Vision Quest - A Sacred Path of Self-Discovery
An interview with Carol Hannagan
by David Cronin
Table of Contents
What exactly is a Vision Quest and why would I want to go on one?
The primary reason a person goes on a Vision Quest is often times because that person is in transition. It is time to allow one phase of his/her life to unfold in a new direction. It is a time of passage. It is a time of ending and new beginnings.
One may know that what no longer serves them is over, but does not know what’s next. Vision Quest is going out to the loving arms of Motherearth to be with God/Great Spirit to get the answers to our deep heart felt questions and attain a feeling of connection with our God/Great Spirit.
It is a time of passage thus the term Rite of Passage. Letting go of the old and going into the new often unknown and sometimes scary direction. Above all the primary purpose of Vision Quest is going to your God/Great Spirit for the deeper connection to be able to hear the answers in the way each individual can hear; see in the way one needs to see; and feel in the way one needs to feel the answers from the source - God. This is an individual, intimate connection for each person.
In traditional times, a Vision Quest would be done with honor at different stages of our lives. For example at around age 8, when one is transitioning from childhood; at age 12-13 when one is going into puberty; at age 16-17 when one is going into adulthood; before marriage; before becoming a parent; career changes; upon going into menopause; upon retiring; becoming a grandparent; and becoming an elder/crone.
In between these stages one would go out on a Vision Quest for direction on a particular issue. I personally try to go out every year to be with my God/Great Spirit to get direction and clarity for the upcoming year.
This is a very special time and done with great dignity and honor. It is about honoring the past; blessing the present; and allowing spirit to work in and through me in the future year. Asking the question, “How may I serve you the best?”.
This is a divine appointment with you and your God/Great Spirit. Oftentimes, there is a knowingness of one’s God calling to them. There is a sense of a need to have alone time with the source to get the answers. Issues start and have been coming up for quit some time and it is time to go on a quest.
It may be a relationship issue, job issue, an emptiness of spirit, questing for meaning, direction, sprit wounds, or a deeper connection with one’s God. But whatever it is Great Spirit has been working with each person and they have a knowingness that it is time to have alone time with their God.
You mention in your literature three phases of the Vision Quest - Severance, Threshold and Incorporation. Please describe what these are about.
The first phase is Severance, which is about leaving all the distractions of our normal daily life behind. It is about letting go of the modern noisy world of TV, phones, music, cars, hustle and bustle of the modern world and being one with ourselves and God/Great Spirit. This is a time of going and “being” rather than “doing”. Slowing down our minds and our bodies to be in harmony with the rhythms of our Creator.
The second phase is Threshold, that of entering into “Sacred Space”. A phase of ritual and ceremony, of entering or passing into the divine space where one is with their God/Great Spirit, one on one. This is often already determined by God/Great Spirit, as to where this meeting is to take place. One goes into this place of being with their God/Great Spirit to empty out that which no longer serves them and become filled with Divine peacefulness, love and clarity of God.
In order to be filled, we must empty and this is where we spend four days, to not only empty, but also be filled with all that Great Spirit has to give us. One who is entering into the sacredness of the process will now see the synchronically of the profound way God/Great Spirit works.
Incorporation, the third phase, is the process of bringing our vision back to our people. This is the third phase of the Vision Quest. After our solo time, we come back to community at basecamp and in a very rich ceremony each person has an opportunity to share their experience in what is called Elder’s Council. This is to acknowledge what happened is REAL and also to have our stories mirrored back to us to see the synchronicity of our experiences.
Each quester comes up with one concrete step to bring their vision back to their people in their community at home. This is to make the world a better place and create changes for all our people. I am not sure if you are aware of the theory of the Seven Generations.
In brief explanation, it says that what we do now will effect the next seven generations. So by doing this work and healing ourselves and bring the message from God/Great Spirit back to our people we will help heal the next seven generations. This is why this work is SO important. To heal ourselves we help heal al our brothers and sisters.
Would you please comment on the concept of “Intent vs. Expectations”?
Yes, this is of the utmost importance. Intent is everything! When we intend something to happen it set into motion the will of Great Sprit to make it happen or something better! If there is any fear, doubt, indecision or lack of commitment there is real possibility of something not coming into fruition.
Getting back to seeing it as complete is of critical importance. One may not have to know the steps as Great Spirit takes care of that, but that is will be done!
Expectation is like a wish or hope. For example: I intend to be happy! Or I wish I were happy! How many times have we all fallen into this? It is a mindset. One can feel the power, energy, and result or lack thereof when we come from expectation vs. intention.
Another example is with our connection with God. I intend to have a personal relationship with my God. Or I hope to have a personal relationship with my God. Or I wish I could have a personal relationship with my God.
What do you think and know about the person that says each of these statements? How many times have we all fallen into wishing and hoping? In order to guarantee a desired outcome, we must come from intent.
Hoping and wishing or coming from expectation is like shooting an arrow from a bow in the sky and hoping it will hit the bull’s eye. It may, but most likely, will not even hit the target. In other words, we have to see the target, aim, and know we will hit it no matter what.
