Transforming With Star Energies


Do you feel better when you look at the stars?

In the mid 1990s, I discovered my connection to star energies when I began to follow the Mayan sacred calendar, which has a strong connection to the Pleiades and the planet Venus. I began to dream frequently about Sirius, the Pleiades, Alpha Centauri, and the Milky Way. I experienced a healing where my “homework” involved my partner pouring a bowl of starlight and moonlight infused water over my head each morning. This water helped me in a very profound way.

These experiences intrigued me. I discovered that astrology is not the only type of star wisdom. I began to realize that stars are a very important energy to connect with, a type of spiritual medicine.

Star wisdom has evolved from the time of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, when we used the stars as a type of “clock” that helped us decide when to gather different types of food. In some cultures, like Peru, star divination is done to predict the success of the harvest.

According to Andean mysticism, every person has a special star.  This star guides and energizes a person.  For Westerners, the star may be known through a dream, divination, or it might just be one that you feel very drawn to.  Peruvian healer and cultural anthropologist, Theo Paredes, says that star energies connect a person to the “Cosmic Father”. Joan Wilcox says that the guiding star is a type of spiritual guide.

I have been working with star energies for almost 20 years. On February 15, I am offering a free online introduction to Transforming with Your Guiding Star. It is a half an hour long from 11:30 to noon. Learn to:

  • Become more of your authentic self and help manifest your goals.
  • Discover some traditional views on stellar ancestry
  • Heal and balance your lightbody.
  • Working with stones and crystals to enhance your connection to star energies.
  • Practices to work with stellar energies at different times of day or the month.

Anyone who signs up here will receive a free recorded replay of the event, plus a video with a special Meditation with Your Guiding Star that will empower your chakra system. I look forward to sharing this with you!

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2018 is a Justice Year!


2018 is an “11” year (2+0+1+8=11). And for those of you who read tarot with the Rider Waite Smith deck, the eleventh trump card is Justice. A Justice year is all about maintaining inner balance while being in good relationship with others and the earth. This may feel overwhelming, given how much imbalance is in the world right now, but I have always loved this quote from Dr Martin Luther King. Jr.:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

In the Crowley Thoth Tarot, Justice is called “Adjustment”. This is a key component in our interactions with society this year. It helps to be aware of what is unjust, be honest about how we can respond to it, and maintain balance within ourselves. All of this demands almost constant little adjustments. The goals we start out with in January may be very different by June. Feedback from others will also be important, as long as we remain true to ourselves.

Justice also connects to the astrological sign of Libra. One of Libra’s shadow sides is getting along with others at all costs. It is necessary to understand that no one wants this kind of justice. Listening to others and listening to ourselves is paramount this year.

Because maintaining this balance can be so tricky for me, I am including one of my favorite three card layouts. You can use this one with either tarot or oracle cards:

First Card: What is in balance?

Middle Card: What is out of balance?

Third Card: What restores balance?

Of course, the World Tarot Year card is only half of the equation. There is also each individual’s tarot year card. This card represents your personal mission for 2018. Balancing the two cards can help you plan your projects for the year.

You were born with a spiritual mission that will be accelerated this year, and will also be strengthened by your relationship to the world’s energy- if you understand where these energies are going. Discover how your individual path flows with our collective journey.

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The Mother Night of Dreams

Celtic Shaman’s Pack by John Matthews and Chesca Potter

A few years ago I encountered a wonderful tarot practice called the “Sacred Days of Yule”. It begins on December 20, a night called the “mother night of dreams”. Dreams occurring the night before the solstice were believed to hold a special message for the year. I began to include this practice (along with the tarot reading) and I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.

Why this night is special

The Winter Solstice is a time to receive the seed for the coming year. In many cultures, fires are tended in a sacred way.  The Hopi people of the southwestern United States “bring back the sun” by holding a sacred dance and ceremony called the Soyaluna Ceremony.

Ancient Europeans celebrated the Winter Solstice. We remember the name of one of these ceremonies: Yule. This is a time of year to remember the creation stories and connect with the helpful ancestral spirits. I have been listening to the Voluspa in Old Norse as well as other ceremonies.

