The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life - Sandra Ingerman MA 2018
Blessing and Healing Ceremonies for Places
Life as a Ceremony
As your proficiency with ceremony increases, you’ll be able to perform longer ceremonial work that might stretch over days or weeks. Eventually, you’ll integrate ceremony into each day, so you live in harmony with the sacred. This chapter will help you focus bringing ceremony into your everyday life.
While conducting research for my second book, Welcome Home: Following Your Soul’s Journey Home, I found a reference in the ethnographic literature about shamans calling back the soul of crops. This led me to a new line of thinking, expanding my work from performing soul retrievals on people and other nature beings to returning the soul of the places where we live and work.
Performing soul retrievals for people and nature beings is beyond the scope of this book. These powerful healing ceremonies for people and other living beings who have suffered a trauma require serious and committed training in performing shamanic healing work. Yet I have found that the practice of performing soul retrievals for places is easier to learn and can have remarkable results.
The definition of soul is “essence” or “life force.” Our homes have a soul, as does the land we live on, buildings, cities, and so on.
When we engage in deep spiritual work, we develop greater awareness of the energy around us. We can feel the difference between entering a house filled with sterile or toxic energy and walking into a home that is vibrant and alive. The same is true with places—including the land we live on, the offices we work in, the neighborhoods we live in, and our cities.
In shamanic cultures, homes and structures are built with attention to honoring all the materials used. Every stone is blessed. Trees are blessed before cutting them down for wood. Songs are sung while building to fill the home with good energy.
Today we tend to build as cheaply and quickly as possible without paying attention to the materials or honoring the essence of the home or building.
Sometimes homes, buildings, and the land where we live do not contain vital energy because they are not spiritually honored. Land can be traumatized through war or violence.
You can perform ceremonies to call back and honor the soul of a house, building, office, or land that has been traumatized or neglected. Ceremony can restore harmony, peace, and a sense of beauty and vitality. In this way, the places where you live and work reflect back the strength and beauty of your soul.
Singing back the soul of a home, land, or place is a classic shamanic way to work.
BLESSING A HOME
In the 1980s, I was traveling to and teaching at about forty weekend workshops per year. I was not in Santa Fe much, but friends invited me to stay in their guest house when I was home. I lived in a tiny room that had a desk, a chair, and a bed built into the wall.
I met with clients in this room, and we could just about fit. If they brought family or friends for support, we had to crowd on the floor together, which always ended up being a wonderful bonding experience.
I handwrote my first book, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, on the desk in my room. I lived and worked in this room for about five years, and I felt it was immersed with powerful healing energy. I truly wanted to live in that tiny room forever.
When the family I lived with announced they were moving, I was traumatized. I could not imagine leaving my sacred space.
I moved into my partner’s home, where he had built a new office for me to work in. Before moving, I journeyed for a ceremony that I could perform to help me energetically move from my precious sanctuary to my new office.
I was guided to rattle and chant. A song flowed through me effortlessly. While chanting, I imagined winding the positive energy of the room into my rattle. I continued chanting until I felt no more spiritual energy in the room. I took the rattle to my new office and chanted another song that flowed from my soul while shaking out all the collected healing energy in the rattle into my new office.
This ceremony worked for me. I felt like my new office was filled with the years of good healing energy I had generated in my former room. I continued my ceremony with building a new altar in my office, bringing in flowers and sacred objects that honored my new healing space.
The new owners of my friends’ house were spiritual healers. They shared with me that they bought the house because of the energy in my office. When I met the husband at a social gathering, he asked me where the energy in my office went. I replied, “I took it with me.” We talked together for a while and joked a lot about this. The couple who bought the house were well-known healers who knew it was their responsibility to fill the space with their own sacred energy.
DANIELA BLESSES HER APARTMENT
Daniela was excited about moving into her new apartment and desired to make it a living sanctuary. She invited over friends. She had visited a park beforehand and collected sacred objects from nature. Her friends brought gifts of rocks, crystals, and flowers. She performed her ceremony on the new moon, when the energy of new beginnings is strong.
Everyone drummed and rattled softly so as not to disturb the neighbors while Daniela called in the helping spirits of the apartment and the building. She welcomed and greeted the directions and honored her compassionate ancestors and the helping ancestors of the land.
Daniela burned sage and took her group around each room of the apartment to clear any stagnant energy. She burned lovely lavender incense to call in the sweetness of life. Each friend contributed a gift from nature. Daniela and her friends connected with a divine force, then blew blessings with their words and energy into a rock, crystal, or flower.
Together they found nooks and crannies around the apartment to place these inspirited objects from nature. Daniela placed some of the sacred objects on her new altar, reflecting this transition.
