I did not expect her. She was Chumash. I had heard the word, but knew nothing of her people. She sat drumming under a tree, dressed in blanched skins. She was as real to me as the members of our circle, and much more visible, since the only light in our room was a candle, while in her
space - visible to me when my eyes were closed - everything was bathed in white light.
I made a mental note to find out about the Chumash later, while I continued drumming for our group journey. Our dream travelers were members of an shamanic circle I have been leading for many years. We had agreed that tonight, we would go through the Tree Gate to a Cave of Paintings like those created by shaman artists in Paleolithic Europe, and by indigenous peoples in North America, Australia and Africa in more recent times. We did not focus on a specific cave, rather on the idea that the images we found painted on the rock walls would help us to enter the Cave Mind: to understand and even participate in the experience these sites were intended to facilitate for those who created and used them. We agreed to touch the painted images and see how going skin to skin might bring the great animals alive. We wanted to see whether the rock walls might yield like membranes, allowing us passage to deeper levels, perhaps to the realm of the Goddess and ancestral wisdom keepers.
While drumming for the group, I let my traveling consciousness slip down through the roots of a tree, bent on our assignment. I was surprised to find myself immediately in a verdant and dramatic landscape. Great waterfalls streamed down a giant's staircase, to the watery depths of a gorge far below. A nut-brown Native man, with black hair in a basin-cut, indicated that down there was where I needed to go. It would be a long descent. But I threw off my clothes - I realized that I had been wearing a bear skin - and took the plunge, over the falls, plummeting straight down into the watery depths of the gorge.
My body was washed clean by the cool green water. This Cave could be entered only by water, but I had no trouble breathing as I swam down to find the opening. The Native man remained close. The Cave entrance, when I found it, seemed too small for me, just a narrow slit in the rock. But I realized I had changed my body type, and become short and wiry like my new companion. With his mind, he urged me forward, through the crack. For a moment, this world went completely dark. Then I felt movement, and my inner light came on, showing me a writhing mass of snakes, their fangs ready for attack. Was this a trap, or a trial? I willed myself forward, telling myself the snakes could do me no harm, pushing them back like vines or creepers.
I came out in a womb-like space. I glimpsed rock paintings, one of them of a huge creature whose shape was unfamiliar. I did not have time to inspect it carefully, because it surged from the wall, filling my field of sight as it presented me with an enormous open maw, easily big enough to swallow me whole. I was reminded of the sandworms in Dune. I briefly considered trying to blow myself up to equal size, in bear form, but rejected this as time-wasting an unnecessary. I chose instead to dive into the mouth of the beast, as you might push an envelope into a mail drop. Utter darkness, churning, willing myself forward. On and on, very far now, it seemed, from the body I had left on the chair, drumming - though I was still in full control of that instrument.
At last, my inner light was restored as I came to the first of many doors. They were of many designs, mostly two-leaved doors. I lost count of how many opened before I came out in an airy space suffused by soft blue light. I had the impression of giant feathers, as if a great bird had recently taken flight from this space. A far wall shimmered and became transparent, and through it I saw the vessels used by far travelers who came here, eons ago, to forge a link between higher consciousness and an evolving species on this planet.
A luminous intelligence, moving like a blue ripple in the air, gave me a talisman that I recognized: a winged disk. I knew it from different cultures and far memories, especially from Egypt and from Persia. In the form given to me now, the winged disk was unquestionably a vehicle, such as Persian gods and kings were shown riding, powered by xvarnah, radiance.
Holding the winged disk, I passed from the place of blue light to a Cave of the Goddess, where fierce warrior women stood ready to challenge but welcomed me when they saw what I was carrying. I received healing and blessing in the realm of the Goddess. Then it was time to bring all of myself back to the body in the chair, and sound the recall signals for all of our group to come back from the places where their dream souls had traveled.
Quiet time, when we were all back with the lights on, for drawing and writing from our travels. Then story time, and what excellent stories were shared? Of finding a green world under the shell of a turtle goddess. Of touching the belly of a painted horse and becoming a white stallion, thundering across a plain. Of a Fish Speaker, coming alive from a painted image to deliver the message of Water. Of meeting an Eye Goddess, like one depicted in ancient Anatolia.
The professor in me always wants to ground visionary adventures of this kind in research. So I have been looking into the unexpected appearance of the Chumash woman drummer. I find that - previously unknown to me - the Chumash were great rock painters, and a whole cosmology, a star map, and a chart for interdimensional travel may be contained in their Painted Cave near Santa Barbara. A Chumash name for that cave is alahalukin, which means "that which comes around." From the perspective of humans, sun and moon and stars come around, including the big Bear in the sky, Ursa Major, which the Chumash call the Guardian. And so do winged disks, those ancient chariots of the gods.