I get the sense that, with her guidance, I am being instructed to carry on an ancient tradition, resurrecting or remembering on her behalf/the behalf of her people.

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Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

If I stand in a particular position, with my feet apart firmly planted, my arms slightly away from my body, hands facing downward with my fingers relaxed down and wrists just a bit higher, I can feel doves lifting my wrists with invisible strings. I see the pelts of two animals, a lion wrapped around my front and a bear around my back in a protective embrace. As I raise my head erect and proud, I feel a falcon sitting atop my head staring fiercely, proudly forward. More recently, when I am chanting, I’ve felt that I have begun to “become” this Spirit, merging into her body via the energy she sends down to me. It is as though she and I are one for a short period of time and I can see through her eyes –  but we still have our distinct separateness at all other times. Death was the subject our next shamanic journey class. Just a few days before class I found myself driving along passing an old barn antique store with lots of interesting objects strewn helter-skelter out front. I could not resist the draw and quickly made a U-Turn to take a look-see. The antique store was quite dark inside, jam-packed with just about anything that could be in an antique store: guns, picture frames, china, furniture, lamps  – there was a section for every possible category of antiques – all stuffed in every which a-way and covered with years of dirt – my kind of place! Hanging from a center beam in the ceiling over the proprietors’ head, was a fringed Native American *Ghost Dance Shirt decorated with symbols.

Ghost Dance Shirt

Ghost Dance Shirt Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

Immediately I felt drawn to this ritual attire,  and I wanted to have the Shirt. I tried it on and it fit. I felt thrilled when I put on the Shirt, but would not fully allow myself to feel the excitement of wearing. I really wanted to take it home but I am not Native American and I feared it might not be appropriate for me to have this sacred object. I explained the friendly proprietor that I wanted the shirt but that I needed to consult the Spirits –and if I was supposed to have it I would be back the next day. He smiled and nodded his head, seeming to understand. The next morning I went to the woods to journey and ask about the Shirt. I did not receive a clear “yes” or “no” message to tell me if I could wear the shirt or not, but I was told that I could bring it home with the condition that I was to understand that material objects were not a substitute for direct Spiritual connection. That afternoon I returned to the antique store and bought the Shirt, took it home and washed it many, many times, ringing out the brown water and flushing with clean because the cloth was filled with years of dust and dirt from the the old barn. As I washed the Shirt in my kitchen sink, there were moments where I felt transported – I saw myself ritually washing the Shirt on a rock with lake water. Then I went out in the woods and broke off a curved branch, knifed off the rough parts, tied a string to the middle and threaded it through the long fringed arms. I  hung the Ghost Shirt in  my bathroom to dry then moved it the wall of my bedroom facing my bed.  I wanted to fall asleep that night and wake up looking at and feeling the energy of the Ghost Dance Shirt. That next morning when I was half awake, I heard for the first time the name of my Native American Helping Spirit.** For those who aren’t familiar with the Native American Ghost Dance, it was a sacred ceremony that spread like wildfire during a time when the Natives Peoples here in the United States were being pushed off their land, murdered en mass and stripped of their rights. The dance was designed by inspiration to bring back the Ancestors, return the land to its original owners, and repopulate the buffalo that were also slaughtered to near extinction by the Whites. Whites thought the Ghost Dance was a war dance and made it illegal. In fact the massacre at Wounded Knee was sparked by the performance of this ceremony and the reaction of fearful Whites.

Ghost Dance Shirt

Ghost Dance Shirt Photo by Judith Z. Miller (c) 2015

Right before the journey that I performed with my class on the subject of death, I felt the urge to wear the Ghost Shirt and determined that it was appropriate, given the sacred space created by our circle. We were instructed to seek out an ancestor.  I traveled to my guiding Spirits’ circle and saw my mother who passed on from this earthly plane in 1989. My mom and I had a love/hate relationship. She was a powerful, vivacious woman who really preferred volunteering or socializing to  spending time with the kids or cooking dinner – and since my father worked a lot or was out with her -my familiar relationships were fraught with conflict. However, the love between us was strong despite the difficulties, and in many ways my mother and I were very close.

