All of the world's religions from the largest denomination to the smallest sect, every spiritual path ever practiced owe their roots to Shamanism.
Shamanism is depicted on cave walls, on stones and boulders dating as far back as 40,000 years. Shamanism is the Grandmother of all spiritual beliefs today. It is not exclusive to any one culture. It has origins in most indigenous groups throughout the world.
Shamanism is not a religion. It is a practice or technique used to interact with spirits and the spiritual world. The shaman through various methods, is able to enter an altered state of consciousness. This is also understood as a way for the conscious mind to actually leave the physical body, and journey to the spiritual world.
The Shaman can over time, learn to keep and maintain a constant link with the spiritual world without having to leave the physical body.
The methods involved in achieving this ability, is as varied as the people and cultures that practice it. Some methods are extreme, involving hallucinogenic compounds, pain, fasting, sensory deprivation, lack of sleep, sweat lodges, drumming and dancing for hours or even days.
The reason for these extreme measures, is to break down the barrier between Worlds. In order to journey, the shaman must remove this barrier. Some practitioners require more physical and mental fatigue in order to break down the barriers than others. This is the reason for such a wide variety in practices.
There is a gate between worlds. There is a Guardian at this gate. Most of the Guardians throughout mythology are Human descriptions of this Guardian or Guardians, but over time, they have come to be interpreted as creatures outside of ourselves. But this Guardian is not outside but contained within ourselves, allowing us access only when we are ready. It is the love you carry in your heart that is the key to opening this gate.
It should also be understood that this "barrier" is within the mind and heart of the shaman. It is not a separate thing outside of us. It is not an object, but a state of mind and heart.
The other end of the shamanic spectrum may be as simple as soft music, a stick of incense, and sitting still and quiet...... Whichever technique is used, if it allows the shaman to journey and connect with the spirit world, then it is valid.
It is not necessary for the shaman to remain within the beliefs of any one particular tradition or culture. It is possible for the shaman to journey where ever she needs to gather information and wisdom to help the person in need of healing or to gather information & answers concerning other needs or questions.
There are many dangers and pitfalls that the shaman may run into in the spirit world. Sometimes the shaman must travel into an area where there are dangerous or malevolent spirits. A shaman must not be timid or hesitant during a journey. The shaman cannot have any fear. The shaman's greatest weapon, is the heart. A heart filled with love, is the strongest protection there is. To some, this may sound a little naive, but to those who have experience in this field it is known that Love is the strongest force of all. It is fear that makes a person, a shaman or any one else weak.
But there is also great beauty and love that the shaman encounters. There are wonderful great Spirits that wish more Humans had the ability to meet with them. They are there, just waiting to help us. There was a time when communication between realms was not so infrequent. A time when beings met from both sides, in love and caring.
Believing in yourself is one of the most difficult things to learn. Your ability to journey can be blocked by your own dis-belief. There has to be a certain amount of 'trust' in yourself.
Having an experienced guide to help you find your way is important. Being able to tell the difference between an actual shamanic journey and your own mind's 'imagination' is a very fine line. One way to tell the difference, is that when your own mind is 'making it up' it will have a whimsical feel to it. Unless of course, you manage to journey to the Faery Realm where there is whimsy all over the place! The actual journey will ring true down through your whole body. If you are making it up, you probably will not be surprised by the events as they unfold. Just the opposite is true when you succeed.
This is all experiential and will take time for you to be able to tell the difference. A real journey will show you things that will astound and overwhelm you to the degree that you know your own mind could not invent on its own.
A word of caution before you try any shamanic journey. Learn protection, this is a must. There are spirits who will take advantage of those who venture there without protection. Also, it would be better to meditate and connect with your own personal Guardian/Guides first. Let them show you around in safety. However it is expected that you eventually learn how to protect yourself as well.
Is this for you? Are you willing to die to become a shaman? There is a general rule that seems to be in place. In order to become a shaman, you must die. Not, literally of course. But, you will die ... take my word for it! Somewhere along this path, you will experience death. This will be a death, as far as you are concerned. It will be as profound as anything that has ever happened to you. You will leave behind the person that you used to be, and you will be made anew. You will be changed forever. Does this prospect scare you? Remember, Love is the strongest force in the Universe.
copyright © Jennifer Sanfilippo
The Raven & The Coyote