• Dangerous Beauty – Elemental Attraction

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Since the completion of the mapping of the human genome, a new set of interesting studies has emerged inquiring into the parameters or extent of inherited traits. Geneticists are looking into these subsets of inheritance in what is now called the Epigenome  – Their studies focus on a set of genetically apparent inherited traits related to enormous traumatic events like widespread famine, a huge natural disaster and the horrors of genocide. Family patterns of trauma related to these kinds of huge events, appear to pass down tendencies for future afflictions and illnesses like diabetes and other systemic ailments just like inherited bone structures, intelligence and eye color.

The acknowledgement of this kind of inheritance by the scientific community is as close to agreement with the focus of shamanic healings as modern science has come. This was particularly affirming for me as a shamanic practitioner dealing with unseen roots of afflictions. The unusual inherited patterns that I am called on to investigate usually have dramatic, remembered family stories attached to them. When this is so, it can be easier to mark their progress in a line and their effect on descendants. In some cases these patterns originate from interference or interactions with powerful natural forces. These forces are often referred to as Elementals. Elementals exercise and use natural intelligence to interact with other living energetic entities, and we humans are wonderful ‘playthings’ for them because we have so much capacity for this kind of interaction. Our cultural myths are stories of humans doing just this – interacting with superhuman or godlike entities with mixed results in hopes of surviving and extracting some of their power for the good of humanity. 

These natural forces manifest as immense energetic entities, or unexplained phenomena attached to specific natural places. Ancient humans sometimes tried to tap or interact with this kind of power with placed stone circles or in oracular grottos. These immense energies can be disrupted or tapped in some cases for human purposes – for good or not so good.  But in essence this kind of power is not moral, empathic, or consistent in allegiance, no matter how magnificent or attractive it may be. Humans generally are no match for such elemental power. Our ancient cultural heroes succeeded because they were somehow aware that they must be approached with great care or not at all.

Unsuspecting humans can also be caught up in an elemental field without seeking contact and this is what happened to a family I was working with to help troubled descendants. Several ancestors in succeeding generations of this particular family had had tragic and strange deaths. They had become transfixed by these powers and in some cases stepped beyond safety barriers to plunge to their deaths over dangerous waterfalls.  The full force of this devastating pattern of shocking sudden loss and subsequent family trauma began to subside somewhat in successive generations. There were no new cases of this sort of death, but the remaining attachment to the story began to manifest as serious addiction – an obsessive attraction to another kind of powerful essence. The predisposition toward this kind of fixation in descendants had been passed down from this original elemental attraction. it is important for us moderns to be aware not only that these kinds of inheritances exist but that there are ancient ways to inquire, acknowledge and work with these root stories for familial healing.




• Willow Tree Alarm Clock – the ancestors speak up

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When we face big decisions, our spirit allies wake up. They want to weigh in on what they see occurring. It is sometimes surprising to realize this powerful group includes our ancestors. No matter our associations with them, we are only alive because of their choices, their ability to navigate change. In my experience, if we ignore them or look away from them for too long, they will find interesting ways to show up in our lives. They begin to interrupt normal life in dramatic and unusual ways, especially if the situation you are facing is one they have some experience with.

What is your relationship to your own family stories? Your ancestors? Do you recognize family patterns that have flowed through several generations? This is a good place to begin a shamanic session.


I was called to consult with a family whose house was posing problems for them. They had a big decision to make. They were overwhelmed by decisions that needed to be made about whether or not to stay there permanently. The house they lived in had ‘never felt like a real home to them’, although they loved the community and the beauty of the larger rural environment. Smoke from neighborhood chimneys was mysteriously drawn to their cul-de-sac, and penetrated their upstairs rooms in cool weather, creating respiratory ailments and discomfort. Lots of odd crackings, and movement occurred throughout the house. Windows opened, closets shut, cracks appeared, animals and people there were very uneasy. The latest manifestation had been the sharp, loud CRACK! of a large terracotta pot coming apart around a fairly large willow tree, growing next to the driveway. They had heard it from the house and gone running to see the source. This tree was prominently, and oddly placed near their driveway entry, where it had grown increasingly pot-bound for seven long years.

The father acknowledged that he had promised to plant it when they knew they were ‘home’. He had randomly decided that he would allow their experiment seven years. I was amazed, as always, at the wonderful ways Spirit strives to get our attention, ‘It looks like your willow tree alarm clock has gone off!’ I remember saying. It was time to decide whether or not this house would be the ‘home’ they wanted, or to seriously consider moving on.

