Spiritual Development

Page 51

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Path of the Shaman
By Mouse

Copyright © 2004 Peggy Andreas

(Disclaimer: The author has given permission for use at Spirit Lodge - Thank you Peggy)

This is the third in my series of articles about Tribal Paths. The first is Path of the Sacred Warrior
and the second is Path of the Sacred Clown.

The Path of the Sacred Warrior heals the Spirit. The Path of the Sacred Clown heals the Soul.
And the Path of the Shaman heals the Body. The Body? Haven't most of us been conditioned to
believe that the Body is somehow inferior to the Spirit, to the Soul?

America's Elders - the Native Americans - have always taught that the Body, our personal
connection of substance and spirit, is sacred. An ancient song of the Salish Women's Society runs:

“Who cannot love her Self cannot love anybody.
Who is ashamed of her body is ashamed of all life.
Who finds dirt and filth in her body is lost.
Who cannot respect the gifts given even before birth
Can never respect anything fully.[1] “

A Shaman's Path begins with her own Body and involves the generation, control, storage,
channeling, exchange, and release of energy. Principles recently "discovered" by modern
scientists have been known to Shamans since ancient times, for example: Entrainment ("If two
rhythms are nearly the same and their sources are in close proximity, they will always lock up,
fall into synchrony.")[2]; E=mc² (the interchangebility of energy and matter); and Wave/Particle
Theory (Energy can travel in either waves or particles). A Shaman perceives her Body as a
luminous cluster, a sacred act, a whirling act of power and beauty. Exploring her Body, she
becomes a specialist in vibration, harmony, and balance. Curious to bridge other dimensions, her
awareness reaches out like a lightning rod. When that awareness is illuminated, her own Body
grounds the energy and releases it into the Earth so that it does no harm.

Some scientific principles have not yet caught up with shamanistic knowledge, for instances, the
principle of Gravity. A modern-day Shaman puts it this way, "The earth is calling to you. It has
something for you. This great creature upon which we live wishes to give you its energy to
empower your life." Westerners shun this gift. They call it GRAVITY and think it's a force that
wants to pull us down to the center of the earth. Instead, be like a tree, sinking roots down into
the earth's magnetism. Reach out with your branches and leaves for light and air from above!"[3]
The image of a tree is a great model for Shamans. A Tree is a very efficient energy-being. It uses
every bit of energy and wastes none. The wood of a tree is a conductor of energy from both
below and above; and as such, is often used by the Shaman to conduct her awareness upon
journeys of discovery. A drum, made from hide stretched over wood, becomes "the shaman's
steed." Gourds, rattles, and other rhythmic devices can also be used as energy conductors. The
Shaman tunes into the rhythm and rides it to other worlds! Then the rhythm brings the Shaman
back to this, her beloved Earth. "Like a living tree, the shaman is rooted deep within the earth,
reaching and growing into spirit."[4]

Shamans heal themselves (and serve as a healing catalyst for others) in three main ways:
• Removing blockages in the energy flow;
• Balancing and centering; and
• Attunement and harmony.

Shamans are described as having keen intelligence, a perfectly supple body, and an energy that
appears unbounded. Their memory and self-control are above average; and their bright eyes
reveal a shy cunning. Often, their inner power advances with their age; and they display great
strength, flexibility, and stamina throughout their elder years. As Old Ones (a term used with
utmost respect by Native Americans), they can perform amazing acts of balance and agility.
Often, they are splendid artists (especially abstract/mystical art), musicians, dancers, poets,
singers, craftswomen who use their art to bring the spirit to earth. All these qualities proceed
from years, even lifetimes, of suffering, sacrifice, and impeccable effort.

“As shamans, the women in many tribes perform in all ways that male shamans are known to.
They perform healings, hunting ceremonies, vision quests and the guidance for them, acts of
psychokinesis, teleportation, weather direction, and more. In the various tribes according to each
one's custom, the shaman also creates certain artifacts - clothing, baskets, ornaments, objects to
be worn in pouches or under skirts or sewed into belts. She officiates at burials, births, child
naming and welcoming into this world, menstrual and pregnancy rituals and rites, psychic
communication, manipulation of animals, metamorphoses or transformations. She does much of
this through dancing and chanting, and a large part of the method, symbols, significances, and
effects of her shamanic efforts are recorded in the stories she tells, the songs she sings, and the
knowledge she possesses. Much of this knowledge she transmits to others in ways that will be of
use to them, and much of it she keeps to herself, teaches in formal settings to her apprentices, or
shares with other shamans.[5]”

Acquiring shamanic power involves a kind of death/rebirth experience. It involves letting go of
the self, eliminating habits that make up the personality, dispensing with the "self-dialogue,"
getting out of the way and letting the universe do the talking. When the Shaman traditionally dies
to herself, she is born into the larger community of the Tribe of the Cosmos as a representative of
Earth. "Essentially, a woman's spiritual way is dependent on the kind of power she possesses, the
kind of Spirit to whom she is attached, and the tribe to which she belongs. She is required to
follow the lead of the Spirits and to carry out the tasks assigned her. Native American stories
point to a serious event that results in the death of the protagonist, her visit to the Spirit realm
from which she finally returns, transformed and powerful. After such events, she no longer
belongs to her tribe or her family, but to the Spirit teacher who instructed her. This makes her
seem 'strange' to many of her folk.