Once done, they celebrated with food and by sharing stories and blessings for Daniela as she began a new phase of her life. The ceremony ended with singing songs, and Daniela luxuriated alone, enjoying her new sanctuary.
BRYCE AND ROBIN’S NEW HOME BLESSING
Bryce and Robin bought a home for their family. Though their finances were tight, they managed to find a house at a low price that had been on the market for years. They felt lucky to buy a house in a good neighborhood with good schools nearby for their three kids. But they were not in love with the house. It had a dark energy, and did not feel cozy or warm.
Before moving in, they invited friends and family to come over. Everyone was delighted that Bryce and Robin had found a place they could afford, but everyone could also feel the strangely lifeless energy of the house.
Bryce and Robin were students of shamanism, and they used the tools they had learned about ceremony to bring back the soul of the house to transform it into a true home filled with love and sweet energies. They asked their friends and family to entertain the possibility that spiritual methods could transform the energy of the house. They explained the basics of performing a ceremony, the need to release their daily thoughts, open to the power of love, and greet divine forces who would work in partnership to create their desired outcome.
Everyone was game. The first idea presented by a friend was to use the elements of ceremony to repaint the house. With each brushstroke, friends and family members shared love for the house in their own way.
First, the energy of the house was cleared through smudging—burning sage to clear out the stale energies. The energy in the house was in no way malicious. It just lacked light and a warm, inviting feeling.
Bryce and Robin stated an appropriate intention for their diverse group. People sang as they painted. Bryce and Robin spoke to the spirit of the house and asked it to return, and some people breathed out the energy of love into the paint that was being used. They completed necessary repairs while sending love to the house.
Loved ones brought simple but colorful decorations before Bryce and Robin moved in their furniture. When they were done, the house exuded a glow that impressed them all. They felt so good there, and no one wanted to leave.
Love heals all living things—including our homes.
CALLING BACK THE SOUL OF AN OFFICE
Office buildings today are not built with a consciousness of blessing the building materials, respect for the beauty of the building, or honor for the land and its ancestral spirits.
People who are sensitive to their surroundings pick up the lack of energy of their workplace and might not feel invigorated, at peace, harmonious, or supported by the lack of soul of a building or office.
Some businesses might embrace the idea of employees organizing a blessing ceremony to bring vital energy into a building. For other businesses, it might feel inappropriate to perform a ceremony with drums, rattles, and incense. In most cases, there are ways to create a low-key ceremony for calling back the soul of an office.
Remember, intention is key with a ceremony. An elaborate ceremony is not always needed. A very simple ceremony can let the spirit of a place know it is being honored while its soul is restored.
CHARLES CALLS BACK THE SOUL OF HIS OFFICE
Charles spent many years studying to be a psychotherapist. He had a strong personal practice of working through his emotional issues and was diligent about taking care of his health. He began working at an agency with teens at risk.
Though he loved his work and was gifted at it, Charles dreaded going to work each day. He felt unwell in his office environment. He could not put his finger on the problem, but he knew it felt soulless, and he had to fight to keep his energy bright enough to fully engage with his clients. He felt drained by the energy of the building.
Although his agency was open to alternative ways of working, Charles didn’t think he could broach the topic of negative energy with coworkers. He could see the lack of life in his coworkers’ eyes, but he was not ready to talk to them about calling back the soul of the office.
Charles performed a simple ceremony fueled by his intention. He brought in fresh flowers every day. When he placed the flowers on his desk and in different parts of the office, he offered a silent prayer while calling back the soul of his office. He breathed deeply and imagined speaking to the energy of the building. He expressed his love and respect for this place where teens could come and experience deep care and healing from the therapists, and he focused on making the office a warm and sacred space for this essential work.
Charles placed objects from nature on his desk, filling the objects with prayers, words, and blessing thoughts, such as, “May all our clients feel loved and supported.”
These small acts of blessing flowers and objects from nature for the building changed Charles’s perception of his office.
Before leaving the office for the day, he said a prayer, releasing out of opened windows any energy that was not filled with love, light, harmony, beauty, joy, honor, and respect. This was his way of clearing the space, making it ready for the work of the next day.
Charles turned this simple ceremony of clearing and bringing in flowers into a daily practice. In time, he felt that the energy truly reflected a bright vibration that would light up everyone who entered the office. Once he felt the change take hold, he switched from a daily practice to performing his ceremony whenever he felt it was needed, or during special times such as the new and full moon.
The air in the office was no longer stale. There was a sweet fragrance birthed by the new sacred and vital energy. Charles perceived that his coworkers looked brighter, more energetic, and more joyous. He felt that his ceremony was successful in retrieving the life force of the building.
