shaman figure

The Vision Quest


People in many of the diverse indigenous cultures of North America would undertake vision quests: for instance, it was considered to be one of the seven sacred rituals of the Lakota Souix. Traditionally, individuals would go out into the wild, unpeopled places for up to four days without food, often without water too. In some cultures the vision quest was an important 'rite of passage' for young teenagers, but there were no age restrictions: men and women of all ages could undertake a vision quest. Often a medicine man, shaman or elder would follow the person on the quest at some distance, to make sure that they were alright physically: maybe the medicine man would also become involved in other ways, but of course it's hard for those of us not raised in a Native American tradition to know what really might have transpired between a person out on a vision quest, the elder looking out for them, and the spirit world. In a nutshell though, it is said that the quester would use the vision quest to seek out the help of a 'guide' of some kind, an entity that could then be called on for help whenever help was needed.


However. Any attempt by a non-Native-American to put together a 'vision quest web page' aiming to somehow recreate the historical, or even contemporary, Lakota Souix vision quest experience, say, for other non-Native-Americans is going to be difficult, to say the least. Here are just some of the 'problems'.

1. A deep knowledge of the Lakota (say) world-view would be required by all concerned. For reasons of time and space (and the fact that I am not qualified) I am not going to attempt to provide any detail on Lakota 'magic' here.

2. It's not quite so easy as it was to find on-the-ball medicine men willing to follow you around for four days and intervene in the spirit world on your behalf.

3. In many countries of the world it's becoming increasingly difficult to find places where it is actually possible to roam freely for four days without meeting another human being.

4. Few of us in 'civilised Western cultures' these days are physically hardy enough to go without food and water for four days while out and about in the countryside. Even if you're used to fasting without food from time to time, chances are that going without water for more than a day is likely to be actually quite dangerous (apparently there's a risk of liver damage).

For all of these reasons, the 'vision quest' guidelines here have been written on a more general (and accessible) level, without encouraging anyone to go out and risk life and limb, without the kind of detail that only people from one or another ethnic group would tend to understand, without the specifics of magical practise pertaining to one or another culture.

The vision quest is up to you. This was always true.

'To go on a vision quest is to go into the presence of the Great Mystery'.
Lakota proverb


The Vision Quest

Important: you should delete from, and add to this set of guidelines, as you see fit. You choose the time and place.
Wandering freely out in the deserts of New Mexico, or in Scotland. Sitting on a long train journey, or in the shed at the bottom of the garden. It's all up to you.

'Work up to' your vision quest: take the time to let the strength of the intention grow before you finally decide to commit yourself to it.
Build up a good 'head of steam'.

Allow between three hours and three days time-out for the quest itself.

Don't eat anything while you are on the vision quest.

Do drink water.

Take a mobile phone (in place of the elder who would once have looked out for you).

Stalk the unconscious.

Hunt the clues to an awareness of consciousness.

Know that you are part of a web of causality where everything is connected.

Listen to what is going on.

Look for clues in everything you sense.

Look for clues in everything you think, everything you feel, and in everything that happens to you.

Feel your connection to the earth. Breathe. Try and maintain a sense of the web of energy that surrounds you.
Try and let an intuitive sense of this energy give you direction.

Believe that you may find new and deep guidance, of profound importance to your life, if you are open to this.

Remember that if you want to find yourself, you may have to lose yourself first. Maybe 'you've got to get out of it if you want to get into it' (as somebody said) and before you can integrate yourself more effectively it may first be necessary to go to pieces.

Suspend your disbelief.

If you do not normally believe that trees and rocks have spirits, then suspend that disbelief, and treat the spirits with the respect they deserve.

The world as you know it is something that you (re)create every moment. So, you can create the world in different ways if you choose to do that. What happens to you is determined by the totality of who you are. So, take responsibilty for who you are, accept yourself totally, and run with the grain of the Universe.

Stay vigilant.

Engage fully with what is going on. (So that if you choose to go off in some new direction, you do that with commitment).

Allow yourself to be both the one who acts and the one who watches. Avoid 'possession' by whatever aspect of yourself is currently to the fore: be creative with identification, so that even in the middle of ecstatic experience, for example, you know that this is just one face of many. See the addictions, see the fear. Be aware of the sleepwalking parts of yourself. Choose, for a while at least, not to energise them. Don't overindulge in thoughts and feelings whose origins are in 'scenes from the past'. Be focussed.

Hunt the 'ally'.

Have courage. Be a warrior. Do not underestimate the importance of the challenge.

Look for the clues. Guidance may come from anywhere: from dreams, from a tiny creature of some sort. From seeds planted in you at this time that do not sprout and grow until months have passed. You may find a spirit guide, perhaps in a totally unexpected way. You may find an ally of some unexpected sort, also in a totally unexpected way. You may be tested. You may not be tested at all. Only you know what you should do. Be strong. Extract all that you can from this. If nothing happens, that's fine!

Let an intuitive 'body-energy' awareness guide your steps. Don't hang around in places that don't feel right: do hang around in places that do feel right.

Try and recall your dreams after you sleep.

Recover everything that makes you whole.


Contribution: Richard Ebbs, Leeds, England.


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