A disembodied voice intoned sweetly, “Is it time to rise?”
I motored down the jeep road toward the head of the canyon blasting ridiculous music that made me feel cool. I was feeling like a bad bitch until I hit a rock hard with my tire and sobered up. I mean, I know I could change a tire if I had to, but I’ve never had to, and frankly I don’t want to learn all alone on a jeep road in the middle of Anza Borrego Desert. I turned down the music and slowed down. I wanted to survive the night so I could wake up before dawn and try to find a particular shamanic cave from which to watch the sunrise.
It was March 2017 when I made this journey. Here’s the part where I geek out a little bit about the astonishingly colorful desert flora in Spring. I’ll let these pictures below speak for themselves.
I have to confess that I’m convinced of the power of “going with the flow” in general. When you are following your correct path, the universe sends you lots of help. Strange coincidences happen that make your way easier. You receive signs. People cross your path (sometimes literally) at coincidentally significant moments, seemingly for the express purpose of delivering a divine message. One thing I’ve noticed regularly over the past year is that when I’m in a sacred place (a shaman cave, a year-round waterfall…) a hummingbird will fly up and hover in my face for a prolonged period of time then disappear. The first couple of times it happened I thought it was really cool and reached for my camera. The bird would always fly away just before I could get a snap. That’s when I came to understand that it wasn’t a photo op, it was an acknowledgement that I am welcome because I come with the right spirit. Now I just watch the bird and thank him for greeting me.
The other thing that has happens with an astonishing regularity when I’m adventuring alone is, on the way to find a sacred place, helpful voices speak to me right before I wake up.
On this trip I was following some tips from my buddy N Search to find a cave he said had pictographs of suns, and I thought to myself, “Self, this cave has suns. This would be something you should see during sunrise. Get your ghetto booty up that canyon before sunrise and find it!” Naturally, at sunrise, I was awake, but mentally hitting the snooze button as I curled deep in my sleeping bag. Suddenly I heard a sweet female voice talk to me over my left shoulder. She asked, “Is it time to rise?”
My eyes opened wide! Nothing can wake you up like hearing a disembodied voice over your left shoulder encouraging you gently to stick to your own plan. I got up, dressed, made coffee in a to-go cup and hit the trail which was not a trail at all but a series of boulder scrambles up an overgrown canyon.
Since sunrise was a distant memory I decided to enjoy my coffee on a boulder while listening to the birds. Ahhhhhh…..
Scrambling, scrambling, up the canyon. Soon what came into view was a distinctly pointed rock. Knowing that prehistoric Native Americans found meaning in all aspects of landscape, I began to suspect that what I was looking for would be found somewhere in the vicinity of that unusual pointed rock.
What I found there was extraordinary. That pointed rock is a naturally occurring point at the end of a section of an enormous boulder that broke off from the body and aligned perfectly with the sun, like a sundial of the seasons. I mean…
Behind the point is a cave that, as far as I could tell from the angle of the cave relative to the mountain on the opposite side of the canyon where the sun rises, is lit for a split second at sunrise then just as suddenly, plunged into shadow. Upon my return to civilization, I did a little more research on this cave and found that this cave is an archaeological site known to be a summer solstice observatory. On sunrise on the day of the summer solstice, the shamanic pictograph below is briefly illuminated.
The fact that this guy’s arms are not standing on the ground, but floating in the air mean it is either the representation of a shaman in a trance state (floating) or a deity. We know this is a holy image because some of the digits on the left side of its body are missing while present on the other side. In Native American tradition, the left hand was used for holy tasks, like preparing an altar. The right hand was used for mundane tasks like preparing food. This kind of prejudice for sides of the body is a worldwide custom of ancient people and may have to do with the inaccessibility to plumbing to wash after every dirty task. In Islamic and Hindu cultures, for example, the right hand is the “clean hand” used to shake hands, enter a temple, and pass food or gifts. To do any of these things with the left hand is taboo.
I invite you to enjoy the shamanic pictographs in this cave as I discovered them in the video below, but first, please let me offer some interpretation.
Prehistoric hunter-gatherer people of the California desert relied on the cycles of the sun to inform the cycles of their lives. They were snowbirds who wintered in the desert, which was warm and fecund with plant and animal life. They summered in the mountains during a season that culminated in a prolific acorn harvest. Solstices and equinoxes let them know when it was time to harvest and/or migrate. A sun shaman would attune and commune him/herself with the celestial calendar and invite the “gods” (energies) of the sun seasons to favor his people with fortune.
A shamanic solstice cave would be a place of prayer, where the solstice was revered and humbly welcomed by the people. The very rock of the cave that had been touched by the solstice sun would have been treated as energetically imbued with power from the sun “god” (energy). Shamanic images that were ceremonially painted on the cave walls and empowered by the solstice sun could be activated later by touching the image or painting over it again. There are a few images of spiritual beings in this cave as well as several images of suns. These images also show use of being “activated” later by being repainted with a lighter halo of pigment.
The figure above has arms and legs that are floating off the ground and a see-through body. The see-through body definitely indicates that it is a spirit being and not a human shaman in a trance state. This anthropomorphic, with his see-through body, is pure spirit.
There isn’t much more I can tell you now that I don’t show you better in this video. Here it is…
While exploring in Anza Borrego on a steep sided cyn sheep trail, a large raddle snake would not allow me to pass. Rock scrambling to bypass it was why I found a small cave with a tree frog painting, illuminated by the winter solstice.