Category Archives: Sacred Places

12 Days of Christmas 2015 – Day Eleven Sacred Places

Sacred Places

Reid Dickie

 On my Sacred Places page there are 25 written and video reports of personal visits to sacred sites on the prairies. Rather than feature one site I suggest you scan the list and select one or two interest. The picture above is of Castle Butte.  Additionally five essays explore aspects of the sacred as manifest in these sites. I am grateful to Ken Wilber for bringing his insight to some of my experiences. When visiting sacred sites it is beneficial to you and to the spirits if you practise safeguards.

  1. Maintain optimum mental and physical health.
  2. Practice interaction with vibrations at local ancient sites.
  3. Do not preprogram information about the area you plan to visit.
  4. Begin work in relatively untraveled regions.
  5. Eat lightly before visits
  6. Transmit less and receive more.
  7. Never enter a site in ‘neutral’. Always manifest a positive aura of protection at all times.
  8. Always discharge energies after leaving a site.
  9. Systematically record observations and experiences.
  10.  Be patient in waiting for results.
  11.  Travel alone whenever possible.
  12.  Be careful in your handling of words and intonations at ancient sites.

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Filed under 12 days of christmas 2015, Ancient Wisdom, ken wilber, Sacred Places, Spirit, spirit sands

Autumn Music at Spirit Sands


Reid Dickie

Shirtless in the 20+ degree C afternoon I sat at the top of one of the park’s highest dunes yesterday and the scene above spread out before me. The bright yellows of the poplar and aspen glowed against the ever-elegant evergreens beyond accompanied by the subtle music of autumn on the prairies.

Overhead, late for the sky, Vs of migrating geese sang their urgent pleas harmonizing with the gentle clatter of changing leaves in the afternoon breeze. Atwitter with lively applause during their green days, aspens and poplars intoned a more sombre tune against the wind sighing through conifer boughs. Though most birds have flown south, blue jays squawked and an occasional chickadee punctuated the sunshine with its familiar song as crickets counted down the days til winter’s sleep.


In fall it’s striking how overgrown with various vegetation the dunes have become as you can see in the picture above. The shot below shows a new dune created by the prevailing northwesterlies.


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Filed under Birds, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, Sacred Places, spirit sands

First Spirit Sands Hike of the Year


Reid Dickie

This year’s model of mighty Avenger and I ventured out to Spruce Woods Park for my first hike to the Spirit Sands for 2013. Perfection in every direction.

Along the trail the rich yellow hoary puccoon is in full bloom. That’s a picture of it above. Delicate avens are starting to lift their furry magenta heads. Anemones and poison ivy abound in the shade. The trees are alive with birdsong as the young spruce already sport plenty of  bright green new growth at the tips of the branches. Winter was unkind to the low growing creeping juniper. A lot of it is brown from winter kill.

Because of our late cold spring everything is about a month behind so today several flocks of geese arrived, flying northward.

The areas of the park severely flooded in 2011 have rebounded well this year. Work still continues on lower campground but upper campground and yurts are open for the season. Most of the hiking paths in the park have been restored after the flood damage. I noticed several are indicated by fresh white gravel.

One of the many uses of Spruce Woods Park is for aboriginal sundances. The first of the summer will occur June 6 to 9 on a dancing ground near the trailhead for Epinette Creek Trail. The event is open to the public, aboriginal and non-aboriginal. watch for signs near the trail entrance. This website gives you some details on the planned events.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Parks, Sacred Places

St. Hyacinthe Catholic Parish Church, La Salle, MB

Reid Dickie

Towering above all else, including the cottonwood trees in the little French community of La Salle, MB, south of Winnipeg, stands St. Hyacinthe Catholic Parish Church. Representing the strong faith of the local population for over 100 years, this masterfully achieved edifice of buff brick possesses an inspiring plethora of design details on every facade.

The form of the large church is transept – shape of the cross – with an elaborate front facade that evokes order and ascension climbing to a slim bell tower surmounted by a shimmery steeple.

Let’s take a close look at the front facade. The most striking feature is its comfortable symmetry, not a line out of place, not a wasted brick, just upward sweeping motion. 

The brickwork is marvellous. There are three arcades (rows of arches), each with five arches, formed by the brick design, two are sloping downward under the roof eaves and the centre spans the front of the entrance pavilion just below its cornice. The smooth corbelling (layering of bricks) that forms the arcades is superb, creating interesting shadow and light combinations.

As with the arcades, all openings in the building are arched. The front entry, the window above with its trio of slender windows under a circular focus and the openings in the bell tower are all arched. All openings have a limestone keystone at the apex. The keystones on the front have small tablatures.

On the ends of the transepts there is another series of corbelled arcades, thirteen arches under the eaves and above large round windows with spoke tracery. All around the place under the eaves is a sweet bit of corbelling that adds to the ornate sensibility of the church.

