A Journal of
Contemporary Shamanism Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2013
Shamanic Healing & Soul Retrieval The Legacy of Seidr Wandering Souls of Vietnam Healing with the Spirits of Nature Lucid Living Communicating with Invisible Worlds Yewshamanism Shamanic Activism The Flight of the Caduceus
A Journal of
Contemporary Shamanism Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2013
Contents 4 Ack now l edge m en t
Thank You, Bonnie Horrigan! Founding Executive Director, The Society for Shamanic Practitioners Alan Davis, MD
5 L et t er
Keeping Pace with Changing Times Sara Johnston, Executive Director
7 EDI TOR I A L
Finding a Comprehensive Soul Retrieval Training Sandra Ingerman, MA
11 SH A M A N IC PR AC T ICE
The Legacy of Seiðr: History, Experiences, and the Path Ahead Annette Høst
17 E SSAY The Wandering Souls of Viet Nam Ed Tick, PhD
2 1 SH A M A N IC PR AC T ICE
Healing with the Spirits of Nature Jane Shutt
2 5 E SSAY
Lucid Living in the Middle World or "Follow the White Rabbit" Gary Lindorff, MA 2 9 E SSAY Communicating with Invisible Worlds, Using the Language of the Cosmograms Marko Pogacˆnik
3 1 SH A M A N IC PR AC T ICE Yewshamanism
3 7 I n t erv i ew
Jonathan Horwitz Talks with Lenore Norrgard about Shamanic Activism Lenore Norrgard, MA, CSC
4 3 Essay
The Flight of the Caduceus Cecile Carson, MD
4 7 R e sou rce Dir ec tory
www.shamanic society.org | 1
Tom Cowan, PhD Jonathan Horwitz, MA Sara Johnston Kay Kamala
Ron Short, MA/BFA www.ronshortstudios.com
Sara Johnston Society for Shamanic Practitioners
Sara Johnston For information about advertising sales, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-726-2922. A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism is published twice a year (Spring and Fall) by the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, ÂŠ 2004. All Rights Reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced or copied without the permission of the Society. Non-profit postage paid at Santa Fe, NM. Permit No. 173. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, 956 Camino Oraibi, Santa Fe, NM 87505. Subscription: Society members receive the journal as a benefit of membership. Non-members may purchase a subscription for $24 (one-year US); $32 (one-year overseas); and $38 (one-year US library). To join the society or subscribe, please visit www.shamansociety.org or send your check to the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, P.O. Box 100007, Denver, CO 80250. The Society for Shamanic Practitioners, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is an international alliance of people dedicated to the re-emergence of shamanic practices in modern society, especially those that promote healthy individuals and viable communities. Email: email@example.com. Web site: www.shamansociety.org.
SSP Board of Directors Cecile Carson, MD Tom Cowan, PhD Alan Davis, MD Sandra Ingerman, MA Martha Lucier Anna Harrington Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, CSC JosĂŠ Luis Stevens, PhD Lena Stevens Sara Johnston, Executive Director Amanda McCarthy, Administration
www.shamansociety.org 2 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2013
EDITORIAL BOARD Jeanne Achterberg, PhD
Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Saybrook Graduate School & Research Institute, San Francisco, CA
Spirit Passages Yarmouth, ME
David J. Baker, MD
Patricia Shaw, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Medicine Canadian College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, Victoria, BC, Canada
Phoenix Psychological Group, Inc. St. Louis, MO
Stephan V. Beyer, PhD, JD
Peacemaker Services, Chicago, IL
Indigenous Lenses Salt Lake City, UT
Patrick Curry, PhD
Farrell Silverberg, PhD, NCPsyA
Lecturer, Religious Studies, University of Kent, London, UK
Psychologist Philadelphia, PA
Jeannine Davis-Kimball, PhD
Sharon Van Raalte, MA
Sarah Sifers, PhD, LCSW
Center for the Study of Eurasian Nomads, Ventura, CA
Mississippi Station, ON, Canada
Stuart R. Harrop, PhD
Founder and CEO, The Four Winds Society, Park City, UT
Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, Department of Anthropology University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
Robin June Hood, PhD
Adjunct Professor, School of Environmental Education and Communications Royal Roads University, Victoria BC
Mihaly Hoppal, PhD
Director of Institute of Ethnology Hungarian Academy of Sciences Budapest, Hungary
Stanley Krippner, PhD
Saybrook Graduate School, San Francisco, CA
Alberto Villoldo, PhD
Marilyn Walker, PhD
Associate Professor of Anthropology Mount Allison University Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada
Robert J. Wallis, FRAI, FSA
Professor of Visual Culture, Director of MA in Art History & Visual Culture, Richmond, The American International University in London, UK
Kyoim Yun, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Mary Pat Lynch, PhD Athens, OH
Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, PhD
Research Professor, Department of Sociology/Anthropology, Intercultural Center, Georgetown University Washington DC
Robert Moss, MA
Founder, The School of Active Dreaming Albany, NY
David Mussina, MA Medford, MA
Philip M. Peek, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Anthropology, Drew University, Sanbornton, NH
Larry Peters, PhD
Nepal Spiritual Excursions, Topanga, CA
Stephen Proskauer, MD
Sanctuary for Healing and Integration Salt Lake City, UT www.shamansociety.org | 3
A ckn o wled g ement
Thank You, Bonnie Horrigan! Founding Executive Director, The Society for Shamanic Practitioners by Alan Davis, MD It is with great pleasure and appreciation that we recognize the vision, passion, and hard work of Bonnie Horrigan, founding Executive Director and board member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners. Bonnie and I met when she was the publisher of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. At that time I was one of a group of seven physicians who were dreaming into existence a "shamanism in medicine" conference. It was then that I learned of Bonnie’s talent as a facilitator and creator. We presented our conference proposal to her which she not only accepted, but joined with us to make it a reality. Similar conferences followed, and they became the springboard for SSP. As the third Shamanism in Healthcare conference closed, it was clear to us that our helping spirits had a new direction for us. Bonnie suggested we start an association of individuals with an interest in shamanic healing that would both support them and bring their work more fully into the world. It was Bonnie’s clear vision—her deep, creative dreaming of a society of individuals sharing their interest and passion for shamanism—that brought the SSP into existence. Her goal included shifting world consciousness from the material to the spiritual by helping our practitioners know that they are not alone. From our founding in 2004 until her departure this past autumn, Bonnie was a steady guiding hand for the Board and our membership. She has moved on to serve as the Executive Director of the Bravewell Collaborative (www.bravewell.org), another organization seeking to shift consciousness by supporting the full emergence of integrative medicine into healthcare. We wish her well in her new endeavor and give gracious thanks for all she has done for SSP.
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Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Keeping Pace with Changing Times A letter from the Society for Shamanic Practitioners We have a new name â€“ A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism. The SSP Journal will continue to present diverse perspectives on shamanism and explore both traditional practices of shamanic people around the world, as well as all types of contemporary shamanism. Particular attention will be paid to the underlying principles of shamanic practice and we will showcase the many ways that shamanism is re-emerging and integrating itself into personal lives as well as contemporary societies. Each issue will celebrate shamanism and inspire readers by offering direction and thoughtful facilitation for using shamanism as a personal spiritual practice, as a mission for small groups and larger communities, or as a healing modality. We want to encourage our readers to share experiences and insights from their practice. Shorter articles and interviews will be a regular feature. Letters to the editor and op-ed pieces will be included in future issues. Specific guidelines and instructions for submission can be found on our website at http://www.shamansociety.org/subscribe.html under under Author Guidelines. The actual production of the Journal would not be possible without the tremendous effort and dedication of our volunteer editors. Kay Kamala is the newest addition to our editorial staff. Kay has written and published articles and newsletters for her intuitive counseling business for over 25 years. In addition to her own writing and counseling work, she worked for several years doing research for Cormac McCarthy. Kay lives and works in Santa Fe, NM. Tom Cowan continues to provide leadership and guidance in creating a publication that supports shamanic practices in modern society and that presents a diversity of inspiring articles that reveal the marvelous complexity of shamanic practice in our world today. Jonathan Horwitz is our European editor and consistently brings us unique authors and subject matter that provide a window on current practices in Europe and Scandinavia, as well as contributing many previous articles for the Journal. Ron Short is our design expert, graphic layout master and comes up with the fabulous images and many of the photos that so enhance the Journal. He puts all the pieces together and we are grateful for his expertise and creative touch. Thank you for your membership and support. We look forward to hearing from you as we evolve. Blessings and gratitude, Sara Johnston Executive DirectorÂ
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E dit o rial
Finding a Comprehensive Soul Retrieval Training by Sandra Ingerman, MA
Shamanism has been practiced worldwide for over 100,000 years. I believe that the reason this ancient practice has survived is because it has evolved to meet the needs of the times we live in. The key principles of shamanism remain the same, but the culture-specific ceremonies have changed over the years. We certainly do not practice in the same way it was practiced 100,000 years ago. And yet shamans still act as healers, doctors, priests and priestesses, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers. Shamanism teaches us that everything that exists is alive and has a spirit. Shamans speak of a web of life that connects all living things and the spirit that lives in all things. Everything on earth is interconnected, and any belief that we are separate from other life forms—including the earth, stars, wind, and so forth—is purely an illusion. And it is the shaman’s role in the community to keep harmony and balance between humankind and the forces of nature. There are a variety of ceremonies that shamans perform: ceremonies to welcome children into the world, to perform marriages, to help people transition to a good place at the time of death, and to mourn the death of loved ones. And shamans officiate at important initiations that mark certain transitions in a person’s life, such as moving from childhood into adulthood. And they perform many different types of healing ceremonies. We have seen a remarkable resurgence in the interest in shamanism in the Western world. People are searching for ways to regain access to spiritual practices that support their own abilities at receiving direct revelation and also reconnecting them with the natural world. Many individuals seek spiritual practices that will improve the quality of their lives. And many want to explore how shamanic healing ceremonies can help with the emotional and physical illnesses that we suffer from today. More and more people search out shamanic practitioners to perform a variety of shamanic healing ceremonies. And more and more professionals, such as doctors and psychotherapists, come to training workshops looking for ways to bridge shamanic healing into their traditional ways of working. __________________________________________________ Opposite: Removing blockages to restore an individual’s physical, emotional and psychic balance. Photo by Ron Short © 2013.
Bridging shamanic healing into a variety of both traditional and alternative methods of healing has been exciting. Results have been powerful and inspiring. But we must pay close attention to this integration process because as shamanism becomes popularized, the power of this ancient way of healing may begin to unravel. In the West we are addicted to methods and techniques, but methods and techniques have never healed anyone. Only love and light can create healing. When true shamans do their healing ceremonies, there is love, light, and a healing presence that shines through, and this presence creates true healing and transformation. It is not the outward ceremony itself that heals, but the spirit contained within it. Any ceremony that is merely form and devoid of spirit will not be successful. Many people today seek training in shamanic healing, and there is a danger they might end up getting an imbalanced education. There are many causes of illness that shamans address which typically fall into categories such as loss of power, a loss of soul, and/or having a spiritual intrusion, blockage, or a possessing spirit that needs to be removed. Shamans remove blockages, intrusions, and possessing spirits and return any power or lost soul parts that are needed to fill a person back up with vital energy. It is important to be trained in all the core shamanic ways of healing. I often meet practitioners who trained in only one form of healing, such as removing spiritual intrusions, but never trained in soul retrieval. Similarly, I find psychotherapists who are attracted to learning soul retrieval but do not learn about removing intrusions or possessing spirits that might also be contributing to a client’s illness. My belief is that not everyone needs to be a "specialist" in all the different ways that shamans heal. But good practitioners should be familiar with them so when they see that a client needs more shamanic healing than they are trained to perform, they can refer clients to other practitioners who were trained in those other methods. I think practitioners should only do healing that they feel comfortable with. In my teacher training program I encourage students to teach one-year or two-year programs in which students are exposed to all aspects of shamanic healing. In this way practitioners get a balanced education, and their future clients end up receiving the healing work they need.
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The Difference Between Curing and Healing I see a distinct difference between curing and healing. In indigenous cultures children were raised with an understanding of how to live a life of harmony, honor, and respect. They were taught how to live in harmony with nature, and because people lived in close community, they also learned how to be creative and vital members of their communities. Obviously when issues of healing came up in indigenous cultures, people often instinctively understood what was out of harmony in their lives and creating illness. After a shaman performed a healing, people understood how to return to living a harmonious life. Disharmony causes illness. In the Western world many people, on hearing this, feel they are being blamed in some way for being ill on an emotional or physical level. This is not true. But what is true is that we have to do some selfexploration about how we live so that we can return to living a harmonious life where we honor and respect ourselves, others, and all of life. When a shamanic practitioner performs a ceremony that will remove blockages and returns power or lost parts of one’s soul this provides a cure. But for longterm healing to occur, clients must look at what changes they need to make in their lives that will create long-term healing after the ceremony is performed. For example, if a client comes for a healing ceremony and then goes back into a life filled with stress, an abusive relationship, or continues to eat a very unhealthy diet, we can’t expect solid long-term results. I find that many people come for shamanic healings and expect a miracle cure where they do not have to do any work on their own. It is almost like going to a doctor to get a pill that will alleviate symptoms without looking at the core issues that are creating illness. Of course there are people who have done 8 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
a lot of self-exploration and really just need the curative spiritual ceremony to be performed. For example, I have had clients who explored the impact of past traumas on their lives in psychotherapy and made healthy changes in how they live. This type of client may need only a soul retrieval to complete the process. For some people a shamanic healing ceremony is the first step of the work, and for others it is the last step of the work. But it is essential that we look at how to bring our lives into a place of harmony after shamanic healing is performed. I have noticed in many forms of healing—traditional medicine, psychotherapy, Chinese and Eastern forms of healing, shamanism, and others—that when we feel ill on an emotional or physical level, we also feel worn down energetically. It takes a lot of energy to go shopping for food, run errands, and go to work when we don’t feel well. But when we are healed of our emotional and physical issues, we have a lot more energy available to us for daily living. Some people inherently know how to direct this energy to create a positive present and future for themselves, but I find this is not universally true. Many people, without being aware or conscious of their energetic process, end up directing this energy to create another trauma or illness in their lives. Some individuals have no awareness that we have the potential to create a deep and meaningful life for ourselves.
Creating a Better Life Shamanism is more than journeying to helping spirits for healing. It is a way of life. As shamanic practitioners we have a great opportunity to teach people after we’ve performed a shamanic healing how to live a life that is filled with harmony. This benefits our clients and the world itself because our inner world is reflected by the outer world. And every change in consciousness we make ripples throughout the web of life. In shamanism we learn that we are part of this web of life. We are part of Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
nature and its cycles. In the West many people have forgotten this teaching. We live in a way where we separate ourselves from nature, and this is a major cause of emotional and physical illness. So many people today walk against the river of life which causes an incredible amount of emotional and physical stress. We can teach people how to align with this river, with the cycles of the moon, and with the seasons of the year. We can teach people about the power of gratitude. When we wake up each morning and give gratitude for our lives and to earth, air, water, and fire (as the sun) for giving us what we need to thrive, we create a pathway for positive things to happen in our day. In shamanism the principle of reciprocity shows us that when we honor and respect ourselves, the spirit that lives in all things, and nature, we will be honored and respected also. In shamanism we learn that thoughts are things and words are seeds. We can teach our clients how to direct their thoughts and words to achieve desired outcomes in life and direct the energy of their thoughts and words in a way that end up blessing themselves and others. As shamanic practitioners we know that there is a difference between expressing energy and sending energy. To live a healthy life and create peace in the world we need to feed all of life by expressing love rather than sending psychic darts that create harm. What we feed grows. It is our birthright to fully express our soul in this life. We are all born creative beings. In shamanic cultures unique and creative gifts of community members were honored and respected. In the West we are taught not to shine too brightly and that there are only a few creative people. Westerners are taught to behave and fit into society. Many have forgotten how to direct their creativity to build a life filled with meaning. Instead we expect that collecting material objects and money will bring happiness and meaning. Shamanism encourages us to find true wealth within ourselves as we develop a rich inner world. It is our
responsibility as shamanic practitioners to show clients how to develop this inner landscape that creates true joy, peace, and harmony that is not dependent on what is happening in the world around us. We can show clients how to create a life filled with passion and meaning.
