Teachings of the Sisterhood of the Shields
When I first began my apprenticeship with Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs many years ago, I did not know that they were part of a very private and anonymous gathering of shaman women of high degree from several native cultures around the world – the forty-four women of the Sisterhood of the Shields.
Nor did I have any idea that my life was about to change forever, that their work and their teachings would become my life’s work and my soul’s quest for enlightenment and that I would become initiated as a member of the Sisterhood of the Shields and their public face.
At the time that I met Agnes and Ruby, I was actually in search of a marriage basket that I was convinced I had seen at an art gallery in Los Angeles, that had been haunting my dreams ever since. Soon thereafter, I was talking about this experience with a Native American author of a well-known book on legends. After listening to my story, he told me,
“Yes, I do know about a marriage basket. It is a dangerous object and very sacred. If you truly seek it, you can go to Ruby Plenty Chiefs in Manitoba, Canada. If she is willing and if she finds you worthy, she will send you to the keeper of the basket, who is Agnes Whistling Elk.”
Since that first journey to find Agnes and Ruby, I have traveled the world in their company and care to apprentice with the women of the Sisterhood of the Shields on four different continents and many, many different countries, from the jungles of the Yucatán to the Australian Outback, Nepal, Panama, the Solala region of Guatemala and the shores of Lake Atitlàn, Egypt, the Hawaiian Islands and from the far North of Canada to South America.
So many places, so many different cultures, so many amazing and beautiful women, many of them elders in their communities, all of them shaman healers of exceptional skill and personal integrity. These are women who have survived the ravages of war, rape, the loss of children, the ruination of their countries by clashes between oppressive governments and rebel forces, the hatred visited upon indigenous peoples in so many parts of the world. And they are women who Know.
While raised in the culture and traditions of their own indigenous worlds, these women don’t follow their native traditions. Rather, theirs are the teachings of the sacred feminine, the firstness of woman here on Mother Earth, a female planet. Our experiences in life are so different, yet I have found that the work of the shaman healer is much the same all over the world, as healing and applicable to our lives today as it has been for the past 50,000 years, at least.
Dreaming is a huge part of our teachings, the shaman’s way of consciously going into the dreamtime to meet with ancient masters and spirit guides and bring their wisdom back to be applied to our own lives.
There is no word in the English language for the transformation of the spirit. You can talk about “transformation of the spirit” to one hundred people, and you will come back with one hundred different definitions of what you are talking about.
Yet transformation of the spirit is the driving force behind all of their teachings, learning to walk through the chaos and confusion of our everyday lives with one foot in the world of the physical and the other firmly rooted in the world of spirit, living with sacred intent and the conscious awareness of a higher purpose in all that we do.
Their teachings are the teachings of personal experience, born of the understanding that the only way to learn about your own higher consciousness is through personal experience. There have been many great teachers throughout the millenniums, and many powerful and wonderful spiritual books have been written from every beautiful religious and spiritual pathway on earth. But you cannot learn about yourself by reading someone else’s interpretations of life and the voice of Divine Spirit. You only learn through applying what they have to say to the experiences of your own life to see what holds true and sacred for you. What works for one person may fall completely flat with another, so why would you want to turn the most precious and sacred aspects of your consciousness over to someone else’s experience of truth?
Thus, when Zoila Gutierrez knew that I needed to break my addiction to low self worth if I was to progress any further in their teachings, she actually allowed me to wander into a quicksand on the floor of the jungle and struggle against it until I was stuck up to my knees. She knew she had an easy way to get me out (I didn’t!), but she told me, “I’m not going to help you until you understand that you have to find your self worth, not only for yourself but so you can share what you learn with others.” She finally did help me out of there, but not until we had talked for many hours about what purpose that addiction served in my life, how it kept me from the joys and the hazards of taking responsibility for myself and finding my own truth in the world, until I finally realized how I was allowing my low self worth to leave me stuck and even strangling in a world of fear and emptiness.
I would never allow any of my apprentices to wander into quicksand! But I do show you how to go directly into the center of what you are facing in life and I stand with you and help you find the important personal truths of your existence that you can only learn from going into your hardships instead of living a life of denial, pretending that things are different from what they really are and if you can just ignore them long enough, maybe they will simply go away. That way of living is its own quicksand. It is from the place of the center of whatever confronts us that we actually learn how to move beyond our challenges and stand in the center of our own circle of truth and power.
The teachings of the Sisterhood of the Shields are born of Mother Earth, herself, the womb for all that lives upon her and our first teacher, and they come from millenniums of observation and learning about the movement of the winds and waters, the plants and animals of this great earth, and applying what is learned to the rhythms of our own lives. Earth is a planet of extremes and when viewed from a shamanic perspective, those extremes are profound teachers of awareness and finding a balance and harmony in living. They are teachings of patience and acceptance, teachings of the timeless give and take of life and of the sacred giveaway – never taking more than you need and always giving back in kind so that the Great Mother and all of life upon her can flourish.
They are the teachings of the energies of the four directions of the sacred wheel, the four directions of Mother Earth – south, west, north and east – how to go into those energies to look at your life from a circular perspective to see the whole picture before you make and act on the important decisions of your life.
They are the teachings of the mother energies of this great Earth and of activating and balancing your own sacred masculine and feminine shields so that you come from a place of wholeness instead of imbalance.
They are teachings of sacred living, being guided throughout your day by a conscious Oneness with the Divine in whatever way you know the Great Spirit, teachings of shamanic prayer, sacred ceremony and making your life an expression of wonder and joy.
They are the teachings of mirrors, seeing your truth reflected back to you in every situation you encounter, and of attaining the personal empowerment and healing that come from finding your own truth in life rather than wasting your time and energy trying to live out someone else’s truth, that may not work for you at all.
They are teachings about standing in the center of your own circle of power and learning to live like an arrow, not a target. You learn all the ways in which you are sabotaging yourself by giving away your power and truth and you learn how to stop doing that. “When the shield carrier reaches the top of the mountain,” Agnes said to me, “she never seeks approval, because approval is based in doubt.”
They are teachings of healing energy, learning how to access and use the wisdom that you have carried within you since you were born, that so many people today don’t know how to access: the wisdom of your body-mind, your sacred masculine and sacred feminine shields, the wisdom of your chakras, your power animals and what discovering them teaches you about your own true essence and how you can best express it in the world.
They are teachings of learning how to choreograph the energies of the universe toward a higher purpose in life, finding balance in your life by breaking free of the conditioning that keeps you fenced in rather than living the life of your dreams.
They are the teachings of the shaman’s tools and how to use them to call in energy and heal, the sacred drum, crystal healing, spirit dolls, shields of awareness and finding your own epiphanies through the creation of sacred art.
They are the teachings of conscious dreaming, learning how to build and strengthen your dream body so that you can go into the sacred dreamtime to find the answers you seek.
And so much more! The teachings of the Sisterhood of the Shields are about finding a new, higher, more sustaining vision for living and becoming that! It is my great joy and my profound privilege to be able to bring these teachings to you, and I am here to help you along your journey in any and every way I possibly can.
In love and spirit,