The Magic Circle

Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within

The Beginning of a Fool’s Journey January 2, 2014

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 by Grandmother Ann Dickie

In the tarot deck the fool, full of unlimited potential, is at the beginning of a journey of self-discovery.  He is innocent of the dangers he faces, but has the courage to step into the unknown.

How did I, in my early 60’s, get started on this path of shamanism?  Did Spirit lead me?  Soon after my husband and I moved to the Sunshine Coast, I went to a woman’s weekend retreat called Chakra Dance.  During the retreat, we went to a sweat lodge.  I had never been in a sweat lodge.  Saying prayers in the dark steamy lodge that represents the womb of Mother Earth felt so powerful, I wanted to learn more.

At another weekend workshop,  everything I heard about the path of shamanism sang in my heart.  Honour and protect the Earth and all living creatures.  Nurture our children.  The Universe is a living entity.  Everything is connected because everything contains the stuff of stars.  Do nothing to harm the children- meaning everything on earth: all humans, animals, plants, air, water, soil, rocks and even bugs!

During those first teachings, my negative inner dialogue ran full speed.  At the time I thought I had never done anything right and made a total mess of relationships, especially with my husband and children.  Round and round in a litany of negative self talk.  For months, I didn’t know why I kept going back to this shamanic path for instruction and ceremony.  Honestly examining ourselves at a deep level is hard and painful.  Over and over I vowed I wouldn’t go there again.  But some inner wisdom knew that what I needed to do was heal myself. Does that sound selfish?  All about me?  Not so.  To heal ourselves we need to sift through all the old  life experiences no matter how painful.  Rake it all up till we find the gold.  When we heal our own hurts and learn to honour and love ourselves we are much more capable of giving love and compassion to others because it comes from a place of freedom. 

My teachers say that when we heal ourselves, we heal our ancestors seven generations back, and we heal the next seven generations forward. The fool’s healing journey has led me to a life of creativity, love and joy.  There are many paths that lead us to God, Allah, Great Spirit, or whatever name you choose to call the ineffable Sacred Mystery. Which one sings to you?


Medicine Signs in Ceremony December 21, 2013

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For one ceremony I did, the task was to sit outside in your medicine wheel at night, under a starry sky, and ask a question facing each direction. To seek final assurance that the answer received was true, the last step was to ask Spirit for a “sign” from nature– as is often the case during ceremony. A suggestion of the kind of sign to look for was a shooting star, but we were encouraged to be open to anything else that might speak to us.

After completing my go around the wheel, I felt confident that I had received the answer I was seeking. It had come to me easily from every direction and I finally settled my mind to be open, looked skyward, and prayed for a sign.

Almost immediately, there was a flash, the dark woods filled with dancing light, and the silence gave way to heavenly peals of laughter! It took me a heartbeat to realize the dazzling cacophony was the coming from two other ceremonialists who, having finished their ceremony, were returning to camp, with a flashlight to guide them, merrily sharing a moment with each other.

Now, generally, when you finish your ceremony while there are others nearby still engaged, one would move through the space quietly, with reverence, holding the space. These two women, good friends of mine, were well versed in this – and were appalled and profusely apologetic when I told them how their momentary lapse in awareness had reverberated through the dark, quiet wood.

But I assured them – it was perfect. It was my sign! Timed as it was, as out of character as it was, that moment of astonishment and awakening – I had no doubt.  And it made me laugh. Besides confirming for me that I had found the answer I was looking for, it reminded me of two things – ceremony is not meant to exclude humour and humanity is not excluded from the world of nature!

In fact, I believe that many of our most important signs are brought to us by other human beings and it is important to stay open to the gifts that other people, strangers and familiars alike, bring to us every day.
-written by Kat Inksetter


Kids are Natural Philosophers

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Picture 1

The Power to Question: TEDx Talk:

How can we encourage kids to ask big questions and find their own answers by going within?

How do we encourage kids to dialogue with others and open their hearts and minds to what others have to say- perhaps even to solve the problems the world faces today?

Happy Solstice everyone,



Making Space for Children in Ceremony December 13, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — anndickie @ 5:31 pm