Collective dreaming

While the dreamspace is a place to explore our individual pathways, it is also a portal to better understand our collective future. Shamans work with a practice called collective dreaming. A group of shamans agree to meet in the dreamspace in order to gain needed information for ceremonies, etc. It is a very powerful and sophisticated practice in some cultures:

“When a shaman dreams of meeting the Ancestors, other shamans will dream of the same meeting, and the new shaman will appear in their dreams.” -Walter F. Morris, The Living Maya

This practice is also done by conscious dreamers in Western society. In fact, we are all doing some of this every night. So the Mother Night of Dreams is a perfect night to explore our connection in a more conscious way.

In this spirit, I offer a short reading about the guiding energies we may be encountering in our dreams tonight. I also offer a free gift to help you accelerate your dream practice: Manifesting With Shamanic Dreamwork.

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How To Meet A Plant Spirit

Elder Spirit by John Connelly

I frequently take walks and sense different wildflowers and wild plants.  These wild plants introduce themselves by a combination of their energy and looks.  I’ll notice how interesting they look or how important they look.  I’ll also sense an energetic connection to them. Sometimes this is as simple as just feeling good around them.

It’s often easiest to sense with useful herbs and wildflowers.  Sabal Palm, Bidens Alba, and Beautyberry  first introduced themselves to me this way.    I have observed these plants at all stages of their life cycle and got to know their leaves, flowers, and fruit.

If you want to get in touch with a plant spirit, visit the plant in the wild.  Observe and even draw the plant.  This allows you to get to know every aspect of its physical appearance. Notice where it likes to grow, the soil type and other plants it likes to be around.  

Sensing its energy field

After you have spent some time connecting with plant in the wild, feel or observe its energy field.  If you see auras well, observe the colors or layers in the plant’s energy field. If you sense energy rather than see it, move your palm to within a few inches of the plant. You will begin to feel your energy field connecting the plants aura.  You can move your hands closer or farther away to in order to get the most information.

Ask for a dream

Now you’re ready for the next step.  If you meet a plant in the wild that you particularly like, take a small piece of the plant like a leaf or flower and leave an offering.  Tobacco is a traditional offering for plants in North America. You can take that plant, put it underneath your pillow, and ask for a dream about it.  If you have trouble remembering the dream, place your dream stone under the pillow to empower yourself.

If you can’t find an experienced forager or herbalist to help you identify the plant, sometimes there are parts of edible wild plants that are available in a store.  Sabal palm hearts and dandelion leaves are two examples.    Eat a little bit of the plant, and then do a shamanic journey or ask for a dream.  Usually, plant spirits are found in the lower world.

Visualize the journey while you are drowsy

If you have trouble receiving a dream, imagine that you are in the lower world in the domain of the plant spirits as you fall asleep.  Sometimes it is easier to receive information and dreams if you consciously visualize during the hypnogogic state.  Of course, this can also be done with edible plants, herbs, and flower essences.

By the way, if you are looking for a community of shamanic dreamers, practitioners, and earth healers- you are welcome to join us at Shamanic Earth Medicine.


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Synchronicity: the Bridge Between The Worlds

Dreaming, in traditional cultures, is not confined to sleeping. Dreaming exists in waking life in the form of coincidence and synchronicity. It is an important form of divination as well. Dream teacher and healer Robert Moss describes this type of divination in The Secret History of Dreaming. Frieda Jacques, a clan leader of the Onondaga Nation explains:

“I dream like this: I’ve been asking myself whether I should make a trip out West. And at that moment, I see a hawk flying west, followed by three geese flying in arrowhead formation. I get my message, from the arrow pointing West in the sky.”

Coincidence can also bring people together if they are to do important work. J.E. Williams, in The Andean Codex, recalls an incident where he met his future teacher and some Tibetan monks by chance at Machu Picchu. He refers to this type of dramatic coincidence that shapes a medicine person’s life as “shamanic resonance”.

Coincidences are part of the dialogue between the earth and every dreamer. These experiences may occur in waking life only, or may involve a connection between the dream world and everyday life.

Synchronicity between dreaming and waking life

Some of these coincidences can be very dramatic and beautiful. This is what many people call synchronicity.

One of my animal spirit helpers is a black panther. I was introduced to this spirit during a healing session that I received from a shamanic practitioner. A few weeks later, I received a wonderful dream about this animal. The panther was lying down. It rolled over and stretched out its paw towards me. I felt a strong sense of connection with the animal while this happening.