In true heritage geek parlance, the bell tower/steeple is a honey! Eight arched openings, each keystoned with a scroll and separated by square columns and capitals, create the still-inhabited bell tower. Above the bell tower a short eight-sided dome supports the steeply pitched octagonal steeple that ends with a round pinnacle and a metal cross spire.

La Salle, MB is located south of Winnipeg on Provincial Road 247 a few kms west of Hwy #75.

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Filed under Churches, Day Tripping, Heritage Buildings, Manitoba Heritage, Sacred Places

Spruce Woods Park Rebounds, Open This Weekend

Reid Dickie

In this post a year ago the flooding Assiniboine River had a destructive hold on Spruce Woods Park. Hwy #5 was washed away through the park, campgrounds and buildings were covered with eight feet of water and the summer looked bleak.

Today I had my fourth hike to the Spirit Sands in the last two weeks and have great news to report. As I arrived today, a work crew was taking down the detour sign to the upper campground. That was exciting and promising! The low road to the campground, the one that had about two hundred yards of it washed away by the surging waters last year at this time, has been rebuilt with tons of fill and finished with gravel for now. The badly-damaged lower campground is still off-limits but the park staff are to be commended for their efforts to rejuvenate the rest of the park.

Most of the debris strewn helter skelter about the park by the river has been cleared away, signage has been restored, trails opened, the river-broken trees have been cleaned up and guaranteed there will be no shortage of firewood this summer in the park.

It was evident today that the day use area with beach, Pine Fort, picnic and displays will be open for the long weekend. They have resanded the beach on the oxbow. See how murky the water is before you swim in it. Use caution. Remember the swimming area is largely river water washed in last year containing everything it picked up along the way and it has sat stagnant.

There are plenty of things to do in the park. The trail system, including Spirit Sands, Punchbowl, Marsh Lake, Epinette Creek etc are all open. The covered wagon rides to the dunes and punchbowl are back this year but I’m not sure if they will be available for the long weekend. The upper campground is virtually sold out for the weekend, the yurts are booked solid all weekend.

I was heartened to see many western painted turtles sunning themselves on downed trees today along the edge of Marsh Lake. The turtles were disturbed by the sudden flood but have bounced back, even though the waters of Marsh Lake are still cloudy with mud. The floating bridge at the apex of Marsh Lake Trail has been replaced though the little island it accesses was devastated by the flood leaving mostly broken trees. Painted turtles can also be seen around the punchbowl.

Go for a hike. There are several different terrains and habitats to choose from. The trail on the way to Spirit Sands offers some lovely blossoms these days. The bearberry is turning from red to glossy green. Hoary puccoon (above) speckle the grass with its bright deep yellow flowers. Three-flowered aven (right), their hairy heads drooping sadly, add touches of mauve and rust to the speckle. I saw all kinds of butterflies on my hike today and the air was alive with the buzz of insects and sweet tweets from the trees. Abundant as ever in the shady areas and along the stairs is poison ivy. Barefoot hikers take heed.  The other danger is wood ticks and I recommend a thorough tick check of your whole body after a hike.

The weekend will be hot and hotter on the dunes by up to 10 degrees. Carry water, wear a hat and don’t wear stupid shoes. Maybe the cool evening suits you better. Take a sunset hike and hear a choir of coyotes echoing over the dunes as you watch the sand redden into black and the fireflies sparkle around you.

Remember: no more free parks this year. The three-year moratorium on park fees is over. Buy an annual pass for $30, save a lot of time and cash and relax. Canadian Tire and fishing/hunting stores sell the passes.

When you see the park staff, let them know they’ve done a great job getting Spruce Woods back on its feet so quickly. I look forward to my next twelve visits to it this summer.

Watch my video of a hike I took to Spirit Sands last year. Check out more Manitoba day trips on my Day Tripper page at the top. Have a wonderful weekend. Every mile a safe mile.


Filed under Birds, Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Flood, Natural Places, Sacred Places, spirit sands

The Changing Light – Subtle, Relentless, Pure

Afternoon turns into night. Time lapse photography from the porch of Yurt #4 at Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Click pic to watch my video

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Filed under Film, Images, Linda, Parks, Sacred Places

Prairie Dogtown in Grasslands National Park

Reid Dickie

For sheer cuteness and adorability it’s hard to find a rodent more fitting than the black-tailed prairie dog. Largely extirpated from most of their habitat which extends down into Texas, the prairie dogs in Canada are safely preserved in Grasslands National Park. Several easily accessible dogtowns dot the park and you won’t be disappointed with the shenanigans of these cute critters.

Prairie dogs are a keystone species, meaning they are often the main course for several other species in their habitat. In GNP prairie dogs are preyed upon by newly-reintroduced black-footed ferrets, prairie rattlesnakes, swift foxes, ferruginous hawks,  golden eagles, badgers and coyotes. Burrowing owls nest in old prairie dog burrows. It’s a cozy relationship. Click the pic and spend two minutes in dogtown.

