I am a student in year two of a three-year shamanic program.  As part of the learning, we go on journey’s with our helping spirits for a particular purpose and, in some cases, an initiatory experience.

On one occasion, I journeyed to the lower world with Crow, my helping Spirit. We were sitting high upon a rock outcrop surrounded by tall pines. To our right, the crystal clear water rushed by, falling far below to the deep pool. It was a clear day, the sky shining in cerulean brilliance. With Crow’s wing wrapped around my shoulders, I felt safe and content.

After a time, several crows flew to us, their wings flapping chaotically around; they grabbed me by the shoulders and, lifting me up, let me drop to the rocky boulders far below. I felt my body crash on the largest of the boulders, felt my spine bend backward unnaturally as the full weight of my body splintered every bone.

The crows surrounded my broken body and began to peck away at my flesh until there was nothing left. I could see bits of body parts flung this way and that. They joyfully hammered away until I was only viscera staining the rock, oozing, gleaming in the bright sunshine.

With a start, I awoke, my body still shaking, my mind reeling from the terrifying experience. I found myself snuggled under a blanket near a warming fire. From the mouth of the cave, I could see stars like brilliant diamonds illuminating the purple-black of the night sky. The silhouette of Crow’s body stood patiently, guarding me as I gained a full sense of myself. Confused by such an incongruent experience, I heard the callback of the drum. Thanking Crow for what I was not sure, I made my way back to my physical body. I journaled the experience, still very much unsettled, the disquiet lasting for quite a long time.

It was only later that I would learn that my experience has a name in shamanic circles. It is a powerful healing gift from Spirit for those fortunate enough to receive. It is called a dismemberment. Spirit shreds your body, your ego, your illusions so you may progress and then helps you be re-membered as more spiritually whole. Since that first experience, I have been dismembered/re-memberd many times. It does not get any easier to experience, but the profound healing is worth every bit of the terror.