Shamanism

Posted May 13 2013

On this journey of inner reflection and who I am suppose to be, I have often wondered about shamanism but never ventured that path because I believe I lack the discipline..and the calling.

 

 

It takes great courage and responsibility to take the life long leap into shamanism. I have read a lot about traditional shamanism and neoshamanism, as well as Celtic shamanism and other practices around the world. I did come to learn that I was one of the people who held the misconception of shamans being Native American. Yep! Every time I heard the word shaman, I pictured a Native American chanting and drumming around a fire, covered in animal skins and feathers hanging from their long hair. I suppose I romanticized the idea (thanks, Hollywood!). In fact, Native Americans do not even use the term shaman or shamanism and from what I read some get offended by it.

 

I also think it's worth pointing out that shamanism is not a religion but a way of being. Neoshamanism seems to be a term that is being thrown around a bit. Personally, I feel a bit saddened that shamanism has become something mainstream. It should be something that is held sacred and kept that way, being passed down from generation to generation. I am not one who thinks that just anyone can be a shaman, they should be called to it. It takes dedication, life long learning, sacrifice and a great responsibility. With that being said, I think that everyone has the power to manifest, to know nature and to heal. Being a shaman is to have all of those qualities but most importantly a shaman holds the key to their tribes history, they are the storyteller, the fortune teller, as well as the one who guides souls. They are medicinal peoples who can perform exorcisms and cast out demons. 

 

According to York (2001) one difference between neoshamanism and traditional shamanism is the role of fear. Neoshamanism and its New Age relations tend to dismiss the existence of evil, fear, and failure. "In traditional shamanism, the shaman’s initiation is an ordeal involving pain, hardship and terror. New Age, by contrast is a religious perspective that denies the ultimately [sic] reality of the negative, and this would devalue the role of fear as well".(wikipedia)

 

Celtic shamanism is also up for debate with a lot of people. I have yet to find a legit source of what Celtic shamanism is. Some say Celtic shamanism is considered so because of the awenyddion of Wales. The awenyddion were prophets and soothsayers who, when asked a question by those seeking divinatory guidance, would fall into a deep trance and give strange prophecies. The trance of the awenyddion appeared to be a kind of possession, from which they had to be violently awaken. Some have claimed that, like shamans the world over, the awwenyddion communicated with their helping spirits while in this state. I have also found sources stating that Druids have been known to be shamans among the Celts. My dear, sweet, friend who is a Druid Bard & Priestess and filled with wisdom assures me that she has never heard of a Druid shaman. To be sure she didn't miss anything she went through her many books. The only thing she came upon that mentioned anything about Druids, in the same paragraph as shamanism, is from Isaac Bonewits in his "Essential Guide to Druidism". Paraphrasing from his book she writes "Were the Paleopagan Druids perhaps shamans? No, even though some druids are described as occasionally doing some of the same things that shamans did (and do). Druids were a social caste. They were born druids and/or trained to become one, and/or married into a druidic family". Druids sometimes did practice soul travel, but that does not make them shamans. Another interesting twist of Celtic shamanism that I found is that, to some, it is based on Faery faith. Faery faith is based upon the belief that everything in this and otherworlds are alive, each thing is has its own soul or spirit.

 

I can definitely see, and relate to, why shamanism has grown in popularity recently. Shamanism runs deep in may cultures, it is mystical and magical. If I had the calling to be a shaman, I most certainly would pursue it. I can see how my own beliefs intertwine with shamanism. I believe that people seeking it in the mainstream, commercialized, aspect of it mean to find something that will make them more enlightened, whole. Each and every one of us have the light within us to feel complete, to find what will quench our spiritual thirst. But as far as shamanism goes, if your heart is not truly called to it and you cannot make the sacrifices and life long commitment then maybe you should pray and meditate on what your path is. The thought of shamanism is beautiful. Feeling one with nature, the world and the otherworld. Shamanism is also scary and can take its toll. 

 

As I mentioned above, we all seek something that will bring us enlightenment, we all have it within us. Some of the practices that shamans participate in are:

Dancing

Singing

Vigils

Fasting

Sweat lodges

Vision Quests 

 

These are things that we can do to help bring us closer to what we seek. I am not telling anyone they are wrong for holding classes or telling anyone they are wrong for paying to take classes. Money is part of this world and people find ways to make it, spirituality and the need to "be" is part of humankind and people will pay to find it (I have!). It is only my opinion that I believe some things should be held sacred and not commercialized.

 

I understand that some will disagree and some may not like what I have written but this is based on my thoughts and my heart. If you are blessed with the calling to shamanism, it is a gift, something to not take lightly. It is not something that can be obtained by paying to be part of a class, take a test and get a certificate of completion. Although taking such classes will help you feel good on your spiritual path and may lead you to a new door. A true Shaman will only teach a true student and will never charge a penny.


Until next time, Blessed Be.