Shamanic serpent healing

Taking a step into the unknown, Jo De Rosa takes part in Shamanic Serpent Healing: The Dark Goddess Retreat, at Inner Guidance in Suffolk

There is a groundedness that is palpable right at the beginning of the four-day retreat. Maren Lander and Kwali Kumara exude a yin yang balance between them that settles the room in the first session. Maren requests that should anyone begin to cry or go through something deeply painful or moving that nobody go over to console them, explaining that to do so shuts down their process. We were asked to send love from our hearts in a non-physical way, guided to support the group from a distance within the circle, and allow everyone to be in each beautiful moment as it arises. I found this advice quite profound.
In the centre of the room is a shrine where many crystal skulls hold court with a deck of aptly named ‘Dark Goddess’ cards laid around them. Outside of them is a huge snake skin, which Kwali informs us has been recently shed from her 13ft Burmese Python named Kumi, which is short for Kumara.

Full schedule

The schedule is full. We begin each morning with Kundalini yoga at 6am led by either one of the teachers, and the sessions are pretty much ongoing through the day. This is not a relaxed yoga retreat with plenty of time for reflection, that will come later; our days consist of shamanic meditation after shamanic ritual, the power building during the day and each day.
By the time we get to the third day, when the Serpent Healing session is scheduled, we are saturated with our own process and Kundalini energy rising. There is an excitement in the air and Kwali lets us know in the first session of the day that the serpents are already in the room and excited about meeting us. However, we are not to meet them until the afternoon; there is much work to be done to prime us for this spiritual exchange.

Snakes in a studio

Eventually it is time. I look around the room and see a range of emotions written across expectant faces; some are open and ready, whilst others have broken out into hot sweats and have begun to feign reasons why they cannot be in the room. Kwali calmly answers questions and explains that she has rescued all of the 25 serpents that she owns, and there are eight here right now in the room with us.  This kind and compassionate teacher leads us on a clearing Kriya and clarifies that the healing is just as much for the serpents as it is for us, for they have much hate and fear thrown in their direction due to misinformation and our human conditioning.  We enter deep meditation and begin to chant the mantra ‘Kumara’ to welcome and honour the serpents; carrying a vibration of universal love and marriage of yin and yang in the heart centre:

Ku – seed sound of the serpent
Ma – great mother
Ra – great father

Eyes are closed, and we connect deeply with our inner worlds. When we are invited to open our eyes the eight Royal Pythons are now on the floor within the shrine, slithering around the crystal skulls. They are interested in us and begin to move outwards to our circle, with Kwali picking them up with both hands and then placing them around a neck.
There are some of us that signal we are not ready, but most are, undaunted by the prospect of connecting to these majestic creatures.  I watch the person next to me begin the session in a sweat, with panic rising, yet willing to explore her feelings. With such a held space by these two teachers, this person was able to transmute fear to love and no longer has an aversion to serpents.  With the first serpent that was pl aced upon my own neck I could feel the fear growing:

‘What if it turns on me?’
‘What if it bites me?’
‘What if it tries to strangle me?

I felt so lucky to feel safe enough to explore this. The fear was located in my lower body and was rising to my heart, throat, and then my face; I felt myself go red and then dizzy. I watched and allowed the emotion to wash through me; it travelled throughout my body but without resistance there was nowhere for it settle. Before I knew it, the emotion was gone, and a feeling of peace and acceptance of this divine creature interestingly fell into me from above to below - quite extraordinary after the rising of the fear before it.
I curiously watched the behaviour of the serpents on different people; for some they were coiled up and cuddled into the warmth of the person, whilst for others they were inquisitive and wandering.

Sweat lodge

By the end of the session all but one person was begging for another cuddle; such gracious and beautiful creatures, being given respect and
the love they deserve. It was an incredible privilege to be part of, and I am so grateful for Kwali to be doing this work. But as the serpents were placed back into their basket our work wasn’t over for the day, we were to get ready for a sweat lodge that evening.
Three people had been building the lodge all day to the shaman, Ali Ansari’s, exact specification. The branches from a lime tree within the retreat centre’s land were bent to make a dome structure and then covered with duvets and tarpaulin. This insured that the lodge was dark and insulated. A hole in the centre of the circle had been dug out, and it was here that the red-hot rocks would be placed during the evening.
After a very light dinner we made our way down to the fire and lodge where we were to have another difficult, yet releasing, three hour ceremony. We chanted, sung, prayed, connected with the earth, and sweated. One minute I was struggling with the heat, the intensity, the rising anxiety, and then I surrendered; I could after all because I felt safe and held by my sisters. A wave of ecstasy next, laughing, high as a kite, looking into the darkness of pure consciousness and seeing before me every answer I had been seeking.
The bond that was forged between fellow retreatees was nothing less than sacred; being on a retreat like this is life-changing and you will remain friends with your cohorts forever. The high remained for weeks, and a permanent shift took place; I will quite literally never be the same again.

Jo De Rosa is founder of Inner Guidance Retreat Centre (innerguidance.co.uk) where the retreat was held. Maren Lander (marenlander.com) and Kwali Kumara (kwalikundalini.com) hold retreats with serpents at the centre twice per year.

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