To me it seems long ago, the time before my Initiation. I remember most my longing; I remember the feeling of not fitting in.
I remember the way I was blindly reaching out to the world, to her song, to the birds and the trees and the mountains where I grew up. I was reaching out through Marijuana: trying to make this connection to the world and the sacredness that I knew was there. I was walking a tightrope, part of me doing what I was supposed to do in our culture: get into a prestigious university and keep up that GPA. And part of me was floundering: barely holding water in this Ivy League world where I wasn’t seen and wasn’t heard except for my charismatic “party” charm. I was nineteen. Now I am twenty six, and the experience of Initiation continues to unfold for me. Like a flower opening up, petal by petal, to bloom, my Initiation continues to grow inside of me, as I move forward through my life.
As one of my dear friends in the Sacred Fire Community has said, and it has made me laugh, my dad “got weird” when I was fourteen years old. He had been called to begin the long and arduous path of becoming a marakame, a shaman in the native Huichol tradition of Mexico. He is not Mexican by blood, nor is his Native American blood thick enough to measure, yet part of his agreements to the Gods in the time before this life included this path; part of his heart is home in the homelands of the Huichol. Anyways, all of this was a change for me, but most welcome in its funny way. My father began to offer Sacred Fires at his house, and though for a long time there was only one attendee, the community around my family had begun to grow. By eighteen, I was interested enough to attend my first Sacred Fire Community Reunion in Tennessee. And when I saw Grandfather Fire for the first time, when I heard the words of my heart I had never dared to speak, when he described how the world is a song, and every being plays its harmony in the glorious cacophony of life, I was breathless. Dancing like an uncontrolled banshee around the fire for the first time in my life and feeling the full sacredness of my femininity, I wanted more of that. I wanted more of that sweet, complete surrender.
Soon I heard the first women’s initiation was about to take place, and I knew that this was what I needed. I made the preparations necessary: a curriculum in femininity. By undertaking this process, I was guided through a journey where I learned about my body and nourished my feminine soul as I prepared for the initiation ritual. I was shocked that though I was lucky enough to grow up in a culture where I was encouraged, as a woman, to “succeed,” I had never been taught the sacred layers of my gender. I was never embraced by the nurturing, space-holding, creative womb of feminine community. And after all this undressing, stripping apart the layers of my cultural heritage, I arrived to my place of Initiation. I traveled through the doorway of the week-long sacred ritual. I had eight beautiful sisters with me on the path. I cut the cord of my attachment to my upbringing and was reborn as a woman, seen and heard and held by the divine.
There is an adjustment period. It was challenging to return to a world with all my pre-initiation relationships and the realignment: it took others a while to get to know the new me. It was and continues to be challenging to move amongst young adults who have no concept of initiation, and who are self-initiating all the time in careless, unguided ways. And it takes time for this new relationship with divine to grow. Two years after my Initiation, I had a huge lesson in boundary setting when I moved back home for a year after college. All my close high school friends had stayed in the area and it was as though they could see the change in me: my new growth and self-awareness, and they wanted a piece of that for themselves. I was inundated by their presence, and my mother no longer held up the strong boundaries for me she had set in my adolescence. I didn’t know what to do, how to protect myself, yet I had this relationship with divine, and I knew I could ask for help. When I did, it was as if I had been struck by lightning: I kicked my friends out of the house and stayed up for days, really investigating the karmic patterns between my childhood and my newly emerging adulthood. I looked long and hard at myself and let go of the relationships that were no longer serving me, and I sought help and healing and the path was there for me, waiting.
I drew on the strength of my initiation and knew that I was safe, even in my deepest vulnerability. I traveled by myself to Southeast Asia for two months, moved out of my home town and to Los Angeles, and still I felt the power of community, the power of my heart, as I tried to navigate the treacherous and sometimes shallow entertainment industry. And now I am willing to leap into the next chapter of my life, into the unknown as I make the journey to live in a foreign country. The experience of initiation has given me the gift of trust in my own soul. Life is no longer about success or failure; it is about following my heart so that I can be a servant to my highest self and to the divine in its many miraculous forms. I am a child of this earth and am moving forward in this divine comedy as a player: laughing, singing and dancing all the way.
by Madeline Merritt