The Journal of
Shamanic Practice Exploring Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism Volume 5, Issue 2, FALL 2012
Jose Luis Herrera on Peruvian Shamanism Truth and Fantasy in Shamanic Journeys Drums Along the Hudson Shamans as Dreamers, Dreamers as Shamans Discovering Evil: Personal Encounters of a Non-Believer
The Journal of
Exploring Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism Volume 5, Issue 2, FALL 2012
Contents 5 essay Shamanic States of Consciousness
Jonathan Horwitz, MA
9 shamanic PRACTICE Shamanic Life in a High School Kitchen By Cynthia Nado
13 interview A Dialogue with Jose Luis Herrera on Peruvian Shamanism Deborah Bryon, PhD 21 shamanic PRACTICE Real or Imaginex? Truth and Fantasy in Shamanic Journeys David Kowalewski, PhD 25 ESSAY Drums Along the Hudson: The New York Regional Conference by Tom Cowan, PhD
29 SHAMANICâ€ˆPRACTICE Shamans as Dreamers, Dreamers as Shamans By Robert Moss, MA
Discovering Evil: Personal Encounters of a Non-Believer by Itzhak Beery
41 REVIEWS Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World: Complementary Dualism in Modern Peru Review by Bonnie Horrigan
43 Resource Directory Cover: Don Francisco, photographed by Ton Naron.
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Tom Cowan, PhD Bonnie Horrigan Jonathan Horwitz, MA Christina Pratt
Ron Short, MA/BFA www.ronshortstudios.com
Publisher Sara Johnston
Sara Johnston For information about advertising sales, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-726-2922. The Journal of Shamanic Practice: Exploring Traditional and 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 Encinitas, CA. Permit No. 154. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, P.O. Box 100007, Denver, CO 80250. 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. Telephone: 760-586-8252. Email: email@example.com. Web site: www.shamansociety.org.
SSP Board of Directors Cecile Carson, MD Tom Cowan, PhD Alan Davis, MD Bonnie Horrigan Sandra Ingerman, MA Martha Lucier Robert Moss, MA Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, CSC JosĂŠ Luis Stevens, PhD Lena Stevens Sara Johnston, Executive Director
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Volume 5, Issue 1, Spring 2012
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
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
Stanley Krippner, PhD
Saybrook Graduate School, San Francisco, CA
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
APOLOGY The editors of the Journal of Shamanic Practice extend their apologies to Mangku Made Subur, who was featured on our cover of the Spring 2012 issue. We were under the impression that we had permission to use his photo, but as it turned out, this was not the case. Mangku Made Subur is a healer from Bali. Additionally, although unbeknown to us, the other healers in the “Trance in Bali” article had likewise not given their permission to be the subject of an article and so we extend our apology to them as well.
CORRECTION There was an error in the editorial by Jonathan Horwitz, titled, “Alive and Well: Shamanism in Europe,” in the Spring 2012 issue. He states,”Michael Harner first came to Europe in 1983, and several North American Indians like Sun Bear, and Indianinspired teachers like Harley Swiftdeer and Alberto Villoldo, also came to teach workshops.” Actually, Michael Harner first traveled to Europe in 1978 to teach a shamanic training workshop near Munich in what was then known as West Germany.
Sanctuary for Healing and Integration Salt Lake City, UT www.shamansociety.org | 3
4 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, fall 2012
Shamanic States of Consciousness by Jonathan Horwitz, MA
“Shamanic States of Consciousness”is more than just a label that describes the changing states of consciousness the shaman experiences as he travels on his journey to, through and from the Spirit World. It is also the consciousness that resides within the shaman at all times, and is part of the greater consciousness to which we are all connected at all times. One of the great and beautiful mysteries of life is that we all share the same consciousness, and, at the same time, each of us manifests it differently. The shaman’s path is but one way to come closer and closer to that consciousness.
Preparing for The Journey The shamanic séance has three basic phases: the preparation, the journey, and the return. Already from the first steps of the preparation, the shaman’s state of consciousness starts to change as awareness of the intimacy of the spirits expands. I use the word “expand” because, for me, that is what it feels like, as if there is more in my chest, in my body, than there is room for, and yet, at the same time, there is room enough. It is in this deepening consciousness that the would-be journeyer to the spirits formulates precisely why he is going to the Other World. What is the errand, the mission? What is the reason for contacting the Spirits? Although my ordinary reality consciousness has only started to change, this change is enough for me to clear away much of the everyday busyness that could otherwise clutter my vision and reduce my ability to concentrate on the mission at hand. Lighting the sacred fire, setting up the altar, and washing the sacred objects in smoke are all a part of the preparation. But what is also going on is that I am becoming increasingly aware of the spirits, and as their nearness becomes more and more tangible, so does my mission, whether I am asking for help for others or for myself. It is my experience that I should be as clear as possible in my intentions; without clarity of intention, one can easily return from a journey knowing that something has happened, but not knowing what it was, as Alice experienced with her adventures in Wonderland. This is also what can happen when the goal is simply to experience the ecstasy of the shaman. The ecstasy is only the doorway to the world of the Spirits, while the intention is the key to understanding what may at first seem to be the mysteries of the journey.
However, there are some interesting and seemingly paradoxical aspects to this. For example, sometimes when I find my spirit helpers and tell them why I have come, the mission which comes out of my mouth is not necessarily the same as the one that I so carefully formulated before I left my body. I feel that the reasons for this are mainly that when I first formulate a mission, even though my consciousness has already begun to change, I am still in fairly close contact with, and influenced by, my own personal desires concerning my life, my hopes, my fears, or, if I am working for someone else, the life circumstances of that person who has come to me for help. However, when I cross the threshold into the spirit world there is a shift, and for each threshold I cross after that there are further shifts. The deeper I get away from my ordinary reality the further I leave my “self” behind. The result is that when I finally get to my teachers and helpers in the spirit world to ask my question, my original and mundane view of the situation has changed into a more universal perspective, and I am shown what I need to see instead of what I thought I wanted to know. It often happens that the mission I start with is very appropriate, but even so, the response of the spirits can be very surprising, as I once experienced in a healing séance in England. Illness can happen when what seems to be separation, or blockage, interrupts the flow. The shaman works together with his spirits to remove these blockages. In this particular case I was working with a woman who had been suffering from colitis for two years, bleeding every day. Doing the diagnostic work I could see that there was a huge python coiled in her lower intestine. Python told me that it was the woman’s spirit-helper, and that it had been unsuccessfully trying to get her attention for some time. My spirit healing-teacher told me to remove the python and put it into a special stone I had. I should then give the stone to the woman. After I did so, the woman not only became aware of the python and its benevolent intentions, but she could also communicate directly with it by holding the stone in her hand. While removing the python from her intestine, it told me that it wanted the woman to seek and come into contact with her own spiritual path. I delivered this message to her. At the time of the work, I had no personal knowledge of her. After the healing, she told me that her parents were from India. She had been raised a Hindu, but did not have a serious religious or spiritual practice,
Opposite: Reticulated python by TimVickers
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and was, in fact, a psychologist working in the psychiatric ward of a hospital in an industrial city. She possessed very little knowledge of shamanism. Two months later I received a letter from her, telling me that that since the healing ceremony she had had absolutely no symptoms of the illness. She also wrote that during her holiday she had visited an uncle who was a guru. Her uncle had given her exactly the same message as the python – to seek her spiritual path. My intention at the start of the work had been to remove the spirit of the illness. The cure, in fact, was to introduce the patient to the source of her power.
The Spirits At this point, it is necessary that we consider “the spirits.” In the past I have often described “spirits” as being bundles of the energy/power of the Universe that present themselves to us in ways we can understand, if we are so inclined. To this, I would like to add Richard Noll’s comment that spirits “can be thought of as ego-alien currents that step forward from the shadows of the ‘not-I’ to introduce new information to the individual who cannot access this information while in an ordinary state of waking consciousness (1987:48-49).” Spirits are certainly agents of change, as many of us come to find out, and the change that the shaman undergoes at initiation is certainly testimony of this. But most importantly, the spirits are the agents of change that make shamanism possible: no spirits, no shamanism, no shaman. I feel that this is especially relevant in this day and age where so many would try to make shamanism socially acceptable, and turn it into another form of psychotherapy. Of course, it is a form of psychotherapy, the oldest form that exists, but that is only on the surface. Beneath the surface is the spiritual discipline and practice that comes from the teachings of the spirits.
The Journey The shaman’s journey is often seen as a metaphor. This point of view is handy 6 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
for those with no direct experience of the shamanic journey, or who wish to explain or understand the shamanic journey from within the narrow framework of our time and culture, and indeed it is clear that the spirits often communicate with what we call metaphor. However, the shamanic journey is much more than metaphor. The shaman has spirit helpers. The shaman works by asking them for help. The key to doing shamanic work is knowing how to ask for help, knowing what to ask for, being able to receive the help offered, and being able to bring it back home with all its power and depth. The journey begins when the shaman steps into the spirit world, and this generally happens while the shaman calls to his spirit helpers, guides, and teachers, asking for their help, as in, for example, this incantation of Ghindia, a shaman of the Orochee of eastern Siberia: “I am a poor woman. There is nothing that would distinguish me from any other woman in our village. I was a poor orphan. I was a deserted girl. My parents died very early. I do not remember my mother. My youth was hard; my childhood was without joy and my girlhood lonely. My relatives reared me… I have always worked hard… I was just a poor woman, but thou noticed me. Thou, powerful spirit, chose me, a poor woman. I became thy servant … thy humble worker. Thou didst not dislike to enter into me. My body was pleasant for thee … Thou didst choose me and I became a shamaness. Without thee I am only a poor woman. With thy assistance I am powerful. All people respect me; all buseu [lesser evil spirits] fear me. I am thy servant … thy messenger, thy worker. I have entertained thee with my singing and dancing. My drum frightens thine enemies. The clanging of my belt scares them away… . I have prepared food for thee. Thy favorite dishes are ready. Come, my master, I am ready to receive thee. Come, come!” (Lopatin , 1940–41. Anthropos 35–36:354–55) The deeper the shaman journeys the closer he comes to the essence of his power – the Power of the Universe – both metaphorically and literally. Metaphorically in that the journey takes him Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
further and further away from the reality of his daily life where he started, literally because the experienced separation between him and the essential Power of the Universe dissolves, until, in some cases, there is no separation.
The World of the Spirits In accounts gathered from shamans in traditional cultures and experiences of shamanic practitioners in modern western societies, it is clear that the geography of the spirit world is extensive. These areas are often referred to as the Upper World, Middle World, and Lower World of the shaman’s universe, and changes in them, which can be horizontal, vertical, or multi-directional, often seem to be synchronous with ever-deepening changes in the journeyer’s consciousness. Some practitioners feel that one travels to the Lower World to get power, healing knowledge or primal energy; to the Middle World for practical advice and help; and to the Upper World for answers to the great or existential questions which life gives us. These guidelines should be looked at as rules of thumb, as in many traditional societies there are shaman specialists who journey only to certain areas of the spirit world under specific circumstances and for specific reasons. The shaman experiences many shifts in consciousness during the journey. These shifts can occur with changes of location in the spirit world, but there is no limit to the depth of the shamanic journey, or to the changes of consciousness experienced by the journeyer. Embodying a spirit helper is a wonderfully empowering experience and involves a total reorientation. It can also happen that the shaman enters into the body of one of his spirit helpers and experiences the Universe from the spirit helper’s being, while at the same time maintaining her own awareness. With each of these changes the shaman’s experience of consciousness expands. Some people even experience dying and death during the journey.
Once, on one of my courses, an anthropologist who was close to seventy years old died. Fortunately, his wife, who had died some years before, knew that his time was not at hand and, after a deeply moving reunion, sent him back. After a very long period of calling him back, he finally returned to the world of the living. He told us that when he realized that he was dead he did feel a detached concern because of all the trouble his death would cause me and the course organizer. But now he was dead and that was that. For him, there was no question – he had died and gone to heaven. And it was not a “near-death experience”, it was an experience of death. Deeper changes in consciousness than death are possible, even without the use of plant “medicine.” These experiences go beyond what we call today “visualization” or “imagery.” They include all the senses, and sometimes even go way beyond the senses to the experience of becoming unified with the Power of the Universe. To experience this is to go beyond knowing, beyond awareness, and beyond death, and into the essence of being, to what some perhaps would call consciousness.
Animism The animistic way of moving through life – that is, recognizing that everything is alive – is the vehicle of shamanism. For me, it is also the basis for understanding consciousness. Jaime de Angulo quotes one of his Pit River Indian friends as saying to him, “Everything is alive, even the rocks, even that bench you are sitting on. Somebody made that bench for a purpose, didn’t he. Well, then, it’s alive, isn’t it? Everything is alive. That’s what we Indians believe. White people think everything is dead….” (Indian Tales. P.242). To further the point de Angulo noted: “The spirit of wonder, the recognition of life as power, as a mysterious, ubiquitous concentrated form of non-material energy, of something loose about the world and contained in a more or less condensed degree by every object, — that is the credo of the Pit River Indian”
(AA, ns, 28, 1926:354. The Background of the Religious Feeling in a Primitive Tribe). These two statements capture the essence of the animistic experience of life. Further, to the point, Cushing points out that “The Ashiwi, or Zuñis, suppose the sun, moon, and stars, the sky, earth, and sea … and all inanimate objects, as well as plants, animals, and men, to belong to one great system of all-conscious and interrelated life (italics added). . . In this system of life the starting point is man, the most finished, yet the lowest organism; at least, the lowest because the most dependent and least mysterious.… all supernatural beings, men, animals, plants, and many objects in nature are regarded as personal existences, and are included in the one term á-hâ-i … = 'Life,' 'the Beings'.” (Cushing, Frank, 1883: 9 bid.11)
Nowadays, many people automatically associate shamanism with the use of psychotropic plant medicines. These spirit plant helpers are not at all necessary to the practice of shamanism. At this point in my life, I define shamanism as a spiritual discipline which enables one to directly contact, use, and be used by the spirit power of the Universe. Although shamanism is defined by culture, the ability to shamanize is a natural human endowment. The shaman is someone who is chosen by the spirits to represent them in the material world. The shaman learns to call his spirit helpers and teachers when necessary, and to send his soul out to journey to the world of the spirits. The shaman’s mission is to ask for help from his spirits and to bring the help back to the material world, generally for the purpose of healing or restoring balance in some way. Thus, the shaman is a servant of the people and a servant of the spirits at the same time. Being a servant of the people and a servant of the spirits at the same time is not an easy job, as Ghindia’s invocation indicates. It often does not leave much room for the individualism we
pay so much homage to in the western world. The shaman is often required to make a pact with the spirits, which often contains certain taboos. If one will be a powerful shaman, this can only happen with the cooperation of the spirits, and this calls for surrender.
The Return But what happens to the shaman after his return from the spirit world? Up until now, we have been looking at shamanic states of consciousness only in relation to the shamanic journey. Some feel that a shaman is a shaman only when he is shamanizing. From one point of view this is true enough, but it is not the only truth. The path of the shaman is a spiritual path, no matter which state of consciousness he is in. If the shaman wanders too far from the path, from the dictates of his spirit helpers and teachers, he risks losing them. The spirits are constantly a part of his daily awareness, and this has an effect on his ordinary reality consciousness. It also has an effect on how others regard him. As Handelman (1972) so perspicaciously points out, most people who do not have direct recourse to the spirit world either fear or respect the shaman (84-101). The more the power of the spirits flows through him, the more powerful the shaman becomes, as long as the power is used properly — that is, as defined by the spirits. After initiation, perhaps the most important teaching from the spirits for the would-be shaman is how to live with power in his own daily life in a way that is acceptable to the shaman and acceptable to the society he lives in. Without learning these teachings, the neophyte risks insanity, or, perhaps worse, being feared as a lunatic, or merely dismissed as a neurotic. These teachings are vital because the more he works with the spirits, the more conscious the shaman becomes of the spirits as containers of the power of the Universe. At the same time, he becomes more aware that the power of the Universe is the power that is in him, and that it is the source of — and the same as — his own power, his own deep www.shamansociety.org | 7
consciousness. With this realization comes the realization that there is no separation between the power of the individual, the individual’s consciousness, the power of the Universe, and Universal consciousness. They are one and the same.
