Our Teachers and Faculty

Mr. Cowan is best known for making accessible two treasures: the indigenous Huichol shamanistic tradition of Mexico and an approach to deep healing with the spirits of plants. The wisdom and medicine of the Huichol people are thriving in the Sierra Madre, but they had been largely inaccessible to outsiders until Eliot Cowan received initiation as a medicine man and guide to apprentices in that tradition.

Mr. Cowan is now recognized as a Tsaurirrikame or elder medicine man in the Huichol tradition. He has trained and initiated over twenty-five medicine people who are helping their clients in the U.S and other countries.

After 10 years of successful practice of acupuncture, Eliot wedded shamanistic approaches with Chinese Medicine to give new life to an ancient form of healing which he calls “Plant Spirit Medicine”. He is also the author of the book by the same name, “Plant Spirit Medicine

Today Eliot serves his people as a healer, counselor, teacher, public speaker, guide to apprentices, ceremonial leader and worker in support of the Sacred Fire Community, the Huichol Community of San Andres Cohamiata, and Blue Deer Center.

Read a recent interview with Eliot about his traditional healing work.

Read about the Pilgrimage Offer.

While living in Mexico in the mid-’90s an apparition appeared to Don David Wiley, later to be recognized by indigenous Nahua and Huichol elders, as the Spirit of Fire who asked him to become a shaman. Not that he was looking for this or even knew what one was. However, he accepted because of the astonishing and undeniable miracle that was present before him. David would learn that this was because he had a unique combination of qualities and skillsets Grandfather Fire needed to help fulfill a monumental task:

"Reach out to the people of your modern world and provide help while teaching how to live life more aligned with Spirit and the nature of the world through awareness, connection, and engagement.”

This was something well understood through his and other elders and traditionally passed on from one generation to another. This was when David Wiley began the long road of apprenticing and eventual initiation into two living indigenous traditions in Mexico: the Nahua & the Huichol. He would then become a teacher of those traditions and their medicine to those who would be called.

Since then, he would welcome and baptize the newborn, initiate the young into adulthood, council and heal the living, bury the dead and help escort their souls to their final resting place.

He would help institute the Sacred Fire Foundation to provide grants to indigenous groups around the world to help preserve their important, irreplaceable wisdom and establish Sacred Fire, an international community dedicated to reconnecting people to heart, each other, and the world through the Spirit of Fire and Firekeeping.

Sherry received a calling to her spiritual path through Nahuatl shaman Don Lucio Campos in the central Mexican highlands in 1999 and was initiated as a quiatlzques (woman bringer of rain) in this traditional path. From this she became devoted to bringing fire and spirit into community. She became a Firekeeper and participated in growing the organization of Sacred Fire. Soon thereafter, she was asked to develop the Lifeways series of programs grounded in the human life stages and is now working to evolve those into a comprehensive whole called Life Cycle Living.

Sherry trained as a psychotherapist and had a private practice where she was involved for many years with facilitating women’s groups. She helped to create the Ukalái Women’s Gathering and has offered that program in the US, Australia and the UK. She is presently in the process of becoming a tepahtiani, or healer in the Nahuatl tradition.

Charles was born in 1967 and graduated from Yale with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy. Growing up, he was consumed with questions like "Where did I come from?", "Why am I here?" and "Where am I going?" He is the author of three books -- The Yoga of Eating, The Ascent of Humanity, and, most recently, Sacred Economics, which Andrew Harvey has called "a brilliant and beautifully written book." He spent time as a Chinese translator, studied herbs, health, and nutrition and educated himself in Eastern spiritual traditions. In addition to writing books, he has frequent public speaking engagements at conferences and smaller events. He has taught at Goddard College and currently lives with his wife in Harrisburg, PA, where he contemplates a new book about "Story" and the building of a more beautiful world.

Thomas R. Porter (Sakokwenionkwas-“The One Who Wins”) has been the founder, spokesperson and spiritual leader of the Mohawk Community of Kanatsiohareke (Ga na jo ha lay gay) located in the Mohawk Valley near Fonda, New York since 1993. He is a member of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne. (Akwesasne, also known as the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, straddles the New York State/Canadian border near Massena, New York.) He is married to Alice Joe Porter who is Choctaw, and has six children.

Tom "Sakokwenionkwas" Porter has been a nationally recognized figure in Indian Country since the 1960’s when he co-founded the White Roots of Peace, a group of Iroquois Elders who toured the country sharing traditional teachings and encouraging Indians to embrace their respective Native traditions. Recognizing that Mohawk language and culture were dying out, he also co-founded the Akwesasne Freedom School for grades K-8, with a curriculum entirely in Mohawk. Mr. Porter is recognized nationally as a compassionate and inspirational speaker about the destructive effects of substance abuse on Indian families, communities and nations. As an educator, Tom has taught a range of subjects at the Akwesasne Freedom School, Trent University, Akwesasne and the Tyiendinaga Reserve, and has worked as a cultural researcher and consultant for the North American Indian Traveling College. Mr. Porter is the author of the book Our Ways, a study of Iroquoian clan systems, published by the North American Indian Traveling College, and has received the Rothko Chapel Award for commitment to truth and freedom.

