What is shamanism?

 What is a power animal?

 What is a spirit helper?

 What is a power song?

 What is the cone of silence?

 What is the contraction of being?

What is shamanism?

            Personally, shamanism provides a method for me to experience life beyond the rational mind and its limitations. Ever since I was a young child I knew there was a place where imagination began, where great powers and incredible beings existed to help us and heal us. I spent forty years trying to find a way to get there. In 1994, I discovered a little book called The Way of the Shaman by Michael Harner. He laid out the core elements of shamanism as it had been practiced for over 50,000 years, adapted the techniques and technology for modern people and, suddenly, I had access to the spirit world. I had found my way!

            Using a sonic driver, in my case drumming on CD, the daily mind is distracted. Then, having access to that mythical 90% of the brain we don’t use, the psychic and subtle worlds are revealed. I enter these worlds with powerful intent behind each of my journeys there. Intent, while a good list filler in ordinary reality, in non-ordinary reality becomes an enormously powerful tool. The shaman’s work is to apply the intent and watch for the intentional and unintentional to occur and discern their meanings. Power animals and spirit helpers act as guides, protectors, companions and teachers. More often than not, my clarity results from their explanations of events.

            Mircea Eliade, the historian and philosopher who wrote the seminal work on the topic called Shamanism, subtitled it Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. What the shaman knows that few others know is the secret of the trance, which is: the trance plus intent opens access to the scene of freedom, to the source of creativity and to sheer ecstasy, all achieved simply, safely and without drugs. Ecstasy is a major factor in all the reports in this series. I spend a lot of time there.

What is a power animal?

            Shamans require helpers to assist them with spiritual work. Typically, I have the benevolent support of both power animals and spirit helpers. On my first shamanic journey to non-ordinary reality in November 1994, I received a power animal, Tiger. The power Tiger gives me is joyousness, be happy. Soon after, Bear offered to be a power animal for me. Bear creates and sustains courage and strength in me. Eagle has the unenviable task of trying to make me wise. Each contributes its special power to my thoughts and actions, they are often part of my considerations when I reference one or all of them for quick advice. Through the assets they bring, power animals live every day with me, they improve my abilities, they increase my energy and confidence, they guide, guard and inspire me. I have adapted them into my life.

            My beautiful friends are ever willing to share their gifts with me. In return they ask to be danced, intentionally danced. To that end, I have run across the dunes of the Spirit Sands as Tiger, free and wild, giving Tiger some air, some space. I have lurched through the bushes as Bear, front paws almost graceful in the air, honey dripping down my fur. I have stood on stones on high hills next to sacred places and spread my wings, soaring as Eagle, unbearably light, unbound. Dancing my power animal affirms our communion for us both. It helps make us all happier spiritual beings.

             My power animals have been an extra resource for me when life happens, helping me survive double bypass heart surgery and a small cancer. This year they have consoled, loved and guided me and are helping me survive Linda’s death every day. My gratitude to them and for them is inexhaustible and constant.

What is a spirit helper?

            Spirit helpers have come in many forms for me from ancient tree spirits to long dead shamans. In fact, the two most benevolent and readily available spirits that help me daily are a tree spirit and a shaman.

            Very early in my shamanic journeying I encountered Maug. Here is my journal entry from that first meeting recounting Maug’s life as a child somewhere in time: “The large scars on her small palms and fingers shone bright as sun every time she washed her hands. When she clapped, sparks would arise like effervescent fireflies. Maug received her scars when she was nine years old. They saved her life. They were in exchange for the plague. She escaped the disease that killed her parents by “holding live coals in her hands” and carrying the scars for life. Then she placed her palms against my forehead and a powerful jolt of energy shot through me. I fought not to fall back from the force. Trees told her what to do. Trees had told her to carry the coals to resist the disease.”

            On my journeys with Maug, she would suddenly appear shuffling out of a spruce tree’s branches or we’d meet under the bark of a tree, in the living part where trees grow! Through my experience with Maug I have developed a rapport with some trees, spruce and oak most easily. Spending lots of time hiking in the trees re-enforces the rapport and the support I feel from them now.

            The most loving and helpful spirit helper I have is Webbed Flight, spirit of an old shaman from eastern Manitoba. We have been together 12 years during which he has helped me through the major challenges of my life and continues to do so today. Throughout this series there are numerous references to Webbed Flight, the ones giving you the most insight into our relationship can be found in the reports from Thunderbird Nest report on Day Seven and Bannock Point on Day Eight.  

            In the future I plan to write at length about both these spirits so this will have to do for now.

What is a power song?

             My power song keeps arising in these reports. Some details will help. A power song is an essential part of a shaman’s medicine bag and a reliable spiritual technology. During trance, Webbed Flight gave me my own song or perhaps I’ve always known it and he reminded me. The nifty little tune is distinctively mine and a number of shamanic benefits ensue from having a power song.

            It has definite and consistent effects on me whenever I sing it. It centres me as a mantra might; it grounds me, calms me and clears my mind; it helps me expand my awareness and be present. My power song helps define who I am. It enables shamanic work under noisy or chaotic conditions.

            Because my power song helps define who I am, it also identifies me to local spirits at sites I visit. I have sung it for years at some places and feel welcome and at home there. This is effective every time as local spirits remember everyone who visits them. On certain occasions, although it didn’t occur this year, I can hear the local spirits singing along with me.

             The actual song contains words that are specific to the occasion of its use. Although I have developed a basic “lyric” over the years, the words and tempo change. Requirements of the place and intent of the visit all temper the lyrical content of my song but the melody remains the same each time I sing it. It is an open system in which melody and intent are recognized by local spirits

            My song helps me re-experience places I’ve visited, rituals performed there and wisdom gained from each. This occurs in a “sing me back home” way where simply knowing that the site still exists at this moment recognizes and reinforces my experience there in the past.

What is the cone of silence?

            Semantically and theoretically, any cone of silence will resemble, to some degree, the cone of silence from Get Smart, one of television’s finer mementos of the absurd.

            In my case, the cone doesn’t descend. It’s already there when I get there. It’s always there. I enter it. To enter I must be present and congruent with the site and its local spirits. Inside isn’t much different from outside except inside you hear only what you need to hear. That’s why it exists. It teaches me intensely and without distraction. Often these are long slow lessons that require sustained attention, sometimes in light trance. Sometimes they are quick, concise and unequivocal. Inside I always feel humble, loved and safe.

What is the contraction of being?

     In our purest form, in our essence we are beings of Light. To become human beings we retreat away from the Light, contract away from it to access a physical and mental form. That narrowing or reduction of our being away from perfection, away from bliss is the contraction of being.

      Most of people live their entire lives utterly unaware of the contraction of being and what it can do. It is simple to locate. You can do it right now. Sit. Close your eyes. Feel the tightness just behind your eyes like an elastic band stretched between your temples inside your head, metaphorically speaking. Focus on it; sense its tautness and tension, relax it. Takes some practice but worth it.

     So what? Always a good question. In my reports, I tell of waiting for the loosening of the contraction of being as I near sacred places. Once I feel welcome, my being expands and I can approach Spirit more directly since there is less static or interference from the contraction. Relaxing the contraction creates vast inclusion not normally available, which makes communing much easier.

One response to “FAQ

  1. GhostDog

    re: FAQ
    This is most helpful … Thank you.

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