Shamanism and the Spirits of Weather
By Nan Moss and David Corbin
© Shamanism, Fall/Winter 1999, Vol. 12, No. 2

"Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it."
— Charles D. Warner Dudley editorial in the Hartford Courant, August 24, 1897

Inuit Song

The arch of the sky
And mightiness of storms
Encompasses me,
And I am carried away
Trembling with joy.1

More Pieces to the Puzzle

It is Saturday afternoon at the Pathwork Center, deep in the heart of the mysterious Catskill Mountains of New York. Twenty-three people lie quietly on the floor with bandannas over their eyes. The resonance of drums fills the room with harmonious and compelling vibrations. I am drumming with David in the center of the room by a simple altar cloth and lighted candle. We are drumming for people who vary in their ability and level of experience, but all have done this before — the celebrated shamanic journey to the nonordinary realms: worlds of compassion, wisdom, and grace. Today they are attempting something new: a search for a spirit of weather, and if they find one, each has a question to ask on behalf of our circle. The excitement is palpable.

Our drumming continues and I am somewhat surprised to feel the familiar desire to journey also, even as I drum. I gaze around the room and everything seems peaceful. I look at David, his eyes wide open and watchful. I indicate I wish to journey and then close my eyes as I drum and drum and drum...

I journey to the Upperworld with several of my power animals, asking to meet the Spirit of Weather. I do not know why, but I feel ecstatic. We fly through a layer of storm clouds, up and up, searching until we finally are face to face with a "cloud being." He is imposingly large, with lightning shimmering in his eyes, and when he speaks, snowballs tumble from his mouth. I feel glad to have my power animals nearby. I introduce myself and respectfully ask the cloud being for a teaching for our community. I am genuinely surprised, even dismayed, as he "lets me have it." He is unmistakably annoyed! He tells me that our culture has essentially forgotten him; that in times past, people all over the world spoke to, prayed to, and worked with him. Now he is ignored. Now, our science and "knowledge" attempt to depersonalize and de-spirit him. So he creates aberrant, rough weather to get us to take notice, to puzzle over, and to know that we do not know. As I feel this spirit's mood, I am speechless. I offer only a "thank you" for his teaching and promise to share this with the circle and community.

This journey left me much to wonder about. Though I have held a passion for weather all my life, and thought I recognized the aliveness, the spirit in all things, I saw that I still carried our culture's world view of weather as purely physical forces—awesome forces—that we were getting better at describing and predicting. Although some still notice connections between moods and weather conditions, and we personalize hurricanes and typhoons with our own names, this is the limited extent of our understanding beyond the physics of weather. Without realizing it, I had been participating in the collective cultural arrogance that leaves little room to see, hear, or feel spirits of weather. The extravagant concepts of rainmaking or weather-working were considered taboo by me, elusive in a realm betwixt and between myth and that which is too complicated and too dangerous.

Why explore or even attempt to relate to the spirits of weather? Is this merely a tangent of more important spiritual endeavors and truths? Each of us is profoundly affected by the weather, though we may only be minimally conscious of this. How many of us are aware of how our moods, behavior, and physiology change in response to the weather? Behind many of our most powerful experiences with Nature are forces of weather. A weather event has the capacity to draw us out of the relative isolation of our daily routines. It brings us together, all sharing the experience. And interestingly enough, weather is the one subject that we usually feel safe and willing to comment on with strangers!

Journey Suggestions for Working with Weather

For those who are interested in exploring their relationship with the spirits of weather, here are some journey suggestions:

  • What would an alive, harmonious relationship with the spirits of weather be like?
  • How can I prepare myself to harmoniously and effectively work with the spirits of weather?
  • What are the ethics of working to influence the weather?

Consider how we, collectively as well as individually, may affect the weather. Not only by the vast amounts of pollution and resource depletion that sustain our huge population and modern life styles, but even by our psyches and emotions, and sense of connectedness or disconnectedness from the natural world. There are indigenous and non-western people who recognize this connection and live in the truth of our relatedness to all. They embody what our ancestors must have for a very long time: an alive relationship with the spiritual forces of weather. This relationship is expressed in the principle of reciprocity: as above, so below; as within, so without; which is real and operative in our world and lives, independent of our conscious understanding.

To embark on a path of exploration and conscious relationship with the spirits of weather is to walk on a path of spiritual learning and experience that helps us relate to our sense of connection with all of Nature. In so doing, we can heal the rending wound of disconnection with Nature from which most of us in the modem world suffer. Along this path we encounter profound opportunities to experience and foster harmony in ourselves, and hence, in the Universe. It is a way to go somewhere following the lead of the spirits, and to enhance our own well-being, that of others, and of our Mother Earth along the way.

A Salish word from the Pacific Northwest, skalalitude, describes what life is like when true kinship with nature exists: "when people and nature are in perfect harmony, then magic and beauty are everywhere."2

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