Conclusion Non-recognition of the animistic nature of the Universe is one of the major stumbling blocks that keeps western science from understanding consciousness. If we think everything is dead, we separate it from ourselves. With this point of view it is very difficult to investigate consciousness except as something removed from our own being. From the little I’ve learned it seems clear that the place to start to study consciousness is from the inside, that is, from my own connection to consciousness. Something so beautiful, so deep, so all-encompassing as consciousness cannot be studied from only a western scientific
approach. The scientists of the East have been studying consciousness for several thousands of years, and shamans, by entering shamanic states of consciousness, have been studying consciousness for perhaps a hundred thousand years or more. The results of these studies clearly show the inter-relationship between life and consciousness. Life is consciousness. Everything is Alive. Everything has consciousness, and it is this consciousness that joins us all together.
Literature Cited Cushing, Frank H. (1883): Zuñi Fetiches. Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology. Washington, DC. (Reprinted KC Publications, Las Vegas, Nevada. 1987 Di Angulo, Jaimi (1926): The Background of Religious Feeling in a Primitive Tribe. American Anthropologist, ns. Di Angulo, Jaimi (1953): Indian Tales. New York
Preparing for the Future Audio lecture by José Stevens Now available on our website. TRENDS 2013 Audio by José and Lena Stevens (pre-order available) One-year Shamanic Studies Program Begins May 2013
The Power Path School of Shamanism Santa Fe, NM • 505-982-8732 Please visit our website for more details
www.thepowerpath.com 8 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Handelman, Don (1972): Aspects of the Moral Compact of a Washo Shaman. Anthropological Quarterly, 45,2. Washington DC Lopatin, Ivan A. (1940-41): A Shamanistic Performance to Regain the Favor of the Spirit. Anthropos 35-36. Freiburg Noll, Richard (1987): The Presence of Spirits in Magic and Madness. In Nicholson, Shirley (ed.) Shamanism, An Expanded View of Reality. Wheaton, Ill.
About the AUTHOR Jonathan Horwitz has been studying and working with shamanism since 1972 and has been teaching shamanism since 1986. He is co-founder of the Scandinavian Center for Shamanic Studies (www.shamanism.dk). He lives at his retreat center, Åsbacka, in the woods of southern Sweden. He can be contacted by writing to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Shamanic Life in a High School Kitchen By Cynthia Nado
When we consider our relationship with food in the United States, we now see two generations that have lost the knowledge of how to seasonally grow, keep a garden, and preserve the food to feed their families for a year. Our relationship with plants has changed to the extent that there is no need to work to grow our own food, as the supermarket is the destination now and not the garden. Plants are viewed primarily as decorative and certainly not medicinal. This is a time in our world, unlike any our ancestors ever faced, when corporate food factories feed huge numbers of people and animals. The food produced is made with many different non-food items to ensure a lengthy shelf life and a healthy profit. Fast foods or pre-prepared foods are often the only choices due to lack of gardening skills, space to garden or knowing how to be self-sufficient. In a way, corporate mass food production has helped to separate and sterilize us from the earth and from ourselves.
the family at the table. Each of these steps helps to ensure that the plants and animals who sacrificed for the meal are honored and the recipients of the meal can absorb as much of the energy as possible. Another important part of the meal is the blessing. In our family, each member thanks the plants and animals for the gift of life. Should we have guests, we do a more formal blessing helping the guest to understand our ways. We will also tailor the blessing to fit the views and practices of the guest.”2
The Cook’s Dream When I cook I dream. I dream into the food under my hands all the possibilities of what can be. Cooking dreams into food so that all who eat may dream their own dreams into being.
In my shamanic apprenticeship with teacher, Cecile Carson, I chose a project to look at how I worked with food both as a shamanic practitioner and as a chef in a high school kitchen. While I knew at some level I had been working with the food in a shamanic way, this project helped me to identify particular aspects and methods I utilized unconsciously and to see exactly what I was doing in the kitchen.
The background for this project began in 1990 when I developed a part-time catering business. My menus and cooking had always Extensive internet searching informed been spirit-led, so I was used to paying atme that in indigenous cultures shamans do tention to the ‘quiet voices’ I heard while not usually cook but are fed by their complanning a menu when I felt part of me conmunities. Their ‘cooking’ is in preparing necting to something that I called ‘the other medicines. side.’ When this happened, ideas would start Cynthia Nado flowing. At some point in creating various In present day western culture, cookdishes, I would recognize food combinations books with a shamanic orientation often not my own, yet not unfamiliar. There was a make reference to working with energy, resonance in the making of each dish: choosintention, respect, and thanks to all things — to start turning us ing ingredients, deciding how to assemble elements and cook the back to ourselves, to create a shift in thinking and feeling and to 1 dish, weighing and balancing textures, and checking the acidity improved health. Perhaps this is a way of helping us to begin to or sweetness of each menu item to another until an all around remember another time that had deeper, more direct connections. good menu was created. When I reflected on the whole menu, sometimes I could tell exactly who had been helping me by how Mark Perkins of onenessjourneys.com says, “Being a shamanic it felt when doing the cooking, by the music I chose to listen to practitioner and the family cook, I strive to ensure that I am in the during the preparation, by sensing the voice, or by identifying the proper frame of mind allowing me to infuse the food with aloha historical aspect of a recipe: rural upstate New York, New Eng(love/positive energy). I do this via a zen-like technique where I land seacoast, Mediterranean, Scottish or French (e.g. using white focus all of my intention on the task at hand in the preparation acorns in morning pancakes in Native American style). There have of the meal. This includes actually preparing the food all the way been times when I had no idea who was present in non-ordinary down to selecting the appropriate plates, glasses and position of assistance; I just felt grateful for the help. www.shamansociety.org | 9
Studying shamanism showed me that these were the voices of my ancestors and that they were teaching me their knowledge. I started cooking in city high school kitchens four years ago. I love working in the kitchen’s complex environment with its enormous amounts of food, supportive staff, frenzied pace and most especially, the ebb and flow of energies spiraling in and around me as I created appealing, delicious dishes for students and teachers. Unexpectedly, and now daily, this is where some of my shamanic work began to take form as I connected through the meat and vegetables directly to the spirits of those animals and plants. My first high school kitchen was near the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York. In this school were two separate dining areas: the teachers’ eating area and the students’ cafeteria. When I started working here, most of the teachers brown-bagged their lunches and very few came down to purchase a lunch. At that time, the most popular choice of food for the students was the breaded chicken patty: ground-up chicken carcass breaded with added flavor and coloring. As the new chef, I learned that no one has input to the menus; ownership of that belongs to the food corporation who won the bid to provide food service to the city school district. Menus are based on a theory that daily amounts of red or white meat in addition to vegetables, grains, and fruits are needed to provide adequate nutrition to students. Therefore large quantities of meat crossed my stainless steel table. Over time, as I worked with the bodies of chickens, packages of ground beef, and numerous boxes of sliced bacon along with other forms and shapes of chicken or beef, I became conscious of a communication of sorts happening between the meat under my hands and me. At first it felt like a pulse, but then I began to hear a quiet, kind voice beyond me, and I wanted to understand what that was about. As I usually work alone in my job, I decided to journey to this voice, and this is when things began to get very interesting. 10 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
In the journey I was shown where the meat comes from in today’s contemporary culture and how in the processing of meat, a basic tenet of civility for acknowledging and respecting sacrifice is ignored. Spirit had me consider whether there is someone in the factory to bless the animals as they are being guided down the death chute and hung on the hook, or someone to say, “Thank you for the gift you give us.” I was clearly shown that no one is there for that. People who do the slaughtering do whatever work is available in their area in order to survive, and an animal’s life is primarily a means to get the money they need. So I decided at that moment if there is no one on a factory farm blessing the animals or recognizing their sacrifice, I am a link in this chain of events and can give that recognition and begin doing my small part. I began to change how I worked with the meats, beginning with a daily ritual blessing of the kitchen space and giving thanks to the spirits of all the animals coming onto my countertop. I softly sang and spoke to them as I prepped and cooked, listening to them and connecting to their spirits. My journeys, the majority of which were middle world journeys, took me to many places, including the factory farms. In a particular journey that seemed to repeat itself many times, my power animal and I are flying through the middle world toward a huge factory farm. We see a dark cloud covering the farm, and as we fly toward this cloud it begins to blow away. The animals stop milling around frantically and look up, while a soft, gentle song begins singing to them and the air starts to smell sweeter. They calm down and relax as we circle them, infusing the farm and its occupants with the scent of sweet grass, song and calmness. At times my power animal also leads me to smaller farms and into slaughterhouses where we do psychopomp work and soul retrievals. In the midst of all these journeys I am standing in the background, focused, softly singing and chanting, holding space with love as the work is done. Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
In the slaughterhouses there are very large groupings of the spirits of slaughtered animals drifting around the hooks that held their bodies, and my power animal has a certain whistle that draws them together. As they come close to us, they are directed to move toward the light that has opened up above us. There are a series of whoosh-whoosh sounds as they change from a darkened being to a light being and disappear into the light above. The soul retrievals are done individually. My power animal goes to the animals that are tightly packed together and milling around right before the slaughter and touches a foot to their forehead. The detached soul part immediately comes into the animal being touched. This happens so quickly that many, many animals can be helped within a short time. The change from helpless despair to a feeling of calm and contentment affects even those animals in the vicinity not receiving the soul retrievals. After some time of being very focused on working with the spirits of animals, I became aware of the spirits of the plants nudging me. The potatoes seemed to be a cheery group of vegetables; they loved being washed, scrubbed and checked over for spots. They had a contagious song that always got me tapping my foot as I worked with them. Their joy expanded with the baking, their happiness enveloping the students and teachers on baked potato days. Generally, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas and green beans are not popular items with the students. But as I tuned into the songs of these spirits, blessing and thanking them, they showed me ways to make them more appealing. The overall goal of the food service corporation is to have the students choose a vegetable as an item on their lunch tray, because the corporation needs to meet or exceed standard state meal regulations. While I basically follow the recipes given to me by the food service corporation, the spirit of each vegetable informs my power animal and me as to which seasoning, herb or spice to use with them and how much, so they will have more vitality. This vitality seems to
glow from the foods nestled in the steam table, and when I am out there checking food levels and ready to refresh quantities, I watch students walk in and check out the choices for lunch. As they look over the items I can see the change in them as the energy grabs them and they select the item with a sense of excitement. Even so, I still see a lot of students walk up to the steam table or the pizza station without even looking at the food
In writing about the spiritual aspects of cooking, Bob Makransky of Guatemala maintains that food contains ‘light fiber energy’ just as important to our sustenance as vitamins and proteins, although not measurable by chemical analysis. Analogous to physical nutrients being diminished by processing or overcooking, he feels the light fiber content of food can be diminished by disrespect. He equates the light fibers to good feelings;
by the way we take it in to eat it. He says, “While it is true that the original light fiber energy in food can be vitiated by disrespect anywhere along the line – in handling, processing, cooking, or eating – it is also true that light fiber energy, being more flexible than vitamins or proteins, can be restored to food by respecting it and treating it as sacred— by ritualizing the activities connected with it.”5 When I was new in my first high school kitchen, there was scrutiny by everyone and a curiosity as to what kind of person I was, my cooking style and prep methods. I didn’t mind being watched. Then, because they noticed I seemed to be talking to the food while I worked, eventually someone asked me, “Are you praying while you work?” Most of the people in the kitchen were very religious, and often I had heard conversations regarding God and the Devil. So I carefully explained that yes, I was praying over the food and hoping to send healing both to the animals and plants that made the sacrifice and to the children and teachers about to eat the meals. What I said was talked about among the kitchen staff, and it seemed to speak to their hearts because a few days later one of them came to me to say that almost everyone in the kitchen was praying over the food with me. This set something wonderful in motion, bringing a new energy to the kitchen and changing staff attitudes from contentious to cooperative.
and order the same item day after day for the entire year. A 1960’s alumnus of the high school of my present kitchen remembers looking around the cafeteria as a student and seeing it filled with many different kinds of lunches that were homemade and carried to school.3 This was a reflection of the wide variety of neighborhood cultures surrounding the high school and a time when families were still vitally connected to their food traditions. What changes in the last half century!
Photograph by Cynthia Nado _____________________________ i.e., when we feel good, we literally glow, and when a food plant or animal feels good, it glows. When killed for food, the glow remains if the killing was done with a sense of connectedness and gratitude, rather than mechanically.4 Makransky points out that in the way we process food in America today, nutrients are stripped out of it and there is little nourishment for the spirit left in it. Further, what small amount remains to tend our spirit is completely destroyed
About seven weeks later, one of the kitchen staff in charge of the teachers’ cafeteria began coming to me during lunch to say she was running out of food because many more teachers had started coming in to eat and buy lunches. Soon after that, kitchen staff working on the student lunch lines reported more students eating vegetables and choosing the main entrees cooked by me. Another part of my daily ritual is my approach to processed foods. Processed foods are offered daily at the school for both breakfast and lunch, and working with them has made me keenly aware www.shamansociety.org | 11
of the tiny percentage of real food and the disproportionate amount of nonfood. One day I wondered if the real foods could become more powerful and healthier than the filler non-foods by spiritually addressing only the real foods with chants and songs to restore their energies. I feel this is time well spent even if I cannot yet report on a specific outcome with this ritual. At one point during this time, we received a series of large shipments of government surplus raw chicken. This was tricky to work with because of the huge amount of meat and lack of space, so the challenge was how to safely navigate from the raw chicken to the completely cooked product. As I stood there, ready to start opening the boxes of chicken, I suddenly felt zapped by a lightning bolt of energy. Spirit of Chicken spoke to my power animal and we took off. Energized might not be a strong enough word as I flew about the kitchen following the spirit’s directions: season the flour using this amount of spice, that amount of herb seasoning, lay out the parts on trays in a specific way, and bake for a certain amount of time. Now remember, I was cooking chicken among employees who had been cooking chicken all their lives and who grew up watching their mammas and grandmas make it, too. So there was some performance pressure to produce a quality product. But I had no time to be concerned with that and apparently didn’t need to, for soon the delicious smell of robustly seasoned chicken filled the kitchen. Everyone had gathered around as I pulled tray after tray from the ovens, the staff selected pieces to be sampled and then declared them to be very, very good. Of course the real test was with the students and teachers. Less than halfway through the first lunch, students rushed out of the cafeteria to tell administration, teachers, and fellow students to get to the cafeteria
quickly for some chicken, as it was the best they’d ever had at school. My power animal and the Spirit of Chicken were very pleased with the change from apathy to delight among the students and teachers that day. I began my second year by transferring to a different city high school kitchen and continuing my work with the animal and plant spirits. This kitchen has been a completely different experience. The staff was disorganized, headstrong, and unprofessional. After the first year in this kitchen I wondered if I was meant to stay on, the year being filled with an endless parade of frustrating experiences. Even with an excellent, professional kitchen manager to work with, there was no wonderful transformation like the previous kitchen experience. As I journeyed on this issue to ask for guidance, the response was quite clear, “Do not leave, stay put!” After the summer break, I returned feeling hopeful, filled with the energy of my power animals, and ready to carry on with the work. Gradually I have noticed small positive shifts in attitudes, emotions, work attendance and improved teamwork occurring among the staff, though very little change with those members afflicted with addiction and possession. Connections between some staff members have been changing from disrespect to respectful and more cooperative as the work continues with the spirits of the plants and animals. Notably, a number of students who eat only at the cafeteria are starting to eat foods that previously they had no interest in. Having felt prompted to return to the same school and continue doing the work of Spirit, I recognize through my work at both schools that the spirits of the animals and plants are always eager to be helpful in providing health and vitality to the humans in these environments when invited to do so. It’s also
clear to me that I have been changed by doing this daily spirit work. By inviting the presence of the sacred into a workaday environment, I have deepened my awareness of our interdependence with all of life on many levels and have seen how we are fed and nurtured beyond the physiologic nutrition present in food. I’ve also seen the interplay of the sacrifice of animals and plants with the gratitude of staff, and I feel very much a part of the myriad connections and relationships present in a commercial kitchen. I’m not entirely sure if the work of listening to spirit has been the reason, but the present kitchen has been ranked number one in the city school district for two consecutive years, causing the administration to create workshops to try to bring the other kitchens up to the same level of performance.
