Hello! Welcome to a sample of Week 2 of the Master of Shamanism Course.
Role of the Traditional Shaman
In contemporary, historical, or traditional shamanic practice, the shaman may at times fill the role of priest, magician, metaphysician or healer. Personal experience is the prime determinant of the status of a shaman. Knowledge of other "realms of being" and "consciousness," and the cosmology of those regions is the basis of the shamanic perspective and power.
With this knowledge, the shaman is able to serve as a bridge between the ordinary and the higher / lower states. The shaman lives at the edge of reality (as most people would recognize it) and most commonly at the edge of society itself. Few have the stamina to adventure into these realms and endure the outer hardships and personal crises that have been reported by or observed of many shamans.
One thing that strikes most in-depth readers of the subject is how practical the shaman’s ceremonies and rituals are. At first glance, a ceremony may appear to be somewhat obscure in its basis in reality; however, upon closer examination one becomes enlightened to "why" certain functions are performed. Once this is accomplished, you are able to obtain a keener understanding of what the ceremony is all about. Shamans are curious people by nature. Most do not take things for granted and do experiments to see what works and what does not. They are practical people, many living in very dangerous places where a strong knowledge of traditional remedies is necessary due to the lack of any readily available alternative healthcare. People in the same village as a shaman will often seek out his/her help in the events of sickness, or childbirth. They may ask him to perform rites for the safe birth of a healthy baby, to help deliver the child, and also rites to drive away evil spirits that may want to harm the new addition to the family. These rites usually involve drumming or music of some sort, the shaman chanting magical verses in a trance-like state, and offerings of tobacco or other sacred spirit medicines to honor and appease the imposing spirits. The shaman is a master of all types and forms of natural and herbal medicine, and usually has great skill in diagnosing and treating all sorts of common ailments. Shamans are also consulted for intercessions such as praying for good fortune, and the success of crops. Healing, however, is the shaman’s main business.
Most shamans do not charge for these services, but do accept gifts and donations from the people who he/she has been called to help. Some cultures believe that if you do not give the shaman an appropriate gift or donation, that the shaman can ‘take back’ the healing, blessing, etc. , or even place a curse upon the individual or their family. This is usually not an issue since shamans who are good to their community are often well compensated for their craft. They are often among the wealthiest in the community, as well as being among the most well-respected. Shamans are given a wide berth. Most Shamans tend to be loners, and often live in seclusion at the fringes of society. Only stepping in when they are needed and then returning to the outer edges of the community. This not only allows the shaman to work in relative privacy, which helps them maintain secrecy in their methods, but also helps facilitate the mystique that is part of their power as well.
How does one become a shaman?
It should be said that using shamanistic techniques and methods such as visualization, healing, altered states of consciousness, sensory manipulation, or dream work is not equivalent to following the shamanistic path. In other words, merely practicing these techniques does not make you a Shaman. Shamanistic methods can be used independently in a variety of ways; they may or may not introduce one to pursuing the path of the shaman. Shamanism also bears a significant relationship to modern cultism. In the last generation, the revival of new American cults and religions illustrates a number of shamanistic motifs.
Systems of religious and spiritual practice of shamans become traditions which are passed on from shaman teacher to shaman apprentice. These practices usually contain:
A specialized knowledge and understanding of the lore of the community being served; Recognizing the presence of Spirit and of natural and elemental forces; Guiding, helping, ancestor and teaching spirits; Blessings, charms, wards and ceremonies; Methods of divination; The means for creating or obtaining the costume and equipment necessary for the performance of shamanic responsibilities, initiatory rites;
and techniques of shamanic flight and access to other realms and states of consciousness.
