Shaman 101 - A For our purposes, you need a basic understanding of shamanism. This +quot;d
Shaman 101 - A
For our purposes, you need a basic understanding of shamanism. This
"definition" comes from my own ecclectic background and is not
intended to reflect any group's traditional philosophy.
In a nutshell, a shaman is one who, with the aid of her allies in
nature, accesses inner worlds in search of knowledge to solve
problems, heal, and gain new experiences. Shamans are one with
nature, understanding that all things are part of one web of energy.
Plants, rocks, water - all parts of nature - have their own spirits,
which may look nothing at all like the physical object. Respect for
all life, and an openness to information and experience are all that
is required for a shaman to be effective.
Shamanism has a built-in teaching system. On your first few journeys,
you will meet spirits and power animals. Finding your own power
animal (if you haven't already) gives you a guardian that will help
and protect you, as well as teach you, and introduce you to others
who will teach you. The following exercises are designed to help you
meet and interact with power animals and spirit allies. They require
no investment in materials - a comfortable, quiet, dimly lit place to
lay down is all you need to start with. Tapes of drumming are
helpful to some, but any relaxing music (or none at all) can be used
to journey at first.
Your First Journey:
Get comfortable on your back on a supportive surface, in a dimly lit
room, and do some basic relaxation exercises. Pay special attention
to your breathing; breathe from your diaphragm in slow, rhythmic
When you are relaxed, visualize a cave, a well, an opening in the
earth of some kind that you have seen (in person or through
pictures). Approach this cave, and enter. Try to involve all of
your senses - See the rock, the vegetation, animal tracks on the
ground; pools of water may exist, or stalagtites and stalagmites
glisten in the dimmer light. Hear the sounds outside/inside (bats,
dripping water, wind in the grass or trees outside, gravel or sand
crunching on the ground as you walk), feel the humidity/temperature
and the solidity of the ground under foot. Smell the earthy-ness of
the inside - dry rock, or damp earth? Does the scent bring a taste to
Look at the inside of the opening. Is it one large "room", or do
passages branch off? Are there rocks or sand, or clay? Notice the
surroundings in as much detail as you can. Now look around for some
being. It might be a ball of light a bird, a reptile - almost
anything. Be respectful, and tell this being why you are here. Be
prepared to journey - by flight or running or walking, if necessary.
Frequently you may just find yourself "there" where you need to be.
Other times the process to get there can be lengthy. In any case,
keep up with your guide, and be open to whatever happens.
You may meet many animals on your journey. These are not specific
animals, but racial archtypes of the animals. You will meet,
therefore, Eagle, not a specific eagle (or even a specific species of
eagle, although there are differences among them).
Animals with bared fangs or who adopt hostile postures should be
avoided, but an animal who speaks to you in a friendly way and who
wants to help you should be welcomed as a friend. Even when
confronted with hostile animals or "icky" things (slime, fog, masses
of snakes), be calm and respectful of them. Often these
manifestations are some kind of problem within you or your
environment that need to be dealt with. You should NOT try to deal
with any such thing until you have a guardian to help however.
Remember that your human strength is slight, and you don't yet know
how to use your full strength in this world. Let your power animal
handle the problems for you. That is what they are there for.
In finding a power animal, don't be fooled by an animal's seemingly
powerless or fragile appearance - all animals are powerful in their
own way. Therefore, welcome a turtle as well as a panther, or a deer
as much as a flacon. Power animals don't always stay with you
forever, and when you have learned what your first one needs to teach
you, a different animal will come along to replace that one as you
grow. (Although some cultures believe you can have only one power
animal guardian at a time, actually, you can have many. I frequently
find mine come in pairs of opposites: falcon and eagle, for example,
or fox and wolf. These are transient teachers, however. You will find
over time that only ONE animal sticks close and is your guardian).
When you have spoken to an animal spirit and it has agreed to be your
guardian and ally, you need to find out some things. Ask the animal
what you need to do to make it happy. What does it want to teach you?
How can it help you in your life in the physical world? This is YOUR
time to get acquainted and build a foundation that could last the rest
of your life. Don't be alarmed if the animal says you'll discuss it
later, that's okay. The point is, don't just assume that once you
have the animal it's always going to be there. This is a
relationship, and will require a little work on your part.
Fortunately, the animal is a willing guide and helper and will do a
great deal of the work for you that is beyond your power to handle.