You can find more information on prairie dogs elsewhere on my blog like here and here

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, Parks, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan

Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 3

Reid Dickie

Part Three

“During shamanic flight the soul doesn’t fly. We expand our limits to include aspects not usually part of our being.” – Hans Peter Duerr

             Before you begin reading this, if you haven’t already done so, please read Part One and Part Two in the series and study the Map of Consciousness supplied in both parts and below. Checking out my FAQ page will help as well.

            One purpose of this final part in the series is to share some of the specific inner experiences that occur at each stage of super-consciousness. Extraordinary experiences need extraordinary and uncommon language to describe them. Shamanic experiences are often stage-specific, that is, they have meaning only at certain stages of consciousness which is not easily transferred or even described in another state. However, being the naming animal, we have discovered certain language that describes rare stages of mind and exceptional access to consciousness. I have Ken Wilber to thank for bringing forth some practical terminology during his 30 years of meditation practice and philosophical explorations. His terms were invaluable filling in the blanks on the Map of Consciousness.  

            For example, Wilber uses the term bliss currents to describe an extremely subtle sensation of loving happiness pulsing slowly through your awareness. When I first read it, I knew exactly what he meant. I’d experienced it many times but never had words to describe it. Still, sweet and descriptive as it tries to be, the term is lame when compared to the actual experience!                       

            When I embarked on my spiritual journey my most basic intent was to become less culture bound and more inner directed, that is, live more from inside myself than from what is applied to me from the outside. Shamanism created the path for me to do this inner work I needed to do. 

            Now, once the drumming begins, I can feel my restive rational mind settle and focus on the steady beat. A wonderful moment of calmness and freedom ensues when I transcend reason and open up to exploring the parts of my consciousness that lie beyond. My first expansion lands me in the Psychic (F7) realm, immersed in Nature mysticism. Some typical experiences in the Psychic realm include:

  • Preliminary meditative states – familiar from my meditation practice,
  • Shamanic visions & voyages – induced through drumming as on-going practice,
  • Identification with aspects of nature up to identification with all Nature – Nature and me are the same stuff,
  • Arousal of kundalini energy – my early meditative experiences included repeatedly arousing these energies. See below for more details,
  • Disclosure of psychic anatomy of subtle channels, energies & essences – this occurs once I began expanding my awareness to include more and more information from new sources,
  • Overwhelming feeling of the mystical – that glorious shivery web of the unknown,
  • Spontaneous spiritual awakenings – important understandings and knowledge suddenly arise in my awareness, sometimes answering intent of journey and/or adding further details and new information,
  • Reliving of deep past traumas, possibly birth trauma – with consent and intent, Mom and I relived my birth about three years after I started my shamanic practice.  

            Not all these experiences occur every time I access the Psychic realm but all of them have arisen at some point during my years of shamanic journeying. Most frequently, I experience the first seven items. A preliminary meditative state is always part of my intent, which, with the help of the sonic driver, sustains the shamanic journey. The outcome of the journey is mitigated by its particular intent, which varies from journey to journey. Much of Psychic is an adaptation for me. 

            My early meditative practice focused on awakening kundalini energies and bringing them to full expression. Kundalini energy lies coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine. Arousing it releases an exhilarating and dramatic array of experiences, many of them physical expressions of inner directives. Teacher Christina Grof and her husband, psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, did invaluable research on kundalini energy. They list some of the effects awakening can have:

  • Dramatic physical and psychological manifestations called “kriyas” most striking of which are sensations of heat and energy streaming up your spine,
  • Possible tremors, spasms, violent shaking, complex twisting movements,
  • Involuntary laughing or crying,
  • Chanting mantras or songs,
  • Speaking in tongues, emitting vocal noises and animal sounds,
  • Assuming spontaneous yogic gestures mudras and postures asanas,
  • Seeing geometric patterns, radiant lights, visions of saints, deities, demons, and entire mythological sequences,
  • Emotional range: ecstasy, orgasmic rapture and incredible peace to waves of depression, anxiety & agitation. 

            Since I am familiar with kundalini energy and open to it from my early practice, my visits to sacred places often arouse this energy to varying degrees. You may recognize some of my experience at Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel in Part One as kundalini awakening. The most intense kundalini occurrences happened to me at the Thunderbird Nest as described in detail on the Sacred Places page. Releasing kundalini energy at that site provided an avenue of expression for my spirit helper Webbed Flight and let him “live again.”  Hope you read my FAQs. 

