In a time of transition, when prophecies of a new humanity are playing out, it is said that the simple act of living a conscious life can support the transformation of all humanity.
The call to consciousness comes through a vast range of traditions and techniques, but one, a visionary and mystical path, emerging from the mists of pre-history, speaks to the longing for a more authentic life among modern, urban seekers. This is Shamanism.
What am I doing here, an ordinary, Western, city-raised woman, lying on a narrow ledge in the Blue Mountains beside a collection of stones, feathers, candles and bowls of water that I have arranged in a circle?
I am undertaking a ceremony of transformation through one of the most ancient initiatory rituals known to humans; a Vision Quest. The circle of objects is my Medicine Wheel, an energetic portal through which I hope to travel in altered consciousness, to call in & balance the energies of other worlds.
I am invoking the power of the circle and of all the circles, spirals and curves of nature to help me enter ‘shamanic space,’ the place from which my soul expands towards ecstasy. Two currawongs and a goanna watch as I call to Sprit to give me a vision of the mystery that I both long for & fear.
A traditional tribal shaman is a master of transformation who enters altered consciousness or trance states to explore and interact with the worlds of souls, nature and Spirit. He or she seeks wisdom, healing and empowerment for all. Although the word ‘shaman’ comes from Siberia, similar practices are found among original peoples in North and South America, many parts of Asia, Tibet, Australia, Africa and Northern and Southern Europe. The shaman is a master of ecstatic states that give direct connection to these worlds.
Traditionally, these shamans were chosen by ‘the spirits’ for the difficult and demanding task of service to their communities. Sometimes they endured a serious illness followed by a remarkable healing. By their results shamans gained the recognition of their people. Tribal peoples have always had ambivalent relationships with the shaman who is essential to their wellbeing but also feared for his or her powers.
So, what is the relevance of this ancient, esoteric practice to the modern world?