Finding In-Depth and Comprehensive Soul Retrieval Training The resurgence in shamanism raises the question of how to find the right training to become a shamanic practitioner. Many people are asking questions about the proper length and content of soul retrieval training. Before discussing this, let me back up a bit and explain how my own soul retrieval training evolved over the years. In the late 1980’s I taught weekend soul retrieval workshops all over the United States, and in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. I discovered that in weekend workshops there was not enough time to adequately train practitioners to deal with issues we face in a modern Western culture. There is a lot to understand about the results of bridging the powerful and ancient method of soul retrieval into a modern day psychologically sophisticated culture. A longer time frame was needed, so in 1990 I developed a five-day soul retrieval training. I don’t mean to romanticize indigenous cultures, but they tended to support people from birth, honoring the gifts they were born with to share in their communities. Indigenous people were taught how to live a harmonious life and also knew what caused the disharmony that can result in illness. What’s more, soul retrieval ceremonies were performed immediately after a trauma occurred in someone’s life. Life is not so simple in the Western world. We are not always supported to live a life filled with meaning. We often cannot "connect the dots" to how our lifestyle has created the emotional and physical illnesses we are dealing with
today. People lose parts of their souls at very young ages and show up for soul retrieval work many years after a trauma occurs. Shamans in indigenous cultures did not have to go back 40, 50, or 60 years looking for lost soul parts. And indigenous shamans did not work with a psychologically sophisticated population such as ours. I think the following considerations are crucial for anyone looking for soul retrieval training that will provide clients with deep and meaningful ways to create long-term healing.
• The workshop should include teach-
ing the after-effects of soul retrieval work. Practitioners need to know how to deal with healing crises that come up after soul retrieval and deepen the more subtle effects of the work. It is especially important to let clients know that they can’t always expect a miraculous, instantaneous change. Practitioners should carefully reassure and counsel a person who does not receive an instantaneous healing.
• Some soul loss can occur when a cli-
ent is a baby or toddler, and this loss can create a habitual life pattern that runs the person’s entire life. Many recurring traumatic themes occur in life as a result from soul loss at an early age, for example, a repetitive pattern of always finding oneself betrayed in relationships. Good soul retrieval training teaches ways to help a client break old patterns and create a new positive present and future different from the traumas of the past.
• Practitioners should look for training that teaches ways to help clients fully integrate their soul parts so that the soul retrieval creates long-term healing instead of short-term effects that quickly fizzle out.
• It’s important to learn how to share
with clients what is seen in a soul retrieval journey in a way that inspires them to move on with their healing
process instead of re-traumatizing them by taking them back into the traumas of their past. This is a vital skill because so many clients are re-traumatized by shamanic practitioners who don’t know how to tell healing stories. For example, it is not healing to share with clients that a damaged or hurt soul part is being returned. The soul part coming back is now whole, not damaged. Similarly, a practitioner should not bring back a soul part that is afraid or does not want to come back. Clients should never be given this type of information. The definition of "soul" is "essence" which can’t be harmed or hurt. A soul retrieval returns to the client the pure essence that brings the client into a state of healing and wholeness. A good soul retrieval teacher presents ways to phrase healing stories so that the practitioner blesses each client by planting seeds of love, hope, and inspiration. Every time practitioners share a journey with a client they are planting seeds that grow into plants with deep roots. People today don’t need more bad news. They need to hear stories of hope and inspiration about the gifts, talents, and strengths that are now available to them after a soul retrieval which will improve the quality of their life. Frankly, this takes simple common sense on behalf of the practitioner to understand the impact of his or her words on another. Words can be used to bless or curse someone.
• Ethics is a topic that should be cov-
ered in soul retrieval training as well as in any course on shamanic healing.
Two examples: It is unethical to confirm through a shamanic journey whether the client was or was not a victim of sexual abuse. This is a complex topic that also has legal ramifications and cannot be gone into in this short article. A good training in soul retrieval will discuss this topic thoroughly. It is unethical to perform a soul retrieval long-distance without someone’s www.shamansociety.org | 9
permission. This is akin to voyeurism, and there are laws about voyeurism in both the ordinary and non-ordinary realms.
pointed with shamanic practitioners who were taught soul retrieval as a "simple" method and performed it in a rather robotic fashion.
These are key topics for professional soul retrieval trainings. Other topics include charging for shamanic healing work, the number of soul retrievals a person may need, how long to wait between soul retrievals, and working with children and families.
In my own life and for my own healing, I would only contact shamanic practitioners for help who have a deep understanding of the work and have had extensive training in it. Clients deserve the best treatment and healing help, the same that we would want for ourselves and those we love. We must remember that shamans work with the same principle as all helping professionals: Do no harm.
A great teacher will encourage students to perform soul retrieval ceremonies in an individual way to meet clientsâ€™ unique and individual issues. This means being ready to change oneâ€™s normal way of working for each client. Every client deserves to be treated as an individual. I have been in touch with many veterans from both the War in Iraq and also the Vietnam War who were greatly disap-
10 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Finally, we should remember to reflect on our personal needs when we look for someone to teach soul retrieval, and we must find the teacher who can best address those needs. Soul retrieval training is training to be in serviceâ€”to
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
people, all of life, and the planet. And we should hope to be the best possible servants that we can.
About the Author Sandra Ingerman, MA, is a worldrenowned teacher of shamanism. A licensed therapist, she is the author of eight books including Soul Retrieval, Shamanic Journeying, How to Thrive in Changing Times and Awakening the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation. Her web sites are www.sandraingerman.com and www.shamanicteachers.com.
The Legacy of Seiðr
History, Experiences, and the Path Ahead by Annette Høst During the past 25 years, the old Norse shamanic tradition called seiðr has experienced a renaissance internationally. Different shamanic and heathen groups, as well as individuals, have been exploring this heritage experientially. In this article, shamanic teacher Annette Høst examines traditional seidr as well as the new seidr asking: What have we learned about the old seidr and the new? What does it take to do a strong clear seidr, respecting the tradition? And, looking ahead, what possibilities and challenges does it offer our shamanic practice of today and tomorrow?
early shamanism, and the tradition most likely has a lifespan of more than a thousand years. The old texts only offer us glimpses of the practice in its later days, and clearly it must have undergone many changes through its long life.
To picture how a seidr session might unfold in the Viking era, we can turn to the most famous seidr account, that of Thorbjörg Little-Volva in the Saga of Eric the Red. Thorbjörg—an experienced, professional wise woman and seiðkona—is sitting on the seidr seat (seiðhiall) with her staff. The people who have summoned her to help solve the problems of illness and bad hunting luck in their settlement, Seidr is originally a surround her singing the Norse shamanic tradition, seidr song. Thorbjörg’s and could be seen as an spirit allies gather around old Scandinavian form of her, called by the hauntmagic with strong shamaning chanting, and the song ic traits. Seidr, in Norse transports her into an alseiðr (pronounced sometered state of consciouswhat like say–th, where ð ness, into the spirit world. is pronounced like the th There we must imagine in there), was a living tradihow she meets with spirtion used for divination and its, divine beings or natransformation up until ture forces, asking for help middle or late Viking age. on behalf of the suffering community, but the saga The ritual structure of is silent on this intimate seidr consists of magic song, part of the ritual. Her task staff, and a ritual seat. It ________________________________________________________ completed, she signals the is the combination of all Odin and his wife, the goddess Frigg, by Lorenz Frølich, ca. 1895. song to end. The saga then three elements, used in a tells that she chants (kuað) shamanic way, that gives the unique quality of seidr. the outcome of her magic: Both health and fertility shall speedily return to the settlement. In the silent "space" following the song, Our only written sources are bits and pieces in the mythical Thorbjörg is still between the worlds and from there she gives Edda-poems, and the sagas from late Viking age and early middle divinatory answers (spá) to the questions put to her by individuals ages. In this literature a practitioner of seiðr is called a seidr woman from the farms about health, the crops, and the future. (seiðkona), seidr man (seiðmaðr), or vo¸lva – meaning staff carrier – or spákona, meaning seer. Sometimes the person experienced in Thorbjörg’s story tells us about seidr done as a big commuthe art of seid is just called fjo¸lkunnigr, meaning a person skilled nity ritual, but seidr can also be done with just a few people. In in magic. The eddic poems and the sagas mostly mention women Laxdoela saga, Kotkel, Grima, and their two sons do an outas practitioners of seidr, but this might have been different at an door seidr together, singing strong songs raising a storm to earlier age. Seidr is much older than both the written sources and wreck a ship. In other sagas, Thuridr performs seidr to bring the Vikings. Most likely, its roots are in iron age fertility cults and
Old Norse Seiðr
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fish back into a barren fjord, and Halgrim uses seidr to make his spear axe invincible. Seidr can be done alone in nature, as the few ambiguous hints in the eddic poem, Vo¸luspá, (The Vision of the Seeress) might be indicating. As in all shamanic work, there is always a purpose for the seidr. And in short, it can be used to transform, both to harm and heal, and to seek vision including knowledge about the future. Earlier academic researchers held the view that seidr for the purpose of change or transformation is by nature harmful, black magic. There is no more substance to this claim than similar claims about shamanic work as such. Whether an act is harmful or helpful is determined by the intent of the practitioner, not by the method. Recent researchers in the past fifteen years seem to have broken free of the "black seidr" idea. Still it has created uncertainty among modern seidr students, leading some communities to settle on doing only divinatory seidr to avoid the whole issue.
Academic and Experiential Research Seidr has been the object of academic research for several generations, and many aspects of the art are still discussed, contested, or plain unknown. Since the middle of the nineteen-eighties different groups and persons, from shamanic circles to ásatrú communities, have joined the research, asking: What can we learn about seidr by combining scholarship with experiential practice of the method itself?
of magic and from the shamanic noaide tradition of the Sami. There are four main branches of magic described in Norse tradition: galdr, rune magic, seidr and utiseta. Utiseta (sitting out overnight for wisdom) shares many traits with the vision quests of other cultures, and it was practiced by laymen as well as professional magically trained people. Galdr (an art of magic singing), rune magic, and seidr are skilled magic traditions not found elsewhere. They are arts demanding substantial, even professional, training to learn. Froeði (translated to skill, wisdom) is a word used about seidr song, indicating it takes a certain effort and patience to learn. An experienced fjo¸lkunnigr practitioner of old might combine the different kinds of magic in a session if the task demands it. In "Oddrun’s lament" a "biting" galdr is combined with runes cut on the wrists to aid a difficult childbirth. In Vo¸luspá, the ambiguous poetry hints that the vo¸lva may be combining seidr and utiseta to call forth her deep visions.
Experiences of the New Seiðr
What distinguishes seidr in relation to other magic?
Since my first introduction 25 years ago to experimental and ecstatic seidr through the Swedish shamanic network called Yggdrasil, I have practiced seidr with countless groups in many countries. During the years, different aspects of seidr slowly revealed themselves, in an ongoing exchange between critical text studies and shamanic exploration. I find it is far more than an exotic, ancient speciality.
Some researchers and modern practitioners view seidr as a generic term for all Norse magic as well as a distinct method. The way I understand the written sources, reading with "shamanic" eyes, seidr is one kind of Norse magic. But not all kinds of Norse magic are seidr. In the earlier sagas at least, seidr is clearly distinguished from both other branches
I call what we do new seidr, acknowledging that it must, of course, be different from the old one. My feet are planted here in modern Northern European shamanism, and my aim has never been to reconstruct the past or do Viking-age seiðr. Rather, my passion has been to find out how it works, and then ask: What does the seidr tradition bring
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Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
to the magic and spiritual practices of today, and what shamanic skills does it demand of us? Today there are several different approaches to the new seidr. I have found working with seidr as a distinct method, defined as a shamanic work using staff, song, and magic seat in combination, to be consistent with both the historical sources and the shamanic tradition. In other words: there are four S’s in a seidr: Staff, Song, Seat, and Spirits. If any of those four is missing it is not seidr as I see it, but some other method which we may call "seidr-inspired" rather than proper seidr.
The Ritual Forms and Variations Let us take a look at each of the four elements to better understand how they play together. The account of Thorbjörg’s seidr outlines a ritual recipe for a community seidr. It has proven a great way of working for a group of people with a common purpose, like finding a guiding vision for a project or re-empowering a neighborhood. Apart from the results of the work, just being part of such a community seidr can be very empowering for both the unity of the group and for the individuals in the circle. However, a big group seidr is far from always being the most appropriate or effective method. It all depends on the task. Often a simpler version – done indoor or outdoor—can be a better choice for your mission. If you are just a few people together, you can still let one person journey, carried by the song of the others. There is also a related practice for when you work alone, which I call solitary seidr. The term "solitary seidr" is not used in the old literature, but in the mythic poem, Vo¸luspá, it is indicated that such a ritual method was used. If you do it in nature, your seidr seat might be a rock or a root of a tree. With your purpose or intent clear in your heart, you simply sit with your staff and sing
yourself into contact with the wind, the night, with the animals and spirits out there, and let their songs blend with yours to guide you and heal you.
The Seidr Song In seidr we use singing instead of drumming to come into contact with the otherworld. Thorbjörg states that without singing, the spirits turn away from her. And without spirits, she cannot "see" to do the seidr. "Sweet was the chanting" or "no one present had ever heard a fairer song" are some of the descriptions of the old seidr songs. At other times they are referred to as "strong" or "harsh." Both then and now the seidr song is known to often become ecstatic. No old seiðr songs have been handed down to us, so I have had to turn to the related traditions of magic and ritual song of the Nordic countries, especially the Norse galdr, the Finnish runolaulo, the Sami joik, and to learn the old forgotten skills of magic singing. Traditional magic chanting is characterised by being repetitious and going on for a long time, thereby facilitating trance or a change of consciousness, similar to the way drumming works. This is the old, literal meaning of the word enchantment. Today, this is experienced by both the seidr worker and by the singers in the circle, who, maybe for the first time in their lives, know the basic human experience of letting go completely into singing. In different types of seidr, you are either sung over by other people, or you can sing yourself on your journey. In the example from Laxdoela Saga mentioned earlier, Kotkel’s family, as a close-knit unit, sang their own seidr. Just as important, though, chanting is often used by the seidr-worker to communicate with the participants, and to manifest the outcome of the seidr work. When Thorbjörg, for example, chants, "This illness shall end sooner than any of you expect!", she is doing more than reporting a vision: she is singing it into being!
Sung messages, unlike spoken words, have a way of going directly to the heart of the listener, without being first filtered by the brain. It is a way of moving power, strengthening the magic impact, and deeply touching the listener.
voices, or sit in the visions of the twilit forest, it is the staff in your hands which holds the direction of your journey and keeps you centered. At the same time, the staff is your grounding, like the Tree of Life, connecting earth and sky.
In both Norse and Celtic spiritual tradition this is a strong trait known as inspired (in the literal sense) poetry, and is often ecstatic. It is also used worldwide in shamanic rituals of many traditions, including Siberian and South American. It easily enhances and empowers our own modern healing and other shamanic work.
