In 2001, I was lucky to experience a vision quest through a graduate course at John F. Kennedy University, in California. A vision quest is a Native American rite of passage that is undertaken during a turning point in one’s life, traditionally as a teenager, in order to receive spiritual guidance and direction in life. Under the guidance of a Shaman, the individual goes into the wilderness alone and often fasts for several days, hoping that Spirit will come to her/him through a vision or a dream. Usually Spirit will come in the form of a guardian animal or totem.
In the weeks preceding my vision quest, I experienced a powerful dream and a subsequent series of synchronistic events that would lay the foundation for my rite of passage and point me in my life direction. There’s not enough room in this article to share all of the details, but I’ll give a condensed version.
In addition to the vision quest course, I also took a course called “Dreaming as a Spiritual Practice.” In an exercise during the dream course, I shared my big dream with a random partner. In response to my dream, my partner said that it reminded her of a figurine she saw the preceding day at Dolphin Dream, a nearby shop. She couldn’t remember much about it, except that the bodice on the figurine revealed her breasts.
The next day I went to Dolphin Dream to check out the figurine, and learned that it was a representation of the Snake Goddess, a 1600 BCE faence figurine uncovered on the island of Crete. Based on the divine clothing that she’s wearing, the cat that sits upon her crown of roses and the sacred adders that she holds upward in her hands, the Snake Goddess is believed to represent the dominion of the underworld. Moreover, the snakes are symbols of regeneration.
On the first night of my vision quest, as I slept in my power place on the hill above Harbin Hot Springs, north of San Francisco, I dreamed that my left eye was clouded over with a white film. Interestingly, a fellow student that I carpooled home with revealed that she, too, had a dream the first night in which both of her eyes were covered with a white film.
After I returned home from my vision quest, I purchased the book Animal Speak, and I read about the symbolism of snakes. To my surprise, it described how when a snake sheds its skin, its eyes cloud over and it goes into a trance, similar to the stare of the Snake Goddess! Like the snake, I felt like I had shed a former part of myself during my vision quest.
I also felt like I had given birth to a part of myself. The highlight of my vision quest was when I saw a small mountain lion among the manzanita trees, on the edge of my campsite, on the final morning. She was very quiet, but when I heard her gentle footsteps on the leaves I knew that she was what I had heard during the night. She had been with me the entire time I was at my sacred place.
It wasn’t until I began to sketch a picture of my site — including the figurine of the Snake Goddess perched in the crook of a tree — that everything came together for me. Sitting atop the head of the Snake Goddess is a lion cub, and the new book I purchased about animal totems told me that the mountain lion symbolizes coming into your own power.
I had two guardian animals come to me in my dreams, during my vision quest — the snake and the mountain lion — and they continue to guide me on my journey through life!
If you would like to ignite your alchemy and come into your own power, going on a vision quest is a powerful and quick way to do it! A couple of books that may help you create your own vision quest include The Sacred Mountain, by Steven Foster & Meredith Little, and The Medicine Way, by Kenneth Meadows.