Interview With Yvonne Ryves

March 1st, 2015

Yvonne Ryves: Weaving the Web

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Yvonne Ryves is a practicing shamanic healer, shamanic drum maker, holistic therapist and trainer. Living and working in West Cork, Ireland, she runs courses on energy healing and shamanic work. She has recently contributed to the Shaman Pathways series with the book Web of Life, cited as a new approach to using ancient ways in contemporary times. I caught up with Yvonne to find out a bit more about the book.

Mabh: What inspired you to write Web of Life?

Yvonne: For some time before I wrote Web of Life, I had been aware of how often I came across ways of working which were powerful and useful but which did not really fit me, and so caused me to adjust either them or myself accordingly. For example I had been struggling on and off for about four years with working with a medicine wheel and not being able to hold on to any of it enough to work with it. A healing blanket made for me, which contained the spirit animals I work with, really highlighted that I actually work within an amalgamation of cultures; some Celtic, some Native American, some Andean and that this was completely right for me. This got me thinking and made sense of why the medicine wheel as such didn’t fit me. Alongside this I had become increasingly aware of how other cultures have guidance e.g. in the form of medicine wheels, wheels of life and the wheel of the year, for example, but those of us who are not from such cultures or backgrounds have nothing to guide and support us. Out of this thinking came the need to create something that could be taken by anyone regardless of culture or beliefs and be developed by them to create something unique to them and with which they could work. This turned out to be the Web of Life.

MS: Who do you think will get the most out of this book?

YR: Everyone! And I really do mean that. I think we all benefit from opening to the connection we have with all that exists, learning to listen to the guidance and knowledge that is around us and using it to assist us in moving through our lives with greater awareness of what we are choosing to create as we do.

MS: So, would you say the ideas within this book could be adapted by those not on a specifically shamanic path?

YR: Undoubtedly. My aim was to create something that was accessible and adaptable by everyone regardless of their culture or belief. Web of Life is not specifically shamanic; rather, it is based on the belief that everything that exists is alive and communicates with everything else that exists, a belief that is shared by Pagans, Shamans, Buddhists, Wiccans and also some scientists to name but a few.

MS: Tell us a bit about the Shaman Pathways series this book is a part of.

YR: The Shaman Pathways series is a collection of short books by a range of authors and published by Moon Books, which look at different aspects of shamanism. There is a parallel series Pagan Portals also published by Moon Books.

MS: Shamanism is often regarded as a South American or native American idea; how well does shamanism translate into our western culture?

YR: The origins of the word shaman actually come from the Tungus people of Siberian rather than South American or Native American. It has though grown in use as a general term used to describe tribal cultures which work in similar ways to those seen within the Tungus people. There are many aspects of shamanic practice but the one thing that makes it different from everything else is the ability to walk between worlds and work with spirit helpers or guides.

Shamanism in some form was probably used by every culture that existed and not restricted to any one culture. Although the names that were used were different (e.g. Witch, medicine man or woman, sin eater) they were all forms of what we now would term as shaman.

In the West we have always had a shamanic culture even if there is little evidence of it having existed. I think that the world needs shamanism and that in the current climate people are seeking a way to reconnect with this element of their lives. Shamanism here is not necessarily tribal shamanism, nor does it need to be. As everything adapts, so has shamanism so it is very relevant and translates easily into our western culture.

MS: How did you first become interested in shamanic ways?

YR: While I was doing my apprenticeship as a Reiki Master I had some spontaneous past life recall one of which was as a young Native American child being shown how to identify and work with the plants in the woods by my Grandfather. He has lead me ever onwards since that time although it was a few years since I had a name for what I was being taught and a name for shamanic journeying. By the time I had these names it was just something that was part of me and what I did.

MS: You do many aspects of magical work including Reiki and holistic therapy as well as shamanic healing; would you say, overall, that you are a healer?

YR: Mmm that’s a difficult on [laughs]. I had an argument with one of my students years ago about just this. I denied that I was a healer, instead holding onto the belief that it was the energy that did the work and that I was just a channel for the energy. I could also add to that, that it is my spirit helpers that do the healing when I do shamanic work but this really negates what I do and my role within the process of healing. Overall though I would now say that yes, I am a healer.