In the old literature another word used for staff is gandr. But gandr can also mean spirit ally, or magic, or all three at once, as in a shamanic experience with the soul of the staff, when it might turn into a horse or move like a snake. In seidr work, it is the inner spirit side that makes a powerful staff, not the look of its outer surface.
The Seidr Seat
Working with Power and Ergi
In the past, I often translated Seiðhiall to "high seat" when speaking English, as do many written translations of the Norse sources. But this inaccurate translation is mixing two terms, which historically and energetically are very different. For example, in the case of Thorbjörg, she is led to the hásæti on the night she arrives. The next day, doing the seidr, she climbs onto the seiðhiall. The hásæti high seat is a seat of social honor in the hall, often kept in the family for generations. It is of this world, a VIP seat—full of ego. The seidr seat, seiðhiall, is a magic seat or platform, built for the occasion, and it has no room for ego.
Sometimes the character of a seidr is mostly gentle and clear. But now and then in a strong, ecstatic seidr you may encounter a raw power of nature coming from the earth or whirling in the song, running through the staff or yourself. And sometimes this power has a clearly erotic or sexual character. This can be a profound spiritual experience in itself. But the point is that this is the power that you are given from the spirit world for the stated purpose of your seidr, be it healing, transformation or deeper insight into the web of life. And, the way to deal with it is through surrender without forgetting your mission. For me, this is the beautiful mystery core of seidr.
The seidr practitioner—like all shamans—is, while on the job (and the seat!), the servant of the people and at the same time a servant of the spirits, a mediator sitting between the worlds. It can be very seductive to sit on the seidr seat if the distinction between the two seats is not made clear and well understood. The danger is in forgetting that the authority of the words coming out of your mouth does not belong to you, but to the spirits.
The Staff The staff (vo¸lr, which has given name to the vo¸lva) is – also literally speaking – the centre of seiðr. When you sit on the magic seat in a sea of human and spirit
This quality of seidr is hinted at and named ergi in the mythic poems and the sagas. Ergi is the most esoteric and enigmatic aspect of seidr. In the academic research it is also the most misunderstood aspect of seidr. In the old texts it is said that men could not perform seiðr without shame due to the ergi inherent in seiðr. Ergi was, in the age of the sagas, the Viking age, interpreted as a linking together of unmanliness, magic skilfulness, and sexual perversion. Thus the idea of the "unmanly seidr man" is heavily dependent on the Viking age’s narrow definition of acceptable masculinity and sexuality. Still the "unmanly seidr" myth has stuck in almost all later academic and popular speculations. www.shamansociety.org | 13
It is noteworthy that the whole issue of ergi and reputed unmanliness has had more impact in the modern circles which have studied seidr in the sagas and academic research and adopted their view of ergi before experiencing it firsthand in seidr. My personal understanding is that ergi is a skilful way of handling spirit power through focused surrender, by receiving the power and expressing it magically. Voluntary loss of control, the union of ecstasy and consciousness, is also known by both the old Sami noaide and the Siberian shaman. Today it is experienced anew by people, who venture out on the path of shamanism. I should emphasize though that a seidr, especially for divination, easily can be effective without deep ecstasy and ergi: It all depends on the task. The power that needs handling through ergi only reveals itself now and then, and is neither something to fear nor pursue.
Magic and Heathenry While the magic and religious realms were closely connected in pre-Christian Scandinavia, the ancient written sources distinguish between magic and heathenry. In other words, you don’t have to be ásatrú to practice seidr, galdr and utiseta. Seidr is an independent tradition, much older than the Viking age and the divinities we know of from Norse mythology. I feel we are on safer, more authentic ground if we go behind the structure or filter of any religion and connect with the spirits and power of Nature as the spiritual foundation of seidr. More authentic because the great forces we meet firsthand in nature are timeless.
Seidr of Today and Tomorrow We are now at a point where we know what it takes to do a good seidr, and we know something about which skills it demands of us. What possibilities and challenges are ahead of us now? Why do we want to do seidr today? Often I have seen that people are in 14 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
such awe over seidr because it is an old North European magic craft, and they want to use it for everything in their shamanic practice. When we start getting familiar with it, we will see that it is really just a way of working together with spirits and nature powers. It’s another shamanic method or ritual tool in our tool kit. When you get it incorporated in your practice you will only use it when it is the most fitting tool for your given task. The question is always: Does it work? Does it bring you closer to the mystery and power? Does it do the job? With song, staff, and seat integrated in our shamanic repertoire, together with drum, rattle, and dancing, we can become freer to choose the right ritual tool for the right task.
Ways of Seidr Training How do I get seidr training, I am often asked. My answer is always that all shamanic training is good seidr training. Your seidr doesn’t get any stronger than your general shamanic work practice: your connection with your spirit allies, your journeying skills, and your ability to handle power. That said, here are a few training suggestions for your inspiration: Find (or get found by) a staff. A magic staff is your travel companion, your spirit guide. Get well acquainted with your staff by travelling with it in both worlds. It is your work together as a team that matters, somewhat like the way you and the rattle can work together. Next, get comfortable singing your journey experiences out loud while they are happening. People who have worked with shamanic counseling are already used to the 'Harner Method' of speaking their journey out loud. Just start chanting it instead of talking, until it becomes a natural way of expression. Thirdly, find—on journeys or in nature—your own seidr songs and learn them well by heart. Learn other ritual songs by heart. We need song keepers in both the new seidr and modern shamanic Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
community in general. These exercises prepare us to perform a big or small seidr ritual. They are also valuable shamanic disciplines in their own right, and will enhance our shamanic craft and abilities.
Seidr, Nature, and the Spiritual Longing Modern Americans of European descent often tell me of a longing for anchoring their practice in an earth honoring spiritual tradition which is also part of their own "native" cultural heritage, so they do not have to "borrow" from the American Indian or other indigenous spiritual tradition. This is one important reason for seidr’s appeal to modern people. To me, the mystical core of seidr is inseparable from wild nature. Therefore, a key part of our new seidr practice is "sitting out" alone at night with our staff, amongst the hills and trees, singing the power of earth and wind. This offers a beautiful, wild way of literally rooting our spiritual and magic practice in our own landscape and in our own time. What we experience there is both ancient and new, authentic and timeless. People often say it is like coming home.
The Path Ahead Seidr can indeed renew and inspire our modern shamanic practice in many ways. The greatest challenges I see for the new seidr is that we respect the tradition, and, at the same time, we keep our focus on the timeless aspects. As Gustav Mahler said, " . . . tradition is the keeping of the fire, not the worship of the ashes." For me, keeping the fire means that we keep our seidr ritually lean, and free of excessive "Viking" ritual, liturgy, and romanticism. In other words: Keep it simple, keep it shamanic, keep it close to nature! It is also means that we maintain that seidr belongs to both men and women, letting the ergi-angst of the Viking age rest with the Vikings. It is easy to dilute a practice and I feel we should remember to distinguish between seidr and seidr-inspired work. www.shamansociety.org | 14
We can do this by remembering the four S’s in a full seidr: Song, Staff, Seat, and Spirits.
_______________________________ Left: Annette Høst.
Finally, to honor seidr it is important that we respect that the craft and songs are froeði, demanding skill, and we must take our time to learn them well. It is worth it to make the effort to do our best with each seidr, knowing that the steps we take today create the tradition of tomorrow.
About the Author Annette Høst, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, has studied, practiced, and taught shamanism internationally for over two decades. Her 25 years of research and teaching of old Scandinavian shamanic traditions include lecturing on seiðr at the National Museum of Denmark. She is co-founder of Scandinavian Center for Shamanic Studies, with Jonathan Horwitz. For more about her work on shamanism and other articles on seiðr, see www.shamanism.dk.
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The Wandering Souls of
First Published in International Deep Memory Association Journal, Summer, 2007
by Edward Tick, PhD
One: Life is difficult, full of unexpected challenges
the body will not be recovered, they build a Ma Gio, a Windy
and threats. Many people do not complete its journey in peace
Tomb. This is an empty tomb that serves as home and altar for the
or with good fortune. Whether from warfare, at sea, while travel-
wandering soul to find rest among his relations.
ing, or from accidents or illnesses, people may die violently and unexpectedly, far from home and loved ones. Many traditional
With more than 2-½ million dead from the American War
cultures from around the world have believed that when people
alone, tombs in Viet Nam sprout like rice. Many are in large mili-
die this way, their souls— whether on this plane or another—may
tary cemeteries for Northern and Viet Cong dead only; there are
be traumatized, stuck in a limbo, unable to move on to the land
no such honorific cemeteries for the dead of the southern army
of the dead or in their cycles of reincarnation.
who were allied to the United States. The military cemeteries contain central patriotic statues in socialist realism style accompanied
In ancient Vietnamese belief, if a person dies violently or
by a motto declaring, "The Motherland Honors Your Sacrifice."
without leaving children to remember them, the soul becomes
Countless other tombs are in small family or village plots where
trapped, wandering in this world and unable to continue its jour-
war dead are buried along with ancestors who are worshipped for
ney toward reincarnation. In Viet Nam a wandering soul is called
four generations, a full century.
co hon. Peasants report seeing and hearing wandering souls gather to lament in jungle valleys and riverbeds.1
Viet Nam is not only overpopulated with the dead. While the United States still has about 2,000 Missing in Action, Viet Nam
In Viet Nam, the 15th day of the seventh lunar month is the
has ¼ million.
Day of Wandering Souls. It is a time, eighteenth century poet Nguyen Du wrote, when "rain falls like a ceaseless weeping . . .
Tran Dinh Song, from Da Nang, is a 56 year old teacher and
and pear trees scatter their tears like dew, their dew like tears."2
tour guide. Though against the war, because everyone had to
The Vietnamese say that on this national holiday the full moon
serve, Song was a southern air force officer. Song’s family history
is crying. On this day people tend uncared for graves all over the
in both war and peace demonstrates how wandering souls can af-
country, leaving porridge or bean and lentil cookies for the home-
fect the living, and the prevalence, beliefs, and practices of tending
less souls to eat.
wandering souls in Viet Nam.
Whether lost at sea, on a long journey, or missing in action during war, when families accept that their loved one is dead but
Because of their war losses, typical for nearly every family in Viet Nam, Song’s family has built two windy tombs.
_________________________________________________ Opposite: Called the Graveyard of No Tombs, the Ma Da Cemetery, Dong Nai, Vietnam. Illustrations by Ron Short.
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WINDY TOMB Alive our souls need a house to be home. Dead our souls need a tomb for deep rest. Without a house we are homeless. Without a tomb we wander without return. My uncle was VC, his son was ARVN – North and South, just like your war. My uncle was buried when your tank crushed his tunnel. My cousin’s bones sleep in a mass grave for both sides. My family searched with shovels and spoons but we could not overturn the earth and the water. Finally, finally, we built windy tombs – tombs without bodies, tombs without bones. Finally, finally, father and son sleep together, rest again. Once every year when the moon cries its tears with rice porridge and cookies we join in sad feast.3
18 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Two: Song’s aunt was the
widow of this uncle who was killed during the war. In a repeating dream, she saw her husband appear before her, night after night. He did not speak, but shivered with wet and cold and looked like he could not find rest. The aunt consulted a family elder known for his wisdom. The elder advised her that this dream indicated her husband was a wandering soul who needed a home. This consultation led to the family building the windy tomb. After building it, the aunt’s disturbing dreams ceased and have never returned.
The Vietnamese honor not only those killed during war, but all lost souls. The Vietnamese teach that children lost due to miscarriage, abortion, or illnesses are also our children. Thus, parents who have two living children and who have also had an abortion and a miscarriage say they have four children. These souls lost to early death need honoring and helping ritual as well. When their second son was seven months old Song’s wife Lan had a miscarriage. For a long time afterwards, Lan had a disturbing dream that a baby son appeared and pushed their infant son from her breast to get milk for himself. She too finally consulted a family elder. He had not known about the miscarriage but asked, "Did you ever have another baby?" The elder instructed Song and Lan to build the lost one a tomb and an altar. They constructed it outside their bedroom window. As soon as it was completed, the dreams ceased. Now Lan and Song put sweets and toys on the altar just as on other family tombs. And they always say they have three sons, not only the two that are living.
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Three: Chu Li, lying near
the eastern coast between Da Nang and My Lai, was the site of the first battle between newly arrived American troops and Viet Cong in May, 1965. Marines had occupied a rocky hill and the Viet Cong wanted it back. Today there is a tall spire with an emblazoned date standing atop the battle mount. Water buffalo walk up the stone steps, drop mounds, and munch grass. Peasants collect wood and cut greens nearby. During one healing and reconciliation pilgrimage I lead to Viet Nam every year, our group stopped at Chu Li to pray at a Windy Tomb an earlier travel group had built for an American MIA from that battle. This is the only windy tomb known to have been built for an American MIA in all of Viet Nam. Some members of our group honored MIAs from families at home and we prayed for all lost souls. Another of our travelers, Beth Marie Murphy, had been a nurse on the hospital ship U.S.S. Sanctuary during the war. In addition to wounded American troops, Lt. Murphy had treated Vietnamese children maimed and burned by American bombs and napalm. She developed a special bond with a young girl named Mein, who lost both her legs during an American raid. Beth Marie oversaw Mein’s treatment and recovery until her parents arrived to prematurely take her back to their jungle village. Beth Marie has lived for decades with the fear and grief that Mein died of her wounds or of exposure in the harsh jungle environment. Like the Vietnamese women of Song’s family, Beth Marie had dreamed of Mein for years and has felt the burden of carrying endless grief. Seeking to bring healing and peace to both souls – Mein’s and her own – Beth Marie asked to build a second Windy Tomb close to the first.
THE AMERICAN WAR NURSE BUILDS A WINDY TOMB My back is bowed from decades of carrying the soul of the legless girl who began as my patient but became my niece as we flew colored kites in the wind off my ship. In dreams my eyes are pink and swollen with the ocean of tears both shed and withheld since the angry wounded called her ‘VC child’ and desperate arms snatched her back to the jungle. Today I carry one stone at a time. With each dripping tear I recite her name. Gently I let her down off my back and give my lost niece this tomb for a home. Eight children tumble round my fractured legs to help me lay the last stones on her cairn. One red dragonfly hovers in our wafting incense and a sweet breeze kisses my cheek with her name.
Through the Vietnamese recognition of wandering souls Beth Marie Murphy achieved both spiritual explanation and comfort from her decades of dreaming about Mein. This same spiritual explanation has proven useful to many war veterans – that nightmares of the dead are not pathological symptoms to be eradicated, but may be the souls of people violently slain trying to communicate with the living.4 The Vietnamese belief in wandering souls, their practices of building them windy tombs and honoring them as our lost loved ones or allies, have brought significant help and relief not just to the Vietnamese. When embraced and applied with the support of spirit, in respectful ritual and in the context of a loving community, we may heal our disturbed relations with wandering souls, whether they were family members, friends, our young charges, or even enemy combatants. In Viet Nam continuity is everywhere. Travelers, visitors, even war veterans who fought against the Vietnamese, are welcomed as brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. Together we can honor the wandering souls, achieve healing for those souls and for ourselves, and experience renewal and rebirth.
Endnotes 1 Accounts of such encounters are
reported, for example, in Bao Ninh, The Sorrow of War, trans. Phan Thanh Hao (London: Minerva, 1994). 2 The excerpt from Nguyen Du’s "Call to Wandering Souls" is from Huu Ngoc, Sketches for a Portrait of Vietnamese Culture (Ha Noi: Gioi Publishers, 1998), 881. The translation of Dr. Huu’s. 3 This first section of prose and poetry is taken from Edward Tick, The Golden Tortoise: Viet Nam Journeys (Los Angeles: Red Hen Press, 2005), 98-99. The first paragraph has been added for introduction, and some paragraphs have been reordered or slightly expanded for this article. The remainder of this article is published here for the first time. 4 This interpretation and its application to therapy and healing of war veterans are presented in Edward Tick, War and the Soul (Wheaton, IL: Quest Books, 2005).
