As we impatiently await spring’s arrival (Eastern and Midwestern readers, I feel your pain), there’s a word that embodies this change of season for me every year: Inspirited. Def: to infuse with spirit. In the last few weeks of a hard winter, it’s almost impossible to imagine the green new life of spring. But—surprise!—it shows up again every year, just before we give in to despair. Isn’t the in-spirit of our Earth amazing?
“Wakan, Wakan, every creature
Wakan, Wakan, every rock.
Tuku Skanskan, time surrounds you
From sacred Earth we send our voices.”
One of the basic tenants of Native American belief, and one of its most beautiful, is that everything in life has a spirit and is Wakan, or sacred. We often forget to honor (or even recognize) the primal force of life, the stream of existence in which each of us swims. We move along this stream largely unaware of the larger cosmos in which we are involved, and the miracles it brings us without our asking, and largely without our thanks.
Through the art of shape-shifting, and other meditative visionary techniques, we can understand more fully that every one of us has a reserved place within the great shape of things. This is an ancient consciousness shared by many tribal and shamanic people on the planet.
Shape-shifting is the energetic exercise of attuning one’s own shape to the rhythm of something else in the natural world, so you may share its consciousness. When we become more conscious of the web of life, we become one with the forest, the rain, the blade of grass, the raven, and the earth. We recognize that all things are inspirited.
Some scientists are even beginning to compare new discoveries in physics to shamanistic beliefs. One is Jean E. Charon, a French physicist, philosopher and author of the book, The Spirit: That Stranger Inside Us (2004). He says, “There are microscopic individualities inside every human. They think, they know, and (they) carry Spirit in the Universe.” He calls these bits of intelligence eons, also known as electrons. “An electron that was successively part of a tree, a human being, a tiger, and another human being will thus remember for all time the experiences it has collected during these different lives. The electron will maintain within itself all of its experiences as tree, as human being No. 1, as tiger, and as human being No 2, to whose organisms it belonged.”
The ancient Celts had a word for this concept, tuirigin (TOOR’ghin), a very precise word for which there is no English equivalent. The nearest we can get to a translation is, “a circuit of births,” according to Caitlin Matthews, a Celtic historian. She says it’s, “not quite the same as reincarnation. In tuirigin, the soul or spirit moves between the otherworld and this world in a series of journeys.”
The Gaelic word for God is Cruithear, which means ‘creator’ or ‘shaper,’ and the ancient people in Scotland, the Picts, were referred to as the Cruithne, “people of the shapes.” Roman accounts, as well as Scottish oral tradition, tell us that the bodies of these ancient ones were covered in elaborate blue tattoos of various animals and other shapes. According to Matthews, it was their way of honoring the sacred world that had shaped them.
How many of us live our lives as ambassadors of the sacred spirit in all things, be it human, plant or animal? If we do not remember our own sacred standing, we may do things that are not in alignment with ambassadorship. Rather than fostering harmony and living an inspirited life, we may instead create discord and destruction.
This week, without waiting for spring to remind you, perform your own inspirited practice.
The next time you find yourself in a crowded place, whether in a shopping mall, movie theatre, football stadium or on a bus, do the following activity, adapted from Frank MacEowen’s wonderful book, The Mist-Filled Path:
Look at all the different people and whisper or think to yourself: “Every man, my brother. Every woman, my sister. Every crying child, my child. Every old woman or man, my grandmother or grandfather. Every wounded soul, my soul.”
The witch’s path, the shaman’s path, the tribal path, the ancestral path. Your path. All are rooted in allowing our spirit to be shaped by the larger universe. Today, infuse your spirit with Waken.