Seeking the Body's wisdom, a Shaman continually centers herself in her womb, her belly, or her
solar plexus, NOT in her head. The lower center brings her to a better foundation from which to
move. It also anchors her runaway thought processes and brings her to an attunement with the
Body of the Earth. In order to use her own energy efficiently, the Shaman must become flexible,
fluid. To do this, she must confront the blockages of fear stored in the Body. Her task is to melt
the blocks of fear with the energy that she generates; indeed, the word "Shaman" literally means
"to heat oneself."[7] As the rigid form is consumed, the flowing form is released; this is the
meaning of transformation. It is a return to the liberating simplicity akin to the primal nature of
wild animals, young children, and our earliest Earth-ancestresses. Freedom comes from letting
go and learning to trust in one's Body to find its own vibration, balance and harmony.
“I find myself happier and happier as I get older. I am simply freer of conditions. This entails
making voluntary sacrifices. Sacrifice comes from the words 'to make sacred.' My shamanic life
is a whole life of making sacred, seeing everything as sacred... Even garbage is sacred.[8]”
The initiation of a Shaman is no easy affair. However, as one budding Shaman was told, "The
most beautiful jewel is tempered in the hottest fire and dipped in the coldest water."[9]
“Power is strength and the ability to see yourself through your own eyes and not the eyes of
another. If a person has power, as women do, and she doesn't use it, power will sit within her and
have no place to focus. It is then that power becomes twisted and evil. It can turn against the
person who has called it. If a person backs away from her power (for example), she will develop
back problems and all sorts of physical ailments.[10]”

A person may be a potential Shaman if conditions such as these exist in her life: Her birth is
peculiar, special in some way. Perhaps it is difficult, even traumatic. As a child, she experiences
some element in her life that sets her apart from other children. She may simply be left to herself,
or there may be disabilities and restrictive situations. She feels somehow different than the norm.
Sometimes there are long illnesses, fevers, seizures, even brushes with death. Because of this
isolation, or simply because she is gifted, she comes in touch with a subtle world that is foreign
to most of her peers, and her psychic talents flourish. Importantly, she also misses out on vital
portions of the acculturation process, leaving her to feel that she doesn't quite fit in.
At a certain point, the psychic energy peaks almost unbearably. If met with hostility or abuse (as
usually happens in a world that lacks understanding), the potential Shaman may turn the energy
in on herself, or outwards, becoming hostile and abusive to others. Some conditions such as
Multiple Personalities, Mental Retardation, Dyslexia, Sexual Disorientation, Hallucinations,
Hebephrenia, Schizophrenia, and Delusions can be the result of this "twisting" of the psychic
flow. Sociopathic or psychopathic behavior, addictions, behaving in a such manner that one is
literally "crossed-off" by society - all these can become the path that leads to the shamanic
initiatory crisis.

This is not to say that an initiate cannot receive help. If she is sincere in her desire for healing,
she will find the proper catalysts and midwives for birthing the Shaman in herself. In the ancient
tribal ways, she could find an experienced Shaman in her own community to explain what was
happening to her, and ease her way a bit. This older, wiser one would give her exercises that
would train her to control the degree and timing of "opening the flower of her awareness."[11]
These might include instructions in meditation, lucid dreaming, self-hypnosis and visualization,
recognizing energy fields, practices with sound and color, ritual-making, sand-painting, crafts of
various kinds, trance-dancing, etc. She would also be taught how to protect herself from
unwanted psychic and physical intrusions. Techniques such as purifying, blessing, boundarymaking,
shield-making, and acquiring guardian allies would be part of such instruction.
Grounding techniques would be stressed as the initiate worked with plant, animal, and rock medicine.

In modern times, however, the help may come from strange directions, indeed. For example, the
contemporary Plains Indian Shaman, Tayja Wiger, was born into an extremely hostile, abusive
urban environment with no exposure to tribal ways. Society called her blind, crippled, retarded,
insane and delinquent. She was institutionalized in reform schools and mental institutions. All
this time, she prayed for healing. The psychiatrists didn't understand her Shamanic tradition
(which she often expressed subconsciously), but they did help her to find the time, space and
resources that she needed for her to be able to heal herself. Her intense focus on self-healing
propelled her through the dark tunnel of fear and anger to a place where she could let go, in love,
trusting the Universe. Now, she is sighted, physically sound, intelligent, sane and working as a
Shaman; "healer, ordained minister, counselor and laughing friend of the Light."[12] Her story is
an inspiration to us all!

