Tales From a Shaman: The Giant Grandfather Bear and the Eagle Vision

Featured Guest Writer | New | Tales From a Shaman

Authentic shamanism is very rare. Unless there is tangible spiritual activity, practitioners are just going through the motions in hopes of experiencing anything spiritual or genuine in nature. As seen when the spiritual realm physically crosses over to the earth realm. For example, orbs, ghosts, demonic infestation, demonic possessions, entities, and interactive ceremony and ritual. In Tales from a Shaman, I will share such crossovers and paranormal/supernatural events. Any modern-day shaman can fake paranormal activity, or share a ritual, whether fake or authentic; but rarely do real paranormal events ever occur. I can tell the difference between authentic shamanism and snake oil, “plastic shaman.” I was raised around authentic spiritual paranormal activity. The spirit beings made their presence known, as well as performing phenomena such as healings, teleportation, spirit-travel, physical manifestations in the Earth realm, and producing visions.


Among the many paranormal events I witnessed whilst growing up with the Medicine Men, surrounded by ceremony and ritual, nothing compares to what I experienced during a Vision Quest near Otter Lake in Northern Alberta, Canada. I was one of many Medicine Men who witnessed this amazing encounter. Events such as this define the paranormal and magical nature of Shamanism and will most likely never be experienced by any participant or spiritual practitioner in their lifetime.

The spring-summer seasons in the northern boreal forest are beautiful, warm, and filled with the sights and sounds of nature and wildlife. I enjoyed the cool breeze, especially combined with the fresh sprinkle of rain evaporating off the pavement. The air is filled with the summer fragrances of pine, wildflowers, and berries. The most memorable are the scents of ceremony, such as the wood smoke from stoves and bonfires, medicinal herbs simmering in a kettle, the burning of sacred incenses such as sweetgrass and prairie sage, and the sweet aroma of fresh blueberries and raspberries placed upon the molten hot sweatlodge stones. So when the upcoming spring vision quest was announced, I was excited to once again hike deep into the forest wilderness and experience the distant realm of spirits, wildlife, and hidden world of magic.

The medicine men would all gather in a central location at dawn, parking their vehicles, and loading their ATVs and trailers with medicine bags and necessary supplies to build ceremony structures, such as the sweat lodge. The young men would help carry supplies and often rushed ahead in excitement, as the older men chastised and warned them to slow down and pace themselves as they would not eat for another four days. The younger men never listened and would often learn a tough lesson days later under the weakness and suffering of hunger and lethargy.

Upon arrival, the men would decide upon the location of the main camp and sweatlodge. We would then scatter and find the most suitable, comfortable, and private location to set up our camps. We were to sleep alone but could gather during the day. Sleeping in an isolated location was highly recommended and encouraged to receive a vision or personal spiritual visitation. Such visits were legendary, highly desired, and were a sign of spiritual merit, power, and honor. We would imagine receiving a visit by a spirit guide, ancestor, or fabled spirit of legend, such as the Trickster or Thunder Beings. I would always build a small sweatlodge-inspired dome structure—framed with willow, covered by a tarp for my shelter—and definitely far away from any bear droppings.

After choosing our personal campsites, we would start building the sweatlodge, gathering wood for the main campfire, and rocks for the sweatlodge. This endeavor was where most energy was expended and invested, as the coming days would prove increasingly difficult to toil and partake in ceremony. The first day of the vision quest or fast was mainly preparation and the official commencement of the ritual as we participated in the opening sweatlodge ceremony. This first ceremony was to put one foot in the spirit realm and remove the veil between this world and the unseen realm. Afterwards, we all sat by the fire, listened to stories, gazed up at the stars, and eventually found our way to our camps under the moonlight and slept.

The first night was typically uneventful and left much to yearn for as we all sought a vision or visitation, despite the terrifying reality of experiencing either; much bravery and courage was mandatory. The Elders would encourage us by explaining that the increased endurance of suffering through fasting from food and water would display our faith and devotion to the Creator, place us deeper in the spirit world, and allow for us to be holy enough to merit a vision or visitation. The second day of a dry fast is relatively easy to endure for those who are conditioned, but for some it is a test displaying their weakness and tolerance for hardship. It is on this vision quest that someone had eaten my brother’s toothpaste—something that he should not have brought in the first place, as it is seen as a comfort of the modern world. We were not allowed the comfort and distractions such as books, phones, and other devices.

The second day’s sweatlodge was physically and mentally difficult as the heat seemed greater in intensity and our dry mouths were met with salty perspiration. But the spiritual presence was satisfying as the sweatlodge shook and earth quaked beneath us. The Elders told us to be brave and that this was a good sign that we were blessed. The Creator Father had acknowledged our existence and prayers—making his presence known. Afterwards, we sat by the fire and shared stories of spiritual encounters and laughed as others reflected on comedic anecdotes. I returned to my camp, walking through the moonlit darkness, and fell asleep while praying.


I found myself walking through a dark room. I heard a deep voice calling to me from within the darkness. I slowly walked forward, apprehensive, but curious. I could make out other figures in the room, silhouettes, walking about, then disappearing through a doorway. I tried to follow, but suddenly, felt something grip my body tightly and pick me up, hoisting me upwards. I could barely breathe. I was in the grip of a giant eagle’s talon. Its immense claws tightened around me. The Grandfather Eagle spoke, repeating my name. The Eagle, with a booming voice said “You want power? You want to be a Medicine Man? You want my power? You come seeking gifts? Be careful what you ask for. Look how helpless you are. Look what I can do to you. Never abuse your power. Never hurt others. Or I will come back for you.” I felt its crushing grip increasingits talons tightened around me. When it finished speaking, I felt its talons release my body, and I plummeted down what felt like an abyss.

