Baby, I Was Born This Way
Linda Star Wolf
I was born into a loving family and grew up with the good, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth Christian folks of rural western Kentucky. Although there was fundamentalism, there was also an innate closeness to the land and family. I spent most of my childhood outside with my grandmother Mammy Jones. Mammy recognized my overly sensitive nature and psychic gifts and treated my “strangeness” as something to be proud of. She taught me that it was part of God’s gift to me. She protected and cultivated my gifts, helping me see, hear, and interpret the world around me with shamanic eyes. She showed me the connection between the spiritual world and the natural world. Mammy Jones infused me with her own special brand of faith that even though I was different, I was special.
Mammy also taught me to connect with the dream world. In the mornings as we ate breakfast, she always asked me about my dreams. We talked about what I saw and what it might mean. A few months before my twelfth birthday, I saw Mammy’s death in a dream. It terrified me and I didn’t want to tell anyone. I was afraid that if I spoke it, it would come true. The following morning at breakfast Mammy sensed that I was upset about something and eventually got me to talk. She assured me everything would be okay. A few weeks later she became quite ill and her health declined rapidly. She eventually agreed to go to the hospital, but she never came home. My beloved Mammy was gone.
The loss of my grandmother was not only a shock but it became a huge psychic wound for many years. I secretly blamed myself for her death, believing that somehow seeing the vision of her death in my dreams had made me responsible. The pain of losing her was insurmountable. Although I knew my parents loved me, Mammy Jones was the person in my life who really saw me for who I was.
As a teenager I couldn’t deal with my gifts without Mammy to guide me, so I wandered in the underworld for a long time. In my confusion, hurt, and grief, I ignored my sensitive nature as much as possible. I developed several dysfunctional patterns for dealing with life, including addiction to substances, which resulted in a near-death experience before I was twenty years old.
The addictions turned out to be blessings in disguise, eventually leading me to a path of soulful sobriety in my late twenties. I found that I was a natural wounded healer. I became an addictions counselor, but I sensed there was something more than what was being offered in mental health and treatment centers for these folks who were a lot like me. I understood that many of them were using substances to block out emotional pain and repress sensitive spiritual souls. I was determined to discover what that “something more” was--not only for me but for others seeking lives that were addiction free, yet not restricted to the status quo.
This yearning led me to a path of radical transformation, reclaiming my lost soul parts through the healing power of breathwork and eventually entering the shamanic path. Through breathwork journeying I began to feel a call toward Native American, Mayan, and other indigenous teachings. A Cherokee friend and teacher encouraged me to listen to a guided journey every day with the intention of finding a grandmother spirit who could help me heal my grandmother wound and give me the guidance to truly find myself and walk my path. During one of those journeys, a Native American grandmother I had never seen before came into my vision. She held my head in her lap and stroked my hair, calling me Gentle Star Wolf. I saw her face as clear as day, and she felt incredibly real. When I came out of the journey, I was not sure if she was someone real whom I needed to find in this realm or if she was a
guide from the spirit realm.
It was to be several years until I tracked her down in the physical world--or perhaps it was she who tracked me down. One day I traveled to the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation in upstate New York. As I got out of my car, Seneca Wolf Clan Grandmother Twylah Nitsch opened the door to her back porch and walked toward me. Taking hold of my shoulders, she looked penetratingly into my eyes and said the words that would change my world forever: “What took you so long?”
I looked back at her in shock. Even though there were others close by they ceased to exist in that moment. There was only the two of us, suspended beyond time and space. The whole world went into slow motion and eventually I found my voice, saying, “It would have helped if you had told me your name and where you lived.”
“You were supposed to use your Wolf nose, eyes, and ears to sniff me out,” she said with a wry smile. Then she added, “I gave you a name. What is it?”
I answered shyly in a questioning manner, “Star Wolf?”
Her face lit up and she said very firmly, “Yes. That’s right. Now come on inside and let’s get to it.”
There have been many shamanic moments of death, rebirth, and wisdom given to me during this life journey of almost sixty years. But my epic, “no turning back” moment came that day on Grandmother Twylah’s porch when time stood still and I looked into the eyes of the woman whom I had seen in my vision. Up until that point I waivered back and forth between faith and doubt about my mystical experiences and psychic gifts. When I met Twylah, the worlds collided and all doubt fell away. From that moment forth, I was able to embrace my shamanic spirit and calling.