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  • 2 seeking spiritual enlightenment die in new-age sweat lodge

    2 seeking spiritual enlightenment die in new-age sweat lodge


    Suzanne Herel, Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writers
    Thursday, June 27, 2002
    ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

    URL: http://www.sfgate.com/


    Before embarking on an intense spiritual retreat last week, Kirsten "Kris" Babcock gave each of her closest friends a handwritten note describing her impending death.

    She was talking in symbolic terms -- or so she thought.

    In an eerily tragic turn of events, Babcock did not survive the "death sweat" she wrote about -- a ceremony intended to be the first step toward spiritual enlightenment as part of a new-age program called vision quest.

    Babcock, 34, of Redding and fellow seeker David Thomas Hawker, 36, of Union City died early Friday after spending more than an hour in a sweat lodge constructed of branches, plastic sheathing and blankets on a remote ranch in El Dorado County. Two others, a man and a woman, survived.

    Police are trying to determine whether the deaths were caused by poor ventilation or a toxic substance poured on hot rocks.

    Autopsies have been completed, but toxicology results could take eight weeks, said Lt. Kevin House of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.

    The weeklong retreat was timed to honor the summer solstice and was sponsored by Kokopelli Ranch, comprising 40 verdant acres nestled in the vineyards of the Shenandoah Valley and run by the Shamanic Fellowship.

    The fellowship was formed in 1994 "to develop a sacred and safe place for people to experience and practice shamanic principles in their day-to-day lives," according to the ranch's Web site.

    No one at the ranch returned phone calls or e-mail messages this week.

    Babcock had invited 10 friends and family members to join her at the ranch for the final weekend, which for her was to include four hours in the sweat lodge and 48 hours alone in the woods.

    In her five-page note, she requested that her supporters camp far away from the "death lodge" because of the disturbing noises they might hear.

    Babcock expected to emerge from the lodge around dawn, at which time she would paint her face black and participate in an "owl dance."

    "The owls cut our ties to this world and send us to the other side," she wrote. "The rock pile is our symbolic grave. . . . When I cross the rock pile, people will grieve my going over. Don't be surprised if/when people call out for me not to go and if it feels real."

    Dale McDonald, his fiancee, Tonya, and his 14-year-old daughter were among Babcock's supporters.

    "We had been warned that there would be bizarre sounds, wailing," he said in a telephone interview. "We were camped less than a quarter of a mile away. .

    . . We couldn't sleep."

    Shortly after 4 a.m., Cina Hines, Babcock's domestic partner, came to them, he said.

    "She called out our names and said, 'Wake up. Kris is dead,' " McDonald said. "We thought it was part of the script. And she said, 'No, she's really dead.' . . . We had to go see the body to make sure."

    Witnesses told police that Aimee Phelps, one of the participants, had crawled out of the lodge shortly before 4 a.m., dizzy and vomiting.

    Soon, the chanting from inside ceased, and someone went in to find Babcock and Hawker dead and another man unconscious. By the time emergency personnel arrived, the surviving man had come to on his own.

    Police are looking into witness reports that Hawker sprinkled something on the hot rocks that gave a strong metallic odor. The two survivors could not be reached for comment.

    The other participants didn't know much about Hawker, McDonald said. While they had invited friends and family to join them at the ranch, Hawker was alone.

    Hawker's friends described him as a spiritual person who had been looking forward to the vision quest.

    "He was happier than anyone I've ever known," longtime friend Ken Mitchell said of the recently unemployed electrical engineer.

    Mitchell said Hawker was not new to the sweat lodge ritual.

    "He's done it before, and it was very intense, and he enjoyed it," he said. "It was a cleansing thing."

    Last Thursday, before the sweat lodge session, the questers sponsored a "giveaway dinner," in which they honored their supporters with small gifts. Babcock gave each of her friends a cake of soap she had made by hand.

    McDonald said Hawker gave the organizers crystals that struck sparks when he banged them together. He promised his fellow questers that he had a gift for them, too.

    "He said, 'I can't give it to you now, but I'll give it to you on the other side when we know ourselves and each other better,' " McDonald said.

    Then, McDonald said, Hawker raised his fist to his chest and said, "It's a good day to die."

    It struck many as bizarre, McDonald said, but many similar things were being said that night, including McDonald's words to Babcock, just before she entered the lodge.

