Somewhere, in an unknown land and an unknown time, surrounded by the stern mysteries of wild nature, a man begins his training. He is sheltered by giant pines and cedars, which for centuries have kept the sun from penetrating the green gloom under them. At times, uninterrupted rest reigns supreme here; the drowsy ocean murmurs softly, beating against the rocky shore; the green giants are also asleep, gently whispering with their prickly branches.

 

But when the blustering wind begins to walk over the trees old heads, they can creak, and crack and thunder in a way, which together with the sea waves booming against the rocks, drives any living being crazy with awe and fear. Birds and beasts alike tremble and shudder in their shelters, helpless and restless with anguish. The future shaman alone has no fear in his heart. In the howling storm and the noises of ocean and forest, he hears the voices from the mysterious world he is trying to become conscious of.

 

To him, this is the talk of the elements; the spirits he wants to master and to use. And he firmly sets out to approach the mysterious lives through fasting and abstinence, drumming and chanting, until he enters into such mysterious worlds.

 

Such is the Way of the Shaman

 

Please note that the above has been slightly edited that those reading it may enter into the mood of what the Shaman and Shamanism is about.

 

THE THEOSOPHICAL FORUM Vol.8 No.7 Nov. 1902

 

 

 

Firstly, we need to have some definition of just what Shamanism means and role that the Shaman held within the community.

As with a lot of these subjects, there are various views; some are from people who are more interested in the Shaman from an anthropological frame of reference; not a modern-day practitioner.  I will also speak about the Shaman in a contemporary fashion.

In Chambers Encyclopedia of 1927, the following definition is given:

Shamanism [is] a name applied loosely to the religion of the Turanian races of Siberia and north-eastern Asia, based essentially on magic and sorcery. Their Heaven God Ukko is but the chief among a host of nature spirits capable of being influenced and even forced into obedience by the spells of shamans or sorcerers.

The Siberian shaman works his cures by magic and averts sickness and death by incantations.

Lewis Spence in his Encyclopedia of the Occult (as published in 1920) adds that these Shamans are of the ‘Medicine Man’ class. He also refers to the Inuits and their religion as again being Shamanistic.

In the North American tribes, the Shaman was also known as the medicine man, for healing was one of his tasks.

In cave paintings, animal figures appear in over 600 rock art sites that are known to exist along the Northwest Coast from south-western Alaska to British Columbia to the lower Columbia River and extending to California. As well as these, animals make their appearance in carved objects such as seen in the figure of a wolf carved on a comb (ca, 800 AD). A Raven appears from ca. 1000 BC. Many unidentified large eyes creatures have also been found.

Many researches surmise that they are the work of Shamans. These sites are dated from 4500 BC to about 1800 AD.[i]

Sadly, as time has passed, we have lost, or at least, diminished our relationship to other entities of a ‘non-human’ kind.

And therefore it has come about that during:

….the Eighteenth Century there already had developed a more or less fixed image of “Shamanism” as a specific type of religion. For most enlighteners the shaman was a model of irrational behaviour…and Catherine the Great even wrote a comedy entitled Der sibirische Schaman, ein Lustspiel (1786), in which she tries to ridicule shamanism and lead her subjects to a new age of enlightenment.[ii]

The term, ‘Shaman,’ comes from a Mongolian word. Shamans, as bounded by these definitions, can be found among the Inuit, Maoris, Mongolians, Polynesians and also among the native North American people. A Shaman can be either male or female.[iii]   Shamanism is believed to have been practiced for some 20,000 to 30,000 years. One author, Prof. A. Hultkrantz[iv] informs us that:

“It is evident that shamanism is deeply anchored in the old hunting cultures…shamanism is less well adapted to the cultures of the agriculturist and cultures of a higher level of technological and social complexity. There is therefore good reason to expect that shamanism once was represented among Palaeolithic hunters.”[v]

Some authors see Shamanism as a form of animism. For instance, Lewis Spence, in his Introduction to Mythology (publ. 1921) informs us that the belief of animism is one whereby primitive man:

“…imagines that all other physical entities in nature are, like himself, gifted with the powers of speech, volition [the act of wishing or choosing] and thought. This is called ‘animism’— the bestowal of a soul (Lat. anima) upon all objects. The winds and the waters speak and obviously travel; the trees are articulate; the lower animals (primitive man) regards as his equal.”

