“In the Lakota/Sioux tradition, a person who is grieving is considered most holy. There’s a sense that when someone is struck by the sudden lightning of loss, he or she stands on the threshold of the spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help. You might recall what it’s like to be with someone who has grieved deeply. The person has no layer of protection, nothing left to defend. The mystery is looking out through that person’s eyes. For the time being, he or she has accepted the reality of loss and has stopped clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a deep natural wisdom.”
~ Tara Brach
A vision quest is a rite of passage, similar to an initiation, in some Native American cultures. In traditional Lakota culture the Hanblecheyapi (vision quest, literally “crying for a vision”) is one of seven main rites.
Vision quest preparations involve a time of fasting, the guidance of a tribal Medicine Man and sometimes ingestion of natural entheogens; this quest is undertaken for the first time in the early teenage years.
The quest itself is usually a journey alone into the wilderness seeking personal growth and spiritual guidance from the spirit, sometimes Wakan Tanka.
Traditionally, the seeker finds a place that they feel is special, and sits in a 10 foot circle and brings nothing in from society with the exception of water.
A normal Vision Quest usually lasts two to four days within this circle, in which time the seeker is forced to look into his soul.
It is said that a strong urge to leave the Quest area will come to the seeker and a feeling of insanity may set in. However, the seeker normally overcomes this by reminding him or herself of the overall outcome of the quest, causing the mind to stop wandering on random thoughts. The individual can generally find solace in the fact that he or she will not die in just two to four days.
Some have claimed grand visions on their first Vision Quest while others have not. It is an individual experience and often subject to the emotional, spiritual, and physical make-up of the person.
Native American totems are said to be capable of speaking through all things, including messages or instructions in the form of an animal or bird.
Generally a physical representation of the vision or message such as a feather, fur or a rock is collected and placed in the seeker’s medicine bag to ensure the power of the vision will stay with the individual to remind, protect or guide him.
Since the beginning of this cycle of time, humanity has returned to nature to connect with spirit and to seek answers to problems of the physical realms, especially in this timeline when the messages of prophecy reveal themselves to the seeker.
There is something about being alone in the wilderness that brings us closer and more aware of the 4 elements and our connection to a creational source. We go to seek truths and divine realization, just as many of the ancient prophets did in their time.
In its own way – the vision quest is an Initiation not unlike the days of the ancient mystery school teachings where one learns about themselves and the mysteries of the universe are often revealed to them. It is a time of internal transformation and renewal.
- Who am I?
- Why am I here?
In a vision quest, conditions are set up that allow the soul to move beyond the illusions of the little self and enter the unity of the inner whole. It is a time of fasting – praying – and being in nature.
It is a period of solitude in which we seek an inner revelation – a vision -which grants profound meaning and direction to our life.
This initiation leads to maturity and an understanding of our responsibility to ourselves, our society, our natural environment, and our soul.
Though the Vision Quest is associated with Native Americans traditions – it is practiced all over the world.
As an expression of the archetypal “Heroic Journey,” the vision quest has been enacted in religious pilgrimages, mythological tales (including the story of the search for the Holy Grail), and our own daily pursuit of truth and purpose.
Today, there are companies which sponsor vision quests. They provide a wilderness area in which it is to occur, and they give instructions and guidance before and after the event.
In Native American traditions these times of inner trial are marked liked passages. Time is set aside to honor them. It might take a day, a week, a month – whatever is necessary to complete the transformation and get the answer one seeks.
- Khetani Machangana: Learn To See