References: 1 McCaw, David,
www.theshamanskitchen.com. 2 Perkins, Mark, personal communication. 3 Fomin, Elizabeth, personal communication. 4 Makransky, Bob, personal communication. 5 Makransky, Bob, “Spiritual Cookery,” Magical Living, Dear Brutus Press, 2001.
About the Author Cynthia Nado is a chef, artist, medical illustrator, and photographer. She has studied shamanism with Cecile Carson, taking an Introductory Workshop, a Two Year Shamanic Intensive, a One Year Healing Intensive, and a One Year Shamanic Apprenticeship. She has also taken workshops with Tom Cowan, Myron Eshowsky and Betsy Bergstrom.
______________________________________________ Opposite: Photo by Ton Naron. 12 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
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intere v iew
A Dialogue with
Jose Luis Herrera on Peruvian Shamanism by Deborah Bryon, PhD
Jose Luis Herrera has spent the last twenty years exploring and studying the mountain, Amazon, and coastal medicine traditions of his native Peru. An accomplished mountain climber, explorer, author, speaker, and naturalist, he teaches Inka medicine traditions across the US and Europe, and is the founder of Rainbow Jaguar and chairman of Andean Research Institute (ARI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to social projects, land preservation in the Amazon jungle, and recording songs, mythology, and technology in stewardship of medicine traditions. The following candid but casual conversation with Jose Luis Herrera took place on a bus ride returning from the Sacred Mountains in Peru to Cusco after the Altomesayok research expedition in Peru, July 2011. I had visited and worked with the Vilkabamba and Q’ero medicine people several times before and had been so impressed with these shamans that I have continued to travel to Peru each year for the privilege of participating in this amazing journey to the Holy Mountains. During the incredible fifty-mile hike that took place on the sacred mountain of Ausangate, we had crossed mountain passes at elevations up to 16,000 feet, been given rites of passage, and performed sacred purification rituals in the icy waters of crystal clear, blue lagoons. The purpose of this investigative journey was to research and study the last Altomesayoks, a small group of specialized shamans still living in Peru today. To preserve the old sacred Inka traditions and for their own safety, the Altomesayoks have practiced under the radar of the current religions practiced in Peru. In total, there are only a handful of Altomesayoks remaining and Jose Luis has gone to great lengths to find these shamans and bring a small group of Westerners together for the opportunity to work with these powerful shamans, and with their assistance to speak directly with the mountain spirits. The individuals who participated on this journey were full mesa carriers (the shaman’s medicine body) in the Inka tradition, and had been training with Jose Luis for nearly a decade. Although Jose Luis has trained shamans from different regions of Peru, practicing other shamanic traditions, the topic of this informal conversation was primarily about the late shaman Don Manuel Q’uispe and the Q’ero people. Inka shamanism was the focus of this particular journey, but is not the only shamanism practiced in Peru.
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Deborah Bryon: What is the status of the Q’ero shamans practicing in Peru today, and what is your relationship to Q’ero shamanism? Jose Luis Herrera: I was born in the city of Cusco and exposed to the Inka medicine traditions at an early age. The common denominator in the Andes is Q’echua, the ancestral people and language of the Inca Empire. There are many lineages of shamanism alive in Peru today. In the Andes, there used to be twelve active
one of the last Q’ero Altomesayoks. Bryon: I heard about the Altomesayok, Don Manuel before ever visiting Peru. I understand that he was a remarkable person with tremendous vision. In sharing his knowledge of the ancient traditions, he was key in bringing about the renaissance that is occurring in Peruvian medicine today. Herrera: Yes, before his death, Don Manuel had come into a place of deep awareness and realization. He knew wholeheartedly that his people were not going to
students visiting Peru, the demand to work with and learn from the Q’ero shamans has been created. As a result, many Q’ero non-shamans have stepped in to fill this need. For many of the Q’ero right now, the opportunity to work as paq’os (medicine people) has become an economic adventure. This surge of interest in Inka medicine has created financial opportunity for the Q’ero people who have traditionally been farmers, herders, and weavers. With this being said, it is still important to recognize that these “non-shamans” do know the rich cosmovision of their lineage, and are stewards of a wonderful tradition. Bryon: Would you please say more about the economic adventure? Herrera: People, primarily from the West, interested in shamanism are coming to Peru to learn, and as a result, working with medicine people has become very profitable. The Q’echua people now have the opportunity to earn higher wages than they normally would in their villages, and are able to sell their weaving and other handmade items for better prices. Because of their recent spiritual popularity, everyday Q’ero people are realizing they have a wonderful spiritual cosmology and it is becoming necessary for them to re-learn their dying Altomesayok tradition.
lineages of Altomesayok shamans, but now there are four. The Altomesayoks are the most highly specialized shamans who have the ability to create the doorway between realms, between worlds. Bryon: What happened to the other eight Altomesayok lineages? Herrera: The other eight lineages have died out. Much of the technology of the ancient teachings has been forgotten due to the Spanish conquest and the church — and nowadays industrialization, and the immersion into Western culture. Out of the four surviving Altomesayok lineages, I have assimilated a body of knowledge that draws upon the vision of Don Manual Q’uispe, 14 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Jose Luis (left) with Don Francisco. Photo by Ton Naron. _____________________________ have the strength to be the conduits of the old tradition. The old Altomesayok masters have been dying and the new Q’ero generations do not have the interest or passion to maintain the tradition, due to the seduction of modern living. Nowadays, most of the Q’ero shamans are Pampamesayok shamans. (Pampamesayoks are Inka shamans who work with the land elementals, herbs, mountains as healers, performing sacred ceremonies and rituals in service of Pachamama, the Great Earth Mother.) Because of the popularity of Q’ero shamanism in recent years, with seekers and Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Does this make them shamans? Perhaps to some extent. They still live within the tradition honoring the land. But does that make them masters? Perhaps not, because the old Altomesayok masters are gone. Nowadays, there don’t seem to be individuals in the villages fit enough to become the next Altomesayoks. Altomesayoks are highly specialized shamans. These shamans are able to commune with the spirit benefactor of holy mountains, the Apus, and have the ability to summon and materialize mountain spirits for healing and advice. Training to become an Altomesayok is demanding. It requires focus, diligence, and tremendous love for service. It is like teaching a class or training students and very few will go to the extent of obtaining a PhD. A few will have the drive, www.shamansociety.org | 14
stamina, focus, or guiding light within. The reason is simple. The Q’ero have come down from the mountains into modern ways of living. Their homes no longer have to be made out of stones and thatch. Now they have gas stoves, and glass in their windows. They can educate their kids in schools. So, a lot of the Q’ero do not want their kids living way up on the mountain under such harsh conditions and removed from the world. Bryon: What do we lose when we lose the Altomesayoks as gateways? How does that affect us today?
In order to get there, Don Manuel’s understanding was that his people needed to merge with the city, with the process of industrialization, with the process of culture. Perhaps a few Q’ero survivors along the way — if their medicine or their calling is strong — will be able to integrate that new and the old at a higher level. Meanwhile, there are not too many that are willing to go to that length. Don Manuel always spoke about the newly emerging cross-pollinators, individuals who would weave the modern
individuals who source from the longstanding lineage of the earth stewards and mountain spirits. Maybe there are individuals who have gone through the dark night of the personal and collective soul, who understood their personal and collective journey, and perhaps these individuals are highly cultured, educated, and have already healed individually. They no longer source from a cultural paradigm of limitation and scarcity that is currently so prominent in the West, but rather from a different context of reality. These are the new shamans.
Herrera: The Altomesayoks are the only ones who have the capacity to bring the Apu spirits into physical manifestation. They materialize talking spirits from holy mountains. These Apus are known as benefactors of fertility, health, and advise humans. Without the Altomesayoks the people lose the opportunity to speak directly with the mountain spirits, and the old technology becomes forgotten. The Altomesayoks are a dying breed of shamans. Bryon: Could you speak more about Don Manuel Q’uispe’s vision? Herrera: Don Manuel Q’uispe has become an important icon among the Q’ero. He said, “When I come down from the mountains, I am going to do what is needed to keep the tradition alive, even if my own village does not agree.” He disseminated his knowledge to a few people. That’s it. A few individuals benefited from Don Manuel’s teachings, including myself. I’m not Q’ero. I’m from the city, and in my case, I had to learn the Q’ero ways. Don Manuel’s vision was that the new shamans would be emerging from the West — individuals who need to integrate the old and the new at a higher level. The new shamans have to be well educated in modern ways but also have an understanding of existence beyond the physical realm, beyond the time/ space continuum of ordinary reality. This was Don Manuel’s vision and now it has become mine.
Mount Ausangate, photo by Brad VanWagenen. _____________________________ technologies with the ancient ones. He envisioned highly educated individuals who are self-realized and willing to be the bridges for a new unfolding human cosmology. As Don Manuel envisioned — and I agree — maybe the people from the West are the ones. Don Manuel envisioned a new shaman, one that emerges victorious from the battles of human scarcity and suffering. Individuals who realize that their true identity has always been the land and the collective that populates it,
That is the reason Don Manuel started giving this medicine free to people. In my case, I worked with him since the early ‘90s, until he died in December 2004. He lived in my house and was like a grandfather. A lot of his stories, his teachings, his traditions, his way of seeing the world, had to be learned from a Q’echua perspective. How a Q’ero person sees the world is different from how you see it or how I see it. It is one thing to hear the words and another thing to eat, to be, to live inside the culture. There is old saying — in order to learn a language you need to live in that culture so you know the language. Otherwise, it is just www.shamansociety.org | 15
a translation or a conceptualization. I had to learn to see differently. I had to learn how he thought, how he felt, how he saw the world. It was not an easy task. The reality nowadays is that the different medicine traditions are being mixed, becoming a hybrid. The next generation of shamans, emerging from the West, as well as Peru, have to be cross-pollinators. Peru is a melting pot of geographically different shamanic traditions (San Pedro shamans from the arid coasts, mountain shamans of the high Andes, and jaguar shamans from the jungles). Modern day Peruvian shamans are mixing these spiritual systems in various ways. You cannot just use one system, one tool, one approach. There are many approaches. Because of progress, because of modern communication, you cannot just use the mountain system based upon Inka cosmology. The Q’ero is one of many native Quechua ethnic groups. There are a number of different Quechua groups throughout the Andes Mountains. The long and massive mountain range has not only created diversity but also cultural styles in all the different deep valleys and high mountain steppes. I love the mountain system because it does not rely on psychotropic medicines. It’s clear. But, getting to that level of clarity is a different ballgame. It is an uphill battle for a lot of us to be living in that energy in our contemporary urban lives, with that degree of serenity like the shamans do here, with a degree of clarity as well. Bryon: I am aware that the Altomesayoks are the master shamans and only are a tiny fraction of the larger group of shamans practicing Peruvian medicine today. Peruvian shamanism also includes Pampamesayoks, visionaries, mystics, and healers who each share a global vision with a desire to create a better world for humanity through living in right-relationship with the land. Don Manuel’s vision of the “new shamans” emerging from the West included all of these individuals, not just the Altomesayoks. 16 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Altomesayoks take on an incredibly difficult training process. They have given up the seduction of city to become channels in service of the Apus, and are chosen directly by the mountain spirits. For those of us willing to make the commitment to train to become Altomesayoks, who wish to carry on the tradition of working with the Apus, what do you tell us to do? Herrera: As the medicine people say, it takes heart. The approach is very simple if your heart is collective enough. It sounds simple but this is a tremendous undertaking. You begin with serving the collective, the spirit energy of all living things, and through working with the collective, you heal the individual person. In the West, our approach is to heal ourselves first and then heal others, which also works. Becoming an Altomesayok is a big undertaking particularly for those whose guiding mythology is based on individuality. Don Manuel had the strong belief that one should be able to embody the collective — the lineage of Paq’os, the lineage of the land, the lineage of mountain angels, or Apus. With this kind of embodiment, then you can serve the collective and conversely the collective can serve in your healing and transformation. Bryon: So for Westerners, the next phase is working with collective experience. Herrera: Yes, but it is more than having visionary experience. It is important to grow corn with the experience you have brought back to “the village.” The focus is the collective goal, living in right-relationship with the land, with our communities, and ourselves. One way to participate in the collective is to exercise vision of wholeness and well-being for all. The vision has to be fed constantly so it becomes an active part of our lives. When the vision germinates, the fruits will always come home into our villages, our homes. It will feed our people. First, we need to map our sense of self-identity in the world, our journey as a person. Second, we need to identify our place actively in the collective. Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Bryon: Is the collective goal to try to save the earth and to work on connecting the energy? Herrera: In the West, the collective goal is that we believe that we need to save ourselves. We have a deep shadow aspect in our lives that requires healing. We are always striving toward something rather than living in connection with Pachamama. We want to either save the earth or save ourselves. But more importantly, more than saving ourselves or saving the earth, we need to reformulate our guiding myths on being in right-relationship with the land and ourselves. In the mountain shaman’s cosmovision there’s nothing to be saved, only creating a relationship with the collective, of high reciprocity and great love. The task of the shaman is to find his or her place in the land and creation. When an intimate relationship with the land takes place, the shaman ceases to identify as a sole individual, but instead as an active part and conduit of the collective of the land. For example, the Apu mountain spirits are collective entities and Altomesayok shamans identify themselves as part of the mountain collective. In time and with effort, these shamans are able to acquire larger proportions of mountain medicine. Bryon: It seems that you are making a distinction between the Western sense of the collective goal and the Q’ero sense of the collective goal. Is the collective goal of the Q’ero to live in ayni (high reciprocity, gratitude, and great love with all things) and then to live the personal goal fully? Herrera: The shaman needs to be in right-relationship, in ayni, at all times with the universe. The shaman’s ayni grows when his or her intent increases, through love and purity. Then the universe mirrors this intent and reciprocates twofold. When shamans cease to inform themselves from a personal frame of reference and the collective perspective becomes their identity, then the goal becomes to provide minka, or collective ayni, and to become the collective embodiment of right-relationship. What I love about the Q’ero is they believe in living life to the fullest. We don’t need
to save anything, not the land or ourselves. Walk in ayni with the land, water, live life to the fullest. Bryon: Jose Luis, would you please explain more explicitly what ayni looks like to help people understand this essential concept, when, as Westerners, we bring the Q’ero teachings back to our “villages”? Herrera: Ayni is the principle of rightrelationship and reciprocity. People should create opportunities to make ayni at all times. Ayni
what their hearts are here to do. This is nothing more than celebration of life, the celebration of your passions — whether that is digging for dinosaurs or gardening until 1:00 in the morning. You do not have to save the world. It is finding that internal memory, that internal guidance system within us. You have to have that creative capability everyday, at every breath. You cannot follow the footsteps of others — follow your own footsteps. At the beginning perhaps follow others, but then you have to actively participate in creation.
physical manifestation. The Altomesayok brings the voice of spirit. Simple as that. The Altomesayok has the ability to materialize spirits of mountains. These earth bound spirits are winged beings with human features that come through the portal provided by the shaman’s mesa (a collection of individual stones that are a living representation of the shaman’s medicine body and personal altar), flying through walls or emerging from the ground. The cool thing about working with the Apus is that these spirits are benefactors. Their job description is guardianship and stewardship of humanity. Traditionally these Mountain Spirits are primarily involved in the well-being of crops and animals, advising us about the condition of our planting, herding, or our health. They are in charge of providing comfort, safety, guidance. They make sure that there is life force in the little plants, life force in the makeup of the village so everything is right-relationship. Within their realm of consciousness, there are also hierarchies of power. There are little Apus that are probably more lost than you and I. There are also the big Apus. Through the Altomesayok tradition, particularly in this area, these spirits have fused themselves so well into our human cultural paradigm that they have even learned our language, to speak, think, feel, and validate exactly the same way we do. We are people that no longer speak to trees or mountains, or anything, so this is phenomenal.
