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USE and ABUSE of the term 'SHAMANIC'

By:Michael J. Meredith
Date: Sun,21 Jul 2013
Submitter:Michael Meredith
Views:8823

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What makes a Healing a "Shamanic Healing"? What would make a Reiki session a "Shamanic Reiki" session?

Let's first hold up for scrutiny the escalating mythology around the use of the word "shamanic"!

Let's expose the rampaging devaluation, exploitation and abuse of this formerly powerful and meaningful descriptor!

MYTH 1
------
"If I have label myself 'SHAMAN' on the basis of a few visionary experiences or attending a "shaman training" course or "shamanic initiation" event, then anything I do can be labelled SHAMANIC!"

MYTH 2
------
"If I do it with a drum or rattle, it becomes SHAMANIC!"

What about all those popular bands who use drums and/or rattles? In some sections of the Native American cultural following, there is actually a lot of resentment about the mis-labelling of Native American activities, for example, Pow-wow Drumming, as "shamanic". Even in the NA culture and using their typical frame drums, most drumming is done purely for dancing, relaxation, self-expression, wellbeing or ceremonial purposes.

MYTH 3
------
"If I enter an altered state of consciousness, anything I do becomes SHAMANIC!"

So what about REM sleep, hypnotic trance, cannabis smoking, daydreaming, alcoholic stupor, ecstatic dancing etc? Are they SHAMANIC states? Do they automatically make you a SHAMAN and what you are doing "SHAMANIC"?

MYTH 4
------
"If I see visions or have other psychic [metaphysical] experiences I am a SHAMAN. If I have metaphysical/visionary experiences while doing something e.g. energy channelling, then that activity or healing technique becomes SHAMANIC".

Our deepest/oldest [unconscious] mind is constantly active and it evolved in the pre-language [i.e. pre-cerebral cortex]] phase of our evolution as a species. The movements of energy within it can be perceived as IMAGES by particularly attuned individuals and also by non-attuned individuals in certain states of consciousness e.g. extreme emotional states, psychotropic [entheogenic] drugs, deep states of REM sleep, etc. Being able to perceive UNCONSCIOUS IMAGERY [whether from the personal or collective unconscious] does not make you a shaman or make your current activity SHAMANIC.

MYTH 5
------
"A shaman is someone who can go on an inner or visionary journey and "find answers".

Well, we all go on inner or visionary journeys whenever we fantasise, or when consider how a particular wallpaper might look in our home, or consider how we might meet a particular craving, or consider ways in which we might seek revenge on someone who has wronged us!


SO WHO IS A SHAMAN?
------------------
Debates have raged for years about the precise English language meaning of the Evenki (Tungusic) word "Saman" from which we get "shaman" and "shamanic". Does it mean "One who knows", "One who sees in the dark" etc or simply "Priest":
http://www.sunflower-health.com/shamanism/ezine/feb2010.htm#shaman

These debates forget 3 things...

Firstly, that transliterations [movements of word sounds] from one language to another do not necessitate any equivalent meaning. Secondly, there are indications (cave paintings, rock drawings, carvings) that shamans and shamanic practices almost certainly existed long before words like "saman" would have been in use.

Thirdly, as Eckhart Tolle pointed out in his famous video on "Being Yourself":
http://www.lovehealth.org//books/letgo.htm
"Words are just POINTERS and the analysis of pointers is POINT-LESS!" So the word "shaman" [originally coined by anthropologists] is a poin

ter to a certain type of individual and the type of [SHAMANIC] work they do IN A COMMUNITY. Being a shaman is about heuristics (experience-based problem solving) not linguistics!

Tolle goes on to say that "[The] essential nature [of people] cannot be NAMED, but can be KNOWN". So we can KNOW the SHAMANS and their SHAMANIC practices from the range of people's communicated experiences of a combination of the individuals, their practices, their role and the results they achieved in their communities.

From this we cannot say that we KNOW someone is a shaman simply because they use a drum for rituals or healing, or simply because they call themself "shaman" or have attended an initiation or course of training.

What we do KNOW beyond doubt about being a shaman is that it is a combination of...