We are mind beings and whatever we think about we create. So, it is a constant monitoring process of keeping focused on allowing Great Spirit to work in and through us for our highest good. The law of cause and effect is of critical importance.
If we do not like the outcome then re-look at what we were putting out there from intent or expectation. One can see very quickly how this works in our daily lives. Try this - Just hope for a parking spot on the street that is lined with parked cars. Then intend for a parking spot to reveal itself and KEEP your eyes open!!! It will be there very quickly, just as you are rounding the corner. Try it and see.
How long does a Vision Quest last?
The way I do it, we have three days of training in basecamp; four day solo time; and two days in our incorporation time. Four days of solo time is very important, as four is a completion number.
Four seasons, four directions, four days of solo as it takes at least two days to slow down the mind and stop the squirrel/monkey mind to be able to listen to the Spirit In All Things.
I know of many people, including myself that have done 7 days of solo and it is so beautiful and wonderful. As the mind slows we are able to feel the love, hear the voice, and get the answers so profoundly clear. It is magic!
What is the purpose of fasting?
The purpose of fasting is to empty out distractions. Food preparation, eating, and digestion is a distraction. Most people think that this will be the biggest challenge. It is NOT! Drinking water and the purity of water to cleanse our body and our soul is allowing us to come to Great Spirit pure.
We are emptied so we can be filled with the wisdom and love of God/Great Spirit. I have taken people out with eating disorders, diabetes, and high metabolism. Granted the first day is somewhat difficult, but by drinking more water, the body soon knows it will be fine. When it comes to eating disorders and diabetes, I require the person to have the doctor’s OK.
This is not being done with any threat to the person in any way. We are fed from Spirit in ways we often do not understand. It is so beautiful. Again, this is to allow ourselves to be emptied so we can be filled by Spirit. I do suggest some hard candies to be taken just in case of a need for instant energy.
What is Sacred Medicine?
Sacred Medicine is the real key to who we are and why I do this work. It is believed in Native American spirituality that all of us have Sacred Medicine. This includes all that Creator has created. For example, coyote is the “trickster”, hawk is the “messenger”, eagle is “vision”, redwood trees are “strength and power”, cedar are “sweetness”, and different stones also have different Sacred Medicines.
Sacred Medicines are those unique characteristics as well as properties which make them special as it is their purpose to bring this to the world. We use these animals, trees, stones to work with to uncover the messages Great Spirit has to give us about these aspects of our live both spiritually, and I teach the psychological aspects also. We all have Sacred Medicine.
Many of us are questing to determine and have revealed what this uniqueness and/or specialness is that makes us the person we are in order for us to do our Give-A-Way. For instance, one may be a writer as Richard Bach or have a gift to help people discover their talent as Julia Camron is doing in “The Artist’s Way”.
These are unique gifted aspects of self that these people are now allowing to come out and now are doing their Give-A-Way. We all have something that is within each of us that Great Spirit has placed inside that is so special and so unique and comes so easy for us we often take it for granted or discount it.
As the cedar knows its purpose of bringing sweetness as a reality, we of the Western World often times discount our gifts. When we are doing what comes so natural, this of our Sacred Medicine, it is easy, simple, and flowing. It is a sense of knowingness! It is as the question goes, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”
You know your sacred Medicine when you take the time to allow Great Spirit to help you re-remember. It is so special to watch the eyes when the people come back in and now know who they are and what their Sacred Medicine or “purpose” really has been the whole time.
My Sacred Medicine is teaching people to listen to the Spirit That Moves In All Things and be able to see they are greater that their false beliefs, myths, and that they are supported by a loving God/Great Spirit which exists in all that Creator has created.
Does my past experience with nature have any bearing on the outcome? In other words, what if I’ve never been much of an outdoor-type, is that going to hinder my experience?
No. Most of the people I take out are women who have never been in the wilderness. Most of them have never been camping, let alone slept in the wilderness by themselves. With the three days in basecamp, we go over in detail the way to be with our Mother Earth. While building community in basecamp, we are able to embrace the fears with love and understanding.
The overall connection of being in the loving arms of our God is so sweet. Fears do come up and that may be that person’s reasons for their quest - that of understanding and releasing the myth, false beliefs, and mythology of who they thought they were vs. the powerful person they really are. We go over equipment in detail at basecamp and support anyone who needs help to make this as easy as possible. I give a very detailed equipment list to the questers prior to coming on the quest.
One of my fellow guides had a 65 year old blind woman go out with her. This woman never had camped before and had a marvelous experience. I personally have take out women who are in their late 60’s with no experience and they have connected with the love of the Earth in profound ways.
What if someone just can’t do it, or for whatever reason really wants to stop in the middle?
On rare occasions, a quester may come into camp for counseling to become clear on a particular issue. I will mirror back to them and work with them to help them release the block or fear. This is also a time to look at why they are here. We look at this in depth and with the training, prior to going on the solo time, most times these things are cleared before one goes on the solo time.
