Snake Medicine and Prayer Sticks in Chaco Canyon!

August 11, 2012:  I am on a solo journey to Chaco Canyon.  I take a favorite walk from the Great Kiva Rinconada through the south gap towards the trail that leads to the mesa above the kiva and the ancient site of Tsin Kletzin.  The subterranean Great Kiva was once utilized for religious activities and ceremonies.  It had 39 foot passageways from the underground structure to above ground levels. Casa Rinconada is one of the many buildings in the Chaco area that have documented astronomical alignments.


On the walk all was silent save for the wind. Suddenly I encounter two large deer, or possibly elk or antelope.  There are two farther on.  How they survive in this harsh environment should be a lesson to us all.  I feel blessed by their wild animal presence.  Back in camp, I sit in mottled shade of nearby low growing cliff bushes and create prayer sticks for friends facing challenges as well offerings to my home.  Knees bent, “feet standing,” I silently wind colored yarn, feathers and other found objects into the sticks.

These “ofrendas” are a meditation practice given to me long ago at the LBGTQ Spirituality Gathering at Lama retreat center north of Taos, NM by Maria Elena.  Maria Elena is of Mexican Huichol ancestry and had the gift of being a “dream healer.”  She could enter into the dream world of a person and offer help and interpretation.  As a young child in Los Angeles, where her Mexican parents had immigrated, she occasionally found herself in that dream world, seemingly floating above her bed and having other unusual experiences.  Experiences that her parents did not want her to have, as they had immigrated to the U.S. to forge a new and hopefully more prosperous life.  So, they put her in parochial school to help her forget the old ways.  But Spirit will have its way, no matter where we are.  At school, Maria Elena made friends with an African American maintenance man and together they went out to the desert and did prayer and ceremony,  further deepening her healing abilities. This secretive time in ceremony and prayer helped her make sense of her natural talents. Maria Elena said that if she had been living in her Huichol community in Mexico, the elders would have recognized her gift and taken her to be trained in the ways of their people.  Fortunately for me and many others, she did not lose that gift and indeed was willing to share some of her healing ways.

Back to Chaco and the prayer sticks.  As I sat there quietly making prayer sticks, slowly sliding out of the low bushes emerged a two foot snake that just as quietly made her way under my legs, stopping briefly among the colored balls of yarn and feathers to give me a quick glance, then travel on her merry way.  For some indigenous cultures, the snake is the most sacred of animals as it travels with its heartbeat closed to that of Mother Earth.  I was both in awe and gratitude for this silent serpentine gift.

Image result for free download images of snakes

Earlier in the day driving into Chaco, the cell phone buzzed with a message from work at the public schools in Santa Fe.  As I listened, I recoiled and contracted, wanting to be as far from an increasingly difficult work situation as possible. But soon thereafter I heard this internalized message:  “Say yes! to all that does not compromise you or your core values…keep your spirit shield firmly in place, beware delusional thinking, but do not contract in fear of change or letting go to new conditions or requirements or adaptations to the material world.”  Perhaps this was the message the snake was giving me in advance of our special encounter.

Join Earth Walks May 20–22, 2016 on a special journey to Chaco Canyon, led by a wonderful Pueblo family.  To them–and perhaps you as well–this will be a homecoming journey.  Contact Earth Walks for more information…the trip is designed for only 12 participants, so be in touch as soon as you can.  (This fall, Earth Walks will journey to Canyon de Chelly, Arizona.  We are available to also create your own special trip in Santa Fe, New Mexico or the Southwest USA)

Happy Trails,          Doug Conwell     Santa Fe, New Mexico


Earth Walks to Chaco Canyon May 2016


Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Pueblo Bonito Kiva and Complex at Chaco

Earth Walks will journey to the amazing World Heritage Site of Chaco Canyon May 20-22, 2016.  Chaco was the ancient center of the Pueblo Anasazi world between 850 and 1250 A.D.  Today the massive buildings of the ancestral Pueblo peoples still testify to the organizational and engineering abilities not seen anywhere else in the American Southwest. This includes phenomenal archaeoastronmical buildings and natural sites aligned with solar and lunar cycles.

Our Earth Walks experience is designed for a deeper contact with the canyon and the ancient ones whose voices still can be heard in the stones, wind, wide open skies and bright starry skies.  We will be led by a wonderful family from Tesuque Pueblo, who consider Chaco an important site of their ancestors.  It will be a homecoming to them, and perhaps to participants as well.

“The Power of Storytelling” is the focus of this journey.  Sharing stories brings back the oldest way of being connected and seeking coherence in a world that often seems to be falling apart.  As Michael Meade of the Mosaic Multicultural Foundation has said, “Genuine stories help us to restore ourselves and re-story the world around us.”


As we walk the ancient sites with our Pueblo friends, experience silence alone among the vast open space of Chaco or gather around the fire at night we will share the stories that call to us from past and present that will help reweave the fabric of our individual and collective lives.


Join us!  Space is limited to 12 participants so sign up soon by emailing Earth Walks for a registration form.  Cost is $210 which includes all meals, campsite fee and honorarium to Pueblo guides.  Transportation is by carpooling (minimal car entrance fee not included in cost.)