Editor's Note: While this article deals with hurricanes that took place several years ago, its information is very pertinent for current and/or future hurricanes.
From the earth's earliest epochs, hurricanes have served as a primary force of creation, as well as destruction, for our world. They embody most elements of weather: rain, wind, fog, thunderstorms, tornadoes, water spouts, and, not the least, fair weather within their great eyes. They also contribute to additional weathers such as snowstorms and blizzards. No one really understands how hurricanes form, yet when they do, their massive spirals arouse our emotions and inspire us to action -- if only the action of meticulous attention and tracking.
As far back as three to four billion years ago, hurricanes were a prominent creative force in the development of the earth and atmosphere. Not only did they contribute to the atmosphere as we know it, but the unparalleled power and electricity of those primal storms exerted a profound energizing effect upon various inert elements and chemicals so that organic compounds eventually formed. We also have hurricanes to thank for the distribution -- and redistribution -- of life, as they stir up and churn the surface of the earth wherever they sweep through, absorbing and depositing nutrients, seeds, and other life-forms in their great wakes.
Dedicating Ceremony to the Spirit of Hurricanes
In the fall of 2003, still hurricane season, thirty-five experienced shamanic practitioners gathered together in New York for a reunion. David and I were invited to present our two-day weather-dancing workshop. A week earlier a tropical storm, previously a hurricane, had brushed by us in Maine. At that time there were four named tropical storms -- some with hurricane status -- spinning around in the Atlantic, each in a different stage of its life span. I felt inspired to dedicate the final ceremony of the workshop to hurricanes.
We formally dedicated the evening ceremony to the spirit of hurricanes, and all its weathers, for the purpose of redressing any "wrongs" in our individual and collective past relationships with the weather. Once begun, the ceremony took on a life of its own -- dynamic, beautiful, and healing. We each drummed, rattled, sang, and danced with the intention to shape-shift or transfigure into an element of weather. For some this was an event of initiation and commitment to a path of weather shamanism, while for others it brought spontaneous personal healing (in shamanic traditions a healing for one can be a healing for all). For most it was an experience of pure joy, the ecstasy inherent in a shamanic working to honor and to heal.
Hurricane Lily: From Class 5 to Class 1...
A few days later, as David and I were driving home, we heard on the radio that Hurricane Lily, headed for the Gulf Coast and nearly class 5 in power, had suddenly and inexplicably ratcheted down to a class 1 by the time she came ashore. The announcer quoted a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) official as saying that he expected to see a rash of Ph.D. dissertations on that one, as no one could thus far explain what had happened; a class 5 hurricane that could diminish so quickly defied rational explanation. David and I looked at each other and grinned, knowing that there must have been other weather workings around Lily, and our circle's big-hearted ceremony was a part of it, too.
The hurricane season of 2004, when Florida was hit by no less than four of the mighty storms, was remarkable for its high numbers, including fifteen named storms, three thousand deaths, and about $42 billion in damages. The infamy of the 2005 hurricane season, however, surpasses that of 2004, which at the time had been considered a record season not likely to be repeated in the near future.
2005 Season: Katrina, Rita, & Wilma
During the 2005 season, however, Florida was hit again, and Hurricane Katrina's knockout blow to the eastern Gulf Coast led to the destructive flooding and cascade of crises for New Orleans and her thousands of resident humans and animals. Shortly after, Hurricane Rita also struck the Gulf Coast, this time threatening Houston. Though not as devastating as Katrina, Rita added to the travails of the region, necessitating an enormous evacuation effort on the part of the residents of Houston, including those who had just moved there as refugees from New Orleans.
As late as mid-October in 2005, meteorologists used the last name from their list for the newest tropical storm, Wilma -- a record in itself. By October 19, barely three days after her naming, Hurricane Wilma had been classified as a class 5 "monster," the strongest, most intense Atlantic storm ever recorded, with wind speeds clocked at 175 miles per hour and a record low pressure of 882 millibars. Paul, a resident of southern Florida, shares his perspective:
The power of Nature. Man plans and God laughs. So here comes Hurricane Wilma. It is one of the worst hurricanes in history. It barreled into Miami at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning and lasted a mere four hours, yet its wrath was of biblical proportions. We have a home in Miami and Sanibel and an office in Miami. Sanibel Island was supposed to be the center. I prayed and meditated and put a white light around the properties. The storm changed course and came in fifty miles south of Sanibel. We were spared. It then crossed into Miami and the news showed my office building torn apart, but for a few unscathed offices. Mine was unscathed. Finally it came a little north and just missed our home. We lost electricity but nothing more.