BLESSINGS FOR LAND
Land can be traumatized, and the soul of the land can be lost. Sometimes the trauma of violence on land can create energies that need to be cleared. But unless you have a good, solid base of shamanic teachings you can call on, do not start clearing negative energy on land. Discarnate souls who died on the land can inhabit your body and create a possession or illness. You need to be well trained in the art of filling yourself with divine light or the power of your helping spirits. This is work where you would want to call in experienced shamanic healers.
I will share resources where you can find an international list of trained shamanic practitioners who can perform clearing ceremonies for the land either by visiting the land or working remotely through a virtual ceremony. In shamanism, we work outside of time and space, so remote healing typically works as well as traveling to the land physically.
Even if you aren’t trained to clear the trauma of a place, you can certainly bless land. You might have had the experience of walking onto a piece of land and getting a physical sensation in your body that the land you are walking on is lifeless and soulless. You may notice the trees and plants do not look healthy, and the land is devoid of any birds or animal life. There is a sense that some energy is missing.
How can you tell if land has experienced soul loss? Sometimes we anthropomorphize—we see destruction caused by natural disaster, and our own sorrow leads us to think the land has suffered soul loss. This is not always the case. The land might be healed and regenerated by the climatic event that will birth new growth.
An experienced shamanic practitioner can perform a journey to a helping spirit to diagnose if the land has lost its soul or if it is simply going through a process of evolution. Even if you aren’t trained in this practice, you can still bless the land through ceremony. If a soul retrieval is needed, the soul will return during the blessing ceremony. Your ceremony can be as simple as drumming, rattling, and singing or chanting as you tell the land how much you love, honor, and respect it and make a commitment to care for it. It could be as simple as creating sacred cairns around the property, bringing in a state of soulfulness.
Whatever your background or the belief system of your community, always begin your invocation with the one I shared in chapter 3: “This is a circle of strength. This is a circle of power. We have gathered together in love and light to support each other as we do our important work to heal ourselves, all in the web of life, and for the Earth. We join our hearts together in love. And only that which is of the light is welcomed into our circle.” This simple invocation ensures any spiritual energies on the land that need healing do not impact the health of anyone present at the ceremony. If you don’t specify, any spirits might come. They might be discarnate souls who need healing. Use discipline with your invocations, and you and your community can work safely and leave free of any unwelcome energies.
CATHY AND RICARDO’S LAND CLEARING
Cathy and Ricardo felt a sense of soullessness on a piece of land near their home. This touched their heart deeply. They felt a despair and lack of vitality in the land. They were acutely aware of the lack of animal and bird life that should be inhabiting the land. They performed a shamanic journey to their helping spirits to ask for a ceremony to retrieve the soul of their land.
Based on the guidance they received, they invited friends to perform a fire ceremony to call back the soul of the land. Due to drought conditions, they could not safely build an open fire, but they used a barbecue to control the flames and made sure the fire was fully out when done. Their friends brought their children, which added an element of joy.
Everyone showed up with a shamanic instrument to play. Cathy and Ricardo took turns greeting the helping spirits, the directions, the benevolent ancestors of the land, and the Hidden Folk—the devic realm, fairies, elves, forest guardians, and angels.
After the invocation, they drummed and danced until they felt filled with love, light, and the divine power of the universe. Feeling a shift in consciousness, each participant found a stick that they could empower with a blessing for the land. Each stick was placed in the fire with the intention of the fire bringing their prayers and blessings to the spirit of the land, calling its essence home. They sang to the land, spoke to it, and expressed their love.
Afterward, they lay on the ground, gazed at the beauty of the moon and the stars, and imagined the land vibrant and glowing. They felt an enormous change in the energy that was now embracing them as they honored the land. The children danced and talked about all the fairies and bright blue orbs of light that showed up during the ceremony.
Over time, Cathy and Ricardo saw changes in the land. They spotted deer and foxes sometimes. The trees became healthier, a variety of plant life started growing, and the land was blessed with the beauty of birdsong.
JANIS SINGS BACK THE SOUL OF HER LAND
Janis lived in a location where she felt a strong intuition that the land had lost its soul. She created a medicine wheel out of stones to create a symbol that represented an opening for the soul’s return.
Janis gathered friends, and they walked around the medicine wheel, singing to the compassionate ancestors of the land while calling back the soul of the land. They rattled and sang to the birds, the insects, the animals, and the plants while asking them to return. They allowed their songs to be inspirited, letting them spontaneously emerge. They whistled throughout the ceremony to call back the soul of the land and other nature beings.