In my visioning work for this family, I saw a group of ancestors from the ‘old country’, from eastern Europe, which my clients confirmed was the origin of both families, dressed all in black. These spirits were literally shaking this house up mercilessly. They wanted to weigh in on this big decision. They wanted to be heard, remembered, honored for their steadfastness, and have their advice followed. The grandmothers were particularly insistent. The story as they told it was that they had given loud warnings in the distant past, and had not been listened to by their husbands. Their prescience had not been able to prevent grave harm coming to family members. And they did not want this, or anything like it, to happen again. Their dread was exaggerated perhaps, and their overlay had heated things up tremendously for their descendants. The other issue involved in the decision, was deeper, and had to do with the idea of home. ‘Where is our home’? was a question the ancestors were very familiar with. They communicated that they no longer felt a strong desire for connection coming from their descendants, after the move to the new country. They were heartsick. This was when they had begun to intervene, and demanded to be heard.

Eventually, after a thorough shamanic investigation, and some deep personal work within the family; along with a ritual to acknowledge their ancestors, this family did decide to move. It was an unbelievably quick, family decision, once the way was clear. It was like a spirit whirlwind in fact. Each family member played a part in the decision, and completed certain specific, unusual ‘spirit designated tasks’ to promote good relations with their dead, and as personal offerings for their common good as a family. One of the tasks assigned to the men was the planting of the stranded willow tree in the earth. A family that had felt so dramatically divided, that they had considered splitting up into two households to serve diverging interests, became newly united.


• A Melancholy Patriarch Departs

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‘Soul stuckness’ is a recurrent theme in overly responsible, dutiful, and fearful people who die unexpectedly. They can have a difficult time leaving their perceived tasks, even to transition normally!  We know that obsessive busyness can distance us from what is really occurring in our lives, and it can be true in death as well. Extraordinary but true. A stuck spiritual oddity can gather energy until it demands to be attended to. It will ‘cry out’ in strange ways for help to be allowed to transition naturally.


A young divorced mother of two young children, C., moved back into a home she had shared before her marriage with her maternal grandparents. Her Grandfather, a beloved, old-country Italian patriarch, had passed away suddenly of a heart attack, while sitting in his new car in the closed garage. It had been five years since his death, and things had not gone well for the whole family since then. He had been the ultimate protector, the one who made everyone feel they had a family, and belonged. He also held the purse strings and helped family members out financially with loans, creating a complicated web of obligations after his death.

Shortly after C. and her children came to live in the old house, her grandmother showed signs of being seriously ill.  She went from the hospital to extended care and was not well enough to return to the house. So C. and her two children were alone there. This was when they began to experience odd influences, which made them increasingly fearful.

C. had described the house in glowing terms, as a kind of castle. This was the home her grandparents had always dreamed of and came to America to find. She described upstairs rooms that sounded enormous, full of family heirlooms and ‘treasure’, valuables of all sorts. She said she was sure ‘the uncles’, her grandfather’s unreliable brothers, were stealing valuable things from these rooms upstairs, because they were entering the house at night to do so. This nightly invasion was terrifying her and her children, who hadn’t slept solidly in months. The other odd effect of unresolved ancestral business was the constantly freezing temperature in the whole house. The thermometer never rose above 58 degrees, even when the heater’s thermostat could be heard clicking on, and inspections determined the system was functioning perfectly.

During my spirit investigations I saw that the patriarch would not yield his position as the ‘head of family’, even though he was deceased. He was also afraid of not crossing to the ‘heaven’ of his religion, because of perceived misdeeds in his youth.  He had become terribly stuck between worlds. He had a tremendous sense of obligation, a need to protect his wife, his extended family, and the house for his descendants. He was now clearly exhausted by his role, and needing to move on, but was caught in his own habitual, hyper responsibility. Spirit allies said the only way to reach him, to interrupt his preoccupations and allow him to transition, was to touch his heart by playing music: his beloved Caruso, singing his famous arias.

When I arrived at the house, I was simply stunned at the discrepancy between the granddaughter’s description and the reality. I was looking at a pleasant 1940’s stucco house, with a garage basement, and a mezzanine level, partial second story. This was the treasure trove; the castle of ancestral imagination. Two rooms upstairs were full of very odd, salvaged articles; cast offs, boxed appliances, like toasters, and piles of clothing presumably from the grandparents life. The granddaughter was living out the projection the two old people had, seeing the house as a magnificent fortress.

I was with two assistants who were drumming and burning sage in the house. And suddenly there he was, a very large man, in a black shirt and coat, sitting at the kitchen table. He was taking his medicine, counting out little white pills from a vial. I reminded him that he no longer needed those pills. He knew then why I was there, and seemed to relax.  Caruso was blaring full volume on the sound system in the living room.  And soon the patriarch was crying.  With some kind encouragement, he allowed his heart to attune to those he loved who were already gone, and I watched him leave in relief. There was an immediate palpable change in the house.

