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)

Friday, February 8, 2008

What is a Shape-Shifter? A Shaman?

A few of you have as your "assignment" to answer this question when someone asks: "What will a soul retrieval do for me?" You must all be able to answer this, and also "what is a shaman." Let's start a thread here to ask this question and bring our answers. Below are a few answers found in a book, but you don't want to sound academic...Imagine you are in the grocery line or at a coctail party and someone says..."your bumper sticker says you'd rather be shapeshifting...what's that?" Hugs to all.

"Shape shifter" is a modern-day term for shaman who is: "a healed healer who has retrieved the broken pieces of his or her body and psyche and, through a personal rite of transformation, has integrated many planes of life experience: the body and the spirit, the ordinary and the non-ordinary, the individual and the community, nature and super-nature, the mythic and the historical, the past, the present and the future." Shamanic Voices, by Joan Halifax, Penguin Books 1979, p.18

"The shaman's work entails maintaining the balance in the human community as well as between the community and the gods or divine forces that direct the life of the culture. When these various domains of existence are out of balance, it is the shaman's responsibility to restore the lost harmony." (ibid p.21)


Walks In Two Worlds said...

The following is the new web text that will appear on my new website. This is a good jumping off point for each of you, but you will need to have your own language so that the answers reflect who YOU are as a shaman and how you work. Use this as a reference only.

What Is A Shaman?

Shamanic healers have been found in virtually all cultures and throughout all times. Shamanism is not a religion, nor does it interfere with any religion. There are no doctrines, and while there are plenty of “rules,” most who are called to be shamans are called very early in life, long before the rules could be explained. It is not a path one chooses (or would chose, given the choice), it is simply something one IS. In this mystery-school of life, shamans are born gifted in unusual ways, and called to help our communities in ways just as unusual.

Though the attire and customs vary from tribe to tribe, the basic work shamans do has always been remarkably similar. To put a huge conversation in a few words, shamans “journey” to other worlds to gain power, insight, and healing in order to effect change in this world. They “see in the dark” and know things there is no rational way to know. They ask those who are suffering “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing?” and from these questions the understanding of what has happened can be found and a healing begun.

My Training

The shaman’s personal life task is to refine all parts of themselves and integrate their psyche so deftly that they become effective travelers of the Universe at the same time as—hopefully—being fully grounded members of their “ordinary reality” communities. The work shamans do is intricate, magical, sometimes dangerous, and extremely potent. Their task is to maintain the health and harmony of the community as well as the individual.

My “training” as a shaman began long before I realized it (as is often the case), but my first recollections of seeing into other worlds began at age five. I’ve always been deeply intuitive, and for many years I was taught by other-worldly guides in my dreams. I did not learn that shamans actually existed in this world until my mid-thirties, and when I did, I began traveling extensively to learn from shamans and other indigenous leaders from around the globe. I also began honing my gifts to make them more beneficial to my own community.

Today, I call myself a contemporary shaman. My most significant expressions of healing comes through my novels. They are not merely stories, as my readers will be quick to tell you. They are filled with events and characters that “shapeshift” or meld themselves into healing agents that match exactly what the reader needs at just that moment. (I know that sounds a bit fantastical, but I did say this was magical work.)

The Contemporary Shaman

As a contemporary shaman, I don’t try to dress up and act like an indigenous person or imitate the culture of my teachers. My own contemporary community is too much in need of authentic contemporary shamans who speak both their native language (the language of THIS culture) and the language of the soul, which is the same for all peoples. The contemporary shaman must offer soul-work in ways that don’t unsettle the very people we are trying to help. As such, the very same authenticity that informs my “be who you are” way of “ordinary” living also informs my non-ordinary healing modalities.

Soul Retrieval and Extraction

The shaman believes that in times of great stress, shock, or longstanding suffering (in this life or previous ones), a part of the soul splits off and is lost to that moment. If you can imagine a person in shock, you see that they are not “all there.” But where did they go, and why is it that they “have never been quite the same” since? The shaman would say that the lost soul fragment became stuck in that moment, and needs to be “traveled to” and convinced to return so that the person can return to a fully integrated life. In addition, those who feel there is something influencing them that isn’t really “them” (this is not a personal cop out, it is something they simply cannot shake through traditional means), may need what a shaman calls an extraction—removal of energies that are not authentic to the person. In the soul retrieval journey, the need for an extraction may or may not arise and if needed, can be done at that time.

In other cultures, soul retrieval is as common as we find going to the emergency room to be checked out after a nasty accident or seeing a therapist after a loss we just can’t shake. Most people in our culture who feel called to a soul retrieval have already tried the traditional forms of healing (after all, shamanism is definitely edgy—even I think so and I’m trained in it!). Those who come have become desperate to heal the soul, and for whatever reason, their religious life—the more traditional avenue for healing the soul—is not of help.

