What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is a path. It is based on animism: that all is alive and has a Spirit. All of Nature is Alive. All dis-eases have a Spirit. All items created by humankind have a Spirit. Our task is to be aware of this and cooperate with these Spirits. Do I have authority over them – in Christian sense of “have authority?” No, not really. We cooperate. We do our best to honour all the Spirits. This is a giving.
Everyone can have contact with the Spirit World and bring that knowledge into daily life. This has been happening for over 100 000 years – at least.
Shamanic journeying is anarchistic democracy as one human teacher told me years ago on the first workshop I ever attended. It is through direct revelation if one uses the term from another religion. Everyone can journey, can have communication with the Spirit World. There are many names for this – but the root again is from animism – Nature-based path.
Shamanism returns people to Nature. Back to our roots. It is there on the Land where the Shaman or the ordinary human finds power-empowerment-connection. The Land is Sacred geography for the Shaman. Birds, crawlers, four- and two-legged, flying ones, swimming ones they are KIN. Not IT. Trees, bushes, root-runners, fungi, seed bearing – all are KIN, not IT. The very dirt, rocks, boulders, mountains, waterways are KIN, not IT. One does not need the article “an” or “a” even “the”… just “Raven got up and walked over…”, “Pines were singing this morning!”, even that.
Much of modern psychotherapy (and all its varieties) have used these techniques from The People over the world to make Constellations, Role-playing, hot-seat, drama therapy, music therapy, and on and on.
What makes a Shaman is their agreements with Spirit or rather Spirit’s agreement with them. There is usually an illness – suffering – near death experiences which might initiate them into the world of the Spirits. In some traditions they are lineage-shamans; Earth shamans, Sky Shamans, special Spirits that give their energy or power/luonto/väki to the healer. There are Dreamers, Seers, Cuppers, Herbalists, Manipulation, Possession healers, for example. However Not everyone is a Shaman.
The shaman always remembers what happens in the ritual/ceremony; they work with one or more Spirit Helpers; and people come to them for healing. It is not something that “happens to me” for I must stand firmly with my feet on this Land, be grounded, as well as have my hands lifted to Sky.
The Shaman is the hollow bone, the World Tree, the arbiter or intermediary. Yes, some roles require to be more of a Ceremonialist. Psycho-pomp is a part of the healing but not the healing. Spirit helpers, community (people to heal), intention, remembering the journey and bringing back the power, the advice, knowledge, healing to the people/person. Nothing less.
Sa man/Saman – a borrowed word from the Evenki of Siberia. The one who Knows/Sees. Every culture – every People has their own word for this type of person. In Finland we have the word Tietäjä. Xam/-nar in Tuvan. And many more! Much literature can be found about all this from your local library.
This path is personal and communal. If one imagines a circle one sees there is no one more above or below. To stand in centre of our own personal circle and BE CONNECTED to all that is around is a path to healing. The task is to connect through the help of Spirit Helpers to LIFE. LIFE also includes DEATH. Spirit Helpers are real. They are energy, yes – but take many forms: plants, stones, trees, animals, birds, crawlers and buzzers, swimmers, even human. Without them the Shaman cannot do their work. They see 390 degrees, the entire picture-hear the whole song- whereas I am a human with horse-blinders on!
There are specific forms of shaman-ic beliefs which are culturally specific. I can become very culturally specific depending upon the situation however I prefer to teach a broader sense of shamanism because I trust the Spirits to do the real teaching: you find your own spiritual geography – your own shamanistic-animistic roots. I can set up teachings, situations and guide yet your own connection to LIFE and the world of your own Spirit helpers are the real teachers of learning to be connected – to be with the flow – to be power-filled. To take responsibility.
There are many techniques which can be learned and studied. However one may become the Master of None or One or Many. It is up to Spirits. We all have our gifts and we are to try and use those that we have and polish them to a fine mirror which reflects re-connection to this wonderful world we live in.
Which brings me to a shamanic world view of dis-ease, illness, being drained, burned-out, lost, depressed, power-less, unbalanced…
This work goes to the core, the root of what is causing the dis-ease. It is not about bandages. It is about the Shaman going to the root cause and even before, to find the reason what has happened and why, where, who involved. It also demands offering-sacrifice.
This for me is the essence of healing. The journey to self-recovery begins here. Sometimes the effects are immediate. Sometimes it is a trickling. The person receiving is very much desiring to become healthy again (not just physical) and comes to the Shaman for help. Balance!
Empowerment in English is the word. Other languages have a variety of words to choose from for they contain elements of oppressive power, control power, energy power, full-potential power. So power word I use meaning full of life force, a sense of connection to all that is around and within. It means that when the struggles come I have power to be with the struggles (and hopefully learn something) and get through them. It means cooperating with the innate connection we have with All Life, with Spirit to re-member our beautiful roots in Mother Earth.