When the conversation is finished, THANK YOUR POWER ANIMAL AND ANY
OTHER GUIDES/BEINGS you met, and retrace your steps to the cave/hole
entrance. Your guide may accompany you, or may not. In any case,
leave the cave the way you came in, and walk away from it back toward
I suggest you write down your journey, start to finish, as soon as
you are fully grounded. If for some reason you have returned to the
cave entrance by a different path and cannot remember all of your
journey, just write down what you do remember. And don't worry if
your first journey wasn't a total success - they get easier as you go
Although this journeying technique can be done anytime, you may notice
that some times during a monthly cycle, you have problems. For some
people, the new moon is a good time to work; for others, it's the
pits! Try to gradually recognize your own cycle so that you can
attempt truly "heavy" journeys on your good days.
One of the most logical questions you can ask about this process is
"what's in it for the animal?" After all, you've taken on an animal
that will guide you, teach you, defend you, and do work in the other
world that you can't handle for yourself. What do they get out of it?
As my own animal explains it, his world is very different from my own.
To be born in physical form in my world enables him to partake only of
a very narrow portion of what is really here, because wild animals
have very little contact with the human world. Through his work with
me, he learns about the human side of the world, the emotional,
thinking and spiritual phases that he has not experienced for himself.
The reverse is also true - if you want to know what it's like to be an
eagle, the best way is to see through Eagle's eyes for a short time.
They are nearly always willing to do this.
Physical sensation is a particular delight to these allies, since
they exist in a non-physical world. The tradition of "dancing your
animal" comes from this. It's a simple, if sometimes initially
embarassing, procedure: put on a drumming tape or some music, and
begin to mimic the walk, movement, sound of your animal. This is
awkward at first, and also funny in a way. For example, prancing
around like a stag is harder for two-leggeds than for four!. But
persist - and be CONSCIOUS of the merging of the animal's energy with
yours. Soon you will find that your body does bend, sway and move as
your animal does.
If you can do this outside, it's even better. A human with a head
cold can be surprised to be catching the scent of one dandilion in a
large lawn, or the scent of small burrowing animals under the
leaf-litter. This is the power of your animal, making itself at home
with you. It's the beginning of the old "shape-changing" craft, and a
humbling and astonishing experience.
Dancing your animal frequently gives them pleasure and heightens the
bond between you. I have even been told that the animals will
occasionally "dance their human." (You will find that these animals
are not just le intelligence and often engaging senses of humor!).
A basic map of the spirit worlds:
The Underworld - symbolized by the roots of the World Tree or Tree of
Life, this is the place you will journey to find and channel lost
information, commune with your ancestors, and find information on
survival skills relating to the physical body (healing, etc.). THIS
IS NOT A SAFE PLACE TO GO WITHOUT YOUR POWER ANIMAL. Just as you
wouldn't climb the Alps alone, I suggest you journey into this land
only with a guide or (preferably) with your power animal to guard you.
The Middle World - symbolized by the trunk of the Tree, this is
roughly correspondant to your everyday physical reality, on the other
side. This is where you look for things that are lost, people you
want to find or communicate with (who are still alive), find a job,
find a lover, etc. Anything pertaining to normal reality on this
plane is dealt with in the Middle World. The four sides of the trunk
of this World Tree are equivalent to the four directions (a cross
section of the trunk would make a medicine wheel...).
The Upper World - symbolized by the branches of the Tree, is the
realm of fantasy and creativity. It is also where you go to find out
what the future holds. And to plant the "spirit seeds" of those
things you want to make happen in the future.
There is no "better" world - each realm has it's reasons and purposes
for existing. Because the key to shamanic work is BALANCE, it would
be silly (not to mention bad for your work!) to visit one realm to the
exclusion of the others. Again, take your power animal or a guide
with you. This is their natural world, and they recognize the
inhabitants and their intent much more readily than you will for some
time to come.
Feel free to journey anytime you need to meet with your power animal,
or any time you need the answer to an important or serious question.
Reasons of love, employment, social and familial problems are NOT
trivial if they are important to you. And journeying for the simple
reason of finding out information is sufficient, if you are truly
interested in the results.
You will use the help of your power animal and other guides
extensively in the chakra exercises that follow. They want to be an
involved and important part of your life (nothing drives off a power
animal faster than neglect - leaving you dis-spirited, and
power-less!) You should also learn to see/talk with them in your
waking state. The ability to tap both worlds at once, to pull
knowledge from the shaman's world while you are sitting open-eyed and
alert in a board meeting or on a plane, is of tremendous value. (Just
DON'T try it while you're driving!).
Balance and Blessings,
Satinka Istari 12/89
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank