One of the ways it was different was that it was not a public ceremony—it was just myself and the many wild and domestic animals I have met. The private ceremony was held at their request, and I had the sense that it would help us develop a stronger awareness of each other in addition to the usual despacho benefits of creating balance and harmony for the coming year.
Over the years I have developed connections with a lot of animals both wild and domestic in shelters, sanctuaries, zoos, parks, and homes and had some very special encounters. While I try not to anticipate too much, I was looking forward to the ceremony and assumed there would perhaps be some messages and guidance for the New Year. However, what made this ceremony memorable was something I didn’t anticipate—or rather someone—namely my cat Manitou.
A little background on him first. Manitou was not a cat I chose as an addition to my energy intense household. He showed up one day in my back yard as a starving adult suffering from emotional trauma—the result of physical abuse. He’s been with me a couple of years now, and it has been an adjustment for both of us. He is intelligent and very, very stubborn—a characteristic we share. I have learned that the best way to deal with Manitou is by remaining calm and being firm but somewhat flexible. It has taken a lot of personal clearing work to get there—at times Manitou could try the patience of a saint, which I am not.
When I set up all of the elements for the despacho Manitou was peacefully sleeping in the chair—or so I thought. He must have been sleeping with one eye open because the exact moment I laid the gift paper out on the despacho cloth to bless it and begin the ceremony Manitou was off the chair and sitting right in the middle of it. It is not the first time he has tried to literally be part of the despacho, but it had been a while and I thought it had lost its allure. Apparently I was wrong.
I tried to shoo Manitou away—without success. Operating on the assumption that he simply wanted to be close to the fire, I carefully folded the despacho up and moved it back so that there was now room for him to relax. Instead, Manitou came over and sat right on top of the folded despacho, which made me smile. So determined.
Setting firm boundaries with intention, I opened the cloth and made it clear that he was not allowed to cross them. Manitou got that gleam in his eye that I knew all too well, it promised to be a much more challenging ceremony than I had been anticipating….
As I created the design of the Southern Cross with sugar in the center of the despacho I thought Manitou was going to come unglued. The sound, energy and movement of all those sugar crystals hitting the gift paper awoke all his predatory senses. I could feel his muscles bunch in preparation for a pounce, and I pushed back hard energetically. He settled down again, but the gleam in his eyes remained…
By now senior cat Sand had awakened as well. Veteran of many past despacho ceremonies I thought she would behave herself. Nope, she tried to walk right into the despacho, too. I couldn’t help it, I had to smile and laugh…the serious and profound ceremony I had been anticipating was swiftly turning into a three-ring circus with lions and tigers…
Sand settled down a little behind Manitou, but he made it clear that he had first claim on whatever was going down.
Manitou watched intently as each element was added, and extended one paw past the boundary line I had set. I firmly told him that I would tolerate his coloring slightly outside the lines, but that pushing the boundaries any further was not a good idea.
Despite having to keep a sharp eye on Manitou and a slightly less wary one on Sand, the despacho was progressing nicely. At moments I would pause and admire its beauty. There were representations of All Our Relations present, including animal crackers symbolic of the native wildlife at Yellowstone National Park, Northwest Trek and several zoos and sanctuaries. Throughout the ceremony I would see glimpses of something mystical: ocean currents, the place of power where land and shore meet, the Tree of Life, and so much more…
I was seated on the floor, leaning over to place another element in the despacho, when Manitou decided to try a different approach—he jumped on my back. I laughed, figuring he was simply trying to get the best view possible. And that’s when he made the move he had apparently been planning all along—he dove over my shoulder intending to land in the middle of the carefully created (and almost finished) despacho. It was an epic swan dive and there would have been despacho everywhere.
He never made it. I don’t know whether the spirits helped me or many years of living with cats had sharpened my reflexes, but I caught Manitou in mid-dive and deflected him so that only one paw brushed the edge of the despacho. An animal cracker in the shape of a hawk flew a few inches away along with some lavendar and rose petals, but the rest of the despacho was fine. Whew!
Next I cleansed both cats with it, spending extra time on Manitou since I wanted to be certain that the little dickens was energetically squeaky clean—I don’t know if it can clear the mischief in him, but it was worth a try!
Finally, I offered the despacho containing my prayers and those of the animals as a gift to the spirits and the fire. I then knelt and turned my body to face away from the fire so that the spirits could feast in peace, and that is when Manitou climbed into my lap. He was purring up a storm, and repeatedly rubbed his whiskers and face on mine. He was VERY happy. For the remainder of the ceremony Manitou alternated between being impolite by staring at the burning despacho and tilting his face up to mine asking for kisses. And I caught a glimpse of all the animals gathered around us—they were smiling.
Once the ceremony was complete, Manitou climbed off my lap, curled up in front of the fire and went to sleep. Apparently his role as mischief-maker Coyote was complete.
Blessings to you and your human and animal family—may your New Year be filled with love and joyous encounters and connections with All Our Relations.
And if you happen to encounter challenges along the way just remember this ceremony with Manitou. Laughter helps restore balance and harmony!
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.
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