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Sacred Places and Consciousness Part 1

Reid Dickie

 

PART ONE

“Holy places lie dormant for long periods because that which created the place

 waits and watches for a time when certain historic moments occur and conditions

 are set in place, conditions which allow wisdom to come through certain people

who will bring it forth into the consciousness of that era.”

 – Joseph Rael aka Beautiful Painted Arrow

 

“All depth is interpreted.”

 – Ken Wilber

 

            Based on my experience, sacred places offer an opportunity for my inner self and the outer world to meet in peace, purpose and ease, a harmonious alignment of in here with out there. This began growing within me sixteen years ago when I peeled the rind of modern life away from my being and re-encountered the vast and mysterious plains first hand, their subtle flavours ashimmer across my skin and the sky. Every summer since then I have, to varying degrees, traveled the prairies and walked the trails that lead to Spirit. I’ve done the fieldwork, “put my boots to the ground,” as one friend reminded me.

            With a quick mental count I can easily think of a dozen sacred places in Manitoba and a dozen others in Saskatchewan I have visited more than once, performing ritual at most of them. Sacred Places on this blog gives you a good overview of the types of sites in both provinces. Although a westward diffusion of changing culture is evident in site uses and designs, the common feature of them all is Spirit, or rather access to Spirit. (For a better understanding of my terminology and meanings, I recommend you take a few minutes now to read FAQ on my blog.)

            Here’s what happened to me at Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel on October 9, 2010:

            I rattle, sing my power song and spiral around the outside of the stone circle. Very quickly I feel peace and holiness surround me; every step, every breath, every glance is a miracle almost too beautiful to bear. I spiral in toward the centre where I am summoned to the nest at the core of the cairn. I carefully climb over the rocks to the centre. There, on a bed of rock, open to the heavens and the earth, I ask, with a wavering voice, “What?” Even before the answer comes, I am trembling and tears begin to flow.

            Spirit gave me three clear and real directions at that moment, ponder points. I heard a soft but firm voice tell me I needed to go deeper into this, control my ego and write. While my body is on its knees, a weeping bag of snot, my mind is recording those instructions, already processing, and my spirit is soaring in ecstasy.

            All three parts of my being are fully integrated and harmonic at this moment. Each transforms the others. There is no separation between body, mind and spirit, The One into the Many, the Many into the One. A state of bliss.

            You can read my full report from this site here. I’m using my Moose Mountain experience because of its similarities to my contact with Spirit at many sites. It is common for humans to react emotionally when approaching Spirit. Getting that close to the Source is a rare occurrence. Tears are frequent at very powerful places like Moose Mountain as are spontaneous singing, dancing, gestures, sign language, clowning, solemn prayer or bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I nearly went off the edge of the hill rolling on the ground laughing at Wild Man Butte.

            Although I have listed these safeguards before, I offer them here as a starting point for visiting sacred places. Because of the nature of the energy present at sacred sites, it is important to visit them in an appropriate manner. Ancient sites require of us a special attention; they require us to be wise in the present moment. Here are some basic safeguards when researching ancient energy. Smudging is a suitable cleansing method, either a small twist of sweetgrass or cedar inside your vehicle or outside, but not if it’s dry weather. This comprehensive list is by writer Maxine Asher. Adherence is personal but I have found #6, #7 and #8 to be most important to me.

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.

            I have found a sympathetic frame of mind and are ready to approach a sacred site. Presence, being in the moment is always the first and most important step when visiting sacred places. Most every report in Sacred Places contains a description of my arrival and how I prepare. It is important to honour the rituals when attending at sacred sites. For me this begins with sweetgrass, sage, and/or cedar smudging; being positive, protected and prepared; being patient, careful and open. I have learned to wait to be welcomed. Caution prevails at all times.

            This little process of waiting brings me seriously into the present moment and holds me there. I must wait – open, alert, fully present. Eventually, the contraction of being loosens. I relax and feel welcomed. Thereafter, my approach to the site serves to increase my presence, which becomes natural and easy, flowing with the local spirits.

