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Awareness Magazine
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What a Seneca Elder Taught Me about Places of Emergence

By Glenn Schiffman


In May of 1942 my Soul was prayed forth from the Earth’s core. It emerged by a brook in a glen above a waterfall that drops into the south-fork of the Cattaraugus River in western New York State. Instantly my Soul joined my body, then a fetus 200 miles away, and 335 days later my body was birthed.

I grew up in a town bordering the Cattaraugus Seneca Indian Reservation where my father was a chaplain at the Orphanage/Indian School. One of the reservation’s traditional Wolf Clan Mothers treated me as an adoptive son, and one of the most profound lessons she taught me is that every mortal Soul is a “Prayer of the Living Earth.”

The Seneca Nation (aka Iroquois, Keepers of the Western Fire of the People of the Longhouse) believes that we are each a radiant inspiration empowered with the efficacy to be compassionate, faithful, grateful and “knowing” (the innate ability to grow with wisdom). When the Earth “prays” human beings into existence, the place where each individual Soul emerges from the Earth is considered to be our personal Place of Emergence. The Seneca also believe that their entire tribe has a Place of Emergence from which they emerged through the Earth in the distant past.

At age 12, I left my Seneca Wolf Clan teachers but thirty years later I returned, thinking I had come full-circle. The same Wolf Clan Mother who had taught me so much as a young boy received me as an adult with open arms. Then she said that until I placed an offering at my Soul’s Place of Emergence I would not “feel whole.”

She told me where and how to look for that special place: “Tread lightly,” she cautioned. “The Souls of future generations will be watching from within the Earth.”

After my first journey to my Soul’s Place of Emergence, I asked her, “Why is my Soul’s birthplace in Western New York State while my body’s birthplace was in Eastern Pennsylvania?”

My Wolf Clan Mother passed me a hand-drum and told me to hold it close to my ear. Then she picked up a drumstick and firmly struck a large powwow drum beside her just once. My small drum reverberated in response to the boom of that big drum.

“Your Soul knows,“ she whispered. “One moon after you were conceived, your heart started beating. Like your drum responding to my drum, your heart responded to your mother’s heartbeat and your Soul entered your body.

“Our Souls are a radiant pulse of the Earth,” she continued, “only it’s a heat-wave, not a sound. For every Soul-bundle prayed by the Earth, a brand new beating heart echoes the lineage of mothers’ heartbeats from the dawn of time, calling that Soul forth. Doesn’t matter where you are or where the Place of Emergence is. It’s a resonance outside time and space.”

“What happens to our Souls when we die?” I wondered.

An Old Woman waits as Gatekeeper to the Lodge of Creating. When Death drops your Soul off at the drop-edge of yonder, she will ask, ‘Who do you think you are?’ If you answer with a name, an identity, the door remains closed. Answer ‘No Body,’ perhaps she will open the door. Your best answer is silence, the language of Spirit. But even then the

Old Woman sends most Souls back to the center of the Earth to get re-heated, to become new intentions and join new physical envelopes. In that way, our Eternal Souls experience another round as prayers of the Earth Mother, another opportunity to live as compassionate, faithful, grateful and wise Human Beings in mortal bodies.”

“Sounds like reincarnation,” I replied. “Yes and no. There’s always a balance, always the other side of the coin. Half of those sent back are trouble-makers. They don’t think that they have anything more to learn and resent being prayed forth again. Often they just muscle in on a newborn and cause turmoil — or even force out the fetal-heartbeat Soul. They are easy to spot because they are not grounded or they are full of themselves. How we deal with those lost souls, if they are willing, we take them to a Burning Water lodge. Burning Water lodges are also Places of Emergence. They strip away identity and touch our Soul-Beings.”

Having been in many Burning Water lodges (aka stone people’s lodges or sweat lodges), I asked with some hesitation: “Am I one of those lost souls?”

“Don’t worry,” she smiled. “I knew you were a prayer of the Earth the first time I met you. It’s good to see you again. Welcome home!”


Author-storyteller, ceremonialist and “soul coach” Glenn Schiffman’s first novel “The Way I Was Taught” (Amazon bestseller) was inspired by his childhood as a preacher’s son in Upstate New York where he was “taught” by Seneca elders. Glenn holds a Masters in Spiritual Psychology (USM) and offers guidance “around the fire” to veterans, couples and spiritual seekers. He is a co-founder of Western Gates Roots&Wings Foundation ( which provides Rites of Passage and programs for youth and veterans. For more information, visit: