This is an ongoing US and global project to help enthusiasts, scholars, practitioners, and curious parties learn more about shamanic living in a contemporary culture. The space here is devoted to sharing info, experiences and opinions about all forms of shamanic expression covering shamanism's multiple permutations. Among subjects explored are traditions, techniques, insights, definitions, events, artists, authors, and creativity. You are invited to draw from your own experiences and contribute.

What is a SHAMAN?

MAYAN: "a technichian of the Holy, a lover of the Sacred." CELTIC: "Empower the people...by changing the way we think." MEXICAN APACHE: "Someone who has simply learned to give freely of themselves..." AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL: "...a teacher or healer, a wisdom keeper of knowledge... (who) takes people to a door and encourages them to enter." W. AFRICAN DIAGRA: "views every event in life within a spiritual context." HAWAIIAN: "...human bridges to the spiritual world and its laws and the material world and its trials..." QUECHUA INDIAN: "embodies all experience." AMAZON: "...willing to engage the forces of the Universe...in a beneficial end for self, people, and for life in general."

-- from Travelers, Magicians and Shamans (Danny Paradise)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Shamanic Code of Ethics

As we begin our year of apprenticeship in shamanism, there are many practical issues that arise. A shaman works as an agent between the spirtual realm and the real world in the behalf of their client. The nature of shamanic work itself requires the practioner to employ often unorthodox methods, however are there particulare guidelines we should be adhering to in order to ensure the best interest of our clients? And not only are we dealing with the boundaries of our clients, but the boundaries of ourselves as healers, and the boundaries of Spirit. Are there standards of practice for shamans and what would should be including in a shamanic code of ethics?

Many professions dealing with the personal health, whether physical, mental or social health require a Code of Ethics. Professions that are licensed or require state certification have written requirements that can cause a person to be prohibited from further practice of the profession if that code is violated. However, certain practitioners in the healing arts, such as those who engage in practicing shamanism and some other spiritual leaderships, may not necessarily be licensed or certified by any legal entity, yet they are still expected to adhere to a code of ethics whether it be a legal requirement or not.

According to Rev. Peggy Mott, Doctor of Shamanism for the Universal Life Church, a shamanic code of ethics can be summed up in 3 words, "DO NO HARM." Mott says, the Shaman must not do anything that in any way would cause the person needing spiritual guidance any harm . NO HARM means no spiritual, physical mental or social harm. An addition to that NO HARM requirement is that the practitioner of spiritual guidance should guarantee complete confidentiality to the person with whom they are dealing. This means that not only must the Shaman make that guarantee but that she/he must not violate it in any way."

In doing a little bit more digging around on the Internet, I came across the Unified Code of Ethics for Healers on the Council for Healing's website. The Council for Healing breaks downs their Code of Ethics under five major headings: The Healer's Purpose, Commitment to Client, Qualifications of Healer, Professional Behavior, and Conduct in a Professional Enviroment. I strongly encourage all apprenticing shamans (as well as anyone in the healing arts) to read over this code and consider how they apply to their own perceived notion of a code of ethics for shamans.

I think it was important that the Council for Healing also addressed honoring diversity and indigenous healing. "Just as there are many perspectives on the mission and purpose of healing, likewise there will be many perspectives on what constitutes appropriate conduct and behavior for different healing modalities in various social contexts and cultures. " Indigenous healers typically adhere the traditions, rules and regulations of their individual tribe and are held accountable by their community. Therefore tribal or indigenous shaman are less likely to have use for a standardized professional code. But as "western" shamans bridging that gap and interacting in a society full of professional regulations, there is definitely a need for some guidelines to ensure the best interests of both the practicioner and client.

The Council for Healing's Unified Code of Ethics for Healers addresses the role of healers and the individuals they are providing their service for, but does not address the relationship to Spirit. In dealing with the spiritual realm, what would a Code of Ethics look like when doing our work "on the other side"? What are the boundaries we are not allowed to cross, how much flirtation with Spirit and the gods are we allowed to do to affect change for our clients? I'd love to get imput from everyone on this topic, as well as your thoughts on the Council of Healing's Code of Ethics. And how does that differ from a code of ehtics you may already be bound to if you are in a healing profession?


Robin Rice said...

