Shamanism

 

As we evolved as humans we lived as hunter-gatherers until the beginning of agriculture around 11,000 BC. We developed many different cultures, depending on our environment, but all these cultures practised shamanism in some form. This means that shamanism is tens if not hundreds of thousands of years old, and has been practiced all over the world.

We know this because every human culture, whether in the frozen wastes of the Arctic or the baking Australian outback, practises a form of shamanism. The few hunter gatherer cultures left in isolation have shamanism pervading every aspect of their lives. It is not a religion, but is deeply spiritual. It does not require any belief system other than direct experience. In indigenous cultures shamanism is practised by everyone, though some individuals have particular skills, eg knowledge of where to find food, or how to use medicinal plants, weather prediction or healing of disease, childbirth, helping or avoiding conceiving a child, placating the ancestors.

People who practise shamanism have a deep connection to the natural world, and consider all of it to be imbued with ‘spirit’, rocks, plants, trees, animals, mountains, rivers, the ocean.
Shamanism allows us to connect and have discourse with the natural world, enlisting its help with healing ourselves and others. We have been doing this since we first evolved, and only lost connection with this way of being in the last 6,000 years. Which means that people who have never tried shamanism usually find it extremely easy, and if they can over-ride their disbelief, will have real shamanic experiences right from the start.

Wherever in the world shamanism is practised, it has several common aspects.

  • The person will fall into a trance or slightly relaxed, altered state of mind using a regular drum beat (about four beats per second). Some indigenous cultures used alcohol or hallucinogenic plants to enhance this experience, but I have never felt the need for this, and would advise against it.
  • There is a journey undertaken through a portal – for instance, a cave, or hollow tree, a crack in a rock or a pool – anything that marks the boundary between our normal reality and shamanic reality.
  • Once in shamanic reality the person meets their power animal, guides and allies who will help in the purpose of the journey, and keep the person safe as they navigate their way around these new worlds. Most of my journeys are spent asking my guides and power animals ‘what happens next?’, or ‘where do we go now?’
  • There are three main places to go in shamanic journeys; Upper World, Middle World and Lower World. These are distinct and very different experiences, depending on what healing or issue the journey is intended to resolve.

If you are interested in learning about how to practise shamanism I would recommend you get some guidance and training. See www.therapeutic-shamanism.co.uk. There are introductory days happening all the time and I can fully endorse the quality of the trainers and training you would get there.

Shamanic Psychotherapy

For me, shamanic psychotherapy is the obvious next step in my growth as a person and a healer. I have practised counselling and psychotherapy for 15 years and can attest the power and effectiveness of these therapies. Introducing a shamanic aspect to the healing process means that I can go beyond a person’s internal world and enlist the help of the natural world to further deepen their experience.

WideLandscape2

When someone is unwell, physically or emotionally there are a number of reasons for this;

  1. Soul Loss – When we experience trauma, loss, fear or sadness as a child a part of our soul leaves because it is just too difficult for that part to stay. We can have multiple soul loss, especially in the case of multiple trauma such as abuse or repeated bereavements. Symptoms of depression, feeling under the weather all the time, low mood or feeling that something is missing, often signal soul loss. Often people will say to me that they feel a part of them left, or that they lost their sparkle at that time. Soul retrieval by shamanic journeying is one of my main jobs as a practitioner.

 

    1. Power Loss – Power loss is a result of separating from our connection with the web of life; from Human, from being part of the Animal People; from the other Peoples, from Mother Earth, from Father Sun, and from Great Spirit. Soul loss and power loss make us weak, and then prone to intrusions and unhealthy entanglements. (See below). Power loss is only cured by reconnecting back to nature, mother earth and the more than human. This is why power animals are fundamental and central, as this is what they do for us. Plus anything else that helps us move out of the isolated, un-natural human box. Taking one’s personal power back from someone (or learning not to give it away in the first place) is of course essential, but it is what may happen in the course of undergoing psychotherapy for example. But unless it is a specifically nature-based psychotherapy then it usually does not address shamanic power loss. Loss of personal power is a possible consequence of soul loss and/or power loss; in our weakened state we allow someone else’s energy to intrude on us, or take on introjects from them, or allow them to take part of our soul etc.

 

  1. Intrusions – Intrusions are many and varied in their nature. Introjects are one type of intrusion. Possessions are another for example – being taken over by powerful energies, whether by dominating people, substances such as tobacco or alcohol, television, internet addiction, religious ideologies, hostile spirits, the unquiet dead… So extraction work (the removal of intrusions of whatever kind) is fundamental to shamanic healing.

 

  1. Ancestral issues – A fourth key way in which we get ill is stuff we have inherited from the ancestors, and which may be passed down into us, often without our conscious awareness. It includes physical illnesses or weaknesses of course, but also inherited intrusions (inherited introjects, addictions, fears, phobias etc).

 

  1. Psychopomping – This is one of the main functions of shamanic practitioners in indigenous cultures, and it is still a need today. When someone dies it is necessary and appropriate that they move on to their next existence whatever that might be. However, sometimes they are confused, or too attached to the people they have left behind and their continuing presence starts to disturb or interfere with the living. When someone we love dies it is extremely difficult, but after a period of mourning it is important that the living get on with living, and the dead person also moves on. Maybe there is a presence in a building or area of garden who you would rather wasn’t there. Shamanic journeying is a way of freeing everyone (living and dead) from these entanglements.