            The next stage is the Subtle (F8) realm where processes well beyond my gross waking consciousness begin to manifest. Subtle experiences arise solely from within me and require special attention and quietude to perceive and appreciate. More depth is required of me now. Spirit helpers, power animals and the Divine are most potent in the Subtle and are accompanied by inner illuminations and patterns and by blissful states of love and compassion. Peace and serenity settle into my awareness. Experiences in the Subtle realm include:

  • Interior luminosities and sounds – slow pulses of dim lights that slowly change colour or create a pulse, a vague beat, everything is calm,
  • Archetypal forms and patterns emerge – the spirits come out to help me,
  • Extremely subtle bliss currents and cognitions – rivers of delight flow through me, small explosions of happiness abound and persist, gratitude builds,
  • Expansive affective states of love and compassion – unfathomable caring arises,
  • Direct spirit communication – the spirits dance with me,
  • Face to face with the Divine – glimpses of The Light is what I get, just glimpses,
  • Pathology: kosmic terror, kosmic evil, kosmic horror – seldom do I encounter negativity in my journeys. When I do I can deal with it effectively and quickly. This comes from years of inner work.     

      In Subtle abides enormous peace and serenity where quiet forces become evident via gentle perceptions, where love and compassion feel like the only possibilities. Brief flashes of the Divine shimmer through my awareness evoking bliss and unbound gratitude. Access to Subtle for me is generally plateau but adaptation when spirits and helpers are involved, that is I can readily call them if needed in any state of consciousness. Bliss currents and inner luminosities are plateau experiences for me so far. 

      Approaching the Source occurs in the Causal (F9) realm. All I experience is an unbound sense of freedom, freedom to create, to be, to do, an ancient flicker in the heart of Emptiness, a shadow on a cave wall. Being and Doing happily coalesce in me. I recognize myself as Emptiness and blissfully watch the arising world come and go through that awareness. Experiences in the Causal include:

  • Scene of freedom – detached and free from all the lesser woes of lesser worlds,
  • Source of creativity – sense of release from and release to be and do, all creation arises in my awareness,
  • I am an opening, a clearing, an Emptiness through which objects pass. 

      My access to the Causal is through peak experiences as needed although this summer I had several extended plateaus floating in Causal. Often, if I am writing and can’t come up with an idea, a phrase, even a word, I’ll sit back on my chair, close my eyes and send a flare to the source of creativity. The reply is usually instant and substantive. 

            The three stages of consciousness I just described are conduits for the content, information and messages that Spirit wants to convey to me. They are the means, not the end, the method, not the result. Shamanism opens up the conduits so Spirit can flow! Spirit doesn’t just exist when we need or want it to; it exists all the time, which is incorrect since it exists completely outside of time which for us is “all the time.” Clear? I digress. 

            Another purpose of this essay is to shine more light on the stages of consciousness used in shamanism where spirits (animal powers, helpers, nature spirits) manifest themselves in our consciousness and help us. We are always surrounded by spirits but most people haven’t developed the inner technology to perceive them and, using intent (shaman’s secret), put them to work for you. That’s Spirit pole at Buffalo Effigyrather crass because the spirits are in charge and do what they need to do. Shamanism is a process of dropping assumptions we hold about the nature of reality. Instead of assuming limitations, shamans assume the opposite – unbound, freedom, creativity – and, using those eyes plus intent, find out what’s there. Astonishing things are there…and everywhere! 

            Spirits offer benevolence to everyone. Not everyone has the training to use their own inner technology to contact spirits for help. That’s what shamans do. I don’t think there is exclusivity to being a shaman. At a shamanism workshop last fall, everyone there, eighteen people, easily went into drumming-induced non-ordinary reality the first time they tried it. Fifteen of them got power animals on their second journey that day. We are hardwired for this access but few persist at it, few hear the calling or see the use. Shamanism is complicated, scary, ecstatic, boring, exhilarating, life-like and needs a certain kind of cat to dance with. Even though I searched for 45 years, I still feel it found me more than I found it. It’s like coming home. 

            Even if we don’t, can’t or won’t feel attuned to the spirits, they are attuned to us, watching over us. Spirits want to help everyone. A big human discovery was some people found a way to ask spirits for their help and get it. My relationship with Webbed Flight, my old friend and spirit helper (he is the spirit of a shaman who lived in eastern Manitoba about 1200 years ago), has matured in the 12 years we have known each other. Relationship? Webbed Flight tells me to cross the street sometimes if he doesn’t like who is coming toward us (Linda came to appreciate this after initially being unsettled by it), warns me about deer on the road, even dead ones, supports and protects me when I am in trance. I am way past being attuned to him; he is a living part of me. Ever protective, kind and curious, contact with Webbed Flight went from being an occasional peak experience to being able to contact him for longer periods, plateauing. Then he became an adaptation, a benevolent spirit that abides with me. That three-step process – peak, plateau, adaptation – took about 18 months with Webbed Flight. This is sounding so technical! Timely aside: What would the spirit of a 1200 year old shaman, when allowed to live again in 2011, find most amazing? TV? Cellphones? Uh-uh. The two things that blow Webbed Flight’s old mind are glass and indoor showers. Ha! 