            Rattling stirs up the spirits. My power song is my signature; I sing it at all sacred places. As I near the central cairn, enraptured by the beauty of simply being, integration is occurring rapidly. Body, mind and soul are utterly immersed in Spirit. The gaps between body, mind and soul are closing due to the singular purpose of my presence and Spirit. Transformation is underway, transcendence is very near. Ecstatic, I received the message at Moose Mountain. I am blissful, burning in ecstasy, tasting my spiritual nature. Paradise attained, Joseph Campbell would describe it as “The rapture of participation in a manner of being beyond time.”

            Sacred places are portals where the veils are thin allowing easy communing with Spirit. I have used all those phrases to try to reveal what actually happens to me at sacred places. At this point language displays its limits but, in a word, what happens out there is transcendence, surpassing.

            What is transcended and surpassed? Our broken selves, the three delicate aspects of being we each possess that thrive on being lovingly entwined but seldom are: body, mind and soul. Once integrated, access to Spirit opens. Culturally, the body/mind split is encouraged and exploited endlessly in media and advertising; healthy integration of all three is rare and disparaged.

            What’s the process to get to transcendence, to integrate body mind and soul, to unity resulting in bliss? To understand this we need a firm grasp of consciousness, how it develops through our lives and where it can take us if we use our inner technology. It would be handy to have a map of our consciousness to trace these steps. Aha! Here’s one!

 

           Ken Wilber Map #1

Ken Wilber Map #2

          Take a long look at Ken Wilber’s Orienting Generalizations to Track the Evolution of Your Consciousness. Ideally, print off each page on a separate sheet and place page 2 to the right of page 1 extending the map horizontally. Designed to assist you in following the evolution of your and everyone’s consciousness from birth to the present and, potentially, beyond, the map shows the various stages along the path of personal growth. The higher you go, the deeper you go, the bigger you get. The map distills much of Wilber’s thought on the spectrum of consciousness, the potentials within each of us and the process to achieve each one. Our consciousness grows and develops upward so read each column of the map from bottom to top as if it were a plant growing toward the sun.

            Each column represents some aspect of our being with the specific content of the column listed in bold along the bottom. Each stage and what happens there is noted by one of Wilber’s fulcrums, reading across the map. I included some modern research from Maslow, Loevinger and Kohlberg plus visions of the perennial philosophy from Plotinus and Aurobindo, thinkers separated by culture, experience and 1600 years. Pathologies and treatments required inclusion.

            Study Wilber’s Orienting Generalizations, print them off, take them to coffee, get to know them and yourself…and everyone. Try to find yourself on the map. You are on there. We all are. Remember Map Rule #1: don’t confuse the map with the territory. You read the map. You live the territory.

            In Part Two on Sunday, April 24, I will explore the spectrum of consciousness as it applies to shamanism (which begins at the psychic stage) and explore the nature and potential of each transpersonal stage.  If you want to delve into Ken Wilber in more detail on the topics I’m discussing, I recommend his 1996 book, A Brief History of Everything available at fine bookstores everywhere. 

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, ken wilber, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, shaman, shamanism, Spirit

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY TEN

MOOSE MOUNTAIN MEDICINE WHEEL

October 9, 2010

“The Ancients have spoken today”

            Older than Stonehenge, older than the Pyramids, Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel is still used ceremonially today by the Nakota people on whose reservation it sits. My intuition and experience here suggest it may be 8,000 years old, an early post-glacial construction. Spirit dances here daily.

            When Chris and I went looking for it in June, it was elusive. Although I had visited here twice before in the 1990s, I couldn’t figure out where to the access the hill. I left frustrated but determined and called the Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation band office a few weeks later. I spoke with an elder about getting permission and directions to visit the medicine wheel but he said to call another time.   