Photograph by Ton Naron _____________________________ is the backbone for growth and expansion into the collective of the land. Ayni born out of tukuymunayniyok (unconditional love) creates more ways of equivalence and complementarity with the Universe. Bryon: What is your vision Jose Luis? Herrera: I want people to live fully, to ask themselves, “How can I live life to the fullest?” I want people to live in right-relationship with themselves, with God, with the world, even with their governments, and I want people to truly follow and embrace
Through living life to the fullest comes the realization that this is “my way.” We must ask ourselves, “Now, can I integrate into the bigger collective picture? Through this process, can I find my coordinates in the tapestry of this universe? Where I am in all of this, and what’s my legacy?” Bryon: So, the point of this collective connection is to live fully? Herrera: Right. Transporting the energy of that collective state of numinous experience into daily living. The Altomesayoks take this state of collective connection one step further by aiding the Apus in coming into
Bryon: You have talked about the Q’ero prophecy that the next group of Altomesayoks will be coming from the West. Are the people coming from the West bridging both paradigms by learning the Q’ero ways? What is the next phase of the vision? Herrera: The next step is cross-pollination. You can embody the Q’ero teachings, the Vilkabamba (the other sacred mountain area) teachings, but ultimately its your voice. Ultimately, as Don Manuel believed — and I agree — it’s a new, evolved culture. This has to do with a paradigm shift, an entirely new evolved cosmic vision, a different understanding of the universe. The cosmic vision of Western people is different www.shamansociety.org | 17
from the cosmic vision of the mountain people. I think the new shamans have to realize that the current cosmic vision in the West is something that creates separation. There has to be a paradigm shift. We need to change the way we source, the way we see ourselves in the world. Bryon: Can Westerners understand the true function of the teachings without shifting their separation-based paradigm to a oneness-based paradign like the cosmic vision embraced by the traditional Q’ero? Herrera: I believe that many Westerners have that deep realization and understanding. Don Manuel always held tremendous hope and trust that we as a people are headed in that direction in spite of our difficulties. We are gifted with intent, with faith, with dreams, with visions, with heart. Everyone is a co-creator. You have to step outside your paradigm. There’s no other way around. You cannot utilize the separation paradigm. Everyone has the faculty and that awareness of being an active participant in the creation of life. It is probably the greatest awakening, with this comes responsibility, and with that comes awareness and vision. You have to have a vision. Bryon: If we can’t understand the deeper function, aren’t we in danger of just transporting empty rituals and ceremonies that will not touch the hearts of the people? Herrera: Indeed, there’s always that danger. In the West, we don’t have herders and farmers. People buy their food in supermarkets. So, out of necessity, you have to adapt the old into the new setting, and in that process of adaptation, you bring other elements. In my case, I cannot just stick to Q’ero cosmic vision. I also love the approach of jungle shamans, their way of seeing and understanding energy is also based in Oneness. It really has to do with becoming a global individual. A person involved in change and growth has the responsibility to attend to the collective and be the steward of global change.
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Bryon: So serving the collective is not “collective” in terms of the culture, but rather you are referring to the actual energy, the higher vibration of the collective. Herrera: “Collective” doesn’t necessarily mean your group of people, your family, or your country. Collective means living a life in which you’re no longer your own person but you are collective. You are the land. You are the people. Sourcing from this other entirely different way, you don’t have to deal with the shortcomings of the personal, which is your “self” framework that carries your sense of misfortune, love, money, or work. Collective means the makeup of light, or fertility, etcetera. Can that support you? Can you grow corn with it? Bryon: It has been helpful for me to understand that the energy of the collective includes four levels: the literal or physical, symbolic, mythic or archetypal, and the essential or energetic levels. What level of the collective are you are talking about specifically? Herrera: A mythic understanding of reality. The mythic sense gives you one thousand and one ways to understand it. One thousand and one ways to express it and all of them are valid. There are many approaches. Ultimately, the greatest capacity for human beings comes through intent, through love, through all those wonderful virtues — passion, dedication, focus, or stubbornness — whatever. Those are just a plethora of adjectives describing your capacity to create a meaningful life, and that’s what my whole thing is about. We play with different approaches. It’s inspiring people, getting them to function outside the norm, outside their traditional cocoon of understanding. Through experiences and particularly ritual, new pathways of understanding are created, and through those pathways of understanding, the capacity to create more meaning, more love for life develops and grows. Bryon: How is this meaning created? Herrera: You have to create a narrative that people can be interested in, that Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
they can follow. It must inspire them, and ignite creative passion, and through that inspiration, they can create meaning for themselves. You have to feed them enough material, ideas, inspiration, passion, whatever, so they can create meaning out of it. That’s the key. Here in Peru, we have gone into these places, these mountains to create a massive shift in the way people create meaning. It’s not only a story because the experiences have become cellular. We have felt it in our bones. The call has become skeletal. The more ways you have to create meaning, the more wholesome is the understanding. Anything that has not been, that has not come into ayni or has not been fulfilled, will always try to find a pacha to fulfill itself. Pachas are an allocation of energy, significant life events occurring at specific times and places that shape personal fate and destiny. Bryon: I think it’s important for those of us in the West to realize that it is not just “love and light.” To do this we have to feel it with our heart and in our bellies and we have to be able to use our minds in way that we’re able to work with it. Herrera: True. I would say the same thing but in different words. Everyone has to have a code. Our souls carry that original code. That code is the memory of fulfillment, the memory of fruition or wholeness — what’s valid for you. What is empowering to you and sacred to you? What is it? Is it family? Is it love? Is it vision? Is it God? Is it your wife? Is it your heart? The inner code has to do with how you walk in the world and your sense of balance, your sense of love, your sense of rightrelationship. People need to be led into that direction to understand how they can abide to that code, and how this code might work in alignment with the code of certain cosmologies, such as the Q’ero. Spiritual cosmologies can be supportive in our growth when we are in the process of becoming, of coming out of the cocoon. We need certain directives; we need certain parameters for character, personality, and focus to contain and understand energy.
Bryon: Cosmology provides the structure for people to develop and unfold. It is a code. Herrera: Yes. The cosmology or code provides a structure. Bryon: From the cosmology, we can also draw practices and the rituals. Then from ritual we can draw healing? Herrera: Ritual is one pathway to engage in massive perceptual shifts, to see and understand your situation mythically. Transformation is determined by how you hold your intent and vision. Ritual elicits in the individual deeper meaning and commitment, and after the healing takes place, there is transformation. Bryon: Does transformation also require ritual? Herrera: The ritual is the structure that supports the shift from physical reality to energetic or soul experience. Transformation is structural, involving energetic change and healing in the luminous body. Often these energetic changes occur in the process of receiving initiation rites, for example when the lineage of one shaman is passed down to an apprentice through ritual. Transformation can also occur through direct energetic “download” with the sacred mountain as it does when one becomes Altomesayok. Bryon: As a psychologist, I have noticed that people are usually the most accessible for healing when they are in pain.
within — how you nurture what’s within you. Bryon: You have said that you “source” from the mountains instead of people. In other words, you draw from your energetic connection with the land, by being in ayni, in right-relationship with all living things. Would you say more? Herrera: They say that mountains are repositories of earth knowledge and repositories of the lineage of medicine people’s legacy. You have to go to those primary places, definitely, and you have to figure them out. You have to bring them out into the light of your understanding. These states have tremendous potential. A healer needs to be able to ignite, to turn on the switches in a person’s body, whether the situation is physical or nonphysical, and reactivate the memory of their healed state. That’s all they need. As human beings, our bodies have memory of our healed state, so it is accessing that healed state and turning on those switches. Making that memory active, that is what healing is about. Healing is a non-personal state, by the way. It could be personal but it’s not. In a nonpersonal state none of your “stuff” passes on to your clients. Conversely, your clients’ energy does not pass on to you either. A good healer understands what is personal and non-personal. Healing is a non-personal event that sources from tremendous unconditional love, which sets the pace.
Yet, the love is not directed towards the particular individual. Rather, it is an energetic shift and that imbibes the land, imbibes the spirits, and imbibes codes of this individual’s memories about well-being. That is why ritual is necessary. To be in that deep state of ritual so you’re no longer your own persona, but you are animistically the guide, the benefactor. You are the voice to the soul’s memory. You are a conduit, a channel, letting the body express itself. Everything in the universe has a healed state. Everything. So, the shaman has to access that memory in the individual or the land. The shaman has to see, sensing how and where the technical state is. Next the shaman brings this into the healing by moving energy using mesa stones or whatever, to remember and hold that healed state. Once the body recognizes the healed state and aligns itself with it, that’s it. The healing is done.
About the Author Deborah Bryon, PhD. is a licensed psychologist and Diplomate Jungian analyst practicing in Denver. For the last several years, she has received in-depth training with Q’ero shamans in Peru. Deborah is the author of the book, Lessons of the Inca Shamans: Piercing the Veil (2012). She is also an artist and member of Spark Gallery, and has taught classes in psychology at the University of Colorado, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and at the C. G. Jung Institute in Denver.
Herrera: Ceremony is the landscape of the sacred, but ritual is the enactment. Ritual, not ceremony can move us out of pain. The rituals allow us to tap back into the primordial healing memories. Tapping into those sources, with pure intent and love we find the memories of our healed states. I think it is what feels right in your heart. Whatever it is that you find deep within you that makes you comfortable, gives you a smile, makes you passionate, makes you creative, gives voice to that environment, and produces transformation that heals hearts and minds. It has to do with cultivating www.shamansociety.org | 19
20 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Real or Imaginex?
Truth and Fantasy in Shamanic Journeys David Kowalewski, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Alfred University “How do I know I’m not just making it up?” This question has certainly been asked by every beginner on the shamanic path. It’s important—someone’s life may be on the line. Wrong diagnoses, for example, could delay needed treatments, or at least waste clients’ time and money, and soon patience, and eventually their confidence in the shamanic practitioner and possibly the craft itself. In fact, you can get some idea about whether or not you are making it up. The following indicators are based on my own shamanic practice, lessons learned from teaching university students, conversations with shamans, formal teachings by many shamans from around the world, and the vast body of high-quality scientific research on the paranormal over the past century.
Getting Real When we journey shamanically, is the experience “real or imaginex”? Put another way, how do we separate the nonordinary reality (NOR) “signal” from the ordinary reality (OR) “noise”?
possibilities, check out consequences of potential acts, fulfill tasks, and release repressed desires. For example, newspaper cartoonists actively evoke, indeed plan, their images. They make them up. To them, it feels they are making something happen. The images are personal to the imaginer—let’s call them imaginary. Think of this side of imagination as a clean mirror reflecting your own images. You are projecting them, anchored in OR, in a nonaltered state of consciousness (NSC).
“All power to the imagination!” Slogan heard on the streets of Paris during the revolutionary events of 1968.
First, let’s clarify “reality” and “imagination.” For shamans, if something involves energy, it’s real. Therefore, since images are energy of a type, they are real, regardless of whether we’re intentionally journeying or not. So, in fact, the shamanic question is: “Which reality—OR or NOR—are these images reflecting?” Second, let’s think of imagination as having two sides, one facing us (a mirror) and one facing the spirits (a window). The first side gives us a flight of fancy; the second, a flight of fact. Here’s how. The mirror-side of imagination is an active one, producing images that are more or less directly willed and controlled by the “mind,” and so are rightly called “fantasizing,” “daydreaming,” and “wishful thinking.” We produce these images to explore new
The window-side of imagination, on the other hand, is a passive one, spontaneously receiving images that are not directly willed or controlled by the “mind,” and so are rightly called “revelation.” For example, journeying shamans are passively gifted with images. They don’t make them up. To them, it feels like something is happening to them. The images are archetypal to the imaginer—let’s call them imaginal. Think of this side of imagination as a window letting through divine images. You are surrendering to them, having entered NOR, in an altered state of consciousness (ASC).
So, when you are journeying and shift from a NSC to an ASC, moving from OR to NOR, then the imaginary mirror, so to speak, morphs into the imaginal window, such that uploading from the self switches to downloading from the spirits.
Modern people find it hard to make this shift, at least consistently. My experience has been that this is just a phase. In any case, don’t worry. Making your own images is far better than making none, namely letting the Hollywood moguls, TV executives, corporate advertisers, and political propagandists dominate your imagery for their own purposes. As I heard one experienced shamanic teacher, Tom Brown, Jr., say to struggling beginners, completely without cynicism: “At this point, I’m happy with making it up.”1 In short, take charge of your imaging, then practice surrendering to the spirits.
Opposite: Mary Pickford as Alice Through the Looking Glass, ca. 1920.
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Truth Tests But how specifically might we know if the images of our intended journey are our own or those of the spirits? What are the criteria? The following are some tests. If you experience several of these during your practice, keep on journeying; if not, you can hit the Delete key on your consciousness and re-start your journey, or journey another time.
Physical Responses The ASC is occasionally associated with strange bodily responses, such as swaying (for example the Holy Rollers), trembling (the Shakers), and levitating. Fairly common are inexplicable heat or cold, tingling skin, buzzing, feeling a current surging through the body, spasms, paralysis or rigidity or stiffness, and strange touches, aromas, and sounds. You may have the sensation of falling or flying.
Informational Style The way images appear and their content can be clues to their origin. In NOR, information flows in directly, without any effort (as in the wu wei of the Dao). It tends to come in a flash flood, “quantum bursts or packets,” followed by longer periods of quiescence. The imagery wells up, emerging out of darkness, and is not pushed out. It just pops in. I find NOR imagery amorphous, unlike the cardboard cut-outs of OR. The following contrasts I’ve found personally helpful:
I first noted these differences when trying to figure out why a student was always completely wrong in his remote viewing (“Middle World”) journeys. He drew incredibly detailed, sharp, and wooden images, whereas students with “hits” drew the opposite. When I told him to wait for less defined imagery, he started getting hits. Now, in my own journeys, when I see an elaborate, static, solid image, I hit Delete. Yet shamanism defies the very notion of iron laws. I’ve heard especially skilled shamans, for example, describe their imaging as “like watching TV.” 2 NOR imagery takes on a life of its own. The images are acting, as it were, completely beyond your control. This is a very good sign, because OR, the world of the logical mind, is all about control for the sake of physical survival, whereas NOR, the world of mystery, is all about surrender for the sake of spiritual growth.
