|Traditional Shamanism: Come Walk With A Shaman|
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What Is Traditional Shamanism
The roots of my traditional indigenous family lie deep in the lands of the reindeer people, a nomadic tribe from before written history who cared for the reindeer and in exchange were given their food and clothes and all sustenance from that mighty animal. These people often spent months alone leading their herds to the best grazing lands in the high plateaus of the Himalayas and outer Mongolia.
The principal function of this ancient indigenous shaman is the healing of any illness that may afflict the members of one's tribe. This shaman not only brought healing to physical maladies but also to illnesses of the soul, in order to heal the fracturing or fragmentation of the mind and spirit to bring wholeness. This shaman had the ability to use altered states of ecstasy produced through sheer will and balance to enter other realms of consciousness not possible for the average man. Here the shaman is able to explore the mystery of man's mind as well as the collective unconscious mind that we all contribute to and in so doing to bring this knowledge and power into his or her practice to benefit us all. It is not easy to learn how to be a shaman.
The traditional indigenous shaman knew that illnesses and dis-ease of any kind grow out of an imbalance between that person and the natural way. When the energies of a person contradict the ways of Nature then that person's energy begins to be depleted and this can cause all kinds of mental, emotional and spiritual dis-ease. When a group of people or a community or tribe contradicts the ways of Mother Earth and Father Sky, huge dis-eases and disconnects can occur. It is man who causes the balance to be shattered by mans thoughtless words and actions out of ignorance or lack of responsibility for this home of ours. The traditional shaman is here to bring that imbalance back into balance, to re-establish that lost harmony, and to remove the effects of the negative and selfish thoughts, words and actions created by man. Yes I am saying that it is the thoughtless words and actions of selfish man that have created the diseases that are now manifest on this planet. Man has let his own ego supersede his interdependence upon Mother Earth for his sustenance and health and has caused tremendous destruction of Mother Earth's air and water and land. The Shaman sees all living things on Mother Earth as equal in itself to the human being, no less vital, no less important, no less sentient, no less alive. The Traditional Shaman sees that Creator has given life to everything that Creator created and so every tree, every mountain, every leaf, every animal, bird , fish is thinking, knowing, feeling, having a life experience here just as man is. This place we call home is a living Mother with energy that surrounds her and is her Essence just as cells are a living part of the human body. If man kills some of those cells he gets sick. So too, if man kills some of the life upon Mother Earth he is killing Mother Earth. And if man kills his own harmony within himself he is killing himself. But the shaman can honor the living sentience of all that Creator created and communicate with these living beings to re-establish that original unity that is necessary to mans very existence. By working with the sentient energy creations all around us the shaman can directly heal the individual and bring harmony to that person's own energy through soul retrieval, smudging, ceremony and more. This is Shaman healing. You can see why the traditional Shaman is even more needed today than ever before. Yet there are less than 50 true traditional indigenous shamans left on the planet today. Why? Because the world's religions have persecuted the traditional shaman and his beliefs that we are all united children of Creator.
Over the centuries, the religions of the world replaced the tribal shaman healer with a priest or lama or ceremony expert who never had the ability or desire to see the world as a union of sentient beings but instead decided to create gods and goddesses to overpower and command and manipulate the sentient beings of this world. And indeed because man intended them to be powerful gods and goddesses they were thus in reality. But here too began disease and poverty and most of all fear. In my country the Shaman were all killed by the religious fanatics who wanted to gain the respect and fear of the people and convert them to Catholicism. It also was timed according to when the Tsar converted to Catholicism. Just as in many countries, when the leader of that country declared a national religion for that country, the shamans were then tortured, deported or killed. Shamanism is not a religion. And in each country if the Shaman was not willing to adopt the religion of that country's leader, then the shaman was killed.
