View Full Version : URBAN SHAMANISM (part 2)

23rd October 2011, 08:25
Well I got the feedback on my draft, as to be expected she was not impressed with much of my 'pop psychology and new age speel' oh well I guess somethings just rub against other peoples reality tunnels. Some of her points were relivant, points requiring further explainations etc. however I think she found my points on modern western thought to be 'typical' of new age attitudes. she asked me where was the stuff on medicine, asking for labels and more detail on how we work, how people come to us, overall asking me to back up my work with academic sources; I think she missed where I was coming from. She found some of my work damn right dogmatic, and asked how I could speak on behalf of other 'urban shamans' like I could sit down and have a vote/poll on such matters. I kinda hoped I wouldn't forced into being pigeon-holed however it seems that I might be banging my head against a intellectual brick wall. Maybe i'm just not towing the line, not sure that i'm capable of that, and the learning experience has been fun, bouncing ideas off people. Is critical thinking and thinking critically the same? I'm not sure who is more hard headed her or me, like water and oil; I knew from the start she had sterotyped me, even calling me a typical 'new ager' and unfortunatly she hasn't proved me wrong. I guess trying to connect with some folks is entertaining, like watching how a spider devours it's prey, unless your the fly. I guess the lesson i'm beginning to learn here is that some people are just too resistant to change and are happy being 'free' inside their limited boxes; can't fault me for trying. Oh well at least someone might find use in the work, I have had some good feed back off 'new agers' ;) , you can take horse to water and all that. Nothing is ever wasted if you are open to learn, regardless of the intensity of the experience; we live and learn. I'm not sure me and her are going having a happy ending, oh well there are bigger things in life than academic qualifications, honestly :P .

Here is the next bit of the work, feel free to critique, I feel there is some bit of my ass left to be chewed on somewhere (looks behind) yep, still some left :P

Strangers in a Strange land

How does a person born into modern culture re-engage with the practice of shamanism, a practice that historically in Britain went into steady decline following the Roman Conquest of Britain? Where does such an individual and such practices fit within a modern society? The answer to the first part is that we have to learn from scratch, and with the knowledge gained we have tried to reconnect with the land, seeking to find the paths which will allow us to reestablish ourselves to the wider community. The answer to the second question as to where urban shaman fits into a modern world, well simply put, we don’t; I will explain as to why this is so shortly, however I will first expand my explanation of the first point.

A friend of mine once told me of his travels round North America, and how on one occasion when he went to visit a Native American reservation, to see if he could meet a Native American medicine man. On arrival he was refused a meeting, as he was told as to why he did not see his own medicine man, as their medicine man was for their own people? The Native American added that my friend’s people should not have killed their own medicine men, and this was the reason why my friend’s people were all messed up. This example not only shows how hard it can be to learn lost knowledge and techniques, it also shows how the modern society might actually be akin to being spiritual orphans, a people in the world without the necessary spiritual guidance in life, that keeps us connected to the wider reality. Unlike my friend, I was more fortunate on my travels, and managed to be to be able to sit with many different mystics, Shamans, Sadhus, Sufis and Druids, blessed by synchronicity and the company, to gain some insights into mystical living and practices.

Being a native of the British Isles it seemed logical to try to reconnect with the land and the ancestors of these lands, as healthy connection to both is essential for the shaman to practice; for the shaman the genius loci, the spirits of the area, are a reality and offending such spirits can have serious consequences. This reconnecting to spatial and spiritual aspects of an area is an ongoing process for us urban shamans, as urban environments are often littered with areas that have become highly negative in a spiritual sense; such negativity can be physically painful to a shaman, as our heightened intuitive aspect of consciousness means that we actually feel such damage. This doesn’t mean that an area considered to be economically underprivileged is necessarily a spiritual ‘black spot’ in Britain; however from my experience such examples are rare, with the majority of areas struggling to keep their heads above water, as such negative energy often creates a down-ward spiral, making life for such people highly oppressive and painful. In the section on healing I will discuss how we urban shamans work to heal such areas.