And so, lessons. Hard to say, but once again Nature in all its splendor and glory lives. It is alive. It is conscious. It is one with us. We are all part of Nature. We are not separate from it. We are not adversaries. Rather we are respectful companions living in harmony.
Before it ended at the late date of December 30, the 2005 hurricane season counted six additional tropical storms and hurricanes: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta -- all named from the Greek alphabet, and another new record. This season offered up the most named storms ever (twenty-eight), the most hurricanes (fourteen), and the most category 5 hurricanes (three). Meteorologists are beginning to say that we may be in for a cycle of ten to twenty years' duration of severe tropical tempests.
Insights & Messages from the Hurricanes
Michele, a gifted astrologer and shamanic practitioner from Florida, shared her insights and experiences with the hurricanes that struck her home area during the 2004 season. Following a warning from her helping spirits that there would be a crisis involving wind and water by the end of August, she "refreshed" her family's hurricane supplies and bought a new generator a week before Hurricane Frances became a threat. As an astrologer, Michele's perspective on the Florida hurricanes is this:
To me, Florida is a Piscean state -- watery and spiritual. Like Andrew in 1992, the hurricanes came and hit land in the least populated parts of the state, which is a blessing. Jupiter is the planetary force of expansion, and every twelve years he moves through Virgo. In August of 1992, Jupiter was in Virgo and Andrew hit the state. This time around Jupiter was in Virgo again, except this time opposing Uranus in Pisces. Uranus rules lightning; Uranus wakes us up. Uranus is the higher octave of Mercury, and Mercury rules weather. Mercury in Virgo was just coming out of retrograde and opposed Uranus.
As a shamanic practitioner, Michele met with the spirit of Hurricane Frances as the storm approached her area:
I asked, "What is the hurricane's message?" I heard, "What looks like chaos is really control." Control and management of energy, of wind and water, of thoughts and emotions. The spirits of weather are managing energy in a systematic way. They said Florida is being dismembered so new energy can manifest. The earth is waiting for it because of the stagnation present. The air literally changes after a hurricane. Ions shift. The spirit of the hurricane was glad I approached her with love.
I was told that we as a people don't know how to dream or work in partnership with weather, the spirits of Nature. This is an imbalance within us and around us. The storm talked to me about fear and what negative intent does and creates. I was shown why the storms are so fierce this season. One reason is the planetary alignments (Mercury/Uranus opposition), which magnifies the other two reasons: 1) Our thoughts are energy, and because of the presidential elections there is residual hatred and distrust that continue to be projected at the state of Florida from around the country, especially during the week of the Republican convention. . . . And 2) TV stations, in a self-promoting fashion, are feeding fear and panic to boost their ratings. I saw this energy of fear like a band reaching out, magnetizing the storm's direction.
Then I was sent to the high-pressure zone to talk to the wind: "All is in divine order."
Another shamanic practitioner, Priscilla, living in Naples, Florida, shared this point of view:
The day following Hurricane Charley's visit to southwest Florida, I was dismayed to see a news program titled "The Wrath of Charley." A hurricane does not have a sense of right or wrong, good or evil, wrath or mercy. It is simply living its life the way it was meant to do. The dictionary states the meaning of wrath to be "intense anger, rage, fury" and "any action of vengeance." What revenge would a hurricane seek?
Journeying to the weather can change your outlook on why things happen in life and can give new perspectives about our natural world. Journeying to the weather will help you realize that although you may not understand why an event has occurred, you know the event has occurred for a reason. Hurricane Charley did not rain wrath down upon us; no, Charley was a big, powerful force reminding us that Nature still rules our world.
Paul, who also encountered Hurricane Charley, had worked with us some years before in a workshop. He wrote to us:
I believe that we have an intimate connection with weather. There is just one source of energy, and it flows through all of us and through all of Nature. The key is to realize the connection, try to understand it, and respect the fact that we are one. During this storm season we were hit with four major hurricanes within a month. It was unprecedented. But then again the state of this planet is unprecedented.
