The mistake has been made many times and I wanted to put the big banner somewhere that I am not a Shaman. There’s a difference between being a Shamanic Practitioner and a Shaman. This is currently a hot bed of a debate, and I don’t want to argue with people. That’s not my interest. But I do wish to clarify where I stand with this situation, and also define myself as a practitioner.
There’s this wonderful organization called the Society of Shamanic Practice that is a collection of Shamanic Practitioners. They organize different events, and have a directory of events, teachers, and practitioners organized by State. If you sign up to be a member, you might want to listen to the audio recording they released back in January of 2018 which has Lena Stevens moderating a discussion between Sandra Ingerman, Jose Stephens, and Ben Boomer. This was a very enlightening conversation between three very experienced individuals that are leaders in their field. Sandra Ingerman is world renowned for her leadership in teaching Shamanism for over thirty years. She got her start with Michael Harner and the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, and has since been on her own path of spreading her teachings that she has received through her Guides. Jose Stephens is one of the founders of the Power Path School of Shamanism and is a board member of the Society for Shamanic Practice. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years. Ben Boomer was raised participating in both traditional Diné ceremony with his mother’s family and traveling to California for Christmas with his father’s side of the family. These experiences created a deep recognition of the validity and importance of the ancient ways of knowing from a spectrum of cultures. His life has created natural fusions between the modern western society and indigenous civilization.
The summary that I took away from that interview really helped clarify a lot of things for me. In order to be a Shaman, you must have a community that you belong to. A weekend workshop or a 1-2 year training program does not count. The community recognizes you as the Shaman and the Shaman recognizes the community. To use the word “Shaman” because it’s something cool and fashionable does dishonor to the role of a Shaman. In this society, there is currently a glamour around the word Shaman. It also breeds ignorance because there can be a superficial context of which to understand what exactly the role of a Shaman is. We as a Western Contemporary Society generally do not have the context for healthy community. Traditionally it would take years of apprenticeship, study, and dedication in order to follow that path. And even further still, the role of being a Shaman is gifted by the Spirits. The Spirits choose who the Shaman is, and a community recognizes and feels the vibration of that choice.
Let’s put this into perspective. In a traditional Shamanic culture, everyone would be able to communicate and talk with the Spirits. It was a daily act of cultivation to be able to interact with the sacred. The Diné have the expression to “Walk in Beauty”, because the Sacred is in everything and should be honored. That is the meaning of respect, and cultivating that respect with the world around you. It’s knowing that the world around you is connected in a great web of life, and seeing the hands of Spirit/God/The Universe reflected in all things.
However, in our culture, those who can talk to Spirits and communicate with them regularly are marginalized. There is an emergence of psychics, mediums, and other varieties that are becoming more common. Nothing is wrong with them, and they do have gifts. This should be more commonplace, to recognize the people that have true gifts. We should celebrate this instead of shame them. This would be considered “normal” and a functioning part of being in a Shamanic culture, because divination is still practiced in active Shamanic Cultures today. This is one of the reasons why I teach Shamanic Journeying (and have been for years now), because it’s a way to begin having these experiences of interacting with one trusted Helping Spirit. We as humans would do need help from the world around us. To project what we feel is “right” or “wrong” is actually imposing our will on our outside world, and is not taking into account that everything has its own Spirit.
Have you ever walked into someones house and felt nice and calm? Just started relaxing as soon as you walk in the door? And then what happens when you walk into an office building and you feel your shoulders start tensing up because of all of the stress that’s in the environment? Buildings have spirits too, and so does the land that the buildings are on. No one needs to be a Shaman to tap into that.
To be a Shamanic Practitioner means to be able to use Shamanic skills in your everyday life to interact in a healthy and respectful way with the world around you. It’s about constantly improving our language with Spirit and understand the messages we are being given. To Journey to the Spirit of the Land and give respect to the stream in your backyard by tossing some tobacco or cornmeal outside is a great way to begin cultivating the relationship with the world around us. To honor your Ancestors, the ones who have walked before you, by setting aside a little tiny plate of food at each meal to give gratitude for the food you are about to eat. These are things that (in my opinion) should be normalized to help us feel more connected to the great web of life. So many of my clients suffer because they feel the strain of loneliness, feeding into the story of separation – that they are separated from God/The Universe/Spirit. In an indigenous culture, everyone would be expected to maintain this relationship with the divine by honoring the Sacred in all things.
So in short: No, I am not a Shaman. I am a Shamanic Practitioner. I have not studied or trained with an Indigenous culture for 20+ years. Yes I’ve talked to Spirits since I was a kid and have been immersed in other books about Shamanism, following a Shamanic Path without realizing it since 2006. But I didn’t really find my path until I found Mary Tyrtle Rooker and picked up Sandra Ingermans journeying book back in 2013. I find myself a beginner on this path of Shamanism. Constantly going back to the basics and spreading the truth of what I know and what I have learned into the world. If someone calls me a Shaman, I won’t correct them because if they happen to be at one of my events then they are part of the community that’s there. The community has the right to call me a Shaman, but I myself will not call myself a Shaman. I’m just here to do my part and to spread ease, joy, love, and laughter into the world.