Later, when I was visiting a small zoo where a black panther lived, the image returned to me. As I was remembering it, the black panther laid down, rolled over on its side and stretched out its paw, exactly as it had in the dream. This reenactment of my dream strengthened my connection to this animal spirit. The experience of my dreaming and waking life made a complete circuit, allowing me to begin to really integrate the gifts of this being.

Manifestation often depends upon tracking the synchronicities between dreams or shamanic journeys and ordinary reality. The signs show up in both worlds, helping the dreamer to choose wisely.

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Shamanic Dreamwork

Greenwood Tarot: 9 of Cups

Everyone dreams. Shamanic dreamwork expands on our natural nighttime dream experiences. Instead of using plant medicines like ayahuasca, shamanic dreamers journey within the dreamscape to meet with their helping spirits. To better understand a dream’s meaning, they also journey with a drum or rattle to re-enter a dream.

This is a path based on traditions that reach back thousands of years. Everyone has ancestors who once lived in shamanic cultures, although they may exist in the distant past. Today, indigenous shamanic cultures still honor this path and have preserved these traditions. Contemporary Western Shamanic dreamwork is based on the work of Carl Jung, Michael Harner, Carlos Castaneda, and most recently, Robert Moss.

People seek a shamanic dreamwork session when they want to:

  • understand a powerful dream message
  • connect with their helping spirits in a more powerful way
  • harmonize with a very complicated or active dream life

Understanding a dream message in order to find a new path

One client came to me because he had a recurring dream: he was late fulfilling the requirements for a class. My client wasn’t going to be able to graduate because he had not completed all the he described this dream to me he became very emotional and wanted to express how afraid he was that he had missed his chance to finish a creative project that mattered to him.

In this version of his dream, the teacher was the actor Peter Capaldi as Dr Who. My client decided to journey into the dream, a dream re-entry. He wanted to ask the Dr Who character some questions about this recurring dream. When he entered the dream he became relaxed and followed my voice and rattle into a hypnagogic state: what dream teacher Robert Moss calls the “twilight zone”. My client actually fell into a light sleep. When he returned to waking consciousness as I played the “callback” signal on my rattle, he was very happy and enthusiastic.

He was thrilled that he had entered a dream state so easily and he was excited to have received an answer to his question. He had asked if the doctor was a guide he could continue to work with and the doctor said yes. The doctor then told my client that his dream was a positive sign; he was making changes and good things were about to happen.

When he returned from the journey, we discussed placing a crystal or a symbol of his new direction on one side of his altar to manifest this change. He was guided to place the dream object on the right side of his altar, in order to facilitate greater connection with spirits who were guiding him with his work.

The spirits began sending more dreams and waking experiences that led him to explore his talents at healing that he had not developed. That’s a great story and I will share it in the next post.

By the way, if you are looking for a community of shamanic dreamers, practitioners, and earth healers- you are welcome to join us at Shamanic Earth Medicine.

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Folk Healing in Italy: an Interview with Dr. Sabina Magliocco

Mythical Goddess Tarot: Mary

(This interview with antropologist and pagan Sabina Magliocco was published in my newsletter before 2012. It is still valid today as we navigate the fifth world.)

What is Stregoneria?

“Stregoneria” simply means “the practice of witchcraft or sorcery” in Italian.  Today, it’s used by some Neo-Pagan practitioners to distinguish their form of Italian American folk revival from others (e.g. “Stregheria,” a term used by author Raven Grimassi for his own brand of Italian American Witchcraft.

How were you introduced to Italian folk healing and Stregoneria?

I first became familiar with Italian folk healing when I did fieldwork in Sardinia in the mid-1980s.  There were several local healers; some healed with herbs, while others said charms or prayers.

I came to know about Stregoneria from online sources within the last several years.

Who practices this tradition in Italy?  Are there American practitioners?

Vernacular of folk healing is still widely practiced in Italy, especially in small, face-to-face rural communities.  Practitioners include both women and men.  There are also urban practitioners with large clienteles, although these healers are more often male and may mix other esoteric practices, such as tarot card reading and New Age healing, with traditional techniques.