Who really truly knows if whether or not things such as trees, winds and waters do not communicate between themselves? I personally do not see any reason to deny this.   Just because we generally lack the ability to penetrate this barrier does not mean that it does not occur.

The word, Animism, was originally coined by E. B. Tylor[vi] but sadly was later misused in a derogatory sense. Such was a primitive religion and one that its devotees had not reached the higher concept of a personal God.

 

Jonathan Horwitz[vii] of the Scandinavian Centre of Shamanic Studies, informs us further that:

Animism’ is the awareness of our connection to the world that is the foundation of the practice of shamanism. These two things are inseparable.[viii]

It is interesting to note that in some Pagan Paths the term—‘Voice of the Wind’—is used traditionally of one being taught through Spirit Voices. It is an external element outside of us.  To our Shaman ancestors, this Voice emanated from the trees, rocks, mountains, the sky, lakes and oceans. The Whispers were from the Nature spirits and other such beings of the Otherworld.

Maybe there is something to say about Lewis Spence and his interpretation of Animism.     For the Shaman, be they ancient or modern, such a view has allowed him or her to cross between the bridges and to penetrate into these otherwise ‘guarded’ terrains.

The Shaman sees the world as divided into three levels: The lower, middle and upper.

In Scandinavian mythology, the Great World Tree is styled Yggdrasil [pronounced, ig’dra-sil; lit. ‘the horse of Ygg, or Odin’]. It is the tree of existence, the tree of life and knowledge, the tree of grief and fate, the tree of time and space; it is the tree of the universe, of both organic and inorganic life. The Yggdrasil was an Ash – a tree oft-times mentioned in Wiccan verses: “by oak, and ash, and thorn.’- a triad of power in Celtic lore whereby, where these three trees meet, one can see and speak with the faery-folk. Kipling’s “A Tree Song” which sets the scene for the stories & poems of “Puck of Pook’s Hill” (1906) also refers to this sacred Tree. Nothing is known of the origin of this tree though it appears to have existed before the beginning of the world and believed destined to survive Ragnarok, the apocalypse of the world and the gods as found in Norse mythology

Many who practice Shamanism today do so by envisioning an opening into the earth such as via a cave, a lake, a hollow tree. To make contact with the entities of the air can be done via visioning oneself as a bird as it flies upon the wing, and others may envisage a flame or a candle to make contact with the elementals of the fiery realm; the salamanders.   A Shaman will usually have a spirit guide such as a plant, or an animal, to assist in along his way.

Shamans had many devices to help them go into trance to enter these various levels, for example: Lack of sleep, repetitive chanting, drumming, rattling, or music, dancing, isolation and sometimes the use of drugs. I would also imagine that special ritual clothing would come into play here as the clothing takes on its own vibration to get one into ‘the mood.’ Even now, such methods are employed.

Another way that a Shaman, in many traditional communities, would make communication is by Shape-shifting. The Shaman:

“…may dress up in animal pelts, feathers or antler headdresses when about to contact the spirits. Indeed animals are usually crucial to shamanistic systems: thus, in hunter-gatherer and hunter-herder communities, a particular beast, often the one on which the group’s survival most depends, may be perceived as an animal-helper, a creature that aids the shaman in transgressing between worlds, and paving the way for negotiation with the spirits.”[ix] (Quest for the Shaman)

Many Pagan Paths still employ ‘Shape-shifting’ as a way of working Magic, though more through visualisation and ritual. The stories of Myth and Legend are full of Shape-shifting tales, such as the tale of the Norse God Odin who could change into a eagle; his spirit could be translated to distant lands as any other bird or creature or Loki, friend to the Norse Gods could take the form of a falcon – maybe there is more Truth in them than we give credit to.

