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Shamanic Wisdom: The Vision Quest

Shamanic Wisdom: The Vision Quest Jan Engels-Smith

A vision quest is a Native American ceremony that, in the Lakota language, is called haŋblečeya, which means, “crying for a vision.” It is a calling out to Spirit — to God, to Great Spirit — with a request and questing for an answer. The vision quest traditionally lasts for four days and four nights. The person on the quest sits isolated, with no food or water, connected through prayer to Spirit.

Different cultures with similar intents conduct the quest with variations in time and practice. In all cases, the person on the vision quest places him- or herself in a precarious position and trusts and calls out to Spirit in a ceremonial way. Other participants remain in camp and offer support to the people on the quest. These supporters check in on the questers periodically and pray for them during their vision quest.


I took one year to prepare for my haŋblečeya. Traditionally, the seeker has a year of preparation for the actual vision quest and then a year of unfolding. I reference my quest to underscore that Creator continually teaches me about love. Unconditional love is the basis of the universe and spirituality, but too many humans have no experience of love without conditions. In our society, love often has strings attached.