Journey of a Medicine Woman
Ancient and mystical healing practices still exist in many of the world’s ancient cultures largely because these cultures have retained a close relationship with the earth. Such peoples have developed, over many generations, various complex and powerful systems for psychic, emotional, and spiritual healing. These Shamans provide spiritual leadership for their people, helping them to cope with the trials of existence within the physical world.
Often, these sacred leaders leave their bodies and travel to communicate with spirit helpers and other beings for the purpose of obtaining knowledge, power, or healing. In most cases, such a spiritual leader is chosen or called, and then often passes down the knowledge to their children or other initiates through many generations. In South Africa, Sangomas continue such ancient practices, and in New Mexico, in the United States, Medicine Men and Women of the Cherokee and many other tribes, continue to impart this ancient wisdom through their sacred practices.
An introduction into tradition…
Patsy Finger, a South African who recently returned to South Africa after 16 years living in the USA, was called, during her stay there, to be trained and initiated by a Native American Medicine Woman, and quite suddenly found herself immersed in the ancient and sacred practices of the Star Nation People – also known as the Cherokee.
Patsy’s first encounter with shamanism took place in the hills of Kwa-Zulu Natal in the early 70’s when she was a young woman on site with her boss who was completing a construction project in this remote area. Her boss persuaded her to visit a well-respected Sangoma in the area, and she reluctantly agreed. The experience was a frightening one for her at that time, but what she remembers well is that the Sangoma looked at her and her boss and announced that they would marry and have two girls. They weren’t even dating at the time, but the prophecy came to pass.
Many years later, Patsy and her husband moved to Boca Raton, Florida, where she qualified as a yoga teacher under the guidance of her brother-in-law, Alan Finger, who is a very well known yogi in New York and a leading proponent of ISHTA yoga. During a private yoga session, Patsy was trying to help her student through a particularly difficult challenge, when she suddenly fell into a trance and began to talk about crystals, imparting sacred wisdom around their healing qualities. The remarkable reality about this was that Patsy had never received any training around crystals and knew very little about them. She had no idea where this information had come from, but was later able to verify that the wisdom she had imparted was accurate. In a state excitement and disbelief Patsy knew she was being summoned toward something.
Patsy’s friend and partner at her yoga school, Tracy Chamoun, encouraged Patsy to take action. A sacred “knowing” took over, and the two women immediately felt compelled to leave for Taos, New Mexico, in search of Standing Deer, a well-known medicine man in that area who worked with the Native American ancient knowledge of crystals. She describes being “flung into a state of movement and ‘doing’ that was beyond thinking”.
They were met with unexpected resistance from the local people when trying to locate their revered medicine man, Standing Deer. Native Americans often are very protective of their culture and sacred practices, understandably so, given the history of devastation at the hands of the invading culture, Patsy explained. Patsy simply laughed at the irony and went to visit a local crystal shop. As Patsy browsed the shelves of beautiful crystals, she noticed a spider descending from the ceiling directly in front of a bulletin board. The spider abruptly stopped its descent, her attention drawn to a single business card tacked to the bulletin board amidst hundreds of others. It said “Grandmother Jean, Medicine woman”.
Patsy knew at once she needed to call Grandmother Jean. After a single ring, a woman answered the phone saying, “Come right over, sweetie, I’ve been expecting your call.” Patsy and her partner then visited Grandmother Jean, whom she laughingly describes as “totally and utterly mad.” Mad perhaps in the eyes of a conventional, modern and cynical world, but, as Patsy and Tracy were about to discover, she carried the vast and profound wisdom of a 10th generation Star Nation Medicine Woman. The Cherokee are a matriarchal society so, as it turns out, the women carry the wisdom and wield the power.
About the Cherokee
The Cherokee believe they are descended from people who came from the stars many years ago, to create humans and teach them the wisdom and power of crystals, among other things. Thus, they call themselves the Star Nation – they are intricately in touch with what they call Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Grandmother moon. They are masters of using all the physical senses to their fullest, in order to achieve a transcendent state that is simultaneously connected to Mother Earth.
When Patsy and Tracy arrived at Grandmother Jean’s house, there was an instant connection. Her house was filled with crystals as well as animal skins, as the Cherokee believe that animals hold sacred energies and powers. Grandmother Jean immediately wanted to perform a crystal healing ceremony on Patsy, and this is how Patsy described this profound and life-changing experience, which was also witnessed by her friend:
I was told to lie down on a bear skin, and was then covered with various animal skins, and cleansed with sage smoke. Then, Grandmother Jean called in all my ancestors, and the sacred spirits of the Star Nation. She danced around me, chanting, beating drums, and making lots of noise. I was going deeper and deeper into a trance, and then Grandmother Jean suddenly slapped my hands and placed a huge crystal in each hand. As those crystals were put into my hands, I literally shot up into a sitting position and felt a Native American Head-dress on my head. I began to chant loudly and continuously in the Cherokee language, although I had no idea what I was saying! Grandmother Jean was very happy about this, and she continued to dance and chant around me as I carried on, as though it was the most normal thing in the world for me to be sitting up, in a trance, and screeching! I held my arms up, a heavy crystal in each hand, for about an hour. Now, who could do this if they weren’t in a profound trance state? My friend, Tracy, witnessed all of this, and says that she saw many colourful lights appear in the room throughout the session.