Tribal people believe that becoming a Shaman is a matter of destiny; and that if a destined
person resists becoming a Shaman, she will become more and more enmeshed in her own
problems. The story of Sky Woman, a Shaman of the Ojibway Tribe, illustrates how a woman
who courageously responded to a crisis embraced her own shamanic destiny. Born into a family
that was disturbed by violent parental disagreements, Sky Woman fled from this chaotic situation
at 9 years of age and wandered in the northern woods for a long time until a search party found
her. Among her rescuers was an old woman who loved her and took care of her, and became her
adopted grandmother.

They lived together happily for many years until one day, the Grandmother got very sick. Sky
Woman was afraid. While she took care of her Grandmother and watched over her, Sky Woman
fell asleep and had a dream. She dreamed someone gave her a rattle and other things Shamans
use when they heal, and said to her, "Try this on your grandmother. She might get better." When
she awoke, Sky Woman made a little rattle and started to do the things the dream showed her.
When she finished, the old woman seemed brighter. Sky woman kept on with her work until her
grandmother was up and around. Then, other people heard about her and came to her for help.
She became a travelling healer.[13]

Following her inner guidance, Sky Woman later remembered that in her youthful wanderings,
she had been guided and instructed by her Guardian Spirits for her life's work. Her loving
compassion for her Grandmother was what catalyzed her own transformation. Her Spirits guided
her but SHE CHOSE OF HER OWN FREE WILL to follow them.

Modern-day Shamans have learned from the mistakes that Shamans of the past have made.
Keeping what works, they've thrown the rest away. They have let go of arrogance and embraced
simplicity. They are not afraid to frolic and have fun. They have made a commitment to serve the
life-force; they draw strength and unity from that commitment.

It has been said that the first Shaman was Grandmother Fire. She is the true ancestress of all
Shamans. It also has been said that the first Shaman invented sex. The Shaman is self-erotic, in
love with her own Body and with the Body of Earth. She heats herself, burning off the dross,
centering herself in her own luminosity. She radiates well-being and self-confidence. Her
leadership emerges out of a passion for life and is sustained by balance. The Shaman's heat is a
centerfire around which a community naturally gathers. Her heat is engendering; and her own
gender can hold and transcend the tension of opposites, giving her the ability to operate with
success in whatever world she finds herself. Just by being, a Shaman gives comfort by proving
that change is possible.

“Healers state that it is love that heals, yet it is so difficult for many to release the fear and anger
that lodge in the subconscious mind in order to be able to ACCEPT that love. Now it is time for
all of us to cleanse our lives, then turn ourselves inside out for all to share.[14] “

“Love is a word for transformation. And there are many beings worthy of our love. It does not
have to be a man you seek. When you say, 'I love you,' you are saying, 'I transform you.' But
since you alone can transform no one, what you are really saying is, 'I transform myself and my
vision.' I am always living in the lodge of love and I share it with you. [15]”

1. Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron, 1981, Press Gang Publishers, Vancouver,
BC, p. 62.
2. Planet Drum by Mickey Hart and Frederic Lieberman, 1991, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, p.
3. Movements of Magic by Bob Klein, 1984, Newcastle Publishing, CA, pg. 8.
4. In the Shadow of the Shaman by Amber Wolfe, 1989, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN,
p. xiii.
5. The Sacred Hoop by Paula Gunn Allen, 1986, Beacon Press, Boston, MS, p. 207-8.
6. Ibid., p. 257.
7. Shamanic Voices by Joan Halifax, 1979, E.P. Dutton, N.Y., p.3.
8. Ruth Inge-Heinze, in Shapeshifters: Shamanic Women in Contemporary Society, 1987,
Viking Penguin Inc., N.Y., p. 62.
9. Leilah Tiesh in Shapeshifters, p. 36.
10. Agnes Whistling Elk in Flight of the Seventh Moon by Lynn V. Andrews, 1984, Harper &
Row, San Francisco, p. 130-131.
11. Channeled from my Spirit Teacher, "Butterfly Woman".
12. Birth of a Modern Shaman by Cynthia Bend and Tayja Wiger, 1987, Llewellyn Publications,
St. Paul, MN, p. 8.
13. The Shaman: Patterns of Siberian and Ojibway Healing by John A. Grim, 1983, University
of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, p. 121-125.
14. Bend and Wiger, p. 6.
15. Agnes Whistling Elk, in Flight of the Seventh Moon, p. 156.

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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