            In September, I called back and spoke to elder Beverly who was very accommodating, said to come on by, her house was just below the hill. A month later on a bright Saturday morning, I headed out Highway #2 into Saskatchewan, arriving at Moose Mountain early afternoon. I easily found Beverly’s house. She wasn’t there but a beautiful young woman named Keisha gave me directions up the hill.

Central cairn of Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel

            Two wind- and rain-washed ruts lead through the grass up the steep hill; some of the inclines were 60 degrees. Over rough hills and through rougher gullies, I carefully drive, always rising toward the summit. Wolf willow scrapes against the car’s side panels.  Past the band’s Sundance site on a bench below the hill, one last surge of Avenger muscle up up up and I arrive, a hundred yards from the medicine wheel. As I step from the car, my heart is pounding, my spine tingles slightly and the muscles of my face pull back in a smile, all familiar sensations at these places.

            The day is an anomaly. The north wind pushes in a 25-degree  C day in October! The sun roams behind occasional hazy cloud. I spend my entire visit shirtless, enjoying summer’s reprise. I roll between the barbed wire strands and walk toward the medicine wheel, stopping to wait for the welcome, there it is, smile and proceed.

            Set atop the highest hill around with an astounding 20-mile view of the foothills, rolling prairie beyond and the flat farmland left behind after glacial Lake Souris, Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel has a large central cairn five feet high with a “nest” in the middle of it. A single ring of stones circles the cairn and five stone spokes radiate outward. At the end of each is a smaller cairn.

Astrological alignments of the five satellite cairns around the central mound of Moose MountainMedicine Wheel  from research by John A Eddy Ph.D. National Geographic January 1977

             I rattle, sing my power song and spiral around the outside of the stone circle. Very quickly I feel peace and holiness surround me; every step, every breath, every glance is a miracle almost too beautiful to bear. I spiral in toward the centre where I am summoned to the nest at the core of the cairn. I carefully climb over the rocks to the centre. There, on a bed of rock, open to the heavens and the earth, I ask, with a wavering voice, “What?” Even before the answer comes, I am trembling and tears begin to flow.

            Spirit gave me three clear and real directions at that moment, ponder points. I heard a soft but firm voice tell me I needed to go deeper into this, control my ego and write. While my body is on its knees, a weeping bag of snot, my mind is recording those instructions, already processing, and my spirit is soaring in ecstasy.

           All three parts of my being are fully integrated and harmonic at this moment. Each transforms the others. There is no separation between body, mind and spirit, The One into the Many, the Many into the One. A state of bliss.

            There was a short addendum to the final instruction. I heard another voice tell me, “People believe you.” I was shocked. That had never occurred to me before. Other than fact-checking, I seldom think about my credibility. I just write what happens. It was reassuring to know I am believed, which is, actually, never up to me to decide.  

             Slowly, carefully I leave the cairn and lie down in the brown grass outside the site. The dry spikes prickle my bare back. Filled with gratitude, I hear Linda’s voice say, “Be happy, baby.” I am. I am.

            After half an hour of pure pleasure prone on the hillside, I rise, make one last spiral around the outer ring, rattling and singing my song in gratitude then float back to the car. I drive down a few hundred yards to a flat bench and park to give myself some time to rest and reflect.

            As I get out of the car and look up, I see, coming in from the west, a bald eagle spiraling on the updrafts. Near enough to recognize, it slowly floats overhead, re-enforcing the message just given to me at the stones. Eagle is one of my power animals whose unenviable mission it is to try to make me wise. I thank Eagle whose presence reminds me of the huge responsibility I have at sacred sites to take away their wisdom with care and passion, to unpack my experiences with love and kindness.

Beautiful, multi-hued rocks of central cairn, Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel

             I have a little digital voice recorder I use to record my important thoughts along the various trails of my life. This sweet gadget later gives me a chance to quote myself. Oh, writer’s bliss! As I was leaving Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel after my experience, in a whispery, reverent voice I said into the little machine, “The Ancients have spoken today. I have the message. Thank you, Ancients. I leave more enlightened than when I arrived. For that my only way to express my gratitude is, ‘I will fulfill, I will fulfill.”

