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Initiation

 

     In the life of almost anyone I have encountered who may be said to have "a shamanic personality", it seems there is a creation story to be told, and my own journey is no different in that regard.  It was a few years after I had begun working directly with my own double, Orlando, that the events which I will attempt to describe occurred.  At that time, I neither felt "ready" nor "not-ready" for what happened on the evening in question.

While these events may appear frightening or even sinister to those outside the realms of shamanism, it's important to note that this type of initiation seems to be quite common, natural to those who have experienced it directly.

What happened to me, therefore... simply is.

As a result, I walk in the shadows and the moonglow of the aftermath, forever changed, and with absolutely no regrets.

What follows was hastily scribbled into my journal immediately after the events occurred.  I have edited the material slightly for clarity, but essentially, these are my "raw notes", complete with apologies for the fact that they may have relevance only to myself.  But since so many have emailed me to ask about my "initiation", it seems appropriate to reveal the events which contributed to my assimilation of I-Am.  And, indeed, any such initiation is a life-altering event of monumental proportions.  For that reason alone, attempting to describe it with words is seldom more than an arrow shot into the dark in the hopes of hitting a moving target.



May 6, 1997


As I move through the underworld as a matter of Intent, guided in part by the presence of the sacred mushroom ally, it is the vessel of consciousness that enables my movement and the assemblage point of my Will that directs the journey.  There is no other way to explain this except to say I am drawn here because it is my Intent to be here.  This is the shaman's trick.  This is the sorcerer's Will.

At one point, as I find myself in an underground cave that appears to glow as if secretly illumined, I am visited by the old Native American shaman with whom I have shared Dreamings many times in the past.   In one such Dreaming, many years ago, he gave me his staff as I stood at the edge of a deep gorge cut into the Earth, and so I have carried a part of him with me from that moment, and perhaps long before, even though he has never told me his name, nor asked what mine might be.

He is stern but gentle, wise but unencumbered by his Knowledge.  He tells me with thoughts, never speaking, "You've had your play. Time to get to work." Time to come into the deeper levels of the underworld. But because I'm one with the ally and time is doing strange things, I brush his insistence aside at first, basically telling him I'll get around to it before the night's done. He becomes even more insistent, and says something to the effect of, "Don't make me take off my face to get you motivated. It'll just scare you."  Indeed - I'm sure it would.  I hear his words and feel the energetic movement of his Intent.  And yet I dally, for here Time is no master.  Here, Time is no thing at all.

I get distracted  for awhile, talking with Wendy.  Finally, finding my deeper Intent, I say to her, "Let's just do it. Let's just go." She says my decisiveness helps her focus and that she needs a narrator to get her started, but I sense that even attempting to describe the experience is limiting it - by using the speech center of my brain, which I feel as a confined space, I am cutting off the pathways to deeper parts of the experience itself. Also, since speech is governed by time - it takes time to tell what one is seeing/experiencing - attempts to speak in anything other than broad statements seemed to drag me back into a more "linear" experience. Strange, how much we depend on language, yet how much it destroys the bigger picture.  Only by going into it without language (internal dialogue or external dialogue) was I finally able to "do" the journey I wanted to do.

I can only describe it as a diving of Intent - into the unknown, into the nagual.  There was no journey, yet the journey was infinite, folding back on itself to its beginning, only to discover that any such sense of a beginning was only an arbitrary position of the assemblage point, where that belief in beginnings was allowed to exist.  No time.  No space.  Just be-ing.

Just before I finally reached my destination, I was again confronted by the old Native American shaman, who asked why I was dallying in the ally when I should have been using the expanded perceptions to get some serious work done. I was "being" instead of "doing" - one active, one passive. He asks what I intend to do, and in a way that's almost impossible to communicate, I "expanded" myself to show him what I was capable of, what I could "do". He only laughed at me, rather pathetically, because I could only "expand" to the limits of my Self - I could puff myself up like a balloon, expanding my senses, but I was still confined inside my senses, a prisoner of my self-created "self". I could only be Della; I couldn't be secrets or truths or anything else, so to keep "being" in my dilly-dally world was altogether silly because it was so limited. In order to be more than the sum of my parts, I had to put aside that self-importance - the part of me that wanted the old shaman to be impressed. In retrospect, I see that I had to evolve beyond my own limitations.

Finally, I find myself in the underworld with Orlando. In this place, there is no water that I can see, just pale sand and lots of rocks - just words limiting the experience, but that's the hell of it.  The first thing I experienced was seeing Orlando's fierce warrior-self standing slightly above me on one of the rocks.  When I look up to acknowledge him, he immediately lunges down on me, baring his fangs and laying open my throat before I even know what's happening. At first, he's the beautiful humanoid "Orlando-man-animal" I've seen in visions before, similar in facial appearance to the man I once knew when Orlando was in humanform manifestation.  But now, in an incendiary transformation, he becomes part human, part bird, part wolf - imbued with an Intent which can only be described as unbending and fierce.

Immediately after he rips my throat with his teeth (sharp as razors, inhuman, animal teeth, all fangs, like a shark),  I see the blood pouring out of me, and then I'm lying on my back in the sand, literally being split open by Orlando and others like him - 3 or 4 in all.

 At this point, he has become 4-legged, with the airbrushed-white face of a wolf/bird and the body of a dog. {Editorial note added August 2003: at the time I had no awareness of Anubis, but this was the form Orlando had taken. His "helpers" were of similar form, perhaps slightly smaller. It is interesting to me that I have never had more than a passing interest in Egyptology, so this manifestation seemed to come out of the blue. DVH} As my body is opened from throat to pubis, he stands on all four legs in the center of me, devouring my mortal organs, tearing out the internal parts of me and tossing them to the 3 or 4 others who stand nearby. I am literally consumed from the inside out, and as Orlando is ingesting what I perceive to be my heart, he lifts his head and looks me in the eyes, my blood running over his lips, my body inside his animal belly.

