What Is It…To Marry the Land?
By Dawn Dancing Otter
To devote one’s life to relationship with Place, in the promise of constant shift of creation, and the emergence of being in the Creaturehood.
To recognize that we walk not upon Mother Earth, but with Lover Earth. To acknowledge the maturity and growth required to move from being a child of the Land, to claim ourselves as responsible Lover of Land.
To bring this Living Legacy forward to those who will birth into the Creaturehood long after we have died, bodies transformed into bones within the Land.
To Live Spirituality through a loving tending of Reality.
To side with Natural Rights over Human industry, and to design new ways to sustain the prosperity of Creaturehood.
To co-create with all that gives Life and takes meaningful Death.
To do the steady work of Decolonizing, begin to atone for Stolen Lands, and learn again to Village.
Saturday, February 23 2019, in the sign of Pisces, under too many stars to name and a waning gibbous moon at 77.4 degrees of fullness, I married the Land here at OUR Ecovillage.
The ceremony was catalyzed, claimed, named, and witnessed by the Ancestors, the walking and breathing Hearth Keepers of this Land, my children, chosen extended family, sister Priestesses, some of my Apprentices, the spirits who lovingly guide my way, Creator, the Goddess…a wealth of Creaturehood co-creative mirrors and witnesses indeed.
This Initiation has been a song sung into my Destiny from before my birth.
And I am transformed.
I am transforming.
I am becoming.
Indeed, our courtship has been brief. There have been so many to come before me upon this Place. And yet, before I was even fully cognizant of what would be manifesting, I was handfasted to the Land.
As in all Alchemical experiences, this story of this Medicine has its deep roots in what has come before.
My name is Dawn Dancing Otter. My son Raven and I are now villagers here at OUR Ecovillage. I am a creator of villages in my wake. I have, at last, been Met.
For more than two decades, I have been actively practicing healing arts, including yoga, massage and structural integration, ecstatic dance, spiritual counseling/coaching, ethnobotanical medicine, earth medicine, and what has been called ‘shamanic medicine’. I have become fairly well known as a teacher of shamanic arts and earth medicine.
From the beginning of my life, I have been extremely empathic, intuitive, and clairvoyant. Living as a highly sensitive person has led me to seek ways of being in this world in congruence to creating purpose to serve community with my abilities. My great initiation into shamanic practice came while I was suffering with leukemia at age 28. It was during this time when I first met the man who would become an important teacher on my path, Manfred Lukas. The work he did with me, called Soul Retrieval, was instrumental in my healing and personal evolution. I studied closely with Manfred for four years, much like a traditional apprenticeship. During this time, the word ‘shamanism’ was in common use.
As I healed and learned, I practiced Soul Retrieval within my community of Canmore, Alberta, as taught to me by Manfred. At the same time, remarkably, I was beginning to experience a deep awakening to my purpose. The gifts I have always had of seeing and feeling became grounded into a way of serving and helping people to move into healthier relationships with themselves and others. As I grew in practice, I began to be offered opportunities to work with more at-risk populations, invited into deep counseling and group circle work with those in recovery, grief, birthing, dying, those in the criminal justice system, and then overseas in Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia to serve those with PTSD due to the civil war. I studied with three other great teachers of shamanic contextual practice, including ethnobotanical medicines in the Amazon, Ho’oponopono from Hawaii, and Ancestral Irish Earth-based spirituality. I deepened practice and studies with Kundalini Yoga, Pranayama, and studied extensively in Quantum physics, Alchemical spirituality, and trauma-informed counseling. As the opportunities to respond to the deep work came forward, I stepped up to it and said ‘yes’.
In 2003, I responded to a number of requests to teach shamanic medicine. From the time of my first offering, I witnessed a great number of people who were hungry for understanding and reconnection with the land, each other, and a non-bypassing form of spirituality. I founded a school which is now called ‘The Alchemist Path’ as a way to speak to the nature of the work. Since that time, there are now a number of apprenticed teachers in our school who have stepped forward to continue the teachings to its many directions in the world.
From even before the time I began this path with intention, I have been invited to sacred gatherings all over the world as a guest, witness, and participant. Including Haitian vodou, Cree sweatlodge and Yuwipi ceremony, traditional Hungarian, Irish, Siberian, Sami, Seidr, Gaul, Bali Usada, Javanese Indonesian, Maori, Indigenous Australian,Indigenous Hawaiian, Andean Q’ero, and Amazonian Shipibo ceremonies. I have never taught or repeated any experiences, ceremonies, songs, or traditions for which I was invited to hold space, only those for which I have received teachings and permission to teach and incorporate in service after a rigorous learning and trust-earning process. In most places I have been in the world, the word ‘shaman’ seems to make its appearance, with the exception of North American, Maori, Hawaiian and Australian indigenous gatherings. The word ‘shaman’ has its foundation in the Tungusic Evenki peoples of Siberia and Mongolia. The presence of the word may have found its way through the world via the early people and nomadic movement, or the assignation of traditions as ‘shamanic’ by predominantly North American or European anthropologists. I have witnessed the humility and depth of sincerity with which this word has been carried.
From the time of greater presence of the internet in our lives, I have witnessed an expansion of this work, a great access of others to connect with me. At the same time, this access draws some to share feedback, some of it taking aim at me, with the assumption that I am participating in cultural appropriation because I have identified with the word ‘shamanism’. More recently, the discourse around the use of this word had me examining the deeper traumas being communicated to me through the angry feedback.
As is my nature, when I do not understand something, I ask questions. In this case, I engaged conversation with two Indigenous members of significant standing. Within these long conversations, I listened to the pain being communicated to me through the stories of racist violence and genocide. The appropriation of traditions and then the whitewashing of these traditions using the word ‘shamanism’ has become symbolic of abuse, of consumption of indigenous spirituality by people who have yet to halt the violence and atone for the generational layers of trauma imposed upon their people. I welcomed and was extremely grateful for the time spent in educating me on the impact of harm felt from the use of this word or forms of this word. I then contributed donations to the requested causes to reciprocate for the time and emotional labour of these two generous people.
As a village medicine woman, I cannot hold to an impact of harm if I know it can be avoided. And though I have long respectfully heard and used variations of the word ‘shamanism’, I will no longer use this word in association with any part of my work.
The term for a medicine person from the old stories of Tuatha Dé Danaan, the early mystical people of Ireland, is ‘Liaigh Sìdhe’. As I carry the Ancestral Irish teachings as an Irish descendant, I have asked and prayed for permission to carry this in reference to myself and my work.
This feels like a powerful step in the direction of diversity, villaging, and decolonization of my mind, heart, body, and spirit. It is with this release, this grief ritual, this welcomed healing I receive the Medicine of Place, drinking deeply.
May I come to earn this trust with my steadfast tending of the Land and Creaturehood of this Place.
I welcome you to hold me; my hands, my heart, and to my soul’s integrity.
May It Be So.