Sometimes a place can catch you off guard can’t it. A landscape becomes a visceral experience, a tug at forgotten memories, a sense of seeing this all before, a perception of being this all before.
A year or so ago I went to the Waitomo Caves. It’s a beautiful drive from Hawke’s Bay to Waitomo. Over hills, past lakes, through farmland and bush. I had a sense of being reacquainted with the Mother. I enjoyed her forms and flora, her shadows.
There is a feeling when one gets out of the car at Waitomo. I had a similar feeling years ago at Stonehenge, or by an ancient healing spring on Anglesey or being in the bush at the back of the farm I grew up on in New Zealand. A feeling of power, like industrial mains, running through the land. The air electric with anticipation – will she, or won’t she be able to pass through the veil?
This was going home. A sort of death. A shaman’s journey.
The bush is beautiful. The greens, so green. Moss and lichen hangs from trees. The air is damp and the earth smells rich. I walk up to the visitor centre which hovers amid the trees like an insect, yet also like a chrysalis. Its own beauty is in its simplicity.
I join a group of about twenty people for my first experience of the caves. Our guide, a young man from the local hapu is knowledgeable and entertaining and sings beautifully. Upon entering the cave I started to lose a sense of the people around me as I was drawn into the immediacy of my own experience. My advice is to tune into your own experience. Engage all your senses. Allow yourself to dream. I work with energy and plants and the landscape and have refined my skills with shamans and healers over the years, so this awareness of oneness definitely permeated my experience but I don’t think you have to be a shaman to discover the exquisite power of the land in these caves.
Later that night I found myself retracing my steps, returning to the experience and writing it down before it was gone and forgotten. Here is what I wrote:
“My first response to the Waitomo Caves was one of awe. It is hard to imagine the quiet beauty of this place. The soft, folding patterns of time creating such shapes, such chambers. Womb. How does a song sound in the place before we are born? It sounds like the cathedral cave. Each note only in the moment, no lingering, but much haunting.
To the earth we return and deeper and deeper into the earth we went. Journeying down, down, down to a river, black as night. As in myth and legend, a boat was waiting for us there and we embarked and floated into blackness. We floated into an underground universe of glow worms. Down there in the caves, silence has an immediacy, a presence of its own. This with the galaxy of lights made me feel like I was returning to the point of creation. I felt I was joining the souls returning to the earth mother, Papatuanuku, Gaia, Pachamama.
This was going home. A sort of death. A shaman’s journey. I had travelled to a place of returned souls flickering in each glow worm light. Sacred. Sublime. Peaceful. A place where dreams can be remade. In the darkness, under the astral gaze a divine force filled these chambers, revealing itself only in the silence. In this place I felt the end and the beginning of time. I felt the mighty sense of the mother. As we started to see feathers of light in the distance I felt as if I was being reborn. Slipping through dark waters, moving towards light. From the earth we come.”
From the earth we come, and to the earth we go. My visit to the Waitomo Caves was at a time that I was feeling low and stressed and overwhelmed – until slipping through those waters. They made me feel like I was being given a second chance. A deeper initiation into the healing path I find myself walking. Since then much has happened; I accompanied my father on his own journey at the end of his life. I’ve created a new healing space and I’ve made a promise to do all I can to bring ancient healing wisdom into our modern living. When I need courage or strength, I can close my eyes and be back in those caves, back in the Mother, back in my shaman’s journey.
And the meeting with the team? What beautiful people. What an extraordinary place.