Shaman. An intermediary between the human world and the spirit world. Shamans are said to treat ailments and illnesses by mending the soul. They may visit other worlds-dimensions to bring guidance to misguided or broken souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements.
Happy Birthday To You!
January 13, 2009 is an absolutely stunning day in Solana Beach, California, enveloped with brilliant sunshine, mild Santa Ana winds and a cloudless, deep blue sky. I witnessed the full moon set in the Pacific Ocean at seven this morning. According to the papers—those relics continue to land on our sidewalk— it will be over 80 degrees. I look up the temps in my old home town Chicago- 27 below zero. That has to be a misprint. Minneapolis is 48 below— maybe not. I check my older brother’s abode, New York City; 8 degrees will be the high with snow. I almost feel guilty—but not today.
My mother called at 7:30. It was not unexpected. “Happy birthday to you; happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Casey, happy birthday to you.” Every year since I graduated high school she has rung me up and sung me that song. I’m 59 today. My good friend Bill Stampley has already sent me an email reminding me this is the first day of my 60th year—so very kind of him.
I was born on Friday the 13th in 1950. My cousin, Dave Case, was also born on January 13, although several years later and not on a Friday. Our daughter Brittany and I share strange birthdays- she was born on February 29, 1980—she wins that contest. She and Hilary have picked out a very special birthday present for me. We have an appointment this afternoon with Shaman Jade Wah’oo Grigori who will endeavor to help us retrieve our souls. Back track five months.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on August 9, 2008, a Saturday, a San Diego County Deputy Sheriff and an investigator from the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office came to our house. I was literally thirty seconds away from jumping in my car to pick up my sister and her family to go for a hike in nearby Penasquitos Canyon when the doorbell rang. The arrivals at our door introduced themselves and asked if they could come inside. Hilary had already come downstairs and Brittany emerged from the guest bedroom down the hall where she’d spent the night.
The ME investigator, a young Latino woman, asked if we were the parents of James Gauntt.
“Your son was struck early this morning by an automobile while walking on Del Dios Highway out by Lake Hodges. He sustained serious injuries.”
“Is he alive?” I choked.
“I’m terribly sorry. He died at the scene from his injuries, most likely instantaneously upon impact.”
All of the air was instantly sucked out of the room. I could barely breathe. I desperately tried to claw myself awake from this nightmare. I felt an intense physical pain—something had been ripped out of me. No metaphor. A primal scream erupted from somewhere deep.
“Tell me this isn’t happening! This can’t be happening!”
The ME was graciously silent. Brittany, standing nearby, buckled, grabbed the stairway bannister for support— dissolved into tears. Hilary slumped next to me on our sofa and gripped my hand like a vice. I expected her to scream or faint. I wanted her to. She silently stared past everyone at a wall.
The Deputy Sheriff stood behind the ME and never said a word. Maybe he was there to stop me in case I lunged for her throat. I calmly asked her “Where is our son now?”
“He’s at the Medical Examiner’s office in Kearny Mesa.”
“Can we see him?”
“No, I’m sorry— viewings are not permitted. And it’s a Saturday. The office is closed.” She then told us what to expect over the next few days—as the Du Page County, Illinois Detectives had done for me a few days before Christmas in 1970 in those first few hours after my father had put a bullet in his head. Hauntingly déjà vu. Eight o’clock in the morning with darkness already descending upon us.
You need the big guns!
December 21, 2008 was a beautiful Sunday morning as Hilary, Brittany and I drove over the bridge to Coronado, a quaint town across the bay from downtown San Diego. The Hotel Del Coronado is the landmark and I can clearly see her trademark red Victorian towers from my office in downtown San Diego. I smile when I gaze upon the Hotel. My grandfather Vern Case, his wife Henrietta and their teenage son Stan lived on the sixth floor from 1944 through 1946 while Vern’s company Case Foundation Company completed a big job for the Navy dredging a deep water channel in the bay to handle the large warships. It had not escaped me that this day 38 years ago my father took his life.
We were on our way to meet Tarra, a medium who had been recommended to us by another family who recently lost a son. A medium has—I would have added “apparently” prior to our experience— the ability to connect with departed souls and facilitate communication with loved ones and friends. Hilary summed it up well, “She hears radio frequencies we don’t.” We were immediately struck by how “normal” Tarra is. A very nicely dressed, short in stature, wide of body middle aged woman, with no piercings, tattoos, purple hair or scarves. Tarra is a mom with two grown sons, a very thick New York accent and an engaging laugh. We instantly liked her.
“This may have happened to you too, but it’s very strong with mom, here”. Back to Hilary.
“Jimmy’s telling me he can’t come into your dreams or make his presence known to you because he’s afraid you’ll embrace him and not come back; you want to be with him so deeply, and he you, but you can’t—not now. Do you understand what I’m talking about? “ Hilary nodded.
