Christina Pratt answers the question:
What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?
Well, I actually had this act of kindness recently that was so surprising it left me speechless. And I'm so rarely left speechless I thought I would share this story. The context for the story is I am at my shamanic community's annual gathering. My shamanic community is basically organized around my teachings, which are not even a generation old, so it's a very young tradition. It doesn't have a lineage. So I always feel a little sad... we don't have our myths yet… we don't have our heraldic banners yet. We don't have stories like Norse stories of Odin and Thor and Loki and Freya. We don't have Raven stealing back the Sun for the people or all these great stories yet. We're just starting, we're just trying to figure it out. We don't have what would be our traditional celebration clothing, or any of that stuff. Honestly, I joke in my own head with myself that if I were to write an autobiography of my life it would be called The Naked Shaman, because I just feel so naked of all the richness and beauty that we find in these different shamanic cultures around the world.
Prior to this gathering of my own community, for many years I was gathering with a colleague of mine with his community up in Canada, and he had these amazing artists in his community and they always painted him these incredible big, you know like four by six, massive heraldic banners of the helping spirits that were part of their cosmology. I always had banner envy when I was there. I was like, "Oh, man, when are we going to get this stuff?" I was always kind of just feeling naked, basically.
Fast-forward to this community gathering and we're in upstate New York. It's winter time, it's January, we're in the middle of an ice storm, and I walk into the big room that we're renting, that we're coming together in, and utterly unbeknownst to me, two community members have made heraldic banners for our cosmology. This was so thrilling for me to look around this room and see literally all the way around this room there are something like two dozen banners of these different teachers, and the elements that we work with, the different teachers in our cosmology. All of them were represented and done in a way that we're not appropriating anybody else's ideas. That has always been part of the sticking point is, how do we really be a new tradition when everything's been done and you don't want to take anybody's stuff?
This one student, through her own journeys and visions, had gone and asked for images for all of the teachers that look very much like they could be cave paintings, and so we have our own images for all of the teachers and all of the elements. Anyway, it was magnificent, and there's all these stories about coincidence of how it came together. The whole fact of these banners was this amazing celebration of shamanic teachings coming together, even to the point of going to Macy's, or some department store, and having scarves on sale. The woman who was making the banners was able to find two dozen different, brightly colored, long women's scarves, neck scarves, that are these long tails on the banners. So anyway, so these are hanging up around the room. It's wonderful. It's celebratory. I could not be happier, and as far as I'm concerned, my banner envy is over. I am happy.
We're in the middle of, I don't know, the second night of our event, and we're about to go into this storytelling function in the process of crossing over the first person in our community who has died. We're in the process of bringing her in as a true ancestral helping spirit for the community. And one of the steps in that process is to create a fire and sit all night around the fire and tell stories about this person and their life. I didn't really know why because I'd never... I mean, I knew why technically... but I didn't ever have the experience of really doing it and really feeling why.
What I came to realize as we were doing this part of this ritual process that takes a couple of days is the reason why is, first you tell the stories that are about how great the person was and then you tell the stories about how the person dealt with challenges in their life, and then you really see who the person was. Then you start telling the kind of off-color stories that start to reveal how the person was so deeply human.
Anyways, this beautiful night. Again, could not be happier because I'm seeing how people that never knew this woman who had passed away in the community, the younger generations in the community now knew this woman. And when she came to us as an ancestral helping spirit, everybody would know her. I mean, it was just a magnificent night. Nothing could happen that would have made me happier.
And then one of the organizers goes, "Oh, I forgot, we have a gift for you." I'm like, "Okay," and I'm so happy at this moment, receiving a gift is... I can't even imagine what could make this moment better. And this was just a gift of kindness, just, "We had this crazy idea and we did this for you. We thought you might like it."
I open up this bundle, which proves to be a throw, you know a blanket, just a little throw blanket, with all of the images from the banners, all around in the north, south, east, west organization of the cosmology, with the next level of teachers in the center and the true love energy in the very center of the cosmology. All the banners organized on one blanket made just for me. I was absolutely speechless. It was the most amazing, loving, unexpected gift I think I have ever received in my entire life. And in the context of receiving it, I could see myself naked in my coffin, wrapped in that blanket, wrapped in my life's work, going on my way to become a true ancestral helping spirit for these people. It was just this moment of inspiration and kindness, offered at this time where that gift is not only an altar cloth I love using in my life living, but it became this way to go on that last journey, not quite so naked. So that’s my story.
Christina Pratt is a shamanic healer, author, and teacher of exceptional clarity, humor, and practicality. Her mission is to draw on the foundational wisdom of ancient peoples, so we can rise with innovation and creativity to meet the challenges of our time.
She is pioneering new shamanic techniques to deal with the illnesses of our times. Her current focus is healing our ancestral lines to release the growing burden on the living, of the unresolved energies of the dead, and the initiation of our young into spiritual adulthood.
Christina is the founder of Last Mask Center for Shamanic Healing in Portland, Oregon, which has offered classes in contemporary life skills and shamanic healing for 30 years for individuals, families, and communities — including The Cycle of Transformation, a rigorous, 4-year training. She is a founding member of the 10-year-old transformation focused community centered around these teachings and their impact as medicine in our time.
Christina is the host of the international, live Internet radio show, “Why Shamanism Now,” and the author of the 2-volume set, An Encyclopedia of Shamanism. She has been a speaker at virtual summits on shamanism presented by both The Shift Network and Sounds True.
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This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 19: Personality Typing Summit