            I met Maug (rhymes with blog) about nine months after I started my shamanic practice. She is a fascinating and energetic tree spirit and helper. When I first met her, we went through the three-step process in about 20 minutes and she’s been with me ever since. On my About page, in a piece called The Day Before Yesterday which recounts my ten most recent incarnations, you will find the details about Maug.             

            From Ken Wilber’s map in Part One you are familiar with the evolution of your consciousness. You are not alone on this journey. It is shared by all humanity. Nor is this journey new to any of us. For hundreds of thousands of years each of us has evolved through these same stages, following the same subliminal basic moral imperative: to preserve the greatest depth with the greatest span (Wilber). We have discovered ways of being in the world and intuited maps and techniques to guide the way to fulfilling our imperative. We have found methods of moving Spirit out of Emptiness, from inner space to materialization in a mound, a circle cast in stone, an image of an animal, the language of the soul writ on the land. There we commune lovingly, peacefully. 

            Imbued with Spirit, sacred places become custodians of the Divine, keepers of our very essence, but not hoarders. Sacred sites are open and expressive, appealing to our awareness, usually somewhere in the Psychic-Subtle-Causal realms. Each level allows greater access to deeper and fuller parts of my being, more intense experiences and contact with Spirit. The depth of my experience at these places is relative to how developed each of those realms is in me, how adequate I am to accessing them. Shamanism taught me the process, Ken Wilber expanded my understanding and now I proceed into the mystic at will, confident, experienced and some day, if I am very, very lucky, I may figure out how it works on my own. 

            Meanwhile, I will continue to visit sacred places and perform rituals based on my inner directives. I will continue to journey with my power animals and spirit helpers to imaginal worlds to fulfill healing intents. When Spirit draws me close to absolute awareness, the site of peace and compassion, I will recognize myself as Emptiness.


            Over the summer of 2011 I was lucky enough to travel to more than a dozen sacred places in Manitoba and Saskatchewan recording reports on my little camcorder at most of them. While Spirit manifests at every site, there was one in particular where the message Spirit needed to convey was clear, reportable and captured on video. Please read my original post called Shining a Light Into Hidden Places and watch the video called Three Stones at Pine Cree Park which details my encounter with Spirit on the night I camped in the park.     


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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism, Soul Building, Spirit

Between Shark’s Teeth and Stardust – Full Moon Hike on Spirit Sands

Reid Dickie 

“Rock medicine is an act of touching the roots of the system of time and history in which we existed and from which our lives have meaning.” – Richard Grossinger

Sand is the last remnant of extinct lakes and rivers that have run themselves to exhaustion. Caught somewhere between shark’s teeth and stardust, the prairie sands exert their individuality and share the lessons they have learned. They teach us the connections between the earth body and our bodies, the cellular shifting that is the main work of all bodies. Every grain of sand holds some memory, some long-dusted-away footprint of its ancestors – the boulder, the rock, the gravel – former shapes with which wind and water have had their way. Each grain possesses faith in its masters – the shape of the dune and the curl of the breeze.

At the summit of the log ladder, Spirit Sands opens into a marvelous vista. Sweeping away in all directions are clean muscular dunes, windbuilt in high rows, furred here and there with wolf willow. The setting sun reddens the sand, shadows deepen as the long twilight slowly dismantled details of the landscape. A small bank of purple clouds builds in from the west as the reds and oranges fade. This close to the solstice it never gets completely dark.

It is easy to see why, for thousands of years, people used this place as a vision quest site. The silence, the expanse of sand and sky, the positive energy, the solitude all helped those seeking their vision.

Stars twinkle overhead as I shuck my boots and socks and feel the cool sand between my toes at the top of the highest dune. A coyote’s plaintive wail echoes across the indifferent sand; another answers. I howl my gnarled city howl, more of a strangled yelp. The sound makes me laugh. I yelp again, more like a howl. Another yelp, better, freer. A real howl tending toward wild sails from my mouth over the dunes. The response: dead silence or was that the snicker of a coyote?

A warm light breeze lifts a shiver of sand off the dune, giving it a small, barely audible voice before sending it sailing down the dune face. A red moon, two days shy of full, bulges above the horizon. Naked, I perform my shaman tai chi, dancing to coyote and sand music as my moonshadow darkens. Tendrils of aurora borealis, breath of the Great Spirit, sweep twisting across the deep blue dome.

I lie down on the cool surface of the sand, which sticks to the moist parts of my body then peels away as it dries. I nestle into the sand. Two inches below the surface, the sand is warm, the hot memory of another day’s intense baking. The wind blows a steady force of vaguely ticklish sand against my back. I fall asleep.

When I awaken, the breeze has cooled. After a short cavort I dress and, barefoot, slide down the double duneface to the trail. There is no need for a flashlight. The engorged moon lights my way.