About the Author Edward Tick, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized transformational healer, writer, and educator and co-directs Soldier’s Heart, a non-profit veteran healing initiative. He is an expert on veterans, PTSD, and the psychology of military-related issues and has conducted trainings, retreats, and workshops across the country and overseas. He is the author of War and the Soul, The Golden Tortoise, The Practice of Dream Healing and Sacred Mountain, as well as over 100 articles.
U.S. Nurse Corps pin issued during the Vietnam War. ����������������������������������������������������� www.shamansociety.org | 19
20 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Healing with the Spirits of Nature
by Jane Shutt
When I started working with the Spirits of Nature, Land Spirits and Middle-World Spirits, I started, as most of us do, by going out and asking a local Spirit of Nature for a healing or a teaching. Then, what I like to think of as an innate sense of fairness made me start thinking, "What’s in it for the spirits?" When I asked,"What can I do for you?" I was started on a path of land healing which I still practice and teach. Working with the Spirits of Nature is my passion and from doing this work I feel I have come to a greater understanding of myself and of the working of the web of life. My personal spirit friends have never made a distinction between humans and the rest of nature. There are only those who need help and those who can give it. So I heal where I can, whether the recipient is land, those spirits who inhabit the land, plants, humans and other animals or buildings. And I hope I am equally open to accepting healing from others in turn. My healing teacher’s mantra is,"We do what we can do for whoever is in need of what we do." Increasingly, as I feel the flow of power around the web touching us all, I feel less inclined to divide my shamanic work into healing and being healed. The power flows through us all—continually. It takes many forms and is used in many ways, and most of those ways are healing ways. We use power to bring about change and, if that change is for the better, that is healing.
One of the most important teachings I was given then by my teacher was this: “Power is in everything. Power is the flow of energy through everything. And so, everything is part of the flow. Everything around you points the way to health and to healing – leaves, rain; the way a shadow falls – all this connects you. In connection is completeness and in completeness is health. All this power is healing power, as it is growth power, life power, love power.” When we go out to sit by a favorite tree, or gaze at a beloved landscape, where we enjoy the feel of the breeze on our skin and the sun on our face, this is when many of us feel most strongly our connection to everything. Feeling this connection helps us be more at peace. Many people have told me that if they are feeling down, a walk in woodland picks them up in an almost miraculous way. This is, maybe, the simplest way that Spirits of Nature will heal us, just by being with us, holding our hand and giving us company at our lowest points. These simple things which we all do at different times, are healing ways. They heal our soul and bring us peace. My teacher then gave me another important teaching:
I always feel there is more to learn, and recently I have been discussing with my spirit teachers how I can use my relationship with the Spirits of Nature to bring about healing in people. As a way of answering they gave me a journey mission for myself and my students:
“Once we humans were just another creature on the face of the earth. We were complete in our humanness, connected as we were to other animals and to the spirit worlds. And then we began to see ourselves as ’other’-as ’not just an animal’ and, even more importantly, as ’not a spirit.’ This was humanity’s first soul loss. Since then there has been a craving in humans for reconnection, for making ourselves complete again, for retrieving humanity’s soul.” He then said, “You can never be completely whole in life because the world of humanity is not whole.”
“In what ways can the Spirits of Nature help me to heal others and myself?”
This idea of us once being so closely connected to the web and "at one" with all things is one which is found in many religions
Original Soul Loss
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and cultures. This is not to say that we are "wrong" in any way for not being so now. My teachers have pointed out that without"humanity’s first soul loss," without this "fall from grace," we would not be able to learn so much in our lives. How can we truly understand connection if we have never been disconnected? The spiritual search which we undertake throughout our lives is ultimately to recover for ourselves as much of this lost soul as we are able. The traditional work of the shaman makes this goal a little more attainable. Soul retrieval is a major part of our shamanic work in this life. Souls can be lost from this life and have been lost from past lives; we live in cultures in Europe where it has not been the norm for many centuries to seek help from the spirits. Accepting shamanism means, for me, accepting that we and the spirits we work with are individuals—each individual plant has an individual spirit, which may or may not wish to work with us. It is a necessary part of my shamanism that I negotiate between the spirits in order to bring about healing for my client. Why would spirits help us? Well, my experience is that not all will. Some nature spirits, like some humans, have been damaged to the point where they cannot think beyond their own pain. They need to receive help before they can give it. This is a large part of what I do and what I teach—the healing of the land and of nature. Most nature spirits are like most people—they will help if they can and if they are asked politely and offered something in return. This can be seen as a form of contract. If we keep our side of this contract, they will keep theirs. The Spirits of Nature are, on the whole, incredibly generous. They will help in any way they can, if the balance of giving and receiving is maintained. Maintaining the balance between the worlds of ordinary and non-ordinary reality is ultimately our goal as shamanic practitioners. The work of the shaman is bound by this need to maintain the balance and so often when working with the spirits of plants, whether as oils, tisanes or 22 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
an oak tree, part of the work is to come to an agreed contract about what can be given in return for the help being offered.
Ask the Spirits Maintaining the balance is difficult. It is very easy for us to get out of balance. Our culture does not regard spiritual balance as particularly important. In Feng Shui, the elements need to be in the correct proportions to each other. The geomancy of Northern Europe, where I am, is similar, although the energy flows are slightly different and, unlike Feng Shui practitioners, I do not need a list of rules to follow in order to find out what to do—I ask the spirits. A client suffering from serious mental health issues had been visiting me for healing for some months. She was finding it hard to leave her home, a one bedroomed apartment, even to go shopping. Her spirits said that her home was seriously out of balance. I arranged to visit her and see what I could do. I asked the spirit of the apartment what was needed. The answer was very clear—and surprisingly organized. The spirit wanted each room to be dedicated to an element. The bathroom should be Water. Paint it blue, and have decorations that will make Andrea think of the sea; shells, pictures of fish, and so on. The kitchen needs Fire. When she is in there, cooking, she should light a candle and thank the flame and the sun for her food and the means to cook it. Make the sitting room Air. Hang some chimes and open the windows at least once a day. And the bedroom needs Earth. It should have thicker curtains to cut out streets lights at night. It should be warm and cozy. Put some pretty stones on the windowsill. All of that was done, some of it (opening the window) at once. The rest took longer, but she was determined to be Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
well and went at her task with vigor. The next time I saw her she was much better. The rearranging gave her something to occupy her, and she found that the constant reminders and giving thanks had reconnected her to the natural world. Her bedroom became a private sanctuary, a place where she could literally "go to earth" and feel secure. She began to sleep much better. She loved the sitting room, finding that her energy levels "switched on" while she was in there. She began to feel able to visit me using public transport and to go out into the local park, walking her neighbor’s dog. Soon she felt well enough to start looking for a job. This simple example shows how through balancing the elements in our lives, healing can occur through reconnection to the web. Connection and balance bring about healing. Very often the act of actively giving thanks to the spirits for helping us is all they need to continue to be willing to do so. Blessing our food before we eat, thanking the sun as it sets each day, and giving thanks to the spirits of weather are all simple acknowledgements which help maintain our connection and help maintain the balance in our lives.
Connection to Nature I feel that many illnesses in our culture stem, largely, from disconnection from the Spirits of Nature. A simple and direct way of working with them is ingesting them with our food. The more natural our food, the better and the stronger is the connection to the spirits. People in our culture are divorced from growing, gathering, or hunting food, relying on others to do this for us. This increases our disconnection from the spirits. Some people do not like to go outside at all; seeking to reduce their exposure to the outside world as much as possible by, for instance, shopping inside huge malls and spending leisure time within inside venues. They prefer to have nothing to do with the natural world; rejecting even fruit and vegetables, shuddering to think they could possibly eat stuff which has been grown in the dirt. These are the
people Annette Høst refers to as "earth phobic." A student of ours, on a workshop about land, refused to go outside to connect with the weather because it was raining. Another who disliked being "dirty" found herself stuck in some mud, being released after she apologized to the mud for treating it so badly for so long. Spirits can help, and will help us to reconnect if they have our respect and care. It can come as a shock to people whose idea of spirits is that they all work "for the greater good," if the spirits they contact have a different, and possibly more personal, view of what the greater good might be. Bear in mind that when you go to look for a spirit teacher, for example, your intention is to find a spirit who wants to teach you. When you look for a plant to help with healing, your intention will be something like… "to find a spirit who will help . . ." But when you go to speak to a particular spirit, a house spirit for example, you cannot guarantee that they will want to help. Even if they do talk to you, which is not always a given, their agenda may well not be the same as yours. A friend of ours had moved into a new (to him) house, a former miner’s cottage on the North Yorkshire Moors. He journeyed to meet the house spirit and to ask it to help him to make the garden beautiful. The house spirit was furious! "Beautiful?" he shouted, "Gardens are for growing food to support the family, not for pretty flowers!" We suggested he contact the garden spirit. Doing so, he was able to negotiate between them by agreeing to grow both flowers and vegetables. All parties were pleased with this and until he moved away last year, his garden was both beautiful and productive. By maintaining a balance, by negotiation, healing for all was found.
Cleansing the Land During the 2001 hoof and mouth disease epidemic in the U.K., the virus was all over the North Yorkshire Moors where we were living at the time. We
asked our spirit teachers what we should do to help. My partner Christine was told to do, and did, extractions of the virus from the air for several weeks after that. And I was given a teaching. I was told that the virus is able to take hold because humans, even those involved in the production of food, are disconnected from the land and the animals. Not so long ago, fires would have been lit at festivals and the animals led through the smoke. This worked not because there is anything medicinal about the smoke but because it was part of a very old bargain with the spirits. When this was done the animals were safe from epidemics. It is similar to the agreements that we have with our spirits when we smudge our tools in order to clean them. The cleaning is not a physical function of the smoke; it is a spiritual action of the spirits. Then I was told to …"Take a smudge bundle. Light it. Then, holding the intention that cleansing smoke will fill the valley, tie it to the hedge at the end of the garden." I said, "The bundle will go out in the rain." My teacher replied, "Only in your reality. In the spirit world, which is after all what counts here, it will continue to burn. Replace it once a week." I did this. And, whenever I journeyed for the next several weeks, there the bundle was, glowing gently, and the smoke was filling the valley. We do not do, as a people, the things that our ancestors did as a matter of course to maintain our own health and the health of the land. Rituals which were once commonplace are no longer adhered to, regarded perhaps as superstitious nonsense. These practices were contracts drawn up long ago between us and the spirits of the land in order to maintain the health and the balance of both. Now we have broken the contracts, without even realizing that we have done so. Why then should the spirits continue to keep their part of the bargain? The valleys surrounding us were infected with hoof and mouth. There was not one case within our valley.
Receiving Healing from Nature Spirits Maintaining balance in our lives is a constant issue. Over the last few years, Christine has needed the help of nature spirits more than usual. She developed a small benign brain tumor which has affected her balance in a very marked way. She has now had the tumor surgically removed, but her balance is not good. She walks with two sticks, frequently falls and is often in pain. We asked why the tumor had developed. Her teacher explained that Christine had set up a contract to develop a "non-life-threatening but debilitating condition in order to learn how to be without balance in ordinary reality". Following the operation, we asked the Spirits of Nature to help heal the surgical wounds. The spirits said, "Her head is too full, too busy. Her brain needs help to heal. Bring her to the quiet places, the peaceful places. Let her sit on the moor and listen to the curlews. Let her watch the wind in the trees and the moon rising over the sea. Let her feel the rain and the sun, the earth beneath her and the breeze around her." We go regularly to the North Yorkshire Moors near our home, to the woods and to the sea cliffs and beaches, and Christine sits quietly asking for help. Sometimes she is told to drink from a stream, or to eat a leaf, ways for the healing from the spirits to enter her. Sometimes she puts her feet into the sea allowing the discomfort to flow from her. But often she just sits for an hour or so, and comes home more at peace. The spirits in our garden have offered to help alleviate her pain. When she needs to, she puts bare hands and feet onto the soil. The spirits of the plants and the earth in the garden take what they can of her pain deep into the soil. At other times, she lies down on the earth and allows the pain to drain directly out from the affected side of her head into the earth.
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Continued from page 23.
How to work with spirits of nature for healing? Ask for help—with respect and without any attitude of entitlement —accept the help, and give thanks for the help. And work, continually, towards connection. I asked my spirit teacher once to tell me about love. He said, “The Universe runs on love. It is the energy that you and others harness. This is why loving ‘magics’ are so much easier than non loving ‘magics’. It is always easier to go with the flow than against it. But humans are a long way from being able to fully understand this Universal Love. What humans call love is actually connection. At your stage of spiritual development—at the stage that anyone who is incarnate on this earth is at—'love' and 'connection' can be considered to be the same. Your species’ struggle towards love is a struggle towards true connection and in that true connection true love may then be found. Set your feet on the path of connection and keep walking. That is all and everything that can be expected of you.”
About the Author Jane Shutt is a teacher of shamanism in northeast England. She is the founder of North Yorkshire Shamanism and one of the co-founders of The Core Shamanic Practitioners Circle in Britain and Ireland. She has been practicing shamanism since 1986, and is the author of best-selling The Spirits Are Always With Me. She is currently working on her next book which will be about working with nature spirits. Contact Jane on +44 7412 902048 or firstname.lastname@example.org www.northyorkshireshamanism.co.uk
The White Rabbit, illustrated by John Tenniel in 1865 for Lewis Carroll’s first edition of Alice in Wonderland. 24 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Lucid Living in the Middle World or
“Follow the White Rabbit”
by Gary Lindorff
Shamanically speaking, living in the middle world as if it is the only world is one sure way of guaranteeing the unsustainability of that world. Such a one-world-consciousness reminds me of the nightmarish situation depicted in the film, The Matrix, the 1999 brainchild of the Wachowski brothers. The Matrix is a super-program in which all of humanity, minus a small number of rebels, has become imprisoned. It is no secret that we are, in fact, on the verge of imposing a Matrix-like destiny on ourselves. That being said, it is even more accurate to compare a monopolistic middle world to a collective lucid dream in which the lucidity of the dreamers—or the intra-dream awareness that we are dreaming—is all but unanimously lacking. In other words, we (by which I mean humanity) are missing a golden opportunity to effect change on the level of our Dreaming.
Middle World as Void By itself the middle world is little more than the dressing of a void. It has impermanence written all over it like a carnival that comes together overnight and, when it’s over, disappears just as quickly. Let’s assume that there are two kinds of voids: the chaos that is breaking down into nothing (the dreamless void), and the nothing that is always on the verge of building into something unprecedented (the vacuum plenum). The middle world is a void trying to decide whether it wants to collapse in on itself or become real and true. Sound far-fetched? Internationally respected author, critic, and theorist Damien Broderick writes that some physicists find it useful to postulate the existence of a probability field to account for how probability space can "'bend' in the presence of some psi (paranormal) element of consciousness." He asks, "Can coupling between intention and matter or energy cause a warping of. . . the probability field?"1 In the 1950s, when UFO sightings were a dime a dozen, some were so real they were pursued by Air Force jets and the government has never come clean on what they learned from all their classified mid-air encounters. But what was even more interesting to Jung, who coined the word "psychoid" to describe archetypal structures that straddle the psychic and material realms, was the relationship of ordinary people to the UFO phenomenon. Folks were so anxious to experience UFOs first hand that some published sightings were nothing but homemade models of airships caught on film or a snapshot of a dish tossed over a suburban clothesline.
