Posts Tagged With: Shamanism

FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

Folk medicine consists of traditional healing beliefs and methods used in
past cultures mostly by people deemed to have the healing power. As an part of a
culture’s knowledge and values, folk medicine is a system based on traditional
modes of conduct, of coping with sickness. Often sanctioned by the population’s
claims or religious beliefs, these popular practices are used to alleviate the
distress of disease and restore harmony in people who are emotionally or
physically ill, or both. Folk medicine’s lore is widely known among members of a
culture and is usually handed down from generation to generation by word of
mouth.

In general, the system is flexible, allowing the introduction of new ideas about
sickness and healing practices, many of them borrowed from classical and modern
medicine.

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HEALERS

To implement the various folk curing practices, most social groups have
established a hierarchy of healers–beginning with the individuals affected,
their immediate families and friends, knowledgeable herbalists, members of the
clergy, faith healers, and SHAMANS, or medicine men. Many are consulted because
of their empirical knowledge of roots and herbs possessing medicinal properties.
Others are considered endowed with healing gifts because of station or accidents
of birth. The belief that posthumous children have such talents is widely known
in the United States. In the European folk-medical tradition, seventh sons and
daughters are said to possess unusual curing powers; the same applies to twins.
Often spouses and children of known healers are automatically considered to have
similar gifts. As in primitive medicine, many people affected by ailments that
are considered minor and natural treat themselves, with the help of family
members. A vast array of easily available herbal preparations known to most
members of the culture is used to effect a cure. More difficult cases suspected
to be of a magico-religious nature are referred to local healers who are endowed
with special powers. These shamans stage a variety of ceremonies and employ many
of the techniques used in preliterate social groups.

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NAVAJOS

Native American folk medicine is popular in the less acculturated Indian
tribes. A notable example are the Navajos still living in their homeland.
Disease is considered a disruption of harmony caused either by external agents
such as lightning and winds, powerful animals and ghosts, and witchcraft, or by
the breaking of taboos. Three categories of folk healers are usually consulted:
first the herbalists, for symptomatic relief of minor ailments; if no
improvement is observed, then the hand trembler, or diviner, is called; finally,
the singer, or MEDICINE MAN, will carry out specific healing ceremonies
suggested by the hand trembler’s diagnosis. Ritual sweatbaths, drinking of
herbs, and elaborate sandpainting ceremonies characterize Navajo folk healing.

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HOT-COLD THEORY

The hot-cold theory of disease ranks among the most popular systems of
contemporary folk medicine in the United States. In health, the human body
displays a balanced blending of hot and cold qualities. Sickness will ensue
if an excess of hot or cold foodstuffs is ingested. The basic scheme was
introduced into Latin America by the Spanish during the 16th century. Reinforced
by native cultural values, it became firmly embedded in popular Latin healing
traditions. The hot-cold scheme is applied to foods, diseases, and remedies. The
terms hot and cold do not necessarily refer to the temperature of foods or
remedies. Qualities are assigned on the basis of origin, color, nutritional
value, physiological effects of the food or remedy, as well as therapeutical
action. Among New York Puerto Ricans, for example, bananas, coconuts, and sugar
cane are considered cold, whereas chocolate, garlic, alcoholic beverages, and
corn meal are hot. Cold-classified illnesses such are arthritis, colds, and
gastric complaints must be treated with hot foods and remedies. Their hot
counterparts –constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal cramps–require treatment
with cold substances.

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BLACK AMERICANS

The medical folklore of black Americans contains elements derived from popular
European and African beliefs, blended with religious elements belonging to
Christian Fundamentalism and West Indian voodoo. The world is seen as a
dangerous place, prompting individuals to constantly exert caution because
of the whims of nature, frequent divine punishment, and the threat of witchcraft
practiced by hostile humans. Individuals are urged to look out for themselves,
be distrustful, and avoid the wrath of God. Sickness is broadly divided into
“natural” and “unnatural.” The former comprises bodily conditions caused by
environmental forces as well as God’s punishment for sin. Unnatural illness
represents health problems caused by evil influences and witchcraft after the
loss of divine protection; the magical intrusion of “animals” into the body and
the placement of a certain hex play prominent roles in the causation of disease.

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MEXICAN-AMERICANS

Folk medicine is still popular among large groups of Mexican-Americans in New
Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and especially in West Texas. Their
healing system, based on pre-Columbian indigenous lore, reflects a degree of
isolation and unwillingness to assimilate Anglo-Saxon culture. Moreover, the
inability of scientific medicine to offer relief for various categories of folk
illness further enhances the usefulness of these practices. Five types of folk
illness are most prominent: mal de ojo (evil eye), empacho (gastro-intestinal
blockage due to excessive food intake), susto (magically induced fright), caida
de la mollera (fallen fontanel, or opening in or between bones), and mal puesto
(sorcery). Prominent among Mexican-American folk healers is the curandero, a
type of shaman who uses white magic and herbs to effect cures. In the cosmic
struggle between good and evil, the curandero, using God-given powers, wards
against harmful spells and hexes. As in other folk systems, faith in the
curandero’s abilities is the essence of the healer’s continued success.