Italian immigrants brought these practices with them to the United States when they came in large numbers between 1890 and 1920.  Data from folklore archives around the country show that some of these practices survived in the United States.  However, under the pressure of urbanization, displacement from the rural landscape and year cycle, and the influence of American dominant cultural forms, most of these practices went underground and eventually ceased when their practitioners died. Today, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these practitioners are reclaiming some of these practices in a modern context.

How do these healers receive their “calling”?

The stories vary according to the particular healer and the regional tradition; there is no single method.  The majority inherit their practice from a relative, often a mother or grandmother; sometimes an opposite-sex relative.  Others get the “call” directly from a saint; one woman in Castellammare di Stabia reported to an ethnographer that St. Rita called her, causing her to faint, and during her syncope touched her on the mouth, conferring healing powers.

What role do the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or Catholic saints play in a healer’s initiation?

The Virgin Mary and the saints are central to Italian folk healing, because in most cases the power to heal is thought to come directly from them.  Of course, saints are popularly believed to be able to cause illness as well as heal it – for example, St. Paul of Galatina is associated with the folk illness of tarantismo, the bite of a metaphorical spider.  He can cure the illness if the afflicted dance before his church on his feast day, the 29th of June, each year.

Do healers visit places in nature to receive spiritual power?

Some cures are indeed associated with particular places in the landscape, e.g. specific trees, springs or rocks.  But the healers I know would probably not say that they visit these natural places to receive spiritual power; they would say that in order to cure l’arlia, the afflicted woman or girl needs to go to a particular tree on a particular path, where prayers will be said and offerings made to Santa Liberata, who will free her from the illness.

Have you ever witnessed a healing or divination performed by a trance-healer?

I’ve seen both healing and divination, but not with trance.  In the first case, I was able to watch a woman and her brothers heal neonatal hernia on the eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 23) in Thiesi, Sardinia in 1986.  The family are keepers of a small chapel to the saint on the outskirts of town.  On the appointed day, mothers would come from all over the surrounding area to bring their babies who suffered from this common phenomenon.  While it can easily be fixed surgically, and often resolves on its own, many mothers were wary of having their children go under the knife, and preferred a more traditional approach.   The cure consisted of making a long vertical cut in the branch of a fig tree, then passing the child three times through the opening, while reciting prayers to St. John.  Afterwards, the opening would be wrapped in burlap and tied up; according to belief, when the cut healed, the child’s hernia would also resolve.

I’ve also witnessed – and received – the removal of the evil eye.

Are stones or crystals ever used to diagnose an illness?

I have not see this done, but it doesn’t mean it’s never practiced.  In fact certain kinds of stones were thought to help heal certain conditions: for example, bloodstone (hematite) was said to be able to stop the flow of blood, while geodes containing small mineral particles were called pietre della gravidanza (pregnancy stones) and were believed to be useful in preventing miscarriage.

Do Italian healers work with herbs?

Yes, this is a very common practice.

What are the most helpful and powerful plants in this tradition?

The herbs used vary depending on the kinds of plants present in the region, as Italy includes many different types of environments.   One of the most commonly used is rue (ruta graveolans); it is believed to be effective in preventing the evil eye as well as numerous other ailments.  Other plants that are commonly used in a variety of environments include chamomile (camomilla), St. John’s Wort (hypericum), fig (ficus) and the various mints (menta piperita & spicata).

Do Italian healers believe that plants have spirits?  Are spiritual forces connected to healing plants?

I have not heard or read of this belief, but it is not inconceivable that some healers believe it.  However, healing of all kinds has a spiritual or religious component.  Often, herbal healing is combined with prayers and devotions in rituals that have both a physical and a spiritual component.

Are herbs ever used in divination rituals?

Plants can indeed be used in divination rituals.  In Sardinia, I have seen wheat kernels used in a rite to divine the presence of the evil eye.  The healer drops them into holy water while reciting a charm; if a bubble forms around the kernels, then the ailment is present.   There is also an Appenine love divination that uses fern leaves.

Do healers in Sardinia have a connection to “Dea Madre”?

The Sardinian healers that I have interviewed don’t have a concept of a “Dea Madre,” but all are extremely devoted to the Virgin Mary, whom many scholars believe to embody qualities of earlier goddesses.