In the forest, fireflies blink like sparks from invisible fires. The skunky odour of spruce hangs in the humid air. Reindeer moss glows eerily from shadows in the silver moonlight, which transforms a stand of wolf willow into shimmering spirit figures.

I pass through the Valley of Reptilian Deadfall, a low meadow where, years ago, a powerful storm left a swath of blown down spruce. During the day, and even more so by moonlight, the prone trees resemble glowing skeletons of bleached, multi-legged lizards.

When I reach the parking lot, empty but for my car, the sun is a hint on the eastern sky. After a few minutes of tai chi I feel ready for the two-hour drive to Winnipeg. An older van pulls in. A young couple from New Brunswick have come to hike Spirit Sands at dawn. They have heard the Sands are beautiful at sunrise. Indeed, they are.

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Filed under Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Parks, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism, Soul Building, spirit sands

Thunderbird Nest Video Report

Reid Dickie

The Thunderbird in Ojibwa and Cree legend was a super eagle with a wing span two canoes wide capable of transforming into human form. The Thunderbird spoke thunder and lightning flashed from its eyes. Difficult to see because of its disguise as black swirling clouds, the Thunderbird fed only on snakes and protected humankind from the Great Horned Serpent of the Underworld. This area of Manitoba supports a large red-sided garter snake population. Many Thunderbird Nests are found in eastern Manitoba but this is the only one west of Lake Manitoba.

 A report on a visit to the site in 2007 is posted here. This fall I returned to Thunderbird Nest and recorded this video report.

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Filed under Sacred Places, shaman, Spirit

Pictures of an Amazing Year

Reid Dickie

This is a sample of my first batch of 2011 travel pictures. Taken in the Big Muddy in southern Saskatchewan, an enduring symbol of hard pioneer life still stands atop a rise surrounded by crop.

I have uploaded the first 56 pictures from my various travels over the spring and summer onto the DickToolCo page on Flickr. They include shots of Vancouver in the spring, a series of cityscapes of downtown Winnipeg taken from the rooftop of the Fort Garry Hotel in mid-May, flood pictures of Brandon, Melita and the flood protest rally held at the Manitoba Legislature in June. During Doors Open I took a series of pictures of the Ukrainian Labour Temple in north Winnipeg. I always snapped pictures during my many trips to Souris covering the flood. Plus several shots from my July travels in Saskatchewan. Some of the pictures are along the right hand sidebar on my blog. All my pictures are here. Enjoy!

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Filed under Art Actions, Blog Life, Day Tripping, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Linda, Manitoba Heritage, Pioneers, Roadside Attractions, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg

Medicine Rock, Video Report

Reid Dickie

To ensure safety and success, millennia of hopeful travelers and hunters left offerings on this old serene and sacred stone. I left my offering for the same reason. Walk into the bush with me now, breathe next to Medicine Rock, leave your offering.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Natural Places, Sacred Places, shaman, Spirit

Spirit Sands Today

Reid Dickie

Though I hadn’t planned on a day trip today, the morning broke so lovely and promising my wanderlust kicked in. Warm and sunny, the drive out Hwy #2 was pleasant and fast. One other car waited in the parking lot at Spirit Sands trailhead. It was a perfect day for a hike.

We’ve had a bit of rain in last day or so and the sand was a little wet but drying quickly in the sunshine. Along the trail I saw this poplar leaf bejewelled with dew gems. (Click on any pic for HD view)

From the observation deck this year, you can see an interesting phenomenon. Due to the prevailing northwesterlies, the dunes at Spirit Sands are always moving, literally. The sand blows up and over the edge, down the duneface, building the dune forward. On the right side of this picture you can see a clean new dune that is active and quickly moving unlike the other dunes which have some vegetation and are thus more stable and slower moving. I seldom see such a clear example of a fully active dune.

With most of the leaves gone from the deciduous trees, the evergreens are in their glory. Also more evident are the rampikes and deadfall. Today the rampikes, leaning away from the wind, stood out against the deep blue autumn sky.

I have been told that the length of a tree’s life is also the length of its death, meaning the number of years a tree grew is how many years it will take to turn into earth. That beautiful, balanced definition of the pace of Nature is as good as any I’ve found.

The hike to the dunes through the mixed forest offers numerous opportunities to see the aftermath of windstorms, spruce bud worm and the parasitic dwarf mistletoe, all have had their way with the trees in the park at one time or another. This tree trunk lay split, gaping and dying well along the trail, its meat and bones humbled by time and the elements.

Out on the dunes, where seven-eights of the world is sky, the wind drew its crazy calligraphy in the sand using plants as brushes. Can you decipher the wild wind’s subtle message?

