carol drumming July 2009
Walk on the Wild Side: Our Animal Relations

audio version

Dear Friends,

In my last newsletter titled "Shamanism without Borders: the Way of the Animals," I reflected on some spiritual lessons offered to me if I paid meditative attention to the animals and plants with whom I share my daily landscape here on Rabbits Run Rd.

The response of readers to the issues raised was vigorous, thoughtful, and plentiful. I cannot answer each email directly but I am prompted to respond through focusing, in a different way, to our relationship with other Beings and what they might be gifting us with in the way of spiritual teachings. I'm broadening the scope of attention beyond the land here and sharing with you three experiences that have been important to me in pursing this issue of 'shamanism without borders'.

Horses and Ghosts: When Worlds Intersect

"Carol, can you please come help our neighbor? There are disturbances on her land... the horses are panicking... one horse ripped his forelock while trying to bolt through the wire fence but he won't let us get near him." 

I received this call about 14 years ago. I had not done any previous healing work with animals other than the many dogs that have been part of my life. The woman who called me, however, had experienced some of my shamanic work with Spirits of Place and believed that I could help them. I was unsure so journeyed on this and received assurance that the necessary assistance would come from my Spirit Helpers.



Upon arriving, I could see the horses were clearly frightened so first I needed to introduce myself and let them know we had come to help. One male horse - clearly the leader of the group - was especially skittish and it took a while before he accepted my strokes and used them to calm himself. Assessing the situation involved

**seeing the Ghost (whom I called the 'Lurker' for he seemed to lurk around the barns and house bringing actual physical damage),
**contacting his ancestors,
**and being shown the situation in his village that resulted in his choice to pursue the Dark Side as his source of power both while living and by his lingering spirit. 

Different sites on the land, including an ancient ceremonial stone circle, offered us various images of his relationships while living and what had prompted him to choose to use this type of harmful power. Over the days we were able to persuade him to accept healing from an ancestral shaman and allow his soul to be taken to Elsewhere and to Peace.

That healing of his soul and subsequent departure occurred one morning - by afternoon a definitive calmness settled over the Land and emerged from the very soil and stones. But our work was not through until we did extraction, soul retrieval, and restoring of power to the lead horse and I don't think he would have accepted this healing until the Lurking Soul was gone.

Raven Speaks

I am waiting for my friend, Dan Jordinelli, to pick me up at LAX. He calls my cell phone to report that he is late arriving because he had stopped to pick up a baby Raven lying in the middle of the freeway after being hit by a car. Stopping LA freeway traffic long enough to get the Raven into his car had taken a while.

Dan pulls up and we head for his house with the baby Raven perched between the driver and passenger seats. During the drive, Raven and I are looking into each other's eyes and I'm thinking: "You are a BIG BIRD-are you going to cause havoc while Dan is driving and just why did you show up today?" I'm aware of experiencing an uncanny encounter with the Spirit of Raven.



After a visit to a vet, Dan places young Raven into a temporary enclosure on his deck. Within thirty minutes, it seems every Raven in California has flown to perch in the trees around Dan, close to the enclosure, with several flying around and over our heads - all of them with their dark, piercing eyes intently watching us. Various stories of Raven's power and tricky behaviors keep creeping into my mind - I find myself both thrilled and nervous with this experience.

The next morning we drive over to where I am teaching a Spirits of Nature workshop---a Raven follows our car for almost forty minutes and then flies away. Halfway through the morning session of the workshop, we all hear a banging on the window and look over to see this large Raven tapping on the glass and peering into the room. Dan and I share our experiences with the baby bird and the other Ravens and the whole group journeys on the questions of:

"What is the meaning of Raven's behavior?" "Is there a message from the Ravens as we focus on learning about the Spirits of Nature?"

While sharing our journeys, Raven suddenly takes flight and disappears.

Later in the afternoon, while communing with the Tree People on the Land, several Ravens appear; some of them circle around the Trees while others land and walk around us. Then once more, off they go in flight and we do not see them again. Returning home that night, we discover all the Ravens have left Dan's house... including Baby Raven for we had left open the door to the temporary enclosure in case Raven recovered enough to take flight.

Wolf in the Galilee Valley of Israel

Bob and I were making pilgrimage in the Land of Israel. Earlier that day, with our Israeli friends, we had made ceremony:  on a high hill above the Sea of Galilee, we made prayers for the "People, the Animals, the Places, and the Spirits of this Land" that they might prosper in peace.  We planted there a beautiful many-colored Prayer Tree with flags flapping and blowing our supplications over Sea and Land.

Our friend from Tel Aviv, Ziva Garbi, was driving us from the Galilee to Jerusalem where we could wander this city of such immense history.

As she is driving along, my eyes catch what I think cannot be: a Wolf dead by the side of the road. ("Surely it is a dog but it looks like a Wolf," I say to myself). I ask Ziva to stop immediately and to back up the car because I thought I had seen a Wolf by the side of the road... having probably been hit by a car. Ziva's first response: "there are no Wolves in Israel" yet at the same time, she had come to expect the unexpected on our journeys there and she quickly stopped the car.

We go back to the prostrate body and sure enough this is a Wolf now dead. All of us are stunned: "How could this be?" In the same moment, we realize we must tend this Wolf and not just leaving him there by the side of the road.



From our packs we gather our rattles and drums, collect some of the yarn we had from our Prayer Tree ceremony, gather some flowers in the area, and return to Wolf.  In tears, we stroked Wolf and apologized for the taking of his life and that he should be left so carelessly by the side of the road. While drumming and singing it became quite clear that Wolf's soul was wandering around his body - clearly traumatized from the violent nature of his death. Continuing to stroke him, we called his Soul from its wanderings and, with our Power Animals, escorted his Soul to the Land of Wolf's Ancestors. We created a small shrine there both to honor him and to alert passerbys that a precious life had ended here.

