Winnowing & Shamanic Journeying

by Jessie Marie

I’ve always been interested in death - the process, what comes next, and communication with non-corporeal spirits. My favorite time for nature photography is autumn - when the flowers have mostly faded and are barely hanging on. This fascination has also led me into a special interest in birth as well - the opposite of death, where a person is brought from the beyond the veil into our world. In addition, it’s led me to ponder the many ways we die and are reborn throughout our lives.

There is the obvious - aging. Most cultures have a coming of age ceremony of some sort in the mid teens, especially for girls becoming women. The Catholic sacrament of Confirmation, the Jewish Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the Southern USA debutante balls, the Latin American Quinceañera, and more all over the world. While the girl-specific ones, at least in the West, tend to be a bit (if not overly) patriarchal in their ideas of preparation for suitors and marriage, the coming of age ceremony is an important aspect of growing up. It represents the death of the child, and the rebirth as an adult, with adult responsibilities and privileges (even if this gets muddled with current laws on what adulthood is vs maturity).

Another source of death and rebirth is major life changes - death of family members, marriage/divorce, childbirth, career changes, going back to school, retiring, “empty nest”-ing. Of this list, only marriage and death are usually given a true ceremony. You could argue childbirth gets a ceremony (baby shower), but usually any festivities are celebrating the baby - who does deserve celebration - not the mother. I believe that all of these things deserve recognition: they are major changes that bring a new version of yourself forward, like coming of age, and often in a more real way than hitting a number of birthdays or experiencing menarche can.

Yet another source, and one that I have personal experience with in my own life and facilitating it for others, is the death and rebirth that comes after engaging in deep energy work. I use Reiki and Winnowing (my name for healing shamanic-type journeys for others). Both of these have immediate, extensive, and sometimes life-changing effects on a person.

When you receive energy work, you are engaging in a deeply healing experience, but one that requires work to continue and finish the process. This is especially prominent when you are learning to be an energy work practitioner. If you’re just getting the treatment, you will probably have some experiences and symptoms of the energetic cleansing that is going on, but you have the choice to continue the process in doing your part of the work, or not. This can include things like ending relationships that are harmful, or making different choices in your diet or habits. However, if you’re becoming a practitioner, that cleansing will work its way through, whether you do the work or not. And if you don’t do the work willingly, you’ll find yourself being guided at varying levels of strength.

When I received my Reiki attunements, I experienced a resurgence of physical ailments that had emotional and psychic roots - sore throats and cold symptoms related to my speech and throat energy center. Over time, my ability to speak my truth has grown, but that has always been a trouble area for me. On the other hand, when I decided to start my shamanic apprenticeship (not even having had any journeys or experiences yet - that I knew of), I immediately felt the energy moving around me. I had meaningful dreams, and little urgings to do things that I wouldn’t normally do. As I began the healing/preparation part of my apprenticeship, those energy changes became so significant that I physically was unable to eat certain foods that I had loved before!

When I look at my life now, I see several other distinct markings of rebirths of one kind or another. The first was actually my whole high school experience. Looking back on it, it seems like one big death/rebirth experience, made of several smaller ones. I went in hurt from my father’s death, but whole. I left broken beyond recognition (to myself at least), due to my mother’s death, an abusive relationship, and other things. From there, I started to find myself. While I still made some decisions that weren’t ideal, it began a general upward trajectory of my life.

My second big death/rebirth experience was the time of my marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. Right when I first thought I knew where I was going to go with Learning Eunoia, I got married, then found out I was pregnant a month later. While I see my daughter as a Divine blessing on our marriage for many reasons, the pregnancy was also a huge test of myself and the relationship. Hyperemesis Gravidarum sapped me of all energy, leaving me without one thing I didn’t even realize was a part of my identity, my physical strength. It ended with a C-section where I remember thinking I had died. Recovery and early motherhood was more difficult than I expected. But my daughter gave me a reason to keep living, and to keep that upward trajectory going.

Bringing this back full circle, I experienced all these rebirths of myself, but without ceremony. I wonder what the world would look like if we celebrated more - not parties meant to get us intoxicated, but actual celebration. A gathering of friends and family to help us birth the new versions of ourselves, knowing that birth isn’t just a happy time of new life - it includes pain and tears and the breaking open of one person to bring a new one into being. Maybe if we did this, we’d have more meaning to our lives, and therefore less pain and sadness. I’d like to create an orphaning ceremony, a divorce ceremony, a new career ceremony. Not because these are necessarily joyful times, but because they offer a chance to solemnly recognize and commemorate what has been, what is now, and what is yet to come. One day, I'll get there. But for now, we can each create our own. I hope it will be enough.

---Jessie Marie lives in San Angelo, Texas, USA, with her husband, daughter, and cat. For all her life, she has felt a deep desire to help people, and has found The Divine in nature. As an adult, she has studied energy work, magic and psychology, becoming a Shaman of the Way, a Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, an ordained minister through ULC, and earning professional certifications in NLP, Life Coaching, and always continuing studies. She is also a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin and Reformed Druids of Gaia, two Druid organizations. Through these modalities and others, she pursues her life’s work of helping people to heal their body, mind, and soul, and working to heal our Mother Earth.