Suffice it to say the middle world is always in a state of flux. It is half-baked, floating on a vast relativity of values and dreams and barely functional systems, secretive bellicose governments, the ruins of ethnicities, great train wrecks of religions, the stirrings of new and renewed visions, environmental breakdown, a soup of disparate energies—moral restlessness, continuous war, cultural mayhem. Fortunately, as shaman and Buddhist Joan Halifax reminds us, "Shamans are trained in the art of equilibrium, in moving with poise and surety on the threshold of the opposites, in creating cosmos out of chaos."2
A Dying Middle World Living shamanically in the middle world means living here lucidly, knowing that there are co-existent worlds of equal or even greater significance that are readily accessible. I want to suggest that this is the great work of a lifetime precisely because so much of the middle world is dead or dying. I am worried about the vital energy of Turtle Island waning—her energy, life-force, or what the Australian Aborigines call guruwari, a potency that the first ancestors injected into the land that infuses the soil and every living thing. We have all witnessed dead zones, quasi-abandoned strip malls with vast parking areas, or what’s left of once thriving neighborhoods where the life energy has dried up, where people appear defeated and vacant and streets are a maze of permanent one-way detours with signs that read, to borrow from T.S Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock, like a "tedious argument." The same ennui or doldrums pervade certain forests where trees appear to be dormant or just biding their time. (One can only hope that the ancient giants of Sequoia National Park, the most polluted national park in the country, where the ozone level is comparable to Los Angeles, will be able to make it through this time of trouble.) Energetic partnership with the land is something our culture knows very little about. If the guruwari of a locale is strong, it can pass power or potency to people, and people, for their part, can enhance the life energy or guruwari of a place through timely ritual. But this symbiosis can reverse. If the energy of a place has been downgraded or obliterated by human projects or neglect, or, perchance, by a natural disaster, this can sap the energy of the people who inhabit that place, and they, in turn, become sponges for the life energy of other locales. (Citing the example of Sequoia www.shamansociety.org | 25
National Park again, the climate there is literally hazardous to the health of the people who work or hike there; the ozone is depleting the life-force of the place. It is conceivable that a visit there might actually trigger depression in an otherwise healthy person!)
the dawn of this new century. In 2009, by their own posted count, they "killed/ euthanized" over one million Brownheaded Cowbirds and close to a million Red-winged Blackbirds, just one of whose distinctive call from the edge of the marsh is a sure harbinger of Spring.
Even people who tend to the land, and enjoy a healthy relationship with a place cannot expect the reciprocating land to provide everything they need for life. In his discussion of the healing effect of song on both the human and natural environment, theoretical physicist David Peat, referring to Colin Turnbull’s book The Forest People, describes how certain African forest dwellers thread through the forest producing a kind of music that mimics the sounds of the animals because "it makes the forest happy."3 The idea is that by serenading the forest, it will stay awake and will not forget them. Sad to say, our situation is such that our forests have mostly forgotten us. Few of us identify with a single locale anymore and very few of us sing to our trees. Even if we want to sink roots, life pulls us in many directions. Our dreams are proof of this restlessness. The important thing is to recognize when the land is trying to tell us something, and to pay attention.
If one wanted to dream up a program for crippling the biosphere within a millisecond of geologic time (aside from literally blowing it up—which we may yet do) one might be hard-pressed to fashion a more effective strategy than what environmental writer Bill McKibben calls the "unburying" of all accessible coal and oil out of the Earth and burning it, while clear-cutting and burning the rainforests of the southern hemisphere.
What allows us to navigate the dead or energetically comatose regions is a shamanic attitude that never lets us forget that what we offer is essential, even though what is unfolding is far beyond our comprehension. Cultivating that attitude is exhausting but our sanity depends on it.
Destroying Mother Nature I have come to believe that there are people in the world who are waging all-out war against nature, not just to subdue or control, but destroy Mother Nature. . .Nature and anything that stands in their way. For example, as of this writing, the USDA’s current Bye Bye Black Bird program is responsible for poisoning tens of thousands of birds since 26 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Are people who promote and execute this environmentally disastrous agenda inherently amoral or evil or are they warped by some powerful Weltanschauung to behave in a way that defies reason, science, intuition, and common sense but to them seems normal and reasonable? (Weltanschauung refers to the whole of how we view the world, not consciously but reflexively, folding in the myriad causal and acausal factors that contribute to who we are, living in this time and space.) Perhaps warped isn’t the right word because it implies mental illness. . . but on second thought, maybe it is the right word! You can say that someone is addicted to oil, wealth, or power, but addiction or neurosis is treatable. This problem goes much deeper. Weltanschauungs run deeper than socialization and indoctrination and are even supported by their own brand of psychology and religion, so the whole universe jumps in. When everyone is in the grip of the same madness, no one is mad. It is only when two Weltanschauungs are at odds in the same land that people begin to question their neighbor’s sanity and right to exist. The most violent wars are the wars fought between the adherents of conflicting Weltanschauungs. The Romans Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
and the ancient Celts come to mind, the Aztecs and the Spanish, the British and European newcomers to the "New World" and the Indigenous or First Nations people of Turtle Island, Imperialist Japan and the United States and, closer to home, the American Civil War (North against South) are all good examples. But now we are living in a time when two people can look at an oil pipeline project or fracking and see utterly different things because of the emotions that well up. Sadly, the day may soon come when those emotions will make or break governments, shatter social alliances, divide families, and foment civil wars.
Alone in the Woods, Listening Dead zones notwithstanding, Gaia is very much alive. It is essential that we realize that because one measure of our health and sanity is in how our lives reflect and channel this great life force that sustains us. In explaining his intention to live spartanly in the woods by Walden Pond for two years, Thoreau wrote: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, . . I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; . . I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life."4 Rare is the person who is called to spend extensive time alone in nature where the "Matrix" of the middle world releases its grip on the psyche and where lucidity is a very real possibility. The point is, we are not alone. Gaia is alive and, ask any shaman, there are coexistent realities. This helps explain why many of us are plagued by an omnipresent quandary that transcends the personal— almost as if there are semi-audible, whispered conversations being carried on within us, above us, around us, causing us to question just about everything. The air is alive with signals and vibrations; how naive it would be to assume that all of them are generated by our own business, or even human business, reducing them to mere projections of our dizzy brains. It’s as if we are being www.shamansociety.org | 26
discussed. Michael Conforti, Jungian Analyst, author of Field, Form, and Fate, calls the whisper of the ancestors or the elders a "sottovoce." Whether we hear one whisper or many depends upon the receiver, but gone are the days when hearing voices was a sign of madness. It could even be argued that those who hear only their own voice are potentially the craziest among us. "Perhaps," Conforti proposes, "we can find some modern amphitheater within which to amplify and listen to this message of underlying unity between individuals and between matter and psyche."5 If we don’t listen, choosing to ignore or silence or drown out the sottovoce with the chatter of mainstream culture, the ancestors might resort to other ways of getting our attention. There are plenty of examples in classic shamanic literature where the reluctant shaman is picked up by the spirits and forced to undergo horrific trials geared to dismemberment and magical reconstitution because they know he or she won’t take the initiative. The materialistic life is very lulling; our reluctance to change our ways is epic. Many of our receptors for spiritual information are switched off or blocked by excessive sugar, salt, TV, compulsive sex, movies, meetings, street drugs, prescription drugs, music, the internet, coliseum scale sports events, books, sight-seeing package tours, propaganda coming in from a myriad directions.
Dreamtime For an appreciation of how initiation works or worked until recently in a culture that is famously nonmaterialistic and initiation based, the Australian Aborigines automatically come to mind. The Aborigines until recently seem to have had access to a fast track to shamanhood. In Aboriginal culture the fine line between matter and energy, space and time, spirits and non-spirits, simply isn’t there. Their "middle world" seems to rest as resiliently and delicately as a
spider web upon an immense, genetically refined respect for the place they inhabit that holds them and maintains them together like a vibrating gravity of ubiquitous connection. Their Dreamtime, an abstraction to us, is the essence and fruiting of a 50,000-year-old, memory-based relationship with Earth! In Voices of the First Day Robert Lawlor says succinctly, "The Australian Aboriginal culture is founded entirely on the remembrance of the origin of life."6 (The word 'Aboriginal' is accurate because the suffix ab– means 'of' or 'from'; the Aborigines are literally of or from the beginning. They are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent.) Dreamtime dissolves the line between yin and yang, releasing the dream power that dwells at the heart of every scintilla of creation. Compared to this kind of access, this living knowledge, this quality of reciprocity, nothing we know or have invented is worth a cent; not if we want to walk into the future and not if it matters to us that our mother, Gaia, is about to abort us. We should be begging the Aborigines to teach us what they know.
The White Rabbit What if the middle world—what we call reality—is just an old-fashioned psychiatric hospital? All the psychotics and the depressives are medicated but they are still miserable and ranting or dreaming about the end of the world. Who are the sickest? The ones who are staring out the window or having polite conversation or watching TV? Of course the ones who are hardest to control are the ones who are about to walk. There are spirits everywhere who want to help us. If we don’t see them, the reason is we are blind. Just as a blind person knows there are stars in the heavens and mountains and bats flitting around on a summer’s night, just as we know there are creatures who shine like constellations in the deepest cellars of the sea . . . just so, there are spirits—
ancestral spirits, spirits as old as time, mountain spirits, forest spirits, land spirits. The eyes and the ears to perceive these spirits do not just appear gratis anymore than one would expect to see a bat in a hospital, a snake under the bed. Then again, it’s not as if they aren’t trying. In The Matrix, Morpheus’s advice to Neo was to "follow the white rabbit." Whatever it takes to snap us into lucidity, before we dream ourselves out of options, it seems timely to turn to shamanism for that wake-up call.
Endnotes 1 Broderick, Damien. Outside the Gates
3 4 5
of Science. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007. p. 278 Halifax, Joan. Shaman: The Wounded Healer. London: Thames and Hudson, 1982., p.94. Peat, David. Blackfoot Physics. Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 2002. p.143 Thoreau, Henry David. Walden Pond. P.? Conforti, Michael. Field, Form, and Fate. Louisiana: Spring Journal Books, 1999., p. 60. Lawlor, Robert. Voices of the First Day. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1991.,p.14.
This article is a revised excerpt from Lindorff’s forthcoming book, New Wasichu, Crossing: Our story is just beginning.
About the Author Gary Lindorff, resident poet of Thiscan’tbehappening.net, Transformational Counselor specializing in dreamwork and shamanic techniques, lives in rural Vermont with his wife and two cats. He has a website at Bigdreamsweb. com and can be reached at: email@example.com.
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Communicating with Invisible Worlds
Using the Language of the Cosmograms by Marko Pogacˆnik
What does modern geomancy have to offer to renew the dialogue with nature and its beings, visible and invisible? The updated approach to our home planet and its life organism makes it clear: consciousness is its basic quality. The shamanic cultures know this fact and act accordingly to be permanently in touch with Gaia consciousness. How do we transcend the ignorance of the rationally based civilization regarding communication with the different layers of the Earth consciousness?
First of all it should be clear that the language of rationality and logic is a specifically human language. It cannot be understood by beings of nature and the universe without being translated into a holistic kind of language. We developed rational ways of thinking to become autonomous subjects of the earthly cosmos. But by following the exclusively rational path, we closed ourselves off, step by step, as a civilization into a separate box, called "anthropocentric," without noticing it for a long time. Deep ecology and geomancy were developed recently to overcome this rational based, devastating exclusion of human beings from other worlds and dimensions. Concerning geomancy, there still prevails the notion that it deals exclusively with energies of a different kind. Life energies of course are a fascinating element of the landscape, but its elemental consciousness, constituting the so-called "noosphere," is much more important. (Noos – Greek for consciousness). My first contacts with the noosphere of nature were elemental beings representing the consciousness of individual trees, rivers, mountains, etc. The next step was to realize that we as incarnated beings of the Earth also take part in Gaia’s noosphere. In this sense human beings are amphibians related to spiritual as well as to the elemental dimensions of reality. At that point I realized that we are used to communicating as spiritual beings but have fully neglected to talk to trees, stones, mountains, and the invisible worlds of the inner Earth. As a result, I started to develop several aspects of what I call universal language.
Perception as a Form of Language Without perceiving someone with whom you would like to talk, communication makes no sense. So I started to teach myself and others how to perceive beyond the boundaries set by our rationality. We human beings mainly perceive what is around us through the sensitivity of our aura and the membranes that encompass it. But to understand the language of pure vibrations, we need to know how to translate our perceptions into the language of images, symbols, light figures, or intuition. It is this kind of
language that can ultimately be realized by our rational mind. The drive towards understanding beings and phenomena of the non-human kind made me think about an open system of language that is not based upon the logic of mind but rather the intuition of the heart, given that the heart system is also consciousness. Being fully present in my heart, I open my world of emotions and intuition towards the place or being I would like to communicate with. Then I may give a gift to the being I want to talk with in the form of an image, or pose a question. Speaking in my imagination, I then have to translate the ideas into images and emotional qualities so that I can be understood by the elemental noosphere. The answer usually comes in the form of an emotional cloud that contains several images or intuitions. During this process my mind is working hard to translate this "raw" material into ideas and logical concepts so that I can understand the message. We should be aware that only by being present in our entirety can humans become visible to other worlds, which makes communication possible. Any effort beyond this I consider useless. Be who you are.
Gaia Touch Language After a while I realized that elemental beings love human body language. It is relatively easy for them to read our movements. They are especially interested in the movements of our hands because they consider them as a hologram of the divine creative hand. So I started to move my hands and fingers to make the flow of communication easier. Showing our hands to beings of nature’s noosphere might be the best way to support our dialogue with their presence. I next began noticing that elemental beings and spirits in sacred places started to show me certain body movements containing sacred messages. I realized that by performing those movements with my body or hands, I was allowed to enter different inner realms of Gaia consciousness. Throughout the years, body exercises of this kind turned out to compose a system similar to yoga—a communication system to get in touch with
__________________________________________________ Opposite: Phot by Bojan Brecelj. www.shamansociety.org | 29
the universal consciousness embracing the earthly and cosmic realms. I call them "holographic exercises" because they operate at the level where everything is still connected. So by moving the body in the way of Gaia’s Touch, the whole noosphere of Gaia, or its particular aspect, is also being moved. The Gaia Touch language could become a constant source of dialogue between individuals and groups if performed on a regular basis.
Language of Cosmograms As a professional artist I am also interested in the holographic form of language. Could a visual message be formulated in such a way to be understood by the noosphere of the landscape with its many beings and dimensions? By exploring the invisible dimensions of places and landscapes I started to look for patterns of their identity underlying their visible appearance. I realized that by transforming them into visible signs they can act as a means of communication and healing within a given environment. Let’s say for example, that a place was destroyed due to building operations that ignored the geomantic phenomena of the place so that its true identity was completely lost. And let’s say that a new owner would like to restore the place to its original state of vitality. In this case someone would need to dive deep into the memory of the place and find out the location’s original identity patterns. Such patterns can then be translated into visual signs that I call cosmograms. Carved for example in stone and positioned at the acupuncture points of the place, they would help to restore the original strength and inner beauty of the location. Cosmograms are not simple symbols even if they look like this. They have to be designed in such a way that beyond their form, they operate also at the level of vibration – to be perceived by beings which have no eyes to see at the physical level. This capacity of cosmograms can be achieved by consciously bending their lines in such a way that they are 30 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
emitting clearly defined vibrations. Partly it depends on the way they are carved in stone or how they are created in some other material. In the case of stone they are carved in a concave way, so that forms of the cosmograms are catching sunlight more intensely. Through the interplay between light and shadow, the etheric form of the cosmogram appears that can be perceived by the noosphere of the place.