    "I said, 'Die well, Kris.' And she said, 'That seems very apropos.' " McDonald said. "It was a beautiful moment."

    E-mail Suzanne Herel at [email protected] and Matthew B. Stannard at [email protected].

    ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle. Page A - 15

  • #2
    Originally posted by CrazyLittleIrishGirl
    2 seeking spiritual enlightenment die in new-age sweat lodge


    Suzanne Herel, Matthew B. Stannard, Chronicle Staff Writers
    Thursday, June 27, 2002
    ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle.

    URL: http://www.sfgate.com/


    Before embarking on an intense spiritual retreat last week, Kirsten "Kris" Babcock gave each of her closest friends a handwritten note describing her impending death.

    She was talking in symbolic terms -- or so she thought.

    In an eerily tragic turn of events, Babcock did not survive the "death sweat" she wrote about -- a ceremony intended to be the first step toward spiritual enlightenment as part of a new-age program called vision quest.

    Babcock, 34, of Redding and fellow seeker David Thomas Hawker, 36, of Union City died early Friday after spending more than an hour in a sweat lodge constructed of branches, plastic sheathing and blankets on a remote ranch in El Dorado County. Two others, a man and a woman, survived.

    Police are trying to determine whether the deaths were caused by poor ventilation or a toxic substance poured on hot rocks.

    Autopsies have been completed, but toxicology results could take eight weeks, said Lt. Kevin House of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department.

    The weeklong retreat was timed to honor the summer solstice and was sponsored by Kokopelli Ranch, comprising 40 verdant acres nestled in the vineyards of the Shenandoah Valley and run by the Shamanic Fellowship.

    The fellowship was formed in 1994 "to develop a sacred and safe place for people to experience and practice shamanic principles in their day-to-day lives," according to the ranch's Web site.

    No one at the ranch returned phone calls or e-mail messages this week.

    Babcock had invited 10 friends and family members to join her at the ranch for the final weekend, which for her was to include four hours in the sweat lodge and 48 hours alone in the woods.

    In her five-page note, she requested that her supporters camp far away from the "death lodge" because of the disturbing noises they might hear.

    Babcock expected to emerge from the lodge around dawn, at which time she would paint her face black and participate in an "owl dance."

    "The owls cut our ties to this world and send us to the other side," she wrote. "The rock pile is our symbolic grave. . . . When I cross the rock pile, people will grieve my going over. Don't be surprised if/when people call out for me not to go and if it feels real."

    Dale McDonald, his fiancee, Tonya, and his 14-year-old daughter were among Babcock's supporters.

    "We had been warned that there would be bizarre sounds, wailing," he said in a telephone interview. "We were camped less than a quarter of a mile away. .

    . . We couldn't sleep."

    Shortly after 4 a.m., Cina Hines, Babcock's domestic partner, came to them, he said.

    "She called out our names and said, 'Wake up. Kris is dead,' " McDonald said. "We thought it was part of the script. And she said, 'No, she's really dead.' . . . We had to go see the body to make sure."

    Witnesses told police that Aimee Phelps, one of the participants, had crawled out of the lodge shortly before 4 a.m., dizzy and vomiting.

    Soon, the chanting from inside ceased, and someone went in to find Babcock and Hawker dead and another man unconscious. By the time emergency personnel arrived, the surviving man had come to on his own.

    Police are looking into witness reports that Hawker sprinkled something on the hot rocks that gave a strong metallic odor. The two survivors could not be reached for comment.

    The other participants didn't know much about Hawker, McDonald said. While they had invited friends and family to join them at the ranch, Hawker was alone.

    Hawker's friends described him as a spiritual person who had been looking forward to the vision quest.

    "He was happier than anyone I've ever known," longtime friend Ken Mitchell said of the recently unemployed electrical engineer.

    Mitchell said Hawker was not new to the sweat lodge ritual.

    "He's done it before, and it was very intense, and he enjoyed it," he said. "It was a cleansing thing."

    Last Thursday, before the sweat lodge session, the questers sponsored a "giveaway dinner," in which they honored their supporters with small gifts. Babcock gave each of her friends a cake of soap she had made by hand.

    McDonald said Hawker gave the organizers crystals that struck sparks when he banged them together. He promised his fellow questers that he had a gift for them, too.

    "He said, 'I can't give it to you now, but I'll give it to you on the other side when we know ourselves and each other better,' " McDonald said.

    Then, McDonald said, Hawker raised his fist to his chest and said, "It's a good day to die."

    It struck many as bizarre, McDonald said, but many similar things were being said that night, including McDonald's words to Babcock, just before she entered the lodge.

    "I said, 'Die well, Kris.' And she said, 'That seems very apropos.' " McDonald said. "It was a beautiful moment."

    E-mail Suzanne Herel at [email protected] and Matthew B. Stannard at [email protected].

    ©2002 San Francisco Chronicle. Page A - 15
    now what you need to do is call make sure they are still functioning cause some of these things are fly by night operations....call 1-888-ART-FAKE report these kind of activities...they can put a stop to things like this......

    Comment


    • #3
      See, why do people think it's okay to mess with our ways? We are smart enough not to run into their churches and drink ourselves to death on their "blood of christ".

      Comment


      • #4
        holy chyt ... what heck is a death sweat? dumb azzzez for sure ...

        lol at drink yourself to death on the "blood of christ"

        or maybe choke on the "body of christ" lol

        ... who the heck "wails" and "bizarre sounds" in the sweatlodge? and really tellin ppl to ignore the cries for help ... come on now
        Watch your broken dreams...
        Dance in and out of the beams of a neon moon

        Comment


        • #5
          This is waaay inappropriate, given the circumstances, but I feel an ugly urge to giggle madly....isn't that sick? I hate it when Irony smacks you in the face like that...

          Actually, I feel pretty bad for the poor souls totally led astray like that! These were people who probably threw their heart and soul into this, thinking it would bring them enlightenment...they should have threw their brain into the mix....

          This is a very tragic reminder to all you Wannabees...you really don't know what you are messing with ANY of our ceremonies...there is a very significant reason why Natives have deep, DEEP respect for these things...there are spirits working in a manner that noone alive has complete knowledge of...Our medicine men take on a great burden of responsibility to learn how to deal with our ceremonies in the correct way...it's not a game, it's not Fantasy Island...if you play with it, you might get more than you bargained for....

          "Death Sweat"...my god, how tragically stupid
          Ipsica Waci
          Wicahpi Eyoyambya Olowan

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by wiyan
            This is waaay inappropriate, given the circumstances, but I feel an ugly urge to giggle madly....isn't that sick? I hate it when Irony smacks you in the face like that...

            Actually, I feel pretty bad for the poor souls totally led astray like that! These were people who probably threw their heart and soul into this, thinking it would bring them enlightenment...they should have threw their brain into the mix....

            This is a very tragic reminder to all you Wannabees...you really don't know what you are messing with ANY of our ceremonies...there is a very significant reason why Natives have deep, DEEP respect for these things...there are spirits working in a manner that noone alive has complete knowledge of...Our medicine men take on a great burden of responsibility to learn how to deal with our ceremonies in the correct way...it's not a game, it's not Fantasy Island...if you play with it, you might get more than you bargained for....

            "Death Sweat"...my god, how tragically stupid


            I was in a death sweat once... It was amazing, smelled like pork rinds... I mean, it was a ghastly smell... I never could figure out why the ojibwei guy next to me kept laughin.... Oh well, there was probably some nitros in the ham he was eatin all night....


            lol, okay, I know some of you found it funny...

            I agree that it serves them right, but also, if you read it right, it kinda sounds like a murder/suicide type thing, I don't think I've ever smelled anything metallic coming from the rocks? A few times my nostrils have been burnt from the heat, but, nothing that serious... Never fainted in it before, but have been there when others have, wasn't that big of a deal...

            A message to the wannabe's - If you wanna sweat, do some yard work... Leave the medicine alone, you might end up throwing something on the rocks you shouldn't, like bleach....


            freakin morons...
            AIM: GlacierESteffan
            Yahoo: low_rdr
            ICQ: 45338941
            MSN: [email protected]

            Comment


            • #7
              No one could have said it better. Thank you Wiyan.