On very rare times, a quester will come in and say they got the message and they are done. I ask them if they are giving up 1 minute before the miracle or has the miracle occurred? If after a discussion, the quester feels they have what they came for and are indeed finished that is fine as it is their individual process.
I have had a very small number of people do their quest just 12-20 yards from basecamp. The fear is so great they have to be near basecamp. I come from the vantagepoint of having the quest be done with ease and grace. So, if one does have to come in I will talk with them, mirror back to them, and sometimes challenge them to allow them to get the most out of the miracle. But, most times they move closer to basecamp and continue their quest. This is done with love, respect, honor, and gentleness.
Is the Vision Quest primarily a Native American tradition or is it prevalent in other Indigenous cultures?
The Vision Quest is not an exclusion tradition of the Native American people. In all cultures people have gone out in nature to be with their God. In Christianity, Christ went out for 40 days and nights; in Buddhism, Buddha went out; in Islam, Mohammed went out. In all civilizations people have gone out to be with their God questing answers to their questions for directions, purpose, and healing.
All Indigenous people have gone out and still do go out on a regular basis seeking vision. Native People would go out to see where the Great Spirit would direct them to move their camps for better food in the spring and summer.
The hunters and scouts would be sent out to go and be directed on where the tribe should migrate to for the good of all and where the animals were waiting to sacrifice themselves for the tribe. This was and often times still is a very normal process for Indigenous People.
Does a Vision Quest have to have a facilitator? Can’t I just go off in the woods by myself for a couple of days?
It is very important to understand that this process is about our community. This is about individuals but also about bringing our vision back to our community. Because it is about community, we need our community support of holding the sacred space and being there for us to honor us when we come into basecamp.
One is in a very altered space after being out for at least four days. Being allowed to tell your story in Elder’s Council is a grounding of the experience into reality. Mirroring back the synchronicity is of great importance.
I personally, have done two Vision Quests by myself, and mind you I have been doing these since I was seven years old. Both times they were a disaster. One time I was in a very private place in the wilderness, and was interrupted on three separate times by someone walking through my camp.
The other time, I was almost flooded out and had to leave because of the weather. I know of three other vision quest guides who have had similar experiences when they have tried doing them alone. One guide almost froze to death in a snowstorm in July in California.
We, vision quests guides, have all discussed this topic at depth and have come up with the conclusion that Great Spirit wants us to do this with the support of our community. There needs to be someone holding the sacred space on the land near us and be there to prepare us and help ground the experience in an honorable way.
You have a unique background of Cherokee heritage, outdoor experience and having spent many years as a corporate executive. How has this mix of traditional and modern backgrounds influenced your experience as a facilitator?
This is such a wonderful question, thank you for asking. I have always had a deep connection with the Earth thanks to my Grandfather and Father. That is where I have always gone when I needed to release as well as re-remember that I am not alone. I have been so blessed to have had these wonderfully loving people in my life to show me that there is something so much bigger than what may appear to be in reality.
I, unfortunately, cannot always say that I remembered that there is a bigger picture when it came to my corporate life, but when I did take the time Great Spirit showed me. Sometimes not so gently if I was not listening from the heart. The synchronicity of events which occurred were a way of allowing me to see the bigger picture and I am here in a profoundly woven web of life as the spider weaves her web.
Having been very successful in the corporate world, I can relate to the stress of corporate executives. I know these distractions and what they can do not only to our bodies, but also our souls and our families.
Sometimes the status ladder and money is just not enough. More is not always better. There is something inside that we know deeply that something is missing. Some of us have sacrificed our souls for the corporate world of what we think is acceptance and approval from a monetary and power position.
I do not want to sound in any way that all corporate is bad it is not. What I am saying is if you are walking away every day feeling drained, disempowered, and feel part of your vitality is leaving, you might not be doing your Sacred Medicine. When we are doing our Sacred Medicine we are revitalized and have endless sense of empowerment.
So what I bring is a balanced understanding of what some of my questers are going through to achieve a re-connection with their God/Great Spirit. What is coming up for so many people is to discover one’s Sacred Medicine and to figure out how to serve and do their Give-A-Way. How to make the transition of doing one’s Sacred Medicine and make a living. The rewards are so incredible and I personally am filled beyond belief from doing my Sacred Medicine which Creator has given me. It is in each of us.
I have been in the fear, pain, and confusion of who I am and what was I put here to do! I now know and can support those in allowing them to be who they already are by nature!!! Not that it has been easy in any way, but at the same time I would NEVER have given this up for anything.
I am so blessed to be doing what I am doing and meeting the people I meet. It is more rewarding than I could have ever imagined my life to be. To be able to give my fellow brothers and sisters the courage to release the false beliefs and to do their Sacred Medicine is my far my gifts to give back to the world. This is my Give-A-Way.
Creator gives me courage every day to do this work from my heart as my vision questers will tell you. Most of them have also learned this and are filled in ways they never thought possible. We need all of us doing our Sacred Medicine on the planet so all can be filled with the goodness of Creator. Being the channel is marvelous!