Power Animal Dance

2/16/12 – Power Animal Dance at PSG

It was the late 80’s, at a Pagan gathering in Wisconsin in June.  Three hundred leftover hippies, Dead Heads, and rebellious or curious young adults, in a gently rolling campground normally occupied by other extreme radicals such as … Boy Scout troops.  Pagans learn from any tradition too slow to run away fast enough, and we were blessed with some genuine Native American souls at this particular gathering.  They organized a power animal dance for one evening.  The idea is to let your power animal (or kindred spirit) take over your body for a little while, to learn from each other and exchange perspectives.

That night was a little cold, with more than hints of rain possible.  I really wanted to participate in the dance, but the weather was icky and I didn’t want to be very active physically.  So I got a bright idea! I decided my power animal for the evening … was a tree.  Ok, I have to admit I had never heard of a plant being a power animal before, but everything’s part of nature, therefore is part of the divine, so why not?  I had a brown poncho, so that would double as rain protection and vaguely look like a tree trunk.  This could work!

So I put on the poncho and started walking to the ritual space.  But being a tree, I walked slower than I Ever. Have. Before.  Each step became a new investigation of my feet, slowly shifting my weight from one part of each foot to the next until it could take my full weight.  This took forever, so naturally I was one of the last people to get in line for the dance.  As I approached the ritual space, the ground shook gently, rhythmically from powerful drumming, and for quite a while I couldn’t tell what was up ahead.  When I got close enough, I saw that people were being squeezed one at a time between two of the drummers.  Birth.  A human birth canal had been created, between the driving heartbeat of the drums.  And so I was delivered into the sacred space.

I walked slowly to one side of the space, and planted myself (ahem) with a good view.  Around me people were jumping and growling and leaping and interacting with each other in their animal forms.  But as a tree, I couldn’t make a sound.  Or move.  Some approached me, sniffed about, then went on their way.  I was surprised to realize that, as a tree, I had become supremely vulnerable. No defenses, no running away.  Exposed to anything that could walk up to me and do anything they wished. And as interesting as my neighbors were, there were none of my kind present in the dance.  A twinge of loneliness pulsed through me.

I observed the dance for a while longer, and then heard a strange and unfamiliar sound from the middle of the space.  It repeated, or maybe continued, and only then I realized it was English.  I had drifted into the dance so far I couldn’t understand language for a while.  And as our common bond of language was reinstated, I realized and felt a connection to all the critters dancing around me.  We. Are. One.  The enormousness of that utterly simple statement came crashing in around me.  I slowly eased myself to the ground, waves of sobbing, my body convulsing with the relief of no longer being alone.

After a while, a couple of people came to check on me.  One asked, “Are you alright?”  I nodded slowly and thought ‘Oh yes, like never before.’

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