Language of Creative Rituals Also, rituals can be seen as a form of universal language that can be comprehended by all different members of Gaia’s noosphere. I do not mean only traditional rituals. Language of ritual forms can be created in each given moment when there is a need to communicate something to the consciousness of what I call "Earth Cosmos." I call such rituals "creative rituals" because of their practical purpose. I work, for example, with a group in a place which has been damaged through war or some other aggressive act. The place is traumatized and as a consequence its beings of consciousness are frozen. I feel free in such a case to create a corresponding ritual through which the divine mercy or powers of transmutation can work to melt away the traumatic effects, along with their causal patterns. Usually there is no need to repeat it because the healing wave comes in instantly as a response to the demand expressed—even without any word— through the rhythms of the ritual. No less important are personal rituals through which one can speak to the personal elemental being or other aspects of our own multidimensional world. I prefer those created in the form of imagination where our creative potentials combined with emotional qualities are involved, not so much the mental realms as in the case of visualizations and affirmations. Human civilization has arrived at the ultimate crossroads. If we continue to destroy our home planet and to ignore Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
its highly evolved Gaia consciousness, we will have to leave the Earth and find another place in the universe where we can continue with our madness—if there is such a place in the universe. The alternative is to change and to find again the way to talk to the elemental/cosmic noosphere of this beautiful planet, heading towards dialogue, coexistence, and cooperation. Creating the proper language that all beings involved can comprehend is one of the primary tasks of the moment.
About the Author Marko Pogaˆnik: www.markopogacnik. Born 1944 in Kranj, Slovenia, and graduated as a sculptor in the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana 1967, he lives with his family in Šempas, Slovenia. Marko is the author of numerous books in German, many of which have been translated to English: Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings (1996), Healing the Heart of the Earth (1998), Sacred Geography (2007).
Yewshamanism by Michael Dunning
It may seem strange that a tree could heal a human being. But what about a tree that is older than the pyramids and regarded as the living symbol of an unbroken ‘bloodline’ from the original Tree of Life? There is such a tree, the Yew, and curiously it has worked its way into a couple of popular movies. In Avatar it is portrayed as Eya, the Tree of Life, and in Star Wars it is the shrunken, wizened figure of Joda. "Eya" is the earliest known name for the Yew tree, and the work conveys the idea of eternity or more literally, 'touched by eternity.' Eya is an old Hittite word for Yew that dates back to 1750 BC and refers to the tree god of Eridu who is also known as Ea, the god of the waters. Ea gradually became Yah or Iah and eventually Yahweh, which can be translated as Yew. The name Joda is derived from an old word for Yew, Iodha. The Yew tree is the oldest and yet paradoxically the most youthful tree on earth. I encountered the Yew tree for this first time in the early 1990’s in my native Scotland. I was very ill and spent over nine years under the tree. Yewshamanism represents the outcome of those nine years. It is a constantly evolving and essentially non-journeying shamanic healing practice. My Initiatory Experience: The Elemental Sulfur Spirit Within the first few months of graduating from the Edinburgh College of Art in 1986, I realized that the life of an artist would not be as easy or as romantic as I had envisaged! I decided to take a job as a seasonal tree–planter near Thurso which is about as far north as you can go on the Scottish mainland. At that time the entire area was menaced by the nuclear reprocessing plant at Chernobyl in Russia, but I weighed the risks and decided that money was a higher priority than my health. Less than two-weeks later however, I was wakened violently in my caravan by an intense burning and choking sensation. I clutched and clawed at my throat in desperation but was unable to breathe. There was a distinct and awful smell of sulfur. I made an attempt to pull myself from my sleeping bag but the space
within the caravan had become dense and pushed me down. An intense burning pain spread through my throat and lungs as the fluid sulfur began to penetrate inward. It was as if I were being dissolved. In a blind panic I came to the awful conclusion that there had been a radioactive leak at the nuclear plant at Chernobyl. It was at that moment I sensed a presence of something outside the caravan that had nothing to do with the nuclear plant. A presence that was aware and observing me. It circled slowly around the caravan. I could feel the surging and settling of its breath in the space all around me as though it had gained control of the entire atmosphere. Finally I managed to drag myself slowly, inch by inch toward the door to escape and lay there on the floor peering blindly out through the open door into the night. The presence, which I have come to call the Elemental Sulfur Spirit, seemed able to read my thoughts, and as if in response, drew itself back like a coiled serpent ready to strike. The pressure was enormous and the earth under the caravan began to shudder. I felt thinned out and expanded, and as I began to lose consciousness, I sensed that I would die. Suddenly and with an extremely loud ‘bang’ the Spirit was gone and I felt my spirit drop back and down into the body that lay on the dirty caravan floor. The internal burning sensation dissipated immediately and within moments I felt a breath of air enter my lungs. I was able to crawl slowly back into my sleeping bag. The following morning I searched the area outside the caravan for traces of the being but found nothing. I returned south to Edinburgh after my encounter in Thurso, but I was unable to move on with my life. I felt different, more sensitive and certainly more vulnerable than before. My muscles had become very weak. I could not shake the presence of the Elemental Sulfur Spirit, and although much fainter, it remained as a feeling of pressure within my body. I was constantly dizzy and disoriented and began to lose interest in other people and in life in general. www.shamansociety.org | 31
Then around 1990 I had an experience that at first seemed like I had been hit by lightning. I was struck in the left temple by a burning flash of light and thrown out of my chair. I was with friends who helped me up from the floor and took me home. My entire body smelled like burning electrical wires and my hair began to fall out in large clumps. A short time later my skin turned yellow and I lost a great deal of muscle mass. I became profoundly fatigued and could walk only a few short feet before reaching exhaustion.
I Meet the Yew Tree About three years later I was rescued by a friend who brought me to her small cottage southeast of Edinburgh near the sea. She quickly demanded that I seek medical help. The nurse at the nearby hospital began my medical exam by weighing me. She looked closely at the reading four or five times in disbelief and muttered to herself as she bumped the old scale to check that it was working. Nothing conclusive emerged from the tests and after a few months of hospital visits, the nurses, doctors, and infectious disease specialists gave up on me. To this day my condition has not been adequately diagnosed. Then I began to notice that my perception of the space around me was changing. I could no longer determine where the ground was located in relation to my feet and I would feel myself fall into ‘gaps’ in space that would appear randomly to my side or in front of me. I seemed to be experiencing a sort of dualistic existence where I was being drawn in two or more directions at once. I suffered extreme panic attacks and became convinced that I was dying. It was during the first few weeks living at the cottage that I first met the East Lothian Yew tree, and learned how ancient and powerful the Yew tree was. The tree has the appearance of a gigantic evergreen bush whose outer 32 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
branches swoop to the ground in long and graceful arcs to form a seemingly impenetrable and dense circle of thick growth. On closer inspection a dark and tiny entrance reveals a 40 foot long tunnel of jagged branches. The narrow tunnel gradually rises up and finally opens into a large and enclosed central chamber of living wood! Through a process called branch-layering the Yew boughs, over a period of some thousands of years, gradually descend from the main trunk back down into the earth to create what appear to be new trees—in fact they are part of the original parent tree. The circular chamber is approximately 15 feet wide and reaches about 12 feet in height nearest the trunk. It is simply magnificent to behold! When I first entered the inner world (living chamber) of the Yew I knew that I was in the presence of a great and ancient spiritual being. It was as if I had come home but I could not explain this feeling. On my next (second) visit to the tree I fell into a violent fit not unlike an epileptic seizure. These painful seizures were to continue unabated for 3 years. In Scotland there are three ancient yews. The famous Fortingall Yew is reputed to have been the birthplace of Pontius Pilate, and where Jesus himself was supposedly tutored by Druids. Then there is the Ormiston Yew in Midlothian not far from Roslyn Chapel. The third is the East Lothian Yew where I spent nine years living with my friend. It is my belief, based on my experiences under the Yew and through extensive research, that the three Scottish yews are three of the original Five Sacred Trees of Ireland planted in very ancient times by an ancestral figure named Fintan who received and planted the five trees of Ireland from a branch bearing three different fruits given to him by a divine being. If this fact is true then these three trees may have a divine origin. Other evidence points to the importance of the Yew tree in European history. A myriad of towns and places throughout Europe, especially in the Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
British Isles, are named after the Yew. Clearly the Yew was once widespread. What happened to these yews? The medieval English war machine required the Yew for its deadly longbow. By the 16th century the Yew populations across central Europe were exhausted. They have yet to recover. It seems that the three yews in Scotland were deliberately excluded from the destruction, possibly because they are thought to have had a divine origin in ancient Celtic lore. There is ample well-researched evidence to suggest that the Yew was the original Tree of Life. The Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, was a Yew, and Heimdallr—whose name means World Tree—the Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, was born of nine mothers who were Yew trees. Beyond the Norse we have the ancient Mesopotamian Mes tree that has recently been traced conclusively to the Yew. It has been proposed that the original Egyptian Tree of Life was a Yew. It has also has been suggested that the original cross of Jesus was a living Yew. Faced with the plethora of published and well–researched material now available about the Yew and its significance, there is little doubt that the Yew was regarded as the original Tree of Life. If so, the Yew trees that exist today are the sentient carriers of an unbroken Tree of Life ‘bloodline’ stretching back to ancient times.
The Yew and the Elemental Sulfur Spirit Although my health problems may appear to have been of an entirely destructive and chaotic nature, they were in fact extremely orderly and followed a definite sequence. There are clear links between the function of the Elemental Sulfur Spirit and the Yew. Both are ancient beings that were already in existence when the earth was in a more fluidic and less stable state than it is today. I have learned that the deeper function of sulfur is to shift one’s being out of the dominant state of consciousness
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and into a more ‘metabolic’ state of being. By ‘metabolic’ I mean a state where consciousness becomes more fluidic and less attached to thought and the external senses—essentially a state that is not organized by the sensory nervous system. This ‘metabolic’ state, which I call the Tree in the Sea, has become a key component of Yewshamanism and is essential to the healing process in that work. In Yewshamanism, consciousness must be loosened and essentially freed from the sensory nervous system in order to enter the spiritual world where the forces of healing originate. The Yew functions as a sealed cosmic space or ‘womb’ where the loosened consciousness can be reshaped outside of the influence of the sensory nervous system. The Elemental Sulfur Spirit and the Yew are polar opposites in their function. The power of the Elemental, which is an Earth spirit, is oriented in a centripetal direction, or basically inward. It is more ‘metabolic’ and tends to extinguish everyday consciousness. As an evergreen tree, the Yew is largely independent of the seasons, perhaps existing, like all evergreens, before the earth began to express itself in the rhythm of the seasons. All trees are etheric beings whose branches extend out toward the cosmos. And so the Yew, oriented to cosmic forces, extends outward or centrifugally in its growth like other trees but then turns inward to create an inner space. No other tree achieves this to the extent that the Yew does. The Yew demonstrates a gesture that is called ‘branch-layering’ where it creates clones of itself that re-root into the earth to form what look like new trees. The East Lothian Yew has an outer circumference of over 400 ft. The inner chamber stretches about 15 feet from the trunk in an almost perfect circle and reaches about 12 feet in height. The East Lothian Yew forms a true inner space similar to the processes of animal development. However, its powers of regeneration are beyond those of any animal or human. Within its inner space it constantly dies to itself so that new growth can be induced. This is the secret of its eternal 34 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
nature. It is the Tree of Life but also the Tree of Death. It holds the balance of opposites within its very gestures of growth and decay. I like to compare the growth gestures of the Yew to the early stages of early human embryological development. I have come to understand that the process of my initiation followed an orderly pattern that resembles embryological development in the critical stages where the embryo must die to its former self to reach the next stage in its development. Ultimately none of us are finished beings. The spiritual forces that create us are loosened after birth and used for consciousness and further development. However, we can refocus these forces to regain their potent embryonic nature and in so doing we can accelerate and enhance the healing process.
Further Stages of Initiation During the first three years spent under the tree I felt as though I were being quite literally turned inside–out. There was a very clear pattern beginning with convulsions followed by a kind of incubatory sleep where I would experience vivid dreams. Lesser convulsions ensued after waking and as they subsided I would catch glimpses of whirling tendrils of light that wound around the tree and that finally, over a period of months, entered into my body. The light tendrils seemed to function as sensory organs for the Yew tree, as if the tree was able to use the tendrils to communicate with me. The tendrils moved like a fluid around the tree and took on shapes and forms that seemed organic. I began to see a sort of language in these forms as if the tendrils were imitating the shape of my organs and fluids in the space beneath the tree. I began to see ‘myself’ pictured by the tendrils. They were like organic drawings in light. It was as if the space under the tree was filled with my extended body. During the next few years of my initiation I began to encounter specific spirit beings. One of the most significant of Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
these beings was the Bird Shaman. One of the Bird Shaman’s principal methods of healing involved working directly with the light tendrils of the Yew. Over the next three years he (and several other spirits) began to instruct me in how to unite my perception and my hands with the language of the Yew in its light tendrils. The organic light forms would constantly change shape and expand and contract in a sort of breathing process. I could see my hands in space touching and directly working with these light forms and yet at the same time I could feel the forms that my hands touched as my own body was stretched out into peripheral space. This was an incredible experience and, although at times painful, it was the beginning of a process of healing initiated by the Yew. During the further stages of initiation and especially over the following years, I came to a much deeper understanding of the function of the light tendrils. I began to experience them as not only the sensory organs of the Yew and a language of healing described by Bird Shaman but as an aspect of my own spiritual form. Gradually I began to learn to differentiate between the various levels of their manifestation and finally came to the realization that the light tendrils were outlining the existence of a second body, a spiritual body that is involved in maintaining health both spiritually and physically. This second body, which I call the Spiritual Organism, is not genetically constituted nor is it in any way controlled by the sensory nervous system or by the ego. In my healing work over the last twelve years I have come to realize that each human being has such a body, a perspective that was greatly supported by my work in the field of biodynamic craniosacral and in my studies of (occult) human embryology.
The Three Healing Practices of the Yew On a practical level the Yew’s teachings stay very close to the main outlines of my initiation and the sequence given by the Yew. The teachings also reflect
aspects of what at first appear to be myth, but that in fact represent important healing and wisdom practices derived from the lineage of the Yew. Remarkably, the lineage of the Yew involved techniques that sought to emulate the early stages of human development which hold the power of healing and development in a fluid and unfixed state. Ultimately this has led me to the study of human embryology from an occult perspective as a language that can support these discoveries. Occult embryology refers to a method of approaching early embryological development from an experiential and spiritual perspective. This method was practiced in ancient India and China and it is referred to in Rosicrucian and Theosophical writings. The language of occult embryology is the closest language to my experiences of healing and initiation under the yew. The second body, the Spiritual Organism, can be discovered and worked with as healing force in oneself and with others through training consciousness to free itself from its attachment to the sensory nervous system. The healing practices that I learned from the Yew can be viewed as three streams—Blood, Origin, and Sensing. The stream of Blood refers to the vital presence of the Tree of Life within and beyond our metabolic ocean, which I referred to earlier as the Tree in the Sea. This stream involves a series of deep perceptual practices where we learn to access the living blood-breath of the Tree of Life as a force of self-healing. Here we meet our most ancient consciousness, or Spiritual Organism, as it breathes in the present as a force of healing and as an absolutely necessary bridge to the spirit world. The second stream refers to our spiritual Origin and involves direct ‘mirroring’ work (a form of meditation) through the use of specific initiatory gestures given by the Yew. It enables us to coach our consciousness out of its dependence on the unstable rhythms of the autonomic and central nervous systems.