If you look up ‘Shape-shifting’ in some Witchcraft references,[x] they tend to refer to the days of the old Witchcraft Trials of the Middle Ages, ‘the Burning Times,’ of the mid 15th to early 18th centuries. They generally tell about the ‘belief’ in either the Witch’s Familiar — be this cat, dog, hen, or where such be lacking, a bee or fly or a mouse would do—; or the witch having the ability to be able to transform into an animal. Though in the 10th. Cent. just to believe in the ‘Witch’s Tales’ was condemned as heresy—such tales being of:

“wicked women…who profess that in the dead of night they ride upon certain beasts with the pagan goddess Diana, and fly over vast tracts of country.” –The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. Entry: Transvection.

 

The ‘Shape-shifting’ that I am referring to is akin to that of the Shaman ‘changing’ into an animal in terms of its attributes, and not ‘physically.’ — It is a Spiritual transformation only. By being able to do this the Shaman enters into a relationship with the ‘Spirit’ of the particular animal in question. It has nothing to do with “wicked women” flying around on beasts and such like.

A good definition of what is meant by Shape-shifting is that given by Eileen Holland in her Wicca Handbook:[xi]

“Shape-shifting is a psychic experience, in which [one] perceives reality from an animal’s viewpoint. It is used for escape and to gain knowledge or advantage.”

Finding a definition that scholars agree upon is very mixed. As such I like the various features that may at least hint at a broader view. These are found in a book called Shamanic Cosmos – From India to the North Pole (publ. in 1999). This book is a selection of Papers that were presented at the First International Conference on Shamanism that was held in Venice at the Auditorium Santa Margherita, Venice University on October 11-12. 1996.

Here are some key-features of what Shamanism entails:

Animation or spiritualization of the whole surrounding world, in which human beings exist. A conception of ‘non-living nature’ is alien to the world-view of the early cultures. As P. T. Furst said “…in general shamanism expresses a philosophy of life that holds all beings — human, animal, or plant — to be qualitatively equivalent: all phenomena of nature, including human beings, plants, animals, rocks, rain, thunder, lightning, stars and planets, and even tools, as animate, imbued with a life essence or soul or, in the case of human beings, more than one soul.”[xii]

Other aspects that make up this definition, overall, include:

  • Belief in mutual all-embracing connections to nature. Activity of the gods and spirits who dwell in the cosmos can influence everyday life of the people
  • A man doesn’t distinguish himself from the surrounding world.

Again, P.T. Furst writes that the “Shamanic world view assumes no human superiority over the rest of nature: people, like other life forms, exist with and depend upon nature and the goodwill of the spirits that animate and rule over the environment.”

  • The Cosmos is close to man. It is accessible to those who practice Shamanism. The cosmos is directly inter-linked with the everyday needs of people.
  • A person is close to the worlds of the gods and the spirits of nature. A very special person, a Shaman, is chosen by the spirits to cross between the boundaries.
  • Therefore, becoming a Shaman takes place in the world of spirits. This belief allows for a human to mix with the spirits and is, accordingly, an important and specific feature of shamanism.
  • Today, we seem to have pushed the gods and the spirits away as we become more mechanistic in our thinking. P. T. Furst states that: “..is in a very real sense an ecological belief system.”[xiii]

 

As we can see, Shamanic Cosmos, supplies us with some special features that are components of an ideological content; a belief in the gods and spirits.  These ‘Features’ are discussed more in-depth in this book covering 6 pages in length, and I have just cited some that are, I feel, relevant to this Lecture.

