My grandfather armed me with a camera when I was just discovering this fascination so I suppose it was inevitable that I would become a director and as serendipity would have it, working with ENDPAIN, a brand who’s slogan is literally, “What’s Your Story?”
You can find me at http://www.tjmauck.com
Up in the hills of Malibu, surrounded by pomegranate trees and San Pedro cactus, Deborah Hanekamp, or the healer also known as Mama Medicine, calls upon the guardians of wind to bless the land that she walks upon.
“Wind in the East. I call upon you now. To bless the land, sweeping away anything that does not serve it.”
Although she speaks her requests in English, Mama Medicine’s experience in shamanic work comes from the seven years she spent studying Shamanism with a curandero in Peru. For someone that looks like Charlotte from Sex & the City, this might come as a surprise, but everything about Mama Medicine is meant to leave you struck with a bit of awe and wonder.
“Help all those that reside here to see reality beyond illusions. We call you here to teach us sacred play. Teach us to dance. And help us keep things moving.”
As her voice quiets, she returns her ceremonious rattle to a state of silence. A moment of stillness lingers over the land, as if the sparrows and bees that call Malibu their home pause to allow Mama Medicine’s words to absorb into the space, marking a new beginning for all that witnessed as Mama Medicine brings her land blessing to an end.
Today, we share our interview with Mama Medicine, where we learn more about her time spent in the Amazon, spirituality in the fashion world, and what it’s like being a female in the male-dominated world of shamanism.
Fraser Hammersly: I’m interested in hearing more about your experience meeting your curandero (what Americans would call a shaman), and your eight year apprenticeship in the Amazon. What was your first encounter meeting the shaman like? Did you feel immediately called to do it? Did you have any trepidations leaving your world in NYC to pursue an off-the-beaten-path journey?
Deborah Hanekamp: For the sake of clarity, I traveled back and forth to the Peruvian Amazon over the course of eight years. I went in between owning and operating a yoga and healing center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and spending time in the Amazon. Both places are the first places that ever felt like home to me.
I actually had two teachers. The first came to my center and after leading a ceremony there, and told me I needed to come train with him. I respectfully declined for two reasons: the first being I had just too much reverence for his work and didn't think I could ever do anything like that, and the second being that I had just opened a new business that desperately needed my attention. But after thinking about it and furring out how I could make it work, I said yes!
After years of training and traveling with my first teacher not only to Peru but all over the world, and assisting him in his ceremonies, I met his teacher, a third generation healer (shaman). The first time I met him, without him even knowing who I was, he gave me an initiation that I had been waiting for from the first (oppressive) teacher for years. He then became my true teacher. Even though I didn't get to spend as much time with him, I did stay in Peru for a while and then his house for a month with my family to spend more time with him. But as much as I love the Amazon, I have to be in NY. It is where my work is needed most.
FH: What was your day-to-day like when you lived there? It seems more and more people are becoming interested in following similar paths into the Amazon, but may be afraid to out of fear of the unknown, whether that be accommodations, foreign species, or language barriers. Did you have any issues with these?
DH: In full discretion, the Peruvian Amazon is incredibly dangerous to travel to, especially as a woman on her own. If you are planning to go there, don't go alone and triple check your references for where you are planning to visit. The jungle itself will treat you kindly if you walk in the light of love. What is really dangerous is the charlatans down there calling themselves shamans and taking advantage of all the white kids visiting in search of Ayahuasca. Women are raped often, people die and lose their minds…it’s very serious.
I think being a New Yorker and speaking Spanish (a language that I'm now unfortunately forgetting) really helped me. But I definitely had moments there where I felt unsafe. For example, when I would travel to Peru alone, while in one of the amazon port cities, my teacher used to have a man who worked for him come with me if I wanted to go to the market or grab some food because he felt I wasn't safe there.
FH: How did you progress over the eight year apprenticeship? Did you go back and forth or stay in Peru the entire time?
DH: Yes back and forth, at this point I can't remember how many times I've been to Peru.
FH: You mention in an Instagram post that your first teacher in the Amazon was oppressive due to his fear of your feminine power, and never asked you to sing. It wasn’t until his maestro asked you to sing in ceremony that you found your inner well of confidence. How has your experience been as a female in the healing world? Is the world of Amazonian shamanism typically male-dominated? Did you have other experiences with oppressive male energy as a female healer?