The third stream, Sensing, involves the direct use of our enhanced perception as it relates to ways we can train our hands for healing work. Each stream takes time to master, but gradually they merge into what I call a ‘single shamanic sense organ.’ There are many benefits to this work. For example, it trains our perception (as well as the perception of our clients, if we are practitioners) to reconstitute itself around realms of consciousness that are not locked into a human nervous system that is becoming increasingly overspecialized, fearful and brittle. I have witnessed various inflammatory and sclerotic conditions resolve or greatly stabilize, as well as a reduction in seizure activity and even the overnight disappearance of a serious brain hemorrhage in an infant. Learning to work with the metabolic ocean of the Tree in the Sea and with the ancient intelligence of the Spiritual Organism reclaims a bridge to the spirit world that enhances our ability to support healing and ‘journey work’ without having to rely on, or default to, a nervous
system that surreptitiously needs to be in control. By coupling our consciousness to the wisdom of the Spiritual Organism that is directly involved in our incarnation and embryological development, our souls become free to respond to impulses that illuminate the way forward in our personal, and hopefully, collective spiritual evolution.
Suggested Further Reading:
The God Tree by Janis Fry Soul Companions by Karen Sawyer (includes a further account of Michael’s initiatory experiences under the Yew) The Sacred Yew by Anand Chetan and Diana Brueton Yew: A History by Fred Hageneder
About the Author
Michael Dunning is the founder of the Sacred Yew Institute which offers professional training in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. He teaches and lectures on Yewshamanism and Occult Embryology. He lives in rural western Massachusetts. www.yewshamanism.com
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Jonathan Horwitz talks with Lenore Norrgard about
Lenore: Before we start, would you mind telling me what inspired you to ask me about shamanism, activism, and politics?
the beginning. But parties and politicians aside, there’s the environment, the Earth, which is an incredibly political issue.
Jonathan: I think, initially, many of us may come to shamanism because we feel we need empowerment, and shamanic healing is very empowering. But I’ve noticed that a lot of people coming to shamanism get short-circuited. Looking around, it seems some practitioners use their shamanic practice as sort of a spiritual backdrop for their lives, rather than living it as a path that must constantly respond to life in order to be authentic. Many people also get caught up in technique, rather than actually living a practice.
So I really get worried when shamanic practitioners tell me, with a perfectly straight face, that "politics doesn’t matter, the Earth will survive." As if "surviving" is enough. I look at them, and say, "Listen, the Earth is losing 100 species every day—what about them? They’re not surviving." I want the Earth to thrive. So, I’m interested in trying to get shamanic folks to become more active. To be activists.
What I aim for now when I teach, from the very basic workshop, is to get people to live the things they’re actually taught and shown by the spirits, rather than getting hung up on technique. I feel strongly that shamanic practice is about taking what you get from the spirits, and taking it further, together with the spirits.
Jonathan: So maybe we could start at the beginning—what’s your story? How did you come to the path of shamanic activism?
And as I’ve watched you work, I see that is what you’re doing with your activism. I see you pursuing a legitimate spiritual path called shamanic activism, which can include political activism and ecological activism. I see that pathway as one of the possible routes that a living shamanic practice can take. Lenore: You also mentioned to me that you’ve seen a divorce between shamanism and activism, or spirituality and politics, and that that’s a problem. Jonathan: Yes. Michael Harner always used to be adamant that shamanism is not political. I get so interested by this, because a lot of people, especially younger Americans, say, "I’m not into politics." They just can’t see that that, in itself, is an incredibly political statement. Do you follow me? Lenore: Right! Jonathan: Because there are people—politicians, in fact—who are going to decide the fate of the Earth. Of course, a lot of people were disappointed by Obama in his first term, and, personally, I wish he’d shown his teeth more in
Lenore: Okay. I get it.
Lenore: Well, I grew up in a religious family that was very supportive of the Civil Rights Movement. My father was a pastor who preached something called "the social gospel," applying Jesus’ teachings to contemporary social issues, not unlike Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My younger brother was adopted from the Menominee tribe, so between the Civil Rights Movement and my awareness of my brother’s ethnicity, I was conscious of race and racism from a very early age. Now, my parents’ religion didn’t catch with me, but their social values did. In my early teens I protested the war in Vietnam, and was an early feminist, and in the mid-1970s I became involved in radical politics. However, as an artist I found party politics too constricting, and went my own way, remaining an independent activist and becoming a photojournalist and writer. Jonathan: Early indications! But how did you get from there to shamanism? Lenore: I had never considered myself spiritual, but I carried deep wounds from my childhood, and struggled with clinical depression for decades. In 1987 an animal spirit intervened and blessed me with a spontaneous healing. My depression was finished overnight. What could I do but become spiritual?! One of my very first thoughts, after gratitude, was, Oh! This is what’s been missing from the political work! If I can receive such a miraculous healing, personally, why can’t we have miracles of social healing, too?
__________________________________________________ Opposite: Since March 2011, More than 100 monks and nuns have set themselves on fire inside Tibet in protest against the repressive Chinese occupation there.
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Jonathan: Good question! Lenore: At that point I shifted from a paradigm of social revolution to one of social healing, and started naming things like racism and misogyny as social wounds, and wondering how we could heal them. I was alone with my initiatory experience, and didn’t know anything about shamanism. When Sandra Ingerman’s book, Soul Retrieval, came out in 1991, I read that. And I immediately realized that we had experienced soul loss as a nation with the assassinations of Dr. King, the Kennedys, and Malcolm X, and also with the betrayal of the Democratic Party convention in 1968 and later, Watergate. Our citizenry was a broken body politic, paralyzed in the face of a right-wing reaction to the gains of Civil Rights, feminism, labor, etc. I received intensive training with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and then started teaching, all along thinking about this question of shamanic social healing. The first social healing ritual I developed was Dreaming the Dark, a celebration to honor and receive healing from the spirit of darkness. The intention was to heal our relationship with the Dark, the Western repository of all bad things. Dreaming the Dark became a highly-anticipated, annual winter solstice celebration in the Pacific Northwest. Jonathan: When was that? Lenore: I think the first one was in 1994. Jonathan: I suppose some people understood the ritual as political, and others did not. Lenore: True. In fact, I think there are different ways for shamanic practitioners to influence the political situation. We can participate in community organizing meetings, and bring the perspective of the spirits into planning that work. And there is very private work, like the Buddhist practice of tonglen, and other practices to help shift the social and Earth 38 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
vibration, that we can do alone. Another level is doing closed healing rituals and other circle work that is focused on social healing, like Dreaming the Dark. And we can do very public things, like bringing ritual into public protest, and thereby transforming it.
Monsanto Corporation is the embodiment of evil, and we should ask the spirits to destroy it. After discussion, we asked instead for whatever was necessary for harmony and healing on the planet with regard to Monsanto, and left it up to the spirits as to how they want to handle that.
I’ve had decades when I’ve been out in the streets protesting, and years where it’s been more about writing. I’ve worked privately in shamanic circles, and I’ve also done a lot of very public, interfaith work, infusing shamanism into interfaith social activism, and also bringing the power of ritual into public protests. Now I’m making a dramatic film, AMERICAN UBUNTU, which weaves together shamanism, Earth activism, and politics.
Another time I was teaching a Shamanism for Activists weekend, and it happened that the World Trade Organization was meeting at the same time. Naturally, people wanted to journey about putting a stop to globalization. I told them, "My heart is really with you. But remember what I said, about having humility before the Great Mystery? We do not know, ultimately, what the role of globalization is in the evolution of the world." The amazing thing was that these activists all nodded their heads, soberly. And we reframed the question as, "What is our right relationship to globalization?" It was a very powerful journey, with not a few tears.
Jonathan: When you’re working in shamanic circles, doing work on behalf of social or Earth issues, how do you approach that? I can imagine all kinds of interesting ethical issues arising, like how much can I ask my spirits to interfere with the proposed Monte Belo monster dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon basin, that kind of thing. Lenore: Yes, as with all shamanic work, I am careful about asking for specific outcomes. I usually include a caveat that our work ultimately serves the highest good of all, because we don’t have the whole picture. Through our shamanic work, we can get a peek at the big view. But, for example, with the election, I wasn’t willing to do shamanic work specifically for an Obama victory, because maybe Romney needed to win, so that we can have a revolution. How would I know the best outcome of the election? So I think one crucial thing in shamanic activism is to have humility as we stand before the Great Mystery, and to know that we haven’t got the meta view. It is hubris to think that we can know how the specific outcome of each individual struggle will affect the whole. Does that make sense? Jonathan: Of course it does. Lenore: This came up recently in my drumming circle. Someone said that Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Jonathan: Sometimes I’m really torn, when I become very emotionally involved and really want to do something like that. One way is to ask to see a given situation through one of my spirit helper's or teacher's eyes. And although sometimes you don’t get a total view, you often can get a more nuanced view. You can see a lot of things that aren’t immediately apparent. Lenore: Yes, exactly. Jonathan: Because if you’re going to use the spirits to engage as an activist, you have to go into the activism from their point of view, and not from your personal point of view. Lenore: Right. One of the most powerful things shamanism can bring to activism is exactly this. It can help us to work on issues, and work in the midst of conflicts, in a way that brings about harmony and connection. Because one of the root problems, if not THE root problem, on the planet, is the human illusion of separation. Not only separation from spirit, but from one another, from the Earth – and sometimes from ourselves. I feel the danger in
getting very vociferous is that we end up feeding that separation. So, we need continually to ask our spirits how to enter into these crucial conflicts in ways that reduce separation, and in ways that bring about the sense of interconnection. That is the very foundation for shifting our relationship with one another— and with the Earth. This shift in consciousness is crucial, or we can get all caught up in how "evil" Monsanto is. Actually, we could say that Monsanto is the ultimate expression of the human illusion of separation—thinking that we can somehow manipulate genes, that we can take land and seeds from other people and destroy their lives, and not be affected ourselves. We’ve created that—humanity has created that illusion of separation. Monsanto actually is a manifestation of a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of humanity. Jonathan: You’re onto something. Separation is our guiding illusion, and propagates fear and greed, which are like the Mordor driving forces of the human world today. So, when going into an activist setting, entering in with an angry Us vs. Them attitude is a dangerous thing. I think the best way to get to a more balanced state is to try to see things as the spirits do. And often the spirits have an agenda. But if they have an agenda, I’m willing to work for it—I trust their agenda more than I trust mine! Lenore: Yes! Jonathan: Tell me more about the interfaith activism. Lenore: That really started when I attended the west coast founding conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), initiated by Rabbi Michael Lerner in 2005. The conference was overwhelmingly Christian and Jewish and white, so I helped start a Diversity caucus at the conference, to promote racial and all kinds of diversity, including spiritual. After, I campaigned for months to get an interfaith healing ritual on the agenda of
the east coast NSP founding conference in Washington, D.C. It was a tremendous amount of work to get the ritual accepted, but many joined me in calling for it, and when it was won, I invited Myron Eshowsky to collaborate with me. We carried it out across from the White House, in Lafayette Park. When we told the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and spiritual-not-religious participants that our intention was to heal the history of violence in the name of religion, they got it, immediately—their response was, "Oh, yeah, we really need to do that." Jonathan: Wow. That’s really brave of you. What happened? Lenore: Some of the participants said it was the most powerful spiritual experience they had in the four-day conference. When I returned to Portland, where I was living at the time, another interfaith peace group had heard about the D.C. ritual, and asked if I would do one for them. So we talked and I journeyed, and we did a public peacemaking ritual for our neighborhood, which was torn by gentrification. It turned out that the day before the ritual there was a huge escalation in the war, and many people were upset—so not only people from the immediate neighborhood came, but beyond. They said they came because they felt helpless, and wanted to do something positive, instead of another anti-war protest. They left feeling empowered and hopeful. Jonathan: That reminds me of when I got back from Viet Nam in 1966 and I joined in the Anti-War movement. But a few years later I got involved in the Peace Movement. Lenore: Exactly! In 2008, I wrote in Sacred Hoop magazine about my vision of transforming mass social protests into massive public rituals of social healing. I had come to feel that the practice of protest had become disempowering in anti-war demonstrations, we would be given a prescribed route to
march, then we would hear a bunch of speakers and performers, then we were asked for donations, and then we were dismissed to go home. And I thought, "Dis-empowered again." It had become awfully rote, and instead of people connecting with their own power, and expressing that together, on behalf of the greater good, it’d become like the worst of going to church—you know? You get a moment to feel good that you did the right thing—but did it affect anything? What if, instead, we all encircled the Pentagon and created a huge field of love around it? The Pentagon is filled with people. We can affect their hearts, and affect what they actually do. So instead of making a big Us vs. Them protest, and feeding conflict, we can create peace. I also wrote about bringing in the ancestors to help us to do this, and connecting with the spirits of the land. Jonathan: Do you see these public rituals going beyond the interfaith activist movement? Lenore: They must—and they have. This happened for the first time in 2009, when I was asked to put together a ritual for the national conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association. That was a real turning point, because it was the first time a secular group asked me to put together a ritual. I journeyed and asked, "Please show me a peacemaking ritual for a secular group, that reaches them, and that they will participate in." My spirits showed me that what we needed to do was a Coronation of the Collective Heart. They said, "People will understand that. They know the word coronation. It’s about crowning a sovereign. This is about installing the collective heart as the sovereign of the world." Jonathan: That’s beautiful. And by going to your spirits with this it gives a perfect example of what I think of when I talk about "shamanic activism." Lenore: It was really amazing. I saw in my journey a huge garland of flowers for this coronation, and I thought, www.shamansociety.org | 39
That’s a cool metaphor, how shall we do that? Later I learned that the word coronation comes from the word corona, the Latin word for garland! Ultimately, we actually made a 100 foot long garland— some shamanic folks made a base garland of greens, and blessed it, and a florist donated hundreds and hundreds of flowers. The ritual itself was very transformational. One man who at the opening had his arms folded, but who stayed and participated in weaving the flowers into the garland, and hoisting it, at the end wiped tears from his eyes, and joined in the crowd’s cheers for accomplishing this Coronation of the Collective Heart. The energy generated was palpable and lasted several days, and stayed with people as they dispersed to different parts of the country. Jonathan: That’s how it should be. Lenore: One thing I’ve found is that, as we enter the political arena, it is a fantastic arena for our spiritual unfolding. Jonathan: This is the direct opposite of what many experience. Say more. Lenore: Well, here’s an example: As I was developing the ritual I just described, I kept getting email reminders about registering for the conference. However, the only way to register was to pay the registration fee. So I emailed the man who had requested the ritual, and said, Hey, I’m happy to register, but since I’m putting together and leading this ritual, and also teaching a workshop for free, can you just add my name? He wrote me back and lambasted me for suggesting I shouldn’t have to pay. His response, in fact, was very angry and toxic. He suggested that he would be happy to drop me from the program and that given my attitude it probably was just as well. I felt the force of his rage; I’m sensitive and it really affected me. Of course part of me reacted and wanted to just write back To hell with you, I don’t need to work for you for free, and then pay you to boot. But I also was struck that this guy is a leader of some renown, as I was 40 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
becoming, and what power has a peace movement if we can’t even sort things out among ourselves? So I slept on it, and the next day I went online and registered, and paid. Then I wrote him and said, Look, I must have hit a raw nerve with my request. I have just registered and paid for the conference, and would like to go forward with the ritual. And if you don’t want me to, then I’ll just consider my registration fee a donation to a good cause. Jonathan: Phew! Powerful move. Lenore: It was. Paying the fee really stretched me—in more ways than one -but I did not want to lose the opportunity to bring ritual activism into a secular environment, and felt that making this sacrifice was part and parcel of the peacemaking work. The guy wrote back and said, You’re right, I’m overwhelmed, you did hit a raw nerve . . . Thanks for handling this with much more grace than I did. So this process somehow lifted both him and me up, and I think this was not only part of my own spiritual practice, but also part of the social healing involved in that piece of work. Jonathan: As it does so often! So where does your filmmaking come into all of this? Lenore: In the late 1990s, I went to film school in the Bay Area. I understood the power of stories in creating ourselves and our world, and had an idea that we needed new stories, but I wasn’t aware of any particular new story I had to tell. In Spring 2001, I returned to Seattle, and thought it was time to advance the shamanic social healing work, so in August I announced a Fall circle called Reweaving the Web: Healing Our World. Flyers went out and people were signing up, when one day I was doing a soul retrieval, and my spirits piped up, "You need to do film." I said, "Well, I’m helping people, I’m doing good work." They said, "No, you have a big message, and you need this bigger tool." Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
Jonathan: Your spirits knew before you did. Lenore: Yes, and I knew what that meant as soon as they said it: I had to return to the Bay Area, and would commute to lead Reweaving the Web. On September 10, I left Seattle with a carload of my things, and overnighted with some friends near sacred Mount Shasta. That’s where I was on the morning of 9/11. When I got to San Francisco later that day, I curled up on my futon, asking myself, How do I respond to this, as a healer, as a filmmaker, and an activist? For days I meditated on this, and that is when the characters who would later populate my screenplay, AMERICAN UBUNTU, first revealed themselves and their predicaments to me. I didn’t actually start writing the story for a few years, though, after I’d moved to Portland. Jonathan: And Portland is where you engaged in all that interfaith activism? Lenore: Yes. And throughout the ritual activism my spirits were tapping their paws, saying, What about film? This needs to be done. In between the activism and the demands of my shamanic practice I occasionally would steal a week or two and go away and work on the script, but it was coming too slowly, and I constantly felt torn. Finally, I got clear that I really needed to focus on the film: it was my activism and social healing ministry, as well as my art, rolled into one. If I was going to actually make this movie, I had to focus, or it never would happen. After several drafts, AMERICAN UBUNTU, finally arrived at the current one. The story is a culmination of all the things we’ve been talking about—shamanic activism, and the collapsing of polarizations. As Christina Pratt said, "This is a movie that shows how shamanism actually works—grappling with real world problems, and solving things.” Jonathan: I can’t wait to see it!
