“Oh, winds of the South… breathe upon us…blow upon us…touch our hearts now. . .”
The voice is soft. Musical. As feminine as its source. With outstretched arms, she turns first to the sky and then to me, her brown hair sailing in the jungle breeze.
I am sitting deep in the Peruvian rainforest, my back to an outdoor altar. Twelve travelers surround me in this shamanic temple. The moon floats just above the horizon, so huge, so full, so bright that it turns the trees, huts and reeds into surrealistic silhouettes against billowing clouds. A hidden jungle symphony serenades us. So astonishing. So appropriate.
We’re gathered for a ritual. My ritual. My miraculous fertility ritual. After 14 years of tests, surgery, hormones and hopelessness, then finally acceptance and peace, I am pregnant.
I can barely take in the reality. It is only the third week of a four-month journey in South America. Through a perfect coincidence, I am backpacking with a woman I met only months before, and she turns out to be a New York midwife.
Susan had been eager to see the rudimentary health facilities in the jungle city of Iquitos, so even though I was told years ago that I couldn’t have children, and even though I knew my nausea was from Andes altitude and greasy food, I humored her. The week before, we found a walk-in “Laboratorio Clinicos,” with no running water, no clean cups and barely enough electricity to light the tiny cement room. I looked at the archaic microscope and was glad I was only pretending. I left a urine sample and took off to explore the dirt-street city while Susan was thrilled to stay behind. When I return a couple of hours later, the Peruvian lab tech waved the slide in the air with a smiling exclamation: “Es positivo!”
Oh winds of the West, breathe upon us… blow upon us…touch our hearts…
The voice brings me back from my wanderings. It belongs to beautiful Shaman Lorna Kelly, who weaves her words in concert with the jungle.
Great Jaguar, come to us. Teach us how to walk the path of the spiritual warrior, the path of the heart…
“Ho,” we respond. The native ‘amen.’ Lorna had told us – a dozen strangers from the U.S. and Canada who journeyed four hours down the Amazon to the village of Tamshiyacu and another two on foot through the forest to this remote shamanic retreat – that in honor of my miraculous news, she was going to combine the rites of the fertility maiden with an ancient Fire ceremony. Little did we know!
We’re enveloped in moonlight, incense, buzzing, chirping, whoooing of night birds – all the sounds of the thick, lush South American “serva.” In her long, flowing dress, Lorna is a dark figure against the iridescent clouds, a white figure against the navy sky. A solo dance of positive and negative.
To her side is Don Augustine Rivas, the Peruvian shaman whose temple we occupy. He is playing a flute with such sweetness and power that we are all intoxicated, all connected in this primal cacophony.
Oh winds of the North, breathe upon us…blow upon us…touch our hearts tonight…
Ho. We sit in silence, floating in the intensity of the moment. Only the jungle continues to speak. Louder. Closer.
I am still in the middle of the circle, Lorna at my feet. I close my eyes to open to deeper senses. It is hours or minutes, I don’t know. Lorna invokes spirits, guides, animal friends, and especially Pachamama ¬– Mother Earth ¬– from whose womb we all emerge. I hear and don’t hear, until SCHHHHHLLLLLLLPPPP pierces the air. Even without looking, I cannot mistake Don Augustine’s distinctive, shrill sucking on his sacred pipe, followed by the whooooosh as he releases smoke to the spirits. Seven more blows, then sudden silence, marked only by the mystical reverb of a Tibetan bowl.
Tinggggggggggggggg. Tinggggggggggg. Tingggggggggggg.
The night closes in fire. One by one, we approach the flames, bathe our arms as if it is silk, and make our personal wishes. Mine? To always feel as free, as connected, as filled and as blessed as I do in this moment.
For years, in a very different world of diapers and food mills, I held onto the intensity of the ceremony. It often took the form of serenity, making me feel content, unencumbered and even creative during my tedious daily routine. And now, as my “miracle” baby turns 21, I still carry the power of that night, the pull of the Peruvian rainforest. At the least expected times, it hits me. And in those moments I am immediately connected and free.
About the Author: Merry Brennan is an artist, activist, adventure-lover, and author of the biographical novel Peace Pilgrim: walking her talk against hate. Connect with at her blog about writing, aging and living in peace.