MS: Web of Life is quite a slim volume; any plans to expand upon it?

YR: Not specifically. I could so easily have made it a much bigger book and included more background on Medicine Wheels, more theory behind the idea of a web of life for example, but I wanted it to be immediately accessible to people including those who might never have picked up a book like it before. I made a conscious decision therefore not to do this. I really wanted to give readers their freedom to create something that works for them rather than have to adapt a way someone else has created. I believe therefore that people, once they have worked with Web of Life, will create their own unique ways to expand their work with their webs.

MS: And what other projects do you have on the horizon?

YR: I am in the process of writing a book about shamanism and labyrinths which is something I am very interested in and have another idea for a book lurking but nothing firm yet.

I have also been contacted recently about shamanic training and this is something that I would like to look at in the future, both in person and distance training if I can find a practical way to make it work.

MS: A few of us with family in Ireland have observed that talking about life as an alternative practitioner or Pagan doesn’t have to be so ‘hush hush’ anymore. Living in Ireland, do you feel as if Paganism is on the rise there?

YR: Yes I do. There are still those who see anything alternative as being the work of the devil of course but in general people here, even older generations, are much more open than in the past and there is a growing interest in returning to the roots of our ancestors. I have really noticed an upsurge in those offering access to courses relating to all forms of paganism including shamanism. I actually find it very easy to be authentic here and never feel I have to hide what I do or what I am.

MS: Do you feel a connection to the land where you work and does this help with your healing?

YR: Yes very definitely. The land, and my connection to it, is vital for the type of healing I do. I rely a lot on being in contact with the energies around me and being able to call upon their assistance when I need to. I am blessed with living in a place that has amazing energy.

MS: Your academic qualifications are in teaching and education. Is this still a big part of your life?

YR: Not teaching in the traditional sense but passing on what I know and what I have learnt to others is still a big part of what I do whether this is in person or through my writing. I have tried many times to walk away from teaching but it is such an intrinsic part of me and my path here that I have now just accepted that. I do love seeing others grow, develop and find their own paths and it now feels like a gift to be able to be part of this.

MS: Does the teaching experience spill over into your spiritual endeavours; do you use the same skills when passing on your knowledge of shamanic skills, for example?

YR: Yes very much so. I have always been a facilitator rather than someone who is didactic and this is still how I work. I myself learn best by doing, through experiential learning and this really is how I pass on skills and knowledge now.

MS: You have a diverse range of experience and your bio tells us that you are now studying with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. What is the common theme in all your endeavours; what drives you to learn these skills?

YR: I think the common theme of all of it is going where I am led. I rarely know why I am drawn to do something, but trust that somewhere in it all is something I need. It’s a way of being that has taken me to some interesting places now but I can honestly say that none of it has ever been wasted. It might be several days, weeks, or even years before I understand why I did something but in the end it does all make sense. Sometimes my guides take pity on me and I am given some insight before I start but this is rare and to be honest makes it all so much more fun.

I think that whatever I do I learn more about myself and the more I learn the more I can help others.

MS: And finally, where do you see yourself in your own Web of Life 5 years from now?

YR: Oh that really is an impossible question for me to answer and always has been. I have never been able to visualise where I will be in 1/5/10 years’ time for some reason. I can remember during some training being asked to do this and honestly not being able to. I think it’s linked to my going where I’m led, going with the flow as it were. If I live this way, if I trust I am being looked after and guided then I only need to know about the now. When I plan my life path within my own Web of Life it is only to connect with the energies/teachers who are going to help me with what is ahead. I know if I work with them I stand a much better chance of learning the lessons that are there for me, understanding what is going on and not missing something important. With every path I weave in my Web of Life I weave it in the knowledge that it will take the time it needs, so I never know whether the part of the path I have woven is a short path or a long one.

Yvonne’s book Shaman Pathways: Web of Life is out now via Amazon and all other good book retailers.