Our colleague Hank Wesselman died peacefully near his home in Hawaii on February 15 of this year after a short illness, with his beloved wife, Jill Kuykendall, at his side. Together they led shamanic training workshops and divided their time between northern California, Oregon, and the Big Island of Hawaii. He had an illustrious career as an anthropologist, shamanic practitioner, author, and college professor.
Though he has published several books he is best known for his Spiritwalker trilogy, one where he received spontaneous visions of 5000 years in the future following the collapse of Western civilization due to global warming. Within the story he envisions a widespread spiritual awakening he dubbed the “Modern Mystical Movement.” In it he came in contact with Nainoa, a Hawaiian kahuna shaman, and seeing through his eyes followed his adventures in what is presently the North American continent, though 5000 years from now it had changed dramatically.
The future California-Nevada region is depicted as including a rainforest and an inland sea stretching through California’s central valley. He was also shown a wide variety of exotic large animals, including elephants, lions, longhorn cattle, and several monkey and ape species. He speculates that the ancestors of these animals may have escaped from zoos or were released from circuses during the collapse of Western civilization.
Influenced by the visions he wrote about in his books, he had immersed himself in the study and practice of shamanism, particularly Hawaiian shamanism (called “Huna”). He was under the tutelage of the great Kahuna elder, Hale Makua, who gave him permission to share sacred spiritual knowledge that was seldom imparted to outsiders.
I was introduced to Hank shortly after the first book in the trilogy was published. We were participants in the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Three Year Program in Advanced Shamanism where we had the good fortune to be taught by Michael Harner. Hank and I had several chances to engage in conversations as well as partnering up in some of the healing ceremonies we did. In one I had asked him for some doctoring. I could feel the presence of what he would call the Aloha spirit. I could deeply feel his comforting and healing presence.
When I lived on the Big Island, we had a few chances to continue developing our friendship over coffee. I enjoyed his vast knowledge of Hawaiian tradition and history and some of the backstory about his visions and his publications. Though we didn’t stay in close touch the last few years, whenever I remember this man I greatly admired and respected, I feel a strong kinship with him.
I recall how intensely focused he was and totally committed to his mission. We were both greatly influenced by Harner’s teachings and dedication to the shamanic path, which was a basis for our friendship. His passion, wisdom, knowledge and humor, will always be in our hearts. He has left a considerable legacy from which we can still enjoy him in spirit.
Mahalo Nui, Hank
Hank was my first teacher, a gift for which I am eternally grateful. After a ten year hiatus, I was fortunate enough to spend time with Hank at a workshop in Washington a couple of years ago. As humans we tend to gravitate towards norms and standards and Hank did not fit very well the widely accepted idea that a shaman should be humble and understated. Charismatic and sometimes flamboyant, Hank combined a keen intellect with a wicked wit. A talented teacher of core shamanism, Hank brought a sincere dedication to Huna and a deep appreciation of other shamanic traditions to his workshops. To me his authenticity was never in doubt. Like many who practice shamanism, Hank believed in reincarnation. I remember a conversation on this subject where he noted while our souls voluntarily incarnate on Earth for a higher purpose, that this is a tough, barbarian planet. I remember him taking a deep breath and stating “I think I am ready for another three score and ten”. Aloha sensei, until we meet again!