It is noted in the same book that: “…according to Prof. A. Hultkrantz, shamanism is not a religion in the full sense of the word (‘in its own right’), but only a part of a system of religious belief.”[xiv]

When I read these of these ‘features,’ I was at once struck by their beauty as they are extremely Pagan and earthly. As one who tries to live by the Pagan concept that ‘All is one,’ I believe these descriptions are more in keeping with the topic at hand as far as Neo-Shamanism goes. But before I move on, I found the following affirmation by Annie Besant, (1923) to be relevant to share before moving on, for it describes this concept beautifully:

O Hidden Life, Vibrant In Every Atom O Hidden Light, Shining In Every  Creature O Hidden Love, Embracing All In  Oneness May Each Who Feels Himself As One  With Thee Know He Is Therefore One With Every Other[xv]

 

 

This is something to think upon as we move forward. For if All Life is Vibrant with an Inner Light, then the Shaman Path is not only more understandable but also more workable and necessary in today’s mechanical and computerized world. It is more so needed as a way of Healing the Earth.

As stated before by A. Hultkrantz above:

“shamanism is less well adapted to the cultures of the agriculturist and cultures of a higher level of technological and social complexity.”[xvi]

So maybe lessening our dependency on our mechanical and computerized tools, we need to become more dependent on the world of Nature—to commune with the other ‘Beings’ who share the planet with us. We are no longer hunter-gatherers but we still need to be connected to the same source of Spirit.

Now as to a definition of Neo-Shamanism, I think the aspects cited from Shamanic Circle to be one that can work with the Shamanic Path as now practiced today.   What is different is not so much the definition as to how it may be practiced or interpreted today.

For example, compared with indigenous shamanism, modern Shamanism:

“…tends to deny the reality of intrinsically nefarious spirits. Furthermore it is oriented toward personal and spiritual empowerment among practitioners. Hence the role of the community is of less importance than it is in shamanism’s more traditional context.”[xvii]

One writer, Olav Hammer, Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Southern Denmark, notes that:

Neoshamanisms are typically eclectic. The neo-shaman may also practice tarot reading, believe in channeling or visit non-shamanic healers. Pre-modern shamanisms rarely coexist with alternative ideologies that could form the basis of any eclecticism. The cosmology associated with traditional shamanic practices is typically complex, featuring numerous spirits, sets of origin myths and world transformation myths, far-reaching webs of correspondences, etc.[xviii]

 

We are witnessing more and more people turning to shamanic techniques as a way of getting in tune with this All Life that we are hearing more about as the years go by.

Today’s Shaman is one likely to seek out communication with other life forms – be they animal, vegetable or mineral; even the folk of the Elemental worlds. As we have heard already, the Shamanic Path even considers so-called inanimate objects to possess a life-force or spirit of one type or another.

Madame Blavatsky’s refer to this in The Secret Doctrine, (1893) wherein we find the concept that:

ALL IS LIFE, and every atom of even mineral dust is a LIFE, though beyond our comprehension and perception.[xix]

As an aside, there is an interesting incident recorded in Madame Blavatsky’s From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan (1892)[xx] where a tiger that was bothering the travelling party, was killed silently and without any weapon, by one Gulab-Sing, by ‘word’ alone. The book relates to the reader

“It is very seldom that one meets with a man [Gulab-Sing] why possesses the word. Yogis and Sadhus do not generally kill wild animals, thinking it sinful todestroy any living creature, be it even a cobra or a tiger…

I found this is quite an interesting book to read and recommend it to anyone who enjoys good travel writing. Was Gulab-Sing employing a Shamanic practice?

If we can embrace the concept that All is Life, then we are more likely to appreciate the Shamanic Path.

The one thing that is necessary is that of being able to visualize here is the ability to enter into a trance. This helps us to communicate with the animals, plants and so forth.

This trance is not a trance where one goes into some deep state and is not aware of their surroundings. It only means that when they purposely seek out other ‘beings’ from the other planes of existence, that they are aware of what is occurring around them, yet still in touch with the mundane world.

A further aspect that is important is where the Shaman seeking to communicate with other life forms – and here I mean the folk of the trees, plants, minerals, animals and so forth, is that of ‘Intent.’ This should be put place so that an answer can be found.

