Annie Starwasz was born in Idaho, but grew up mostly in Michigan. As a child her life was unstable and turbulent, due mainly to an oppressive and poor Roman Catholic upbringing, constantly moving every few months, and experiencing excessive deaths of those close to her, including the death of her mother (leaving behind 9-year-old, Annie, and her 6 siblings), then later, her father.
Despite these heavy circumstances (or maybe because of them) Annie excelled in sports and academics, winning spelling bees, science fairs, art contests, scholastic olympics, etc. and earning “most valuable” in every competitive sport she participated in, often on championship teams. Up through her sophomore year in high school, Annie was a point-guard in basketball, a pitcher in softball, a cheerleader, and studied martial arts (including karate and tae kwon do) and different styles of dance (including ballet and modern). As a Junior in high school, Annie switched her athletic focus solely to running both track and cross country, and also started theater acting. All of these activities taught Annie about energy flow both internally and externally, and how to tune into her own body and the energy of the people and things around her. By the time 17-year-old Annie graduated high school in 1994 summa cum laude (“with highest honors”, 3.9+ GPA ) she held 4 track records and the cross country record at her school, and also received full academic and athletic scholarships for running in college. This is where her professional healing path began.
The college experience was an intense time for Annie, as her childhood turbulence transitioned to spiritual lessons and the “dark night of the soul.” In her desperate search for answers and healing and the light, Annie began studying psychology and hypnosis, herbal remedies, and essential oils and aromatherapy. She started fasting, taking yoga classes, playing guitar and other instruments, and became vegetarian. Her spiritual search led her to reading the works of such authors as Carlos Casteneda, Terrence McKenna, Kahlil Gibran, Barbara Brennan, Susun Weed, Carl Jung, Neil Donald Walsch, Richard Bach, Daniel Quinn, Louise Hay, and many more.
She also did extensive research, including field research, into learning, the subconscious, altered states of consciousness, religious experiences, death, ego, and hypnotherapy. She was invited to and participated in a special honors course on love, and started seeing the number “1111” everywhere (a number signifying spiritual activation). This was all very heavy, especially because of insomnia coupled with 2 running practices per day, plus weight lifting, work study, and part-time jobs.
Annie eventually made it through, however, getting stronger from the intensity of the experience like steel in a flame, or a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. She graduated summa cum laude from Siena Heights College (now “SHU”) in May of 1998, with a degree in human services/ psychology and a minor in art, also receiving the department award for psychology. She also ran a marathon, broke another track record, and attained years worth of running awards. In the same week she graduated, Annie married her best friend and college sweetheart, and moved cross country to Oregon to welcome their child into the world.
The next 7 years in Oregon proved also to be spiritually challenging. Although her main focus was raising her beautiful daughter, Annie spent years healing the damage from her intense childbirth, and explored any type of yoga she could access. She continued her spiritual studies and became initiated into Reiki I, II, and III, attended Howard L. Hamilton School of Hypnosis (though she only completed about half of the program), and started making herbal medicines and raw food. She was inspired by the desire to raise the healthiest child possible, and to repair her own body and spirit. During this time, however, she went through a divorce, and also experienced the deaths of her father and several other relatives and friends and pets.
The pain of these experiences forced Annie to go deeper into the depths of her soul, sometimes doing yoga for up to 8 hours a day and going on extended fasts and raw food cleanses. It was at this time that she began working at the local college, (Linn-Benton Community College) doing modeling for art classes and working in the registrar’s office, so she received free classes. She began learning official massage techniques including baby massage, exercises to repair and correct damaged eyesight, and other helpful healing techniques. She continued to do ceramics and other art classes, as well, and it was at this time that Annie took her first belly dance class through the college, eventually dancing with teacher, Kameal’s, troupe. This fulfilled a longtime dream of Annie’s since she was a teenager, when she had worked for 6 years at the Michigan Renaissance Festival, and would longingly watch the belly dancers, planning one day to be onstage with them. Then, in 2002, she started blowing glass for a living, learning from her former husband/ glass aficionado/ and friend, “Banjo” Matt Stroven. This was the official legal sprouting of the roots of Fiery Fingers, then called “Skywalker Glass”.
Divine providence brought Annie and her daughter to Arcata, CA in 2005. Still on her healing mission, Annie attended Arcata School of Massage and completed its 700-hour yearlong program, and on the day she graduated, started Jane Bothwell’s 10-month herbal studies program at Dandelion Herb School, which incorporated Rosemary Gladstar’s intensive “The Science and Art of Herbalism”. She also trained with a first-generation student of Melody, Karen Kuk-Nagle, where she learned and became certified in crystal healing.
In the summer of 2010, she went to the big island in Hawaii for a magical month-long kundalini yoga certification intensive with Kundalini Rising International Yoga Academy (KRIYA) and teachers Guru Rattana and Guru Kirin. This was another longtime dream fulfilled, as Annie discovered in her yoga explorations that kundalini is her favorite style, and longed to teach it. After this, she repeated Jane’s 10-month herbal studies program for extra learning purposes, and then helped Jane teach a beginner’s herbal studies class, and studied applied clinical herbalism with Jane, as well. In September of 2014, she received her official certificate of aromatherapy through the Northwest Institute of Ayurveda in Arcata, CA with Traci Webb.
As for belly dancing, Annie began to dance with Shoshanna and her troupe, Ya Habibi, when she first moved to CA; however she did not officially join the troupe until 2010. Annie joined Heather Woodman’s tribal fusion belly dance troupe, Mudra, in 2008, and then Gypsy Bella’s Bella Vita Firedance Company in the summer of 2012. She also coached her daughter’s basketball team for 3 years at her elementary school, Coastal Grove Charter School.
Today, Annie has transitioned from student to teacher, but continues to learn and grow in the school of life. Annie still lives in Arcata, CA with her teenage daughter, and her daughter’s feline children. She continues her healing work on herself and with others, and well as her art, music, dancing, yoga, and running… and is the happiest she has ever been! Like the Fiery Fingers image itself, Annie has emerged from the darkness to find the light, the divine path of the “wounded healer”. Maybe she can help you shine your light… *)
Annie Starwasz is a Scorpio in Western astrology, a Snake in Native astrology, a Fire Dragon in Chinese astrology, and a Red Cosmic Skywalker in Mayan astrology. Her father was a teacher and her mother was a nurse, so it is in her blood and stars to be a healer, educator, fire spinner, and sparkler of the light.