As I finished up my first class on Shamanism in ten years, I realized how many questions there are about who we are and what we do. I hope this clears a few things up.
First of all the word Shaman is a Siberian word that means; People of Knowledge and Keepers of the Wisdom. Our role as Shamans is to be of service to our community. We are responsible for guiding our people from birth to death…meaning…through all the rites of passage we go through in life. From baptism to last rites, we guide, counsel and heal the people and the land we are responsible for.
Shaman’s walk between the worlds, much like monk’s, priest’s and medicine men/women. And yet there is no dogma. Shamanism predates all modern religions. It is an ancient practice, that exists all over the world, in nearly every culture.
Even though the Medicine Wheel may vary from tradition to tradition, the basics are the same. We teach and promote respect, peace and equanimity for all expressions of life. We honor the ancestors and animals who guide and teach us, even in the modern world.
I was raised by American Shamans, and adopted into the Cherokee Nation, so my practices are a little different from the Russian, Japanese and South American traditions. Where we are similar is in our love for Mother Earth, and our great respect for her cycles. Each direction of the Medicine Wheel represents a carnal direction, with a spirit animal, element and color. In the Cherokee tradition, East represents the great eagle, the element of air and the color yellow. South represents the coyote, the element of fire and the color red. The West brings gifts from the bear, the element is water and the color in the West is black. And finally, the North hosts the great white buffalo, the element of earth and the color white. As stated before, the details of who and what color belongs where is unique to the region and culture.
In addition to ceremonies celebrated on the Solstices and Equinox’s, many Shamans practice Soul Retrievals, Shaman Journey’s and Vision Quests. Soul Retrievals return the parts of the soul that have been lost or damaged due to trauma, war, malnutrition and other damaging life events. The Shaman Journey is an opportunity to ask questions of the Higher Realms. In my tradition, you may ask one question and then travel through a dream-like landscape while you travel with the sound of a drum to find your answer(s). It’s a fascinating process!
The Vision Quest was originally used as a rite of passage into adulthood. It is still used, but currently adjusted for the age of the participant. The point of the quest is to discern the difference from the voice that guides you from the voice that taunts you. In the past and even still in some cultures, the participant is placed in the wilderness for three days & nights, with a twelve foot circle of salt around them. They may take nothing but a blanket and water. There is no talking, no playing around, and the work is to silence the ego, and focus on the voice of guidance. Today, with adults…I usually prepare a dark, quiet place for people to spend twenty-four hours (minimum) in stillness, silence and solitude. It’s not easy to control the ego, but if we don’t…it will control us.
I don’t know if it’s just “time”? But I hear the words Shaman and Shamanism more often than ever! Perhaps people are weary of the hypocrisy of those shepherds who have betrayed their flock. Maybe people are looking for a more natural way to be understand the world.
Whatever the reason, I for one am overjoyed to share my experiences and traditions. And I welcome new comers, and fellow travelers along the path.
Mama loves you so much!