From the ground up

Construction is finally complete in our home some five months after our hot water heater burst in the early morning hours of Easter Monday.

My mate, son, and I have lived in 900 square feet these past months without too much trouble, though our bedroom has had to serve as my office. 

I work and sleep only an arm’s length away from my drum, a box of dried ears of ceremonial corn, my altar piled high with wild turkey feathers, cacao nibs, offering bowls, black copal, juniper, and sage, and a dresser which holds a bottle of rashaan (shamanic holy water), a jaw harp, and an offering spoon with a bright blue khadag ceremonial cloth tied to the end.

My ceremonial tools will no longer line the walls and walkways of my bedroom once I return to my work space–thank goddess!–but when I move back into my “office” the purpose and function of the room will be transformed into one dedicated to ritual, prayer, and healing.

During our time of exile, I’ve been studying the “practical shamanism of the nomads” under an English-speaking shaman from the Darkhad region of Mongolia. The word, “shamanism” as we use it in the West, in fact, hails from this region of the world. Hers is an intact shamanic lineage dating back some 12,000 years.

In this class, among other things, we have been practicing the ancient art of 41-stone divination. I explored questions related to the flood in readings with my classmates ranging from: Why did this happen? What’s the holdup on the insurance settlement? What am I trying to learn?

The readings had many repeating messages and they formed a curriculum of sorts for me over these past several months. One stone that showed up repeatedly in readings for me was the “twisted practice” stone. Twisted practice can refer to several things, but its primary meaning is that of changing religions.

From the Mongolian shamanic perspective, changing religions can cause difficulties in one’s life – health issues, accidents, challenges in one’s work (especially for a spiritual worker like me) – and can kindle the anger of our ancestors. In my case, I left Catholicism 18 years ago and never looked back.

Ironically, the teachings of a Mongolian shaman led me to evaluate what parts of my ancestral religious tradition I can honor and weave back into my life. Not throwing the baby out with the bathwater will enhance, rather than dilute, the power of my work as a shamanic practitioner.  After the learning journey of these past 5 months, I get it.

The stones also taught me that the flood waters were themselves significant, a message in their own right. Naga stones showed up repeatedly in my readings. Naga are nature spirits, guardians of waterways and mountains. Angering them results in a curse. 

Water in the basement of my home, filling and calling attention to the family subconscious, if you will, is a fitting message to come from the water-loving naga, but it was also puzzling. I haven’t done anything (beyond being an overconsuming citizen of the US) that would merit a curse of the nagas. What gives?

One day, reading a book, I came across a description of nagas and how their curses can affect whole bloodlines, even impacting several generations downstream from the original offense.

My maternal grandfather was employed by a construction company that built dams across the continental US, and his grandfather was an engineer who designed tunnels in the Swiss Alps. Obstructing waterways and boring tunnels through mountains? Yikes. Could this be the meaning of the naga stone showing up in the fire at the center of my family’s life?

My classmate asked the stones to show us more about the source of the naga curse. “Man” showed up in my suld or soul position. My soul, it seems, has been impacted by the actions of my grandfathers. These men, sweethearts in their own right, were confirmed as the source of the naga’s curse and the reason behind the floodwaters in my home and my family’s collective subconscious.

Making amends for the transgressions of my forefathers will likely take more than my remaining days, but this is the sort of spiritual work that faces us in the West in the age of climate collapse. 

I have ideas about how I will proceed, starting with a Mongolian fire ritual to cleanse our home and feed the naga. There are prayers I can say, offerings I can make at waterways and on mountains, forest therapy walks I can guide, and spiritual support I can provide to climate activists and victims of forest fires to begin my family’s long-deferred process of generational cleanup.

For each of us, the answers will be different, but to root deeply in spirit, to stand firm in the coming storms, and to help ameliorate those storms at their source is to take time for practices that aim to reweave the tapestry of reciprocal relationships that once existed between us and the ancestors, the land, deities, and the human community. I am cooking up a series of classes to help us practice just that, kicking off with the ancestors later this fall.

In Mongolian culture, the ger, or yurt, is a microcosm of the cosmos. The fire lives in the center of the home, as the sacred center does in each of us. One only walks sunwise within the home, creating a circle within the larger circle that the sun weaves around the ger. Circles within circles, centers within centers, the fire of life is made strong with repeated ritual action and memory.

For the next couple of weeks, my family will be engaged in remediating our belongings for mold, painting rooms, establishing altars, and doing a fire ritual to appease the naga. First, we clean up in here. Then, we can help with the clean-up out there.

As we rebuild our lives and my shamanic practice from the ground up, I am profoundly grateful for each of you and for your participation in the Gaia Shamanism community. Thank you for being on this journey with me.


You are invited to journey on whatever is most alive for you this week. And if you don’t know what that might be, come and find out.

I hope you can join us for the journey circle this Wednesday, September 12, from 4-6 pm PDT/ 7-9 pm EDT.


Feel free to email me at anna “at” gaiashamanism “dot” com for this week’s zoom invitation.  All skill levels are welcome.

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