            More than anywhere else, Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel spawned this series of reports. I came upon this format while pondering my visit there. For that, I am truly grateful to these old stones and their message.

DAY TRIPPING

ST. LEON WIND FARM

May 29, 2010

             Restlessness overwhelmed me around noon today. I checked the weather satellite and it looked promising so I headed out to Carman, had an unsuccessful rummage in their MCC, bought 6 fresh doughnuts at the bakery and proceeded west toward Miami and the Escarpment which loomed blue and dark on the western horizon under thin variable cloud.

            I drove past Miami and up onto the first of the three steps of the Manitoba Escarpment. Up the second level and finally atop the next level of prairie. A few miles later on the very top of the Escarpment, I encounter the St Leon wind farm, my first experience with a wind farm.  Those suckers are big! And stretch for miles and miles across the rolling hills. Dozens of them! Very strange and surreal motion relationships with the car moving horizontally and the huge turning blades right there next to the road. If Alfred Hitchcock were making North by Northwest today, he’d have a wind farm in it.

            I pass through Notre Dame de Lourdes and descend off the Escarpment into Rathwell. As imposing as the windmills are, the rolling black shelf cloud that covers half the horizon before me is awesome! I am driving right into it, cloud darkening around me. I drove 240 north to Portage la Prairie and the rain begins, buckets by the time I arrive at the PLP Horts.

            I have encountered the once-in-fifty-years rainstorm. I watch the streets of Portage fill up with water. It lets up a little after an hour and I decide to try the TCH home. I get to the rest stop just outside PLP and pull in hoping for better visibility. It eases once more. By the time I get to Elie, this storm is maelstrom proportions. Zero visibility with people still passing me! I sit on Elie’s main drag for half an hour and it lets up more. I keep driving back into it, of course. Stupid white man!

            The result of the rainstorm is flooding over a large area, especially between PLP and Winnipeg. The land is drenched with standing water everywhere. The rains that came even before I left the city meant the ditches were full, fields inundated, both sides of the Escarpment alive with ditch streams, La Salle and Assiniboine Rivers and Tobacco Creek overflowing their banks. Ah, the joys of living on a floodplain.

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Filed under Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism, Wind Farms

12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY THREE

BUFFALO BUTTE CEREMONIAL SITE

August 31, 2010

“Excited to get inside”

            Val Marie, SK is a small village with a large history situated at the western end of Grasslands National Park (GNP) and offers the Park office. During my first visit to Val Marie in August 1999, I saw the archeological surveys of the park done in the mid 1980s. The woman at the office mentioned a site had been “discovered” nearby but outside the park. Robert Ducan of The Convent Country Inn can tell me more about it, she says. I introduce myself to Robert, we hit it off and 20 minutes later, we are heading to the site in his half-ton.

            Another wild desolate location! The swoop of the land south and northward away from the site is dramatic. Off down the distance, gently rolling hills spill away in all directions. To the east 70 Mile Butte, a steel-grey monolith in GNP, dominates the landscape. Ragged as a meteor, 70 Mile Butte rises against the sky with subservient hills all around bowing in homage. The site lies south of the continental divide.

Buffalo Butte Ceremonial Site. Cinderblock hut and tower are obvious. Less so, the circles in the grass in the foreground. You can see a bit of an arc left of centre. At the extreme left, the geodetic survey marker is visible.

              Buffalo Butte Ceremonial Site, a long high ridge, is dominated by two huge concentric stone circles, one 120 feet across, the other 90 feet across. The circles lie in a slight indentation two feet lower than the hilltop. It has a wonderfully enclosed feeling though the indentation is slight. This area was at one time on the hilltop but the land sank. Inside the circles are a birthing arc opening east, where mothers came to give birth, and a dying arc opening west, where elders came to die. These are extremely rare in North America, somewhat more common in Europe.

