Lowanpi or: I meet spirits (REAL spirits!)

Nabi Nunhue, Pasto, Colombia.

The retreat is over. People are packing their bags. Tomorrow most of us will start leaving, many will catch a plane back to Europe. I will stay in the area for another 5 days and participate in 3 more ceremonies. Then I want to go to Cali and a really uncertain time will start.

I feel sad about the fact that it is over. Like so many times I grew attached to the rhythm of life, the people, the food and the surroundings. I also feel I need more time with the plant, the ayahuasca. But I also feel grateful, open and cleansed. I have witnessed and participated in various ancient, indigenous ceremonies and they might not have had the life-changing effects I had hoped it does feel kind of special.

Yesterday there was another Lakota ceremony. This one was called “Lowanpi”. The inside of the maloca, the traditional ceremonial place, was completely covered with blanket, letting no light in. Where normally the fire is, in the m iddle, was now an altar. The people were gathered around the altar, divided over the four directions.

At some point the candles go out and the praying starts. Indian praying is means singing and drumming. It is pretty impressive. The idea of the ceremony is that the spirits are invoked. But with this ceremony they come in a very physical form. That means that even I can see or hear them.

Right after the start I heard a bird fly through the darkness. What. The. Fuck? It sent chills down my spine. Then I could hear the rattling. The rattle even touched me. And then I stopped believing. I just could not believe that these were real spirits. I thought it was the Chief who was walking around in the dark.

The next morning I confessed that I didn’t buy the experience, that I felt fooled. Chief responded sharp and intense. He said: “I am sorry that you missed your blessing” I felt bad about that. But still, I wasn’t convinced. I wanted to believe him and I could see in his eyes that he wouldn’t lie but my head just could not grasp it. In my eyes it was possible to move around the altar blindfolded (which would be the same as perfect darkness) and touch people with a rattle. Then I started to ask around and heard that the rattle touched people in the 3rd row too. That would be really impossible. And I started to feel really uncomfortable.

Only 7 people in the world can guide this ceremony. I was so fortunate to be present. And when the ancestors come I am so ungrateful to be cynical. But on the other hand: how can I not be? I am not unfamiliar with otherworldly experiences but this was really otherworldly.

Yesterday I heard more stories about the Lowanpi. Seems that it can be a lot crazier with more little lights and colors. A friend told me that she had scratch marks from the eagle that landed on her shoulder once. And she told me that there is even a more intense ceremony where the Chief is completely tied up. He leaves his body to go to the spirit world. So he doesn’t just call them, he goes to get them without knowing if he can come back. He literally offers his life in that ceremony.

But I still don’t understand. I just don’t understand. No, I really don’t understand. That people see spirits and entities is one thing. That I sometimes myself seem to channel certain energies is another. But ancestors that make loud noises, birds flying through the air, feeling wind, cold hands, soft touches, slaps in the face even?

As I was talking to the woman who was scratched by the eagle I started to feel guilty and ashamed. I had been unable to trust my new friend. I ran outside to find him. Then I told him I was sorry and he gave me a hug. He told me it was the same thing for him when he was initiated at 16. And for his teachers too.

I hope the spirits that came are still willing to guide me. I would really appreciate that, dear spirits! And I will do my best to be more respectful and receptive to your presence. Aho!


  1. Pausha says

    Oh, this so reminds me of Chris in an Art of God class 🙂 He would sit there staring at us wandering weather we are all crazy, high or lying.

    He did find his own way to grow, open and learn eventually. I wonder what is more … effective … in the long run – trying to fit yourself into a certain “spiritual” way, or find a way that fits you.

  2. Mam says

    Weet je nog dat je me een paar jaar geleden het boek ‘Shamans through time’ gaf? Had je dat toen zelf al gelezen? Zo niet, moet je dat alsnog eens doen. Dan kom je vast veel herkenning tegen van wat je nu zelf allemaal ervaart.

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