The word apocalypse keeps coming up when I talk to friends about how our present times feel. We’ve all noted how cracks in our society are tearing open and fault-lines are rising to the surface. It is disorienting yet also potentially transforming. I realized I’ve felt this way before:
In January 1997, I became an apprentice to a husband and wife shaman team. They ran an old-style mystery school with regular weekend workshops in Maine and a 4-day in the summer. In August 1997, we met on forested private property that was far from any “civilization.”
Regular weekend meetings began after dinner which gave our small NYC area contingent plenty of time for a leisurely drive up the coast. In August, our teachers wanted us to arrive earlier. We arranged to take the Long Island Sound ferry to Connecticut to avoid the time-consuming drive around the city. About ½ way through our 1 ½ hour ferry ride, a shocking event happened. An elderly woman sitting near us dropped like a rock to the ground. Her daughter began screaming. No one could rouse her. The ferry returned to NY where an emergency crew tried and failed to revive her. She had literally died at our feet. By this time, I was not only thoroughly rattled, I was also deep into contemplating issues of life and death. Because of our delayed arrival in Conn, we began hitting evening rush hour along the major cities of our route. We did not arrive in Maine until well after dark.
The workshop proceeded with shamanic mystery school activities. The foundation of such ancient teachings involved initiates exploring and contemplating personal feelings and fears of life and death. Below is an inscription from the Greek Mystery school at Eleusis. 
Beautiful indeed is the Mystery given us by the blessed gods:
death is for mortals no longer an evil, but a blessing.
Activities of the weekend included an overnight “vision quest,” a “death” spiral and pre-dawn bathing purifications. This bathing, also known as original baptism, involves immersion into living-water mountain streams in the pre-dawn darkness, a symbolic death experience, and arising purified and reborn into the nascent light. On Sunday morning, we brought in large river stones to build the spiral. This is another practice of facing symbolic life/death issues. Walking toward the center summons release and walking outward invokes a symbolic rebirth.
Our preparations were interrupted when out of nowhere, a violent thunderous storm suddenly descended. The rain was so heavy that we were inundated as water pelted from above and rising flood waters ran through our entire camping area drenching everything.
The rain stopped, we dried off as best we could and continued working. As night began to fall, a dove flew overhead. Then a comet (or so it appeared) flew overhead. I remember feeling sizzling electricity as if the comet had gone straight through my body.
It wasn’t until much later when it was completely dark that we all saw extraordinary lights in the forest behind the spiral with no obvious source. A profound hush encircled us. Several people immediately called it an angelic visitation. I didn’t know what to think. It was clear that this was something otherworldly or at least mysterious beyond obvious comprehension. It wasn’t until many weeks later that we found out there was a photo of the lights. Photos had been taken of the spiral in the daytime well before anyone saw those same lights.
From the moment of this event, my life changed. It has taken me 23 years to grapple with what this experience has meant to me personally (and I’m still working on it).
Our first interpretation is that this was a visitation of the archangel Mi-Ka-El with two assisting angels seen as the two smaller lights above the center light. That center light appears to have a sword in it – Mi-Ka-El’s emblem. Other reasons for this connection include that this took place on a Sunday, new moon in Leo all related to Mi-Ka-El. Mi-Ka-El is also connected with both water and lightning (think violent storm) and labyrinths (think spiral).
Look closely again. This is also a goddess image – a vulva and two breasts. All the associations of Mi-Ka-El are also emblems of the Goddess –dove, labyrinth, water. When I meditate on this image, I also see a vaginal aperture, a portal to other realms. I love the male and female images interposed upon one another. It reminds me that the universe is in a perpetual dance of untiring resistance between apparent opposites. And this process creates life itself.
Strangely though, in the weeks afterwards, everyone’s lives fell apart. Things that were not working in our own personal lives were torn open and exposed in all their painful truth. The parallels to today are poignant reminders that breaking open hardened structures creates the space for something new.
What is true personally is also true for a society. Twenty-three years ago, there was a personal experience of our small group. Today our entire culture is feeling painfully exposed. Twenty-three years ago, we had the opportunity to shed old patterns and grow through this experience. Today our entire culture has this opportunity. Twenty-three years ago, life and death issues underpinned our experience. Today it is a killer virus and George Floyd’s death (among so many others) that underpin this sea-change. The Greek root of the word apocalypse means uncover, reveal. What revelations are rising in all their agonizing truth? What growth opportunities and transformations are being birthed?
I increasingly feel that this experience is the template of a gift for all of humanity – a gift of transformation, hope and healing out of hardship and conflict. I offer these photos of the event for your use (if it so resonates) as a focal point for meditation, mandala work and healing. And perhaps most of all, to remember the promise of mystery in a world that has the power to bless.
 Eliade, Primitives; 300.
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