As I arrived at the information kiosk returning from my hike, a swarm of bright red ladybugs danced in a sunny spot, several of them landing on me. There is a soul connection between Linda and ladybugs and I always know she is nearby when her bugs turn up. We walked this trail so often together, I frequently turn and think Linda is walking right along with me. She was today, every step of the way.

By the time I came off the trail, about two and a half hours later, the day was over 20 degrees C with light winds and a fine cloudscape to entertain me on the way home.

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Sand Part 1

Reid Dickie

“Stones are primordial matter. Sand is matter ground by the infinity of time. It makes one mindful of eternity. Sand is matter which has been transformed and has almost become liquid and spiritual.” – Anonymous

Great Sand Hills, western Saskatchewan

What is sand? Though many dictionaries define sand as consisting of rock and mineral matter only, they omit most of its intriguing aspects, such as the shells, fossils, corals, algae and related material like gemstones, volcanic material and fossilized plants and animals often found within a single small sample.
Sand: Slang Courage; stamina; perseverance: “She had more sand in her than any girl I ever seen; in my opinion she was just full of sand.” (Mark Twain)  


Dr. Dave Douglas, Pasadena Community  College, CA

Sand, along with gravel, silt and clay are collectively known as sediment, and are produced by the mechanical and chemical breakdown of rocks. Once disaggregated from the original source rock, this material is then eroded and transported by either wind, water or ice, often ending up at the deposits of rivers or lakes, as sand dunes, or ultimately as sediment in the sea. Eventually this material may be buried to sufficient depth within the earth to harden and form sedimentary rock.

Navajo sand painting

The composition of sand is largely dependent on the source material. For example, the sand around volcanic islands is often composed of volcanic rock fragments, volcanic glass, and other minerals associated with volcanic rocks. In contrast, sediment found on the beaches of southern California are largely composed of quartz(the most durable common mineral), possibly some feldspar (also durable, but more easily chemically weathered to clay), and other minerals associated with the plutonic igneous rocks which form the bulk of the mountain ranges nearby.

In areas where there is no good source of sedimentary material from mountains or volcanoes, sand is often entirely composed of organic material i.e. shell fragments, coral, and the tests (skeletons) of small planktonic organisms.

The texture of sediment is largely determined by the transportation process. The three important parameters used to assess the texture of sediment are size, rounding and sorting.

Grain Size – The terms gravel, sand, silt and clay carry with them a size connotation.

Gravel is any material greater than 2 millimeters in its largest dimensions. This includes boulders, cobbles, pebbles and granules (in decreasing size order).

Sand is any material between 2 mm and 0.06 mm in size.

We usually sub-divide this category into very coarse, coarse, medium, fine etc. In practical terms, very fine sand is about the smallest grain size you can still see with the naked eye.

Silt is material which is finer than sand, but still feels gritty when rubbed on your teeth.

Tibetan sand painting

Clay is the finest material of all, and pure clay will feel smooth on your teeth, and will form a sticky ball when wet. As a general rule, material gets smaller the more it has been transported. Therefore, very coarse material usually indicates a short distance of transport and vice versa.

Rounding – As material is transported, it is subject to abrasion and impact with other particles which tends to “round off” the sharp edges or corners. Therefore a well-rounded sand grain has probably traveled a great distance from its original source area, while an angular grain has probably only been transported locally. Be careful not to confuse rounding with sphericity. A well-rounded grain may or may not resemble a sphere. Rounding is also related to the size of the grains, i.e. boulders tend to round much more quickly than sand grains because they strike each other with much greater force.

Sorting – The sorting of a sediment is simply how well the sedimentary material is separated out by size. For example, if all the grains in a sediment sample are very nearly the same size, then we say the sample is “well sorted.” If a sediment sample were to contain pieces of gravel, as well as sand and silt, it would be a “poorly sorted” sample.  Sorting is somewhat dependent on the distance of transport, but it is primarily affected by the medium of transport.  Water is an excellent medium for sorting of particles by size (and density). Wind is probably the best sorting mechanism of all, but only on the finer grain sized (not much gravel is moved by wind transport).  Ice is the poorest sorting mechanism, transporting and depositing all sizes of sediment with equal ease.

By carefully examining the composition, size, rounding and sorting of sand, along with other clues such as the surface texture of the grains and the kind of organic material present, we can make an interpretation as to depositional environment of the sand, how far it has traveled, and its ultimate source area.                                              

Navajo sand paintings

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Castle Butte Video Report

Reid Dickie

I have written about Castle Butte in the Sacred Places series and felt it required a video homage. My short report tries to capture the uniqueness of the butte.

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Filed under Day Tripping, Earth Phenomena, Natural Places, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Shining a Light Into Hidden Places

 Reid Dickie

This summer I have sat on desolate hilltops, communed with Spirit and received guidance and healing. I have slept in the deepest coulee next to a burbling stream dreaming my life into existence while Spirit danced through the trees. I have travelled in trance to the Lower World deep in the earth and to the Upper World high above the treetops, meeting helpful and engaging spirits everywhere. My awareness spans more worlds now than ever before in this lifetime. My imagination builds, integrates and transcends the dream that is my life as it flows seamlessly day-to-day, evolving quickly now, slowing sensibly then quickening again.

