The purpose of the ritual is to connect with the energy of an animal that has meaning for you. This can be a totemic spirit or simply an animal that you feel a bond with. Dressing up as the animal, or wearing jewelry or accessories that symbolize the animal to you, can help you make that connection. The first time I led the ritual, I dressed as Cheetah, one of my animal guides. I wore a spotted cape and did basic face paint - not a Halloween costume type outfit, but one that invoked the spirit of Cheetah for me.
It is a good idea to share food and drink at the end of the ritual, as a way of grounding and bringing everyone fully back into the physical world. This can be as simple as bread and wine (or juice, if children are participating) or as elaborate as a full meal. The choice is yours.
This ritual works best in a group, with one person reading out the invocations and the guided journey for the others. If you wish to perform this ceremony alone, you will need to prepare beforehand by recording the guided journey so you can play it back as if someone else were speaking it to you.
If you enact this ritual, please share your experiences in the comments below or on my Facebook page. I would love to hear which animals you encountered and how the journey worked for you.
ANIMAL JOURNEY CEREMONY
This is a simple shamanic-style journey to make connection with an animal spirit. It is a ‘moving meditation,’ in that the participants move around the ritual area, enacting their totem, during the meditation rather than lying still. Children as well as adults can participate in this circle.
The attendees gather in the ritual area. All are clad in garb that helps them identify with the animal they wish to meet tonight: costumes, jewelry, makeup, body paint, whatever pleases them.
If you like, you may have live drummers or recorded drumming and nature sounds; begin the music at the point noted in the ritual. This journey may be undertaken indoors or outdoors, in daylight or after dark, but be sure to clear a large area where the participants can move around safely. If you use candles, torches or incense, be careful to place them away from the area where the participants will be moving. A darkened ritual space (outdoors at night, or indoors with curtains drawn) will help the participants focus on the journey.
THE RITUAL BEGINS
The leader marks the ritual area out of time and space by walking around its perimeter while saying:
We journey tonight within and beyond. I mark the beginning of our journey and the place where it ends.
The leader invites the Great Spirit into the circle:
Come, Great Spirit, and join us on our journey. Bring to us your balance, your grand motion and great stillness. Help us to find that within ourselves which we most need to continue our journeys and enrich our lives. Welcome, Great Spirit.
The leader acknowledges the elements with invocations adapted from The Elementals by Morgan Llywelyn:
NORTH: The stone sat on its hillside and thought. Its thoughts were not cerebral. It had no cerebral cortex. Nor were they visceral. Stones do not need viscera. The thoughts of stone are the thoughts of earth, compacted, weighed down by the eons, thrust upward by cataclysm, encased in ice. Immobile for millenia. Then pushed, shoved, dragged, dropped. The stone sat where the glacier had abandoned it. The surrounding landscape slowly changed. Vegetation appeared, softly mantling the ice-scraped soil. Trees grew. Rain poured over the stone; rain from its cousins the mountains, who helped shape the weather. Sun shone. Change followed change. Two-legged mammals arrived. They recognized the stone as fearsome and holy and bowed in worship before it. In what served as its consciousness, the stone thought this behavior just and proper. It was part of the sacred Earth.
EAST: Everything that is, is alive. Life did not come into this world. The life forms of the earth are a natural product of the earth, as the living planet is a natural product of the living universe. Life in any form is part of life in every form. One, indivisible. The terrestrial spark is connected to the most distant star, just as the collective consciousness of the earth is one cell in the infinitely greater creative intelligence of the universe. It is said, no one can know the mind of God. Yet we are the mind of God. And so we dance for joy. We dance to the music of life, which ripples and shimmers across the universe. Even in the coldest depths of space, something is dancing the dance. Something is part of the music. Every molecule of Air on Earth has its part to play in the whole. Myriad life form dance in what appears, to human eyes, to be empty air. Air is not empty. Air is alive. The angels of the Air sing the songs of the spheres.
SOUTH: Fire! Fire! Fire! Let there be fire. Hot hotter hottest singeing singing soaring burning blazing conflagration inferno holocaust. Let there be light. Sparking flashing flaring flaming illuminating glowing gleaming glaring dazzling radiant. Let there be life. Vigor ardor intensity vehemence fervor passion fury magic inspiration genius brilliance. Thoughtless explosion of power giving birth to all thought, all awareness. Vast outgoing surge of creative passion studding the universe with stars, smoldering in the souls of planets. Simmering scorching scalding sizzling bubbling boiling molten inflaming energizing consuming. Fire is. Fire was. Fire will be. Mindless. Allmind. Fire. Fire. Fire!
WEST: We are the sea. We are the planet’s dual-purpose organ of reproduction and reverence. The trinity of Sun, Moon and Earth exchange their sacred energies through the linkage we provide. We acknowledge no limits, merely impediments that we continually whittle away. We are a prism through whose liquid lens the colorful diversity of the planet is refracted. Aswarm with life, we think trillions of versions of thought. Our sentience is in your blood, in everything that contains water. Man has crawled from our womb. We are watching. We are aware. We are the sea.
The leader explains the meaning and purpose of the ritual:
Tonight we journey to the animals who lead and guide us, whose energies we carry and who can help us along our life paths. Think about the animal whom you wish to meet tonight. Focus on it during the meditation. But be aware that the one you meet may not be the one you expect.
There are several points during the journey when you will be asked to choose whether or not to go on. Should you choose not to, you should remain where you are in the journey (rather than coming out of the meditation) and wait for the others to return to that place. Then you may continue back out of the journey with the rest of the participants.
You may move around as you wish during this journey. You may also stand or sit still, if you desire. Allow your inner voice to direct you, and heed its instructions.
