Another profound experience I had with Shaman happened in Northern Kenya while I was photographing the Samburu tribe. While I was there my guide let me know that many of the villagers mentioned that their “predictor” had told them that my assistant and I were coming. At first I thought nothing of it, as anyone looking at us could have ‘created’ the prediction on the spot.  As the days went on I learned more details about the prediction that led me to believe otherwise.

My guide, 85 year old, Iparo.

My guide, 85 year old, Iparo.

First, the prediction, which come to find out was made a full two months before we showed up, described one of us as having long white hair. My assistant, Larissa, did have long blond hair – until the day before we left on the trip when she cut her hair and died it with henna.

Second, they told us that I would hide from them when I took my photographs.
Typically I use a wide-angle lens on my Hasselblad and I am less than 2 feet from my subject. But then I remember that I had a new camera with me that I had yet to take out and use.  It just so happened to be a 5×7 view camera that required me to cover myself in a silver cloth while focusing.


What I look liked photographing with the view camera.

A few days later I met Sukulen the thirty-seven-year old Samburu mother of eight that had made the prediction.  I had taken her photograph before she let us know that she was the one who had ‘seen’ us and that she had been told that ‘we were harmless’.   She told us that she had a vision of us photographing two months before in the manner in which we had just photographed her.  She said that I looked and moved the same as ‘the European’ that she had seen in her vision. Sukulen told us that as a teenager she started having fainting spells and hearing voices.  She thought she was sick and that she might die.  She was very scared until her grandmother took her aside and let her know that she had a unique gift.  I learned later that Sukulen was the most well known ‘predictor’ in the whole Samburu tribe.

Sukulen, 37 years old.

Sukulen, 37 years old.

It was interesting to me to think back to the Tibetan Kuten, who had a similar story in his beginning as a medium for the Tibetan people.  It was my encounters with Thupten Ngodrup and Sukulen that first intrigued me about non-ordinary states of mind and lead me to continue exploring the topic of shamanism, consciousness and culture. Next week I’ll share my travel to Mongolia to meet the Shaman of the Nanai tribe.

5 Responses to “Sukulen: Shaman of the Samburu Tribe”

  1. Rachael

    Dear Mr Borges,
    Thank you. I stumbled upon your Ted talk and then searched out this site. My story was different from everyone I knew, until now. I have searched for answers, never satisfied, but somehow the information you have gathered brings me a sense of peace. I’m not typical as for age, I was in my late 30s when I finally allowed in what had been at the edge of my reality since I was young. I managed to hold it off, but I was always certain of its presence. Sometimes it seemed to nag at me and I felt…unfulfilled? I’m “normal”, in the sense that I walk in my world and no one would think I’m anything but a nice woman, average…married, mother of two in a small community in PA. Not so really…but I have learned to walk the walk. To explain better I would say “it” started for me as a feeling or a recognition of a higher vividness in the world in certain moments. I wish I could describe it better, but I don’t know how. I had childhood trauma…adult trauma…but somehow, just one day, it happened and I turned…inward. That was about six years ago. It broke for me in a crashing way, I am an artist and I was alone with my clay. I never remembered such violence within me and a crashing through of emotion so great it could not be contained. I ripped and tore at the clay and beat it with my fists. My hands moved so, so fast, it felt unreal. A beautiful sculpture emerged from the violence that somehow seemed paradoxical. Then slowly, day after day, and now year after year, the strangest most unexplainable things have happened to me. Without ever being taught I have developed the ability to heal through massage to a level far beyond my understanding, I feel things in people, my body heats up and I become weak and drained afterward. Usually without fail I put people into a very deep state of relaxation to the point they don’t want to move and seem drowsy and in a much different state when we are finished….I just know what to do. I just trust in this thing, whatever it is. People usually start out talking and then they just get very quiet. It floods me with embarrasment when I try to explain it because I feel odd and different, so I’ve stopped trying. Instead I just say, I’m pretty good at massage…
    A few years back I had a series of horrific nightmares and then this strange ability. I have drawn a premonition that came true 10 months after the drawing. I know I heard a voice once calling out someone’s name in distress while I was fully awake and no one was around, but it scared me so bad I refused to let it in again. I have developed my own private type of what I tell everyone is yoga, but I have never learned yoga. It is a sense within my body that moves my body and I twist gently and turn into the strangest, sometimes most graceful positions and it puts me into a trancelike state. It is a strange and beautiful thing I have shared with no one. I’m afraid people would think I’m crazy, although I truly believe we as humans all have this ability. I have gotten my daughters to begin to understand it, as I would like to give to them the healing it has given to me. I have discovered physical abilities that astound me, I box with my eyes closed sometimes with a punching bag that swerves on a spring every time I hit it. I can do it in the dark and hit it over and over again without missing. I was never taught, it is a deep sense somewhere inside.
    I have become more free and have learned to trust whatever this is inside that moves me so. It does not seem bad or evil or negative or contracting. It seems expansive, and beautiful. There is more, but I’m sure the above fairly sums it up.
    My heart aches with compassion for your story of Adam, and admittedly with jealousy for the cultures that accept and nurture these abilities. Thank you again for your work, it has given me as said above a peace I had not known.
    I hope this is work you will continue as it is much needed in this world we live in, this detached world everyone calls reality, when in fact, it is a veil separating most from the truth of who they are, I’ve seen it too often.
    With kind regards and warm thanks,

    • Phil Borges


      Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your beautiful story with me. It is wonderful to hear that you have been able to recognize and utilize your gifts. I hope you can find more likely minded people to share your experiences with. I appreciate all your gratitude! Please continue to follow CRAZYWISE and sign up for our newsletter on our website ( The full-length documentary will be out in the Fall!

    • Travis

      Hi Rachael, would love to connect with you and discuss your inner unfoldings, I’m a transpersonal therapist in Australia and am big into shamanic practices.thanks for sharing what you did ,although I’ve found it one year later! I shouldn’t be surprised though, that such things remain in the ether of immense interconnections!

  2. Antoinette Botsford

    I am profoundly moved, Rachael, and want you to know that — perhaps to a lesser extent–many of the same things that you describe as happening to you happen to me. Not through massage and sculpture, but a sort of distance healing practice that seems right to me–a form of prayer, perhaps, and sometimes hands-on. I see things inside my head of the person I am treating. I visualize healing energy going to whatever is needed, with certain colors of light. I don’t think about it. Just do as I am “told”. Also the moving meditation that you call “yoga”–I do it too. It’s wonderful. Blessings and thank you for sharing.


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