Shortly after this powerful experience, Grandmother Jean decided to train both Patsy and Tracy and initiate them into the Cherokee tradition of crystal healing and medicine. Grandmother Jean believed she had been reunited with important kindred spirits, and adopted both of them as her spiritual grandchildren, so that she could continue the sacred lineage.
Patsy describes Grandmother Jean as having a joyfully open mind and heart and it was perhaps because of this that she could see straight into the hearts of these two women, and easily look beyond the superficial racial and cultural differences. Because of this incredibly open attitude, Grandmother Jean loves to travel the world, generously sharing her profound spiritual wisdom and that of the Star Nation. Where some Native Americans are incredibly protective of the culture and spiritual beliefs and strive to keep them only within their own people, Grandmother Jean freely imparts her wisdom and also draws on other traditions and integrates them into her own practices. She strongly believes that we all need to learn from each other. She has visited the Mayans of South America, the Maori of Australia and New Zealand, and many other Native American peoples. She has also visited India and Europe. “In her teachings,” Patsy says, “she has become ‘yoganised’ and Westernised in all that she calls in. She has become a truly modern Cherokee healer, and understands how to blend the world’s religions and spiritual traditions.” When she is at home in Taos, New Mexico, she works tirelessly on women’s empowerment programmes, helping to uplift the local communities.
Grandmother Jean visited Patsy at her home in Florida initially for a 3 month period, during which she trained both Patsy and Tracy for several hours each day to build and sharpen their healing skills. “Being her adoptive grand-children gave Grandmother Jean an excuse to boss us around all the time,” says Patsy, laughing. She would spend hours on end placing crystals in their hands and demanding to know all about them purely from an intuitive and experiential space, and never from an intellectual one. Grandmother Jean taught the women how to truly become one with Mother Earth, and to see subtle aspects of nature that they never imagined existed. For example, trees are the “standing people,” and one can learn to communicate with them. The presence of animals delivers various energies. A wolf brings protection, where a deer offers a nurturing energy.
Even insects can bring various messages and energies. Patsy describes a silent walk that she went on with a group of women, where she saw dung beetles everywhere she looked. Because of her training, she knew it was significant, and that Mother Earth was sending a message. Dung beetles move excrement and bury it in the Earth, fertilising the soil. Patsy had been going through a difficult time with her husband’s serious illness and was being shown that she must accept this painful process and have faith that it will disappear into the Earth. Thankfully, it did, and her husband recovered soon after that. Incidentally, not one of the other people on the walk saw a single dung beetle. “The appearance of any animal, especially an unusual one or an unusual number of one, is always a message from Mother Earth and Grandmother Jean taught me to be in tune with this at all times,” says Patsy. Shortly after my interview with Patsy, I noticed many Ladybirds in my bedroom, in the middle of winter, and realised that it must be significant. Research revealed that Ladybirds signal good luck, wish fulfillment, and clarity. Soon after noticing them, I did begin to see clarity on an issue with which I had been struggling and which had been confusing and frustrating me!
Patsy and Tracy completed many months of demanding training with Grandmother Jean, until she was satisfied that the two women could perform the sacred ceremonies and healings on their own. Practices included intricate ceremonies during the full moon; healing circles; journeying, during which they would sometimes “shape shift” into various animals and seek divine wisdom; and sweat lodges, where people sit in a teepee, breathe in sacred smoke and literally sweat. This practice is said to be very intensely illuminating, although often physically difficult to experience. Patsy became a “Reverend” with the authority to marry people and carry out other types of both official and sacred ceremonies.
Patsy moved back to South Africa in 2011 after 16 years in Florida. Although it was a difficult change, Patsy remains assured that she is meant to do important work at this time in the land of her birth. Indeed, we are truly blessed to have Patsy in close proximity, with access to all her gifts and wisdom. As a yoga teacher, divine wisdom flows effortlessly through her, as her students will attest. As a reader and crystal healer, she offers profound healing and insight. Like Grandmother Jean, Patsy has effortlessly integrated all of her spiritual training and life experiences with the wisdom she gained during her training and initiation as a Medicine Woman, resulting in a profound ability to provide spiritual leadership to her students and clients. Her joyful and child-like nature inspires her pupils and clients to laugh more, accept what the moment offers, and, most importantly, to allow life to flow through them.
By Debbie Banda
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