Are there healing or divination rituals that are performed for the entire community?

Historically, there have been few instances of group healings – for example, the large public performances of the tarantate at the church of St. Paul in Galatina on June 29 – but these are exceptions rather than the rule.  Most healings and divinations are performed privately between the healer and her/his client.

What is the most important thing you have learned from your contact with this tradition?

For me, it’s been a revelation that folk healing continues to be a part of so many people’s lives, and that concepts of health are much more complex than simply physical well-being.  I’ve also been fascinated to learn about the important connection between the saints and the cause/ cure of illness; this is clearly a vernacular understanding of how the world works, one not based on liturgical concepts.  It’s also been a privilege knowing the healers who shared their stories and practices with me.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.  How can we find out more about your work?

I’m working on a book and educational DVD about vernacular healing and magic in Italy and in the Italian communities of the eastern US, but my administrative responsibilities are keeping me pretty busy these days.  Once I am no longer department chair, I hope to be able to obtain funding that would allow me to complete this project.  So far, I’ve published two articles on my preliminary findings; they are:

“In Search of the Roots of Stregheria: Observations on the History of a Reclaimed Tradition,” in Speaking Memory:  Oral History, Oral Culture and Italians in America, ed. Luisa Del Giudice; 165-182.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

“Italian Cunning Craft: Some Preliminary Observations,” Journal for the Academic Study of Magic  5 (2008), 103-133.


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Manifesting with Shamanic Dreamwork

Wildwood Tarot: The Moon On Water

Shamanic dreamwork is a strong part of the shamanic tradition, that is often overlooked. In many cultures, instead of trance journeying with a drum, highly developed dreaming skills are the way medicine people connect with the Otherworld. Shamanic dreamwork often includes journeying through dreams or specific journeys to understand dream imagery better. This is like a shamanic version of dream re-entry.

But the other part of the tradition often involves manifesting with dreams and dream work skills. There are three broad approaches to this work.

Taking Dreams Literally

Ordinary “day residue” dreams can be filled with great advice and can be precognitive. “Day residue” dreams often involve doing routine tasks. They aren’t always exciting. But they can contain literal advice about practical matters. It’s also important to notice synchronicities between dreams and waking life.

Once, I was involved in another person’s social media campaign. I spent large parts of my work day sharing posts on Facebook. When I asked my dream guides how I could attract more attention to my own website, I kept having dreams about the social media campaign I was doing for work. After the second night of this, I realized that my social media sharing dreams were my answer. I re-purposed an old article about crystal oracle cards to coincide with a national webinar featuring the card deck’s creator.. Because I shared the blog post and tagged the celebrity speaker, she graciously shared my article with her followers on Facebook. My website traffic exploded.

Sometimes dreams confirm that my actions are going to be productive. I have struggled with illness and doctors weren’t always able to help me. I began to fear that I was incurable. After my first appointment with the doctor who finally helped me, I saw him with my “power animal” in a dream. I knew somehow he would help me, although I did not know how. At my next appointment, he told me that I had a challenging health issue but it was curable. I finally had a diagnosis and a clear treatment after years of suffering.

Dream Embodiment

Shamans merge with the energies of their helping spirits. The most well-known example to Westerners is the “honoring dance”, the practice of dancing your power animal. A dream featuring a positive interaction with an animal may be embodied with this type of dance. The animal  may become an important dream teacher.

Many cultures also embody dream symbols by playacting them.. Dream teacher Robert Moss uses this approach with his students to unlock the energy of the dream world. Acting out a scene from a positive dream can help it feel more real. It can help a person to create the right actions and mindset to create a positive future. This is fun to do in a group, but it can also be done alone.

Manifestation with Dream Altars

This can be the most complex and “magical” of the three processes. I’ve seen it work in a gradual way without my awareness of the step-by-step process. I just know when the manifestation has arrived in my life. These altars can also function like Tibetan dream mandalas, helping dreamers to integrate symbols that appear frequently.

It’s a simple process, but you need an altar that mirrors your spiritual universe or cosmology. The four directions or the three worlds are a map of the shamanic universe in many cultures. My altar depicts a representation of the three worlds of the shaman: the ancestors’ lower world, the middle world of everyday life, the upper world of the divine spirits. I also represent the left and right sides that honor practical magic and devotion to my relationship with the spirits. This is one cosmology. There are many others.

