Spiral Dancing with Maria Yraceburu, EarthWisdom Teacher of The Apache Snake Clan
By Kym Sawtelle June 13, 2019
I was a seeker of spirit before I knew what either those words meant. At the age of four I would drag the step stool to the counter, glob peanut butter onto bread, run out the back door, dodge the rooster that was always waiting to steal my sandwich and call out to my best friend, Rusty. He was an Irish Setter who protected me from the coyotes. We found the openings in the fence that, along with threats from my Grandmother, tried to keep us in. Without any man-made map or electronic Google we found the creek. We knew where it was. We shared the peanut butter sandwich and the juicy red huckleberries Mother Earth generously offered. We drank the cool mountain water of the creek. I created a magic wand fashioned from an evergreen tree branch. I stood on the tree stump waving my wand while I spoke words of magic calling forth my dreams and desires. We explored, we discovered, we spoke to the creatures of the forest, and we swam in the clear, clean water. We laid on our mother’s soft body while being warmed by Grandfather Sun’s warm blanket of light. I sang to the sky. I called out to the clouds. We napped. We dreamed. I learned the language of creation, of Mother Earth. I learned to listen to the voice of the trees, mountains and creek. Only the threat of a banishment forced me to go back to the house by sundown. I did not know then that I was acting in the ways of my ancestors, the Celtic Druids.
Once I asked an adult what was in a tree. “Wood,” they said. No, what’s inside the wood!” I was furious by their ignorance. They looked at me like I was the ignorant one. “Wood! Go out and play!” I did gladly, but I knew the humans around me couldn’t help me understand that Mother Earth’s spirit was in all life so I stopped asking. My mother married a man who was a man of the church. He was arrogant and cruel and soon I no longer heard her voice or any voice in creation
My journey back to my authentic self, back to our Mother, and back to the song of the trees, the rivers, the mountains and our animals teachers, began 20 years ago with the shattering. Joseph Campbell writes that the hero’s journey begins with this death. The death of the phantom self. I had a brain injury and lost all my memories. Years of education, academic awards, college degree, mountains of books on history, of the greatest human civilizations, on how societies worked and of organized religions. I was an a classical actress, dancer, director, producer and writer. I had a deep hunger for how things worked. How people worked and what they believed.
The shattering was a brain injury that wiped out all my memories. A lifetime of knowledge. The patriarchs had been so proud of my academic achievements. But now I couldn’t remember my name, my husband’s name, who ironically was a minister of a large organized church. I didn’t know my children’s names or what day it was. I couldn’t read or write. The brain doctor’s at a famous university sighed and shrugged their shoulders and gave me a 50/50 chance of recovery. I spent most of my time playing with my 4 year old. We were princesses who spent our days having tea parties, creating magic worlds and dreaming of new worlds. This was a kind of reset that took me back to my 4 year old self when I believed in spirit and the magic of creation.
As my memory began to return—it returned in layers and took several years--I moved to a small beach community and lived in a canyon. I was in a small cottage surrounded by hills. I felt embraced by Mother Earth and then it happened. I was reconnected. I heard her voice again. And the voices of creation. Magical things happened daily. I heard and spoke to my spirit guides. And the spirits of the land. Then ancestors started popping in. I knew I needed some guidance. I needed a spirit teacher but I didn’t know who. I remembered what happened last time I asked what was in the trees. The patriarchs had planted so much fear inside me. I was struggling.
I felt that I need the teachings of people who understood the sacredness of all life. Who believed that spirit was in all life and that humans and spirit were partners. That all life was connected. The people who sang the song of creation for eternity. I knew I need the guidance of the indigenous wise ones of this land. They believed Mother Earth was a living spirit and that all creation was sacred. I knew they would know what was inside the trees.
It was at this time I heard of Maria Yraceburu. But I had so much fear inside me. I had no way of honoring and healing and letting go of the brain injury. I was fearful of reaching out to a Native American. I was of European ancestry. I knew what the European conquerors had done to the Native Americans. I asked our mother, my spirit guides and animal teachers for signs.
One evening I was eating dinner and a bat flew into my cottage. My friend reached for a broom to chase her out but I said, “Leave her alone. She has a message.” I watched her, the fragile ballerina of the night. The traveler of the deep midnight, the home of all our fears. She was the the messenger between the worlds. She flew in a pattern of the number 8. The infinity symbol. I learned the full significance of that number after studying and apprenticing with Maria Yraceburu, Teacher, Spirit Women, Guardian of Turtle Island, (North America), Granddaughter of Ten Bears and the sweet, gentle Naylin. The number 8 - the Medicine Wheel. I needed this medicine.
The very fact that I could sit in her circle around her campfire is a miracle. The conquerors did their best to wipe out entire tribes. They were very hard on the Apache people. Genocide was committed on the native people of this land. The conquerors carved a brutal and savage map on this land—on the heart of Our Mother - the many Trails of Tears. I was in a dark place when I found her. I remembered the words of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce. “My heart is sick and sad…I will fight no more.” There was so much pain I didn’t know how I would survive. So many tears. I swore I would cry no more forever.
When I set in the circle with other women tears began to flow. Our tears connected us. Our hope connected us. Our dreams connected us. Our hearts engaged. The irony of learning how to love again from the Apache Teacher was not lost on me adds Apache means “the enemy.” They are fierce warriors. But I learned they are fierce warriors of love, compassion and peace. I learned how to love again with the help of Maria, the Apache Teacher of the Snake Clan. I became a Spiral Dancer.
Maria says, “Spiral Dancing is a spiritual life we dance in love and connection to Earth and Spirit, It’s a life of fulfillment, a continuance, the threads that unite us together.” She became my Shima, One Who is Like My Mother. I learned to shed my Shadow of Fear and let go of the separation of soul sickness for the Coming-Together.
In her circle I remembered The Prophecy of the Rainbow Bridge of Peace that the Children of the Four Directions are crossing to reunite. I learned of Nakia, the Protector and Guardian of Mother Earth, women and children. I spent 5 days in a cave with Nakia and he told me I would I write words of healing, of medicine to his people. I laughed with surprise that he called all of us “his people.” He said I was a daughter of Mother Earth, or The Changing Mother so I am also his daughter. I cried. Like all authentic, gifted teachers Maria teaches us to be re-connected to all life on Mother Earth so we have our own connection with spirit. The conquerors spent centuries disconnecting us from our authentic power.
I am here, re-connecting, writing the film I was destined to write, working with my ancestors, celebrating my relationship with our Mother, working with those who have returned to help us through these trying times. This is the Prophecy of the Children of the Four Directions returning together on the Rainbow Bridge of Peace. This is the Time of Women leading the Way. This is the Time of The Wisdom of the Grandmothers and the Wise Ones. This is the Time of Co-Creation with Spirit. I am a part of all of it because of my time with Maria Yraceburu.
This is my authentic dance of love and creation; I run on the beach. I call out to our Mother, show me, please give me signs. She always does. Messages of love and hope and laughter delivered by crow, eagle, dolphin, whale, seal, spider and centipede. I call on creation to help me with the film I’m writing as it nears completion. I spent my entire life on this film, this story. Actually, many lifetimes I feel. I call on my ancestors, this I learned from Maria. The Celtic Druids. People whose beliefs about Mother Earth and the spirit in all living things is almost identical to Native Americans. I am reunited with the strong Spirit Women and teachers of my ancestors.
Peace and Love,
Kym Sawtelle, Water Snake