Lenore: I can’t wait, either! In the summer of 2011 I moved to Oakland to set about bringing it into production. And then the Occupy Wall Street movement began, and I was powerfully drawn to it. Jonathan: Of course you were! There was a lot going on in Oakland, too, wasn’t there? Lenore: Yes. It was huge. I started getting involved. I wrote about it from a shamanic perspective, held a teleseminar, and did a Tuesday Morning Conversation with Christina Pratt. But I saw the writing on the wall: Lenore, if you get involved in this, AMERICAN UBUNTU never will be made. I feel that making that choice— to hold back from getting deeply involved in Occupy, and keep a clear focus on the film—has served well. Jonathan: That’s a really good point, how important it is to be really present, and aware of your role in a given situation. So there were all these temptations, but you kept your focus throughout.
I think focus is something that we can lose, very quickly and easily. In closing, would you tell us a little about AMERICAN UBUNTU? You call it "a healing story for the USA.” What does ubuntu mean?
talking about is what I see as the role of the shamanic activist: to bring healing to our world with the help of the spirits, living the teachings they give us, following the path they show us. Thank you for doing that. It’s been inspiring.
Lenore: Ubuntu is a Zulu word. It means, I am what I am, because of who we all are. In the story, I apply this to the very diverse country the USA is today: Americans are what we are, because of who we all are.
About the Authors
Jonathan: That’s a very powerful, and important, statement, in a country so split as the U.S. is today. Lenore: It is truly a shamanic tale of our times. One of the main characters is in the ancestral realm. The script has won an award, and at this point I’m looking for a professional producer. I’ve always known this film would be made through a groundswell of support from the shamanic and spiritual activist communities. Jonathan: For me, what you have been
Lenore Norrgard is a teacher of shamanism, a writer, filmmaker, and a shamanic activist. She resides presently in Oakland, California. If any readers of this article are inspired to help in any way with the production of American Ubuntu, please contact her at lenore@americanubuntu. com, or (415) 671-5864 in the U.S. Jonathan Horwitz is the European editor of the Journal of Contemporary Shamanism. He is co-founder of the Scandinavian Center for Shamanic Studies, and a teacher of shamanism for more than twenty-five years. He lives in Sweden and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
www.shamansociety.org | 41
42 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
The Flight of the Caduceus by Cecile Carson, MD
The winged caduceus of the Greek god Hermes came to supercede the staff of the healer Aesculapius (with its single snake around a wingless staff) as a representation of the North American medical profession less than a century ago, appearing initially as a symbol of the American Medical Corps during World War I.1 Hermes (and thus his staff) was a symbol of wisdom, eloquence, and communication – vital elements in the physician-patient relationship. There has been some criticism of the caduceus as a medical symbol, however, because the mythological Hermes also leads the dead to the underworld, is associated with wealth and commerce, and happens to be the patron of thieves.
Into this confluence of Western and alternative therapies, the spiritual methodology of shamanism has begun to emerge as a source of healing. Traditionally the purview of native peoples for over 30,000 years, a cross-cultural form of it more applicable to western culture was developed several decades ago by anthropologist Michael Harner who with his faculty has trained thousands of conventional medical practitioners. Shamanism seems particularly relevant to the practice of western medicine today: inherently animistic, it directly addresses the soul aspect of physical and emotional illness. Today’s symbol of the caduceus, with stiff wings and coiled snakes arrested in their movement, is becoming invigorated.
But a deeper look at the symbology is in order. In nearly every culture throughout history, staffs and serpents have had a general association with wisdom, healing, and transcendence, "whereby the underworld snake-consciousness passes through the medium of earthly reality to attain transcendence in its winged flight."2 The symbol historically has been reserved for powerful mythic figures, humans of unusual distinction (like shamans and mystics), or for royalty.3
The traditional practice of shamanism over the millennia is a community event in which the patient is remembered into the larger framework of relationship to family and group life as well as to the family of spirit. Illness is seen as a need to rebalance and attend to the soul’s work in this lifetime, and the process of recovery takes on a different and more profound meaning beyond only the release of distressing physical or emotional symptoms. Shamanism’s inherent work with the spirits can often provide answers to the existential questions of illness such as "Why is this happening to me?" (when illness seems unfair), "Who am I?" (when illness takes away our roles), "Am I more than my physical body?" (when we can no longer equate self with corpus), and ultimately, "How do I learn to fully and bravely face my own death?"
It seems to me the practice of medicine in the contemporary West is well represented by the caduceus in many of its symbolic meanings. As medicine has become big business, the medicalindustrial complex is ripe for thievery; enhanced communication technology and the electronic medical record challenge the privacy of patient records; and in the time pressure of organized medicine, doctor-patient communication suffers. The modern medical mandate to 'find it and fix it' leaves out the possibility for true healing through the transcendence of illness when medical providers equate the soul’s response to illness as tampering with religion and therefore beyond their role. Symbolically, the focus in modern healthcare is the staff and not the serpent or the wings. Healthcare providers in all the disciplines, as well as the patients they care for, have felt the lack of soul in Western medicine. Over the past several decades there has been momentum to return the elan vital to our work as clinicians, first as ‘holistic medicine’ of the 1970’s, ‘complementary and alternative medicine’ of the 1980’s and 90’s, and more recently as ‘integrated medicine’ in the 21st century.
In January 2003 I conducted a survey of Western medical practitioners (physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, pharmacists, etc.) who also had shamanic training, to collectively understand how shamanic resources were being translated into more biotechnical healthcare settings. In addition to questions about allopathic training and shamanic training, the survey asked if and how the practitioner was able to integrate shamanism into the work setting, and if not able to integrate, what the challenges were. I was surprised to find that many of the respondents, especially those in primary care settings, reported they did not use their shamanic training at all. They cited a number of reasons for this, in particular, medico-legal and ethical concerns and the lack of a sense of how the form in which shamanism had been taught to www.shamansociety.org | 43
them could apply to the clinical encounter.
ing research evaluating the outcome of shamanic healing.
Through conversations and collaboration between Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies and the owner and publisher of Alternatives Therapies in Health and Medicine, a small group of physicians convened a medical conference on shamanism in medicine in 2002 to provide a forum for medical practitioners to exchange ideas and creative forms for applying a shamanic framework into the healing equation. At the 3-day conference in a natural setting, surrounded by the spirits of nature, participants grappled with issues such as ethics, professionalism, lack of research, and disparate frameworks of medicine and healing. Together they remembered the larger Order of Things in which health and falling ill reside, and used ritual, ceremony, presentations, and informal conversations to connect with each other and with the spirits. These conferences continued for three years, through 2004.
Several years ago, the Society sent out a call to its members for essays on how shamanically trained western medical providers were integrating shamanism in their practice of allopathic medicine. The collection of these essays developed into a book released in January 2013, entitled Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Health Care.4
From this series, the Society for Shamanic Practitioners was conceived and implemented in 2003–2004 to recognize and support the integration and practice of shamanism not only in medicine, but also in its re-emergence in other aspects of modern life: education, ecology, business, the creative arts. Its mission statement included: 1.) the creation of an alliance of diverse shamanic practitioners to function as a circle of peers; 2.) gathering and disseminating knowledge about shamanic practice; 3.) promoting personal responsibility in doing the inner work necessary to live and practice with integrity; 4.) focusing resources and shamanic energies to bring healing and unity to the world; 5.) encouraging a dynamic exchange around how people use shamanism as spiritual practice in their personal daily lives and how to bring shamanic practices into their professions; 6.) supporting education through an annual conference, regional gatherings, and a journal of shamanic practice; 7.) maintaining a repository of stories and clinical case studies of successful shamanic interventions; and 8.) facilitat44 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
The book is a treasure trove of inspiration, practical wisdom, methodology, and research. It illustrates the integration of shamanic practice into urban and suburban medical clinics, hospitals, and private practices by a broad representation of medical disciplines (physicians, osteopaths, naturopaths, psychologists) and specialties (obstetrics, physiatry, family medicine, urology, psychiatry, cardiac rehabilitation, hospice) as well as the application of traditional indigenous shamanisms into these settings (African, Peruvian, Celtic). And it brings to life the process of returning soul to medical care as it lays out such diverse topics as surgery as sacred ceremony, psychopomp (escorting the souls of the dead to the Light) in hospice care, shamanic parallels to psychotherapy, expanding the clinical framework in which to understand the delivery of healthcare, and the structure of healing stories. Another function of the book is to connect: of the thousands of medical providers now trained in shamanic methods, many operate in relative isolation. The book is designed to open doors for medical providers to find colleagues and maps and ideas that can extend the mundane practice of health care into a sacred pursuit. There is a growing awareness of shamanism in this country. An increasing number of people have their own shaman as part of their healthcare team, at least three journals are devoted to the practice of shamanism, and a conference of shamanism in medicine co-sponsored by the Society and by Omega Institute is Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
scheduled for October, 2013. "The spirits are guiding us, transforming and adapting shamanism to a variety of cultures and healers and contexts. We know there are many roads up the proverbial spiritual mountain; shamanism is but one, though its methodologies and sacred underpinnings provide a means of spiritual engagement that is extremely accessible."5 I have been struck by the power of this particular spiritual methodology to dig down to the essence of the healing required for a given person at a given time. We are moving beyond the secular and sacred split created by Descartes in the 1600’s, recognizing that whether seen or unseen, acknowledged or unacknowledged, soul issues are a major part of both illness and health, and the spirits can be accessed as a resource for these deep questions. We can build on the momentum for integration of mind and body and spirit of these past several decades, allow the wings of the caduceus to stretch and reach beyond the secular, the pinion feathers to spread, and the serpents’ scales to grip the staff in our ascent.
Endnotes 1 Fenkl, Heinz Insu, Wikipedia. 2 Henderson, J. "Ancient Myths and
Modern Man," in Jung, C. Man and His Symbols. 3 Fenkl, op. cit. 4 Carson, C, ed. Baltimore: Otter Bay Books, 2013. 5 Carson, op. cit., p. 263.
About the Author Cecile Carson, MD, is editor of Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare. A former internist/psychiatrist and academic physician with the U of Rochester medical school, her focus presently is on addressing the soul's response to illness and translating the spiritual methodology of shamanism into a practical framework for clinicians in caring for their patients.
www.shamansociety.org | 45
A Journal of
Submit an article, become a member with a website listing, or just subscribe!
The Society for Shamanic Practitioners Dedicated to the reemergence of shamanic practices in modern society, especially those that promote healthy individuals and viable communities . . . We are artists, educators, healers in multiple disciplines, therapy-dog owners, nonprofit professionals, editors and many more. We live in Italy, Idaho, the UK, California, Canada and Iceland. What binds us is our belief in the practice of shamanism as one of healing that reminds us of and supports our connection with all that is. If you would like to submit an article, join as a member with a website listing, subscribe and order back issues, or come to one of our regional or international* conferences, please visit us at:
www.shamansociety.org Please join us as we make shamanic practices and wisdom more available to all!
46 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
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www.shamansociety.org | 47
F A L L SHAMANIC SERVICES continued. HAWK’S WAY WELLNESS CENTER Jim Bucko: Spiritually Guided Healing, Licensed Massage, Therapist, Reiki Master-Teacher, Shamanic Practitioner—Integrating Shamanic Work with Massage and Reiki offers a multi-dimensional, holistic approach to wellness. I aim to connect with my clients at the level at which they are ready to receive healing – in areas where healing will be most beneficial. 525 Lafayette Road, Groton, NY 13073 (607) 423-4722 www.hawksway.com MARYPHYLLIS HORN, M.Ed, Rev., CT. Ancestral Lines Clearing, Karmic Matrix Clearing, Soul Retrieval, Aura Cleansing, Shamanic Healing, Past-Lives Pittsboro, NC www.soulshaman.com See ad on page 15. LAST MASK CENTER Shamanic Healing, Distance healing, & Integration Basic classes & Advanced Exploration 4-Year Training & Skill-based Community www.lastmaskcenter.org 1-800-927-2527, ext 02586 Practical application of shamanic skills Live Internet Radio & Podcast Archive www.whyshamanismnow.com See ad on page 24. GAELA MORRISON Forces of Nature Design Geomancy, Dowsing, Feng Shui Space/Land Clearings & Alignments On-Site and Remote Work Available Art Commissions firstname.lastname@example.org www.forcesofnaturedesign.com ORENDA HEALING INTERNATIONAL & Wholebeing Counseling Healing the person, healing the planet Valentine McKay-Riddell, PhD (505) 467-8739; email@example.com www.orenda-arts.org KEVIN SACHS, PhD Safe Journeys Home, LLC Transpersonal Experiential Spiritual Counselor, specializing in non-ordinary states work, life transition, psycho-spiritual crisis and shadow work for spiritual practitioners. Holotropic BreathworkTM guided Focusing sessions, and shamanic counseling. (646) 415-6721; SafeJourneysHome@gmail.com See ad on page 2.
48 | A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism
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Volume 6, Issue 1, SPRING 2013
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Spirited Medicine Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare
Spirited Medicine is an exciting contribution to the integration of the ancient healing system of shamanism into modern Western society. Most of its authors are dually trained as both healthcare providers and shamanic practitioners, and collectively they offer a broad framework and powerful clinical examples of how to attend to the soul of those who fall ill. Filled with practical strategies for healthcare and shamanic practitioners alike, this book brings shamanism forward from its historic and animistic origins into a broad range of Western medical settings: surgery, psychotherapy, rehabilitation medicine, family medicine, naturopathy, osteopathy, hospice care, private practice and a general medical clinic.
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Published on Jul 1, 2013
Shamanic Healing & Soul Retrieval The Legacy of Seidr Wandering Souls of Vietnam Healing with the Spirits of Nature; Lucid Living; Communica...