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FOLK MEDICINE TODAY

Folk medical systems, especially those ftinctionffig in a pluralistic society
comprising several distinct ethnic groups (as in the United States), govern
domestic healing activities to a great extent. Recently, the increasing
complexity, technicality, and cost of modem medicine have spurred renewed
attempts at self-medication and the use of herbal preparations, thus reviving
folk medical practices.

A number of folk remedies used *in the past are now manufactured as
pharmaceutical preparations prescribed by physicians. For example, rauwolfia is
an extract of the snakeroot plant, which was used for centuries in the Far East
for its calming effect. It is now prescribed by physicians to lower blood
pressure. Reserpine, a derivative of rauwolfia, has been used by psychiatrists
‘in treating severe mental disorders. Foxglove was first brewed by Indians to
treat dropsy, fluid in the legs caused by heart problems. This practice occurred
for hundreds of years before it was discovered that foxglove contributed the
active ingredients now known as digitalis. Today digitalis is commonly used to
stimulate weakened hearts.

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THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

Pagans/witches have a wide variety of healing techniques in their
arsenal.  The healing arts encompass the magical and medicinal herbalisms,
shamanistic practices (roughly speaking, using the powers of a spirit
guide), the raising of energy directed towards the patient (cone of power,
creative visualization, etc.), “direct” intercession with the gods, and
standard medical practices (Western medicine, Oriental medicine.)
An effective healing may be any combination of the above, depending on
circumstances.
Several rules of ethics govern the use of the healing arts.  These
follow, along with a few suggestions that may prove useful to the
practicioners of the healing arts:

*If a circumstance calls for standard Western medicine, do not ignore
this in favor of other methods of healing.  Any “witch” who tells you that
his/her treatment is only valid if one stops taking prescribed medicine, or
forgoes recommended surgery should be reported to the local Better Business
Bureau, post haste.  Either they do not realize that the magical methods can
complement “modern” methods, or they are (more likely) con artists.  Stop
them before they hurt someone else, in some cases, fatally.  There is a case
in New Jersey of someone who halted her insulin treatments by the order of a
“witch”, as proof that she had “faith” in that “witch’s” treatment.  Those
pagans who are M.D.’s see no substitution for standard medical practices.
Rather, other workings may be seen as supplementations.  This cannot be
stressed enough.

*Avoid charging for healings.  Certainly, reimbursement for equipment
used is valid, but charging for healings is both unethical and can get one
in trouble with the law, for practicing medicine without a license.  Now,
there is much debate within the Pagan community over charging for magical
services of whatever kind; but it seems to me to be a cheapening of the gift
to charge for it.

*Never heal someone without their consent.  Reasons a person may not
give his/her consent are varied, and must be considered.  Respect the wishes
of others.  One may, however, heal those for whom there is no way to ask
consent — if someone is in a coma, it is permissible to work a direct
healing upon that person.  I find that, for people I cannot mention Craft
healing work to, for one reason or another, that sending healing energy to
the VICINITY of that person is ethical.  The person is then free, on a lower
or subconscious level, to take in that energy (in whatever form they can use
it) or to reject it.  The energy is simply made available for their use,
interpretable by their psyches, and usable according to their own Will.  To
force healing upon someone, whatever your intent, interferes with the other
person’s freedom of choice, unethical in itself, and will have unfavorable
repercussions both for you and for that other person.  You might, for
instance, become the sort of person who Presumes to know what is Good For
Everyone Else, and you might have a good future as a book-burner (at least
in spirit).

*Some people seem to have more of a knack with the non-standard healing
arts than others.  Those people who are the best healers are not necessarily
in the best graces with their god/goddess.  Just because a person can heal
does not imply that their theo/a/logy is the best.  Much of non-traditional
haling may tap into some of the same wellsprings, but healing in and of
itself does not guarantee religious correctness.  Some healers, indeed, are
only marginally religious.  (Obviously, the same applies to MD’s.)

*A healer using herbs has the responsibility of knowing about the herbs
he or she uses.  There are many contradictory statements in the literature,
and there are some herbs that should not be taken in large concentrations;
and there are some herbs that should not be taken by pregnant women or
nursing mothers.  A herbalist should learn the literature, and learn to
distrust literature that does not list contraindications.  Some herbs
recommended in the literature are, frankly, mere superstitions.  Others have
indeed proved effective, and some of these have even passed on to Western
medical practice (digitalis, for instance).

*Those using creative visualization are advised to visualize the
patient as being healthy and happy.  Avoid, while doing the working,
visualizing the patient in his current sick or unhealthy state.  Sometimes
it helps to imagine the patient doing something he or she enjoys doing.

*In creative visualization/cone of power methods the patient may be
present, or may be absent.  It helps, if the patient is present, to touch
the patient directly and gently.

*Those using shamanistic techniques should be well-grounded in such
techniques.  They should have gone on various shamanistic journeys
themselves, and have overcome obstacles on such journeys.  This is in order
that one might be confident and capable during the ordeal of shamanistic
healing.

