By ANGELA NIMS
Special to the Sunday Times
WYANDOTTE — Thirty-four years ago, Rocky Rains sought answers to some of life’s great challenges. Failing to find them in traditional avenues, such as groups or churches, he turned to other teachings.
When some Native American elders took him under their wing, he at last found a path that suited him.
“I’m really just coming out,” Rains said. “Raised my family, did my training. Now that I’m into retirement age, it’s my time to give back. We need to be reminded there’s more to the world than collecting things and money. It was time. The world needs guidance.”
In upcoming classes at the Bacon Memorial Library, Rains plans to offer an introduction to Shamanism and a Preparation for Vision Quest. The classes promise to be an experience enriched by a variety of influences. Rains is a mixed heritage — Scotch-Irish from his mother, and Cherokee from his father.
“It’s a cross-cultural approach, since I’ve done a lot of work in different religions and cultures,” Rains said. “Everything — our religions — came out of Shamanism. What part the plant plays, why we should be Earth’s stewards. (Shamanism) encourages you to connect to that and the animal plane.
“At the library there will be time to sit down and talk and answer questions. The rest of the Vision Quest classes will be planned on the land.
“You have to know the traditions before you go off on your own. The Vision Quest class focuses on practicing the different aspects of the vision quest. Traditionally, you’d go to lonely spot, set up area and have two to four days of fasting.”
But he was quick to point out not everything is as it seems.
“Much of it is preparing for the Quest physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — exercises that are performed on a daily basis. There are a number of things you can fast from, not just food. There is fasting from negativity, for instance. It’s a lot of preparation before asking for that call.”
Those at a crossroads in their life, fresh from college or wondering if a different direction might suit them are candidates for a Vision Quest, Rains said.
“You’re asking the Great Spirit to see a vision for life,” he said. “Shaman of old used to ask for spiritual gifts to help heal people or to know when the tribe would be under attack. There are a number of reasons one might go on a vision quest and ask the Great Spirit to see a vision for life.”
All that Rains asks is that participants to the initial Vision Quest class wear comfortable clothing and bring their sense of imagination.
A longtime employee of Ford Motor Co., Rains explained the trick to being a shaman in the modern world lies in a delicate balance.
“You find ways to exercise your spirituality during your regular workday,” he said. “I’ve been on several different vision quests, numerous sweat lodges, looking for answers. It’s great to go up the hill, but it’s when you go back down the hill, into your everyday life, that’s the challenge, being the light out there. How do you deal with negativity? How will you respond to these things?”
Although he incorporated the Native American principles into his own life, many coworkers and friends were unaware of it.
“Here and there, people would be speaking about spirituality and an experience they had,” Rains said. “When I was asked my opinion, people were amazed I knew about these things. I offered some help and they nudged me forward to do this.
“So, these classes are a result of helping in my everyday life. I want to take everyone on a journey to see what it is they want to create.”
There’s a school of thought that the master doesn’t appear until the pupil is ready. Rains said he feels apt pupils await, adding, “I think people also really fed up with the old way of doing things — the capitalism and all of that. People are seeing there is more to life than that. With all the things going on — the political upheaval — people are searching. What can they do, beyond complain, to help? People disrespecting the planet isn’t the way to go.”
Helping to teach what he’s learned fulfills a deep obligation, he said.
“I don’t want my grandchildren and my grandkids’ grandkids cursing my name because I didn’t do anything about the world,” he said.
Rains will hold the classes under the banner of Terra Wakan, which is his artisan offerings company.
“I’m an artist,” he said. “Always creating something.”
His Facebook page features an array of handmade medicine pouches.
“Terra is Greek for Earth, while Wakan is Lakota for sacred or big mystery,” Rains said. “I think that’s what deity is. In its truest form, it isn’t something we could comprehend. The only way we can understand is by what is demonstrated: the Earth, the Sun.”
Preparation for Vision Quest will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Bacon Memorial Library, 45 Pinewood St.
(Contact Angela Nims at email@example.com.)