Informational Content The content of the information is also instructive. My favorite clue is surprise. If you say to yourself, “You can’t make this stuff up!” you probably didn’t. The received imagery is often unpredicted and even unpredictable, since it springs from the NOR of creativity, not the OR of routine. Too, it can be totally “out of character” for you. Especially if it seems illogical at the time but later proves wise, you have an excellent sign it came from the spirits and not the logical mind. Once I journeyed for a client I’d never met before, to whom my spirit helper offered a martini. Upon hearing this, she said her favorite drink was martinis. I was sure this information came from NOR since, as I told her, “I would never have come up with that myself.” So, when clients say, “You couldn’t have known that!” they are right, but the spirits did.
light heavy floating static swirling fixed flowing rigid Another good clue is nonliteral and foggy clear nonrealistic content. Alphanumerics, it wavy straightlined should be said, do occur in true journeys. fuzzy sharp But symbols, metaphors, myths, and alfleeting permanent legories are more common, coming in the translucent solid mysterious commonplace form of especially meaningful pictures, 22 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
sounds, colors, gestures, and the like. For example, when I do soul retrievals, I often hear loudly in my ears the specific age of the clients when their soul-loss occurred. But symbolic information is much more evident. On one occasion, while journeying for a client to learn about his destiny, I was taken to outer space where I was drawn to a lone star shining in the darkness. In popular speech, as I later remembered, the pursuit of destiny is called “following your star.” There I was told that his destiny was to shine the light of his “sacred solitude” out to the world. Later he told me he was a loner and liked being so. And the kicker? He lived in Texas, the Lone Star State, and especially liked Lone Star beer. Shortly thereafter I read about the ability of Barbara Brennan, the wellknown healer, to see in the auric field of clients a “core star” manifesting their destiny.3 (As I’ve told my students, “Too many coincidences are no coincidence, they’re a synchronicity”—another good sign of true journeys.) The spirits, according to ancient wisdom, give us what we need but not necessarily want. A good test that the information came from them and not yourself is that you certainly do not want to hear it, so it cannot be the wishful thinking of the logical mind. The information may not make sense at all, such that by journey’s end you are baffled. It may even seem completely illogical—information from NOR does not have to be logical, which is why Native-Americans call NOR the Big Mystery, and Australian aborigines call it the Dreaming. Whereas the spirits do give us immediate insights, much can remain mysterious for some time. The meaning often comes later in the form of sudden realizations: “Aha! So that’s what it meant!” I remember stopping cold in my tracks one day when I suddenly realized what my mysterious experience during a vision quest 10 years earlier in fact meant. This is why journaling your experiences is so useful.
You can also probe the client’s experiences for correspondences with your own. During one journey I saw my spirit helper sitting at my client’s left. Right afterwards he pointed to his left and, with wide-eyed amazement, exclaimed, “I saw a spirit right there!”
Personal Feelings Imaginal journeys can be highly emotional. One of my best tests is the depth of feeling during and right after the journey. The true journey can be deeply moving, extremely intense, at times prompting copious tears and guffaws, prolonged sobbing and bellylaughs. Imaginal journeys can feel hyperrealistic, far more real than OR. You conclude that it has to be real because it feels so deeply right. You feel confident that you “were there” (in NOR), having gone “home,” having arrived at your authentic self. The imagery rings true, and you hardly have to ask yourself if it was real, because it feels so genuine. The experience is profoundly real rather than shallowly so. The imagery is captivating. You feel locked in to a more powerful reality. You feel in the flow, as if in an athlete’s “zone.”4 You feel totally engaged, absorbed, non-alienated, one with the world. At the end of very deep journeys, you sense that a dissociation from OR spacetime has occurred, for example a temporal loss (“time flew by”) and spatial disorientation (“where was I and where am I now?”). You may find it hard to return to OR. For example, you may find it initially difficult to focus on material objects. Your OR consciousness may feel totally “blitzed.”
Follow-up After the journey, you can realitytest the results. Whereas modernity often considers shamans unstable, or at
least “New Age Flaky,” in fact they are eminently practical. Shamanic teachers, indeed, stress the production of useful results.5 By their fruits, in other words, you will know the shamans. Whenever feasible, then, I do follow-ups, summoning the courage to face the possibility of being totally wrong. The only failures are the ones we fail to learn from. When journeying in a group on a joint task, check for duplication of your information with that garnered by your “fellow travelers,” paying special attention to the most powerful ones. I once journeyed along with another shaman for a client suffering from a serious injury. We both got images of continued problems, and we both were told that the injury had happened for the sake of the client’s spiritual development—a helpful confirmation. A good sign is that the gifts we bring back turn out helpful for all concerned. The spirits work from a holistic point of view, so when helping you or a client they are at the same time helping everyone involved, including other species. Of course the best test of all is what seems to be a miracle, for example the long-distance healing of animals or infants or unconscious patients. When results so far beyond the pale of OR occur, we simply have to surrender to the Mystery.
Bon Voyage Shamanique! You can put the above items into a checklist for filling out after your journeys, and (be brave here) throw your logical mind a bone by asking it to calculate your scores—it will love you for it.
References 1 Brown T., Jr. Way of the shaman.
Workshop, Tracker School, St. Petersburg, FL, 2007. For useful journeying methods, see his Awakening spirits. New York: Berkley Trade; 1994. 2 Black Elk W. Lakota shamanism. Workshop, Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA, 1996. 3 Brennan B. Light emerging. New York: Bantam; 1993. 4 Csikszentmihalyi M. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. San Francisco: Harper & Row; 1990. 5 E.g., Villoldo A. Soul retrieval intensive: Inca shamanism. Workshop, Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY, 1996. 6 Miro-Quesada O. Flight of the condor: The heart of Peruvian shamanism. Workshop, Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, MA, 2000.
About the Author Dr. David Kowalewski has taught university courses in philosophy, psychology, vision questing, deep ecology, and related topics. His articles have appeared in Journal of Psychohistory, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Review of Religious Research, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ Three-Year Program in Advanced Shamanic Initiation. He thanks Tom Nault for helpful comments on the article. David Kowalewski, PhD Professor Emeritus, Alfred University email@example.com
If you still have trouble with “making it up,” then if you are just journeying for yourself, you can do what I heard wellknown Peruvian shaman Oscar MiroQuesada once say, completely without cynicism: “Fake it till you make it!”6 Eventually you’ll see the “mirror, mirror on the wall become a window after all.”
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24 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Drums Along the Hudson
The New York Regional Conference by Tom Cowan, PhD Mahi-cani-tuck is the name the Lenape call New York’s great Hudson River, which in English means “River That Flows in Two Directions.” A fjord, the Hudson flows both north and south as the tides come in and go out. To the thirty shamanic practitioners who gathered on the river in June, 2012, Mahi-canituck reflected the shaman’s dual nature of a person who walks with spirits between the worlds. On this occasion our group was there to walk between the ancient world of the Lenape and the modern world of New York towns, cities, industries, power plants, parks, railroads, bridges, quarries, farms, schools, and monasteries—the contemporary world in all its complexities. SSP members Jane Burns, Jim Wood, and I called this gathering to remember the old ways of living in harmony with the river valley and to allow the Lenape spirits who still roam this region to guide us as we considered the present needs of the Hudson Valley. A tradition holds that some of the Lenape made vows while still alive that after death their spirits would continue to wander the land and be of assistance to later generations who loved and cared for the land. We were there to let that happen. Specifically, our gathering was to continue the work we call “shamanism without borders,” an initiative to tend, strengthen, and heal places of suffering from natural causes or trauma created by human activity. We would gladly accept whatever spiritual help the Lenape would give us.
The Lure of the Valley The Hudson River has seen terrible things. From the countless wars and bloody skirmishes between native people and European settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries to that dreadful day in September, 2001 when terrorists hijacked two planes out of Boston, flew into New York airspace, and then used the Hudson River to guide them to the World Trade Towers. Mysterious diseases brought by Europeans disrupted, demoralized, and eventually destroyed much of native life. Revolutionary war battles were fought throughout the valley and near West Point, the nation’s military academy. A General Electric plant at Hudson Falls north of Albany has deposited a great number of hazardous wastes includ-
ing PCBs into the river for decades. Rock quarries have scarred mountains and ridges along the riverbanks. A nuclear power plant sits on a point in the river only 30 miles north of Times Square in Manhattan. Currently, nine power plants spew warm water into the river killing fish and other riparian life and causing the salt point to creep farther north. Farms and towns contribute large amounts of pollutants into the water. And the recent fraking activities, while a bit farther west of the Hudson, threaten to contaminate rivers and streams in the Hudson’s watershed. And still the region continues to inspire much that is noble in human life. In the early 19th century Hudson River artists made the valley famous for its striking spiritual beauty, and today environmental organizations work tirelessly to preserve that beauty. A threat in the 1960s to carve up Storm King, an important mountain and landmark along the river, to create a hydro-electric plant, gave birth to what today we call environmental activism. Strong environmental organizations were created and Storm King was saved. Today important ecological groups strive to clean up the river, preserve open space, and protect greenways along the banks. The Hudson Valley also attracts many spiritual seekers, its banks dotted with retreat centers of one kind or another. Catholic monasteries, Jewish camps, Buddhists centers, ecumenical organizations, and the world-famous Omega Institute can all be found in the valley. As the native people long before us realized, the river is a place of great power, beauty, inspiration, and mystery. On Friday evening the thirty shamanic practitioners met each other at a lodge in Bowdoin Park, a county park on the banks of the Hudson, and began our shamanic tending by dividing into three groups, or tribes, named for Land, Water, and Sky. Each of us journeyed to invite a spirit of his or her tribal realm to present itself as a companion for the weekend, to teach and guide, and then we danced those spirits around a fire. We would speak for these spirits and ask that they lead us beyond our personal borders of self-centered concerns. These spirits also connected us with those Lenape ancestors who are still present. We pledged that this particular weekend would not be about us and our issues, but about the Hudson River environment and the generations of life that once lived and continue to live in this great valley.
Opposite: View of the Hudson River by Robert Havell, Jr., ca. 1866.
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Field Trips On Saturday morning SSP member David Mussina gave us brief pointers on ways to approach spiritual places with reverence and humility, and to be aware of how we can empower a place that has been disempowered. Then we hiked to a 9,000-year-old rock shelter in the park and were greeted by a bald eagle high in a tree above our path. At the shelter we listened to Dave Beck, the park’s naturalist and a shamanic practitioner, explain how the shelter was discovered, used, and recreated, who the peoples were who used it from earliest times into the 17th century, and what the land would have looked like in earlier eras. We then went to honor a giant sycamore tree that has stood near the shelter for several hundred years. Our intention that morning was to connect our spirits to the spirits of the peoples, vegetation, and animals who once inhabited the valley. In the afternoon we drove down river about ten miles to Little Stony Point, a promontory that sticks out into the river across from Storm King and West Point, an area that includes an abandoned rock quarry, an iron foundry that produced important weaponry for the North during the Civil War, and wilderness sites where West Point cadets practice field operations. High on the bluff we introduced ourselves to the spirits of the place with our first names and the spirits we met the night before, using the formula, “I am Joe and I speak for Beaver; I am Sally and I speak for Mountain” and so on. We then dispersed so we could each be alone to roam the point, visit the beaches, check out a cave, and wander through the woodlands listening to what the spirits of the Oldest Beings would say to us about the needs of the Hudson River Valley. We each also collected a stone and a small bottle of river water to take back to the lodge for our evening ceremony. Back at the lodge each tribe gathered to prepare a report of what its members 26 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
had learned, heard, saw, and sensed during the morning and afternoon. What we had done throughout the day was to layer upon our awareness the environmental attributes and situations that might benefit from shamanic tending. After dinner each tribe’s reporter gave a presentation so that collectively we might learn the various threats, needs, and concerns for our long journey that evening.
The Long Journey Although our long journey might be considered “remote work” since it took place in the park’s lodge, it was really not. We were still after all on the Hudson River and just as importantly we created the river valley in the center of our circle with the stones and water we had brought back from Little Stony Point. In a simple ceremony we placed a long white platter on a deerskin and encompassed it with tea-lights. Then we placed the stones within it and poured our bottles of water over the stones. We considered that what we had created was not a replica of the Hudson River but the river itself which became a focus of energy for the long journey. The long journey consisted of an hour of individual drumming, rattling, dancing, singing, or journeying either in the lodge or outside. Each person in his or her own way would be present to the river and its needs, the song of the river, the ancestors of the valley, the wisdom that many people before and after us would bring in tending and being good stewards of the land. Part of our intention was to create reconciliation between we who have enormous technological power to disturb the flow of life in the valley and those before us whose impact on the valley was small, tender, and more easily adaptable. In the long journeying we hoped to dream the vision of new generations living wisely and sustainably along this great river. Although we were not attempting to drum in sync with each other, the drumming began so, but soon became Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
what many felt was “chaos.” Some took that as a sign to move outdoors away from the lodge. Under a sweet crescent moon hanging over the river, some of our people found a more peaceful place to drum and journey. But then, remarkably, after a period of chaotic sound, the drums in the room fell into rhythm with each other. They began to communicate in a pleasing pattern. Later when reflecting upon the evening’s experience, some of us saw this change in drumming as indicative of the reality we were concerned about: the once harmonious life along the river, the moments of chaos and violence that disrupt it, and the return to a life-affirming beat in which people and the land come into harmony with each other once again. Throughout the weekend our activities were disturbed by intrusive noise. The first evening in the park another nearby overnight group (who were hamradio operators) carried on loudly until around midnight. At the rock shelter an ear-splitting helicopter hovered over us for a good length of time (which we later thought might have been a tourist flight to see the bald eagles nesting in the park). At Little Stony Point the usual weekend power boats and jet skis cruised along the river below and around us, and every so often the commuter train between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and Poughkeepsie Station barreled along the track that runs near the point. Yet these noises also, like the chaotic drumming, seemed an omen to take account of: perhaps saying nothing more than shamanic work must be done under the very circumstances for which it is needed.
Conclusion and Leave-Taking Sunday morning we shared our impressions of the preceding 24 hours. We noticed that the three tribal reports the day before were for the most part not about pain and suffering but about goodness and hope. This certainly characterizes the shamanism without borders work www.shamansociety.org | 26
for places where pain and suffering are too enormous for individual shamans to heal directly or where pain and suffering will continue until the earth herself can bring about healing. But in the midst of pain and suffering we come forward with visions of goodness and songs of hope. We also noticed that “vibrations of yes” are healing and expansive while “vibrations of no” hurt and contract. When the vibrations of noise aggravated our shamanic work, we viscerally felt the contraction of “no.” When we saw the eagle fly over us as we left the sycamore and rock shelter, we recognized it as a “yes.” When the drums came into harmony, they sang a beautiful, collective “yes.” We continued our “yes” response on Sunday. We journeyed for individual ways that we would continue our weekend’s work in our lives back home. We recited the Lenape “principles of respect” which are: for feelings and for suffering; for individual space; for limitations as well as strengths; for boundaries and individual differences; for truth; for the earth and all paths, peoples, cultures, and customs growing here; and for yourself (from Evan Pritchard’s Native New Yorkers, page 19). We said “yes” to our desire to amend a litany of abuses and misjudgments of the past and present for which we took responsibility. Lastly we dismantled the Hudson River from our circle, taking water and stones with us as we left. We decided we would not say “good by.” In keeping with many native languages in which there is no phrase for “good by,” not even in death, we said to each other the Lenape phrase for “I’ll see you again,” which phonetically is Lapitch-ka nae-o-wul. We exchanged stones from the river and promised to see each other sometime, somewhere again.
Being Here We each took river water and a river stone home with us. But the Hudson River Valley does not belong to us. It doesn’t belong to the people of the past or the generations to come. But we are here. And we decide to pay attention to it now. We arrive for a few days and nights to watch, listen, learn, and to be alert to the life that is and has been— here. As we remember the ancient ones in our shamanic practice, we are confronted with mortality, our own and that of others. We connect with the generations of ancestors, both through blood and culture, and our descendants who may be related to us or not at all. The long river of life that flows around this earth passes through us and we pass through it, pausing here and there—and here. If we can bring our humility, strength, passions, and dreams to places that call to us, we can create an intimacy with those places that enriches our life and the life of the place. We can leave with deep gratitude for our having been here. We can say to the river, mountains, trees, clouds, animals, birds, and all living things, “We’ll see you again,”— Lapitch-ka nae-o-wul.