*After doing energy raising and/or shamanistic techniques of healing,
be very certain to “ground out”.  Shamanism has some of its own techniques,
but after Craft-style healings one method is to lay one’s hands forcibly on
the ground (or floor), exhaling deeply, feeling the excess power returning
to the Earth.

*As a healer, remember that a person’s sickness is not some sort of
supernatural punishment for something he has or has not done.  It is not
your position as healer to cast that sort of judgement.  There are some who
would disagree with me on this, but these are the same sorts who would
reckon AIDS to be a karmic punishment, or who would reckon the starvation in
Ethiopia to be another sort of karmic punishment.

*Know your level of competence.  If you are asked to do a healing, and
you are competent, and the person is sensible about seeking standard medical
help if appropriate; and/or if standard medical help is not helping, it is
in your position to render such aid as you are competent to render.

*No matter how you do whatever it is that you do concerning healing, a
proper “bedside manner” must be more than cultivated; it must be believed.

*Western culture is beginning to realize that standard medicine cannot
solve all illnesses.  Hence, the advent of hospices.  Non-standard healing
practices are (or should be) well-grounded in the notion that not every
ailment, disease, or illness can be cured.  It is a heavy responsibility
upon the healer to deal with this realization.  The pagan religions see
birth, life, and death as an acceptable and natural cycle.  At some time, a
pagan healer will likely come face to face with the notion of mortality;
with the notion that there are patients, despite all skill and caring, that
cannot be cured.  Depending upon the ailment, the healer must know how to
react.  This is true, of course, for even standard MD practice.  At a
certain point, the wholistic/pagan healer must accept the inevitability of
failure; possibly even the inevitability of death.  At such point, whatever
techniques the healer knows for bestowing a sense of tranquility to the
patient are appropriate.  Healing energy may be sent; sent to comfort and
confer the peace of mind essential for a good transition between life and
death.  It is also beneficial if people close to the patient relate to the
patient on a day-to-day basis of support and encouragement, allowing that
person to express whatever he or she needs to express.  Similar energy and
support, sent to a person to help them deal with a permanent but non-fatal
disability, is also appropriate.  Patients require confidence and strength
in such situations, and these may be reinforced in a number of ways, both
magical and day-to-day.

*Remember, take a lot of healing practices with a grain of salt.
Filipino spirit surgery I’d take with a whole bushel.

*One should also be aware of the values of preventative medicine.

- Jehana, 1987.  Distribute freely if copied in entirity -

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Daily Feng Shui News for Feb. 13 – ‘Madly In Love With Me Day’

A long time ago I learned an ancient self-love technique from a Balinese shaman that greatly helps to increase a sense of self-worth and esteem. This is an especially applicable tip to share on today’s ‘Madly In Love With Me Day.’ Every morning when you awake, look into your eyes in the mirror and mean it when you say to yourself, ‘I love you.’ Do this every morning for 40 straight days and you won’t believe how great you feel about yourself at the end of this entire exercise.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com

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Trancework and Journeying

Trancework and Journeying

Author:   RuneWolf   

I came to Paganism directly through the practice of “core shamanism, ” so trancework was a foundation stone of my spiritual practice even before I consciously thought of myself as Pagan, and it remains so to this day. It is the third leg of the cauldron, so to speak, in my communication with the Gods, especially my Patron, the other two being prayer and meditation. I personally see these three practices as separate and distinct, although they are quite similar in many respects and overlap considerably in my practice.

Meditation, to me, is just plain ol’ Eastern-style void-stillness meditation, and I use it to give myself a break when the chatter of Talking Self gets to be too much. I use it to wind down the “rat wheel, ” to reestablish my spiritual equilibrium and to center and ground out the toxic energies we so often encounter—and accumulate—in the workaday world. I have been known to “slide sideways” from meditation into a spontaneous journey, but I do consider meditation a discipline, much like regular exercise, and when I set aside time to meditate, I try to stay focused on just that practice.

Prayer, for me, is nothing more or less than talking directly to the Gods. I have regular times – morning and evening, for instance—when I pray, but I don’t limit my contact with Deity just to those times. Depending on what’s happening in my life, I may be in prayer pretty much all day long, and I talk to the Gods “just as if” They were right there in the room—or the car!—with me, because in my understanding of reality, They are. Sometimes They answer, sometimes They don’t, but They are always there, and They always hear.

Journeying is what I do when I want to meet the Gods “face to face, ” in Their own Realm, and the majority of my journeys have been very vivid and very powerful. I have always been a very visually-oriented individual, and I conceptualize in pictures. So the imagery of journeying comes very naturally and powerfully to me, and it’s only a small step from there to incorporate sound and texture. The subjective realities of my journeys are so immediate, that I react physically to my surroundings—I’m told by observers that I “twitch” during journeys, as my physical body attempts to mimic the responses and movements of my Otherworld form.