Participants space themselves about the ritual area so that all may have room to move freely. Drumming or recorded music begins now. The participants move, sway and dance in a way that helps them identify with the animal they have chosen for this ritual. The leader may call on his or her animal spirit guide, aloud or silently, for assistance. Then the journey begins.
Tonight you have made yourself in the image of an animal that calls to you. Now you will journey to a place where you can meet that animal and discover its energy and its purpose in your life. Once you have met your animal and learned about it, should you so choose, you may add its energy and purpose into your life. Let us begin.
Feel your weight upon the earth, your feet against the ground. Feel the rhythm of your breath and your heartbeat as they pulse in rhythm with the earth. You become one with the earth beneath you.
You see before you in your mind’s eye a great darkness. Look into this darkness. Feel the warmth and closeness of a cave, the security of the womb of the earth. You are in a dark cave. You can see nothing at all. But you can feel the warm, moist air and smell the deep, rich earth. All sound is muffled by the still air deep in the cave. Let your senses explore the cave.
As you look around you see a pale light far ahead. This is the mouth of the cave. You begin to move toward the cave mouth, toward the light of the outside. You must climb up, out of the depths of the earth, to get to the cave mouth. It is a long climb. You work your way up the steep slope with great effort, pulling your weight against gravity as you climb toward the opening. When you reach the opening you look out on a lush countryside, green and alive, with all the things you find beautiful in the outdoors.
Now step out of the cave and into the fresh air. Look around you and see the beauty, the energy, the life. Smell the scent of plant and flower and earth. Feel the warm sun on your skin, the soil beneath your feet. This is a good place, a safe place, a place full of life.
Explore the countryside around you. Feel its energy, the abundance of moving, living, growing energy. As you explore you hear the sound of a babbling brook. Follow this sound through the land until you find the brook.
It is a small, shallow creek but you know that it is a token of a much greater boundary. It extends in either direction farther than you can see. As you look across the brook you see that on the far bank is the animal whose spirit you have called upon. Your animal awaits you, ready to answer your questions and lend its energies to your life path.
To reach the animal you must cross the brook. The land on the other side of the brook contains only truth. Any question you ask will be answered in full truth. Do not cross the creek if you seek other than the deepest truth for your life path. Choose now whether or not you will cross. If you choose to cross, I will tell you how to do so. If you choose not to cross, wait here until the rest of us return.
Stand on the bank in front of the creek. It is narrow; you will cross it with three steps. Set one foot in on this side of the creek. With this step you leave behind your preconceptions about the animal you will meet. Set the other foot in the creek on the other side. With this step you leave behind your preconceptions about your life path. Step out onto the bank on the other side. You have crossed the border from your domain to that of purest truth. Before you is the animal you have called.
You may now speak to the animal. Ask of it anything you wish to know. It will answer fully and in truth. But especially, ask how its energies and purpose pertain to your life path. Begin by asking the animal why you chose it and why it chose you. Speak with your animal for as long as you need to. When you are done, the journey will continue.
You are now familiar with your animal’s energies. You know why it calls to you and how it can be a part of your life path. If you so choose, you may now make the animal’s energies and purpose a part of you as well. This is a mating of spirits, a merging of energies. From this mating will be born a new you, a fresh approach to your life’s activities and a renewed sense of purpose on your path. Choose now if you wish to become one with the animal spirit. If you choose to do so, the animal will show you how.
Feel now the energies within you, merging and emerging. You know the way into this place. Should you ever wish to do so, you can come here again. But now it is time to leave, bringing back with you all that you have learned and all that you have become on this journey. Say your goodbyes to your animal, knowing that you carry its spirit with you now and always.
Look around you at the beautiful countryside until you find the brook again. Once again, you will cross it in three steps, but the steps have new meaning now. Set one foot into the creek on this side. With this step you bring the truth of this place into you and hence into the rest of your life. Set the other foot into the creek on the other side. With this step you bring the energies of the animal to your consciousness where you can use them in all your life. Step out onto the bank of the creek. With this step you bring realization that you are the only one who truly has the power to direct your life path; you walk your own walk; you choose your own life.
Stroll across the beautiful countryside taking in the sights, sounds, smells, sensations. This beauty is all within you. This much life, vitality, strength, abundance is within you. You know where it is now and how to reach it. When you are in need of beauty, of great richness of life, seek out this place within you. It is always here.
Now as you move across the landscape you see the mouth of the cave, the opening whence you were born into this place. Enter the cave now, knowing that this is the portal to your inner self, to tranquility, beauty and strength. Through this cave you are reborn to yourself, to your own life.
Feel the warm, secure darkness around you as you move deep into the cave. Feel the energy within you: your new knowledge, the spirit of your animal, the spark of life within you. This is who you truly are: what can be seen only with the heart. Look inside you now and see your beauty, your strength, your purpose. You carry these with you always. Remember where they are.
The air in the cave grows gently and gradually cooler as you move toward the other end, toward the surface of the earth. You feel the weight of your body as your feet press on the earth. You grow slowly and gently lighter as the earth releases you, as you return to your starting place, to the sacred circle. Feel your breath and your heartbeat, the rhythm of your life.
You have returned from a great journey. Awake, arise and refresh yourself as a traveler might do. But remember that you are only at rest; you have not yet reached your journey’s end.
The leader assists the participants to return fully to the present. All join together to thank the Great Spirit for the blessings of sustenance and abundance.
The participants and the leader join hands in a circle to thank the attendant spirits and elementals and to release the ritual space. Then, with gratitude and a spirit of community, take the time to share food and drink with one another.