About the AUTHOR Tom Cowan is a shamanic practitioner specializing in Celtic visionary and healing techniques. An internationally respected teacher, author, lecturer, and tour leader, he is the author of Yearning For The Wind: Celtic Reflections on Nature and the Soul; Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit; Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life; The Pocket Guide to Shamanism; The Book of Seance; The Way of the Saints: Prayers, Practices, and Meditations; and Wending Your Way: A New Version of the Old English Rune Poem.
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28 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Shamans as Dreamers, Dreamers as Shamans By Robert Moss, MA One:
Black Elk, the poet and the dream passport One of the great creative and spiritual encounters in American history took place under a shelter of pine boughs on a barren hill on the Pine Ridge reservation in the summer of 1930. The men who met that day were John G. Neihardt, a renowned poet and critic from Nebraska, and the Lakota shaman and holy man Black Elk. Neihardt was engaged in writing the last narrative poem in his epic Cycle of the West. He was eager to talk to an elder who had been warrior and healer, hunter and seer, who had worn the Ghost Dance shirt, survived the massacre at Wounded Knee, and lived the brave and tragic history of his people. The government agent at Pine Ridge had arranged an interview, describing the “old Sioux” as a “kind of preacher,” a wichasa wakon (holy man). Neihardt’s Lakota interpreter counseled him not to get his hopes up. Black Elk, now almost blind, was reclusive and reluctant to talk about sacred things. But Black Elk proved eager to speak with Neihardt. He spoke not only from memory but from vision, “of things that he deemed holy.” Black Elk said, “I feel in this man beside me a strong desire to know the things of the Other World. He has been sent to learn what I know, and I will teach him.”1 Black Elk was not mistaken. Both men had received their calling in dreams and visions, and they immediately recognized that in each other. Black Elk placed a power object, representing the Morning Star, round Neihardt’s neck, and started talking about a “power-vision” from his boyhood. When he was just nine years old, the Lakota fell into a trance on Harney Peak and saw the sacred hoop of the world, and the tree of life, and the powers of the six directions. I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I
understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being.2 In the first conversation with Neihardt, Black Elk gave only “flashes” of what the vision contained. But he invited the poet to come back in the spring to receive it all. He announced that his purpose was to “save his Great Vision for men;” he had chosen Neihardt to be his “word sender,” the one who would take his story from one language and mindset and root it in another. Neihardt was ready to understand and interpret, not only because he had studied Native American traditions for thirty years, but because he was a dreamer whose life had been shaped by a big dream in his boyhood. Aged 11, on his own “hill of vision” in Nebraska, Neihardt rolled on his bed in a fever. Three times during the same night, he felt himself hurled through a vast emptiness at terrifying speed, his arms stretched forward, while a great voice drove him on. He interpreted the dream as a mandate for his life calling: to follow a higher purpose that he would manifest through poetry.3 Two decades later, Neihardt evoked this dream in a poem titled “The Ghostly Brother.” Here he presents the driving force of the dream as a greater self or daimon that tells him, “I am you and you are I.” The poem speaks of the tension between a power that calls him to travel “somewhere out of time and place” beyond “the outer walls of sense” and the everyday self that wants safety and comfort and rest. When Neihardt shared the dream with Black Elk, the Lakota elder called it a “power-vision,” using the same language with which he described his vision on Harney Peak. Black Elk told Neihardt that he thought the voice in the dream was “an Indian brother” and that the same being who had sent young Neihardt flying through space had brought them together. “It seems that your ghostly brother has sent you here.”4
Opposite: RM drawings Opening the Heart (top), Cougar Pulls Me Up (left), Pele March 2012 (right). www.shamansociety.org | 29
Neihardt felt shivers of recognition when Black Elk got to the point in his narrative – the following spring – where he described himself flying through space, in a vision when he was in Paris with a Wild West show, in the same style as the 11-year-old poet. Neihardt wrote near the close of his life that he was convinced that “there were times when we had more than the ordinary means of communication.”5 I am sure of it. Dreamers know each other, and where people value dreaming, the right dream is a passport to essential things, which are shared on more than one level of consciousness.
Shamans and Dreamers The encounter between the Lakota holy man and the Nebraska poet reminds us that first and last, the shaman is a dreamer. Shamans typically receive their calling in dreams and are initiated and trained in the Dreamtime. The heart of their practice is the intentional dream journey. They may incubate dreams to diagnose a patient and select the appropriate treatment. They travel — wide awake and lucid — in their dream bodies to find lost souls, to intercede with the spirits, to fight sorcerers, and to guide spirits of the departed along the right roads. Among the Lakota, the most powerful shaman healers are the members of the Bear Dreamers Society, who are called to their vocation by the Bear in dreams and visions.6 In North America as a whole, the most common term for “shaman” translates as “dreamer.” In Mohawk, a language I had to study because of my dreams, the word is ratetshents, “one who dreams.”7 The special province of the shaman is the care and relocation of souls - souls of the living and of the deceased. In order to bring soul energy of the living back into the body where it belongs, and to guide lost souls of the departed to where 30 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
they need to go, the shaman must have first-hand knowledge of the geography involved. This comes through dreaming strong, and also through an intimate relationship with Death. The true shaman is someone who died and came back - I am not speaking metaphorically - and therefore knows first-hand about conditions in the adjacent world of the afterlife. The shamans who interest me are storytellers, dramatists, poets. They change the behavior of the body and the experience of the world by telling better stories about them. They entertain the spirits with fresh words and fresh songs. I would add that shamans are of use to a community, and that their skills are recognized by that community. True shamans are up to speed with the science and scholarship of their societies. In indigenous cultures, the working vocabulary of a shaman may be ten times that of the average person. So the model of a shaman of the West may not be a wild man (or woman) in the woods but someone like C.G.Jung, who I have described as “the dream shaman of Switzerland.”8 The essence of the shaman’s power to travel and to heal is the ability to dream strong, to scout out the future for the benefit of others, to enter someone else’s dreamspace to bring healing, to enter the dreamstate intentionally at any time - a skill far beyond those associated with the now-fashionable term “lucid dreaming.” In our everyday modern lives, we stand at the edge of such power when we dream and remember to do something with our dreams. I have always been a dreamer, and I learned in boyhood – in crises of illness and through friendship with Aborigines – that our dreams can take us into the Dreamtime, into a deeper world where we may be able to discover the origin and purpose of our lives. I am a boy who died and came back. As a child, I lost vital signs three times in hospitals, and remembered adventures I had had in other realities, in one of which I seemed Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
to live a whole life before being thrown back into the body of a nine-year-old boy who had just been under the surgeon’s knife for emergency appendectomy in a Melbourne hospital. A doctor told my parents, “The boy died and came back.” We didn’t have the term “near-death experience” in those days, and I still prefer the older language. There is an exact term in Tibetan for someone who had my kind of experience; the delog is one who died and came back.9 So you might say that I started out as a dreamer, whose default reality was the kind that you get to know in a shamanic state of consciousness. I knocked around the world in various ways, trying to be fairly discreet about what I knew of the multiverse while using the skills of a dreamer to make choices and stay alive. Then in the mid-1980s I had what Jung called a “confrontation with the unconscious” after I moved to a farm on the edge of traditional Mohawk land and started dreaming in a language I did not initially understand, which I learned to be an archaic form of Mohawk. My visionary encounters with a Mohawk dream shaman of long ago, combined with other events in nonordinary reality, deepened my understanding of what dreaming can be, and led me to a complete re-evaluation of what matters in life. Those visionary adventures set me on a path for which there is no career track in our society: that of a shamanic dream teacher. I devoted myself to making a synthesis between contemporary dreamwork and shamanic methods for journeying and healing, an approach I call Active Dreaming.10 I find it curious that in the contemporary teaching of shamanism in the West, dreaming and dreamwork are still rarely accorded a central role, while many dreamworkers are unaware of shamanic practices that could greatly vitalize their process, and take dream exploration to much deeper levels than discussion and analysis.
Shamanic practitioners and dreamworkers can borrow creatively from each other in the cause of real magic, which is the art of bringing gifts from another world into this world. Shamanic practitioners can learn from dreamworkers how to talk about experiences of a deeper reality in ways that affirm and empower the experiencer; they can also learn to harvest spontaneous messages from the night that are a corrective to waking agendas and provide portals for timely and fruitful journeys between the worlds. Dreamworkers can learn from shamanic journeyers how to travel, wide awake and conscious, into the dreamworld, in solo, shared or group travel. Dreamworkers can learn from the shaman as performer, dramatist, comedian and poet of consciousness how to embody the energy of dreams and entertain the spirits. Both communities can pool their skills and their raw materials to develop powerful techniques for what I call vision transfer, which means growing and transferring a dream to someone who is in need of a dream – a vision for life, an image for healing, even a road to the next world.
Shamans of the Breakfast Table There are many ways of approaching spirit, but we never want to be closed to the spontaneous gifts of our night dreams, the ones we don’t ask for and often don’t want. They hold up a magic mirror in which we can see ourselves as we truly are. They serve as a voice of conscience. They preview challenges and opportunities that lie in our future. Sleep dreams show us what is going on inside the body, diagnose developing complaints before medical symptoms present themselves, and show us what the body needs to stay well. We solve problems in our sleep. And in dreams and in the hypnagogic zone, our authentic spiritual teachers come stalking us. We can ask for dream guidance, any night. I am often content to ask of the night, very simply, “Show me what I need to see.”
Dreams require action. I like to start the day by journaling my dreams and then sharing them with others who are willing to play by the rules of a game I have invented. I call this Lightning Dreamwork, because it is meant to be fast as a lightning bolt, and to focus and harness energy. The method is not meant to preempt many other things we may want to do with a dream; it provides a way of sharing that can reach temporary closure in just five or ten minutes, exploding any alibi that we don’t have time for this. The game moves like this:
• Get the dreamer to tell the dream
as a story, as simply and clearly as possible. Encourage the dreamer to leave out the background (no autobiography) and avoid any attempts at interpretation, and to tell, rather than read, the dream report. In this way, we encourage each other to reclaim our gifts as storytellers. This is hugely important life training. Once we have learned to tell our dreams well in this way, we are primed to tell whatever stories we may need to communicate with others.
• Ask a few essential questions. The
first question to ask, of any dream, is what did you feel, immediately on waking? First feelings are instant guides to whether the dream is negative or positive, and often to whether it needs to be viewed literally or symbolically, or as an experience in a separate reality. We also want to do a reality check, asking what the dreamer recognizes from the dream in the rest of her life - including from other dreams, since dreams often run in series. We need to ask whether anything in the dream could manifest in some way in the future, since our dreams are forever rehearsing us for future events.
• We can now say to the dreamer, “If
this were my dream, I would think about such-and-such.” In offering feedback according to this protocol, we can say just about anything we like. Notice that as we do this, we are
owning our projections; we are speaking from our own experience and point of view, not purporting to be experts. We may be a thousand miles removed from the dreamer’s own felt sense of the dream, but this can be helpful in assisting the dreamer to home in on what the dream means for her.
• Last, we guide the dreamer to come
up with an action plan: a way of honoring the dream, applying its guidance, and harnessing its energy. The action plan may range from researching an odd phrase or location featured in the dream, to eating (or giving up) a certain food, to creative expression, to dream reentry, which means journeying back inside the dreamspace, to solve a mystery or move beyond a fear or enjoy more of the adventure.
I borrowed the “if it were my dream” protocol from the great Montague (“Monte”) Ullman, a clinical psychiatrist who decided to lay down his authority by insisting that dreams belong to the dreamers, and no one must presume to lay down the law on what they mean. When we learn to talk to each other this way, we are helping each other to become authors of meaning for our own dreams and our own lives. This mutually empowering way of sharing can be applied to any kind of experience, including shamanic journeys or incidents from regular life.
Journeying Through Dream Portals Eva had training in shamanism and done a good deal of journeying in drumming circles. By the end of the first day of a soul recovery workshop I was leading in France, she was also pissed. “I don’t know what I’m doing here,” she complained to me. “I’m not a dreamer, but I have to listen to all these people talking about their dreams. I haven’t remembered any dreams since I was seven years old.” www.shamansociety.org | 31
I asked if she would be willing to share the last dream she remembered. She agreed to do this, in the intimacy of a smaller group, which I joined. When she was seven, she told us, she dreamed that a hand came from behind a curtain, offering her chocolate. She loved chocolate, but she was terrified by the disembodied hand. She woke up screaming. Her parents told her it was “just a dream,” so she should go back to sleep. She could not forget so (good Catholic girl) she prayed to Jesus and Mary and all the saints never to dream again. It seemed her prayers were answered. “If it were my dream,” I suggested, “I would want to make a journey to go back inside it and see what is behind that curtain.” Eva was not initially enthused. If fact, she started shaking. “Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “We’ll come with you, if we have your permission, as your bodyguards and family support. But we won’t do any work unless we have to. You’re the one who will pull back the curtain.” Eva agreed that she would journey back inside a dream from 30 years ago with a firm and clear intention: she wanted to open the curtain and see who was behind it. Her trackers, including me, would journey with her during a drumming session. At the end of the drumming, Eva was jubilant, and astonished. She succeeded in opening the curtain, and discovered behind it a being of radiant light. As features resolved, she recognized someone she knew, a man she had loved like a father in her early childhood. He had been a good friend of her father. Unlike her father, who had never displayed interest or affection, this family friend had told her stories, often centered on characters and objects in the toy shop he owned. He apologized for having frightened her, reminding her that he had been killed in a car accident shortly before the dream. His face had been horribly 32 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
mutilated and he had not wanted to frighten little Eva by appearing to her as he looked after the crash.
to deeper levels of the dream experience. Here shamanic practice has many gifts to offer dreamworkers.
Tears of joy were streaming down Eva’s face. I told her, “Now you are a dreamer again, I bet you are going to dream up a storm tonight.”
I discovered this when I first introduced my Active Dreaming approach to an international audience at a conference at the University of Leiden in 1994. I asked 300 academics, therapists and others to find partners. The partners would take turns to tell each other a dream, establish what the dreamer wanted to know, and would then travel together into the dreams for shared adventures. This worked like a charm. Two analysts from the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt came running after me when the session was over. “Schaman!Schaman! Tell us how you did that!”
The next morning, she greeted us at breakfast with a happy shout. “My dreams were racing all night like a TGV” she reported. A TGV is a Train à Grande Vitesse, a high-speed train. “As each dream rushed through me,” she sped on, “I felt I was regaining a vital part of me, something that was left behind until now.” The woman who had been bereft of dreams for 30 years proceeded to regale us with eight vivid dream reports from that one night, and we all rejoiced in the light of returning spirit shining in her eyes. I hazarded a prediction, based on the fact that the man behind the curtain had been her father’s friend. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear from your father soon.” “Yeah, right. He has never phoned me in his life.” But at noon that day, the father who had never called managed to reach her on the phone. He wanted to discuss a dream. We saw both soul recovery and the beginning of family healing, though a single journey through the portal of a dream. Eva knew how to journey, but had never considered using a dream as a gateway. With many dreamworkers, the situation is the other way round. They are very ready to talk about dreams, but often lack the shamanic journeying techniques that can enable them to go to the place where the full meaning and power of dreams is to be found: inside the place of the dream, and beyond the often broken or fragmentary memory of a dream Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
“Did what?” One pointed at the other. “I told him just part of my dream. He discovered the rest, and then we were together – really together – in the place of the dream and found things together that went far beyond what I had remembered.” Our dreams may offer us gifts of power and healing that we can only claim by going back into the dreamspace and moving beyond fear or irresolution. We may need to journey back inside a dream to overcome nightmare terrors, to clarify whether the dream is about a literal or symbolic car crash, to talk to someone who appeared in a dream, to reclaim our own lost children, to use a personal image as a portal to multidimensional reality – or simply to have more fun! Dream reentry frequently opens the road to soul recovery, because our dreams show us where our missing parts may have gone, and invite us to reach in and bring them back. When we dream again and again of the “old place” (maybe a childhood home, maybe a space we shared with a former partner) we may be learning that a part of ourselves - a part scared away by trauma, or a part that resisted a choice we made - is “stuck” in that place, or went missing at the time we lived there.