The first shaman, the archetypal shaman who brought the knowledge of shamanism from the heaven worlds above to an intellectually able humanity on earth was known in the Yung Drung mountain region of central Asia as Shenrab Miwoche which means the great supreme human shaman. Tales of his work have survived even to this day and he was considered a fully enlightened Buddha before there was a Buddha or a Buddhist religion. He was said to live here over 18,000 years ago. From here, shamanism grew and spread through Tibet, Mongolia, China, Asia and Europe. It was then carried across the seas to South America and Africa and Australia and can be found in the histories of all 7 continents.
This is the origin of shaman healing. However it is no longer available and only vestiges of it can be found in certain families who have kept the oral traditions alive, handing down the teachings by word of mouth from father to son or mother to daughter within the original family over the centuries as my own family has done. My grandmother escaped the persecution of Shamans in her country by coming to America. All traces of traditional shamanism in her country are now wiped out, even among her relatives who lived under communist rule for the past fifty years. There is no more traditional Shamanism alive in her mother country now. There is no more traditional Shamanism alive and true in any European or Asian country because the religious fanatics of various ages have seen to it that Shamanism does not survive. Now we only have a very few traditional Shamans still practicing the true ways who have managed to hide from or escape from the missionaries of assorted religions out to convert all people or kill anyone who will not convert. Many of the old shamans did indeed convert to a religion. The Shamanism of Hawaii, for example was converted to Christianity when the missionaries demanded conversion there in the 1850's and the rulers of that land agreed to have Christianity as their country's religion. The kahunas there had to convert to the country's religion and now the teachings of Kahuna are warped and distorted with all kinds of religious inflections and Christian wrappings.
Even centuries ago the original traditional teachings of Shamanism in Asia were quickly distorted by the Buddhist religion who would not tolerate a Shaman offering balance and healing and instead persecuted the Shamans and told the people that only the Lamas would have the power to heal by following the Buddhist faith. And even so long ago man began to fall into imbalance with Mother Earth and Father Sky and so dis-ease and suffering took hold of mankind. The Native Americans never practiced Shamanism but rather had medicine men and women who had that wonderful connection to Mother Earth and could bring balance through the ways of air, fire, water and earth to their people through smudging, medicine wheel ceremony and more. But again in the 1700's the missionaries came and offered them Christianity as a religion or death. So the medicine people who survived did choose religion and altered their ways to fit in with what they were being taught by the missionaries. So much was lost and will never again be found. The ways of today barely contain even the slightest semblance of what medicine used to be. The effectiveness of the ways as they are today is barely nothing at all.
Because of the persecution of the Traditional Shaman we have been left with contemporary shamanism; reduced to seek healing through hypnosis, trying to convince ourselves that we are not sick when we very obviously are sick. People have reduced the powers of the contemporary Shaman like soul retrieval to simple faith healing, hocus pocus, chanting and drumming and passing off the traditional shamanic journey as a variation of simple astral projection which anyone can do. Traditional shamanism has been all but lost to the people of the Earth and if you just look around at the conditions of Mother Earth today you can see that there are apparently no contemporary shamans able to do anything about the imbalance and suffering and dis-ease we see everywhere around us. Yet there are thousand of people calling themselves shamans today. I call them contemporary shamans because they are not trained by any traditional shaman, they are learning from books not written by any shaman, they are not balanced themselves , not healed themselves but still they claim they can heal others which speaks of personal fame and gain but not of healing at all. The word Shaman has literally been denigrated to mean someone who does faith healing and uses his or her imagination to pretend to travel to inner worlds. How sad! And you wonder why those few true Traditional Shamans are not to be found here? I don't think you would choose to be associated with a group of fools who misuse your name to make money and be famous either.
Those few true shamans who have been able to receive the original teachings from their own family lineage are busy helping their own people in their own tribe, hidden away from the internet and society at large as there is enough to take care of right in their own community. They are not interested in teaching anyone other than their own clan. They are not interested in becoming rich or famous. They choose to not get involved in the game of Shamanism that is being played on the internet today. If everyone on the internet who claimed to be a shaman was actually a Shaman there would not be anyone left who was sick at all.
