Some posts about Shamanism from a practitioner's perspective.
These are some screen dumps I made of two posts I made on the Mysteria BBS
(Tujunga, CA) regarding some files they had online. I hope this stimulates
further discussion and thought regarding the "new Shamanism" which has
unfortunately been turned into just another New Age fad by hucksters who
may or may not have been trained in The Ways and in any event are profaning
and abusing them. Read...and think.
Michelle Chihacou Klein-Hass (White-Puma)
I did a little poking around in the text files about Shamanism and
Shamanic consciousness. I must say, I agree with all that was there.
My teacher, Misha Sacred Wolf (which is a forshortening of a much more
complex name) is quite disgusted with the "Shamanism for sale" going
on nowadays in the "new age" movement. With the popularity of the
Lynn Andrews books (which have all the credibility of the later Carlos
Casteneda books, which is slim and none) and the much more
authoritative "Way Of The Shaman", it is almost as hip to say "I am a
White who has been trained by Native Americans in their Ways, and I
can train you for X-amount of dollars and X-amount of lessons," as it
is to say "I channel such-and-such being from (pick one) 1.)Outer
Space, 2.)from ancient Rome/Babylon/America/Atlantis or 3.) Dolphins."
The shaman in the Native American tradition is an awesome figure. The
primary shaman, the one that is looked up to in the tribe and trains
others in certain parts of his (shamans were usually male) work, is
BORN to it. A child, usually the most sickly one, is named at birth
as the successor to the current shaman. He is trained for all his
childhood, and THEN is tested. In the Chiricahua Apache tradition
that Misha Sacred Wolf comes from, originally the shaman would have to
literally jump off a cliff. Literally. This "jumping off" was later
interpreted as an INNER, rather than a physical trial, often induced
by the ingestion of Peyotl or Jimson Weed. In these old days, the
test results were simple, binary, yes or no. If the shaman survives,
he is the shaman. If he dies, then it's time to train another one.
With the use of peyotl, the results are not so clear-cut. Insanity,
personality disassociation, and even possession by the more malevolent
discarnate entities (known singularly and plurally as Gan'n) were
distinct possibilities even for the ones who truly "had it". There
were other shamans and shaman-trained people of Power in the tribe.
Healers, Midwives, Dancers, even the current Inday (Chief) were given
some initiation. But there could be only one true (in all senses of
the word) Shaman of the Tribal band. A shaman would sometimes be paid
for his teachings, and would be compensated for his work at festivals.
But the teachings could never be truly bought. I will discuss more
next post. Enju! (kind of the equivalent of 'so mote it be') Michelle
My only quarrel with the book "The Way Of The Shaman" is the fact that
the author, whose name escapes me at this time, has reduced the
shamanic experience to a few basic elements which he claims as
universals. One of them is the healing method of the Jivaro, which
entails "sucking" diseases, in the form of spiritual intrusions, out
of the "patient"'s body. Not all shamanic traditions have that sort
of healing method. In fact, the healers and shamans of the
southwestern tribes resemble, more or less, Chinese herbalists or
Indian (that is, India-n)Ayurvedic doctors, relying quite a bit on a
very advanced knowledge of helpful herbs. True, you would also have
times when the disease (usually something mental or psychosomatic)
would be judged the work of outside influences or of an inner
imbalance within the spirit itself. The famous "mountain spirit"
dance of the White Mountain Apaches (incorrectly known as the Gan'n or
demon dance) was really an exercise in psychology, where the struggle
between the disturbance (in the form of a Gan'n, or evil discarnate
spirit) and the shaman and his assistants (in the form of the Mountain
Spirits, with their brightly colored crowns, symbolic of the di-yin or
divine energy that they have within and brightly colored loincloths)
would be made real for the patient. The "mountain spirits" would also
show up at the girls' puberty ceremonies, where they would be present
to protect the girl, who would become, symbolically, White Painted
Woman (sometimes rendered White Shell Woman) the embodyment of the
Female God-principle, in the ceremony. As the representation of White
Painted Woman, she would be very vulnerable to attack by discarnate
entities, so the dancers would dance to purify the perimeter of the
area where the ceremony would take place. But getting back to the
healing Ways, most ailments would be treated herbally before any other
measures were taken.
In regards to Shamanism and Wicca being inter-related, I would
have to differ with the positions taken by the writers of those
articles. Wicca holds much in common with the ancient Ways, and seems
to suggest a common ancestry in Paleolithic times. The magickal state
of consciousness is very similar to the shamanic state of
consciousness, and requires as much force of will. As the Witch uses
the force of their Will to focus their inner energy towards a certain
goal, the shaman uses the force of their will to see beyond the
limitations of the physical world.
To sum up though, the world of today, where instead of hunting
for one's dinner one simply goes to the Supermarket and buys their
dinner pre-packaged and sometimes ready to eat with a minimum of
preparation, and where one has far more insidious enemies than White-
eyes and the Gan'n, the traditional Ways need some revision, some
rethinking. As it was, for Misha to be accepted as what she is by the
remnant of her band of Chiricahua Teneh, it required much adjustment.
She is only 1/4 Chiricahua and less than half Native American, and she
has the green eyes and light hair of her European ancestry. And she
is female, where traditionally among the Chiricahua a woman's place
was in the rearing of children and the preparing of food, clothing and
other necessities for living in harmony with the Earth, and not that
of the most important figure of any tribal band, exponentially more
powerful than even the Inday. The Ways hold awesome truths about
ourselves, the Earth we inhabit, and even our multiverse. But they
cannot remain static, clinging to days long past on one hand, and
cannot be bastardised into just another "new age" cafeteria of
philosophy either. As a very aware friend of mine put it, "this Gem
needs a new setting." This is the challenge the modern-day Shamanist
faces, and I think this challenge also faces Wicca, Buddhism,
Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, and whatever system
of beliefs I didn't mention. We cannot turn back the clock and go
back to hunting buffalo and gathering acorns. However, we can take
this path forward into the future.
"I bring the whirlwind, that you may know each other--WE SHALL RETURN!"
With those impassioned, powerful words of Wovoka, the Sioux leader of
the "Ghost Dance" movement of the 1880s, I think I've just about summed it
all up. ENJU!
Michelle Chihacou Klein-Hass (White-Puma)
Again, I hope this stimulates some thought. If you wish to study
Shamanism, be very careful with whom you study with. Be very suspicious of
those who charge exorbitant fees, especially with healings. The book "The
Way Of The Shaman" by Michael Harner is a good introduction to some very
basic information. The Sun Bear material also holds insights, but also has
a cultish feel, like the "Bear Tribe" is the only authentic custodian of
Shamanic knowledge. Avoid the Lynn Andrews books like the plague, and
tread with care around Carlos Castenada's works, especially the later
stuff. He IS telling the truth about some things, so I do not suggest
rejecting his work completely out of hand. I cannot recommend any books in
regard to my own tradition, because there are really none, and I do not
intend to write one either, out of deference to the Grandfathers and to
Usen'. But there ARE authentic teachers out there. You can know them by
just hanging around them. Fees are the easiest dead giveaway, but attitude
is important, too. Trust your gut...it's usually right.
Hi-dicho...this is finished.
Michelle Chihacou Klein-Hass (White-Puma)