The teachers then uncovered a significant curse. A curse can vary in potency and can even be unintentional. But this one was a powerful, intentional thought-form with ill intent that followed a family member who had immigrated from the old country. This in turn affected the entire family. In the basement they reported traces of some ‘instrument’ or object he had stored there, beneath the heating unit. An object used by him, or someone else, for ‘evil purposes’.  Once the final traces were cleared, and ties appropriately severed, the heater began to work! By the time we left, the house was 70 degrees, and the granddaughter was stunned by the change she felt.



• Mrs. X is Still in Residence

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Owners and houses form intense bonds. Houses often serve as archetypal stand-ins, or surrogate selves. It is a good idea to perform welcoming rituals before moving into a home, especially if it has been detached from its former owner without proper closure. Many foreclosed homes fall into this category, even though the unhappy former residents are usually still living. The affects of their anger and heartbreak can be palpable. These homes can come with a ‘curse’ placed intentionally or unintentionally on anyone taking over residence. In this situation, because of the odd ghostly malaise that had plagued them, we also performed rituals to affirm the sisters’ desire to live in the house as their own, and to care for it. There were specific spirit tasks requested of them as new owners, and they complied with all of them. The atmosphere of the house changed remarkably from oppressive and charged, to calm and welcoming. No further incidents were reported.


Three adult sisters, two of whom lived together in a house they had recently purchased, called me to look in on what was occurring in their house. Most of the unusual events that took place happened in the dining room. They reported hearing the vacuum cleaner turn on, and sound as though it were being used to clean the rug in the room. When they went in, it would often switch off. The stereo set and lights in that room also, flickered, and turned themselves on and off. Things went missing, and were returned in very odd locations throughout the house, where the owners knew they had not left them. Both sisters seemed to be living in a fog with all of this, like sleepwalkers in their own home. Their visiting sister was alarmed, and called me on their behalf, after their young dog, who slept in the dining room, suddenly sickened and died.

When I looked in on the situation shamanically, it was decidedly eerie. There appeared to be two sets of spirits coexisting in the house with them. One set in the living room was benign, and protective, though attached to Mrs X. the former owner, in a familial way. But another spirit, which the sisters had apparently brought with them from their former apartment in the city, was more than a little disturbing. My teachers gave me very careful instructions on how to approach and soothe that spirit first, so it could be appropriately released.

Once I was in the house and beginning the work of clearing, the former owner, Mrs. X., an imposing, elderly african-american woman, approached me in the dining room and said, clear as a bell; ‘What are you doing in my house?’

Mrs. X. had apparently been forced to leave the house by her adult children, due to complications of dementia and other illnesses. They then sold it in grief, when she passed away, shortly after leaving. Mrs. X. had not been happy about leaving and it was definitely her activity in the house that was so disruptive, and primarily responsible for the strange malaise in the sisters. I performed very careful approaches, and ritual releases for the other spirits, but Mrs. X. appeared and disappeared, and I could not be sure she had really left.  At the end of my session there, she had seemed ready and willing to go, but she was still cantankerous and elusive.

The sisters reported that everything settled down and the house felt completely expansive and clear after the work; more peaceful and quietly homey. I instructed them to keep me informed if by chance anything else occurred. Two weeks later, I was called again because three items had gone missing. They were things each of the sisters used daily and needed. One missing item was a pair of new boots that the owner was ‘positive’ she had placed in her room. The other was a very necessary monthly bus pass, and the final thing was a small traveling makeup kit.

When I checked in, I saw the house was clear, and was told that Mrs. X. had been making her exit, and had extracted these things as payment for them living in her house! The items never returned, nor happily did Mrs. X.




A Scottish ‘Family Shaman’ Transitions

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This story offers a stunning example of the complexities of ancestral obligations and ties to any unresolved loss or trauma, and the extent to which an individual’s difficult, personal battle with an illness, can become a cure on the soul level for ancient familial wounds.


R. was a shamanic practitioner and a dear friend. She had been suffering from the complications of a long encounter with metastasized breast cancer. During this intense illness she began to rely on shamanic practice and spirit allies, for insight and vision around treatments and other necessary decisions. When her prognosis worsened, R. asked my partner and I to look in on her ancestry. She suspected that there was a lot of ancestral ‘baggage’ as she put it, and wanted to address it before she could no longer help with our work, or benefit from hearing the results. We all held high hopes that this intensified work might alleviate R.s prognosis of impending death.

