This morning I wrote an introduction on the "healing" section of my website about shamanism. More and more my practice is heading into the territory of making media, and healing the cultural machinery that delivers disease. But I thought I'd share an overview of my current thoughts about what shamanism refers to. Feedback is welcome. It's actually part of my work with the Evolver Network right now to clarify how we publicly represent this word and the spectrum of practices and cultures around it.
I teach shamanic techniques and psychic tools. You learn how to heal yourself through play and exploration.
Shamanism is an overgeneralized word imported from Siberian traditional practices. It's sometimes used to refer to a wide gamut of practices that include ritual magic, spirit possession and mediumship, healing with plants, clairvoyance, oracle work, wizardry, witchcraft, and sound healing. Historically practices vary widely according to region and culture. Even meditation and yoga can be considered shamanic practices. As far as I know most that practice these techniques consider the universe to be animistic, alive, conscious and interactive. The word is arguably of Sanskrit origin via migration: śramaṇa - wandering monastic or holy figure. It would have been brought to Siberia via Chinese or Tocharian peoples (Tocharian is an extinct language group formerly spoken by people near what is now the region of Xinjiang in China).
While the word shaman is problematic and oft abused, as appropriative or when economics get involved, for example with Ayahuasca tourism in the Amazon, I believe it's crucial that more people learn these skills. Globally many peoples who have this general skillset have been all but wiped out by genocide, slavery, persecution and religious conversion. There is a shortage of people who understand how to tend to realm of the spirit, whether you look at it as the realm of psyche and imagination (individual and collective), as living beings that exist in other planes of reality and interact with our physical plane, or even as the natural flows of water systems and wildlife which have their own intelligence and communication. My intention is to bring presence to that subtle interconnection, and empower people to create healthy relationships with their bodies, psyches, and environment.
A shaman in a traditional society might be seen as the local healer, wise person. I believe psychology, western medicine, and the criminal system all fail when it comes to public health, as their scientific frameworks are not robust enough to understand the roots of illness, and they operate within a capitalist industrial framework of education and policy. Much illness in our modern society is not due to the dysfunction of the individual. The truth as I see it, is that cultural wounding and patterns get promulgated through media and education. Another primary driver for disease and psychological maladies is simply nutritional. Industrial farming strips soil of minerals, genetically modified crops and pesticides end up in our intestines and affect the healthy balance of our bioflora (bacteria that live in your body that assist you in processing nutrients), and these pesticides also harm the pollinator animals (bees!) that help plants naturally reproduce.
Of course there are many other environmental pollutants and so forth, and plenty of traditional practices that provide what we need in harmony with nature, through more enojyable means of production. I recommend you grow your own medicine in your backyard, for example, and learn herbalism or befriend a neighbor who practices it. And I recommend you learn to see with your inner sight instead of relying on what media and teachers tell you.
I believe that more people knowing how to practice shamanism, and opening their mind and heart to a more intuitive, symbolic, and symbiotic experience of the world, will help us bring balance to people, land, and spirit. Shamanism is about interconnection and learning from the intelligence of the plant, animal, mineral, and spirit worlds. I believe it's crucial to our health and that of the other species we share this Earth with.
One of the most interesting things I learned in my studies of comparative aesthetics, which is why other cultures make art and what it's about, is that many cultures do not have a word for art. It's not a separate activity than their daily lives together. To some extent I feel "shamanism" is similar. In fact I would argue that artists are the closest thing western culture has to shamans. Many stories about shamanism talk about how there is one shaman for a village, the crazy person who lives in a hut off in the forest. It's actually more often true that a village will have many people who do shamanic and magical practices together, not just for personal healing, but for community healing - and community in this case means the greater ecology within which humans are embedded. Perhaps western culture overuses this one word because en masse we are ignorant of a vast swath of our relationship with nature. I think it's healthy that it's coming into vogue and is almost a buzzword as people begin to turn on and tune in.
I'm personally into magic as manipulation in a healthy sense, and also as our native power of creation. What if you could sculpt the landscape of your mind, as you sculpt the landscape of your backyard, as you cultivate right relation with society? I think most people are unknowingly ruled by others' magic - corporations, governments, marketing, Hollywood and it's cocaine-fueled ego parade... (chewing coca leaves, much different than snorting a synthesized powder.) What will happen when more people wake up to their own power, and their power together, to live as one with art and magic? I'm so excited I get to watch this happen on such a massive scale in my lifetime. It's happening all around, and accelerating as more people tune in to intuition, telepathy, even just the internet's information sharing - our silicon/satellite fabricated mycelia.
There is much to explore, and I'm happy to share any understandings and guidance I've found along my path.