As those of you who have visited The Well of Belonging will be aware , I have a life long connection to and awareness of ‘Other’. That which is other than human. Land spirits, plant spirits, animal spirits. I have felt drawn towards exploring and discovering a deeper connection to the beings that co-exist with us on this earth and those that support us and work with us in the other realms.
A path that is often termed these days as Shamanism. Whilst I would say the way in which I work could be considered shamanic in nature , I do not and would not consider myself by any stretch of the imagination to be ‘A shaman’ .
Striclty speaking a true Shaman is one who is called by the spirits themselves , receives numerous initiations by them and is usually apprenticed to another in their lineage for a number of years before being allowed to call themselves Shaman. The spirits themselves decide if you are up to the job – one which is actually full of pitfalls and dangers and needs to be navigated with the utmost care and with full knowledge of what one is doing.
Shaman means ,one who knows. A shaman is often a well respected member of the community, whose life is dedicated to mediating between the human and spirit realms on behalf of both, to support the wellbeing of the place, the spirits and the people. To maintain harmony and balance for all concerned. You can’t become a shaman in a weekend. But you can utilise some of the practices, such as journeying, to enhance your own connections to your helpers, guides and teachers in spirit.
For a lot of people in Western cultures sadly, our connection to our native spiritual heritage was severed long ago with the advent of Christianity- and those who had the knowledge were either murdered or went into hiding. So we have had to patch together fragments from our oral history and combine them with borrowed practices from other cultures, likely to be similar to our own ancient practices and do our best to reconnect the threads of our spiritual and nature connected heritage .
There aren’t many who are connected to a lineage and most people, like myself are in effect taught through their relationship with their guides.
The majority of people in the modern world who are drawn to shamanism , those that aren’t part of an established tradition or culture, work within what is termed core shamanism- which is a set of practices gathered by western anthropologists studying other tribal cultures , that are utilised to help dissociated and disconnected westerners re-connect to their own innate capacity for relationship with beings beyond the physical , human realms.
One of the main ways of doing this that is often taught is Journeying. The prescribed method is to lie down , with eyes closed and listen to the repetitive beat of a drum and journey on its sound into the spirit realms of upper, middle and lower world. The concept and knowledge of these 3 realms is shared by all cultures across the globe.
You journey first to a beginning place , somewhere that has a familiar counter part to a place you know well in this realm. Then you ask for a guide to connect with who will be your helper and obviously , guide, around the inner realms. Time is spent forming a relationship with these guides before you are then ready to be taken to the access point for the Lower, Middle and Upper realms. Usually the most common presentation representing these 3 worlds is the World Tree. The roots represent connection to the Lower world. The trunk Middle world and the branches the Upper World.
Some people connect to this practice very well and very easily – but it requires an ability to be able to both be relaxed in body and mind enough to leave this world behind, whilst remaining conscious of what is happening, so you can bring back the information /healing you need. It is essentially dreaming whilst being awake.
But this isn’t the only way to journey , nor is it the only way to find or strengthen your connection to your own guides, helpers and other realms. Its a method I’ve found quite frustrating and difficult because it doesn’t always happen the way its described.
There is a big emphasis on the visual aspect of the journey and of seeing what is going on – but not everyone sees clear images of what is taking place.Some experience the journey as a purely physical event -with bodily sensations providing the information. Some see only colours or hear messages.
Every one is different and so it makes sense that we will each have our own method.At the end of the day the purpose is to learn to work with your own guides and helpers and not everyone is destined to travel between the realms this way . I spent years wasting time being overly concerned with getting it right , until I eventually gave in and accepted the fact that this way, may not be my way, and my guides and helpers will show me what I need to know , in ways that work for me .
Some people, like me , can’t travel to the sound of a drum beat , its too loud and intrusive for me to be able to relax enough. So I don’t bother with it . The drum beat is there to help you shift your brain waves from one state to another so you enter into a state of consciousness that is between waking and sleeping. But there are many ways of doing this.
Some people can do it at will , some do it with breath, some do it with meditation, some do it with rattles . I find silence and stillness quite helpful. Singing and chanting is another good way. Dreaming is another way of learning to journey.
One of the ways that works very well for me and no doubt lots of creative types , is though creating art. I find working with story, a very powerful way of journeying, that brings imagery and language together to bring awareness of what needs to be healed . Creativity using the imagination offers a way to connect with and bring back information from the spirit realms to this one. For many people, the creating of the art work is the Journey.
So here, I offer the second of the images from the Journey cards series , as well as a Journey Poem I have been given permission by my guides to share with you.
Old Mother Raven
came to my door ,
to tell me of wisdom and ancient law.
Dressed in fine feathers, with eyes darkest black,
she cawed to invite me on a journey ,
To the land of my ancestors,
in story and song,
with magic there,
weaving a place a I belong.
With a sky full of stars
and a moon nearly new,
together through time
the two of us flew.
”The shape of your destiny, is still to be told.
Honour the learning and power you hold.
Dream of a vision the world can behold.
Be daring! Be brave !Be courageous! Be bold!”