Initially, I was concerned that small details—and sometimes large ones!—appeared to be inconsistent between one journey and the next, or even during the same journey. My Patron advised me that this was a matter of experience. Our minds, conditioned to this reality, have to adapt to the sensory input of the Otherworlds, and apparent inconsistencies in the appearance, texture, smell or whatever of Otherworld localities and entities is due to this process of adaptation. Over time, with practice and repetitive journeys to the same destination(s), our perceptions grow more acute, more vivid and more stable—if such a word can apply to the Otherworlds.

The other side of the trancework coin is “invoking for possession, ” or “channeling” Deity. I don’t normally trance in this manner, as the sensation of Someone co-habiting my body is unsettling to me. It can also be a dangerous practice, I’m told, although I have never had any unpleasant consequences myself, aside from the aforementioned discomfort. Indeed, on the three occasions I have invoked for possession, the sensations have been nothing short of ecstatic and transcendental. Perhaps the danger lies in that; I might easily get hooked on the “buzz” of channeling!

In all seriousness, invoking for possession is something to be attempted only with a foundation of experience in other forms of trancing, and with expert and caring guidance and companionship in this realm.

To prepare for trancework, I normally create some form of sacred space, usually a simple circle, invoking the Spirits of place and my other Allies to watch over my physical form while I am away. This is my “launching pad, ” and ensures that I have a safe point of departure and return, and also serves as a “homing beacon” when I’m journeying deep into the Otherworld.

I usually take a few minutes to stretch and massage out any kinks or stiffness that I may have physically. I also take time to consciously set aside any intellectual or emotional issues that may not have to do with the purpose of the upcoming journey, but which may create unwanted “static.”

After a few years of experience, I have found that simple breathing techniques, coupled with the appropriate visualizations, are enough to induce the trance and begin the journey. I have always used the cave/passage or well/pool theme as my entrance into the Otherworlds—lately I favor the well, as Brighid is becoming an increasingly important part of my life. For deep journeys, or when I’m having trouble “launching, ” I use a simple single-beat drumming CD. I prefer the CD as it doesn’t have the hiss that a tape does. Live drumming would be great, but I don’t usually have access to a drummer.

Of course, it always helps to take the phone off the hook, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign, and so forth; the fewer distractions the better. And I try not to journey on a full stomach—I tend to slip from “journey” to “dream, ” and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I might not get done what I wanted to do!

On returning, I take time to jot down a few notes, capturing the “high points, ” as it were, of the journey. I do this even if the impressions seem vivid and lasting, as things will sometimes become jumbled or fade in the most unexpected ways. After that, I often find a bit more stretching to be in order. As I have said, I respond physically to my journeys, and I have come back stiff and sore from particularly lively trips. I do a pretty typical grounding and centering before I release the sacred space, and then I make it a habit to have a light snack. I don’t usually eat heavily for at least half-an-hour to an hour after a journey, as I have found the effects unpleasant on one or two occasions.

One thing I practiced early on was “bailing out”—hitting the astral Panic Button and returning to normal consciousness at a moment’s notice. I practiced this to get used to the sensations—often unpleasant—of this kind of emergency exit, in the event I had to do so unexpectedly during a journey. I’ve never had to, but if I do, I believe I will be better able to handle the situation, having practiced on my own. Sort of like fire drills in school. One caution—I did my “fire drills” on my own; I would not recommend this! If possible, do these with a partner or teacher.

Journeying is, for me, a mystical, ecstatic practice. We often associate “ecstatic” with extravagant physical movements, but the physical stillness of a journey trance can mask incredibly powerful sensations. And I sometimes journey simply to experience that ecstasy, to replenish my internal reserves in a most emphatic way. I also use it to commune, in a very intimate and personal fashion, with Deity. I am not one of those who can “see” Deities and other Beings of Power in this realm. I can only do that when I journey to the Otherworld. So it is an affirmation, if you will, of the reality of Deity, and of the profundity of my relationship with Spirit. I can meet with the Gods in Their Realms, face to face, to question and learn, and sometimes just to socialize. It has been my experience that the Gods crave an intimate relationship with Their children, of a kind that cannot be experienced through the filter of dogma and liturgy, however “spontaneous” and “unstructured.” Just as Mom prefers a visit to a phone call, the Gods prefer to meet us “in the flesh, ” no matter how fervent our prayers or how reverent our ritual.

On those occasions when I have journeyed for the specific purpose of healing others, I can only say that it apparently did no harm to the subject of the healing. Was it “successful?” Did it “work?” That is difficult to quantify. Everyone I helped in such a fashion had been exploring every possible avenue for healing—if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have agreed to help. When we need healing, for whatever reason, I believe we must use every possible resource. To rely on one technique or body of knowledge to the exclusion of others is to limit the ways in which the Gods may help us. So I can’t say that my journeying alone, or the acupuncture alone, or the prayer alone, or the vitamins alone, or the chemicals alone, were what ultimately helped one person or another. I tend to think that everything positive we do for ourselves helps in some way. So I feel that, in journeying for those in need, I did indeed contribute to their wellness.

