A Walk in the Desert…..
by Kirk S. Thomas
In mid-December of 2002, I had a very spiritual experience. I went to visit a Yaqui Native American named Lench, and I spent 4 days with him. Before arriving, Lench had me answer a series of questions about my life and write the answers in my journal. Then we boiled them down into a list of my burdens and problems.
Every morning we would smudge in the Native American way and spend time drinking tea with cayenne pepper extract in it and talk about life and the universe.
Later that first day, Lench took me out into the desert to a wounded place. There were ancient petroglyphs on the rocks, but people had been using the area to dump rubbish, and the land felt unhappy and raw. There, Lench had me walk through the wash and pick up a rock to symbolize each burden on my list. I put the 16 or so rocks into a canvas bag and carried them with me for two more days.
The next day he took me to a sacred area – desert land in an area bounded by three small mountains. The tallest one, about 500 feet above the land we were on, seemed to call to me whenever I looked at it.
Here we spent two days working with my rocks, overcoming the burdens in a spiritual and open manner. Each rock took some time to work through, but my patterns emerged. When on the third day my work with the rocks was finished, Lench took me to a much larger mountain range he called “Turtle Mountain” and there he had me perform a ritual of cleansing and renewing, where I would ceremoniously give each rock back to the Earth Mother, accompanied with a bit of tobacco. I decided to do this ceremony barefoot and naked, and Lench retreated to the top of a huge boulder to wait for me. The gravel and desert sand hurt my feet, making me walk somewhat gingerly as I took each stone and gave it back to the earth in a sacred way. When I was finished, I felt the release of that heavy bag of burdens and gave out my warrior cry!
That night, Lench had me paint two arrows made of saguaro rib. The first one was my Death Arrow, painted with symbols of my life until that point, and the second was my Life Arrow, which would symbolize my life to come. I put a lot of effort into those arrows, painting for hours into the night. I also came up with a list of actions or vows for the coming year. These were written down and wrapped around my Life Arrow.
On that last day with Lench, he took me back to the three small mountains. Normally, he would use the smallest of the three, but since the tallest one had been calling me for days, he decided that the tall one would be my Sacred Mountain .
I was to sing my Death Song at the base of the mountain. Again barefoot and naked, I kneeled with my water, tobacco, salt and arrow and sang of my departed burdens and then sang my Death Song, the story of my life until that moment, dedicating myself to the Gods, Nature Spirits and Ancestors. When I was finished, I dug a long hole in the desert and buried my Death Arrow in it, giving it up forever.
After dressing, I climbed to the top of Sacred Mountain . It was a rocky and steep climb, and I kept my eyes open for snakes and other hazards. When I got to the top, I found a small, clear space where I could sit, stripped as usual, and offered to the Kindreds. When calling on the Gods, I had called my usual ones but had not called the Morrigan. Suddenly I felt her presence, so I welcomed her warmly, along with the other Gods and Kindreds, and sang my Life Song. A breeze gently played across my body as I sang, and I felt the whole universe sing with me. Finished, I stood up and let out my warrior cry, and Lench, down below, answered with his.
When I had returned to the bottom of the mountain, Lench told me that two Ravens had been circling the mountains while I sang (Morrigan!) and that as I descended the mountain, the largest Bobcat he had ever seen came out of the rocks on Sacred Mountain and quietly padded down into the arroyo. Lench told me I was now a Spirit Warrior and then then he gave me a new name, Raven Cat Singer.