In addition, there are some aspects of these traditions which may also be learned in dreams, while in a trance state, or from direct observation of nature and of life in the community. In some instances, a community may be without a shaman to pass on these traditions. When this occurs, and direct instruction by experienced shamans is not possible, the new shaman must reacquire the continuity of the shamanic tradition from dreams, inner journeys and observation as the primary sources of his or her training. Some have wondered if the experience of shamanic ecstasy or flight makes a person a shaman. Generally speaking, most would say no. A shaman is more than someone with an experience. First, he or she is a trained initiate. Usually years of enculturalization and training under a mentor precede becoming a functioning shaman. Second, a shaman is not just an initiate who has received inner and outer training, but has become a master of shamanic journeying and techniques (shamanic ecstasy). This is not a casual acquaintance with such abilities, there is some degree of mastery of them. Finally, a shaman is a link or bridge between this world and the next. This is a sacred trust and a service to the community. Sometimes a community that a shaman serves in is rather small. In other instances, it may be an entire nation. A lot of that depends on social and cultural factors. One becomes a shaman by one of three methods:
Hereditary - This means that ones ancestors were shamans. It can also mean a "lesser" shaman that is designated by the social community to start hereditary traditions again.
Spontaneous "Vocation" (call or election) - This is where a shaman is believed to be called by the spirits. A "greater" shaman designated by a supernatural order of power. The spontaneous vocation of the shaman may begin with the shaman becoming extremely nervous and withdrawn. The future shaman is called to cure themselves before they can cure others. In our modern world, the would-be shaman is called to cure themselves of the illusions and bonds that are given to us all. The curing may or may not be physical, but the sickness can also be psychological, and energetic sickness can lead to physical sickness. Traditionally, the initiation can be very harsh. The illness removes the past reveals the "data of human existence" while the ritual initiation (plunged into freezing water, slashed with quartz knives, left to fast alone) brings the shaman face-to-face with death and beyond. The shaman must "attain to intimacy with the supernatural by visions of death." The old must die so the new can be reborn. The shaman must cure himself of initiatory sickness, and only afterwards can the shaman cure the other members of the community. In this regard, one may also become a shaman through this method by means other than self-imposed, or imposed by another shaman. Many times, a shaman is seriously injured, or physically ill in their life at an early age. At this time the shaman may experience a "dying away" of old flesh or organs, and a sense of being rebuilt or even "reborn" as a new person with a new body, new organs, etc.. The shaman may experience complex visions, and even commune with spirits for the first time while in the throes of illness or injury. Having conquered the illness or injury and recovering alone, gives the new shaman a sense of power and confidence in themselves that is necessary for them to perform their tasks with certainty.
Personal choice and quest - (This latter method is less frequent and traditionally such a shaman is considered less powerful than one selected by one of the two preceding methods.) The shaman is not recognized as legitimate without having undergone two types of training: a) Ecstatic (dreams, trances, etc.), and b) Traditional ("shamanic techniques, names and functions of spirits, mythology and genealogy of the clan, secret language, etc.). The two-fold course of instruction, given by the spirits and the old master shamans is equivalent to an initiation. It is also possible for the entire process to take place in the dream state or in ecstatic experience. Thus, there is more to becoming a shaman than a single experience. It requires training, perseverance and service.
The Seven Principles of Shamanism
One may also say that it is impossible to become a true shaman, without realizing the definitive principles of shamanism. Serge Kahill King talks to the seven Shaman principles. Lets explore them:
The World is What You Think It Is. Positive thoughts attract positive people and events, and negative thoughts attract negative people and events.
Everything is a Dream. Dreams are real and reality is a dream. The only test we use for a reality check is whether or not someone else experiences it. Hallucination means "your dream doesn’t match my dream." "Reality" to a shaman is a mass hallucination or a shared dream. If this life is a dream, and if we can wake up fully within it, then we can change the dream by changing our dreaming. In other words, all systems are arbitrary. All meanings are made up and "Absolute Truth" is whatever you decide it is. What matters is how well the system works for you, not how true it is (which is an arbitrary concept).