              Comment


              • #8
                sad tragic event - iwas her partner

                I was with Kris for 4 years...I understand the distaste and anger towards the group and people that participated and died in this ceremony. And I am truly sorry. Kris meant no disrespect for native culture - she wasnt trying to do anything wrong...unfortunately she died.
                The story is much more complicated than the original newspaper article. She studied with the Kokopelli/Shamanic Fellowship for a little over a year- she had sweat at least 4 times before this "ceremony" - I too had participated but decided not to participate in the "vision quest" because of my own issues and I didnt want to be a hypocrite---Kris was very respectful in the little bit that she knew.
                The most blasphemous part of this whole tragedy and the source of my hurt and anger is at the group who put this on- they did not stand up and try to support the families of the deceased - they only were concerned for themselves- how embarrassing and awful to have "studied" and believed they were good people who would practice what they preached.
                And I have heard that after 2 years they started doing the ceremony again - OH HOW I PRAY THAT NO ONE ELSE GETS HURT!!!
                Again I am so sorry for how this looks - if anyone has specific questions just write me- I am now healing - but it has been very hard for me to understand all of this.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Lakota Wiyan
                  This is waaay inappropriate, given the circumstances, but I feel an ugly urge to giggle madly....isn't that sick? I hate it when Irony smacks you in the face like that...

                  Actually, I feel pretty bad for the poor souls totally led astray like that! These were people who probably threw their heart and soul into this, thinking it would bring them enlightenment...they should have threw their brain into the mix....

                  This is a very tragic reminder to all you Wannabees...you really don't know what you are messing with ANY of our ceremonies...there is a very significant reason why Natives have deep, DEEP respect for these things...there are spirits working in a manner that noone alive has complete knowledge of...Our medicine men take on a great burden of responsibility to learn how to deal with our ceremonies in the correct way...it's not a game, it's not Fantasy Island...if you play with it, you might get more than you bargained for....

                  "Death Sweat"...my god, how tragically stupid
                  I could not have said it better myself! Non-Natives need to research and connect to there own pre-Christian histories and traditions and stop messing with things they don't understand and have no connection to. This incident demonstrates how lost and misguided some individuals are.
                  "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
                  "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by lucybean
                    I was with Kris for 4 years...I understand the distaste and anger towards the group and people that participated and died in this ceremony. And I am truly sorry. Kris meant no disrespect for native culture - she wasnt trying to do anything wrong...unfortunately she died.
                    The story is much more complicated than the original newspaper article. She studied with the Kokopelli/Shamanic Fellowship for a little over a year- she had sweat at least 4 times before this "ceremony" - I too had participated but decided not to participate in the "vision quest" because of my own issues and I didnt want to be a hypocrite---Kris was very respectful in the little bit that she knew.
                    The most blasphemous part of this whole tragedy and the source of my hurt and anger is at the group who put this on- they did not stand up and try to support the families of the deceased - they only were concerned for themselves- how embarrassing and awful to have "studied" and believed they were good people who would practice what they preached.
                    And I have heard that after 2 years they started doing the ceremony again - OH HOW I PRAY THAT NO ONE ELSE GETS HURT!!!
                    Again I am so sorry for how this looks - if anyone has specific questions just write me- I am now healing - but it has been very hard for me to understand all of this.
                    I am sorry for your loss and for the tragic death of your friend. Please understand that from my point of view what you describe is very disrespectful and sounds more like a type of cult or mind control group. When a person is so empty inside and desperate for connection to something, anything then they become dangerously gullible to manipulation. Please be careful in the future and warn others away from the type of groups/activities you described.
                    "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible"
                    "You cannot give the people who have wronged you so much power that they take away your dreams"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I agree with all the native people! You wannabees think you know more about our ways and think that you have the rights to perform it as we do. You Don't!! We were taught from our ancestors. We keep these things sacred becouse it brings us closer to our creator and helps us maintain our lifes in a good way (the traditional way).
                      For all the future wannabees.......stay with your own traditions and leave ours alone!!!
                      Learn from the ones that has past on!
                      Yelloweyes Sr.Yelloweyes Sr.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        So sad, but many whites have no pre-christian roots

                        Many white people are so hungry spiritually that they become victims of folks like this. And finding their pre-christian roots are just not that easy. Druidry and Celticism are undergoing revivalism but it is like studying dry bones, everything is based on stories recorded by Catholic priests. If native peoples had to put their belief system back together from the writing of the enemies, how easy would it be to do?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Easier that you probably realize since NA is rich in the tradition of oral history. Knowledge and beliefs are passed down that way, and not so much written.
                          Take nothing for granted. Life can change irrevocably in a heartbeat.

                          I will not feed the troll-well, I will try.

                          Comment

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