Amongst my many spiritual encounters, those with the Wild People hold a special place in my heart. Bigfoot and the Yeti are perhaps the best known of these but there are many others. Some of those searching for them are looking for a great ape but this is a mistake, they are people. This is why I don’t consider them as power animals. The traditional words for them make this very clear. Yeti means ‘mountain man’ in Nepalese. Almas means ‘wild-man’ in Mongolian and Sasquatch comes from the Salish sésquac, again meaning ‘wild-man’. It is clear that the various peoples that came in contact with them did not regard them as animals in the traditional sense. It was in 1953 that Sir Edmund Hillary brought the Yeti to the attention of the wider world, after he came across large footprints in the snow, at high altitudes in the Himalayas. Likewise, it was through the Patterson-Gimlin film, in 1967, that Bigfoot entered into popular culture. Yet reports of these cryptid hominids are by no means a new phenomena. There are many tales of wild people from all over the world, including Europe, going back hundreds of years. In the Pyrénées mountains close to my home, there are many such stories. This region has many well-documented cases not only of Wild People but also feral children. The inhabitants of the area have historically lived in close proximity to bears up until recent times and knew well the difference between a bear, a feral child and a Wild Person. As recently as 1993 we have the following account.
‘A group of speleologists prepared to spend the night at the ruins of a church near Collada de Vallgrasa in the Catalan Pyrenees Mountain Range of Spain. They heard strange noises resembling those of an enraged cat. When they came close to the church’s large doorway, the scientists saw a frightened, weird, shaggy creature, approximately 1.5 meters flee from the building. He was of enormous bulk. The wild man appeared again in the woods between Farga de Bebié and Ripoll (Gerona). Two hairy beings pounced on two paleontologists then ran away from them.’37
In France we see again, that the traditional words for these beings indicate that they are people. In the Haute Ariège the Occitan word for the wild man is omé pelut, which means ‘hairy man’. It is surely no coincidence that the Yokuts of California called the being today popularly known as Bigfoot, ‘Hairy Man’. On the Tule River Indian reservation in the Sierra Nevada foothills there is a site called Painted Rock. In a rock shelter amongst pictographs of various animals is a depiction of a Hairy Man family. The Hairy Man himself is eight and a half feet tall, the mother six feet tall and the child four feet tall. These pictographs are approximately one thousand years old. The Tule River Indians have confirmed that Hairy Man and Bigfoot are one and the same being.
I’m not going to discuss here the evidence for the physical existence of these beings, as there is a vast amount of research available on this subject and my interest is primarily in their spiritual aspect. I am however, personally convinced, that they are here with us in ordinary-reality. They do most certainly exist in non-ordinary reality and my own experiences with them lead me to believe that they have a special relationship with shamans.
To this day Hairy Man remains of great cultural importance to the Tule River Indians as protector, healer and guide to the next world. It is therefore not surprising that tribal elders have been reluctant to talk too much about this. However, we do know that among the Yokut, Hairy Man was indeed connected to the shamans, but that a Hairy Man shaman was extremely rare and unusual. The subject of a Hairy Man shaman was in itself very sensitive and so little is known about what specific powers such a shaman might have had. The elders told just one story, in which Hairy Man comes to give his healing power to the shaman. In the story Hairy Man insists that the power he will convey must only be used to cure and never to cause harm. It was also said that the shaman would make an amulet in Hairy Man’s likeness, swallow it and use Hairy Man as a bringer of dreams. It was in the world of dreams, journeys and visions that the Wild People initiated contact with me.
Of these Wild People it is the Sasquatch and the Almas that have honoured me with their presence. I sense that Sasquatch is connected to the Native-American medicine man aspect of my udha. I first encountered Sasquatch in a shamanic journey. He was eight or nine feet tall, he bent down on one knee to look at me. Later, in a vision, as I stood facing the woods, a large creature walked upright through the trees in front of me. There was not much space between the trees, it was like watching a shadow repeatedly emerging then disappearing. I could see thick dark hair and sensed great power. It then stepped out into a clearing, it was Sasquatch and he turned to face me. Although he exuded tremendous physical strength, he showed no aggression and I felt no fear. It felt like he was simply presenting his existence to me. Then, I was given some special green herbs and plants and told that they were for contacting or shapeshifting into Sasquatch. I went deep into some forest caves and found him sleeping. I stroked his face with the plants and he opened his mouth revealing formidable white teeth. Somehow, I knew I must put my hand into his mouth, to show trust. I did and he opened his eyes and gave me a vision, showing that we have a deep connection, that part of me is in fact Sasquatch. I found myself in a primeval forest of very tall straight trees. Through the trees I could see a large rounded green mound, covered in moss and grass. I could see that my arms and hands were covered in thick hair. There was no sound or thought, just utter stillness of mind and environment, I was aware that this was home and I was my ancient Sasquatch self.
The Almas are the Wild People of Central Asia and Southern Mongolia. Many stories come from the Altai Mountains, again re-enforcing the link with shamans, as the Siberians say it was there, that all shamanism originated. Local children are said to often see Almas children and that there is no fear between them. The Almas are certainly connected to the Siberian shaman aspect of my udha. They came to me after a time of great stress when my two-month old puppy, Duncan, nearly died. The spirits certainly played a big role in his healing and when he was better, I went out and did a ceremony, singing out my heartfelt thanks. That night the spirits responded with a spectacular display. It began as a dream where I found myself standing in the kitchen of our house with Michèle. Suddenly I became aware of a figure standing against the glass double doors that lead onto the patio. I felt a sense of recognition, and shouted to Michèle, ‘look, they’re back!’ This brought me into a shamanic state of consciousness, a state of total awareness in which I was fully immersed within the vision and I was filled with wonder and excitement. The being at the window was about five feet tall and of a squat muscular build with no neck. It had its back turned to us revealing a body covered entirely in short grey-blue hair. Although I was behind it, I could simultaneously see its face, which was hairless with a sloping brow. It was like a small wild-man, a miniature Sasquatch and I ‘knew’ absolutely this was one of the Almas. Then I saw three other figures, also about five feet tall but these were wearing shaman costumes. No part of their bodies was visible, the costumes covered their faces down to their feet. The costumes had ribbons in the colours of the rainbow on them, like those used by Siberian shamans. They each held drums, and as they drummed they spun around, the ribbons swirling around them. Three Siberian, Almas shamans, drumming and whirling like dervishes on my terrace!
The height and build of these shaman Almas corresponds to the traditional descriptions of them being between five and six and a half feet tall, not gargantuan like Sasquatch. It has been suggested by the great cryptozoologist Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, that the Almas may be a surviving population of homo erectus. Not only do the caves of my region contain some of the worlds oldest shamanic art but they have also yielded a treasure trove of hominid fossils. Of particular note was the discovery of Tautavel Man a species of homo erectus living four hundred and fifty thousand years ago, the ancestor of the Neanderthals. Some reconstructions of Tautavel Man do match very closely the appearance of my Almas. I think the Almas came to me, as they have such a close connection to the region where I live, they too are of this place and are still here, at least in spirit form.
Being somewhere between the animals and us, the Wild Peoples are in a sense, like shamans, between worlds. For me they are my shaman ancestors. The message I receive from them is, we are a part of you, that you have forgotten, and need to remember.