In Their Service…

RuneWolf

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Practice and method of Shamanism

Practice and method of Shamanism

The shaman plays the role of healer in shamanic societies; shamans gain knowledge and power by traversing the axis mundi and bringing back knowledge from  the heavens. Even in western society, this ancient practice of healing is referenced by the use of the caduceus as the symbol of medicine.

Oftentimes the shaman has, or acquires, one or more familiar helping entities in the spirit world; these are often spirits in animal form, spirits of  healing plants, or (sometimes) those of departed shamans. In many shamanic societies, magic, magical force, and knowledge are all denoted by one word, such  as the Quechua term yachay.

While the causes of disease are considered to lie in the realm of the spiritual, being effected by malicious spirits or Witchcraft, spiritual methods as  well as what we would consider physical methods are used to heal. The shaman often will enter the body of their patient to find the spirit making the patient  sick, and heal by removing the infectious spirit by the patient.

However, many shamans have expert knowledge of the plant life in their area, and an herbal regimine is often perscribed as treatment. In many places, the  shamans claim to learn from the plants directly, only being able to determine the effects of a plant and use it to heal after meeting the spirit of the plant  and getting permission.

In South America, individual spirits are called through singing icaros; to call the spirit, the spirit must teach you their song.

The use of totem items such as rocks is common; these items are believed to have special powers and an animating spirit.

Such practices are presumably very ancient; in circa 368 bc, Plato wrote in the Phaedrus that the “first prophecies were the words of an oak”,  and that everyone who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to “listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth”.

The belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, is prevalent in many shamanic societies.

Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill; that is,  shamans are in some societies also thought of as being capable of harm. The shaman usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community, renowned for  their powers and knowledge; but they may also be suspected of harming others and thus feared.

In engaging in this work the shaman exposes himself to significant personal risk, from the spirit world, from any enemy shamans, as well as from the means  employed to alter his state of consciousness. Certain of the plant materials used can kill, and the out-of-body journey itself can lead to non-returning and  physical death; spells of protection are common, and the use of more dangerous plants is usually very highly ritualized.

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Celtic Shamanism

Celtic Shamanism

Definitions  
According to archaeological and ethnological evidence, shamanism has been part of nature practices for some 10 to 20,000 years. Some suggest it’s    much longer back than that.The basic concepts are found all over the world, from Siberia, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The word ‘Shaman,’    is actually a Tungus (Siberian) word for a spiritual practice or profession that is still practiced today. Shamanism is not rooted in any organized    religious tradition, but is instead a system of abilities utilized for contact with divine spirit. Shamanic systems vary, but there are basic similarities    in most. But before we can begin understanding what Celtic Shamanism is, we need a common understanding of what Shamanism is itself. There are of course,    many definitions, so let’s cover a few.
In the Donning Encyclopedic Psychic Dictionary, June Bletzer, PhD, describes Shamanism as a very highly respected profession where one serves    his tribe with psychic skills and healing abilities which is intermingled with influential guidance, protection and advanced knowledge from the Etheric    World.
Websters Dictionary defines shamanism as the religion of certain peoples of ancient peoples, based on a belief in good and evil spirits who can be    influenced only by shamans.
In her renowned work Witches & Witchcraft, Rosemary Ellen Guiley describes Shamanism as a system of belief and healing practiced by a    Shaman who enters an altered state of consciousness, which enables him/her to communicate with guardian and helping spirits to draw upon divine    energy.
Kenneth Meadows in Shamanic Experience, describes shamanism as The practice of the principles and techniques which involves working with the    energy of nature that exist both inside and outside the individual self as both manifest forms and unmanifest potentials.
From The Celtic Shaman, John Mathews defines Shamanism as only one of a number of labels used by various cultures to denote someone who through trance    and ecstasy, enters other states of being which he/she usually lives. Returning with news and guidance from which all humanity can benefit.
One of the foremost authors on Shamanism, Mircea Eliade explains, the fundamental characteristic of shamanism is ecstasy. In all probability the    ecstatic experience in its many aspects is coexistent with the human condition in the sense that it is an integral part of what is called man’s gaining    consciousness of his specific mode of being in the word. Shamanism is not only a technique of ecstasy it’s theology and it’s philosophy finally    depend on the spiritual value that is accorded to ecstasy.
In Spiral Dance, Starhawk states Witchcraft is a shamanistic religion and the spiritual value placed on ecstasy is a high one. It is the    source of union, healing, creative inspiration and communion with the divine.
      Margot Adler, in Drawing Down the Moon, refers to the definition put forth by one of my favorite authors on Shamanism, Michael Harner. And this      is the definition we’ll use through out this article.      
Shamanism is best defined as a method to open a door and enter a different reality. A shaman is someone who enters an altered state of        consciousness and goes on a journey in order to gather knowledge from a different reality populated by spirit, the spirit of plants and animals, and        the divine self both within and around the individual. The methods used depend on the culture. Some cultures use drugs, others use drumming and        ecstatic dancing. And still others utilize chanting, dancing, trance, meditation, wine, fasting, vision quests and sexuality.
Shamanism is a very highly respected profession wherein one serves his or her community as a spiritual leader. Providing guidance through psychic    skills, healing abilities and communications with Divine spirit. Believed to be learned from a past incarnation and initiations, along with study and    practice in the current embodiment.
The Shaman, in the strictest definition is more often viewed through it’s secondary meaning “one who is dedicated to a spiritual life    achieving a level of leadership and teaching”. The profession can be found under various other titles such as Mantis, Druid, Medicine Man or Woman.    The Greeks called them Bhopa.
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Wiccan Shamanism

