My shamanic training included studies to become both a warrior (protector of the people) and a hunter (provider for the people). During that training, I was given missions and tasks that would develop my skills and relationships to the ones of the world, both physical and spiritual.
What follows is a short excerpt from my training that shows how the world of spirit and physical weave together within the shamanic paradigm. You see, there is no difference in the dangers of either. Death is death, no matter what the cause.
I had hunted and captured a special hunting medicine a day or so before. Tonight I was to undergo a test to learn if I could call upon that medicine. Tonight my teacher would send me to hunt bear.
It was almost sunset when I went out to find the tree where bear had made his territorial mark. After wondering around, I found his signs—prints and scat. I followed a game trail for awhile and then came upon one of the trees he had gouged with his long claws. I could tell he was a big bear. When I held my arm over my head, I could just reach them. I rubbed my fingers in the gouges and acknowledged that they were not old. This was bear’s territory and he had let me know that.
After I got a branch to stand on, I unsheathed my bowie. Standing on the branch, I reached above bear's gouges, and cut in my own—five because I was human. While doing this I sent my challenge onto the wind, “Bear, this is my territory now. I claim it. You shall not win.”
I wrapped my blanket around myself and sat down beside the tree, my back against another, to wait. I left my bowie out.
It was a couple of hours later that I heard the noise and came out of my semi-sleep. What was it? Was it bear? Whatever amount of bravado I had—or pretended to have—had left. I was plain scared and knew that if bear didn't kill me, fright might.
All of a sudden he was on me! We rolled, and we fought, and we grappled, and we bit. I was losing. I was going to die, when I suddenly remembered my special medicine. I called upon it, and it came forth. It worked, and there was bear lying at my feet, my bowie in his heart. I had won.
As I dragged myself back to camp, I thought, I won, I'm alive. I did it. Little did I know that some day I would meet bear's mother on her turf and with no bowie. Little did I know that some day bear would kill me.
(originally published in Wholistic Alternatives magazine)
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