An aspect of reconnecting with the lost traditions of the British Isles is an ongoing process, which is like trying to attach two pieces of fabric together, with one set of threads being the combination of the knowledge gained by the reverse engineering of other shamanic/mystical traditions, and the individual shamans level of understanding. The second piece of material’s threads, being the frayed ends of our Ancient past, this being found in information that has survived in the archaeological and written record, and from the tales that have survived throughout the British Isles in the oral tradition. The aim is to be able to join these two pieces sufficiently enough together, as to be able to access the knowledge of the ancestors, this painstaking process continues, but is necessary for us shamans, as to be able to best work within our communities.

If a shaman’s practice comes from our ability to connect with the expanded reality, the oneness, then as our ties increase on the physical and others levels of existence, so does our ability to work with and heal these communities. This reconnection to the ancestors of the past in Britain doesn’t make urban shamans in Britain nationalists, rather it recognizes the same connections that say an Aborigine would have to Ayers Rock, that places of mystical importance are often tied to a long cultural tradition of spiritual practice in such areas; in a sense the zeitgeist of the region. We urban shamans work with such places in Britain and honor the ancestors of such places. To the shaman and often with other mystics, sacred spaces are sacred spaces regardless of culture. Shamans and mystics are often not subject to the dogma that may exist in cultures that forbid contact with spiritual places not of their own belief, as we operate outside such boundaries; boundaries to the shaman do not exist, as our consciousness comes from the boundless. On the topic of boundaries, I will now explain the second point at the beginning of this chapter, that being where do urban shamans fit into society.

The traditional view of the Shaman is that generally the shaman is an important part of the community, as a spiritual guardian and protector for their people, that the shaman is an intrinsic part of their community’s culture. However the Shaman is often seen as being different to the normal pattern of identity for their people, essentially the shaman is often perceived as a beneficial deviant within the community; but a deviant never the less. This is an understandable situation considering our interaction with other realms of existence, which often marks us with a touch of weirdness; something that people sometimes sense in our company, depending on their sensitivity, with persons on other mystical paths being the most aware of such a difference. Therefore essentially even though we are respected for what we do in traditional societies, we still occupy a position close to an outsider within the traditional structure of many societies. The Shaman however is not necessarily dependant on their community, rather the shaman chooses to help and heal the community in which they find themselves present. A Druid friend asked me once if I had a tribe as a shaman, my reply was that the world is my tribe; I guess even shaman’s have to change with globalization. Essentially the shaman is not the product of their cultural socialization; the shaman’s genesis is external to society, the cultural practices they adopt in reality are the symbols that act as a bridging device so as to be understood by the community they work with. For example in India on my travels I was treated as a Sadhu by both Sadhus and the general populace, which meant any healing or practices I undertook had to be off the local frame of reference; a doctor is doctor wherever they are based in the world, however being sensitive to another culture’s practices make such interactions easier, helping to avoiding a particular taboo for example.

Within modern society many of the ‘societal slots’ where we would have normally fitted into, have been filled by the priest, the doctor and the therapist. However these professionals, in modern society, often are dismissive of the spiritual nature of existence, thus sometimes they do not sufficiently substitute the role shamans played in past societies, in short modern society is often collectively unable to heal the spiritually sick. In relation to priests and clerics this statement might sound inaccurate, however many such figures in the modern world operate within dogmatic ritual practices mixed with the dominant technocratic paradigm; for example a person who comes to a vicar hearing voices is more likely to get directed to a doctor, rather than to an exorcist. The absence of accepted ‘slots’ in society does not stop us urban shamans from practicing our craft, however it does mean that sometimes we have to go a longer way around an issue; for example when healing someone, having to choose our words carefully as we shaman’s have to work closely to the patients ‘reality tunnel’, to insure they avoid being scared, thus we often have to work in a subtle fashion. Over time we build a rapport, which often expands with success and a sense of growing trust, as we avoid the problems that can arise from culture shock; declaring our shamanic nature can have its own problems. Shamans are versatile in their capacity to adapt, as our focus is often, if not mostly, in the moment; as often our perception and our notions of time change after our shamanic initiation.
In the next section I will try to explain how the shaman perceives themselves and the world external to them, through the shamanic lens; as this view determines how the shaman interacts with the community they are around and the world at large.


24th October 2011, 04:40
Enjoyable reading, thanks! Love to hear about the wide range of people you have studied from and their own teachings. There are many books that you might reference in order to try to speak your instructor's language. It never hurts to open the eyes of one who thinks they are qualified to train the young.