Being given the three stone tools at Pine Cree Park, which became tools for me to use in my re-enchantment of the world (part of my current job description), was a significant turning point in this life, in my being. The process of the stones’ passage through my life was pure and well-defined and my purpose intensified. The stones told me to tell you the story of how I got them and what I did with them. I am a messenger. I suppose I’ve always been a messenger of one sort or another: on radio and television, through art, writing and blogging. I’ve been well-trained for my current role. I don’t have a beat-you-over-the-head message. I have a here’s-what-happened-to-me message. Finding the three stones at Pine Cree Park is another chapter in my story of shining a light into hidden places, seeing what’s there then showing and telling you what happened, of bringing home the mystery and the ecstasy.

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Journeys of the Heart, Journeys of the Soul

Reid Dickie

“Do not think you will necessarily be aware
of your own enlightenment.” – Dogen

My new life purpose has been revealed to me with great clarity during my travels this summer. In a few words, one part of my current life purpose is to learn and be hurled into new experiences then to report what happened with honesty, without proselytization. That is what this blog aims to achieve.

Another part is helping other Old Souls find their clarity, their purpose. Spirit has given me three incredible Old Souls whom I am honoured to assist with their life work. All men, of various ages spanning two decades, my “suns” as I have come to call them, bring vast richness, comfort and energy into my life. I thrive on that and I am grateful everyday for their presence in my purpose.

Wind and rain sculpt the soft sandstone of Castle Butte in southern Saskatchewan

Most Old Souls spend much of their life soul building; for some, life is only about soul building. This is another part of my current purpose. The long trips into the Saskatchewan hinterland have given me the stimulus, the space and the solitude necessary to reclaim my humanity, to proceed with my personal evolution in a world dead set on stealing my humanity from me. Since shamanism begins at Nature mysticism and moves outward from there, my time surrounded by raw Nature enchants my soul, quickens my evolution and drives my purpose. I get healed! I get happy!

People I encountered this summer have surprised me with their understanding and  acceptance of my spiritual needs. I think of octogenarian tour guide from Coronach, SK, Tillie Duncan, who told me she meets people all the time who do ritual at these places so “you’re not the only one, Reid.” I was heartened to know that bit of information and humbled by her gracious silence while I did my small rituals.

At Jack’s Cafe in Eastend, SK, over a long breakfast as I scribbled in my journal, I noticed a 30ish local couple across the aisle eying me repeatedly. When they rose to leave, she came over and said to me, “Are you a cop?” I smiled and said I wasn’t. “Well, you got something, some kinda power.” Her husband stood behind her, nodding and smiling strangely. “Do I make you nervous?” I asked. They agreed I didn’t. She sputtered a bit and said, “You make me feel…” She was grasping for the word and surprised herself it was so simple. “You make me feel happy!” We all laughed and I told them it makes me happy to make them happy and to have the best day they’d had in a long time today. I’m sure they did. He kissed her as they were leaving, giving the old town codgers gathered in Jack’s for their morning coffee something else to gossip about.

Weathered farm house built about 1905 in Big Muddy area of southern Saskatchewan

I get enormous satisfaction knowing that I have incited several people to travel to sacred places this summer, to personally explore themselves within the context of ancient aboriginal holy sites. For some, it has been life-changing. I hope to get permission to share a few of their stories with you on my blog.

I plan to keep the mighty Avenger for a few more weeks as I have a long list places to visit and record around Manitoba. Thank you for watching my videos and being my passenger on some of my travels. Many more miles ahead, the curious and the arcane await us. Stay tuned! Be happy!

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Chris, Buffalo Effigy, June 2011



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Three Days in Eastend – Crazy Horse Camp

Reid Dickie

Day Three 

On Day Three, I have breakfast of eggs easy, rye toast and coffee after coffee at Jack’s Cafe on Eastend’s main drag. Lots of elbow room out here in southwestern Saskatchewan. Eastend‘s main street is wide and roomy yet still takes up just one-eighth of the sky. I thank Sharon Butala for reminding me about the sky thing. The red man and the white man clashed and co-operated around here and the places still sing their history. Sitting Bull and his people camped near Eastend, Chimney Coulee holds deep local mysteries that history barely touches and the spirit of Crazy Horse haunts a flat area on the valley floor. Watch is my short video report on Crazy Horse Camp.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, grief, Local History, Natural Places, Old Souls, Prairie People, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Take a Hike on Spirit Sands

This is the video of my hike on Spirit Sands yesterday.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Day Tripping, Flood, Local History, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places, Sacred Places