“When you’re asleep he sometimes sits on the bed, but he won’t wake you. You aren’t ready.”
Tarra strongly recommended that Hilary see a colleague of hers, a shaman, Jade Wah’oo, who like Tarra lives in Sedona.
“We refer to Jade as the ‘Big Guns’. He’s Mongolian and a strange looking dude; but he is highly experienced in these things. You need to call Jade and tell him about Jimmy’s death and that a part of you split with him. You need to have Jade help you retrieve the piece of your soul that left to be with Jimmy. You need a Soul Retrieval Ceremony. The sooner the better. Jade will be coming to San Diego next month. See him.”
After the reading, we had lunch at California Pizza Kitchen back in Solana Beach. Tarra had told us Jimmy was yearning for a beer and a pizza and we should have some for him. We ordered four beers and debriefed. Our heads were spinning from the most amazing, intense, ninety minutes we had ever spent. Brittany asked Hilary,
“Do you want to see this shaman?” Hilary didn’t hesitate.
“We’re already in deep. Why stop now?”
We’d do this together. No one was getting off this ride.
The next day I had some hip surgery at Sharp Hospital to correct an impingement lesion on the femoral neck of my left leg. In other words, some bone had grown where it wasn’t supposed to and was binding the movement of my hip and hurting like hell. Hilary thought the timing insane. My sister and her family were coming back from Switzerland the next day to spend Christmas and New Year’s with us. It seemed to me that could be similarly construed.
As I was lying in bed riding my continuous motion machine I checked out Jade Wah’oo’s website (shamanic.net). There were some pictures of him. He didn’t look that strange. He had written several articles including one on soul retrieval entitled Spirit’s Desire and the Nature of Soul. He went into great detail to differentiate between soul and spirit. I’d always thought of them as the same thing. [check out Jade’s You Tube Video to learn more about him and what he does]
He described the three aspects or parts of the soul: the earthly soul (our daily life consciousness); the underworld soul (our dream state and the reservoir of our life force); and the celestial soul (our high self where we receive spiritual guidance and direction). He explained that trauma can induce a loss of soul, or an aspect of the soul, resulting in one feeling only partially here.
If the Earth Soul splits, “the person experiences melancholy, being ungrounded, unable to fully make logical connections between events and data and a strong sense of not being whole. Short term memory is hazardous. If the Earth Soul leaves, the Underworld Soul takes its place and the individual often finds that life’s daily events take on a dream-like quality, as if one were moving through a theatre production.”
A lot of this made sense to me.
We drove to nearby Poway for our three o’clock appointment with Jade. Hilary had picked up the tobacco that morning. Oh yes, I forgot, during our reading with Tarra she said “when you go see Jade bring some Danish cigarette tobacco. It comes in a tin and is used as an offering to the spirits.” This was also mentioned on Jade’s website, although Hilary said he didn’t bring it up when they spoke on the phone to schedule the appointment. It wasn’t that easy to find; not many people roll their own smokes these days.
What a place! Jade was staying at his friends’ mansion on top of a small mountain with a 360 degree view of ocean, mountains and valleys. As already observed, it was bright, clear and about 84 degrees. January 13! We shook hands and introduced ourselves. He looked like his pictures on his website, only a little bigger than I imagined. He was dressed in well-worn blue jeans and a denim shirt. I guessed he was in his early 50s with long salt and pepper hair which he wears in a ponytail about three feet long. He has a Fu Manchu mustache braided on either side of his mouth that extends twelve inches below his chin. His clothes were covered with what looked like dirt or mud stains. Jade has a nice smile (he’s missing a few of his upper back teeth) and a rich baritone voice. No accent. I detected a trace of Asian features particularly in the eyes.
We went into the living room and sat in folding chairs around a card table. Jade sat on one side and the three of us on the other. The table was covered with a blanket upon which were a variety of things- eagle feathers, one candle, a small clear water bottle, a plastic Advil bottle, some tobacco tins, matches, an elaborately decorated drum about the size of a big plate and about four inches deep, a wooden drumstick with an eagle head carved in one end and a red bandana.
Jade told us a little about himself and his work as a shaman. He made it clear he is not a doctor or a psychologist; he does not cure people. He is more like a guide. Like Tarra, he has some gifts that were bestowed upon him at any early age and through years of study, training, and experience, has developed a deep understanding of the spirit world and the workings and make-up of the soul. He explained that the three parts or aspects of the soul and the spirit are like a hinge on a door. When lined up properly and working harmoniously together, the door opens and closes easily. Sometimes events occur which may cause these things to become misaligned. Unhinged. It could be a trauma or tragedy, alcohol or drug abuse, or some other life changing event. When the soul and spirit are out of line, we feel disoriented, adrift, maybe depressed or anxious. His work as a shaman includes helping people realign the soul so it is functioning properly with the spirit and thus facilitate the pursuit of his or her purpose—the path in harmony with the spirit.