This ‘Intent’ helps one to become in-tune with those animals etc., that the Shaman is searched an answer or insight from. This will help the Shaman whilst in a trance. I have read, however, that we should not seek answers on another’s problems but focus on how we may improve to assist a friend or family member.

 

This is really true of life generally — we cannot change another’s attitude or actions but we can change our own response or our own issues that may be getting in the way.

As we journey along this spiritual path, we are allowing ourselves to become ‘at one’ with the unseen life that surrounds – to ‘see’ it anew, to hear ‘voices’ that would normally be shut out, and to ‘feel’ the world like we have never felt it before.

I find it interesting that once we begin to be ‘At One’ with all life, we are then best able to ‘Atone’ in some small way, for the things we have done as people.   It is no wonder that we have become separated from nature— we have asked for it with the crimes we have done.

However, more and more people are beginning to want to live with all the things of life—witness the growth in nature-based spiritualities; even in eco-tourism and the environment movement.

You may be wondering, ‘Where do the animals fit in hear?

Well, for one thing, the Shaman’s helping spirit is nearly always represented as an animal, as too are the Shamanic costumes.[xxi] In Siberian aboriginal myth, people believed that the Shaman had the ability to transform him or herself into animals, birds and fish.

Many people who follow the Pagan Path, are becoming more and more open to the Shamanic Journey. One good book that I know of is by D.J. Conway, called By Oak, Ash, and Thorn: Modern Celtic Shamanism. (1995)

 

 

Many people have reported learning from the animals by making contact with the animal’s ‘Spirit,’ (its life-force) and these animal ‘Spirits’ are responding back—giving messages that we need to hear and heed.   It is interesting to note that the word ‘Silent’ is an anagram of ‘Listen.’ By remaining Silent we Listen and Hear.

I will now read to you a description of how we can learn from the animals.

It is taken from a book called Speaking with Nature (2015) by Sandra Ingerman and Llyn Roberts— I trust it speaks personally to each of you in some positive way.

Snowy Owl

…Close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths. With each slow exhale leave your ordinary thoughts behind. Allow your imagination to take you to the northern region of the Arctic. You are now in an environment of deep snow and ice. Without the intrusion of power lines, the airwaves are still and silent. There is a deep power in the stillness of Mother Earth.

Look around you and take in the beauty of this snowy terrain. Feel yourself standing in the frozen earth.

Although the ground is frozen, the molecules within are in constant movement, as life is always in movement. Take some deep breaths and breathe in the clean, fresh, cold air.

Imagine what the air would taste like in your mouth. Feel the air travelling down your throat and into your lungs. Touch the snow and ice with your fingers—feel the coldness and texture. Notice how your heartbeat changes as you connect with the majestic nature of this land. Listen to the silence. Experience a state of wonder as you go further into a landscape filled with deep mystery.

Notice one of the inhabitants of the Arctic—the Snowy Owl—swooping in for a landing. The powerful presence of the Snowy Owl in nature, or even its image in a photo, is breathtaking.

Delight in the owl’s intense beaming yellow eyes and soft, regal feathers. These predominantly white feathers allow Snowy Owl to blend into the frozen landscape of the Arctic snow and ice, hidden from both predators and prey.

Fully experience the great beauty and power of Snowy Owl, and when you feel complete take some deep breaths and bring your awareness back into the physical space where you started.

After this descriptive meditation or Shamanic trance, Sandra goes on to speak about the Snowy Owl and what it can teach us: For instance, about earth changes.

The Snowy Owl is migrating more and more to the US where it stands out more against the greenery. She informs us that the message for us is to become and more visible, to help the planet through its Earth changes. [italics are my own words].

Among the Native Americans of the Plains, the owl was seen in the role of a supernatural protector and this gave rise to the practice of wearing owl feathers as magic talismans.[xxii]

By learning about animals, we are then in a better position to find one that may become our totem or power animal. For myself, I tend to relate to the crocodile though a description of the snake as a Power Animal seems to suit my nature better. The term, ‘Power Animal,’ is one that can be applied to the Shamanic Path.