For example, you may follow a pagan path, practice astrology or tarot. The layout of a pagan ritual often re-creates that cosmology. Astrologers use the twelve houses of the horoscope. Tarot readers use layouts. Any of these traditions can be used to create a dream altar.

It is also important  to create or find images or objects that represents your positive dream symbols and the goal you want to manifest. You can charge each one by thinking of your dream and blowing the dream symbol into the object. Then place it in the part of your altar that corresponds to your goal. As you do your daily altar practice, your dream objects receive a spiritual “charge”. You are also reminded of your goal or intent. Over time you will begin to notice changes that gradually bring the manifestation into being.

I hope these shamanic dreamwork practices help you manifest your highest dreams. If you are looking for a community of shamanic dreamers, practitioners, and earth healers- you are welcome to join us at Shamanic Earth Medicine.

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Dreaming with the “stone of light”


Mythical Goddess Tarot:Ix Chel/The Moon

In the 1990s, I discovered a wonderful book called Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer.  It was written by Rosita Arvigo, with Nadine Epstein.  It describes Rosita Arvigo’s apprenticeship to a Mayan healer and herbalist named Don Eligio Pantí.  Don Eligio used a special divination crystal called a sastun or “stone of light”.  He received the stone as a gift from his helping spirits after performing a special ritual and prayer. Her book describes his work with the stone of light. She also describes the ritual where she received her own sastun.

After reading about this in a few books about crystals and Mayan spirituality, I decided to try it and discovered my own seeing stone.  The prayer can be used with a special crystal that you prize, hopefully one that you receive as a gift or find in nature.  Any stone can be used, but quartz is especially helpful because it is transparent.  Don Eligio used a child’s marble.  You say the prayer nine times while bathing the crystal in rum while your fingers make sign of the cross on the stone’s surface.  (The cross is the Mayan symbol for the shamanic World Tree.) Then you go to sleep with the crystal near you or beneath your pillow, waiting for a dream that will show you how to use it.

Here is the prayer:


“Sastun, sastun

With your great power I ask that you tell me all I want to know.

Teach me to understand signs

Visit me in all my dreams

Give me the answers that I seek

I have faith that this sastun will answer all my prayers

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, amen”. (Arvigo,p.118)


It helps to cleanse and strengthen your seeing stone on Friday nights with the prayer and rum “bath”.  This process will empower your crystal, even one that is not going to be your seeing stone.  After you receive your seeing stone, use it as you have been instructed in the dream.  My seeing stone revealed itself to be a wonderful dream crystal.


Reading the symbols or using it as a dream crystal

Often a seeing stone will have inclusions that form rainbows or special symbols.  If your seeing stone is opaque, it may have markings or textures that will communicate to you in the dream.  Don Eligio would shake his sastun within his cupped hands as if he was rolling dice.  I liked to roll mine around in a small bowl, while asking my question, and then hold it up to candlelight to interpret the symbols within the stone.

A few months after I received my seeing stone, it helped me in a very important way.  It was another time when I was fairly sick and I was having trouble finding healers or doctors who could help me.  I was even sensitive to energy medicine and had to be very careful about who I worked with.  

I had the chance to work with a pair of shamanic practitioners and was nervous about the outcome.  The seeing stone helped me to know what to expect and gave me a dream to clarify its answer.  I was told to go ahead and receive the healing, even though it would not help all of my conditions.  I receive the healing and immediately noticed an improvement in one of my most challenging health problems.  One of the shamanic healers also became my teacher. My life improved because I had received this healing and worked with this man. This seeing stone became an essential part of my dreaming and shamanic practice.


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Sacred Coca Leaves: An interview with J.E. Williams, OMD

Photo of sacred coca leaves by J.E. Willianms, OMD from his article “Revisiting the Purity of Ancient Spirituality”.

(This interview with James Williams was published in my newsletter before 2012. It is still valid today as we navigate the fifth world.)

