A Shamanic New Year Ritual for Creating Change

The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to make life changes, clarify new commitments, and set new goals. Before I started working with the shamans of Peru, I didn’t have a method of doing this. I would think about what I wanted to change and maybe tell a friend, but after a little while, I’d fall back into my old patterns.

But in studying the shamanic tradition, I learned ways to shift how I think and act, and ceremonies to help change stick. Through these ancient teachings, I discovered brand-new ways of seeing the world.

The Peruvian shamans see the world through three lenses: the trilogy of Serpent, Jaguar, and Condor.

  • Serpent teaches us to shed our skin and let go of the past. It tells us that it’s possible to change and that things don’t need to stay the same. Serpent keeps us grounded, and encourages us to take one step at a time.
  • Jaguar is the most powerful and stealthiest animal in the jungle of South America. It teaches us to live without fear, in this world and the next. It tells us to tread gently, with sensitivity and clarity. It also reminds us that it holds tremendous power in its claws. Jaguar sets boundaries and moves gracefully through the jungles of life.
  • Condor teaches us how to fly above and see the larger picture of our life. With that view, we can make better, more informed decisions. Condor teaches us how to think and plan ahead.

To set New Year’s intentions with that trilogy in mind, we begin by letting go of the previous way of being in order to open space for the new one. For that, we need Serpent. To move into this new way of being, we need the courage of Jaguar. And in order to manifest it, we need Condor to help us see the greater picture.

Serpent: A Cord-Cutting Ritual

Sometimes what holds us back are previous relationships that need to be shed like the serpent’s skin. Old patterns are related to relationships from the past and may also be triggered by relationships in the present. This ritual is for cutting the energetic cord holding you to someone who brings you back to old behaviors.

  • Light a candle, incense, or sage, and create a sacred space; you might want to try this shamanic practice to create a space for ceremony.
  • Have a friend enter the sacred space to stand in front of you and be the witness to your cord cutting.
  • When you’re ready, say the name of the person, adding “I set you free.” Have your friend raise their hand and bring it down in front of you in a cutting motion.
  • As you repeat the name and the phrase “I set you free,” have your friend come to your right side, then behind you, then to your left, repeating the cutting motion each time you say the phrase.
  • Once your friend has cut all the cords from all four sides, bow to your friend, thanking them for assisting you to walk free.

With the energy you have acquired from cord cutting, you will have the power to act in a new way.

Jaguar: A Visualization to Connect with Your Spirit Animal

Connecting with your spirit animal is like establishing an ally that can support you as you seek clarity. Try this practice of visualization to access your power animal.

  • In the same sacred space, lie down on a yoga mat and come into Savasana (Corpse pose).
  • As the nervous system calms and you enter a state of meditative rest, invite in your power animal. Envision yourself walking in a forest or through a jungle. You can feel that there is someone looking at you. Your power animal has arrived. Look behind you and see who it is.
  • Ask your power animal to help you with your new decisions: “Dear power animal, how are you going to help me with making this change?” Listen closely, and make sure to write down the answer you received.

Condor: A Meditation to Rise Above Triggers and Patterns

  • Sit in a meditation posture in front of your candle.
  • Close your eyes and see yourself flying high above.
  • Use the ability of the condor to see yourself in the future. See yourself shine as a result of your new way of being. See where the change will bring you, and how you will feel in this new place.

If you find yourself feeling triggered at any moment, remember that you can rise above like a condor and see the bigger picture. This allows you to stay connected with your true self and keep your heart open— just as Condor spreads its wings wide open, flying wing to wing with the Great Spirit.

Ray Crist, a Kripalu Yoga teacher and shaman’s apprentice, teaches how to use yoga and shamanism to live a balanced, empowered life.

Full Bio and Programs