Later in the day, Ziva took us to a Park and told the Ranger about the Wolf. He informed "Yes, there are some wolves returning and we are tracking them. " He reassured us that someone would go to where we had found the Wolf and give him a proper burial.

Walk on the Wild Side - the Gifts and Revelations

In a previous posting on my website, I spoke of how the Animals seem to be calling us with increasing urgency these days. They are appearing in our dreams, our journeys, our newspapers, research, and hopefully to our consciousness.

And just last week, I came across an article in which Cornell University historian Dominick LaCapra claimed that the twenty-first century will be the century of the animal. He was referring to the fact that research into animal intelligence and animal emotions has become an established agenda in disciplines of evolution, ethology, psychology, anthropology, history, philosophy, and religious studies.

Furthermore, it seems that the research in these areas are challenging many of our basic assumptions about animals----and we are discovering that animals are more similar than dissimilar to us... that in many areas such as cognition, empathy, fairness, and moral behavior it is more a difference in degree than in kind. I am fascinated by the studies being undertaken and partly because they are validating many of the teachings embedded in our Ancestors' stories about our interrelationship with other Beings.

So many of these stories have as their narrative line how one of the animals taught human certain behaviors that would prosper the people's survival and other behaviors that would restore balance when disharmony occurred. These range from Bear teaching how to make poultices, to Buffalo teaching the importance of using all and wasting nothing to learning from Squirrels how to store the seeds to observing how Wolves practice adoption procedures.

These are not anthropomorphic projections which has always been the accepted way to cast dispersions on some forms of interpretation of animal behavior. Recent research has turned the discussion upside down and we now have to make sure we are not missing some important similarities.

Collaboration: Borders and Boundaries

The reason I shared these three stories, however, is because they speak about our partnership with the animals... and not just in the "ordinary world" but in nonordinary reality too. And I am sure the Ravens were expressing their gratitude for rescuing of their young in addition to reminding all of us in the workshop: "don't forget about us... don't forget about us."

When we refer to shamanism without borders, there is often the assumption that we must move out beyond our usual boundaries... I'd like to suggest that if we pay attention, we will discover the animals, too, are moving beyond their usual boundaries and coming to us. Buried deep in their memories are times when the humans and the animals walked together - each recognizing necessary territorial spaces yet these are not the same as shutting them out of our lives.

Perhaps they too recognize that Earth herself is in trouble which means all of us are in trouble and by working together we can find solutions before it's too late. In the stories above they are reminding us: care for the dying and care for their souls; tend the sick and relieve their suffering; protect the young and gather them into your care.

When a new focus e.g. shamanism without borders, develops among us, it's important to make sure we don't create other borders within the mind. In these cases, it is not a matter of going-out but of allowing to come to us and seeing what is already here-calling to us. From this perspective, perhaps the news informing us that more and more animals are encroaching on human territory (bears, coyote, deer, lions, etc.) is not that they come to take from us; perhaps they are coming to seek, to offer, some new, yet very old, collaboration with us.

Here in Santa Cruz, we are seeing the return of Mountain Lions, Bear, and Bobcats - their return is greeted with voices of alarm by some.  We need to make sure that Voices of Joy are also heard and that we make every attempt to speak with these Beings and learn how we can collaborate.

The shamanic community has a major role to play in such collaboration because we can speak with these animals; we can speak with their Ancestors; and we can discover and share with others what changes among us will contribute to a world where every being knows they have Home and this IS Home.

Painful Lessons at Home

Look around us... look around us... who is there? And do they know their welcome. I am pained by my own lessons in this regard yet to share is to learn together. In the Spring a landscape crew pruned our favorite rose bushes so severely they were not recovering. Meanwhile what little shoots appeared were being nibbled by rabbits and deer.

I created a very small plastic netting enclosure for them... to give them a chance to recover.

To my horror two days ago, while cleaning the garden, I discovered two baby rabbits and one baby bird had gotten caught in the netting and died.



While freeing their bodies I imagined I could hear their squeals of pain as they struggled for freedom and wondered what message they were sending to the other of their kin! We quickly tore away the netting and I mused on the sequence of events: a human pruned the rose bushes too severely; another human, caring for the roses, created a plastic barrier to protect them. The result: the roses still haven't gotten reestablished, and three wildlife kin have been killed.

This is but a variation on what can happen, with the best of intentions, when we create inflexible boundaries and barriers. I have a sore place in my heart for these little ones... and I am growing a new chamber in my heart from which to love, tend, and speak for our Kin - whether of land, water or air.


Workshops in Santa Cruz June and July

full description of each workshop is available at www.shamaniccircles.org and www.shamanicvisions.com. Registration forms and coordinator contact information are also available online. If you are interested, please contact Pirkko, our coordinator.
**Scholarships are available for those needing financial support.

July 23 - 26 Buffalo and BearMedicine for our Present Age (see description)

We will soon be posting materials (stories, reflections, songs, & information) related to the themes of these workshops. I invite you to bookmark the workshop web pages and return to peruse these materials.

More Information

  • Complete information about  workshops can be found at Carol's website or will be sent to you upon request.
  • These workshops welcome commuters as well as residential participants.
  • Partial scholarships are available and can be applied for when registering.

To register for one or more workshops with Carol, contact the Coordinator  for Shamanic Visions:
Pirkko Miller at Pirkko@embarqmail.com

P.S. We invite you to visit our Home Page to see if there are other shamanic activities listed there in which you might be interested.

Or if you wish to join in a Circle, check our Global Circles web page to see if there is one in your area. If not, then please start one because Circles can be powerful places of support for each of us on the shamanic path.



Copyright © 2019 Carol Proudfoot Edgar
Not to be reproduced without permission