being of earth

Being of the Earth

April, 2018

(Photo by Isabella Jusková on Unsplash)

Ever since I can remember, I had a connection to the Great Mystery. I grew up in a Portuguese family. My paternal grandma was a devout Catholic. She taught me sacred songs in Portuguese and encouraged me to pray to God. I did this all the time when I was confused, sad, or upset and I always received an intuitive response that helped me get through difficult times in my childhood. Though they were mystified at why I wanted to attend mass with my grandma every Sunday, my parents allowed me to go and practice my spiritual beliefs. Even though I am no longer Catholic today, I have so much gratitude for the way my family validated my spiritual aspect and supported me in growing this in myself.

Considering the fact that I was born in urban East Vancouver, Canada, my family members did a wonderful job of keeping me connected to the land. I spent most of the daylight hours playing outdoors with friends. I come from a lineage of farmers and fishers. Portuguese people of my grandparent’s generation knew how to work with the Earth to grow and gather food and feed their families. My grandpa had a double lot in East Van, which he filled with edible and non-edible plants. Even though it was forbidden by bylaws, he even had livestock. Every spring and summer, my extended relatives made a trip to Tofino to fish for weeks at a time. We camped and the kids were responsible for cleaning gutted fish. At the end of our vacation, the catch was divided equally among all the families that participated. This gift from the ocean fed our families in the year ahead. Memories of Tofino are still treasured ones for me.

People often ask me how a Catholic Portuguese kid ended up being so steeped in shamanic and indigenous traditions. I am proud of my Portuguese heritage and the foundation my family laid for me. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been drawn to indigenous cultures around the world. I couldn’t really explain this when I was young except to say that it made sense to me that indigenous people revere nature and seek to be in harmony with her. Indeed, some of my most healing moments in childhood happened while exploring the outdoors. These experiences still guide me on my spiritual path today.

I was born on Musqueam territory. When I asked one of the elders about my connection to my blood ancestors and also the land on which I was born, he saw no discrepancy between the two. I will never forget what he told me: “Jen, when you were born on this land, my ancestors adopted you as one of their own. They have been guiding you ever since that day. You responded to their call.” Every time I drive back into the rainforest from the prairies (where I live today), tears form in my eyes when I feel the energy of the land. The ancestors always welcome me home. Sharing shamanic knowledge is my way of saying “thank you” and honouring my responsibility to the Earth and the ancestors who love me and are always there for me.

In fact, I’ve never met an elder in any indigenous tradition around the world who does not understand this interconnectedness. They champion diversity and actively look for ways to bring healing to their communities. Elders know that we are all relations. In this statement, all sentient beings are included as relations: the plants, the animals, the rocks, the elements, and so on. This can be a hard thing for folks who have not grown up connected to the land to understand. Most of us see our relations as objects that we are entitled to. We have forgotten our interconnection to these beings and their importance in our ability to survive and thrive here on Earth. I teach and practice shamanism because it reconnects people with this primal knowing. When we know ourselves, where we came from, and why we are here, we are much less likely to harm ourselves, others, and the Earth. Author and teacher, Anita Sanchez is of Mexican-American Aztec ancestry. She answers the question of what it means to be of the Earth eloquently:

“In the beginning, everyone’s ancestors were indigenous…But for many of us who have been separated geographically and/or culturally from our tribe’s original ancestral traditions and instructions, we then don’t regard ourselves as indigenous…A truly indigenous person is one who has intimate connection with Mother Earth and who embraces all human beings in order to get along with them. There is a respect for diversity, which is part of the circle of life…We are all connected. Indigenous peoples listen to not only their minds but most importantly to their hearts, and to what Mother Earth is saying.”

Indigenous cultures all around the world have developed technologies that work to bring us back into balance with nature. Many of these are ancient and have been passed down through generations. Through ceremony, rites of passage, medicine wheel teachings, sacred dances, drum journeys, talking sticks, and medicine songs, people are brought back to their original state of wholeness. Being human is a beautiful and challenging journey. When we are in right relation to our relatives–human and otherwise–life is not as hard and lonely a journey. I pray that these traditions continue to bring people together–especially in the modern age where there are so many forces trying to divide and separate us. I am grateful to all the elders around the world who continue to share this wisdom with future generations. Indeed, we are all indigenous to the Earth Mother.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

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For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com