It was winter. A dying bear lay on the cave floor with spears protruding from her body. Native American hunters, dressed in animal skins, patiently waited for the bear’s death, praying and giving thanks for her sacrifice. The bear’s breathing slowed until she finally took her last breath.
Her spirit rose out of her body, soaring through the snow toward the night sky over the snow-covered land—the stars beckoning her.
The bear’s spirit traveled to the spirit realm, stepping foot among spirit guides who silently observed her. The bear, who was in shock over her untimely death, trudged toward a cave, disappearing inside.
Then the shamanic vision ended.
I lay there knowing something profound had just occurred, but was unsure of the vision’s meaning.
A few months later spring arrived, and I was shamanic journeying—a visionary process of letting my higher mind visit the spirit realm where I commune with spirit guides who offer healing and guidance. I saw the bear come out of the cave. Winter’s long hibernation was over. Behind her trailed two cubs.
The mother bear offered me a ride. I got on her rugged back, grabbing her fur as we soared. The vision became so clear that it scared me, jolting me out of what could have been the ride of my life. (I’ve always regretted not being able to take that ride fearlessly—wondering what it would have revealed to me.)
Despite my fears, the mother bear became my second power animal.
Power (totem) animals are spirit guardians in animal form (they can be mammals/birds/fish/insects and even mythical creatures) that embody their species’ archetype energy. Power animals act as protectors and guides for shamans, and can be a part of the shamans’ journeys for many lifetimes or brief periods during which their archetype powers are needed.
That summer, while I was driving to a shamanic journeying workshop in Chapel Hill, crows came out of the trees and flew ahead of me. (Crows are often a “sign” for me. I pay special attention when I see them.) The birds led me to the remote driveway of the lodge where the workshop was being held. Because of the “special escort”, I expected this weekend to be magical.
Later that the afternoon, twenty people lay on the floor shamanic journeying while one of the instructors drummed. I was in the midst of a vision when the mother bear, who stood by my side, turned her head toward me and said, “I must go,” then she flew away, leaving her cubs and me behind.
I was stunned by her sudden departure and burst into tears, which was terribly embarrassing. To keep from distracting the others, I got up and went into the kitchen where I cried as quietly as I could. I knew I was overreacting to the bear’s departure, but I had no idea why.
Many Native American tribes believe that when a power animal leaves, its archetype power stays with the person, however, its absence allows another power animal the opportunity to come into the person’s life, thereby increasing the person’s power. This belief proved true for me, because the cubs did stay with me, and, a year later, after they grew into adulthood, they began helping me with shamanic healings.
That October, my mother, who was riding a bike, was struck and killed by a car—this was the most traumatic event of my life. After the shock wore off, I saw the synchronicities between my mother’s expected death and the mother bear’s sudden departure. I understood that the tragedy had been set in motion long before it played out. And, even though the power animal and my mother had left me, they had made sure I would be taken care of emotionally and spiritually. The mother bear had left me her offspring, who continued to help me as power animals. And my mother’s spirit visited me a few days after her death, offering me the greatest miracle I’ve ever received. For a holy instant, she, along with the Divine Spirit’s help, revealed the universal golden light that connects all of us, pulsating with every soul’s presence from here to eternity, allowing me to know my mother was all right and surrounded by love, and that she hadn’t really left me.