Wiccan Shamanism

by Selena Fox

typed by Lewis for P.A.N. 508-795-7628

Shamanism exists in tribal cultures around the world and has done so for centuries. Yet, in reading most anthropological texts on Shamanism, there is  little, if any reference made to shamanism in Europe. However Shamanism has existed among the peoples of Europe not only in ancient times, but also through  the present day. During the Middle Ages, the Old Ways largely disappeared from public view because of persecution. Yet they were not eradicated but took a  more underground existence. Today, there are some of us of European ancestry that are bringing Shamanic ways rooted in pre-Christian Europe back into the  light.

Wiccan Shamanism is a term I began using several years ago in an attempt to describe my own path of magick and spirituality in relation to the other forms  of Shamanism on the Planet. Wiccan Shamanism draws on the Old but it is not simply an attempt re-construction and revival of the Old Ways of tribal Europe.  Wiccan Shamanism blends both the Old and the New to suit the modern times in which we live. Although emphasis is on European symbology and traditions Wiccan  Shamanism is multi-cultural, incorporating ways of other healers and magick workers from many places and eras.

What follows is a glimpse into Wiccan Shamanism as I know it and practice it. While Jim, Dennis, and others who help with various aspects of CIRCLES work  may share many of these concepts, I speak here only for myself – for at the heart of this spiritual approach is the idea that each person must seek their own  connection with the Divine, within their own Self, rather than having me or anyone else do this for them. This is not a path of a leader with followers, but  a path where each becomes their own leader.

I call to the Powers of the Four Quarters — to Earth in the North which is the Realm of the Physical Body and Material Plane, to Air in the East which is  the Realm of Thoughts and Intellect, to Fire in the South which is the Realm of Will Power and Action, and Water in the West which is the Realm of Emotions  and Intuition. My Medicine Wheel is the Magick Circle which connects the Four Quarters. The sacred places I frequent include a high rock, a crystal clear  spring fed pool n a hidden valley and a circle of stones in a grove of Oak and Birch on a mound.

I am a channel between Planet Earth beneath my feet and the Heavens above my head. I become the World tree when I Shamanize, linking the transforming Dark  of the Underworld with the Awakening Light of the Upperworld.

I am the Crystal LIght that is at the Center of the Circle and is the fifth Element Spirit. I seek always to act out of MY own Inner Self which is at the  enter of MY being, for my Inner Self in the Balance of all the Elements, of my Female and Male sides, of my Lunar and Solar natures of my intellect and  intuition my Inner Self is my doorway into the realm where All is One.

I see the Circle of Life from the Center. I watch the Seasons change as the Wheel of the Year turns and I celebrate the 8 sabbats. I connect with the  dance of Night and Day, of Fair and Stormy Weathers, of the Waxing and Waning Moon. I see the cycle of Birth, Growth, Maturity, Death, and Rebirth in all of  Nature. I examine the cycles of my own life and of the lives of those who seek healing aid from me.

I am the traveler between the World of Daily Life and the Otherworld which is the land of Dreams, visions and Spirits. I am a Consciousness Explorer. the  Otherworldis as real and as important to me as the Day-to-Day World. I bridge the Worlds rather than seeking to dwell solely in one or the other. I journey  into the Otherworld for a reason — to bring back healing and knowledge to apply to Daily Life, helping others, myself and the Planet.

I see the Divine in all things. My friends and allies include not only humans but also plants, animals, rocks, winds, waters, fire, stars, and other life  forms. I commune with the Source some call “God” as both Mother Goddess and Father God, for both aspects are necessary for the Unity.

The main focus of my Shamanic work is Healing. I was called to this path as a young child in dreams and Out-of-Body experiences, but I didn’t begin my  work until my adult years when I started Healing myself. To do this I journeyed alone into the Pit of my Shadow Self and came face-to-face with my problems  and hang-ups; my doubts fears, disillusionments, rejections, angers and hurts; with all MY false self images. Words can not begin to express the misery, the  utter despair the powerlessness I felt during this time. Yet coming apart was essential; it enabled me to break through the barriers which I had formed and  let others form in my psyche that had kept me from being one with my True Self. In the deepest Darkness, I felt the Light of my own Inner Self beginning to  shine through. I focused on the Light and slowly emerged from the Pit, stronger and more integrated than ever before and with the power to heal others as  well as myself. As a result of this transformation process, my life’s work became clear. I now help others from their own pits of negativity and become  whole again.