Dr. Williams has over twenty-five years of experience in integrative medicine specializing in rejuvenation and longevity medicine and is an internationally known expert in immunity. He is the author of numerous scientific papers and articles on sustainable medicine, ethnobotany, and biodiversity, and has written five books: Viral Immunity, Prolonging Health, Beating the Flu, and The Andean Codex (on Peruvian Shamanism), and Winter Rain, a book of poetry. Since 1967, he has lived and worked with indigenous tribes to protect and preserve culture, environment, and intellectual rights. His current work with the Q’ero in the Peruvian Andes includes building projects, education, and community health. He has been initiated into the traditional shamanic lineage of the Q’ero and is an adopted family member. He is one of the founders of Ayniglobal.

As a researcher, doctor, and spiritual guide, you have devoted a lot of your life to the study of plants.  Have you always felt a connection to the plant world?

Yes. I was raised on an old fashioned working farm and was very close to nature since early childhood. The forest was my home and even now, I feel most at home in the deep forest. The trees and plants were my friends, and animals my brothers and sisters.

In your book, “The Andean Codex”, you describe your apprenticeship with an Andean paqo or shaman named Don Sebastian Palqar Flores. He teaches you about the sacred coca plant. Why is coca associated with spirit and ceremony?

Mama coca, as we call the spirit of the coca plant, is considered the “bridge” between the human world and the spiritual world. It is the leveling ground, the starting place for communication where everyone has an equal voice. It is also the way the high mountain Quechua natives adapt to the extremes of living at altitudes above 12,000 feet.

Is coca considered to be a plant teacher like ayahuasca or San Pedro cactus?

Coca is not a hallucinogen. It heightens awareness and sharpens consciousness. In that way, it is unlike Ayahuasca or Huachuma (San Pedro), which are used in special ceremonies because of the intensity of the experience. You might say that coca is the mother of them all that confers the wisdom needed to guide our actions and thoughts.

What does a k’intu symbolize?

The K’intu is composed of three perfect coca leaves. It symbolizes the three worlds of the Andean cosmosvision and the three dimension of time-space-energy. A k’intu is always used as a blessing and offering to Pachamama, the Apus, to the Awkikuna (nature spirits), and to fellow humans during ritual coca leaf chewing.

I once saw a photo of a paqo blowing into a k’intu. Why is this done?

We blow our breath into the k’intu offering our soul, our life’s breath, fully and completely during ceremonies.

When you use sacred coca leaves in ritual, can you sense or hear Mama Coca?

Yes. Mamacoca opens intuition and reason for wise decisions along the shamanic journey or on the high mountain trails. The connection is felt as a unity between heart and mind, emotion and thought. Nature responds synchronistically by sending an animal messenger or uniquely shaped clouds or rainbows.

How does exchanging and chewing coca leaves help to weave the community together?

Every important act, and all is important to the Q’ero, is begun and ended with the ritual group sharing of coca leaves. When we visit a paqo, coca leaves are brought as a gift. When we make a ceremonial offering, called a despacho, we include coca leaves. When disagreements arise, as in all human affairs, when coca leaves are present, no one raises his or her voice over another.

Andean people used to exchange coca leaves to seal a bargain.  Have you ever seen anyone do this?

Coca leaves are used in this way and in all aspects of daily life in the Andes.

Don Sebastian is well-known for his coca leaf divination. What happens during one of these readings?

He consults Mamacoca by offering prayers for the individual in question, then letting the leaves fall like petals onto a ceremonial cloth called an uncuno. Unusually shaped leaves are selected from the bunch of coca leaves and are ascribed meaning according to their shape, size, and uniqueness. Sebastian then gives an assessment of what he sees, feels, and intuits all based upon his experience and what his guardian Apus inform him.

When is a coca leaf divination performed?

Divination can be performed at any time and for a number of occasions including during illness.

Are divinations ever performed to guide groups of people or all of humanity?

Yes, they are used to guide the community or during special ceremonies, for example when we go in the high mountains for shamanic initiations. They have not been used to guide humanity, but we are preparing for a large ceremony to take place in Peru specifically for this purpose.

What is the most profound thing you have learned from your contact with the spirit of the coca plant?

The most profound thing is the most simple. We are to learn a new way of living on the Earth. During these planetary transition times, we are to hold tight to Pachamama’s teaching of Ayni, the way of mutual reciprocity and spirituality guided by reason.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the readers of this newsletter.   How can we learn more about your work and teachings?

Come on one of our journeys to Peru. See the website:


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