DH: Thank you for asking this question! In Peru, there are many female healers, but it is still very male dominated. I opened the doors to the spiritual/new-age world almost eighteen years ago. Towards the end of the older new-age movement, I was a pretty good looking young woman with no boundaries and because of that, combined with the lessons I’m meant to learn in this lifetime, ran into every kind of creep you can imagine. From yoga teachers, massage therapists, spiritual healers and shamans, I was hit on, grabbed, witnessed blatant exploitation and greed, all things I view as the shadow side of Masculine energy. So by the time I realized my first teacher was oppressive, I really wasn't that shocked. There is shadow in everything, even spiritual practices.
FH: There is so much happening in the world today around females reclaiming their power after feeling diminished. What advice or practice would you give females for embracing their inner feminine strength?
FH: I think the tendency for men to oppress female energy when it scares them is well known, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of productive dialogue around what they can do to heal. I personally think many men don’t know the tools for healing, and then it manifests negatively. What advice would you give males that, similarly to your former teacher, have a fear of feminine power?
DH: I'd try to encourage them not to be afraid of what they can't control, and that when you approach the wild (the feminine) with fear, you attract that which there is to be afraid of. I'd try to remind them that they were once wild, too.
FH: You mention in the video published on your site that you faced three traumas that led you to your awakening and taking the steps to becoming a healer. At ENDPAIN, we believe that pain is a teacher. Can you go into more detail about how these traumas led to your awakening and what they taught you?
DH: My traumas taught me independence, accountability, responsibility and the power of tapping into one’s own personal potential. I can't go into detail about exactly what they were because I believe in letting wounds heal, but this series of traumas found me on my own in the world at a young age, living in a very dangerous neighborhood, and barely making enough money to eat or get by, and in that place I had so much gratitude just to be alive having survived what I did. So really I learned immense gratitude for the life I live as well.
FH: From your perspective, what do you think is the purpose of trauma, pain, and illness?
DH: These are medicines to teach us awareness, compassion and strength.
FH: One of the things that is most interesting about you is your ability to bring opposing worlds together, and create something that is uniquely your own. You’ve been called “Fashion’s Favorite Healer” by Vogue, yet still seem very grounded in the world of spirituality. How have you found balance between the materialism of fashion and the non-materialism of the spiritual world? What relationship do you feel one has to the other?
DH: I think that the spiritual needs the material, and the material needs the spiritual. This is balance, the meeting of masculine and feminine. Fashion is something that a lot of people look to as a way to "feel better about themselves”. I'm hoping that big players in the NYC fashion world coming to see me leads to more compassion in fashion, from the way it's made to how it's advertised. I'm also hoping that the more fashion people become interested in the spiritual, the less people will feel a need to wear what I call "spiritual uniforms", while expressing themselves a bit more and bringing more self-acceptance into the both the spiritual and material worlds.
FH: Similarly, Instagram has played an integral role in the healing world in so far as spreading knowledge and connecting people to teachers, but there is also a dark side to social media that to me, feels like the opposite of connection and spirituality. What is your personal relationship to social media, and how do you keep a balanced and grounded connection to it?
DH: I view social media as a tool for spreading messages of light and love to as many people as possible, and as a way of sharing and connecting to each another. The growth I've experienced on Instagram has led to countless people who are not able to see their own value, copying me and even saying they are me. But still, I hope it's just their way of spreading light and I hope I can share enough messages of empowerment that they can see that they have a lot to share uniquely!
For me personally, I try to not spend too much time on social media and take one day off a week from even looking at my phone.
FH: I read in one of your interviews that individuals like lawyers and doctors that are otherwise very firmly in the Western world of thought have been seeking your services, and that some western doctors are actually starting to recommend patients to you. What role do you feel traditional medicine like shamanism has in western medicine and vice versa?
DH: I think that just like most traditional medicine practitioners agree allopathic Medicine is great for broken bones. People in modern medicine are (slowly) being made aware that there is more going on than what they can find in their text books, that there is a connection between mind, body, and spirit and so they are recommending people like me to help find that connection.
FH: Can you tell us any interesting anecdotes about traditional medicine working for one of your clients, after western medicine had fallen short?
I've had several clients who were sick in almost every physical way and doctors were giving them diagnosis after diagnosis that they would cling to and identify themselves with. Nine out of ten times, after spending some time with me, they are able to eat almost normally and enjoy a healthy lifestyle through getting to the root of their illness and finding compassion there.
FH: How do experience burn out from taking on and feeling the energies of others, and the world around you? How do you avoid this?
I keep myself grounded in the light of love which is all the protection I need.
FH: You state in the video on your site that you found your path as a healer not in following one or two traditions but by following the “path to me” and taking all the elements that worked for you, and amplifying them in your own unique way to create Medicine Readings and your own healing space. What advice would you give someone for finding their own “path to me”?
DH: Trust your inner voice and trust that you are enough.