For these people, I offer two hour soul retrieval sessions. In the first hour of our session, we will discuss the potential areas of soul loss and what your “ideal” state of health would be. In the second half, I will journey on your behalf, speak to your guides (as I do in the dream state), effect any and all changes possible at that time, and return to tell you what I found and what I believe you can expect as a result.

Hands-On Shamanic Healing

Many shamanic traditions offer healing through more physical means. In some traditions, this is very impressive, with blowing of fire and other great ceremony. I have been trained in these indigenous methods and my own natural gifts are well suited to this healing modality. Those who seek to heal the physical and energy bodies may find the hands-on method most effective.

Allowing the light said...

I just continue to hesitate when you say/write "It is not a path one chooses (or would chose, given the choice), it is simply something one IS". Although I strongly feel that I had no choice at that stage of my life but to shift in a somewhat drastic way. Although I know how much the shamanic path has been/continue to be decisive in my healing, I am not sure that I AM a shaman. When some people ask me, I answer that I am an apprentice and it is what feels right for me for the moment. I guess that I am feeling a strong need for a kind of initiation, a need to be "cooked" even more, a process to help me remember... So I am not saying that it is not there. I am just saying that I still need to remember and that I feel that I have to make that choice, day after day. Does that sound heretic???

Still Waters said...

In "The Shaman's Body" he made reference to that idea that we should think along the lines of I AM a Shaman as by not doing so we would be taking away from the dream. (similar to never saying "I'm tired")

Being a Shaman, in my opinion, doesn't mean that one is the source for all knowledge.. we're on a path and we continue to learn every day. So, if we're at the beginning of that path (as far as say, Shamanic Healing goes) that we understand our limitations and defer to more experienced Shamans for guidance.

Robin Rice said...

Something to consider, in reference to "a shaman is what one is" is that it is not a feeling...it is something that returns and returns...so that is how you know it is your path, becuase it won't go away. Hugs, Robin

Truth on the Wind said...

I have been giving this a lot of thought recently as I had a sense that I would soon need to have an answer. And in true Spirit fashion, my daughter just asked me, what IS a soul retrieval and WHAT are you studying?

In my response, I borrowed heavily from Sandra Ingerman. I explained that "modern day soul loss" stems from the traumas of everyday life, for example, physical abuse, accidents, incest, rape, loss of a loved one or job. As a result, part of the soul can splinter off, leaving one less than whole and leading to physical and emotional problems. (thank you Sandra)

I explained in part that the Shaman's task is to journey to parallel worlds to try to locate the fragments and broker, barter, fight or otherwise convince the fragment to return. This is when I got stuck. Other than to say the more complete or whole the soul, the better. Ok, for now.

It brings into focus how very much I need to learn, and how quickly a year can pass and oh, how I wish we could clone Robin!

Hugs to us all!

ancientwindrunner said...

I have been doing a bit of sitting with this one. Since I have been approached by a few with these questions. At this point in my shaman apprenticeship, I share the following to others - and at this same time slightly shifting the words for each individual ear.

"A Shaman is one who has the ability to assist an indiviual to move through difficult personal challenges and come out the other side of the healing experience as a more whole being."
If the seeker has more questions, and wants to know more, I will check in, with Spirit, and find what he/she is ready to hear...and go from there.
(note here: I work with clients and around many individuals that would think this whole approach is really out there. So I handle this by gently melting the ice.)

Each Shaman has different gifts and abilities. Doing work between the ordinary and the non-ordinary worlds in the past, present and future. Shamans communicate in the soul realm and connect with energies and blocks that no longer serve a person or community. The release of disfunction, allows for the transformation process to unfold.
When a Shaman travels in to the non-ordinary space, he/she is able to locate lost parts of a persons soul and replace the needed pieces. This is known as a soul retrieval.
Shamans facilitate healing of the body, mind and spirit traveling in many different dimensions to do their work for an individual and community.

So that is what I have to share now in this moment. Feeling like a middle schooler writing a paper. I will look back on this blog post at the end of the year and perhaps I will have moved on to the high school version and post again.

Happy Trails!

DiaNocturna LunaNocturna said...

I was once told by an old Indian man that my spirit animal was a shape shifter. He said out of all my years you are the first and only person I have met that your spirit animal is a Shapeshifter. I ask him what that ment he just turned and walked out the door. He was standing by the door with it open when he told me. He had told everyone else their spirit animal first then mine was the last. I still to this day do not know what that means?
I had even lived with a seminole Indian familyand their dad was a shaman. This is when I was younger for about four years.
He never said much he would just tease me a lot when he died I dreamt of him coming and clearing out bad spirits that were put on me by someone. Once he cleared the spirits he went into a new body. At first I did not know who it was cause he was so young, but then I just knew he smiled at me softly. Before he left. When I woke up I called a friend of thier family since his son and I were not on speaking term. The friend told me he had died three days earlier and ask me how I knew. I told him and he believed me.