Ruby Modesto, a shaman of the Desert Cahuilla in southern California, describes how her calling and guidance came to her through dreams. Listening to her voice, as mediated by anthropologist Guy Modesto, is to be in the presence of a wise woman of great common and uncommon sense.
She tells us, as her grandfather told her, how to talk to the Creator and find his or her voice in the world around us. I want you to listen to her words about this:
“Grandfather Francisco taught me how to pray to Umna’ah, our Creator. He told me to go alone into the mountains, to find a quiet beautiful place and to pray. He said I should talk out everything, say whatever I felt or needed, and then listen for an answer.
“That’s the secret: to listen. You have to say everything that’s in your mind, cry until you’re empty. Then listen. He will speak to you.”
To my ear, this is beautifully said and it is counsel to be followed any day, but especially on days when we are feeling lost or confused. Go alone to a special place, a place where you can hear the speaking land. Get out everything you need to express. Shout it out, cry it out, until you are empty.Then listen until you are filled with the guidance and strength you have opened a space to receive.
For Ruby, that special place in nature was up in the Santa Rosa mountains near the traditional valley home of her people of the Dog Clan of the Cahuilla. For me, a good place to talk to the Creator is a lake in the woods that is quiet unless I get too close to a beaver lodge – which will get the male beaver thwacking his tail – or the red-tailed hawk is urgent to speak to me in her own tongue.
Quotes are from Ruby Modesto and Guy Mount, Not for Innocent Ears: Spiritual Traditions of a Desert Cahuilla Medicine Woman. Arcata, CA: Sweetlight Books, 1980.
Photo: Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. Public Domain.