By going back inside the dream of the “old place” in a shamanic journey, we may be able to locate that lost aspect of our own identity and energy and find the way to bring it back into our hearts and our lives. Typically, soul recovery of this kind will require reassurance and negotiation. Our younger self may need to be reassured that she is not going to be hurt in the way she was hurt before. She may need to be convinced that we will include things in our lives that she will enjoy and will engage her passions. In this mode of soul recovery, we support each other without necessarily playing shamanic practitioner for each other – since the heart of this practice is to assist everyone who is able to become a self-healer. The shamanic tracker may be required to play a more activist role than I played with Eva, for example, by helping the dreamer to move beyond a fear, by running interference if there are negative entities in the field, by bringing in the tracker’s own power animals, or by negotiating directly with some of the dreamer’s younger or “other” selves. The applications of the dream reentry process for healing are inexhaustible. In this way, for example, we may be able to travel inside the body and help to shift its behaviors in the direction of health. In her wonderful novel for kids of all ages, A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle describes a journey into a world inside one of the mitochondria of a sick boy; when things are brought into balance inside a particle of a cell, the whole body is healed. As we become active dreamers, we can develop the ability to journey in precisely this way. Our dreams will open the ways. In this work, I feel guided by women of power of both the past and the future. One is the Huron/Mohawk dream shaman I have called Island Woman in my books. She called me to her in a lucid dream quarter of a century ago, and showed me how dreaming is central to soul healing. I have also dreamed into the situation of a woman who lives maybe seven generations beyond me. She is a priestess and a scientist and she is part
of an order of women who are trying to rebuild our world after various catastrophes. They are using all the arts and sciences of dreaming which we almost lost. I feel that she exists in a possible future and I feel an obligation to help her and her kind come into existence.
References 1 John G. Neihardt, 1961 introduc-
tion to Black Elk Speaks (Premier Edition. Albany: Excelsior/SUNY Press, 2008) xxiii 2 John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979) 33. 3 Raymond DeMallie, “John G. Neihardt and Nicholas Black Elk” in Black Elk Speaks (Premier Edition) 292. 4 Raymond DeMallie (ed), The Sixth Grandfather: Black Elk’s Teachings Given to John G. Neihardt. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984) 43 5 Neihardt, 1972 introduction to Black Elk Speaks (Premier Edition) xxvii 6 Robert Moss, Dreamways of the Iroquois (Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2004). 7 David Rockwell, Giving Voice to Bear: North American Indian Myths, Rituals and Images of the Bear (Niwot CO: Roberts Rinehart, 1991) 78-82. 8 Robert Moss, Dreaming the Soul Back Home: Shamanic Dreaming for Healing and Becoming Whole (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2012) 28-37. 9 Delog Dawa Drolma, Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death (Junction City, CA: Padma Publishing, 1995). 10 For a full discussion of the methods of Active Dreaming, see Robert Moss, Active Dreaming: Journeying Beyond Self-Limitation to a Life of Wild Freedom (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2011). © Robert Moss. All rights reserved.
About the Author Robert Moss is the creator of Active Dreaming, an original synthesis of modern dreamwork and shamanism. Born in Australia, he survived three near-death experiences in childhood. He leads popular seminars all over the world, including a three-year training for teachers of Active Dreaming. A former lecturer in ancient history at the Australian National University, he is a best-selling novelist, poet and independent scholar. His nine books on dreaming, shamanism and imagination include Conscious Dreaming, Dreamways of the Iroquois, The Secret History of Dreaming, Dreamgates, Active Dreaming and Dreaming the Soul Back Home. His poetry collection, Here, Everything Is Dreaming will be published in April 2013. His website is www.mossdreams.com.
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34 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
E S S A Y
Personal Encounters of a Non-Believer by Itzhak Beery Quite often people contact me for help as they claim they have been feeling like they were haunted or possessed by other entities that enter their bodies and instruct them how to think or act. These people often feel baffled, vulnerable, and desperate; in most cases they are what we call regular people, with no necessarily religious or spiritual backgrounds. They want to know: Are they making it up? Is it real? How can we know for certain? Did they allow it to happen to themselves? Do they bring it upon themselves and are responsible for this invasion? Do they act up their traumas? These are all valid questions. I learned to never contest their stories and experiences, as I believe that every personal experience is valid and real, and for my clients it is for sure a reality, seen or unseen by me, they have to deal with. From ancient mythology found in all spiritual traditions and from stories passed from generation to generation, we hear accounts of individuals whose bodies and spirits were overtaken by bad or evil spirits. Sometime these negative energy forces can be felt imprinted in geographical locations where humans performed harmful acts on others. In my own Jewish tradition there are two universal opposing forces of good and evil, God and Satan, which are also ingrained in the Hebrew language. God’s name is ()ש ד י SHaDDaI, and the word for an evil being is ( )ש דSHEDD, which omits the letter I (Yud) which symbolizes God. This is similar to English where if you just reverse the word EVIL you get the word LIVE.
“Satra Achra” My great-grandfather, a well known Tzaddik (Righteous) Kabbalistic Rabbi Mordechi Zundel Margolis from Kolono, Poland, devoted his life to the war with the “Satra Achra,” the Aramaic phrase for “Other Side.” He claimed that in the war between dark and light forces, the dark ones wanted to divert him from the righteous path. He said: “When God created the world he created it with the option for people to choose between good and bad. The good is the choice to follow God’s ways and the bad is the option to create distance from God and go after all kinds of strange earthly passions. Inside us we have our soul, which is our truest and purest manifestation. The soul wants us to live in tune with it, to be with God and do good deeds.
“On the other side, God created bad forces that exist outside the human being. Their goal is to force a person to behave in opposite ways to his true soul, to be bad. These forces are called Satra Achra, or the Other Side. It is the opposite of the good side. These forces try to darken the world from God’s light. They consistently try to make a person choose between the bad over the good. It is important to note that a person has the power to choose the good. The bad forces are created so people can realize their inner powers. When we control the bad, we create happiness in the upper worlds, and the light of happiness will then come to the lower worlds.”
Ways to Understand Evil Spirit Possession Before I had a personal dramatic encounter with these forces I tended to look at them from a psychological or even so-called “New Age” approach. I thought evil was illusionary and exists only because humans believe in its existence. I followed an approach that said spirits are neither good nor bad, benevolent nor malevolent but can be so because of the projections of the mind. According to this approach evil is a state of mind and the key to deal with it is the power to change the mind by achieving a higher awareness and consciousness through various breathing or meditation techniques. Or evil can be diffused by using positive imagery and energy words only and avoiding words that have negative connotations. Another view suggests that evil and suffering present themselves in order for us to learn and heal our Karma or life lessons. In this way bad and evil spirits are our teachers.
Ayahuasca Spirit Talking I have been going to the Ecuadorian and Brazilian Amazon almost yearly for fifteen years to learn from South American shamans. It was there a few years ago on the bank of one of the Rio Negro tributaries in the Brazilian Amazon, I took part in a sacred ayahuasca ceremony led by a Pishuna tribal elder. As the ceremony began, I heard sweet angelic sounds and then saw sweet-looking spirits hovering above me. “This time it will be an easy ceremony,” I happily thought. After awhile, those sweet spirits asked me to convert to their religious teachings. I politely refused, asserting my atheistic upbringing from the kibbutz where I was raised. But they kept sweet-talking me, promising salvation and all of my heart’s desires in return. I became suspicious. They kept trying to tempt me and promised, “If you follow our teachings, you will get what
Opposite: Pascuarela devil mask — Museo de Arte Popular, Mexico City
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you want and become who you want to be.” I became agitated and we started to verbally wrestle with each other. “It’s a trap, it’s a trap, it’s a trap!” I heard the ayahuasca spirit warn me. “Don’t fall into the hands of evil. Look and see their real faces,” it whispered in my ear. I looked up again and saw their authentic faces: they were dark and contorted. I was taken aback, and we began to argue again. They laughed acidly, saying in a superior fashion, “You can’t resist us, we rule millions of people around the world who follow us blindly!” We continued to wrestle for what seemed like a long time. At last, although I was totally exhausted, I found my inner power and declared as loud as I could, “I choose to follow the Light! I’d rather give up my life than join you!” They laughed at me again. Then I used all the energy I could muster to gather in the powers of light and thrust that energy toward them like a spear, over and over again, until they slowly receded, finally disappearing into the void. I took a few deep breaths and looked up at the sky. Just in front of me a male figure, a spiritual teacher engulfed in bright light, became visible to me. He said sadly, “The universal evil forces took over our Hebrew spiritual teachings. They truly intend to conquer the world by deceit.” At that moment I felt an extraordinary beam of light and love streaming from me towards this humble and loving fellow man, a light that surrounded me too. “You are part of me,” he said kindly. My head started to clear and I began to hear the loud singing sounds of the cicadas and river toads filling the cooling night air. Finally I let my body relax.
A Shamanic Approach When I speak about evil spirits, I make a distinction between three types that are slightly different in manifestations, origins, and experience and which many times can run into each other. But 36 | The Journal of Shamanic Practice
I believe they are distinctions that can be helpful in our shamanic work. First, independent evil spirits come from a different realm than the one we live in and may take many forms, often of ghastly animal-like creatures. In the Tukano Amazonian language they are called Akuras or what we may think of as gargoyles. Another type are simply bad spirits that can appear in human form or shapeless and shape-shifting energy forms. Sometimes these bad spirits are those of deceased people who were angry and frightened in their lives and died in those energies and continue to spread them. Often people who are angry because of their “untimely” death continue to spread a kind of angry energy. Lastly there is bad energy that does not have a human appearance but is sent by humans to hurt each other, like curses, the evil eye, and jealousy. These energies can also be found in certain geographical locations like land, springs, mountains, cemeteries, battlegrounds, and homes where violent activities occurred. Accepting the shamanic view that evil can be an independent force in the universe may seem primitive, uneducated, or a superstition from the old human past. But looking only for the light and not acknowledging the shadows and darkness is like denying the existence of night. One Amazonian tradition holds that several evil forces possess every person all the time. These can manifest as addiction, anger, sexual misdeeds, jealousy, lying, greed, stealing and so forth. These characteristics are believed to be caused by the intrusion of negative forces that can be removed by local shamans.
Some Modern Examples of Possession In my workshops on Shamanic Self Defense participants tell personal stories about their own encounters with evil spirits in various forms. In my healing practice I encounter many clients who also suffer from some kind of possession. Here are some examples with the names changed to provide anonymity. Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
Kathy, a professional in the world of finance, was hearing male voices that gave her misguided driving instructions, reprimanded her on her bad behavior, and sometimes punished her by preventing her from obtaining the jobs she was applying for.
Helen, a young beautician, claimed she was possessed by an evil entity that caused very bad accidents for people she was in close contact with.
Mary, a filmmaker, had a right hand that shook uncontrollably which was caused by an evil intrusion. Paul, an author, claimed he was possesed by evil spirits that resided in his stomach and told him to hurt himself and mutilate other people.
Jane claimed she was woken up at two in the morning to see a dark force in her bedroom which then proceeded to strangle her.
Brandon, a CEO for a high-tech start-up company, encountered alien evil spirits during and after consuming ayahuasca.
Bruce, a practicing shaman, was having panic attacks due to the intrusions of negative spirits he absorbed during healing sessions with his clients.
John was cursed by his father who from early age told him that he was stupid and that nothing good would ever grow from his hands. Many people like these say that they feel engulfed by dark energy or a cloud that blocks them from moving on with their lives, that prevents them from getting new jobs or pursuing their careers or finding the relationships they want. What makes seemingly sophisticated, educated, ordinary people living in today’s highly sophisticated technoligical society and who are not necessarily interested in spiritual work, experience these kinds of phenomena, and seek the help of shamanic healers? Many of them gave up on finding answers or help from western medicine and psychiatrists. Some have been disappointed by the answers given
by their religious teachers. When these ordinary sources do not reveal the source of their problems, they turn to shamanic healing as the last resort. From a shamanic perspective, as I understand it, there are symptoms of spirit possession and bad energies that can be detected in individuals and can also be found on a larger scale in political parties, corporations, and even in the spirit of an entire nation. In individuals, evil or bad spirit possession sometimes manifests in physical, emotional, and spiritual forms with symptoms such as an inability to take charge of your life, feeling shackled by unseen forces, uncontrollable body shaking, dribbling mouths, opaque eyes, sweaty sticky palms, speaking in tongues, paranoia, hysteria, reality distortions, fainting with no apparent reason, sudden radical behavior changes, addictive behavior, soul loss, lack of empathy, scarcity, lack of reverence for universal oneness and unity and disrespect for the well being of the earth. I don’t mean to imply that these are always evidence of possession, but I do find one or more of these symptoms in my clients who are possessed.
How to Detect Evil Spirits I asked the late Ipupiara Makunaiman, the Brazilian shaman with whom I studied for twelve years, about the nature of evil. He looked me straight in the eye with his wise brown eyes and said. “It is hard to detect negative energy when it is not showing its real face, which often it does not because of its deceiving and shape-shifting nature. Many times it appears in forms of a force for good, love, and light. But evil or negative energy promotes suffering in others which sometimes they accept in return for temporary gain of money and power. It thrives on igniting fear, unleashing anger, creating separation and division, and calling for revenge. It creates helplessness and depression, mentally and economically. This heavy energy wants to slow things down and bring life to a stop. If not cleared, it seeps through our clothing and skin, into our mind,
organs, and bones, resulting in sickness or even death. “On the other hand, positive energy or light energy is easier to recognize because the forces of good tend not to harm anyone. They treat all beings with love, and equality and they show a reverence for Mother Earth. It is our role as shamans to remove negative energies and replace them with positive energies that restore health and balance to our clients’ lives.” “But Ipupiara,” I asked him, “why do some people do evil things to others?” Ipupiara explained, “Some people do bad things not because they were born bad, no one is, but because of the negative energy of outside forces they can’t control.”
My First Akura Sighting A petite young woman in her late twenties with a short fashionable haircut walked into my healing room for her first shamanic healing ceremony. “I am an actress and a playwright, but my creativity is blocked and I don’t know why! I need help; I don’t know what to do,” she said in despair. I followed a diagnostic technique I learned from my Quechua teacher that is often used by shamans in the Andes to perceive the dark cloud of bad energy. I asked her to brush a candle all over her body. Then I lit it and proceeded to read the candle’s flame: “Fear and trauma,” I made a mental note. Looking at her palm I thought, “Still nothing out of the ordinary.” I asked her to stand, facing me, to start the limpia (cleansing ceremony). I took a mouthful of trago (sugar cane rum) and inhaled a big breath. Then, just as I was closing my eyes and getting ready to spray the energy-cleansing solution, I noticed a wicked-looking, black furry creature high above her, descending fast in her direction. I couldn’t believe my mind’s eye as I watched it attempt to clutch her in its sharp, long-nailed claws, huge monkey eyes popping out while it screamed through a crooked, eagle-like beak.
