few notes about what they’d received. It was very moving to see that everyone felt they had connected with an ancestor, and everyone had something to contribute to the collective process. There were several common themes, which Julie wrote on a large white board. In a surprisingly short time, she led the group to a single, beautiful intention for the Spirit Canoe ceremony. Without disclosing the group’s intention here, I will say that each person in the circle was asking for an experience of healing from the fear and grief that were so pervasive during the early months of this year.

We took a short break, as I explained that no one would be leaving the circle, once the canoe was formed and the journey was under way. Then people organized themselves quickly into the form of a boat, and we pointed the bow towards the northwest. One journeyer stood in the bow, the drummers took their places towards the stern, and Julie lay on a blanket in the center of the canoe. I asked everyone seated along the sides to hold the group intention strongly, to use their arms to help paddle the boat, and to sing for the entire time about what they were experiencing. I explained that the singing was important, as it would help maintain everyone’s focus, and help support the healing that was taking place.


Then the drumming started, and we began. To my surprise, as the person in the bow began to journey, the whole canoe came alive with singing and paddling. The sound of drums and voices filled the room, and I picked up my rattles and went to work. I was thrilled to see that the spirits came, as they always do, and they did the healing, just like always. Removing things that don’t belong, restoring things that do belong, healing, empowering, bringing help and support for the group. When the work was done, the drummers signaled the callback, and everyone turned the canoe around for the return journey. Drumming, singing, paddling and more singing continued until the canoe had traveled all the way back from the spirit world to the room where we began.

Sitting around the circle at the end of the night, one by one, people began to share about their experiences. They felt the power of the ceremony. They felt the presence of healing spirits. They saw and heard beautiful things as they paddled and sang. One person reported a few days later that she’d noticed a significant shift in her life, which she attributes to the Spirit Canoe ceremony. Several people expressed the hope that we would do something like this again. Some became interested in taking the Basic workshop, the next time it was offered. We began to see the potential for pulling the BC3 and shamanic communities together for this ceremony on behalf of someone who might be sick or in need of serious help. Clearly, when people come together with one heart and one mind to ask for help from the spirits, the spirits come, and they come bringing gifts. I have no doubt that our experience on that wintery night is only the beginning.

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