from Chapter 9
RECEIVING THE STAFF AND OTHER SHAMANIC INSTRUMENTS
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
When a shaman has a vision and is shown a sacred object, he or she may decide to go find the object in the physical world or make it for themselves. Anything seen in sacred vision may be brought into the physical plane and used as a shamanic tool or instrument. Some say these vision-inspired objects have sacred power. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that these gifts from the world of spirit boost the relationship of the shaman with the spirit world. Seeing or touching the object brings about a memory of the inspired vision which, in turn, recharges the shaman and fills him or her with great emotion and passion. In this way, the objects serve as links or bridges between imagination and realization. It is best not to lust for spiritual objects. You may get what you ask for, and the cost is the responsibility to take care of these gifts and honor their entry into your world. Spiritual gifts are both a resource and a burden. They must be fed with prayers and offerings. Over the years, Christian shamans have been gifted with many different kinds of spiritual instruments that they use in their prayer, healing, and contemplative practices. For example, I have known shamans who received special crosses, beads, altars, pieces of wood, bells, colored designs, and even shepherd’s staffs.
Christian shamans are sometimes given a staff in a sacred dream. This dream is often taken to mean that one is being called to shepherd others in a spiritual way. After having such a dream, one is spiritually permitted to go find a staff.
For this meditation, create the image of a staff in your mind. Imagine your eyes slowing tracing its outline from top to bottom. Slowly and surely, allow yourself to visually inspect this staff. Do this over and over. See the staff as a dark color, but as you focus on it, allow the staff to become lighter. Eventually the staff should turn white, like a shining light. Cultivate this image in your meditative practice. See it as a way to prepare yourself to receive a sacred staff. If you receive the staff in a dream, privately refer to yourself as a newly initiated shepherd.
Years ago a young nursing student dreamed of a staff. It was made of wood and was painted white. In the dream, it floated across the room and landed in her hand. The next day she went to an art gallery and noticed a painting of a woman holding a staff. She thought of her dream and began wondering what it meant for her to see a staff. She thought about how a shepherd’s staff can be used to direct sheep and how the curved end can be used to pull a sheep forward. She also imagined how a staff could be used to chastise a disobedient sheep. And finally, she thought of how a shepherd holds a staff to lead her sheep to green pastures, fresh water, and back to the fold in the evening.
That night she fell asleep thinking about the shepherd’s staff she had seen the night before. Was it the staff of another shepherd pulling her in? Was it a gift to help her become a spiritual shepherd? She fell asleep wondering. To her surprise, she had another dream about the staff. It was still white, but this time it was small and fit inside the palm of her hand. The tiny staff was vibrating with a kind of rippling energy. She started to squeeze the staff in her palm, and then she woke up.
For a week, she wondered about the palm-sized staff. She wished the dream had lasted longer. She could not stop thinking about the tiny staff.
She decided to tell her grandmother about these dreams. Her grandmother was an unusual woman who others believed had spiritual gifts. She filled her cupboards and walls with unusual objects and pictures that no one understood. Her grandmother’s house had a special feeling to it, and it felt good to be around her. When her grandmother heard about these dreams, she cried out with excitement. “Yes, granddaughter, that is very important. The Lord is giving you a staff. All you have to do is make it and hold on to it every night. It will bring forth the energy of the Holy Ghost. I know, because I have one of those staffs.” As she spoke, she went to her dresser and pulled out a box. Inside the box was a paperclip that had been bent into the shape of a staff. Grandmother had painted it red. On its top she had attached a tiny ribbon.
“Here’s my staff. Try it out.” The young nursing student reached out for the staff. When she squeezed it, she could remember all the time she had spent with her grandmother. It filled her with much love, and a tingle of energy shot through her body. Grandmother could see that she understood what the staff was for and immediately said, “Now it’s time to make your staff. There is no right way to make it. You must simply do it yourself. Any way is fine, as long as you are the one who makes it.”
The young woman went home and made her own staff, which she now holds every night. She is still holding it, feeling the love for all the shepherds in her life, using its energy to direct others who need help and guidance. She learned that the staff brings her home, and also helps her bring others to their rightful place in the world.