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My mother and father, 1935

While in my journey, I saw my mother on Friday night lighting the sacred Shabbess candles.  Frequently when my mother lit the candles, she had tears in her eyes and tightness in her jaw because of the discord in our family. Many memories of my life and events came flooding towards me. I recalled times as a child when I had struck out at my mother. One by one, the mean things I did in response to the pain I felt after beatings or because she left me unprotected from  abuse from other family members flowed into my consciousness. I felt very sad about my actions, even though at the time my behavior was an understandable response of a young child – but I know now that these actions hurt my mother’s feelings deeply. I remembered standing in our hallway near the front door of our home with my back to the beautiful blue and gold Unicorn Tapestry wallpaper that I loved so dearly.  I was about 14 years old and my mother was standing facing me, glaring. Suddenly she slapped me across the face – hard. Spontaneously I slapped her back equally hard. We were finally the same height and weight – and I felt her equal. I looked her in straight in the eye, fiercely, and proclaimed that she was never, ever, to lay a hand on me again! She never did. As I watched these events unfold in my journey, after each wrong and each retaliation, I reached out towards my mother to hug her. I felt her astral body close to mine. I could not feel the denseness of our physical bodies, but I felt my mothers presence. I saw and felt a translucent image of her, a form that embraced me with receptiveness. I felt a closeness in the co-mingling of our energies. My mother loved to dance. I have many fond memories of gazing from he doorway, watching her singing and dancing alone or of watching my parents dance together in the kitchen – which to this day I regard as the most intimate, loving and romantic thing a couple can do. There in journey in the circle with my Spirit Guide and the drummers surrounding us creating a constant rhythmic beat, my mother and I gently embraced in in dance. I felt held and received. As I share this story and remember the experience, I know that that those few moments of intimacy with my mother were moving and healing for me – and I hope it was for my mother’s spirit as well. And may you, too, be united with your mother in Spirit this Mothers Day! Happy Mothers Day Mom – Glad to know you’re still dancing!

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Calling upon the Spirit of my Mother Photo by http://www.trixrosenartphotography.com

Notes: I am a Jew studying Shamanism. There are deep connections between the two seemingly divergent paths, for a website that speaks to these click here. My current teacher is Sandra Ingerman, a well respected, down to earth, knowledgably teacher/shaman who it turns out is originally from Brooklyn. I’m attending my second of a series of her online class via the Shift Network. I and about 1,000 others from all over the globe, have been meeting once a week on the phone.  Sandra schools us in the practice and essentials of shamanism and leads us in shamanic journeys and ceremonies. After the sessions, students connect via phone in small groups to process what we learned and we also meet up on Facebook. Sandra always encourages us to find a direct personal connection to the Spirit World and to work, daily, on our own practices. Sandra Ingerman, suggested two books on the Native American Ghost Dance: “Wovoka and the Ghost Dance” edited by Don Lynch and “The Ghost Dance Religion and Wounded Knee” by James Mooney – you may find them of interest as well. **I refrain from sharing my Helping Spirit’s name here as this information may be sacred to her.

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About artistsoulspeaks

Judith Z. Miller, aka "Zelda," lives in an erotic, musical, spiritual universe; she writes as a way of coping with its beauty, sensuality, frustrations and ecstasies. In NYC, she has read at events sponsored by organizations such as Nehirim, Zeek Magazine, Essentuality, and at venues such as Blue Stockings, The Jewish Community Center, Wow Café Theatre - and late at night to her girlfriends in bed. She published in Inside Arts magazine, The Washington Post, and American Theatre magazine. Judith was trained as an actress in Washington DC, co-founded The Fine Line Actors Theatre, acted in numerous productions, created original performance material and was awarded an NEA Arts Management Fellowship in Theatre. Judith is a self-trained visual artist who is inspired by the beauty of nature and the guiding force of her intuition. She draws and creates primal sculpture and wearable art from trees, stones and found objects, which she fashions into ritual staffs, wearable amulets, and employs in healing rituals. She was profiled in The Daily News; the subject of feature articles in Mann About Town magazine, Home News Tribune, In Brooklyn, The Park Slope Paper, The Wave, and The Daily Sitka Sentinel, and featured on NY-1 Television. In 2008 her paper “Sometimes a Tree Isn’t Just a Tree,” was read at the First International LSP-and Translation Studies Oriented Textual Analysis conference at Chouaib Doukkali University, El Jadida, Morocco. Judith was the founder and director of ZAMO! representing a multi-cultural mix of world-class GRAMMY® nominated and JUNO ® award-winning performing artists for over 20 years. She taught self-promotion for performers, presented by organizations such as The Field, The Red Tent Women’s Project and the Brooklyn Arts Counsel. She was the Chief Rhythm officer of Microfundo, a crowdfunding platform supporting musicians worldwide. She was a 2011 British Airways Face-to-Face Opportunity contest winner traveling to Thailand where she met with indigenous woodcarvers and shaman. A healing ritual artist, she created Zelda's Body Breathing Healing System (TM), and offers private sessions and workshops. Judith (Zelda) resides in Port Henry New York.
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4 Responses to Brooklyn to the Adirondacks for a Shamanic Mother’s Day Dance in the Spirit World

  1. I am honored that you shared this with me. I found myself uttering — as you have — “WOW” many times…especially at your photographs. Thank you for being my friend and for reminding me to honor my Mother this Sunday. I hope my daughter Jenny will do the same, after I share this with her. Namaste! Topaz

    • Thank you Topaz for your wonderful comment, I’m delighted that my post reminded you to honor your mother and that you are sharing this with your daughter – just perfect!

  2. Candy Grossman says:

    Absolutely beautiful! Your writing, combined with your photography, created a multi-dimensional impact. This brought back wonderful memories of my Mother and, for that, I thank you.

  3. Tobie Patmas says:

    You are an incredible writer . Your
    sbility to put your thoughts on paper
    is remarkable . I encourage you
    to continue your efforts!, and perhaps
    some day you will consider writing
    your life’s story.

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