We discovered she was part of a long line of unresolved incidents, dating back, with her combined ancestry in Scotland, to the time of Robert the Bruce. He was “King of the Scots, from 1306 until his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation, and eventually led Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent nation and is today remembered in Scotland as a national hero.” R.’s relations were tied to him in his quest for independence, and later to Scottish lords in allegiance with Bonny Prince Charlie, the alleged Stuart heir to the English throne in the 1700’s.

Her parents, both of Scottish ancestry, joined us in our intention to help acknowledge and clear the influence of these past events, some quite horrifying, from this time of Scottish clan wars and battles with the invading English. We were in the unusual position of having R.s elderly parents tp provide information along with our otherworldly investigations. They were able to add genealogical information and credibility, as we turned up and relayed stories. It was in some ways as though we were all together, back those times of bloody rebellion as solemn witnesses. R.’s parents were often silently incredulous at this unusual process, but clearly involved and scrupulous about the historic details. We traveled one by one through each unresolved death or deed, resolving and acknowledging the sacrifices and even misdeeds of war, with rituals and prayers. R. was obviously enlivened by this work, and at times seemed not to be ill at all.

One spirit meeting in particular stood out. My partner and I were each journeying, with R. in the room. We both encountered a sorceress in her line, who even gave us her name, and said firmly that ‘We should offer R. the hemlock!’ When I researched the origins of hemlock as a poison, and the Hemlock Society, I realized it was about choice. Her ancestor was saying R. needed to be able to choose when she would leave and how. her conscious choice was especially important for all who had gone before her: the unexpected deaths by drowning, violent deaths in battles, or from starvation and imprisonment. It was clearly R.’s prerogative to refuse certain medicines and procedures, and to leave when she felt it was time to go. I think this unexpected ancestral support relaxed her tremendously. She was in great pain sometimes, and at others completely pain free and lucid, even excited about the progress we were making. Her medication had taken away her voice and she could only whisper responses. Often when we were there she was lively, engaged and anxious to work on the line of souls before her even though her medications had reduced her voice to a whisper.

One night R.s husband, a loving, but very rational engineer, who supported her visionary inquiry, but really had no belief in it, heard a drum beating in her room in the middle of the night. He thought it odd because she had been so fatigued and it was very late. He assumed maybe R. was using a drum, which she had in the room. When he opened the door, he saw her sound asleep. The sound of the drum was clearly emanating from the center of her body. He later told us ‘we had made a believer out of him that night’. We had no knowledge of this working from afar, but shamanic healing is not tied to linear time, and we were working constantly to unravel the threads she had asked us to address.

Soon after, R. called us one evening from the hospital, where she had been moved for treatment and observation. She asked us to please ‘ramp up’ the protection around her, because she was on the basement floor with the morgue, and was being visited by spirits who did not know they were no longer in their bodies. They were not in any way threatening, but were taxing her energy and attention, as they wandered about without restraint. This is not the first time I had encountered, or heard about spirits walking the halls of hospitals, or care facilities, where people die frequently without conscious awareness of their transition. Night shift nurses at hospitals, and other attendants are very familiar with this activity as a common occurrence, though they may only talk about it with colleagues.

Our dear R. did pass eventually, peacefully at home, after completing the ancestral healing work, and on her own final say so to remove medications and breathing assistance. What we did not know at the time, was that she and the spirits were very intentionally clearing the way for another family member to leave. We were only marginally aware that R.’s father had emphysema, and was also unwell, because R. had been the family’s main focus. Her father seemed so hearty whenever we met him. To all of our amazement, he died within twenty-four hours of R.  When we asked our spirit allies about this strange double transition, they responded that R. had been enlisted in clearing the way, with our combined help, to allow a clear passage for her father and any descendants who would follow in time.

• A ‘Shadow’ House Holds a Message for its Owner

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Shadow will manifest in illness if not cared for with acknowledgement and release.  Even a house can buckle under the weight of a shadow! Hidden stories gain power over time, and unless they are exposed to the light, they will wreak havoc in a life. Past wounds can make it difficult to want to take on any new fear, but a deeper look at what is appearing can be helpful. In this case it was life preserving.  This is where the work of compassionate allies in parallel realms interrupts negative influence in just the right way for that individual, before it is too late.


We cannot hold our own ‘shadow’ when it is too threatening, too terrifying or just seems too large and dark. So it is projected outward. A house can become a surrogate for what can not be seen without fear. There is a wondrous advantage in shadow work if the individual can turn just slightly toward their shadow and see what it holds. In this case the shadow was an ally pointing the way to a physical illness that needed attention.