For further information, please see: https://www.mohawkcommunity.org/tom-s-corner

Chief Lyons is a faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, Onondaga Council of Chiefs, Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy). He has been active in international Indigenous rights and sovereignty issues for over four decades at the United Nations and other international forums. He is a State University of New York (SUNY) distinguished services professor emeritus of the University at Buffalo. He co-founded the Traditional Circle of Indian Elders and Youth with the American Indian Institute at Bozemon, Montana, and continues to serve on their board. Oren co-founded the Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse program in 1983 and is chairman of their board of directors. He is chairman of the board of directors of Honoring Nation, the Harvard program for Native American economic development. He serves on the board of Bioneers an environmental champion of the earth. Chief Lyons is chairman of the board of directors of Plantagon International AB, the leader in urban agriculture, Plantagon is designed to meet challenges of compounding human population, finite resources and global warming.

For further information, please see: http://www.7genfund.org/chief-oren-lyons

Linda Felch is a Mara'akame (shaman) in the Huichol tradition and a Plant Spirit Medicine healer. As our Healing Camp coordinator she makes sure that everything runs smoothly in preparing for camp and while we are at Blue Deer.

Marguerite Uhlmann-Bower, R.N., is founder of Weeds, Leaves, Seeds & Shoots, an Herbal and Wild Foods Consulting business; she is also author of "Healing the Injured Brain: Overcoming the Fog, the Fatigue and the Forgetfulness” and Plant Life, a 3 in one self-help, plant I.D. recipe book, soon to be published. In her consulting, she combines natural wellness in traditional and eclectic herbalism with evidence-based, health-oriented community outreach programs.

Charlene O'Rourke, Taoyewakanwi-Her Ways Are Sacred, is an Oglala Lakota woman who follows the spiritual and cultural beliefs of her ancestors. She has served as a ceremonial musician and singer for different types of events and ceremonies over a span of 40 years. Charlene is also a professional composer and performer. She is currently working with NASA on a project studying the Indigenous Lakota Star Constellation. A motivational speaker and an International Certified Addictions Counselor and Community Specialist and Consultant, she serves Native communities and works in federal and state prisons.

Click here for more information.

Diane Longboat is from the Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan, from Six Nations Grand River Territory, Canada. Diane is the leader of Soul of the Mother, a dedicated team of spiritual leaders and healers seeking unity of the human family and building peace. They travel amongst First Nations and globally, to carry the Sacred Fire for the transformational healing of self, community and the Earth.

Gail Whitlow is Mohawk, born into the Bear Clan of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Since she was 25 years old, her life has been dedicated to fostering traditional ceremonies that allow connection to Spirit. Gail is the 13th Grandmother on the Turtle Island Council. She is a strong presence in the Grandmothers movement worldwide, and has been instrumental in creating the Grandmothers Circle the Earth Foundation. As medicine person working with visualization tools and traditional healing methods, Gail is led by guidance from the spirit world to connect with ancestors and animal totems. She owns the Ancestral Voices Healing Centre in Ohsweken, Ontario on the Six Nations Reserve.

John is the owner of Catskill Fungi whose mission is to empower people through Fungi via outdoor guided mushroom classes, cultivation courses, educational talks, private consultations, mushroom art, and mushroom health supplements which he makes from mushrooms he grows on his family farm in the Catskill Mountains. He served on the Mushroom Advisory Panel for Certified Naturally Grown to help develop the standards for ecological practices in mushroom production. John is the President of the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association (MHMA), and a member of North American Mycological Association (NAMA) as well as Amazon Mycorenweal Project researching the utilization of Fungi to remediate oil spills in the Amazon Rainforest. His goal is to educate and inspire people to pair with fungi so we can improve our health, our environment and our communities.


Paco Calvo's main area of research is the philosophy of cognitive science. He is a co-editor of The Handbook of Cognitive Science: An Embodied Approach (Elsevier, 2008), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Psychology (Routledge, 2009), and The Architecture of Cognition (MIT Press, 2014). His articles have been published in Adaptive Behavior, The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Cognitive Science, Frontiers in Psychology, Mind & Language, Minds and Machines, Philosophical Psychology, and Synthese, among other journals.

His current research interests range broadly within the cognitive sciences, with special emphasis on the philosophy of plant neurobiology, ecological psychology and embodied cognitive science. His is currently on sabbatical leave at the EIDYN Research Centre and the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences at the University of Edinburgh writing a book on Plant Cognition.

For further information on Professor Calvo's research and publications, please click here.

Annie King has been an initiated Firekeepeer since 2004 and has been working since that time as Fire Chief, supporting Firekeepers around the world in their work. She is the Director of Firekeeping for Sacred Fire, coordinating Firekeeping activities.

Originally from Australia, she has been living in the United States for over 20 years. She is a mother of 2 boys and grandmother of 2 sweet children.

She has been involved in healing, and teaching stress management, movement, and meditation for over 40 years both in Australia and the US.

In 2004, she was called to the Nahua tradition of the central highlands of Mexico, where she was initiated as a quiatlzques or weather worker in the tradition of working with the weather beings. She is a student of their healing work known as tepahtiani, as well as a Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner.

Gerti Schoen is a certified forest therapy guide, licensed psychotherapist, couples counselor, and women's circles facilitator.


A series of unusual life experiences led Vickie to seek a spiritual divination which resulted in revealing that Vickie had a calling to be a “weather worker” or granicera (one who works with hail and storms) in the Nahua indigenous tradition of Mexico. She was initiated into this tradition in 2006. Since then she has returned to the highlands of Mexico to honor her commitment to this tradition and to lead her community in building a reciprocal relationship with the weather.