>I’ve just returned from an eleven day ‘vision quest’ in Snowdonia – a Nature-based rite of passage ceremony that’s a cross-cultural adaptation of ancient practice for modern times.
When it comes to deep soul work, by which I mean getting to grips with your own spiritual essence and ‘god’ (in whatever form), a ‘vision quest’ is the ultimate in elemental retreats. Traditionally, they mark transition from one life stage to another – for example, boyhood to manhood. The ancients knew that by crossing these thresholds in wild places, we face our fears and gather our ‘medicine’, in order to move into the next phase of life. And truly, Nature mirrors all that we are, showing us many faces of dark and light.
A quest is most often undertaken under the guidance of an experienced ‘teacher’ or guide and involves preparing with other participants in ‘counsel’ before going alone into the wilderness. At its heart is this solo experience, also referred to as ‘threshold’ (between the old and the new). It comprises a four day four night fast in a wild place with only a tarp, sleeping bag, waterproofs, thermals, journal and as much water as you can drink for company.
We undertook ours in the foothills of Snowdon in a place called ‘Moel y Dyniewyd’. I discovered afterwards that one translation of the Welsh is ‘the stark frozen poverty’. This seemed apt given our rain-lashed encounters spent stripping away layers to reach our innermost selves! The culmination was a vigil on the fourth night that precipitates ‘crying for a vision’ at dawn and asking the question, ‘For what purpose do I return to my people?’ The answer hit me like an arrow in the chest.
Returning then to the group, breaking fast, sharing my story and hearing others’ was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. As one participant put it, quoting 1 Kings, 19:11-12:
And he said, go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Vision Quest can quite literally be an ‘awful’ journey into the soul but the passage clears away blocks – physical, emotional, mental, social, even spiritual – so that the still small voice of ‘god’ inside you can speak, be heard, offer guidance and heal. I shall keep my ‘purpose’ to myself for now but suffice to say, there’s no being the rainbow without rain …
My guide was Pip Bondy of Ancient Healing Ways. She’s been leading vision quests in Snowdonia for over a decade. If you feel called, check out her website – www.ancienthealingways.co.uk – for more details. Her next quest is in September but she also offers other nature-based and communications programmes, all of which draw on the healing practices and ceremonies of ancient spiritual traditions. No previous experience or particular faith are necessary.