I am writing to tell you of a woman most of you have likely never heard of. This woman was a lion, a powerful teacher, magician, priestess, and a force to be reckoned with. Her name is Shakmah Winddrum. She passed from her body into the Eternal Light and Unfolding Darkness, surrounded by friends and family at 8:05 est in Philadelphia.
Shakmah was friend and teacher to many other powerful teachers, priests, and priestesses of many magical traditions, some of whom you may have heard, and others who work quietly, with small groups, moving toward spiritual evolution. Her influence is both deep and broad. I feel grateful to have been touched by her wisdom, guided by her in visions and dreams, and though I never formally studied with her, I sense the ways in which the stream of her magic and mine flow along similar pathways. She gave her life over to her magic, and to seeking the mystery, even allowing her body to become subsumed by this. Though that last is not my way, I am grateful that Shakmah remained true to her vision, even unto her transition from this manifest world we know and love.
There are many stories to be told of Shakmah – her laughter, her sharp teaching anger, her great compassion, her quick mind, her deep discernment – but I will leave that for those who knew her best. To do ritual in her presence was to have been touched by a great wind and a mighty hand. Some of the stories you can glean from the following biographical sketch, that was written for one of her workshops. I had thought to print snippets from it, but the whole tells such a story, I have left it as is:
Shakmah is the Director of The New Seed Sanctuary in Philadelphia, where those who seek the path of the ancient mysteries and mystical knowledge of traditional religions are trained.
Her initial training in the Occult Sciences included apprenticing in the Haitian Tradition. She is a trained Cosmic Mediator, an experienced psychic, and an ordained priest in the Liberal Catholic and the Ethiopian Coptic Churches.
Born Anna Louise Layton in Chester, Pennsylvania, Shakmah comes from a strong matriarchal family line that emphasized respect for all peoples and traditions. She traveled extensively in her youth and followed a traditional path that led to an undergraduate and master’s degree from Penn State University; marriage; motherhood; and a job in public education as a teacher and dance coordinator for the school district of Philadelphia.
A vacation to Haiti in 1963 provided Shakmah with an introduction to the mysteries of Haitian spirituality. Her experiences made such a profound impression on her that for the next 18 years she devoted herself to the study and practice of Haitian religious traditions. Shakmah’s understanding and appreciation for the ‘many paths to God’ grew during her travels to the continents of Africa, South America and Central America. In each country she visited she was drawn to learn about and experience the spiritual practices of that country’s ancient civilizations whose beliefs she seemed to recall.
In 1987, Shakmah founded The New Seed Sanctuary, a contacted mystery school that has been divinely called to help bridge today’s gap in understanding of the ancient spiritual mysteries through education. Shakmah offers programs and workshops for spiritual evolution and personal development. She is a revered master teacher who opens hearts and minds to the wisdom of Spirit through her teachings.
Shakmah is a powerful ceremonial magician, blending spiritual practices from Eastern, Western, and African traditions in her extraordinary rituals. She is a practitioner of the ancient Hebrew Solomonic Tradition, which honors Kabalistic philosophy and the Divine feminine.
Other accomplishments include: Doña ordainment as a Priest in the Liberal Catholic Church; Archbishop in the Ethiopian Coptic Church; Mambo from the Voudon Tradition; ordainment as a Minister in the Universal Life Church. She has been the subject of a BBC documentary called “Divine Magic” which aired on the Discovery Channel. Shakmah is a sought-after lecturer, she shares her expertise with spiritual communities around the world through workshops, consultations and ceremonial practices.
As a true healer of souls, Shakmah lives to teach a level of love, knowledge and wisdom that is not often found in the world today.
The last time I saw Shakmah was almost precisely one year ago, when I was invited to teach at New Seed. I was blessed to offer her some healing work to give respite to her body, as her spirit worked between the planes, half here and halfway in a place I could touch only the edges of. That Sunday, I had a group of people chanting, singing, and dancing. I asked some of her priestesses if they thought she could come down to join us, so we could surround her with the energy of life. It was agreed, and she was slowly brought into the main room of the grand old house in Philadelphia, her wheelchair rolled into the heart of our circle. We re-centered ourselves and began again. As we moved in and out around her, she began to chant with us, “Heya, Inanna, Hail to the Queen of Heaven!” The energy rose and fell along with our voices. By the time we closed, she was fully in her body, lucid, and temporarily free of pain. She blessed us all, gifting us with the power of her great love.
Shakmah, I will never forget you prowling my visions in the night, and sending me the blessing of the winged lion in my dreams. The lock of his mane is kept close to my heart. May your lion heart remain beating with us, as we face the tasks that are yet to come.
Hail, Teacher! Hail Bright One! Hail and Farewell!
(I send blessings to all the priestesses, priests, and teachers you leave behind. I wish strength, ease, and healing to New Seed Sanctuary, and gratitude to your spiritual heirs who carry on your work, in particular Lyratah Barrett, who has the direct charge of being primary vessel of the teachings.)