They left offerings of corn meal and sacred herbs. They sat around the medicine wheel feeling the wind sharing messages with them for the healing work they did for the land. The warmth of the sun felt so supportive. The elements worked with them in cooperation to make their work successful. They felt that connecting with the flow of their inner spirit created communication with the soul of the land. As their songs flowed, the song of the land started to flow and emerge too.
CALLING BACK THE SOUL OF A CITY OR COMMUNITY
When I teach my Five-Day Soul Retrieval Training, we spend an afternoon journeying on how to call back the soul of a home, office, business, land, city, or community. I have collected wonderful case studies since introducing this work in 1990.
Remember, time only exists in our dimension of reality. The beauty of shamanic journeying is that we can travel outside of time to meet our compassionate ancestors in the unseen realms. I discovered during my practice and teaching that we can also journey to the people in the future who will be the descendants of the Earth. We will be their ancestors. We can receive valuable guidance from the helping spirits from the past and future in the timeless, nonordinary realms.
I’ve taught students to journey to compassionate ancestral spirits or descendants to ask for ceremonies to return the soul of a place. I’ve found that the ancestors cannot always understand why a house does not have a soul. In their time, so much attention was focused on the soul of the home by being conscious of the materials and energy used during the building process. But the ancestors can share a wealth of information on how to call back the soul of the land.
The descendants in the future have already seen what our modern day culture is lacking in not respecting the soul of structures, land, communities, and cities. I’ve found the descendants to be generous with sharing ways to heal the land and cities we live in.
If you have a shamanic journey practice, you can set your intention to journey back in time to ask helping ancestral spirits how to retrieve the soul of a piece of land, a city, or a community. You can also journey into the future and speak to the compassionate descendants. You do not need to journey to a particular ancestor or descendant. You can journey to ancestors or descendants in general, inviting in a group or an individual who is willing to share advice on designing a ceremony.
Here is the intention I use for such a journey: “Compassionate ancestors (or descendants), please come. Show me a ceremony that can be done to bring the soul of__________.” Fill in the blank by identifying the structure, land, community, or city you intend to help.
Of course, you can also journey to your helping spirit to ask for a ceremony to perform.
The ceremonies that come through these journeys are quite spectacular. There is so much wisdom that the helping spirits, the ancestors, and descendants wish to share so that we can live and work in healthier environments.
If you do not journey, take a meditative walk in nature or listen to some spiritual music as you let your intuition and imagination be your guide in designing a ceremony.
ELISE GATHERS HER COMMUNITY TO PERFORM A SOUL RETRIEVAL FOR THEIR CITY
Elise designed a ceremony to return the soul of the city she lived in. She was inspired by some of the ceremonies I shared in Welcome Home: Following Your Soul’s Journey Home. Although shy about public speaking, she found the courage to share this powerful healing work in her community.
Elise posted fliers in a variety of public places, inviting people to participate in a ceremony to call back the soul of their city. Everyone was invited to bring flowers, foods, or offerings that felt appropriate. Elise was impressed by how many people showed up for the ceremony.
Elise explained about the power of ceremony and how it could help to heal their city and community. She used an invocation with prayers that would not contradict anyone’s religious beliefs.
All the offerings were placed in the middle of the circle of people that had formed. Everyone was invited to sing blessings or speak prayers into the offerings.
Individuals and families took some of the blessed offerings to leave in different parts of the city with the intention of calling the soul back of the city. They held the energy of love and deep appreciation for their city. Each offering held a message for the soul of the city to welcome it back home. Elise allotted a reasonable amount of time to spread out the offerings. She also set up a time for people to process their work and close the ceremony.
What came out of performing such a ceremony was that people who lived in the city woke up to the fact that their city had a soul that needed to be loved, honored, and respected. Elise also felt the power of working together as a community in ceremony instead of doing it alone. She and others who participated realized the issues we face on the planet today call for groups of people to work together in cooperation and collaboration to create positive change. The responsibility no longer lies in the hands of the few. The issues we are facing need our collective energy and power to improve circumstances for all in the web of life and the Earth.
A SPIRIT BOAT JOURNEY OR MEDITATION
If you work with a group, the Spirit Boat journey is a wonderful virtual ceremony you can perform. As I shared in the introduction, some of the ceremonies in this book will speak more to shamanic practitioners. Even if you are not experienced with shamanism, know that I have successfully led this practice as a guided meditation using all the elements of ceremony you’ve been learning.
Travel to your virtual altar, where you will be spiritually cleansed before entering in sacred space. Form a circle, appreciating the beauty of the altar—the gifts left, the candles burning, the fragrances. Invite in the compassionate spirits.
