A Decade of Shamanic Retreats at Easton Mountain
by Tony Allicino
A Decade of Gay Men’s Shamanic Retreats at Easton Mountain
Next month gay men who practice the ancient healing principles and methods of shamanism, for themselves or for others, will once again gather for the tenth time at Easton Mountain’s welcoming Land.
The retreat, first held in 2007, has met annually, with the exception in 2014, which makes the timing of the 10th Retreat rather serendipitous taking place in 2017 – a number “10” year. A good friend, a professional numerologist, wrote earlier this year about 2017 being a number “10” year:
The 10 in numerology is all about new beginnings with the added quality of the zero - the vibration of potential and reaching into the unknown for answers. 2017 is a powerful year of new beginnings and stepping up for what you believe in.
I also like to think that with each new beginning something needs to end, and that the number "10" holds two simultaneous energies – the “to complete energy” of "10" plus the “to commence” energy of 1 + 0 = “1".
Milestones are opportunities for celebration and for reflections and I’d like to share some of my memories about the Gay Men’s Shamanic Retreats at Easton Mountain.
The idea to host a retreat for gay men who practice shamanism came from a shamanic journey I had during the New York City Gay Men’s Shamanic Circle’s (NYCGMSC) annual visioning circle in 2007. In January of each year, members would journey for information on the goals the group would undertake that year. In the summary notes for 2007’s visions, which I recently found, I stated my journey’s vision: Plan and organize a gathering of two-spirit shamans for purposes of organizing and supporting each other.
Around that time my shamanism practice began incorporating journeys to the Void, a fertile place of potential, and a place I plant seeds of possibilities; and it was in the Void that the vision for a gathering was revealed to me and planted. While I cannot recall the particular details of what happened next, I must have acted upon the vision rather quickly – recruiting David Conneely, NYCGMSC founder, and Tom Cowan, our mutual friend and noted teacher, to join me as retreat organizers and facilitators; and as quickly, I pitched the idea to Easton Mountain. It must have been a very potent time because Easton Mountain welcomed the idea for the retreat, envisioned in January 2007, and put it on their schedule for the July 7th weekend.
David, Tom and I developed and crafted the 2007 retreat’s theme “Shamanism as Gay Power: Gay Men Living on the Edge” and used shamanic journeys, poetry, and ritual to tap into the attendees’ “unique power as outsiders, innovators …” and to celebrate our roles living in the “betwixt-and-between state” of existence. Nineteen gay shamans attended, including the three facilitators, and while most came from the Northeast, some traveled from Alabama, California, and Colorado to join us, including a transgender man. A Fire Ceremony took place on Saturday night during which an attendee spontaneously shared a Celtic Water Ritual he carried. We closed that first retreat breathing and speaking our prayers for our community into a large Rock, binding and affixing our prayers to the rock with strings and wax, and then ritually having the rock placed into the pond by Sunfire, a retreat elder and an Easton Mountain community resident. I often think about and journey to that rock sitting at the bottom of the pond where volumes of water are constantly flowing over it and spreading our prayers. The vision and intention for a Gay Men’s Shamanic Retreat were set in motion, and the gathering was blessed by the Spirits of Easton Mountain’s Land and Ancestors who were remembered. It has since continued.
Each retreat has been shaped and crafted with a theme, oftentimes based on a seasonal energy and/or visionary inspiration as a framework. Permission is always allowed for spontaneous, fluid experiences to unfold.
Here are the ten retreats and their themes:
June, 2007 – [1st] Shamanism as Gay Power: Gay Men Living on the Edge
October, 2008 – [2nd] A Gay Shamans Retreat: Power through Community
June, 2009 – [3rd] Gay Shaman’s Retreat: The Soul and the Horizon
March 2010 - 4th Annual Gay Shamans Retreat: A Rite of Spring
April, 2011 - 5th Annual Gay Shamans’ Retreat: Stepping Off the Cliff – The Fool
October, 2012 - 6th Annual Gay Shamans Retreat: Resonating with the Ancestors
November, 2013 - 7th Annual Gay Shamans Retreat: Recalibrating Your Shaman’s Path
May, 2015 - 8th Annual Gay Shamans Retreat: Nurturing & Cultivating Your Shamanism Practice
October, 2016 - 9th Annual Gay Shamans Retreat: We Are Each Other’s Harvest
September 2017 - 10th Annual Gay Men's Shamanic Retreat: Embracing Balance and Honoring Milestones
Listing the retreats bids me to think about them, the 85 men who attended, the healing work undertaken, and in doing so, I smile deeply and with much gratitude.
There have been changes over the years and all of them good in their perfect expression of impermanence. David left as facilitator after 2007 to pursue new spiritual opportunities; Tom bowed out after 2011 as he moved towards retirement; and Jay Thomas, who attended the 2015 retreat, joined me as the retreat’s co-facilitator in 2016.
While change is inevitable, some things are anchored in tradition. We begin each retreat with smudging and making the call to welcome our Spirit Allies from all directions to join us. The shamanic journey, the method to shift from Ordinary to Non-Ordinary Reality to receive information from Spirit Allies, is a core foundation for the retreats. Another tradition is celebrating our place within the Web of Life which we do with song, dance, walking on the land to be with nature, crafting objects which transmute into sacred tools, and conducting ceremony and rituals.
Our ceremonies and rituals have taken many forms, each has a specific intention, and many are done to honor an Element.
Fire ceremonies, held in the High Meadow, no matter the weather, are conducted to release blockages or to manifest intentions, and at times to acknowledge and feed the Ancestors.
Water rituals cleanse emotions and bless us with the wisdom of flowing.
Air ceremonies acknowledge the power of words, such as when we collectively wove two very large braids that held spoken prayers; we tied them to a two-trunk tree near Easton’s Mountain’s original talking circle, and they have since caught the air of many seasons.
Earth rituals connect us with Mother Earth and all our relations, such as when we built a Medicine Wheel near the pond, and another time planted handmade Wild Flower “Seed Bombs” in various locations on the land.
At several retreats, Pipe Carriers conducted a traditional Pipe Ceremony. One year, an attendee poured a ceremonial Sweat Lodge.
So, the Wheel of Life turns once again. Next month shamanic practitioners, gay/queer/bi/trans men, will wend their way to Easton Mountain to repeat what has become a tradition, which started with a journey’s vision in the Void, and is now celebrating a milestone 10th gathering. These men will bring their medicine, grace, power, and wisdom adding layers upon the retreats’ history, and they will again be blessed by Easton Mountain’s Spirits and Nature.
Nourished and nurtured by a powerful community, the participants of the 10th Annual Gay Men’s Shamanic Retreat will continue to touch many as they will leave their spiritual footprints on Easton Mountain’s land. As my friend the numerologist forecasted, these powerful gay/queer/bi and trans shamans will ride “the vibration of potential… reaching into the unknown… and stepping up for what [they] believe in for the benefit of everyone, everywhere - beyond Time - beyond Space.
August 7, 2017
UPCOMING SHAMANIC EVENTS:
Easton Mountain hosts two shamanic events yearly: An Introduction to Shamanism each spring, and an Annual Gay Men's Shamanic Retreat in the fall.