Client A. had purchased a small home in a rural area for a relative. When the relative could not stay in the area, my client moved in spontaneously, after spending her whole life in a city. It was an adjustment, but she loved it there. It was a whole new life. Even so, the house’s imperfections soon began to loom. A. called me because she felt that past traumas and ghosts were haunting her, preventing her from moving on, and making this house a comfortable home. The house seemed suddenly unsafe. And in fact it was settling oddly with loudly cracking sounds increasing in frequency; some walls were buckling and new cracks appeared. The house seemed to be un-anchored and sliding on its foundation. Oddly enough these problems had occurred in another house she had owned. A sinkhole had eventually opened beneath it, dramatically washing away a good portion of the home.

After a thorough investigation, my spirit teachers pointed to the septic system (very symbolic of shadow elements) and significant water system leakages under the house. These trouble spots were confirmed by subsequent inspections. The pattern of similar problems in the two houses was not evident to A. all at once, but piece by piece it became clear as we unraveled and released other influences. Her house had become a reflection, more than a mirror, she and her house were merged in her perception. A. had an enhanced capacity to project her shadow elements, not to hold them, and at that time, she had too much fear to look at them all closely. The house was carrying it for her and buckling under the task.

My teachers recommended a sacred task, which they often do: A. was to build a spirit house out of whatever material she liked, which would begin to rebuild her life – shore up her inner foundation and give her an anchor. This little model was to be placed outside on the south-facing edge of the property, and offerings were to be made there. Ancestor work and soul retrieval were also part of this extensive healing process.

A good deal of guilt, trauma and soul loss was at work shaking her inner and outer foundation. But it was not only that. The house and A.were also in another kind of trouble. A. knew she had a serious physical issue, an inherited problem, but had been in denial of its recent emergence in her life. The strange physical mirror of the house’s leakage, was in her a heart valve, which had to be replaced immediately, in an emergency open heart surgery! A. came through amazingly well, thankfully. The spirit house held her place as she released other influences, calmed her fears and turned toward this possible healing.

Eventually A. began to recover and feel more exuberant, more able to treat herself well and believe that she was ‘enough’ and beautiful, like the house. It was never going to be a mansion, or exhibit designer-league perfection, but over time, her friends loved to come there to visit because she lived there, and made it so welcoming. She had finally acknowledged and then released a great shadow clouding her vision of herself and how people saw her.



• Heavy Lifting – Atlas in a woman’s body

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Being overpowered or forced to do things beyond your control can contribute to obsessive patterns of exhaustion. “If I am in control then everything will be okay” seems to be a common thread, in men and women who have experienced abusive situations, intense grief, or been witness to traumatic injury of others.  The paradox of exhaustion and compulsive busyness is rampant in our modern world. In the ancient modalities of healing, there are tried and true methods of interrupting this limiting and unsustainable pattern, while retaining the positive life-force it holds.


A woman, who came to see me, complained of deep exhaustion. She said she had always needed to be in charge, even when she was a small child. This was due to a strong fearful need to control her environment after abuse by a relative. She stepped in to order her world, and then extended it to the lives of those around her. Her intentions were good, and usually much appreciated, but this constant sense of needing to take care of any pressing need, drew many wounded people to her, and began to plague her with exhaustion and ill health. She had sought conventional psychiatric care and felt she had worked through so many early wounds, she could no longer talk about her past.

She had trouble trusting allies, and actually would trip up anyone offering help. It had taken years, decades really, to finally wear her resistance down, because she was so innately strong! Even when she herself asked for help in earnest, paradoxically it felt like a death sentence to give away ANY control. It confused those who loved her who often just left in frustration, or manifested problems to get her attention. She knew she was depleting herself, but this habitual need for control was so primal it trumped everything. What had triggered this intense response in her? Could it be eased for her benefit?

That conflicting soul story she was telling herself was: “I am unable to get relief.’  ‘You can’t help me because I am in charge.”

Finally, when she had come through yet another catastrophe that had demanded her full attention, energy, and ‘just about killed’ her, in her own words, we began working together to get her some relief.

A careful investigation revealed a huge ancestral ‘energy’ on both sides of her family, which demanded constant, obsessive, control of the environment. This affiliation had been passed down to her and was tied to her body through abuse and afflictions in her ancestors. When she finally could allow for a gentle investigation to occur, and began to understand the basic nature of what was driving her, the powerful compassionate spirit allies were able to sever ties with this obsessive aspect of her ancestral legacy and restore the beneficial life-force inherent in her line. Spirits also helped put in place channels for managing the considerable beneficial power of this intense life-force, so it would no longer overload her circuits!