I'm sure if your ask Avalonians their fave shamanics or urban shaman or druidic or geomancy or western tradition herbalism etc. book you will get swamped with excellent ideas.

24th October 2011, 06:17
Something that occurs with me as I read your writings, is that writing as you are in the first person.... I, me, we, it somehow makes it too subjective, exclusive and not ... accessible. If you refer to the shaman as he and they, it is easier... for me personally to 'share' the experience you are sharing 'with you'... I guess I mean more a narrative style. That said, the content is good and I am enjoying it very much and look forward to more.

24th October 2011, 11:51
Editors of metaphysical intellectual properties tend to notice how people who want to explore concepts of shamanism want to associate the word with either the British Isles or North American Native Americans and both values are hsitorically and in an entymology sense.... incorrect. It's become a vast all purpose label rather like 'witch' did back in the the times of the Inquistion to blanket everyone who was even more slightly higher expressed or just a bit odd, or even just very good with herbs, under the same label.--witch.

I am curious myself why you are assocating the word shaman with the British Isles. I will tell your that no matter what else the value of the your writing if an eidtor or critiquer who was adamant about historical and entymology use would probably read that first paragraph, toss your your manuscript aside at that point, and not bother to read on even if the remainder of your work had all the secrets of the universe contained in it. You may fare better by explaining why you are making this association between shamanism and the British Isles first before proceeding on.

1st October 2014, 11:01
Hi all been bouncing all over the show for a while, however I thought i'd let you know how the piece 'panned' out in the end :) I had to rewrite the whole work and made it more of a personal narrative, closely examining the shamanic experience in relation to notions of mental illness and the role of the trickster in my life path. The end result was a success and I was a couple of marks shy of a 1st Grade; which could have been attained if I had polished the grammar up I feel, but I think I was just happy to get it all down and in on time for marking :) Thanks for all your encouragement at the time, helped alot :) all is well in funny land at the moment, best wishes to you all :)

Laughs-last :jester:

1st October 2014, 13:29
Hi laughs-last. Good piece. I'm on a Native American healing path myself.

This is what I found to be true. No matter where one lives, it is the etheric connection to the universe,the earth and to other people that the "shaman" understands, integrates, and applies into their practice.

Anyone can learn these techniques from various traditions around the world and apply them anywhere that they happen to live. In an urban environment, it helps to have some access to a connection to nature such as parks, courtyards, etc. where one can ground oneself. Even a roof garden with soil may serve the purpose. Also, there should be a place where one can see at least some of the sky and stars at night.

In tribal times cultures worldwide had shamans, healers, holy people, medicine people, witch doctors; by whatever name they called them. Some became very specialized with particular skills. For example, bear clan members from some Native American tribes would learn plant medicines. Female shamans were usually midwives but may have also had other shamanic duties within the tribe.

The reason that there were designated people that were shamans is because most of the people were needed to do daily tasks that ensured survival of the tribe; it was a hard life. Not everyone had the time or the proclivity to learn the ways so the task fell to chosen individuals.

Now, since we are not so consumed with survival in our daily lives, many are learning these old ways as a path to healing themselves and helping others and our Earth.

It really helps to find a teacher that can focus your energy in certain directions no matter what tradition is being used. Your first teacher may not be your last.

On my path, I have found that I reached a point where I realized that I now live outside of the rest of society. It was difficult and I felt the urge to flee from the mundane world. I felt like selling everything I have, quitting my job, etc. and becoming itinerant because I no longer identify with any of it. However, I have a family and I do want to continue to participate in their lives.

So, the next stage is learning how to balance the "two worlds" in my own life. I'm still in that stage and I'm getting better at it. On this path, I'll be learning for the rest of my life. I do hope to be able to pass on some of these ways to a younger person eventually.

By the way, the word shaman comes from the Mongolian tradition I think. Although it is being used extensively around the world now. The British Isles had the druidic and bardic traditions. They also had the fool whose ways can be compared to the sacred clown (Heyoka or Windigo-con in the Native American traditions). The sacred clown may or may not have been a shaman in any particular tribe but, their "medicine" served to teach others and to break up seriousness. And, they still do.

Keep going laughs-last!