Shamans live by a set of complex and deep spiritual principles where Spirit and ceremony is integrated into every moment. Most of all, a shamanic lifestyle involves being in right relationship with oneself, with the earth, and with the spirit world (including ancestors and descendants).
The ancient shamanic way of life is the way of the healer. Specifically, healing the earth and its creatures in stewardship of right relationship with all things.
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A shaman is in right relationship with oneself
The foundation of shamanism is to be in right relationship with oneself. When we say right relationship with oneself, we mean that one is practicing the foundational shamanic skills (<<See this post to read about the fundamental skills).
As Michael Harner says in his book The Way of the Shaman, “In shamanism, the maintenance of one’s personal power is fundamental to well-being.” In all, this means taking 100% responsibility for one’s life experience as a spiritual adult.
Yet, many adults in our contemporary society are still embodying the archetype of the powerless wounded child.
Wounded children often cannot welcome their own experiences or accept what they find within themselves because they are holding on to behavioral or emotional patterns and beliefs from childhood. Wounded children often continue to blame their parents and others for how life has turned out well into adulthood (into their 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond).
As a result, they can find themselves stuck and unable to move forward in life. Additionally, they may interpret events in their lives and shamanic journeys through that distorted lens.
If that sounds like you, it’s ok, and you’re not alone. Since our society lacks traditional rites of passage, this is now the norm. Now that you know you are acting out the wounded child script, you can shift: Wounded children must step into spiritual adulthood in order to live a shamanic lifestyle.
Have you ever seen a hollow bone in the wilderness? It has been picked dry by the insects and scavengers. It is completely smooth and flawless. Gaining the perspective of the hollow bone is no easy task. It can take a lifetime.
To be like the hollow bone is to have let go of the ego, of doubt, fear, and concern. With this humble approach and pure heart, spirit can come through you.
A shaman is in right relationship with the earth
Shamanic cosmologies are usually derived from the land. For example, the mountainous topography of the land is a big part of the cosmology and shamanism of the Peruvian Ándes. If you are from the plains, it would be challenging to apply this cosmology to your daily life. Instead, cultivate a relationship with the spirits of the land where you live.
The cosmology of shamanic cultures also usually cultivate a relationship with the four directions, the elements (air, earth, fire, water), the cycles of nature, and deep listening to the voices of nature.
A shaman acts as an intermediary between nature and society. She spends time in deep listening to the thunder beings, the wind, rain, elements, animals, and the spirit world. Her duty is to bring the information back to the village so that wellness may be restored or maintained.
A shaman is in right relationship with the spirit world
Journeys are a divination tool that give you robust information and medicine to heal and choose your path. Being in right relationship with the spirit world requires that one visit often. However, entering this territory before you learn to maintain your personal power can be harmful to you and those you aim to heal.
Anyone can journey to the other realms and have an experience with the unseen forces. This ability is part of the human experience.
But in order for those experiences to be meaningful and to interpret them appropriately, one must be in right relationship with oneself and others first.
Committing to disciplined personal practices builds the relationship with the spiritual world and also help us move toward the idea of becoming like a hollow bone. Without the personal practices, commitment, and movement toward being like the hollow bone, journey interpretation would most likely be incorrect.
A shaman is a healer
Relationship with the spirit world and unseen realms is in support of health and healing of the earth and its creatures. A healing in another realm translates into the realm where we live.
In many cultures, the community chooses a shaman before birth, at birth, or early in childhood. Then an elder teaches the youngster the ancient ways which have been passed down from generation to generation.
Consequently, as modern people practicing a shamanic lifestyle, most of us cannot claim to be “shamans.”
However, we can go back to our own lineages and find out what could have been the traditions of our ancestors. Another approach could be to journey to our ancestors and ask for guidance. For women who are descendants of European lineage, the word may be “witch” or “priestess,” or “Druid.”
Actually, it doesn’t matter what you call yourself. The people and the spirits will name you what they will.
What matters is that you walk in a sacred manner in alignment with your reason for traveling to this earth.
The way forward
We we can choose to re-incorporate the path of the priestess, the witch, the shaman, the seer; whatever name suits your fancy. Or we can choose to continue down the same road we have been traveling for hundreds of years: taking advantage of the earth’s resources and causing destruction.
Our path is in service to Mother Earth and the Divine Feminine, and in service of you remembering why you came here.