There are No Limits. We experience two kinds of limitations: creative and filtered. Creative limitation assumes the purposeful establishment of limits within an infinite universe in order to create particular experiences, made by God or our own Higher Selves. These enable us to experience life as humans on Earth (to play by that particular set of rules - breaking the rules changes to another game). Filtered limitations are imposed by ideas and beliefs that inhibit creativity rather than enhance it, like beliefs that engender hopelessness, helplessness, revenge and cruelty. They generate focus without the potential for positive action.
Consider the following:
Everything is connected. The usual metaphor is a web of interdependence. Anything is possible. All you have to do is believe. However, because you are not alone in the Universe, the degree to which something can be shared depends on the beliefs of others around you.
Separation is a useful illusion. Pure empathy makes you as helpless as the one suffering. Fear makes you lose sight of your role as dream-weaver.
Energy Flows Where Attention Goes. Meditation and hypnosis are simply different techniques for doing the same thing - refocusing your attention toward more positive beliefs and expectations. As states, both are identical conditions of sustained focused attention. Those aspects of your present experience which seem enduring are the effect of habitual sustained focused attention carried on by your subconscious.
Consider the following:
Attention is attracted to all kinds of high energy intensity.
Everything is energy. Thought is energy and one kind of energy can be converted into another kind of energy.
Now is the Moment of Power. Karma exists and operates only in the present moment. It is your beliefs, decisions, and actions today about yourself and the world around you that give you what you have and make you what you are. Thanks to memory we may carry over habits of body and mind from day to day, but each day is a new creation and any habit can be changed at any present moment - even if it isn’t easy. You select - out of the immense resources of your gene pool - those characteristics that best reflect your present beliefs and intentions. Your parents/social background have nothing to do with your present, but what you believe about them now and how you react to those beliefs does.
Consider the following:
Everything is relative. You define "now" based on your focus (each second, hour, year, even lifetime).
Power increases with sensory attention. Many people living today aren’t even here - most of their attention is focused on the past or the future. To the degree they diminish their awareness of the present moment, their power and effectiveness in the present also decreases.
Aloha - To Love is to Be Happy With. Love exists to the degree that you are happy with the object of your love. The unhappy part comes from fear, anger and doubt. To be deeply in love means to be deeply connected, and the depth and clarity of the connection increases as fear, anger and doubt are removed.
Consider the following:
Love increases as judgment decreases. Criticism kills relationships; praise builds and rebuilds them. When you give praise you reinforce the good and it grows. When you criticize you reinforce the bad and it grows.
Everything is alive, aware and responsive. Your subconscious takes any praise or criticisms it hears to heart, even if it’s directed elsewhere, even if you’re saying it. Each criticism separates you from and decreases your awareness of what you criticize, until you end up responding to a secondary creation of your own that may no longer resemble the original. When someone criticizes you, praise yourself to counteract it.
All Power Comes From Within. For every event that you experience you creatively attract it through your beliefs, desires, fears and expectations, and then react to it habitually or respond to it consciously. This does not mean that you are to blame for your abuse or injury, because you were probably not conscious of your negative beliefs, attitudes and expectations. It also does not mean the other person is innocent.
Consider the following:
Everything has power. You do not have ALL the power in the world - everyone has the same power. The good news - you can work with these powers. Power comes from authority. Confident authority is the key to conscious creation. Effectiveness is the Measure of Truth. The means determine the end, not the ends justify the means. What is really important is what works.
There is always another way to do anything. Every problem has more than one solution. If the goal is important, you should never give up, just change your approach.
Ask yourself the following questions regarding the former information:
1. Do you associate the 7 principles of shamanism with any of your own principles?
2. Would I benefit by using these principles in my own life?
3. Why do you think these principles have lasted the test of time?
4. Choose any one of the 7 principles listed above. For one week, consciously try to apply that principle wherever it seems appropriate, and keep written track of your results. Write down each time you tried to use the principle, and the result. Ask yourself, did this help me in my life? Does it work? Do this with each principle, one per week, until you have completed all 7 principles. At the end of the 7 weeks, go over your notes, and determine which principles helped you ( if any), and which principles didn’t (if any). Consider incorporating the ones that work into your belief system.