To find your own personal power animal, the following technique is suggested by Madonna Gauding, author of Personal Power Animals: For Guidance, Protection and Healing:[xxiii]

  • Gather your journal or a pad of paper. Read the exercise ahead of time or recode it to play back.
  • Begin by closing your eyes and breathing deeply. Release any tension in your body by beginning at the toes and work your way up through your body. When relax, move to the visualisation that follows.
  • Imagine yourself in a field of flowers and see the very large oak tree close by. Look at this tree until you see the large hollow on one side. Step inside this hollow and see a stairwell that leads downwards. It is not dark for there are torches lighting the way.

You are not afraid and decide to explore where these stairs lead to. At the bottom you find a small tunnel leading to a magical landscape.

  • The air is pure and you look up to see a blue sky, and white fluffy clouds.
  • The grass is green. There are a cluster of pine trees to your left—the fresh aroma of pines beckons you to them. It is peaceful as your walk among the trees; the sun shines down through the trees—it is quiet and serene.
  • There is a small crystal-clear pool that you sit down in the peace of the moment.
  • As you relaxed and look around you, you notice a movement our of the corner of your eye. You are not sure where the movement originates from but as you turn around, you find yourself staring into an animal’s eyes. There is something familiar about this animal. You may have once been afraid of this animal but the feeling now gives way to peace—it’s like you are meeting for the first time.
  • As you both sit there, locked in each other’s gaze, you hear it mentally telling you how it helped you in the past and/or how it can help you now. You are amazed to make its acquaintance.
  • Intuitively, you become aware that you time in this magical place is short. You thank the animal for making itself known to you and for any assistance it may have given, or will give in the future.
  • The animal, as a sign, may come to your in a newspaper article, through a program on TV, in a book you may be reading, or in a dream.
  • Before you know, this animal turns about and heads away back into the forest, the pool or the sky above. You rise and slowly walk from the pine grove to again pass through the meadow. Again you back-track to the tunnel leading into the hollow of the tree—the stairs are waiting for your ascent. At last, you find yourself at the exit of this mother oak tree.
  • Leaving, you look around you for you are now back in the field of wild flowers. When ready, slow bring back your awareness to your breathing, slowly stretch to become ground in both your body and your environment.
  • Open your journal and describe your experience, concentrating on the animal you have met. Write down any prior experiences you may have had with this animal.

The animal may not be the one you feel is your power animal. If not, repeat the meditation. Your power animal will eventually make itself know.

 

As I have said before, I now see the snake as my Power Animal.

The Shamans of the Celts had an extremely deep relationship to the animals as different animals would identify their various clans that were part of the Celtic heritage. By visualising an animal, the Shaman would identify with that animal’s strength.

People who use Shamanistic techniques today are able to draw on the past as the Shaman of old is really not that different—for both employ the same techniques—drumming, chanting, dancing etc..   I suppose that it is our interpretation of the messages that have changed for we most likely view the world in a global context; but not so the early Shamans. His world was his clan and his immediate environment.

The Shaman of old would employ such techniques as they assisted him in gaining food, clothing, and shelter. Therefore there was, how shall I describe it, a more profound sense of the symbioses that existed to benefit both parties; a symbiosis that needed no explanation—the All is Life was simply a given.

Saying this, it must be born in mind that the Shaman viewed all things to have ‘Spirit.’— all phenomena of nature, including human beings, plants, animals, rocks, rain, thunder, lightning, stars and planets, and even tools, as animate.

The Shaman of today is not necessarily dependent of the ‘Spirit’ of an animal for food, clothing or shelter, although some may depend on such a relationship.

For instance, I know of one Witchcraft group where the daughter of the High Priest and High Priestess, hunts with a cross-bow and might use Shamanism as a guide to helping to kill an animal for food.