Yet my work also extends to more than Humankind; it involves bringing Healing to the Planet as a whole. In my communing with the Land, I have heard the  cries of the Earth Mother, sorrowing over the self-centered, greedy, intolerant, and destructive behaviors of many of Her human children, who are polluting  the soils, water, and air; who are playing power games with nuclear fire; and who are polluting the spiritual atmosphere of the entire world with their  narrow-mindedness and hate. I am deeply concerned about survival — not of the Planet Herself for all the humans in the world can not destroy Her even with  all their weapons; She is too strong and powerful for that to happen. What I am concerned about is the survival of the human race. — will we annihilate  ourselves and many of the life forms around us, or will we wake up in time to see the larger picture, find and implement creative solutions to the worlds  problems, and enter a New Age of expanded consciousness?

The Balance of Life can be restored on Planet Earth; Harmony can be restored between humankind and other life forms; Love consciousness can increase and  be prevalent on the Earth. I, along with numerous other healers and ministers from a variety of spiritual traditions around the world today have responded to  the upset of Mother Earth by dedicating our lives to this Planetary Healing Work, each in our own way. It is this Great Work that underlies all the healing  and other things I do. It is the Heart of Wiccan Shamanism.

First published in fall 1984 “Circle Network News”;   © 1984, CIRCLE, Box 219, Mt. Horeb WI 53572 USA.

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Shaman, Priest, Priestess, Pastor, or Candlestick-Maker

Shaman, Priest, Priestess, Pastor, or Candlestick-Maker

Author:   Alfred Willowhawk, DMsc, RMT, CTM, Shaman   

Humans are always reaching for understanding. Whatever their religious, spiritual, or non-spiritual philosophy, we are always seeking to understand the world around us. In our pre-industrialized world, we sought these answers from individuals who seemed to have a better connection than the general population with unseen realms. They were sometimes called shamans, druids, priestesses or priests. Our post-industrialized world calls these individuals, pastors, priests, and guides. Many individuals of western religious frameworks may disagree with this contention. This article will demonstrate that the term used is really immaterial; after all, “a rose by any other name will smell as sweet”, thanks to Shakespeare.

What is a Shaman and why is the term so popular today? We acknowledge that the term “shaman” is not of Celtic or Western European origin. It is actually Siberian in origin but has come to be applied to any Otherworld “journeyer” who functions as a guide for his culture and people. It has also become associated with First Nations, indigenous peoples, and Native Americans. We are not attempting to appropriate the term as used by First Nations or Native Americans.

The term ‘’Otherworld is a uniquely Celtic word, which has similarities to the Underworld of Wiccan and other neo-pagan places. It is a real place, not made up in the head of a person, where the deities and personkind interact. It also overlaps the mundane or physical world. Today, most individuals of Celtic descent and practice call this the Faery Realm. This realm is the depository of all the archetypes of being. Interaction with individuals within this realm can bring forth the entire spectrum of emotional, spiritual, and physical responses. Whether one feels fear, joy, excitement, or any other emotion – the journey to the otherworld is always revealing.

As an individual spends time there, many aspects of oneself become apparent. Deceit is not tolerated there and is easily perceived. The oldest known story of the Celtic Otherworld is the Immram Curaig Maelduin Inso or the Voyage of Malduin’s Boat. It was first transcribed in the eighth or ninth century in its entirety. It visits the thirty-three islands of the Celtic Otherworld and serves as a lesson for any visitor.

In our 21st century time, most individuals seem blind to this world. The Shamanic practitioner, or shaman, as we define it above, serves as the medium through which individuals can receive messages, and assistance from the deities. In our course, The Shamanic Soul: Path to the Sacred Self”, we assist the individual to begin and foster the connection with the Otherworld and their deities. It is not actually necessary to use a shamanic practitioner to feel, see, and touch the Otherworld. Recognizing and interpreting what is seen there is best done with a knowledgeable individual who has studied the signs, portents, and events that are recorded in the “songs” of the pan Celtic world to facilitate the actual intent of these messages.

Among the Celts were members of their culture who journeyed to the Otherworld. They were the Mystics. They were one of four classes including Bards, Healers, and Warriors. The Mystics’ primary function was that of mediator between this world and the Otherworld – as such they meet the widely accepted definition of ‘Shaman’. The Celtic Mystic utilizes the gifts of the Bard and the Healer but acts primarily as a conduit for messages from the deities, spirit entities and ancestors.

The Celtic Mystic or Shamanic tradition was systematically wiped out by the encroachment of the Romans, and later the Christians. The tradition was further impacted by the Celtic Diaspora, which scattered Celts to Brittany, Gaul, Spain, and Asia Minor. The Celts were spread over much of what is now Europe and into Asia.

The term “mystic” has the unfortunate definition of “one who practices or believes in mysticism or a given form of mysticism” (from the Free On Line Dictionary) . “Mysticism” is further defined as “1. a. immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God; b. The experience of such communion as described by mystics; 2. A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.3. Vague, groundless speculation.” I think you can see our problem… Because the term “mystic” has an even less precise definition than the term “shaman”, we choose to use the term “shaman” because it is more commonly descriptive of what we do.