            The ridge displays evidence of long usage, tracing the history of the region. To the west of the circles is an area that felt like the location of several burial platforms, reused for decades, perhaps longer.  At the top of the hill next to the circle is a small oblong enclosure of stones that is a vision quest site. It opens to the south, the heat, the visions, the hope.

            There are several tumbledown cairns, two of them, I sensed, signified water and were visible from different directions. A snake effigy seemed to materialize but I will have to recheck this. It may have been state-specific. I’m certain of the geodetic survey marker from the late 1800s though.

            Southeast of the large circle is an odd rectangular shape of stones with what appears to be letters inside, maybe ME or MB, WE or BW., possibly graffiti left behind by some bored survey crewmember, North West Mounted Police officer or wandering wrangler.

            A hut made of cinder blocks next to a tall red and white tower sit at the top of the ridge. An electrical line runs over the pasture to the hut but I have been unable to discover its exact usage. Three guy wires hold the tower in place. A deer had scuffed off its antlers by rubbing on the wires, its four-prongers lay on the ground. The tower doesn’t interfere with the ambience much and serves as a too-handy landmark to locate the site. The land is rented Crown land with roaming cattle and cow plop everywhere, though I see no cattle today. The day is warming quickly.

             During the hike over two-miles of rolling pasture, I watch for rattlesnakes and notice how my mood has improved vastly from my sad morning drive. Tipi rings litter the hills. I check downwind often to make sure I am still at the top of the food chain. Up the final hill, I’m tingly with holiness, welcomed and exhilarated. I am excited to get inside.

            In a light trance, I recognize the long-time ritual use of the place as much as 9,000 years before present. The arcs are a very old aspect of the site. They are also rare. They come from the imaginal realm in my dreaming. My feeling is that the people who used them are, as a race, now extinct; lost shards of human action, their world gone, even their mythologies now mute except for these stones.

 

My rough hand drawn map of the site made after my first visit. I hadn’t added the inside circle yet. Suggests the numerous uses of the place. Click to enlarge.

                 The required presence of mind one needs at this place is intense and sharp. There is very serious and powerful intent at work here, not to be toyed with but to be respected and honored. The illusions of time and death dissolve into the present here, a perfect Witnessing place.

            “Balancing change” broadly describes the emotional temperature of the place.  All manner of flux and mutability occurred here, some easy and organic, some difficult and deadly. Transformation and transcendence are soaked into the earth under my feet. A Overhead a red-tailed hawk cries, “Every moment sacred.”

            Standing in the birthing arc I hear a vague turtle shell rattle, its dry brittle sound complements the landscape. During my 2 ½ hour stay I often hear voices traveling on the wind. Sometimes they are conversations, often a bit of shy laughter. No agony, no pain on the wind today – only the bliss of place and life. Voices often come out of the earth. I walk past a richly lichened rock and a crackle of communication arises from it, the groan of the stone. Attracted by one such voice I realized I am looking at a disturbed turtle effigy.

            Spiritually, the site provides easy access to soul via the present and benevolent spirits alive to the needs of those seekers who come here. There was a time when this place was used almost exclusively by shamans who created special conditions so people could move in and out of life in a place and fashion they knew. Shamans were born and died here, heyoka arose out of contracted consciousness to live their duality here, women who would be matriarchs were born here only to return and give birth themselves.

            Tucked between two stones in the centre of the dying arc are signs of recent medicine making: a brown and white hawk feather and a small bundle of sage bound with grass. Beautiful! 

            Though not used ritually by any present day aboriginals the place is visited by tourists, many of a spiritual nature who stay at The Convent Country Inn. Robert and Mette often speak of the power of this site to their guests. Access is now limited to hiking in, no vehicles allowed. More shamans than archeologists have visited here. Apparently, no archeologist has ever visited the site, leaving it virtually unstudied.