Jade was aware of the reason that brought us to him. He shared with us his brother had died the past year, a sister before that, a grandmother in between. He has a daughter and son in their teens. His eyes welled-up as he said “I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a child; I know my losses do not compare with yours. I am so sorry for you. This kind of loss—one cannot fully understand the magnitude of it. I cannot and will not attempt to explain it. This is not what I do.” I respected the frankness and honesty; the empathy.
Jade then asked us if we all desired to participate in the ceremony, which we answered affirmatively, and what each of us wanted to achieve by doing so. He said we should state our intentions affirmatively, for example “I choose vibrant and robust health” rather than “I hope to be healthy.” He explained the spirit relates to clear and concise statements of intent; when one “desires” something it is interpreted as wishful thinking, and what we may want is not always the same as what we choose. It is clear statement of purpose that resonates with the spirit and is expressed through the Celestial Soul (the High Self).
I went first: “I choose for each of us, and especially Hilary, that our souls be made whole and reunited. I choose strength to endure the suffering of the loss of our son. I choose that our loss of Jimmy and all we experience and learn from this loss, this awakening, be shared with and used to help others who also suffer loss such as this.”
Hilary and Brittany shared their own intentions with Jade and he accepted our intentions and said it was time to commence the ceremony. He put on a leather vest that was decorated with buttons made of bone, a lizard creature that appeared to also be made of bone, and other ornamentation and Indian like drawings. He put the red bandana on his head. He then asked for the tobacco offering. Hilary handed over the coffee can of Danish blend. I sensed Jade was pleased. He put the can to the side and opened one of the tobacco tins on the table and proceeded to roll and light a cigarette. I expected him to share it with us, like a peace pipe. With some disappointment, I admit, he did not pass.
He explained the tobacco was an offering to the spirits and he spoke/sang a chant-like prayer inviting the spirits in to be with us and help guide us on our journey. He lit the candle on the table. He dropped pinches of incense into the candle flame. Using an eagle feather he wafted the incense smoke over his head and body and did the same with each of us. This was part of a cleansing process, he explained. Jade then sang an Indian song which he said was about the eagle.
He has a very rich and soothing voice. He told us a story of a retreat he led in Sedona a few years ago. He intended to take his group of six students to the top of a nearby mountain where eagles are frequently spotted flying overhead. Jade went up the mountain the day before to check it out. At the top an eagle appeared and, as it flew by, spoke very clearly to Jade: “Be here tomorrow at one p.m.” Jade admitted he was stunned. He had never before been spoken to by an eagle, and he didn’t realize they could tell time. Of course he was back up the mountain the next day with his students. After spending a few minutes taking in the spectacular view, they spotted several birds approaching. Within seconds seven eagles glided over them. Jade asked if anyone had the time. “One o’clock.”
Jade rolled and lit another cigarette and tossed more incense into the candle flame. He picked up the drum and explained to us its properties.
“There is much training and precision involved in the making of a shaman drum. The drum surfaces are animal skins. One side when struck produces a low pitch and the other side a higher pitch. The distance between the inside of the skins is about four inches. When the drum is struck, the sound waves reverberate away from the surface and also inside towards the other skin where it strikes and bounces back toward the skin that was hit. When the sound waves crash back together many of them cancel each other out creating tunnels of silence. Our brain is very aware of these voids of sound and we are drawn into them. This is where I will be guiding you—into the tunnels of silence.”
I didn’t really get all this. I imagined something like a wormhole.
“There will be three stages of my drum beating where I use different sides of the drum and different frequencies and intensities of beats. The first stage represents the Earth World, where we do our daily tasks. The second is the Underworld where our dream soul resides. The third and final stage will be the High Self/Celestial Soul.”
I really wanted a cigarette, although I had quit 30 years ago.
He said the ceremony would only last about eight minutes, a little less than the time it took for him to explain the ceremony. Jade never referred to the ceremony as a “Soul Retrieval,” nor did he explain the role he would be playing other than beating the drum. On his website he said it is sometimes necessary for the shaman to fight and wrest the souls from those who are hoarding them in the Underworld. He made no mention of it to us. He asked us if we had any questions. I thought about inquiring some more about how the sound wave thing worked, but I sensed Brittany and Hilary were anxious to move things along. Brittany did ask what we should be doing the ceremony. Jade said get comfortable, take deep cleansing breaths and close your eyes.
I’ll try and describe what I experienced over the next few minutes. Hilary and Brittany can share their experiences if and when they choose to. I first have to say that my left hip was killing me because of my hip surgery three weeks earlier. We’d now been sitting on these hard folding chairs for about an hour and my leg was getting stiff and starting to bark at me. I thought about asking for a break to walk around and stretch a bit, but I too was anxious to do this thing so I kept quiet—and strong.