What is shamanism? The traditional abilities of Shamans, to enter into altered states of consciousness without chemicals or drugs or plants and to communicate and negotiate with the spirits of all sentient beings to bring balance and harmony back into a person's life or mind or body or even a community or nation as a whole is not something very many people can ever hope to achieve. The Shaman actually leaves this world and enters the gateways of other worlds. The whole body of knowledge to promote balance and fix the distortions created by man's thoughts, words and actions is not in any book today. Shaman Healing can only be learned as one Traditional Shaman passes it on to his or her students. And to find a traditional Shaman to work with today is nearly impossible. The Traditional Shaman knows that even today this power to affect cures and balance the bodes of a suffering human being are still not welcome by religion or the current medical community. The True Shaman is still under persecution and so is not going to put you in danger by teaching you something so hated that you too will be persecuted. Most Traditional Shamans feel that the people of today are not yet ready to receive these teachings. So they only teach their own tribal members, perhaps a son or grandson or a daughter or granddaughter, enough to keep the teachings alive but by no means teaching it to the general public. Don't kid yourself that the teachings of true traditional shamanism are easy to find and easy to learn.
Vestiges of the original teachings of Traditional Shamanism can sometimes be seen in the writing of ancient religions as they incorporated parts of Traditional shamanism that suited their purposes and also to entice the indigenous peoples to embrace their religion just as the Catholic missionaries built churches over the holy grounds of the Native Americans and chose their holy days to coincide with the seasonal celebrations of those indigenous peoples. Over time the native Americans would hopefully forget their pagan ways and pray instead to the saints and attend Mass to replace the ceremonies of their forefathers. The chod ritual of the Tibetan religion where the monk uses drumming and visualization to ceremonially offer his gods the flesh of his own body can be seen as the death, burial and resurrection of the more ancient shamanic initiations and is another example of traditional teachings still surviving within the cover of religion today. How odd isn't it that even today there are ancient rituals and rites and practices that recall Traditional Shamanism. What does that say about the power of the traditional Shaman?
So traditional shamanism is about living in a balanced cooperative relationship with all sentient beings of Mother Earth and Father Sky as well as all our brothers and sisters. And hopefully, for those who have the immense privilege of learning traditional Shamanism from one of the very few traditional indigenous shamans left on this planet, we can once again grow into harmony within ourselves and create a congruous, balanced, beautiful planet once again. The Traditional Shaman negotiates a harmony between the ways of man and the ways of nature and energy. This is how to be a shaman. This is Traditional Shamanism. Its not about money or fame or power or title or accolade. It is a path that leads to certain death for the Shaman practitioner and is done for the good of others, not for personal gain.
Copyright 2010 - 2017 Shaman Elder Maggie Wahls
Shamans often dress in animal skins and masks, and in the deepest part of their trance-journey to the spirit world, they often imagine meeting or transforming into the local animal of power. The spirit animal is either the animal that is hunted most often and provides the most food, or the animal seen as "master of the beasts"--a being who brings / ensures good hunting. It is thought by some that the pictures of half-animal, half-men figures found in both ancient and modern cave drawings are depictions or recreations of the shamanic trance state. (See the figure called the "Sorcerer" from the cave of the Trois Fr�res and Clottes 81-99.)
The shaman goes on his spirit-journey in order to bring back benefits from the other worlds--upper or lower. The shaman's journeys to the spirit world are depicted as ascents (by flight, ladder, or tree) or descents (by diving, walking or falling). Davidson writes:
In more complex agricultural societies, shamans are replaced by priests. Instead of going on an individual vision quest, the priest presides over communal rituals. In agricultural societies, a religious trance is usually interpreted as possession by a god or spirit, while in hunter-gatherer societies the trance is vehicle for the shaman's soul or spirit to leave his or her body and go on a spirit-journey (Clottes 26).
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