A few years earlier in the province of Nova Scotia, Marguerite and a group of novice shamanic journeyers under her tutelage worked to understand more about Hurricane Juan, who was churning his way to a predicted direct hit on the city of Halifax the next night. Marguerite wrote to us to describe the experience:
One woman saw the hurricane as an agent of clearing; another experienced the calm eye of the hurricane; while yet another saw the hurricane as the tangible connection of earth and people and atmosphere. One shamanic student reported the hurricane as a cleansing gift to our land and people, which several years before had been the site of the crash of a large Swiss Air jetliner that had left people with a lot of trauma, expressed as depression and sorrow.
Marguerite went on to describe something of her own experience with Hurricane Juan. She portrayed her city and province in general as relatively unconcerned about the approaching storm: "We have many storms and are outdoor people; we Nova Scotians are used to weather and in love with the ocean." As she went to bed on the evening of Juan's imminent arrival, Marguerite asked her helping spirits to connect her to the storm.
I left the windows in my room open. At about midnight I wakened to a sort of calm and then heard the wind. I went out to my deck and felt rather than saw the movement of the storm. I went back to my room and sat on my bed between the east- and south-facing windows and asked to be with the storm. I was inside a calm, yellow-gray space. I gradually understood it as the eye.
My spirits had a lot to say, but I really could only just feel the movement of the storm. I asked to go to the outer edges, and there I could feel power, movement, and direction. Then it was just gone. I could hear the winds, but they were not present; the clouds could be seen and yet not seen. My trees and the area around us sighed as the lights went out and it was calm. I was calm and cleansed and felt entirely at one.
I slept and wakened to rain, torrential rain. I put out some basins to gather hurricane water and then called Nan. It was hard to tell her what had happened. It seemed magical and yet real, wondrous and yet ordinary, cleansing and yet lingering. The rains were extraordinary. Sheets of rain coming down, water bouncing off the pavement and later running in torrents down the street. There was no power. I read and talked to my spirits. Later in the day neighbors came to the door to be certain I was all right. I was fine! We had only four trees down on our two streets; my neighbors who listen to the drumming from my house regularly joked that my spirits protected the neighborhood.
This last statement is not bragging and certainly not a guarantee -- rather it is an aftermath often reported by people who work with these storms, who attempt to engage with them in a responsible and respectful manner.
The Aftermath: Neighborly Support & Community Togetherness
Marguerite and her neighbors found numerous ways to support each other in the days following that destructive storm. It took a week or more to restore electrical power to many neighborhoods, and the main road was closed for days due to many fallen trees. The authorities asked people to stay home; thus few except emergency workers could leave for their jobs or to do errands. The piercing buzz of chainsaws permeated the atmosphere during daylight hours. People helped one another with cleanup chores and with sharing of resources such as candles, propane, and food. Numerous neighborhood barbecues and feasts were held, as defrosting freezers had to be emptied. By candlelight, neighbors stayed together in the evenings to sing or play bridge or board games. Because everyone had to stay home there was an uncommon amount of "free" time, with interesting results. Marguerite describes one day:
I lay out on my lawn looking up at the sky, divining clouds. My neighbor came over to ask what I was doing. When I told him he asked if he could join me. In a short while there were eleven of us on the front lawn in turn saying: oh, there is a swan . . . deer . . . rabbit . . . bear; look at that wagon; and on and on. I think they all saw their power animals!
Marguerite acknowledges both sides of the visit from Hurricane Juan, who imposed and gifted lasting change on her and many others of her province:
It is now two years later. There are lots of disaster stories. You can still see windfall from Juan. The city has changed and there are fewer trees. People have complained about the insurance companies. The emergency-measures people are at work improving our responsiveness. It would be easy to emphasize disaster.
I think back to the journeys those shamanic students did and think of the knowledge and insight they carried. Juan did destroy and cleanse. As weather, it brought change. As spirit, Juan is with me. I live with the experience of a break in the business of modern life; the enjoyment of my students and neighbors; the night sky; the discovery of what is important in the basics of living.
I go away a lot to be "in Nature," but during this time we had the experience of being present to one another in our very neighborhood, and being present to our houses, gardens, and land. Juan brought gifts; those gifts live in my heart and changed my perspective. The week that followed Juan was clear and warm and loving in weather and in relationships.
Opportunities for Lessons & Personal Growth
Many people in North America learned about the nature and role of hurricanes that season, both through first-hand experience and through shamanic journeying. Even though threatened with the real possibility of injury or property damage, those who could work with their predicaments and challenges from a shamanic worldview found opportunities for valuable lessons and personal growth. They were the ones who could step beyond their fears and find a place of acceptance and grace. They did not forget that we have the option of relating to that which could otherwise victimize us, and so they were able to claim their own stance of strength and endurance.