The Shaman of today can be found in several Pagan Paths, such as in WICCA and Druidry.   I would say that these techniques are employed to help work ‘Magic,’ [xxiv] to help understand what we need to know to help the earth and all of Her myriad life-forms.

I wish to read out a poem that speaks about one finding his ‘Inner Shaman,’ as it were.[xxv]

 

 

 

SHAMAN (1)[xxvi]

I have been tried on the barren mountain of my

Loneliness $

And seen the eternity of the stars, there finding

fire.

I have been left alone with the wild beast of my

Inner chaos

and fought with the hands of my mind

Through blood burnt with fever.

I went out of the tribe

away from the clustered houses

from the loving eyes of my forefathers

to learn the primeval tongues of twig-form and

birdsong;

I called the angel of darkness to wrestle with

and defeated its strength of madness to lay

claim to the Earth*

(the journey is but beginning)

I came back to the clustered houses

And was hailed, not as a chieftain or a guru as in

olden times,

but as a stranger, as alien

as if I had changed and they had not—

I have been away too long:

but I cannot live on the mountain

for it is there that I hunted for my food and found

no love!

(Oh where is Miriam by the desert well?) @

 

(2)

 

The words’ modulators recalled undulations

of loving bodies and growing landscapes,

the bitterest meaning with dreamlike invocations

like rhyming death and earth!

 

As long ago, a tree-bough bed

as the shaman blew smoke of hemp leaves

across the face of the ill who bled

with fear, not knowing what to do,

with a rhythmic wail, a dance of arms

to bring the evil spirit out

(or a state of mind)

what else can the magic flower do? +

 

 

 

The poison insects walk outside,

accepted like men who hiding in uniforms,

the evil of exploiting ways, their

preying on the body’s blood-sucked earth,

while poets intone condolences for pain.

There is a soul apart, an immortal bard!

 

He paints our sadness as the road to bliss,

Nirvana as liberation so the animal flesh

need struggle no more for life;

the Shaman knows he will die too

and likewise so believes

till love, I glimpsed your flower through smoking

leaves

and, crying for you saw

the Shaman’s prophetic eyes

as my own in a mask of images nightmare ugly,

with a railing old man inside

who tried

to deny me in my weakness

the right to a warrior’s strength.

 

Transmuted by the Word,

I saw the word’s excuse

For every wrong by means of explanation!

 

The Shaman praised the sky-god

for my healing while I laughed

in my strength wielding its sword;

the Shaman intoning his own solace

through others’ masks and voices—

I trembled, awed!

 

What a grand sentence to end this talk – I trembled, awed!

 

It seems to me that we have lost our ability to be ‘awed’ by the things found with the realm styled Nature. These days we tend to view Nature from a mechanistic worldview — as pointed out in this Lecture.

 

A few months I visited a wildlife sanctuary and as the time went on, a loud speaker announcement asked that visitors make their way to the main exit. Just as I was leaving, I passed a den where a little Tasmanian Devil came rushing out to say ‘Hello.’ — as you can imagine, I couldn’t help but be awed!

 

REFERENCES

[i] Kramer, Pat (1998) Totem Poles, Altitude Publishing Canada p.13

[ii] von Stuckrad, Kocku (2002 Reenchanting Nature: Modern Western Shamanism and Nineteenth-Century Thought, Journal of the American Academy of Religion pp. 771-799

[iii] Crow, W.B. (1968) A History of Magic, Witchcraft and Occultism, Chpt. 2

[iv] 1920-2006. Recognized as a major authority on Native American religions and shamanism. professor of religion at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. During the years 1948 and 1958, Professor Hultrkrantz conducted field work at the Wind River reservation, which resulted in his ground-breaking book, Native American Religions of North America: The Power of Visions and Fertility

[v] Hultkrantz, A (1978) Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism in Diόszegi, V. and Hoppál, M (1978) Shamanism in Siberia.