When our eyes meet, I sense that he is loving what he is doing - more than that, he loves devouring me, and that he is mildly surprised by this. I sense that the thought had occurred to him to leave me as dead, but because he loves the heart of me, down to a blood/cell level, I am deemed worthy of being allowed to live.

Images abound of the 3 others also partaking in the feast of me, all "animals" like Orlando, the wolf/bird creatures who dismember one "self" in order to recreate another.  And yet, this is not Anubis destroying the heart of one found unworthy.  Instead, it is an act of transformation, transmutation, transcendence.  It is the power of the underworld acting directly on the mortal self - perhaps because the mortal Self intended it at some level of awareness, whether conscious or otherwise.

This is the shaman's destiny. The is the raising of oneself from the dead - the lifting of oneself out of the phantom's sleep and into the waking awareness of the infinite.

After I am totally devoured and only my skin remains - an empty husk devoid of organs and even bones and muscle - splayed on the sand and laid open as a deer hide would be laid open - the Orlando-beast (now the more familiar human-esque manifestation again), dives inside the still-warm skin and pulls it around him like a cape. Before I realize what's happening, he folds my skin around him, wrapping himself inside it, then he begins rapidly sewing himself into it, using sinew and a wooden needle. Inside my skin, a new "self" rises onto the underworld beach and begins to dance to the sound of distant drumming.

At this point, I bounce back into some manner of ordinary awareness and write down notes on what happened. I conclude with the word "Skinwalker?".  Though I'm strangely pleased at what's happened I'm also disturbed by the implications. On the one hand I realize I've been initiated into some larger world, some higher awareness - not unlike the passage in The Teachings of Don Juan.

Once on the other side, the man will have to wander around.  His good fortune would be to find a helper nearby - not too far from the entrance.  The man has to ask him for help.  In his own words he has to ask the helper to teach him and make him a diablero.  When the helper agrees, he kills the man on the spot, and while he is dead, he teaches him.  When you make the trip yourself, depending on hour luck, you may find a great diablero in the helper who will kill you and teach you...

After your return, you will not be the same man.  You are committed to come back to see your helper often.  And you are committed to wander farther and farther from the entrance, until finally one day you will go too far and will not be able to return...

(Carlos Castaneda; The Teachings of Don Juan)

This dismemberment is described in many books, the ritual itself seeming to be a rite of passage when the initiate is taken apart in her human form and recreated using parts from the underworld itself. In most sources, the initiate sees herself being rebuilt with certain crystals or healing plants - i.e., after the organs and such are removed and destroyed, new organs are put back in by the beings who performed the dismemberment. In my case, the shaman himself - the beast/animal/man/Anubis - climbed inside my skin, so I am recreated as much "him" as "me".

{Editorial note, added August 2003: This event occurred before I had become aware that Orlando is my own double, the nagual man, the other half of my double-being. At the time this happened, I was still functioning under the assumption that he was an entirely extant being. In fact, in the paragraphs that follow, you can see some of the developing thought-process that eventually led me to the Whole realization of exactly who and what Orlando is. This was not an easy revelation, nor a quick one.  DVH}

Beautiful, yet disturbing on some level because it made me wonder if this was somehow trying to tell me that I am Orlando's physicality. "Is it just me?" I wonder.  "Has it been 'just me' all along?"

Wendy tells me that she saw Orlando "walking through me" earlier in the evening. This is comforting, yet somehow disturbing.  Why is it that I feel he must be separate?  Is anything ever really separate?  What is this experience trying to show me?

When I tell Wendy my concerns, she suggests that this road we're on is such that he could only trust himself to be inside me - the inner guide & teacher.  That resonates on a level I do not wholly understand, but allow myself to accept nonetheless.  The inner guide & teacher...

The riddle Orlando had whispered to me in the past repeated itself over and over.  "You must BE immortal before you will know how to BECOME immortal."  By sewing himself inside my skin, was he giving me a part of his nature?  Not physical immortality, but was this such a drastic shift of the assemblage point that I will now begin to see the world from an eternal perspective instead of such a narrow and limited first attention awareness alone?

Later, as I'm gazing out at the night, Orlando's voice comes to me across the expanse which seems to separate us, but an expanse which is only an illusion.  "It's different for you now."

That resonates, too, in a way that is both reassuring and terrifying for the sense of responsibility that accompanies it.  There is no going back.  There is no undoing what is done.

I am eternal in spirit now, completely transformed, destroyed. Nothing will ever be the same for I am no longer the same.  The phantom self of the past lies in ashes on the shore of the underworld.  The future is mine to create.  The moment of creation may only be found in the Now.

This is, simply, what-is.

{Editorial note: At this time I still could not wholly conceive of the double, nor did I have adequate words to describe the experience. "The double" was only words in a book.  I could not have conceived that the energy body is both male and female, and can take on any manifestation it might choose.  Because it exists as an eternal being, it has access to All Knowledge, and can become our best teacher... if and when we are willing to start listening.   And, yet again I am reminded of Castaneda's opening passage from THE EAGLE'S GIFT: "I am now faced with the special problem of having to explain what it is that I am doing... and I must first of all reiterate that this is not a work of fiction.  What I am describing is alien to us; therefore, it seems unreal."  Without a doubt, this experience will sound like madness to those who have not experienced it.  DVH}


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