An e-mail message from Wendyne to her circle shows us how this can work:
I am in great awe of the power of intention as a result of my process of moving through the experience of Hurricane Frances. These last two weeks have been a time of death and rebirth for me and for our center, Solutions Center for Personal Growth, incorporated in 1991. When we lost the center during the storm due to water pouring into the building, many came to our rescue and assisted us in taking out our personal and professional possessions -- files, computers, sound computers, instruments, art, books, et cetera -- all our sacred stuff! Several of you offered us a place to rest, to store our stuff, to come in from the heat. I thank you all.
Suddenly everything has changed. I have not forgotten that all year I had been writing about creating a new space. I have not forgotten that every morning I meditated about the land and the things we want to build: the sound temple, the art building and gallery, the bodywork space, the theater, the bookstore, the cafeteria, the nature trails. I ask myself, "Did Hurricane Frances come for me?"
My study of the Universal Law says yes, it did, as it did for all of us. For some reason many were ready for a major shift -- a little death and rebirth. The question now is: Are we willing to understand Mother Nature in this way? Are we willing to remember that all things are in order, that everything is part of our bigger process? I believe that the consciousness of our part of Florida brought Frances to us. It is up to each of us to know why we needed it and what we learned.
I myself have become so grateful for all I have. I have become much closer with all my extended family members and I learned that I love them all very much. I have learned that intention is a force, like gravity and other laws of physics. I have learned that it is time for me to slow down!
Two weeks later Wendyne's area was hit again, this time by Hurricane Jeanne.
After Frances passed through her area, Michele wrote this to her friends:
Well, the winds from Frances have died down and the cleanup has begun. Trees down, traffic lights out. Our house never lost power, but many homes throughout south Florida are without. I-95 is closed north of us because of the damage and south Florida can't get restocked with food supplies. Our grocery stores are out of bread, butter, eggs, and milk. Schools are closed again tomorrow. People seem to be shell-shocked from the whole experience. There is deep soul loss and trauma.
I know that our shamanic journeys made a difference, because Frances stalled and went slowly through the state after dropping her winds from 140 to 160 mph to 105 mph! A big thank you! This was more of a wind system than rain. It was awesome connecting with the wind energy.
Please keep Florida in your journeys to transmute the fear energy. Thanks for all your wishes, prayers, and journeys.
Honoring Weather, Hurricanes, & Power of Nature
What all of these shamanic practitioners have shown us through their experiences, and similarly to our hurricane ceremony, is that a primary and effective way to work with the weather is to honor it. This refers to the kind of honoring that combines respect with love for the storm, or any other element of weather, as another living being, and that recognizes that, no matter how we may feel about its effects, it is a being with a purpose -- a divine purpose, if you will. Honoring allows for the role that we each must play and creates a space for true collaboration.
It is never as simple as "if we do this, then that is what will happen." That's the catch. That is the challenge in all instances of relating to and working with weather. As shamanic practitioners, we may each have our own individual ways of addressing and working with the spirit of a storm and its potential to harm; yet if we infuse our relating with respect and with love, then we comport ourselves as real human beings.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Bear & Co.,
a division of Inner Traditions International. ©2008. www.innertraditions.com
This article was excerpted from:
Weather Shamanism: Harmonizing Our Connection with the Elements
by Nan Moss with David Corbin.
Weather Shamanism is about transformation--of ourselves, and thus our world. It is about how we can develop an expanded worldview that honors spiritual realities in order to create a working partnership with the spirits of weather and thereby help to restore well-being and harmony to Earth. Through a unique blend of anthropological research, shamanic journeys, and personal stories and anecdotes, Nan Moss and David Corbin show how humans and weather have always affected each other, and how it is possible to influence the weather. They present teachings directly from the spirits of weather that show how our thoughts and emotions affect weather energetics. They also reveal the ceremonial and therapeutic aspects of “weather dancing,” a practice used to communicate with the weather spirits.
About the Authors
Nan Moss and David Corbin have been faculty members of Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies since 1995 and also teach courses at Esalen Institute in California and the New York Open Center. They have been researching and teaching the spiritual aspects of weather since 1997 and have a private shamanic practice located in Port Clyde, Maine. Visit their website at www.shamanscircle.com.