Envision a large Spirit Boat placed in the altar space by the helping spirits. This beautiful craft has seats for everyone, all facing the same direction. Note how entering this boat and facing the same way powerfully focuses your intent to work together with your group, aligning your collective energy toward a shared goal.
Once everyone is settled in the boat, journey together to the land, city, or community in need of a soul retrieval. On arrival, step out of the boat and stand on the land. Share love and appreciation for the helping ancestral spirits and the land, city, or community. Leave gifts and sing songs calling back the soul. The helping spirits might give specific directions to include in the ceremony.
Once finished, return to the boat. Continue journeying to the moon, the stars, and the sun for inspirational messages. Return with inspiration and hope to the altar room. Share how it felt to participate in the ceremony. Thank the helping spirits and return home, making sure everyone is fully back and grounded.
Working with a Spirit Boat ceremony is a powerful way to travel through the unseen realms as a group. There are many ways to improvise on this ceremony to travel as a group to perform healings on people, places, and all of life.
USING THE SPIRIT BOAT JOURNEY IN THE PHYSICAL REALMS
The Spirit Boat journey is just as powerful when performed in a physical space. Everyone gathered in the ceremonial space sits on the floor or in chairs forming the physical outline of a boat. Each person sits touching either the shoulder or back of the person in front of them. The ceremonial leader chooses the direction for the boat, typically facing toward the place you will be journeying to.
Volunteer drummers keep up the beat, helping people stay in a nonordinary state of consciousness while they travel to do the intended healing work.
Working with a Spirit Boat in ceremony is a lovely way for a group to journey together and share their experiences as they travel to a location, to a person who is ill, to the planets, stars, and sun. Once complete, the drummers change the drumbeat to let the group know that it is time to turn the boat around and return.
BLESSINGS FOR WATER
Ceremonies can also be used to bless and heal earth, air, and water. These elements give us life. Unconscious people, businesses, and governments don’t respect that if they pollute the water we drink, the earth that provides the food we eat, and the air we breathe, that all of life becomes ill. There are many bodies of water—rivers, lakes, streams, and the ocean—that are in need of deep healing because they were contaminated with toxins and waste poured into them by unconscious humans.
RETURNING THE SOUL OF THE RIO GRANDE
I was invited to present at a conference in Santa Fe. The conference was sponsored by a well-known Native American leader of the Santa Clara Pueblo. This pueblo is outside of Santa Fe and is located on the Rio Grande River. Native peoples in the Southwest believe that the Rio Grande is the main heart artery of the Earth. The health of the Rio Grande is vital to the health of the planet. Like most sacred rivers, chemicals are constantly being dumped into the Rio Grande.
The conference was small and was attended by a group of Forest Service workers who were all Hispanic. There were also members of different Native American tribes, such as the Hopi and Navajo, and a few Anglo people were also present.
I lectured on how we could perform a ceremony to call back the soul of the Rio Grande. The men present from the Forest Service snored loudly during my lecture, but once the actual ceremony began, they engaged with full passion and energy.
I brought a big bowl of water and set it on a small altar that I placed on the stage in the room. I asked everyone to gather around the bowl of water. I shared that we are a reflection of the great Creator, filled with spiritual light. I invited each person to travel inside and experience their starlight or sunlight shining through and radiating as they focused on the bowl of water and their love of the Rio Grande. Everyone was asked to perceive the water present as pristine, pure, and healthy.
I toned by chanting vowels. I find toning helps people stay focused on shining their inner light. As I toned, the Native Americans present chanted in their own languages. The Forest Service workers started praying in Spanish. Everyone was obviously moved and touched as they focused on their honor and love for the Rio Grande. Once we were all silent, I closed the ceremony.
Everyone present was asked to fill up a little bottle I provided with water from the bowl. The attendees, who had gathered from Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, took their bottle of water to a local spot on the Rio Grande to feed the river with the love, light, and prayers from our small circle.
I have led adaptations of the Rio Grande ceremony. Place a bowl or glass of water on your altar. Journey or meditate to experience your inner starlight or sunlight radiating through you as you perceive the water on your altar in its divine perfection and light. For beyond what is happening on a physical level, on a spiritual level, all of life on this Earth is light and perfect as it is. Tone, chant, or sit in silence, radiating your light while focusing on how much you love Water.
Afterward, bring the blessed water to a body of water where you live. If there is no local water nearby, you can imagine placing it into a body of water in the unseen realms. All water is connected and feels our love and prayers. Take a sip of this sacred water yourself. Notice how sweet and smooth it tastes. When we radiate our light, all the waters of the world light up, reflecting back our light and divinity.