I awoke suddenly, fighting for my breath. I sat up, reflecting on this vision and the Eagle’s words. It was a powerful message. It was advice I would heed and never forget. I laid back down, staring at the ceiling of my willow hut, slowly falling back asleep.

The third day of the vision quest was difficult, as lethargy and dehydration made any movement difficult. Most stayed in their camps, resting, choosing to simply stay motionless. Some were afflicted by the caffeine headache which plagued most coffee drinkers. I could feel the arid dryness of my mouth—my tongue felt like a dry slug and was filled with the putrid taste of bitter smoke and herbs. I sluggishly made my way to the main camp and joined with the young men who were relaxing against a large fallen tree. I felt the dry pine needles sink into my palms as the soil and pine resin stuck to my fingers. I could care less, as I was suffering from a range of fasting-related symptoms, and basically covered in two days’ worth of sweatlodge perspiration and dirt. I listened to them talk about food, cravings, favorite  restaurants, and what they were going to eat when they got home. This conversation did nothing to ease our hunger—in fact it was tormenting, yet we could not stop.

Despite our self-inflicted suffering, we were surrounded by nature and it was a beautiful, pleasant summer morning. A multitude of birds were singing their songs, while the squirrels continued their warning calls concerned of our presence. I heard my brother continuing his grumbling regarding his toothpaste, which had been devoured. We all laughed and had an idea of who the obvious culprit may have been. But toothpaste was far from our present discussion of menu items and cravings for fine cuisine. The topic reminded me of the teaching of the main sufferings of a vision quest—hunger, fear, loneliness, and the chaotic mind.

We all helped prepare for the third day’s sweatlodge as our energy levels were very low, and this would require a group effort. We chastised the fellow young men who gave in to their weakened bodies and chose to watch the others gather wood and stones for the sweatlodge. It was very challenging carrying each load up hills and through thick forest. The fire burned with intensity, heating up the rocks to molten hot temperatures, glowing red as they were carried into the lodge. We sat around the sweatlodge pit, silent, listening to prayers, watching the herbs smolder on the red-hot stones. The sacred pipe was smoked and passed around the circle. We were feeling very weak and it was only the third day. The lodge door was closed, ensuring pitch black darkness, with only the molten red stones illuminating our bodies and faces. The ceremony begun, rattles and drums sounded out in rhythm joined in by sacred chanting and prayers. The stones were doused with water, releasing steam, enveloping us in scorching heat, and a suffocating super-heated air. My mind focused on prayer and worship of the Creator, as I was taught this would also help the mind escape the searing pain of the steam. The lodge suddenly shook violently. We heard the tarp being ripped off the top of the lodge—forming a circle, akin to a skylight; displaying the blue skies above. The Elders told us this was the Holy Ones aka Ancestors coming to bless and visit us. They wanted to look into our lodge. We were in awe. Then, everything went blank.


I remember waking up, slowly opening my eyes, struggling to focus; seeing nothing but clouds and blue sky. Feeling confused, I tried to recall what just happened. Wasn’t I just in a sweatlodge ceremony? I was lying on my back about 20 feet outside the sweatlodge. I heard the other men calling out to each other as they too were regaining consciousness. We were all put to sleep! I lifted my head and looked around. I saw the men scattered about, encircling the sweatlodge, all on their backs. I saw one man who was halfway out of the sweatlodge, their legs beneath the sweatlodge frame, while their body was sticking outside. One Medicine Man was still lying inside the sweatlodge. The men started to sit up, all sharing the same confused look. Those who stood up staggered as if suddenly awakened from a great slumber. Most of us were groggy, suffering from short-term memory loss, some were noticeably terrified. One of the Medicine Men shouted, “Look! A giant bear! Hurry, look! It is walking away.” We all looked in astonishment as we saw the bear, immense in size, and weathered brown fur, walking slowly away. “The Grandfather Bear came to bless us,” stated one of the Elders. I then recalled, as my memory returned, being dragged out the sweatlodge by the bear, and feeling its cold nose sniffing my forehead—blessing me. Some of the Medicine Men began to laugh in disbelief, as they discussed the phenomenon and magnitude of this great and rare spiritual event—only told in stories; usually ancient folklore. We gathered back inside the sweatlodge to finish the ceremony rites, the roof still sporting its newly-renovated feature—a circular skylight.

When the ceremony was completed, we sat around the fire, continuing the discussion of the day’s powerfully spiritual, paranormal encounter. We were also relieved that the following day would be the final and fourth day of the vision quest. Some of the young men even rushed to bed, desiring the final day to come sooner. Sometimes it is difficult to fall asleep on the last two days of a vision quest, as the suffering may keep you awake, as well as the anticipation to return home. It may have been due to the great blessing and doctoring we received, or the exhaustion, but I fell asleep almost immediately—entering into a heavy slumber. The fourth and final day came and went, we hiked out of the forest at sunrise, seemingly energized by the excitement of the homecoming feasts that awaited us. It can also be noted that all the participants succeeded in completing the vision quest, with no one having to do the “walk of shame” out of the forest. I always enjoyed the comradery and celebration of feasting with my fellow Medicine Men.

This vision quest forever remains my most memorable.

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