Lately, I’ve found myself wondering why there aren’t more spiritual ceremonies where children are welcome to attend.  Why are children so often excluded from rituals that adults participate in?  We wrote the book “The Magic Circle” in part because there was a notable hole in the social fabric of our community in this area.  Parents and kids were looking to participate in ceremonies but there were few open to them.
I received the answer to this question recently when I acted as the ceremonialist for a ritual we did for the book launch in Calgary.  The ceremony was simple but I realized, profound in ways I did not expect or plan for. The kids blew their wishes for the spring into rocks, asked the winter nature spirits to support them in making their wishes come true, and blew their fears into rocks that then went into salt water. We sang songs, coloured some animal pictures from the book and enjoyed each other’s company- a lovely afternoon.
When I found out that we were going to have some young kids there (ages 2 and 3), I knew I’d have to alter my original ceremony idea to include them at the developmental level they were at.  The 2 year old had recently gained confidence speaking with adults he did not know and was full of questions and conversation.  Needless to say, children that young cannot sit still for long and do not yet understand why it might be important to remain quiet while others speak.  I’ve worked with children as a teacher long enough to know that this was not a case of kids misbehaving; rather it was simply a normal stage in their learning and psychological development at that particular age.
As we did the talking stick, I paused now and again when the 2 year old spoke persistently to me while others were sharing and holding the stick.  I sensed that the adults in the room were uncomfortable with the fact that I was stopping to hold space for this young one when I’d clearly stated that the person holding the talking stick is meant to be the one talking while the rest of us listen to what they have to share.
I remembered in the face of this that children traditionally sit on the East of the Medicine Wheel as natural heyokahs.   The role of a heyokah in First Nations teachings is one who is the contrarian; they look at everything from the 180-degree opposite point of view.  This view is so honoured by First Nations people because they know that in doing things as we always do them- as convention states we must- we are bound to miss important information and make mistakes.  Heyokahs stir things up in a space.  It is their job to interrupt the “normal” order of things so the people can clearly see the foolishness of their ways and make the changes necessary to restore balance.
The little boy was our heyokah that afternoon.  In earlier years, I might have tried to silence him or shut him down in favour of teaching social convention but I instead treated this as a teachable moment for the people in the space.  I said, “Some ceremonies are held just for adults.  However, when we have community ceremonies where all ages are involved, we allow space for people to move around and children to come and go, as they need to.  In short, we make room for where they are in their personal journey as an act of inclusion.”  I could sense more relaxation in the space. And at the 2 and 3 year-olds’ request, we sang more songs and danced like our totem animals might.
After the ceremony, the little boy’s mom came to see me and expressed her gratitude that I could make such a welcome space for her son.  She told me that it was a relief to not feel like she needed to control him; she could just let him be.  And she was also grateful that I didn’t shut him down after it had clearly taken him 2 years of his life to feel confident enough to speak out in a space.
Does this mean that we should not teach valuable and respectful skills such as listening, speaking in turn, and participating cooperatively in group activities?  Not at all.  It’s just that there is a time, place and a WAY to do that that honours where children are in their learning and values the essence of who they are.  Children are not yet adults.  It is unreasonable of us to expect a child so young to be able to do something that is not within their neurological capabilities.  It’s our job as adults to guide and hold that space for them as they are learning and growing.
I am glad that I was able to honour him while also finding a way to juggle the needs of the other people in the group.  I came away understanding that we as adults do not in general have a good relationship with heyokah medicine.  It is more comfortable to stay within the rules and laws we know than to look at things from another perspective.  Children require creativity, adaptability and unconditionality of us.  I am committed to modeling that as a ceremonialist working with children.  I intend to continue to create spaces where children are welcome to be part of spiritual ceremonies.
-Jen Engracio

Video Interview with Jen December 3, 2013

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Check out this 19 minute video with an explanation of what shamanism is and the benefits of ceremony:




The Power of Breath November 22, 2013

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We all need to breath to live.  Our bodies do it automatically.  So why do some ceremonies in “The Magic Circle” suggest taking several slow deep lung-filling breaths?  Doesn’t our body take care of breathing without help from us?

Breath brings prana into the body.  Prana is a Sanskrit word for life force.  It’s a cosmic energy that connects the Everything.  When we inhale, prana, or life energy, enters our lungs and is carried to all the cells of our bodies, bringing us relaxation, energy and health.  If our breathing is shallow, we don’t bring in much life force energy.

Breathing exercises are an important part of yoga and martial arts.  The ancient cultures that developed these practices knew the benefits of filling our lungs with air to ground us in our bodies and quiet our minds.

In an Aikido dojo, I saw a young boy enter with his father.  Together they knelt and bent their heads to the floor in respect for the teachings they would receive. There was an aura of peace around them.

One of the main benefits of slow deep breathing is inner silence.  Our busy mind slows down it’s chattering. Then when we ask ourselves questions like “Who am I?” or “Why am I here in this body right now?”  we can hear the answers from our wise selves, our higher selves.  Buddhist teacher Bodhipaska says “breathing is the gateway to insight.”  When we meditate, deep breathing brings us into the silence of spiritual awareness.  Right now I am doing a Deepak Chopra 21 day meditation series. A grade three teacher, who played the meditations for her students, said they looked forward to their daily meditation times and always looked calm and joyful afterwards.  The Dalai Lama has said, “If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation.”  With breath, we can find inner peace and know we are all connected.

-written by Ann Dickie


Raindance Festival Book Review November 15, 2013

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Raindance Book festival reveiw of “The Magic Circle”:
“The exercises in this book are all fun and based on indigenous wisdom from around the world. The authors understand young children and young teens, and their need for expression. This book would be a wonderful addition to your parenting library. It is a reminder about the wisdom of young children, and how to honour and support them from losing that wisdom as they get older.”
– Mary Tasi