By Gilda Frantz
My personal experiences with shamanism began years ago. My husband’s younger sister was killed in a plane crash and we stored all of her be- longings. My mother-in-law died of old age in the early 1960s, so we took her belongings and stored them in our garage. My older sister passed away in 1968, and because her children were young and not settled in their lives, I agreed to store some of her belongings until they grew up—into our garage they went. Then my brother-in-law died suddenly and his children also were living in places without much storage, so they stored some and we stored some. In 1975 my husband died suddenly and left an entire medical library as well as records of patients. Into the garage they went to be stored.
My son died in 1992 and I had all his things to store. So went my life, divided between the profound losses and having to deal with “things” left behind.
Then, one day about ten years ago, I decided to create a guesthouse out of the garage. My thinking was that since I couldn’t access the garage for my car, I might as well use it to host visiting friends. I had plans drawn up for a cozy bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bath. It was going to be a darling little house nestled in my garden. I would keep the shell and change the interior.
There was only one major problem: I found it impossible to go into this garage to begin the clearing-out process, as it was damp, moldy, and sad. I used to say it was like a mausoleum where the dead were stored. I didn’t believe the spirits of my beloved relatives and husband were there, but the smell of books that had become moldy in the damp beach climate was pervasive—and unpleasant. I would open the door to enter and turn around and leave.
I knew I had to do something, so I did what I do at such times: I called my daughter and asked her what she would do in a similar situation.
She immediately suggested that I call Miguel. I wondered how Miguel might help, but I trust her intuition and called him at once. Miguel married my late husband’s great-niece Stephanie. Born and raised in Guatemala, Miguel has a shock of longish white hair and a very soft voice. He was called to study with Native Americans and considers one Native American healer, in particular, as his teacher. Miguel leads sweat lodge ceremonies and supervises vision quests on a regular basis. My daughter has participated in these rituals and has high regard for Miguel.
I arranged with him to come to my house, and he arrived with an arm- load of things. I took him to the garage. I sat with my little Pug, Mr. Fu, on my lap, and Miguel began a ceremony to help me let go of these possessions. First he filled a small container with herbs and lit it, releasing a sweet and pungent fragrance in the smoke wafting in the air. I drifted into a kind of reverie, al- though I was aware of his opening a beautiful lined carrying case in which he stored two hawk wings, which he held aloft while chanting and drumming. I began to breathe slowly as a deep ease spread throughout me.
After quite a while, maybe an hour or more, Miguel stopped chanting and turned to the walls where the artifacts were stored on shelves. In effect, he asked the objects to “Let go of Gilda.” It was stunning to hear him choose those words, as it had never occurred to me that these objects were holding on to me, even though I remembered that Jung felt his kitchen tools “acted up” when he left them for a long time and he would apologize to them upon his return. Miguel, in his gentle voice, implored the objects to understand that they would go on to another life if they gave Gilda a chance to grow, too.
Then it was over. Miguel packed his things carefully and respectfully and we said goodbye. I later learned that what he was chanting that I couldn’t understand were prayers in a Native American language.
The next morning I went to the door of the garage, opened it, and entered.
The moldy odor had evaporated, and I didn’t feel weird or sad entering this sacred space. Eventually I gave things away and in some instances had to toss objects that were too far-gone with mold. I did it with respect and love for the previous owner. My friend Miguel had changed the very energy in the garage, and I could enter and do what was necessary.
Gilda Frantz, M.A, is a senior Jungian analyst in Santa Monica specializing in creativity and loss. This piece originally appeared in Psychological Perspectives, 57: 123–125, 2014 as “Shamanic and Magical Realms.” Copyright, C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.
The Four-Fold Way by Angeles Arrien
Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ectasy by Mircea Eliade
The Four Agreements by Don Miquel Ruiz
The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner