I have finally experienced my first proper vision quest. Admittedly it is not something I ever planned to do. All I knew about vision quests was that they are a shaman ritual, and I had seen vague references to them in the Simpson’s movie. Yes, I was very culturally ignorant before my spiritual weekend in June! I was very excited to participate, and I expected to receive lots of powerful energetic revelations during solo meditations on a remote Derbyshire hillside. As it was, my experience was totally different, but very special.
It was called a fire vision quest because we were celebrating a fire festival on the Celtic calendar. It was shortly after Beltane, during the height of summer, when the days were longer than the nights, and everyone should be joyful and happy. The sun is generally shining at this time of year, although in the UK it has been rather sporadic of late. Anyway, on this weekend the weather had been a little bit murky, we had intermittent rain showers, and we knew the night would be cold even though it was midsummer.
Our facilitators set up a large bonfire in the grounds of the place where our spiritual retreat took place. The buildings and driveway are flanked on two sides by huge hills on which live sheep and other small wild animals. We were instructed to choose a sacred space on one of the hills in which to experience our vision quest. I had initially planned to visit the opposite hill to where I ended up. During the afternoon we all hiked up the hills to choose our spots, and marked them out with small wooden stakes. I found a huge, old oak tree that I felt compelled to step close to. She invited me to sit beneath her branches and do my quest, and I gladly accepted.
As the sun began to set, we gathered around the bonfire and Barbara, our High Priestess, officially opened the vision quest ceremony. I won’t go into detail, because it is a sacred ritual. Suffice to say the spirits of Earth and Sky welcomed us, and we sent out our personal requests for our spiritual journey. After confirming that we were sufficiently prepared for a night beneath the stars, our watchers took us up to our personal sites on the hills. From sunset to sunrise we were alone with our thoughts, silent and contemplative. We were totally alone with Nature.
I stepped into my sacred space and sat down with my legs stretched out in front. I could see down the hillside and across the narrow valley to the other hill on which sat my fellow spiritual travellers in their own spaces. I couldn’t see the fire properly through the trees but I could hear it crackling and snapping. It was comforting; strong and safe. Every so often I would see embers flying up into the sky, and I marvelled at their beauty and power. Somebody near the fire began to beat a large pow-wow drum. It pounded a steady, rhythmic beat which rumbled through the hillside and seemed to roll up from the centre of the Earth to fill my body with power.
I settled myself comfortably on the grass, marveling at the lightness of the night sky. I thought about beginning with some meditation, and prepared myself, breathing slowly and evenly to slow my body and open my mind. Instead I received a visit from our Great Mother. Her warm, loving presence surrounded me. I felt her arms around my shoulders and she gently laid me down in the grass, whispering that I should sleep now. I had been busy for too long, lost in the chaos of mundane life. Now I needed rest. A feeling of total peace swept over me. I was safe. I was comfortable. I slept.