I first learned about Native American vision quest ceremonies in the early 1990s, and felt strangely drawn to immerse myself in a similar experience. While different tribes had varying traditions, some tribes reserved vison quests for young males. This solitary nature ceremony was a rite of passage marking the transition from adolescence into adulthood – a time of profound change and spiritual clarity.
Modern Day Vision Quests
Fast forward to the present day, and vision quests have gently merged with the mainstream, embracing people of all beliefs and cultures who choose to answer the sacred call.
The opportunity to experience my first 'Aussie style' vision quest presented itself in 2017, under the guidance of Medicine Crow, a Native American shaman whom I befriended when I moved to the Central Coast in New South Wales, Australia.
Having recently emerged from a series of deeply challenging yet necessary life changes, I didn't feel strong enough to undergo such an intense experience of solitude and fasting, and chose to wait. When I later found out that the vision quest was accompanied by fierce thunderstorm 'medicine,' my inner scaredy cat breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
My Time Had Come
In 2018, the opportunity presented itself again and this time, a solitary vision quest felt like just the tonic. I also felt immense gratitude toward the Native American culture that found its way to me all those years ago by way of a gifted dream-catcher. A welcome twist of fate that brought me guidance, wisdom, insight, strength, healing and solace that continues to this day.
The vision quest was held on a private property near Forbes, NSW, luring a diverse circle of 'questers'. It began with a ceremonial fire where Medicine Crow and his counterpart Chantel Two-Crows would hold space for us for almost three days.
Medicine Crow initiated the vision quest with a sacred pipe ceremony, a significant ritual known for connecting the physical and spiritual worlds.
"Nothing is more sacred. The pipe is our prayers in physical form. Smoke becomes our words; it goes out, touches everything, and becomes a part of all there is. The fire in the pipe is the same fire in the sun, which is the source of life." White Deer of Autumn.
After the ceremony, I prepared my sacred space near a canopied, dry river bed -home for the next two nights. My companions were nature, a drum, rattle, fountain pen, notebook, book, water, sage, 'bed,' prayer ties*, mesa bundle* . Though not encouraged, I brought my camera because I love nature photography.
As I settled into my solitude, nature’s healing energy rapidly soothed my tired spirit. Over time, I felt myself flowing with her gentle cycles and rhythms as day turned to night and night to day. I revelled in the frequent visits from inquisitive birds, bees and critters; losing myself in the natural beauty of craggy trees, basking in the full moon light, witnessing the unfolding magnificence of the rising sun.
Words began to flow like a waterfall as I intermittently journaled my experiences, thoughts and intentions. The 'weather fairies' also created perfect conditions for which I was truly grateful. This may sound a bit crazy but I put in my special 'order' several weeks before and hoped for the best, as I didn't know how I would cope in thunderstorm conditions with just a tarp as my shelter.
Then I spared a thought for the young Native American males who ventured into the wilderness alone and often naked, completely exposed to the elements and whatever mother nature had in store. My tarp, sleeping bag, pillow and yoga mat suddenly felt like forbidden luxuries.
Medicine Crow later told me that a previous vision quest invoked fires in the nearby vicinity because fire medicine is what that particular group needed.
A Lucid Encounter
Questers are also encouraged to stay awake for as long as possible to intensify the experience but I must confess to nodding off here and there in the wee hours of the morning.
During my second night of solitude, I had a semi-conscious lucid dream encounter with old friend and TV colleague, Gordon ‘Gordy’ Constable. He died several years earlier but for reasons unknown, his TV tribe wasn’t informed about his death or funeral.
Gordy was a dear friend with hilarious humour who mentored me through the heady world of TV promotions in the 1980s during my calamitous twenties. When I first heard the belated news of his death, I had an inkling that his spirit was earthbound and hoped that our paths would eventually cross.
That time had come, it seemed.
My lucid dream unfolded in a hospital setting. I walked into a spacious, wood-panelled waiting room and saw Gordy sitting in a plush, black leather, motorised chair equipped with a portable breathing machine. Silicone tubes protruded from his pallid nostrils and even though he looked quite comfortable, it felt as though he had been there for quite some time.
Gordy slowly raised his left hand to greet me, oblivious to the blue tinge that gradually washed over his fingers and hand. When his neck and face began to turn blue, I knew I had to say something but didn’t have the heart to tell him he was dead. I broke the news as gently as I could: “Gordy, you’re blue. You are blue.”
At first, he looked surprised – a familiar, ‘faraway look’ that used to crack me up when we brainstormed script ideas during marathon promo sessions in our ‘dogbox’ office. I watched his surprise gradually change to shock as the reality of death finally dawned upon him. Without uttering a word, Gordy pressed a button on the arm of his chair and silently rolled out of the room. Exit, stage right.
I watched him disappear through a door and waited a while, just in case he returned. Confident that he was on his way to wherever we go after our earthly walk, I left the 'waiting room'. Then I woke up in a happy daze. I had just spoken to Gordy.
Case closed. Or so I thought.
Renewed, Inspired & Dangerously Creative
Emerging from my sacred space feeling renewed, inspired and dangerously creative, the vision quest concluded at the sacred fire which also accepted our prayer tie offerings. My ties ended up a little tangled while everyone else's seemed neat and tidy, but I'm fairly confident that Great Spirit doesn't mind how the prayers arrive. It's the heartfelt intent that really counts.
I parted company with my fellow questors and mosied on toward the Parkes Observatory that played crucial role in the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. A relaxing, overnight farm-stay in a comfortable bed before returning home, was also on the agenda. Luxury indeed!
Heading in the direction of a blink-and-you-miss-it country hamlet called Bedgerebong, I blinked and missed the turn-off to Forbes and did a U-turn. As I meandered back in the right direction, I nearly ran off the road. Just before the turn-off was a prominent, pale yellow sign saying, CONSTABLE’S (Hay Supplies & Contracting).
I laughed out loud, stopped the car and said, “Hey Gordy! What do you reckon?” As we both shared a crazy sense of humour, I imagined him laughing along with me.
I should have photographed the sign but was too busy laughing and savoring the moment. (Feel free to Google the business name.)
Thinking that was enough entertainment for one day, when I arrived in Forbes, I grabbed a coffee and guessed my way to a shady parking spot along the river. After several cyber-free days, I looked forward to checking in.
Scrolling through endless emails, a Google Maps notification popped up informing me that I was on Gordon Duff Drive.
“Wow, wow, wow!” I laughed out loud, yet again. 'Hey Gordy, what are the chances?"
Taking that as yet another sign that my dear friend had indeed found his way ‘home,' I double-checked the physical road sign. Yup. There it was in black and white: Gordon Duff Drive.
Needless to say, I drove away in wonderfully high spirits.
Synchronicities such as these are said to be joyful confirmation signs from friends and loved ones in spirit. All you have to do is be open to them.
* Prayer Ties: traditional sacred bundles of tobacco imbued with an individual’s wishes, prayers, intentions and gratitude. They form part of the preparation process for ceremony, sweat lodge or vision quest.
* Mesa Bundle: also known as Medicine Bundle – originating in the Peruvian Andes and other Latin American countries, the mesa is the shaman’s primary healing tool which represents the world in sacred balance and wholeness. The various power objects and stones are used for moving energy in service of healing.