Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What makes Shamanism Real?

(Posted at my other blog, www.shamanicfreestate.blogspot.com.) I’ve been trying to write a bit of copy to advertise the shamanic healing I do, and it’s not proving easy. I would like to write a load of stuff talking about traditional shamans and what they do, suggesting that I am somehow in that timeless lineage, and that what I do echoes back to the dawn of time etc. But I can’t bring myself to do that, because I don’t think it's true.

I’ve had a fair bit to do with a Chippewa Cree guy who used to come and stay with me over a period of 7 or 8 years, and he did teachings and told stories and ran sweat lodges. We used to have great metaphysical conversations over breakfast, and he said that what I do would be described as a ’personal medicine’ within his tradition. And he also felt the inner connections from which I was speaking when I talked astrology, even though he knew nothing about the subject itself.

But that is the extent of my connection to a living tradition. And I want to be real about that and not bum it up into something it isn’t.

I think that living indigenous traditions are both an inspiration and a burden for us modern westerners. We can be too eager to make the indigenous link to what we do, even if it’s just by implication. And not to put too fine a point on it, I think it is often a bit bogus -  though we may not realise it, because our teachers may have in turn talked in those terms. Mine certainly did, though they hadn’t had much to do with indigenous people. OK, your spirit guides might tell you stuff – I knew one guy whose guide was giving him Lakota teachings, and they were good teachings, but in my book you can’t then say they are Lakota. And I don’t think it’s enough to visit someone in the jungle for a few days – valuable as that might be – and then add it to your CV as indigenous cred. I think the real stuff gets transmitted through getting to know people, and that takes time.

And what I think all this comes down to is the search for authenticity, and what we think of as authenticity, in a time when our own traditions have broken down.

Pluto abducts Persephone
In my opinion, the only thing that is authentic is inner experience, and that is something that is usually hard won. It takes many years. It takes being dismembered so that what is essential can shine through. I am currently being dismembered for the 2nd time (or, as a dream woman told me recently, I am undergoing my ‘second psycho-synthesis’). And I am 58. The first dismemberment was in my 30s. Pluto abducted me into his Underworld. These things have happened to me, I have not chosen them. I still feel like a hot-headed mess a lot of the time. But at best, it means that when I do astrology readings, the symbols come alive, and something real and charged comes out of my mouth. And it also means that I get taken over by a wonderful beast who heals people.

So it is this that is real, not any connection to indigenous people. And – here is my point – I think we can to a degree disempower our own gifts by seeking validation through a supposed connection to indigenous people.

What we do needs to stand alone. We moderns have our own spirit connections. Shamanism is what we do, not what indigenous people do. Shamanism may be inspired by what they do, but for most of us the link is tenuous in real terms.

I’ve been an astrologer for many years, and something I noticed about the astrological world is that it is very accepting of all sorts of different types of astrology. Apart from the odd traditionalist, you don’t get people suggesting that this is real astrology and this isn’t. And the shamanic world similarly seems welcoming of all sorts of different types of shamanism. But it also sometimes seems to me a bit overly-concerned with what is real shamanism and what isn’t. 

Of course you don’t want too many people claiming to be shamanic healers who may have some ability, but who haven’t gone through the years of personal training that are usually necessary to do it with integrity. Though I suspect that flakey - or even dark - element has always been part of the picture. But that’s not what I’m getting at here: it’s the sense that our shamanism is more real if it has an observable link to an indigenous tradition, which isn't that different to Christians quoting from the Bible. And I think there can be an element of wishful thinking, that gets passed on from teacher to pupil.

What I suppose I’m rooting for here is that we need a way of describing what we do without the validating references to indigenous peoples, valuable and profound as their example can be. One of humanity’s weaknesses is an attachment to the past, as though that was somehow more real and validates what we do now. We live in a unique time where it is possible to drop all that and start afresh. Now is a melting pot, where there is room for original inspiration. Our spirit guides know what to do, they're on the case, they can do this thing if we don't get in the way too much.


LotusLady9 said...

I have always considered reading your blog as essential because wherever your influences derive from, I always find your message authentic. I am neither an astrologer or a shaman but I try to learn about these concepts as I continue on my road of spiritual progress. If it rings true in my heart or gets under my skin to challenge my thinking then I wrestle with it as long as I need to. I wondered when you mentioned this 'second psycho-synthesis' at age 58 if it could also be part of your second Saturn return? Anyway, thanks again for sharing your wonderful ideas and writing.

Jamie said...

I also really enjoy your blog and the down to earth approach. I have been on a learning path with regard to my spirituality for quite a long time now and have found that what works for me doesn't come in a neatly wrapped and advertised package. I am a New Zealander living in Argentina. Here I see people rushing into the Andes or to the Amazon in search of the Pachamama (Earth Mother) secret or to reclaim the wisdom of the indigenous and while there is good sound learnings to be had, something raises a question with me and I am not sure that these urban types can come back to the big city bringing "the answer" for us. Maybe the experience of going bush works for them but maybe that is as far as it goes.
I decided two or three years ago to explore my own background. Born from a white anglo background in New Zealand with its strong Maori influence. I have beem making contact with Maori healers and the like. And I have also visited other seed Pacific Islands: Easter Island, Tahiti and Hawaii - always seeking to connect with the spiritual side.
What I am concluding on this quest is that the actual rituals and traditions do not speak to me at all. The energy of the land is what I am feeling most, sometimes a doorway open to their gods (but in my way) and as you say in the April 29 post, a confirmation that certain native habits like listening to their nature, spirits, etc is very valid.
I also sense that my connection to this part of the world is directly Lemurian and not via more recent cultures that have channeled that energy. What specifically I need to learn from Lemuria I still don't know but I do know that hugging trees and communing with the land, the minerals, the vegetation, the water and the air has been a powerful experience.

So what you say about it being an internal journey which is not necessarily validated by any particular tradition rings very true for me and I wonder about all the people who feel the need for this validation. I have felt it not to be easy to explain things as just being because somewhere inside I know or feel it, when I sense that the other wants me to provide an indigenous bibliographic reference.

Keep up your excellent and honest writing!