A few weeks ago, my wife and I took a visit to see my parents in the lower Columbia Gorge. This is quite the magical place, as it used to be the home for Native American commerce and villages for generations – spanning 10,000 years. Today there are only scarce remnants, mainly petroglyphs and tales from Lewis and Clark’s journey, as a good portion of the Native areas are now under water due to the many dams placed along the river’s course. However, there are a few places which still radiate with the majesty of sacredness throughout the centuries. One of these spots is Horsethief Butte, a megalithic outcropping of basalt stone rising hundreds of feet above the river. An excellent place for rock climbing, the Butte is actually more of a horse-shoe shape, where you can hike into its interior and be surrounded by the essence of the centuries. There a few places marked for their prehistoric value, as the faint lines of ancient ochre breach the stone where artists had painted homage to the sacred so many moons ago.
It was the perfect place for the blessing of some new stones.
My wife, Heidi, has just recently taken up study in shamanism – but has always been an avid collector of stones and their metaphysical meanings. We brought a new batch to the Butte to baptize them in the holiness of site, and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the spirits that no doubt once called the Butte “home.”
Heidi began the opening prayer by addressing the four winds and their respective totem animals, while I stood alongside snapping photos and opening up to see what would happen. As she called out the invocation, I could suddenly sense the presence of being watched. In no time at all, my senses picked up on several Native American spirits looking down on the ceremony from high atop the Butte’s upper edges. I spotted a chief, a shaman, a warrior, and an elderly woman, but was also aware of others.
As Heidi lit the sage and waved the smoke over the stones, the spirits joined in a circle about her and I saw them encase the bowl with light from their bodies. They were, in essence, dowsing the rocks with the sacredness of their own spiritual energy, giving more to the stones than what Heidi had originally intended -- She had wanted to capture the eternal essence of the space and connect these new stones through a ritual of entanglement with the location and received so much more than that – an honorary blessing from spirits who had walked upon the great land through the course of history.
After she had closed the prayer, she asked me what I had picked up, mentioning that even she felt a “thickness” surrounding her. I told her about the people I saw, but then she inquired of any totem animals. Surprisingly, I did sense one, and the closer I examined the energy, it revealed itself as being a cougar. When Heidi researched the meaning this totem, it was amazingly appropriate and an excellent source of validation not only for what I was picking up, but for the accompaniment of all the spirits that had appeared.
“The cougar teaches decisiveness in the use of personal power … The cougar can teach you how to bring out your power and fill your heart with it in a manner that will enable you to take charge of your life.” – From Ted Andrews Animal Speak
The nod from these Native American spirits and the gift of their energy permeated the entire Butte as we climbed to the top of the basalt towers and marveled at the majesty of the river. Days later while we sat in our Development Circle at home in meditation, I was visited by the Chief who stood watch over the ceremony that weekend in the Gorge. He blessed me with some encouraging news regarding our work as spirit messengers. I didn’t know it at the time, but Heidi had prayed that someone from the Butte would show up during the Circle.
If you ever get the chance, take a trip to Columbia Hills State Park and trek out to Horsethief Butte. You don’t need to be psychic to encounter the sacredness of this location which hosted generations of Native dwellers for nearly 10,000 years. With respect, ask and the spirits will appear.