Jade announced “We will now begin with the Earth World phase” and began to beat on the higher pitched side of his drum with the eagle head end of the drum stick. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing and the drum sounds. Soon I felt my eyes begin to twitch and flutter behind my eyelids, pulsing in tandem with the drum beats. I saw neutral colors of yellows and beige. The drum was loud and dominant. After a minute or so I realized that my leg didn’t hurt. My mind was jumping around ‘What are Hil and B thinking?’ ‘I can’t believe we’re doing this?’ Stuff like that.
Jade stopped drumming. I obediently kept my eyes closed. “We will now begin the next stage and travel into the Underworld.” Here we go! He rhythmically beat on the deeper pitched head of the drum. This is when it started to get interesting for me. Very early into this stage my mind was no longer flitting around and my head began to gradually bow towards my chest. The yellows and beige colors turned into pitch black. I had a sense of foreboding—an awareness—this is not a happy place. Periodically a bright pinpoint or two of light would appear in the lower field of my vision, very much like animal eyes reflecting in the dark when struck by moonlight or headlights. The tiny lights hurt my eyes, but that is all that I saw—no shapes–nothing else other than blackness.
My breathing became shallow and quick, and my upper body and chest began to shudder. I was aware of making loud sobbing/shuddering-like sounds; as if I was naked, immersed in a freezing lake, my body desperate for warmth. Yet, I wasn’t cold. I could not get my breathing and body under control. Some tears formed and began to flow down my cheeks. I wasn’t crying; I know only too well what that feels like. There was very much a physical intrusion as if someone or something was shaking me from within.
I heard movement, a rustling to my left, close to my feet. It was very pronounced. It sounded like shuffling of feet or paws; an animal? There were no pets in the room, and Hilary and Brittany were to my right. Jade and the drum were in front of me. ‘What is it? What is that?’ I kept asking myself. My head sank even lower on my chest and I felt as though I was being pushed down into my chair. After what seemed a very long time— definitely longer than the first stage—the drumming stopped.
Jade announced the commencement of the third and final stage- into the Celestial World. He returned to drumming the higher pitched skin. Soon, my head began to rise and the shuddering stopped. Blackness surrendered to light. There were colors of bluish turquoise, initially soft, which became very, very bright. The blinking points of light remained in the lower regions of my eyes; not as bright or menacing, and less frequent. My head went further back and my face lifted towards the sky-ceiling. The rustling on the ground to my left had stopped, but I began to hear something moving in front of me, a different rustling sound, perhaps on the table in front of Jade.
Jade was holding his drum in one hand and continuously striking it with his other. The rustling was not as pronounced as the one to my left—‘What is it?’ I implored of myself. The bright turquoise lights melted into softer greens and blues. The feeling was peaceful, soothing and uplifting. My breathing became deep and slow. The drumming stopped.
It was very quiet for quite some time. We all opened our eyes. Jade began to talk, but I don’t remember what he said at first, or if I even heard him. I felt a very strong sense of calm, a bit numb, like coming out of the deep sleep of an afternoon nap. The moment was serene. I began to hear and understand Jade’s words—they were clear and everything was in a sharp focus. This was all there was. Then my shoulders and body began to shudder once more and I started sobbing. I was completely overcome. This was a hard, blubbering cry that went on for a couple of minutes. No embarrassment. I felt a sense of relief, a freeing sensation, as though a heavy weight had been lifted from my back. I felt good, refreshed, cleansed, alive. Something very powerful had happened to me. I can’t tell you what it was or how or if I was changed. I only know what I felt, sensed and heard. It was absolutely new and unique— I’d never felt this way before.
Brittany said she also clearly heard the sounds to my left and was somewhat disturbed by it. Hilary heard it too. Jade offered that the movement we heard was Jimmy announcing his presence with us at this ceremony. I hope so. To me, this had everything to do with him wanting to be there, to bear witness for and with his mother. We were there by the grace of him.
As we made our exit and expressed our thanks and blessings to Jade I went to shake his hand. He refused mine in exchange for a bear hug and I whispered in his ear, “Thank you for the best birthday present I could never have imagined.”
I sensed this terrestrial being was at the early stages of coming back into some semblance of an orbit. The letter from my Dad two months earlier, our reading with Tarra and now this Ceremony with Jade Wa’hoo Grigori. I really couldn’t comprehend the forces at work—but I sure felt them. Yet, there was much more work to do. There always is.
Of course there is more to this story. Please stay tuned for Soul Retrieval Part2—Large Black Men.
Please visit Jade’s website www.shamanic.net to learn more about Soul Retrievals and Jade’s other work. I highly recommend a soul retrieval ceremony as you continue to Do Your Work.