They had a look of determination on their faces. The supporters all stood by their side, holding the only possessions they would have for the next four days as they would be planted on the mountainside to begin what will become the most important prayer of their lives up until then. Over twenty questers had made the commitment and would embarking on the Vision Quest. Some this would be their third or fourth, while many it would be their first. The opening medicine ceremony had started with a challenge as the sky opened up and released a torrential downpour upon the maloka. As a team everyone helped dig trenches surrounding the structure so as to move the rushing water away from the center fire and back into the forest. Quite an omen for the beginning of such a powerful work.
The Vision Quest is a rite of passage that can be found in many cultures around the world. This particular vision quest stems from the Lakota tradition of North America. The vision quest is a powerful prayer that coincides with a number of other ritual practices, including sweat lodges, purification rites, and shamanic medicine work. The quester is prepared and brought out to nature, commonly a mountainside or forested area, to sit in isolation for 3-4 days without food or water. The goal is to pray and receive a vision to aid you on your path. While this stemmed from a Lakota tradition (even having a Lakota chief present), what was particular interesting is that it was taking place in Colombia, four hours outside of Cali and deep into the forests. This work was operating within the Eagle Condor Tradition.
The history of the Eagle Condor can be found in a number of South American indigenous legends, including the Andean Quechua, Hopi, Guatemalan, Mexican Mayan, Shuar and more, wherein the eagle and the condor would fly together uniting the tribes of the Americas in the face of great transformation. It is a somewhat complex legend that holds different perspectives depending on who is telling it. In one way, it is representative of the north and south American tribes uniting. In another it is the Indigenous Condor people finding peace with the European-Western Eagle people. In a more spiritual sense, the path of the Eagle is the path of the mind, industry, and the masculine force, while the path of the Condor is the path of the heart, intuition, and the feminine force. The way I had first learned it was that the prophecy spoke of uniting the tribes of the Americas, the inevitable result being the birth of the Rainbow Tribe; that which unites all of the peoples east and west in the traditions and medicines of the first world nations during a time of great transformation.
I was here in Colombia at an eco-village supporting the vision quest as a helper. A close friend had invited us to join them in this endeavour, supporting them in not just setting up their camp but energetically through vicarious means, including eating, drinking, and resting. Once they are on the mountainside and beginning their prayer we stay behind and keep the fire burning for them. When we eat food, we eat for them. When we rest, we rest for them. They may not be physically present before the fire but will receive its power through our meditation and intention. In this way they are fed, they rest, and are supported.
Part of our role as supporters is to partake of the Inipi, also known as the sweat lodge. Traditionally done as a purification rite before any strong prayer work, we were to endure 4 days of sweat lodge to aid in the purification of the questers. I experienced the first hand healing that occurs from a sweat lodge a couple years prior where having entered with a relentless wound that did not want to heal after months of prescriptions and doctor visits I had stepped out of the lodge healed almost miraculously. My body was purified of the sickness so quickly that I learned a true lesson in the healing powers of the lodge. Now years later I understand the miracles that can occur within. It is indeed a kind of spiritual rebirth experience that works with the 4 elements of the 4 directions.
We all stood in a line. I was holding all of the supplies for the quester I was there to support. In small groups we walked from the sweat lodge, passed the central fire in the maloka, and out into the forested mountain side. The rain from last night was still present though as a drizzle. Still, it had brought a cold wind with it that would certainly be felt by the questers. The drum began to beat, an instrument of the heart, the songs begin, and we start walking into the forest. After sometime of walking we came to the spot to which my spiritual sister would be planting herself for the next few days without food and water. A tarp was placed over the camp so as to give her some protection from the elements. Otherwise she would be sitting on the cold ground. Once everything was setup I returned back to the maloka. I was told to avoid eye contact with her during this process if at all possible so as to keep them oriented on the intention and the prayer that had already begun.
In the book Lakota Belief and Ritual by James Walker, Sioux Chief Thunder Bear says of the quest “After this he must at no time go from the space he has prepared for himself but may lie, sit, or stand, but must try to keep his mind on his quest. He must neither eat nor drink after this until the quest is over. The Spirit of the Earth may come to him either while he is awake or as a dream while he sleeps. It may come to him in the form of a man, an animal, or a bird or it may come as a voice only or only in his thoughts. When it comes, it will tell him something which will be a knowledge of some medicine or what to do in the future or a warning against some evil or to make another quest or to cease from seeking a vision. The communication is apt to be ambiguous and require an interpretation.”
