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)

Monday, May 5, 2008

More Campbell ....

Following Night Sings great posting, I decided to post some info from the Joseph Campbell book that I am currently reading, "Pathways to Bliss". In the book, pages xviii-xix, he states the following:

"In Primal Societies, the Shaman provides a living conduit between the local and the transcendent. The Shaman is one who has actually gone through a psychological crack up and recovery. The young boy or girl approaching adolescence either has a vision or hears a song. This vision or song amounts to a call. The person experiences a shivering, neurotic sickness. This is really a kind of psychotic episode, and the family, being in a tradition knows about this thing, will send for a Shaman to give the young person the disciplines that will carry them out of this dilemma. The disciplines include enacting certain psychological rites that put the individual back in society again, of singing his or her song."

"Of course what this individual has encountered by going deep into the unconscious is the unconscious of their whole society. These people are bound in a small horizon and share a limited system of psychological problems. And so the Shaman becomes a teacher and a protector of the mythic tradition but is isolated and feared; it's a very dangerous position to be in."

"Now, an older person can want to become a Shaman in some societies, and so then has to undergo certain ordeals to gain the power that the primary Shaman has gained automatically. In northeast Siberia and in many parts of North and South America, the call of the Shaman involves transvestite life. That is, the person is to live the life of the opposite sex. What this means is that the person has transcended the powers of his or her original gender, and so women live as men and men live as women. These transvestite Shamans play a very large role in the Indian mythology in the southwest.-the Hopi, the Pueblo, the Navaho and the Apache- and also among the Sioux Indians and many others."

"Waldemar Bogoras and Waldemar Jochelson first recognized this gender reversal among the Chukuchi people and the Kamchtka Peninsula in Siberia. These two men witnessed a constellation of reactions to this phenomenon. One is that some young men who heard the call to become what they call a "soft man" were so ashamed and so negative to it that they committed suicide. If the Shaman does not answer the call, then he will be psychologically shipwrecked and will fall to pieces. It's a very deep psychological summons."

" I recently read the story of a woman who grew up in a mining town in West Virginia. When she was a little girl, she went walking in the woods and heard marvelous music. And she did not know what to do with it, or anything about it. The years passed her by, and, in her sixties, she came to a psychiatrist with the feeling that she had missed a life. It was in deep, hypnotic memories she recalled this song. You recognize it of course; it is the shaman's song."

It is through attending to this song, to this visionary image that the shaman's center themselves. They give themselves peace by chanting the songs and performing the rites. At the very tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego, there live about the simplest tribal people on the American Continent, the Ona and Yagan people. In the early twentieth century, Father Alberto Agostini, a priest who is also a scientist, lived among them for some time and gave us practically all we know about their mythology. He tells of waking in the night and hearing the local Shaman playing his drum and chanting his song alone, all night long holding himself to the power.

Now, that idea of holding yourself to the power by way of your dream myth is indicative of the way in which myth works generally. If it is a living mythology, one that is actually organically relevant to the life of the people of the time, repeating the myths and enacting the rituals center you. Ritual is simply myth enacted; by participating in a rite you are participating directly in the myth.

1 comment:

Rainbow Warrior said...

Thank you for posting this, She Who Remembers. I love Campbell's work. His book, "An Open Life" really changed the way I looked at God and my own perception of myth and religion.

This piece that was quoted really spoke to me. As a gay man, and more importantly, as a shaman serving the gay community, I embody the essence of male and female energy. Campbell said, "the person has transcended the powers of his or her original gender, and so women live as men and men live as women." In my personal experience, I found that my " spirituel awakening" or initial calling came around the time that I was coming to terms with my sexuality and began coming out to friends and family. As soon as I recognized that I had the privelege of being able to relate to both masculine and feminine energies, and fully embraced this duality in my life, a great shift occurred. I found clarity and purpose in my life and released my attachment to have to play by the rules of ordinary reality. If my life's work was to blend in, I would certainly not be on the path of the shaman. I'd have found contentment with ordinary reality and also identified with only one gender role.

This also relates back to the early and medeival alchemists who blurred the lines of gender identity, icluding the term hermaphrodite, using Hermes great work to transmute themselves into one "complete" being; embracing both masculinity and feminity, yin and yang, sun and moon, the true duality of our Nature. According to the Emerald Tablet, this is the phase of Conjuntion, the formation of the overself.

I feel like identifying with and embracing the duality my sexual orientation was one of my earliest challenges and will always be an issue for me to some degree. I am grateful to Spirit however that I've gone through this conjuntion process already, where as others who are more polarized in the spectrum will have more of a challenge assimilating both energies. I believe helping others embrace and integrate both masculine and feminine energies is part of my Path and why I think a lot of healing work needs to be done for the gay community.