Therefore, like other Shamanic Traditions, because it is what Shamans do, we journey to the invisible spirit world as a medium or mediator for the purposes of healing, divination and to discern the needs of the Earth (see Gaea) and return to this world to guide our people. The imagery, deities and myths we employ in our practice is Celtic/Indo-European.

The definition of Shaman is both simple and complex. A shaman is “one who knows”. We expand this definition as follows: The Shaman is one who knows the world on multiple levels in which he/she lives. The Shaman knows his mind, his soul, his spirit, and his guide. The Shaman knows her culture, her people, her Goddess, her God. The Shaman knows his enemy and his friends; her protection is in knowing.

According to Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic, Emma Wilby, 2006, Sussex Academic Press, “The shaman’s first encounter with his helping spirit is either deliberately cultivated or spontaneous. In tribal societies the deliberately cultivated initial encounter is based upon the rationale that an individual can only become a shaman if he obtains one or more spirit-helpers, and that therefore an aspirant shaman needs to work at magical techniques believed to encourage the appearance of such spirits. A survey of anthropological sources suggests that in tribal societies far more emphasis is place don the deliberately cultivated initial encounter than was the case in early modern Britain, although how far this difference is rooted in culture as opposed to the divergent circumstances under which information about these magical traditions has been gathered, is hard to determine.”

While we are eclectic in our approach to our shamanic practices, we are using our own ancestral and cultural history (Western European Celtic and Greco-Roman) . We do not practice any form of cultural appropriation or “plastic shaman ism”. We are NOT practicing some post-colonial cultural appropriation of First Nations shamanism. Any reference we make here or in our practice to First Nations culture, practices, spirits, shamans, guides, or deities is for historical and informational reference only and not an attempt to associate ourselves with First Nations Shamans. We welcome any criticism of our practice. We are always assessing and re-assessing our understanding of our calling.

It is our contention that shaman ism is “of the blood” — that is, one is born to a shamanic tradition and some crisis brings out the ability or burden or urgent need to practice shamanic journeying. This crisis can be in the form of an illness, disorder, mental or physical trauma. This vertiginous experience brings about the call of the Wounded Healer, which the shaman may have been experiencing for years, to the fore.

It is true that every individual has many woundings and our course The Warrior Within is designed to assist each individual to reach out and heal themselves, yet if one is called to be the Wounded Healer, then this serves as the point of recognition that he or she must accept and act upon his or her shamanic calling to heal him/herself and utilize these gifts to assist others in their healing or he/she will continue on in the illness, disorder, mental or physical trauma. These woundings, as stated above, usually take on a particular flavor and as Ms. Wilby states, “…he is usually alone at the time of his first meeting, and undergoing a period of intense physical and/or psychological stress. Often it is the naturally-occurring pressure of life which generate these stresses…’some great misfortune, dangerous or protracted illness, [or] sudden loss of family or property’ can bring an individual into contact with the spirits. As in early modern Britain, bereavement is often a powerful trigger.” (Pg 132)

The shaman utilizes the gifts and tools that they have developed in their own healing process to assist others in healing themselves. Therefore, for our purposes they are facilitators of self-healing and have the desire to assist others. As shamans we have the ability and/or responsibility to:

*Understand the roles that spirits play in the lives of our people.
* Cooperate with or control the spirits for the benefit of our people.
* Understand the spirits intentions as either good or evil or neutral.
* Use trance-inducing techniques such as singing, chanting, dancing, meditating, or drumming. (1.)
* Recognize and communicate with animals and animal spirits in their roles as messengers of the Otherworld.
* Enter the Otherworld on our own behalf or the behalf of our people.
* Deliver the messages from the Otherworld to our people.
* Guide our people in treating illness or sickness – be that in self-healing techniques, laying on of hands, or advising an individual to seek the consultation of a licensed medical practitioner. We do not claim or attempt to be the sole conduit of healing for our people and as such always insist that illnesses be treated by licensed medical practitioners.
* As Healers and Spiritual Guides, we DO NO HARM to our people.

The shaman then, serves as the conduit whereby individuals can, if they choose, access the other realms of beingness, or utilize the services of the shaman to go there for them. This is similar to the way that other western religious practitioners, priests, rabbis, pastors, seek guidance through meditation and prayer as well as intervention with the Christian god. A pastor will pray for intervention in their parishioners’ lives, and truly believe that the prayers are effective. The shaman does the same thing and has the same expectation.

The spiritual realms are much bigger and more open than we as mere mortals can understand. There is no exclusivity in access to God, Goddess, nature, higher power, etc. Every path is the same. Reach for the heavens and your highest best connection with all creatures of this and every other world. Do not allow your own view to become the One View – it doesn’t exist; a good thing too, as I for one would not like to live in a world that was restricted to my perceptions and understandings of the universe – it is SO much bigger than me.

Blessed Be and enjoy the journey!

_____________________________________

Footnotes:
1. We do not advocate, but accept the taking of mind-altering drugs to achieve trance-state.

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