Prairie Rock Graffiti. Stone rectangle with initials inside. 

                I find this spot fascinating not just for its active and helpful local spirits, but for its long and varied usage. A power place re-interpreted often over the millennia, this is a list of uses from the present back:                         

                                            Cow pasture

                                            Transmitting/receiving tower?

                                            Geodetic Survey Marker

                                            Graffiti in rocks

                                            Campsite

                                            Platform burial site

                                            Turtle effigy and cairn site

                                            Vision quest site

                                            Rites of passage initiated/celebrated

                                            Rituals performed

                                            Birthing and dying arcs

                                            Big stone ceremonial circle

                                            Animal trail

            On my little digital recorder as I am leaving Buffalo Butte, my voice is quavery and hushed. “I’m alive! I’m alive! Here, there and everywhere. Linda is alive! Here, there and everywhere. Wherever there is beauty, that is where Linda lives.”

DAY TRIPPING

KICHE MANITOU  CAMPGROUND YURT #4

September 24, 2010

             My first yurt experience proved to be damp, cold, warm, fuzzy and not without many magical moments.  It rained most of the afternoon as soon as I arrived. The park gives you two keys: one for the yurt and the other for your little red wagon! Chained up to a railing at the parking lot are ten oversized red metal wagons with inflated tires that you use to haul your crap to the yurt since you can’t drive right up to it. An excellent idea! 

            Yurt #4 (of ten, three more added for 2011) at Kiche Manitou Campground in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, just a hoot and a holler from the high dunes of the Spirit Sands, is a fine little affair. Sixteen feet across with hardwood floor raised on a short foundation, the yurt has ample room, both floor and headspace, that even three adults wouldn’t feel crowded. It opens into a large dome that lets light and tree laughter in. The proportion and angle of the ceiling gives the room airiness.

            Furnished in rough hewn natural wood, heavily shellacked, the yurt has a comfy futon (my bed for the night), a lamp, a round table with four chairs, each weighing fifty pounds, a coat rack, the curtain rods, a bureau and bunk beds, double on  bottom, single on top. The beds have the hardest mattresses I’ve ever laid on. The room has a small wall heater, which ran all night and barely kept the dropping temp at bay. The yurt has a roofed wooden porch/deck with cooking area and electrical plugs. The view from the porch is spectacular with the yellowing oak leaves and the Assiniboine River flowing by below.

            The strangest part of the yurt was the diamond-shaped lattice that covered every interior wall space, even the windows. The lattice is used in the basic structure of the place but exposed 340 degrees around you (the door isn’t covered), sometimes the room would start to spin. In my peripheral vision, it would move but stop when I looked that way. Somewhat disconcerting at first but an easily-won tolerance to tacky design.

 

             When I first arrived at the yurt, I heard a sighing sound coming from under one of the three windows. After a few times, I named it Debbie as it had a definite human resignation to it. I suspect it was some communal scrapping of nature and yurt but Debbie offered her small sounds many times during the night, changing from startling to reassuring.

            Coyotes gave several insane choir recitals in the night, making me laugh every time. It was the full moon and I was sorry I wouldn’t see it for the rain. About 5 o’clock I got up for a pee and the clouds parted and the full moon shone heavy and gorgeous, illuminating the area around my yurt with a mix of shadows and sensation. A little smile from Linda. Beautiful!

            Yurts are for non-campers who still don’t mind smelling of wood smoke for a few days. The accommodation for the price – $54 all in – was more than fair, for a family, very economical. It would be most enjoyable on warm summer days and nights. The view of the stars off the porch would be grand.

             To make moonlight hikes on the Spirit Sands much easier with a place to come home to, I thought I would try to book a yurt there every full moon next summer. This can be done online starting in February. From Mongolia to Manitoba, yurts are funky!

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Filed under Accommodations, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism