Have you ever come across spirit shields? Perhaps you know a bit about them or have heard the term but no very little. Either way, spirit shields have been a big part of my journey so I would love to share with you what I have learned.
By Marianna Sheldrake
Traditionally, spirit shields derive from Native American traditions and are made by women to represent the true essence of who they are and the path that has taken them to where they are today. Whilst men can have spirit shields also, I have learned on the reservations that it is the women who make the shields for the men in the tribes. The process of making one is a deeply personal experience and as our own journeys, no two will ever be alike. Once completed, your spirit shield is hung behind you in all forms of solitary spiritual work. Think of the spirit shield as your own personal direct link to the source energy, your calling card if you like to the universe. A spirit shield once completed portrays the owners’ sacred power, intention or ‘medicine’.
Medicine from plants and minerals we have come to understand, however medicine from someone’s spirit or energy is a little more difficult to comprehend. Medicine means anything sacred and powerful, something used to treat or prevent illness, imbalance or dis-ease. Medicine is something that helps to reinstate well being, abundance and the ability to create. Personal medicine that comes from within is the creative force of life giving power and energy. Women naturally are born with it as they carry the void, ‘the womb’ and with it seemingly magical possibilities to reproduce humankind. Indeed many ancient civilisations considered fertility a blessing bestowed by the gods.
Having travelled around some of the Nations of the Native American Indians in North America and spoken to their elders on the subject this is how I have come to understand the making of a spirit shield. Some tribes are more secretive about the knowledge then others and the information varies from nation to nation. To my surprise being white and English seemed to go a little in my favour and generally most tribal elders were generous with their time and information. I found the elders were genuinely surprised of my interest in the concept of Spirit Shields, and within the constraints of what the tribes’ respected shaman would allow, what they did share was fascinating.
There are four stages to making a spirit shield. These four stages are steps around a medicine wheel. The number four also represents honouring the directions and the elements.
1) Traditional spirit shields were constructed in the shape of a circle, the round shape representing the circle of life, the sun, the moon and the body of the earth mother. This I believe to be honouring the position on the medicine wheel of the south.
2) Traditional spirit shields were constructed using treated animal hides to cover the wooden circle. This I believe to be honouring the position on the medicine wheel of the west.
3) Traditional spirit shields were decorated with designs and images drawn and painted onto hide. The designs used would portray the creator’s journey, their dreams and aspirations as well as the path they have trodden. It could identify their position in their tribe, their family or their connection to the divine. This I believe to be honouring the position on the medicine wheel of the north.
4) Finally items would be collected and hung on the shield identifying the nature, character and essence of the maker. This I believe to be honouring the position on the medicine wheel of the east.
These four steps are seen as the crucial stages in completing your spirit shield. They sound easy enough. That is until you begin!
Although traditional Native American spirit shields follow a specific format, it is my belief that the power of the shield is in the process of creation and intention. In our contemporary culture, there is no reason why other shapes and materials cannot be used in the process, in fact, I would encourage it. I strongly feel that in today’s modern day society, it’s easy to lose sight of spiritual tools that have aided humanity’s spiritual journey throughout history. There is something very powerful for example in the inward reflection/outward projection of the spirit shield which would not be accessed simply through 15 minutes of meditation. The creation of the spirit shield is a journey in itself, a journey I recommend all women should take.
For more information about creating a spirit shield here in Avalon, please contact us.