“What in the world is that?” I thought to myself, and more urgently, “What in the world should I do?” My intuition told me I had to find the warrior within, fight this creature and remove it, even though my training never prepared me for such a battle. But could I? I doubted myself. Improvising, I called my spirit guides for courage and protection and quickly used all the cleansing techniques in my arsenal: fire, smoke, rum, swords, spears, prayers, and threats. Finally after what felt like a long time, I was able to kick most of it out through the crack under the door. When the ceremony was over, my client’s posture had completely changed. She was now calm, relaxed and grounded—even smiling. “How do you feel?” I asked. “Fine, lighter, and more energized,” she answered happily. I, on the other hand, was exhausted and a bit in shock. We sat down and I shared what I had just seen and experienced. I asked if she would grant me permission to consult with my shaman mentor about what had happened. She readily agreed and after she closed the door behind her, I called Brazil. Ipupiara’s mobile phone rang. “Olá!” my late mentor answered. “Ipu, I need your help!” I said desperately. He was in a canoe on the Rio Negro along with “by coincidence” master shaman Shoré from the Kannamarie tribe. “What’s the matter Itzhak?” he asked, concerned. I described what had just happened. “Oh, don’t you know? That would be Akura! Everyone knows that,” he said dismissively in his Portuguese accent. “Everyone?” I asked in disbelief. “Akura? You never mentioned that in all of the six years we’ve known one another.” He went on to explain that Akura means evil spirit in Tukano. He paused, “Hold on.” I could hear him speaking with Shoré in the background. “Okay,” he said with authority. www.shamansociety.org | 37
“Here is what you have to do. Write it down.” And he went on to prescribe a list of ceremonies to perform. “But also ask her if she likes the color green and if she has green plants in her home because Akuras hate anything that is green and alive. They feed on darkness and fear.” My client agreed to the treatment. I asked her Ipupiara’s questions. In a disgusted and curt voice she said, “I hate the color green. I never wear green clothes and never have plants in my home, since they all die anyway.” This gave me goose bumps. “She is possessed. What did I get myself into?” I thought. I still doubted that I could succeed in getting rid of her Akuras. We met the next night and after three subsequent sessions, following the two Amazonian elders’ instructions, her condition was completely reversed. She now wears and enjoys green clothing, grows plants at home, and more importantly, has moved on nicely with her creative career and got engaged to a wonderful supportive man.
Meeting the Wall Street Akura Sometimes, evil energy that is intended to hurt someone can be passed and spread from one generation to the next. Michael, his fancy Armani suit and glasses giving him an aura of business authority and success, walked through my door one day. The diagnostic candle reading showed he was depressed and surrounded by strong heavy negative energies. “What do you do for a living?” I asked. “Oh, I was on Wall Street,” he said sheepishly. “I was one of those tough sharks. I had everything: expensive cars, women, vacations, and I could afford everything my materialistic wife wanted. Then the financial crisis began and I was fired. My wife divorced me, and my world collapsed. I started asking myself who am I, why did this happen to me? I lost 100 pounds; I was over 340 at the time.”
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“Were you abused as a child?” I asked, looking into the candle. “Oh, yes, mentally and physically. I was too ‘soft and sensitive’ and my father and two brothers constantly harassed me calling me sissy. I had to prove I could be more ruthless then them. And I did. I became a son-of-a-bitch, I cheated and lied, and I bullied everyone. I was greedy. I was possessed. I didn’t care, and I was good at it.” He lowered his eyes, looked to the side and quietly said, “I was eating compulsively.” And I thought: to hide and protect your true sensitive self. “You know, Michael,” I said, ”the candle says you are a shaman, a teacher on a spiritual quest. I bet you see spirits too, is that right?” I asked. ”I do, but what does that say about what I’m supposed to do now?” And the big man across from me started crying, a deep heart wrenching cry. Finally, he let himself be reconnected to his lost, kind, and true soul. The evil energy that his father and brothers put on him in order to shame him and make him tough, Michael in turn used to harm others. But now that evil energy had finally left.
A Pain in the Groin Joey, a heavy-set man in his midfifties, was obviously in awful pain when he came to see me. He was moaning and squealing from a pain that spread through his groin. He was hardly able to walk. His girlfriend, deeply worried about him, brought him by cab from Queens. Looking at the candle flame I detected the spirit of his deceased aunt. She was angry and vindictive. She said she hated his mother, and she took revenge by hurting her son. “Yes. It is true,” he said. “They were enemies, fighting all the time. She was consumed by jealousy as she never had children of her own.” We proceeded to do the limpia cleansing ceremony. I applied half a dozen eggs to extract his aunt’s spirit Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
from his groin and convinced her to leave his body and move on to wherever she needed to go. Then I proceeded to cut the cords that were binding her spirit to his body. Joey got up from the chair with no pain. I instructed him to continue to do more healing and protection work at home. A few weeks later he called again; the excruciating pain was back. His aunt had come back with a vengeance. “Did you do your homework?” I asked him. “No,” he said. This time I went to his home, did house energy clearing, and performed another limpia ceremony. This time it worked.
Shedim Ve Ruchot One time I was visiting the graves of my parents in a cemetery in Israel, placing stones on the grave, and making prayers, when I suddenly fell into a deep reverie or meditation. I saw hundreds of faces of men, women, and children, young and old, swarming all around me like a group of jellyfish in a dark ocean of anger and frustration. “Le kol ha shedim ve haruchot,” I thought to myself, which is a Hebrew expression that means “To all the devils and the spirits.” I thought, “Where am I? Who are those people?” “Do I know you?” I asked. I could see the hollowed, sad, and angry eyes, the rotten facial flesh and the mutilated bodies, mouths twisted with horrible expressions, and the exposed teeth peering under their stretched ashen skin. Their faces reached even closer, whispering in my ears in rasping voices like stormy wind blowing through the cracks of Venetian blinds. “Oh, this is terrible,” I said to myself. My stomach turned upside down and unexplained fear overwhelmed me. I yelled at the bodiless faces. Waving my hands in the air I fought the swarm of circling faces, begging them to leave me alone. But they paid no attention to my requests and kept on with their unwavering motion, surrounding me from all sides. I heard them telling me that
they had not finished what they came to do here on earth and were not ready to leave just yet.Â I knew from my shamanic training that they were unaware that they were dead. They were stuck here unable to allow themselves to let go and move on to the other realms. I wanted to run from there, but my body refused to move. It took great effort and finally I woke up from this deep vision. I opened my eyes slowly and found myself still sitting in the Kibbutz cemetery, on the same green wooden bench in front of my parentsâ€™ graves. I had no idea of how long a time had passed. I could only hear the pine trees blowing silently in the soft wind and a few birds chirping from time to time. I sat facing the dried and yellowed Mount Gilboa looking at the graves, the pine trees, trying to figure out what had just happened. I had the feeling that I was somehow connected with some of the mad souls who were buried there. This was one of the first kibbutzim established in Israel, and settled by many people who led lives of anger and criticism, thinking themselves the righteous ones and hostile to those who thought differently. Some of these souls could not accept the fact that their lives were over and they were now dead. I realized how meaningful and important it is for people to release the angry, even evil, energies that they harbor in their souls before they pass over into the next life.
The Powers that Shape Our Lives The ongoing battle between good and evil in the unseen worlds constantly shapes our experience of reality. We are all affected by it. These forces can be sent by other people, and they can also come from greedy corporations, repressive governments, and radical or extreme political parties. These energies live in violent programs on television, radio, magazines, internet and other media. And as Ipupiara so wisely noted, evil can be difficult to recognize because it is secretive and elusive. Evil can impersonate the images of good and light, using deceptive words, such as freedom, liberty, love, health, and so forth. So how can we decipher them? There is no way to tell immediately one-hundred-percent of the time if a spirit is good or bad. That is why we need to pay close attention, read between the lines, and discover their real intentions. We can ask if what they say or do is supportive of life, or does it suck energy away from life and/or cause harm to others.
Over the course of thousands of years, shamans from traditions all around the world have devised impressive toolkits for working with evil spirits. These include ceremonies, herbs, minerals, stones, plants, eggs, candles, amulets, and so forth, as well as spiritual practices such as prayers and energy shielding to protect people and their environments from the malicious, negative energies of evil spirits. We need to learn, practice, and become experts in these techniques, and with them, not fear our encounters with evil spirits and bad energies.
About the AUTHOR Itzhak Beery is a NYC-based shamanic practitioner who conducts shamanic healing ceremonies in the Ecuadorian Andes and Brazilian Amazon traditions and teaches throughout the USA and around the world. Itzhak is a co-founder of the NY Shamanic Circle and he is the founder/publisher of www.shamanportal.org.
Good spirits never take over or possess a personâ€™s physical body, energy body, or mind. They do not bring or cause harm. They support and guard us and treat all beings and nature herself with reverence. Good spirits work in light, transparency, and love.
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B o o k
re v iew
Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World: Complementary Dualism in Modern Peru By Hillary S. Webb University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque. 2012.
Review by Bonnie Horrigan Those familiar with Andean spiritual philosophies have heard the phrase, “Tukuy ima ghariwarmi,” which means “everything is manwoman.” The book, Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World, is a “lived” exploration of this concept. And by that I mean while the author examines the idea intellectually, she also tries to experience it first hand and allow herself to be spiritually and psychologically changed in the process. Consequently, the book has an engaging depth and reach. The notion of “complementary opposites” is basic to indigenous Andean understanding about the nature of reality. Similar to the Chinese concepts of yin and yang, opposites are conceived as being connected and interdependent. Female does not exist without male, male does not exist without female, and the existence of both is “dependent on the tension and balanced interchange between the two.” As Hillary Webb explains: “According to the indigenous Andean worldview in its most idealized form, existence is a collection of constantly changing circumstances, and relationships between one thing and another are always in flux.” The commitment is to find the harmonious balance between two “opposites” because if one side is destroyed or denied, the other side will suffer to an equal degree. The balancing, this extending of reciprocity, which is called anyi, is a way of renewing the world. When Webb first asks Amado, her Andean guide, to explain yanantin, he tells her that out of respect, he can’t. Instead, he says, she should “download the information from the cosmos.” When Webb asks how, Amado tells her that she should participate in a San Pedro cactus (mescaline) ceremony.
Webb is fearful at first, afraid that the hallucinogenic might destabilize her “mind.” But Amado tells her that consciousness, rather than being something fixed, can “participate with the rest of the world in a way that dissolves boundaries between things while still maintaining its individual integrity.” And that’s when the adventure to fully comprehend yanantin and masintin (the manifested experience of yanantin) begins. The next day Webb and her two guides, Amado and Juan Luis, head for the mountains, arriving in the dark. They build a fire and partake of the ritual brew. The first step in the ceremony is to practice forgiveness — first of self, then of others. Then Webb falls asleep. When she awakens, she is acutely aware of feeling happy and sad at the same time. “Good,” Juan Luis tells her. “There are no contradictions. Everything is complementary. Being happy and sad are states of mind. It’s best to be in the middle.” The book covers three trips to Peru, several San Pedro ceremonies, and the consequent changes of mind and heart that Webb experiences. As she advances, she begins to see that the world is not a mechanical conglomerate in which people and places and events are “real” and “fixed” in time and space, but that reality is actually very fluid, always in flux, and very much dependent on the viewer. Amado tells her, “Everything you believe, everything you know, everything you experience, is not really yours. Nothing that you think is happening within you is actually yours. It could be real for the person who is next to you, who is witnessing it. This is how we share realities.”
As Webb learns to blur the boundaries between self and others, she begins to see how two beings can inform and shape each other through their interaction, changing both sides. The process unfolds in four stages — tupay (the meeting); tinkuy (the engagement); taqe (the merging) and trujiy (the separation and conclusion). When such an engagement is informed by the concept of complementary opposites, real transformation can occur. While thoughtful and provoking, the book is also easy to read and I highly recommend it. If I didn’t know better, I would say there is a little San Pedro cactus dust on the pages that somehow seeps into your skin. But that couldn’t really happen, could it?
REVIEWER BIO Bonnie Horrigan is the editorial director for EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing and the co-founder of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners.
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The Journal of Shamanic Practice 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! *International conference listed on page 43.
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Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
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PAULA DENHAM, CSC Shamanic Healing, Counseling & Spiritual Support 916-863-1383 www.sacshamanic.org See ad on page 39. AMANDA FOULGER Heart Medicine: Workshops & Private Clients FSS Faculty Member Topanga, CA firstname.lastname@example.org amandafoulger.com SUSAN GRIMALDI, M.Ed. Treatment for health concerns, relationship issues, emotional trauma, grief, anxiety, anger. In office or by telephone Montpelier, VT 802-223-2972 www.susangrimaldi.com HARMONIC VISIONS Karyn Armstrong Entrepreneur, Intuitive Integrative Healing Artist, Advanced Shamanic Practitioner/Teacher, Event Host/ Organizer, Budding Author www.harmonicvisions.com www.shamaniclife.org 503-525-2521 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 LAST MASK CENTER Shamanic Healing, Distance healing, & Integration Basic classes & Advanced Exploration 4-Year Training & Skill-based Community www.lastmaskcenter.org 800-927-2527 ext 02586 Practical application of shamanic skills Live Internet Radio & Podcast Archive www.whyshamanismnow.com See ad on page 33.
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F A L L Lisa Marshall Advanced Shamanic Practitioner. Intuitive Healing & Clearings. Soul Retrieval, EFT to assist you in letting your True Light shine. Distance Healings by phone or in person. Blue Deer Shamanic Healing Boulder, CO ; 303-746-3439 email@example.com 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 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. SACRED CENTER Elenora Amendolara, DD, NC Healing Arts education, CHILL, Chumpi Illumination workshops, Andean Water essences, private sessions. Hudson Valley, NY, USA www.sacredcenter.net www.awessences.com See ad on page 8. SACRED HOOP MINISTRY Helping People Heal Themselves Using The Ancient Techniques of the Shaman’s & Indigenous Cultures. For Personal Empowerment Through The Spiritual Aspects of Healing. Woodland Park, CO (719) 687-4335 www.SacredHoopMinistry.org SHAMANIC REIKI, HEALING & ATTUNEMENTS for Animals and People SKYPE: drlaurie.nadel 516.889.9763 firstname.lastname@example.org www.Reiki4PetsUSA.com
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ANCESTRAL VOICE Center For Indigenous Lifeways Phillip Scott 415.897.7991 www.ancestralvoice.org CROWS NEST CENTER FOR SHAMANIC STUDIES INTERNATIONAL France, Belgium, S. Africa, USA C. Michael Smith, PhD See ad on inside backcover.
Volume 5, Issue 2, Fall 2012
FOUNDATION FOR SHAMANIC STUDIES Michael Harner Training in core shamanism & advanced shamanic healing Info@shamanism.org www.shamanism.org See ad on page 27. GREEN RIVER DANCE FOR GLOBAL SOMATICS Suzanne River Two year training in Somatic Shamanism Contemporary shamanic approach that empowers the shaman body from the inside-out. 651-257-8697 www.globalsomatics.com THE HOLLOW BONE Shamanic workshops on personal healing & land clearing Ana Larramendi www.thehollowbone.com LAST MASK CENTER 4-Year Training in authentic, nontraditional shamanism. Advanced classes for professional renewal and inspiration. www.lastmaskcenter.org See ad on page 33. POWER PATH SEMINARS School of Shamanism Santa Fe, NM www.thepowerpath.com See ad on page 8. RIVERDRUM Tom Cowan Celtic visionary & healing techniques www.riverdrum.com See ad on page inside-front cover SHAMANIC TEACHERS Shamanic teachers and practitioners trained by Sandra Ingerman www.shamanicteachers.com See ad on page 3. WOLFINDARK Dr. John-Luke Edwards Lions Bay, BC, Canada www.wolfindark.com See ad on page 3.
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A Guide to Shamanic Tending for Trauma and Disasters
A Society for Shamanic Practitioners Handbook In this book, experienced practitioners explain techniques and principles used by shamans throughout time to deal with trauma and disasters and how these practices are still applied today. Order Today US $15.50 ($12 plus $3.50 shipping) Canada $16.50 ($12 plus $4.50 shipping) Overseas $20.50 ($12 plus $8.50 shipping) www.shamansociety.org