[vi] Sir E.B. Tylor (1832-1917 is the founder of Cultural Anthropology who coined the term in 1866. However, the development of the word might relate to the German Animismus, as coined by the German physicist, G.E. Stahl, 1600-1734. As cited in Chambers Dictionary of Etymology (1988)

[vii] Jonathan has been working with shamanism since 1972, and has a master’s degree in anthropology. In 1986, he founded the Scandinavian Center for Shamanic Studies together with Annette Høst

[viii] Horwitz, Jonathan (1995) Animism — Everyday Magic, Sacred Hoop 9: 6-10 , 1995

[ix] Aldhouse-Green, Miranda and Stephen (2005) The Quest for the Shaman p.13

[x] Hope Robbins, Rossell (1959) The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology, Crown Publishers USA

Ellen Guiley, Rosemary (1989) The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, Facts on File, USA

[xi] Holland, Eileen (2008) The Wicca Handbook, Red Wheel/Weiser p. 128

[xii] Furst, P.T., ‘Introduction: An Overview of Shamanism’ in Ancient Traditions – Shamanism in Central Asia and the Americas (ed. By G. Seaman and J.S. Day (1994)

[xiii] Furst, P.T., p.3. Peter T. Furst is the author of many books and essays on the Huichol and is Research Associate at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

[xiv] Mastromattei, R and Rigopoulos, A (1999) Shamanic Cosmos: From India to the North Pole Star, D. K. Printworld INDIA p.21

[xv] Mills, Joy (1976) The Theosophist, Volume 97, June 1976.

[xvi] Hultkrantz, A (1978) Ecological and Phenomenological Aspects of Shamanism in Diόszegi, V. and Hoppál, M (1978) Shamanism in Siberia

[xvii] Von Stuckrad, Kocku (2002) Reenchanting Nature: Modern Western Shamanism and Nineteen-Century Thought in J. American Academy of Religion, December 2002, Vol.70 No.4 pp.771-799

[xviii] Hammer, Olav (2004) CLAIMING KNOWLEDGE: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age, Koninklijke Brill nv, Leiden, The Netherlands p.137

[xix] Blavatsky, H.P. (1893) The Secret Doctrine. Vol. 1 p.269

[xx] Blavatsky, H.P. (1892) From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan. Chapter 2

[xxi] Mastromattei, R and Rigopoulos, A (1999) Shamanic Cosmos: From India to the North Pole Star, D. K. Printworld INDIA

[xxii] Saunders, Nicholas J. (1995) Animal Spirits, Duncan Baird Publishes, UK p.112

[xxiii] Gauding, Madonna (2006) Personal Power Animals: For Guidance, Protection and Healing. A Godsfield Book USA pp.25

[xxiv] According to Aleister Crowley, Magic is “the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with will,” when ‘Magic’ is spelt with a ‘K.’

[xxv] The author writes that when it “came” to him, he had not ever studied, read or seen anything about Shamanism though had heard of it via Aldhous Huxley’s Doors of Perception (publ. 1954). He poses the question: was I a shaman in a past life? He sees the poem as just one of those “stream of consciousness” things that come on a dark, silent night.”

 

[xxvi] See Footnotes Box below

 

Footnotes by the Poet

 

$ In the wake of a traumatic emotional heartbreak & loss in 1965 following by a ‘dark night of the Soul.’

* A reference to Jacob, son of Isaac, wrestling by night with an Angel, in the Jewish Old Testament – see EXODUS 2:16-22

@ A reference to Moses, exiled from Egypt, wandering the Sinai Desert, and finding hospitality, with Jethro, the Midianite, by the well in the wilderness, where he falls in love with and marries his daughter Miriam. GENESIS 32:24-29

+ What is this mysterious ‘Magic Flower’? It could be the hallucinogenic flowering button of the Mescallin Cactus, used by Native Americans for Shamanic initiations which I have read about, but did not try till into 1968 or it could be simpler than that, the transformative POWER of LOVE itself?

 

If you wish to contact the author please email: andrewrooke@hotmail.com