The Cigar Ceremony

01, Jun 2016 by catalphia in Shamanism,The Story     No Comments

Do you remember when I told you about my first session with Ahmayo,

when she asked, “What do you want to work on?”

If you do, you remember that my answer was, “Money!”


It may be a well kept secret, but I want to tell you something important: The Spirits don’t forget these declarations.


Ever since I began working with her, I’ve had quite a journey with Money.


I’m going to jump around chronologically here, in order to tell you an important story. (Do you think that problems might arise simply to give us a story to tell? Or maybe some people just like challenges—I don’t know. What I do know is that after I began working intensively with my spiritual teacher, my life as I previously knew it began to change.


Superficially everything was the same as it was before. I went back to my job and tried to follow the instructions I had received from my Upper World teacher, the grubby hermit who could turn into a magician at a moment’s notice. It was easy to check in with him every day as he instructed, but carrying out his advice was something else. I was unable to avoid the sensation of trying to move through quicksand.


I kept going, though. The anticipation of more spiritual work was the carrot that got me through significant glitches that were caused by a major shift in our industry.


In one of our sessions during this time, Ahmayo asked, “How do you feel about working with plants?”


“Why would I want to do that?” I asked.


“Do you want the fast train or the slow one?” she countered.


I was hooked. Once in, why would I want to move slowly?


I had explored life traumas through therapy and hypnosis, had recorded my dreams, and had taken training in Shamanic practices. My life had become increasingly satisfying. I had worked with organic gardening, but what did Ahmayo mean by working with plants?


She was an expert in the energies of plants, studying their medicinal uses as teas and tonics, growing lavender in her garden, and working with food combinations She believed in the wisdom of plants and their partnership with humans to enhance our connection with nature. The closest I had come to this was the pursuit of good nutrition through cookbooks and reading. Over time, after working with Ahmayo, though, I developed a deeper connection with plants which has profoundly influenced my cooking, leading me to develop my own recipes.


Right now, though, I want to talk about a particular, very controversial plant, tobacco, that Ahmayo introduced to me ceremonially. As is true of anything that carries power, tobacco can be dangerous, especially when used ignorantly, which is the major way it is used in the United States, where I live.


In the United States, tobacco is primarily used recreationally to dull the authenticity of our experiences.  This is an insult to the true nature of this plant, and in this context it is extremely toxic, especially because commercial cigarette production typically includes substances that almost insure addiction. In addition to negative effects in the brain, the functional capacity of the lungs is compromised.


Prior to the influx of Europeans into North and South America, however, tobacco was not used this way. It was a ceremonial and medicinal plant considered to be a gift from the Creator. As such it was surrounded by strict protocols and in pipe ceremonies, used to connect humans with the spirit world. It was also used medicinally as a pain killer, and was sometimes mixed with other specific plants to counteract particular ailments.


For a number of years I had been reading anthropological works about shamanic practices, and in Florinda Donner’s work (The Witch’s Dream and Being in Dreaming) had encountered the description of a small group of women using cigars in a ceremony to connect with the spirit world. I had never smoked a cigar, and was not inclined to do so, but a group ceremony was an intriguing idea. After working with Ahmayo and trying to understand more about plants, I begun cultivating a relationship with Tobacco through a small pipe ceremony each morning after working with my dreams. I found that this enhanced my connection with the trees where I lived and I did it for about a year.


During this time I was meeting quarterly with a small group of women, each of whom was also working individually with Ahmayo. We had scheduled one of our meetings on a small, remote island, and I decided to try a cigar ceremony, for which I prepared intensively. In addition to planning for the purpose and format of the ceremony, I went to a specialty tobacco shop and selected a small, aromatic cigar, one for each woman.


During my preparations I received a Dream message, “Ask for a donation.” How should I do this? My major concern, though, was the overwhelm that seemed to accompany my attempts to tie down the details of the ceremony. I had never led anything like this! Then there were the cigars, which were unfamiliar and traditionally reserved for men.


I did finally plan a ceremony designed for manifesting our hearts’ desires. I asked each woman to write a prayer requesting what she would most love to receive or experience in her life. I had also requested that everyone wear favorite clothes in favorite colors, clothes that made each woman feel happy and beautiful. This was easy for them, and they were gorgeous!


It was an unusual evening. As you might expect, a strong complex fragrance dominated the room, infused with the excitement of an adventure. Everyone –including me–was concentrating on how to smoke a cigar. If ventilation had been an issue we might have had a hard time breathing, but the room was filled with fresh sea air. The walls were made of wood, and the beautiful wood framed windows needed no drapes. There was no heavy upholstery. Our smoke went up the chimney of a clean fireplace.


After a couple of hours, everyone had exhausted the adventure of smoking a cigar, and we gathered in the kitchen for beverages and snacks. Conversation was light-hearted and festive. We slept well.


The next morning we cleaned the fireplace and opened the windows. The fresh coastal air blew away all remaining smoky residue. No cloying smoking lounge atmosphere for us!


After a light breakfast we met to share our experiences, which focused primarily on the specifics of a first encounters with a cigar. After everyone spoke, I remembered that I had been told to ask for a donation. I gathered my courage and confided that I had been told to do this and stated my cost for the cigars. We went around the table, each woman taking a turn to speak. One person said that this reminded her of a time when her brother had offered to store some things for her, and then– when she went to collect them–had asked her for money. This felt underhanded and terrible. She really resented it. Another woman said it was like passing the collection plate after a church service, which she had always detested. Another woman said that she belonged to a group that sometimes held ceremonies.   The facilitator always let everyone know in advance what the costs would be per person with an up front agreement that the materials fee was required.


Egad! I had not anticipated this. It was chilling to listen to one person after another share her negative associations with my request. My main concern, though, was that our light hearted adventure had suddenly turned sour. This was not what I wanted people to take home with them. All of my work had been sullied by an ill timed request. So after the discussion I went to each person individually and said that I was withdrawing my request for a donation. This felt like the only thing I could do to salvage the situation, and it was OK.


It was embarrassing to get the negative feedback. I lost face. But I wanted to share this experience with you because I learn a lot from hearing about other people’s mistakes. It’s important to share our mistakes in order to support each other. Especially regarding money, we women can benefit from candid sharing. I don’t want to write as if I’ve done everything right. Nobody has! We all make mistakes. It’s one of the best ways to learn, because we rarely forget them!


I will never forget the cigar ceremony, but I have decided to have compassion for myself. I like that I tried something new and I plunged ahead without knowing what would work. I asked for feedback and listened, even when it was unpleasant. Looking back, the cigar ceremony was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.


If I had not asked for a donation I would never have learned what I did about correct timing when money is involved. Getting things clear up front isn’t always easy. In this case I was such a neophyte that I couldn’t do it. But I learned something really valuable: Know what outcome you want, and design all the details to support that (especially the money!)   Who ever says, “ I thought it was free and now I need to pay for it! I’m so happy!”

Copyright 2016 Carolyn Kahlke.  All Rights Reserved.