The next few days were spent working and celebrating the magic that was occurring in the forest. We did sweat lodges, meditations, and a variety of important duties to make the space even better for when the questers return. We sang songs and ate food in honor of them. The sweat lodges in particular were challenging in a number of ways, themselves producing all manner of visions. The psychic link that was built up between the questers and the supporters became very apparent. By the fifth sweat lodge I had experienced, I felt as if I was walking in a trance state of mind. It was simultaneously difficult and yet had an ease to it because I knew it was important.
At one point I found myself humming along to a song, only realizing afterwards that this was a gift from the mystery, brought about by the rituals and prayers. I received a song amidst all of this magic occurring that would eventually be shared with others when the time was right. When one receives a song from the spirits, it is important we honor the event and lay down tobacco or cedar in return. The concept of a received song is at the heart of many the modern medicine traditions. Music, medicine and healing are all aspects of the same alchemical process that occurs.
Finally on the day of the questers return, the supporters all gathered at the maloka. It felt like so much had transpired and yet it went by so seemingly quick. One by one we would set out down the same path we first walked to retrieve the quester and their belongings they had brought with them. I had come upon my sister sitting and smiling happily. I had so many questions but knew that it was not time to ask them. We carefully and quietly packed up the campsite and walked back to the maloka. Waiting for the questers the rest of the support team stood waiting singing and chanting. An ecstatic celebratory energy permeated the air as the questers returned one by one. However, it was not complete yet. As soon as they returned they were brought back to the sweat lodge for one final experience in the womb. Upon the closing of this they were able to come back out, converse and eat food.
That night we closed the vision quest. Each quester was allowed to stand before the fire and share the visions (if any) that they had. Some had shared long stories filled with magic and wonder, while others simply expressed gratitude for the experience. I could sense the level of sensitivity and raw-ness each of the questers seemed to be feeling. Even though I had my own powerful experiences with days of sweat lodges, it was all in support for my sister and for the greater work that is being done on this land. One by each quester stood before the fire and spoke their truth in the manner that they saw fit. They then placed their prayer ties into the fire sealing this work within themselves. We as supporters were there to bare witness to this spiritual work that was completed. It was finally time to celebrate!
A visionary experience of this sort is certainly a powerful response to a powerful act of will in the face of the elements. I had heard of individuals coming back having received songs, prayers, poetry, and a myriad of visionary and transformative ideas that have the potential to change consciousness as we know it. I think what is particularly important about the potential for powerful transformation is that it is not just in the ritual itself, though as an ancient practice it does hold a powerful key of change. It is in the mind of the individual coming from a modern futuristic world (perhaps part of the Eagle people as in the prophecy) bringing modern consciousness into this ancient practice. In this way we are able to transcend time and space, to transcend the ancient and the modern, and begin to actively participate in the great transformation that is occurring all over the world. The Eagle Condor Prophecy is indeed ancient and futuristic at the same time. It is that new myth we as humans operating with a global consciousness have been searching for. And despite its transformative structure, it is also a great balancing, wherein the power of the feminine is brought to the forefront to balance out a world that is balanced too much in favor of the masculine.
We are beings of myth, yet grounded in the physical world. Our minds are tempered by the myth of the age. As we enter into the new paradigm, blossoming and unfolding in a myriad of ways, we can can easily lose sight of ourselves and the world when a new myth has not fully formed. The legend of the Eagle and Condor is one of peace and understanding, as we learn our place in nature. We re-learn what it means to be human and how our relationships with each other determine the fate of the world. Reality shifts and we are reborn once again in the same body we are born. We wonder how many previous incarnations we’ve lived, yet I wonder how many previous lives we’ve lived in this one life alone. This legend is the new paradigm as it evolves slowly towards the rainbow tribe that incorporates all things balanced and harmonious.
Underneath the prophecy is the idea that we are all related, beyond time and beyond space. The more earnest we seek the vision of truth, the closer we come to ourselves, approaching the doorway of purpose and meaning. The words themselves fall short of truth in this place, hence we embody the transition. Herein is the scope of the work before us. Once we’ve fully taken on the myth and embodied it we are able to transcend our own limitations. Here beyond the doorway there are no limitations save for what our old paradigm causes us to question. If we can leave our baggage behind, emotionally and intellectually, we can learn to fly together like the Eagle and the Condor.