This is just great.. I hope you all will chime in on it. As for OUR ethics, this is the perfect place to address a few things. You all will be journeying for each other, or for friends of each other. The journeys for YOU may be shared with the group as a whole for group learning, but if something personal comes up that you don't want shared with the group, PLEASE make that a specific "off the record." That will be honored to the best of our ability--though sometimes things get wonky, so don't bring something that you absolutly don't feel safe with as a topic to the journey. (This makes sense as well because with others "practicing" you don't want your deepest stuff to be open to a learning curve! Also, refrain from talking about someone else in the class with anyone but me as that gets sticky fast. If you have issues, insights, etc... share them with me, please! That is what I am here for. But no three-way cross talking so that everyone feels safer. Finally, if you are having someone journey for a friend, 1) let me know about it 2) get their permission to share it with me and 3) make sure you recieve a "real" gift in exchange, as this grounds the healing and doesn't create indebtedness. Note that journeys for your friends will NOT be shared with the whole group, just me, and only with me so that I can help you refine your journey skills.

Hugs, Walks In Two Worlds

hearsthetrees said...

I believe that we all must find within ourselves our own true code. This code, flows through us and once you have felt it, you will know when you have strayed off the path.

Robin Rice said...

RE: (from link sent on this)...

For instance, Ken Cohen makes the point that for indigenous healing practices it is not useful or desirable to establish a code of ethics or standards of practice as these are already understood and enforced in the unwritten, oral tradition passed down through the teachings of the wise elders and shamans. The tribes and healers have their own internal means of discipline, including ostracism, ’bad press’ through word of mouth, and criticism by elders, sometimes in a ceremonial context. In addition, indigenous healing is considered to be a branch of indigenous spirituality or religion and must be protected as an individual freedom, not subject to outside regulation. In more general terms, Cohen observes that Native American healing culture views as ethical that which promotes social cohesion.

Indigenous healing that is guided and regulated within tribal structure and viewed as a spiritual process rather than a profession has no need for an external code of ethics. Standards of practice are neither applicable nor useful to indigenous healing practiced in this milieu.

However, it would be appropriate for western shamanism as taught in various healing schools to include a code of ethics for its practitioners – who are not bound by indigenous tribal traditions and guidelines.

I would also say that we are working on ethics in that you 1) cannot heal without being asked and 2) cannot heal for another besides the person asking, unless a child, ususally under 13, etc... But the real comment I want to make is that SPIRIT will kick you in the ass the moment you step out of line, even if unintended, so that is a very good means of discipline. I agree with Cohen that this is NOT to be regulated by those who don't get it. It makes no difference if you have a tribe or not, SPIRIT is either with you or not, and SPIRIT will let you know.

Allowing the light said...

I need to read through the Council of Healing's Code of Ethics and think more about it.

What Rainbow Warrior says about the other person's boundaries (so far, I have troubles using the word "clients", probably because I have not had any yet!) and our boundaries as shamans makes perfect sense to me. Both need to feel completely safe. I know that it is an important rule.
So far, I tend to feel that as long as I keep connected and let the Light/Spirit flows through me, as long as I remember that the Light/Spirit is what counts, not me (which is also a way to say that the other person or the baby I am cuddling is what counts, not me, not what I would like to "practice" or to "make happen"), I am staying on the path, I am in my truth. I can feel it. If not, even for a second, I can feel it too.

But I will read the code of ethics suggested. I also agree that it is important that we get our own code of ethics as a group; at the end of the day, "we are not gods", as Robin would say...

ancientwindrunner said...

Ethics - this is so.....
We all have our individual codes by which we opperate on this planet, interacting with all forms of life .
Myself, I have experienced a few different career paths, several have had codes of ethics that where issued by the over riding professional organization.
These types of codes of ethics are a necessary display of expectations by an industry.
Thank you RW for sharing the Unified Code of Ethics for Healers.

If one has been called to do necessary soul level work for a community, do they need to abide by a code of ethics?
RW brings up an excellent topic and one to definitely look into deeply as a future shamanic practicioner.

Look into your heart. Have you been called? Does it feel right? Is this in the highest good of the client, community, and yourself?? Are you acting with the highest integrity as a shaman?

Each of us has unique gifts.
Each of us has a choice to practice in a ethical manner.

RW - Thanks for this piece for us to brew in our cooking pot!


fearless.woman said...

Fearless.woman here - I work in a field-psychotherapy as a social worker. As such, my work is highly regulated ethically, and most of us get in trouble because of unintended consequences of actions that were meant to be helpful, and backfired. The other thing to remember is that, even if we don't feel it, and even if we don't believe it, there is a power diffential, and it has ben used in my field and among shamanic practioners that I have heard of to take advantage of vulnerable clients. We have all seen people on power trips, and that is a constant danger in any interaction with people, particularly here where there is no agreed upon frame of reference for what we are doing. Spirit may and will kick us in the butt if we get off-track, but reminders don't hurt. And heaven help us, there are those who don't listen to spirit any more. That is also where codes help