We work with all-embodying power. I have power with my helpers. I am empowered. I have some sense of even control – but that is a split-hair discussion. Experience is needed to understand this aspect.
Empowerment can be RE-membering. Sometimes there are events or illnesses which arrive in one’s life and there may be no clear explanation. Environmental, cultural, up-bringing, diet, work all have a great influence. Also, places have power- energy- väki- and they can affect one’s health.
Soul loss & retrieval
Again, a brief explanation. Basically, all beings can lose part of their soul. Why part? Because in this worldview or path, we are made up of many souls. For the most part all are present. How many is determined by culture. Part of us can take off during the dreamtime and return after the dream. Part of us can take off-be stolen- be let go of – in crisis. The death of a loved, becoming retired, getting fired, divorce, any kind of abuse, illness, accidents, transition periods with no recognition like first menses or moving into manhood, having a baby; use of different substances, etc. You see? Modern psychology has a word for this: disassociation. Shamanic healers talk of spirit or soul loss.
Now sometimes that part returns immediately and all goes along fine. This is the norm. Other times, one is aware that something is “amiss”. Our behaviour changes. Our memories may have large holes in it. We may have an addiction – or obsession. When there is a hole in the road something is going to fill it up sooner or later. Question is: what went missing to make the hole?
The task of the shaman is to go find and return the lost part(s) with any advice on how, where, when, who and especially how to keep it.
The Dance of Raven– series teaches about soul retrieval. It is not as simple as it sounds and requires grounding, good contact with Spirit Helpers and getting out of your own way.
Ancestors & Descendants
An area that is coming more and more into the public eye – at least in the judo-christian world. A&D have always been a part of the animistic world view, of the shamanic path. All cultures around the world have recognised the significance of A&D and have rituals to honour, acknowledge them. Some how we have been dis-membered from them.
Without our ancestors we would not be here. They have gone through everything already. We are centred upon our own me-myself-I that we have forgotten that they have a storehouse of knowledge and wisdom.
In disease, the ancestors may play a role in the current situation. Now they are finding that many diseases are passed down via DNA. Shamans and most traditional healers have been shouting this for thousands of years. Back in the early days I was working on a woman where I learned her diabetes was from her uncle. Spirit taught me then that diabetes was genetic. At that time they were not sure about the genetic link to diabetes.
Trauma as well as strengths are passed down through the ancestors. PTSD can be inherited they are finding. What are grandparents or their parents can travel down the lines to us and what we have moves on to our children. The phrase: take care of your own shit” makes much sense!
Epigenetics is the new word which scientists have coined. Again, honouring the ancestral lines and our ancestors is a part of most cultures of the world. For myself, it is not necessarily having to know your DNA-gene analysis. It is about living in the present, looking in the mirror or observing self from outside and unraveling traumas. Honouring the ancestors in animistic or shamanic world view is about preparing the road for the descendants.
We have so much to return to our ancestors in order to make room for our descendants – by blood or not. Between A&D work and Soul Retrieval we may make way for a healthier world.
Intrusions & Curses
My view on intrusions and curses is simple. They happen. Both can be done by others as well as one-self, and also the beings who inhabit the realm of Spirit – some would say mythic. Places, people, energy of events all can leave residue which needs to be removed. The residue may become genetic and be found in one’s ancestors; it may stifle life-force; it may give way to series of unfortunate events.
In Tuva, certain spirits can cause illness and misfortune. Places can take energy and intrude into a person or animal. There are certain ways to behave in Nature so as not to upset or abuse or dishonour these Spirits. These are the culture’s ethics of behaviour.
Judging from how current state of things in the great, wide world I say we are causing so much intrusions on people, places, clans, tribes, states, countries – and continually cursing. Shooting oneself in the toe.
Not all healers/shamans can do the work of removing. Always ask: what do they do with “it” when they remove it? Sending it flying back to the place or person who caused it, is not an available option for myself. In some cultures it is active, day-to-day practise to send “poisoned arrows” to the perpetrator. Also, do they know the story – from whence it came?
Activism and Path
Animism is the path weaving the shamanic worldview into daily life. The longer one follows the red thread – the white road – the more it brings a person towards Protecting Mother Earth and all her Beings; of Protecting Sky and all his Beings; of Protecting Grandmother Ocean and all her Beings for self, others and especially for the Descendants.
This may lead one into activism in varies forms. This may lead to a more Peace-centred approach to conflict resolution. Shamans were often conflict resolution experts in their community, so they say.
This path is of Service to All the connections.