* DIVINE [i.e. humble and self-sacrificing rather than narcissistic and self-aggrandising!] CALLING;
* ARDUOUS [i.e. challenging and transformative] long training;
* TECHNOLOGICAL COMPETENCE in traditional shamanic practices [see below];
* WORKING IN CONNECTION to, and in HARMONY with, NATURE i.e. the dynamic 'ebb and flow' web of life;
* TRIBAL RECOGNITION a shaman is only a shaman within the context of a specific "tribal community" and may not be recognised, or even functionally effective, in a different community. The title/role/identity of "shaman" is only valid within the specific community that is served!
* TRACK RECORD of effective community service.

WHAT MAKES AN ACTIVITY SHAMANIC?
--------------------------------
We can't say that an activity is SHAMANIC simply because it is performed by a SHAMAN. Shamans are human and therefore susceptible to illusions, delusions and "off-days".

Nor can we say that you have to be a SHAMAN in order to perform a shamanic service for an individual or community, any more than we could say that you have to be a priest in order to communicate with (pray to) God, be an agent of God's divine plan, or teach/model spiritual values.

For this reason the term "Shamanic Practitioner" has grown up, meaning someone who can perform a shamanic service in the community, with or without meeting the criteria of "shaman". From the perspective of the individual psyche or collective unconscious, we can say that we are working in a [SHAMANIC] way that accesses the SHAMAN ARCHETYPE.

An archetype is not simply a series of actions or techniques, it is a sub-personality, like a little whole person within us - whole in the sense of a combination of perceiving [reality], thinking, feeling, RELATING and acting.

Learning the actions of a healing technique, with or without a few visions thrown in, will not make us a "Shamanic Practitioner". Acting in GROUNDED and PRACTICALLY EFFECTIVE relationship to the web of life ["All my Relations"] after attunement to, and under the guidance of, divine inspiration, will make our practice SHAMANIC!

Shamans and Shamanic Practitioners are both able to act SHAMANICALLY as 'mediators between'/'integrators of' the spiritual [collective unconscious] and everyday worlds. They do this as whole (sub-)personalities, not as Tomasina, Dick or Harriet "following a magical script" or sporting a "spiritual royalty" label.

They work KNOW-ingly as impure-channel human agents, continually working on their own purification, healing and soul-attunement [our soul being our connection to the great soul] in order to be of service to others and aid in the unfolding of earthly-life according to...

a) a divine [metaphysical intelligence] plan
b) the natural laws of the physical universe

Author: Michael J. Meredith,
http://www.shamanism.sunflower-health.com

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Comments

Wendy Stokes said:

The New Age is very unregulated, and due to its political beliefs, everyone is entitled to freedoms to do and say whatever they like. This leads to confusion, chaos and sometimes exploitation.

Native American spiritual practitioners are trying, after many years of oppression to refind their spiritual roots and are justifiably dismayed that the 'white man' who oppressed them has stolen and trivilised their spiritual heritage and made it into a money-making exercise.

If we in the West, call our practice 'shamanism', do we not create a confusion with what happened in times gone by (and still remains in some countries of the world) and why do we want to do this? What is so special about shamans that we want to copy what we think is happening and offer it to others for money?

I find it of interest that so many native 'shamans' around the world take intoxicants and unfortunately, it often affects their disposition and soundness of the message they wish to deliver. Are intoxicants necessary or even desirable? I doubt it.

It is very difficult or impossible, to know when someone hears a spirit whether it is coming from their own mind - or coming from a spirit source. Who is to say who is in contact with a communicating spirit, or whether someone is pretending or deluded.

In a study on shamanism that I made, I made a fascinating discovery. In tribal cultures, everyone is of use to the community, no-one is excluded, including those with mental instability or disability. Many of those regarded as 'shamans' were odd and unstable personalities. Some were feared due to their rage and some were frankly so psychotic that they would be under psychiatric care in the West. Some were like children, stealing anything they desired, shouting offensive words, etc. As we know, many have fits, minor or major, due to epilepsy.

I think, in Western society, we need the energy of the ancient prophets and sybils, who chastised, criticised, exhorted and sometimes condemned those who are immoral. We need those who will put our society back on track and will have the confidence to say what needs to be said.

Can we create an ancient cultural phenomena in the New Age, affluent West? How close can we get to real native shamanic practice? How close do we need to be? Can a New Age equivalent/copy/pretense offer something of value?

I think you raise many important points Michael. It is important to question!
Wed,24 Jul 2013,12:44:38 GMT
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