The Shamanistic Path
I add this section for those who are interested in the spiritualistic or shamanistic aspect of meditation. This is simply an introduction to the world of the shaman. For those who wish to delve further, I would advise finding a reliable teacher to help them. In the last twenty years, there has been a widening of interest in the healing and spiritual practices of our ancestors and many have found a pathway back to a more earth-centred method of teaching and healing.
As always, trust your own instincts. Find out as much as you can before becoming too closely involved with any particular individual. We all go through challenging times, – but if this person is not handling the important aspects of their lives very well, then perhaps they are not for you.
If they care more about money than the work they are doing, then they are most likely not the right person to teach you. If they take on too many students, then they may not be able to give the support needed. Many shamans offer healing and counseling. If you are interested in learning from someone, then this may be a good way to find out if your paths are compatible. Even a good shaman may not be suited to you personally. Be prepared to take the time needed to find a way forward. A good friend who is a powerful shaman told me that the teacher will find you when you are ready. We work on ourselves and the universe guides us to where we need to be. I am always suspicious of weekend courses which promise to turn someone into an instant healer /shaman/counsellor with a nice shiny certificate.
What we know of the early religious practices of mankind is based largely on cave paintings and a few archaeological discoveries. Most anthropologists base their conjectures loosely on the tribal cultures which still existed in remote places up until quite recently, – before becoming overrun by modern society.
It is widely believed that shamans have existed as a separate class for at least 30,000 years.
It is my own belief that many men who were unsuited to hunting became shamans. In many ways, their initiation was as tough as that of the warriors in many cultures. Often they were buried for several days to symbolise a journey to the underworld.
Those with minor disabilities which would have made them unfit for hunting were able to help their tribe by performing rituals for success and journeying inward to help find the best places to hunt for game. They would then be on hand to protect the camp during the hunt and use divination to resolve any disputes. Contacting the ancestors may have been an important part of their duties and healing diseases by the use of herbs, and in serious cases, ‘soul retrieval’
In soul retrieval, the shaman enters the underworld to find the lost soul of a tribal member. The afflicted may have a mental illness or a fever or be near death.
The shaman must be confident and courageous, or he too may become lost in the vast realms of the underworld and perhaps never return.
I would find this idea quaint, – apart from having witnessed the effects on what could easily be called “loss of soul” on a good friend. He became lost during a badly constructed ritual for past life journeying which was popular in the 1970’s. Something rather nasty returned in his stead.
It took most of the night to evict the ‘entity’ and return this young man and he was never quite the same again. I am aware of the theory of disassociated personality complexes, but it is hard to call them that when they read minds and try to tear your throat out. This is why it is best to get a teacher before tackling more advanced work. Always set your boundaries and your intent. Use whatever help is available to you and meditate in a safe and a sane way. Take things slowly and easily.
My own ideas on how early shamanism was structured, are based more on my own experiences than on the little that is known of early man. Because a group of people may live a nomadic lifestyle or exist in buildings suited to their locality, made of straw and mud, – it hardly proves that their culture has not advanced in 30.000 years.
In 1980, I went to see a small collection of artifacts, taken from Newgrange, Ireland, which were on display in a private library in Dublin. I went with a friend, who I will call Susan. We were invited to go there by the leader of a Rosicrucian group we were involved in. All we were told was to look for an item listed as a ceremonial mace head and see what connection we could make with the object. It was an egg-shaped stone with spiral patterns and a hole through it, large enough to fill a man’s hand.
As I gazed at the object, I found myself back in Newgrange, sometime around the building of the passage tomb. A young man dressed in furs sat in front of a fire using the object to grind something in a bowl. He had a clubbed foot. When I commented on it, he laughed and told me it was why he was chosen to be a shaman. When I compared notes with Susan, it turned out that we had shared the same experience. Our accounts of the vision matched perfectly. Oddly, I forgot about this experience for many years until the memory came back to me one day. I wrote the poem below to remind myself of the journey.
Trance is a powerful tool for spiritual exploration.
It can be triggered by many methods.
Hypnotism is the least trustworthy and most dangerous method.
Do only fools and cripples live in longing for the light?
Are wounded hearts the only ones who venture deep into the dark to draw aside the veil?
They, who wander aimlessly in woods and fields, to search for wisdom long before the dawn,
Have pity for the poets and the artists who have felt this sense of exile since the day that they were born.
A simple, egg-shaped stone, small enough to fit inside my palm, became the key.
I gazed upon the spirals on this artifact and little did I realise the tale it had to tell.
My friend and I transported back in space and time to when it last was used.
At Newgrange barrow, we both stood, amazed, astounded and bemused.
The shaman sat before a fire, with robes of fur, and mischief in his eyes.
Grinding herbs with stone and bowl, our sudden apparitions seemed to cause him no surprise.
It happened forty, and five thousand years ago, I scarce remember all he had to say.
But one thing stood so clearly in my mind, it stayed with me until this very day.
He seemed quite young for one so wise, with a boyish face and long dark hair,
But, when I gazed upon his crippled foot, he quickly picked up on my stare.
I commented upon the injury at which he saw me glance,
He laughed as if I was a clumsy child, and asked how else would he have had his chance?
The wounded walk the lonely path, and fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
The blind can see the things which normally are hidden by the light, – their vision knows no end.
The beggar and the vagabond have riches that a king will never know.
And when the journey has no maps or charts, the child within us knows which way to go.
About the Author:
Patrick W Kavanagh, Featuring the inspirational art of Bill Oliver
Writer, poet, Patrick W Kavanagh was born in Dublin and now lives and works in Lincolnshire in a small rural town. Patrick became fascinated by the strange abilities of the human mind from watching his mother give psychic readings using tea-leaves and playing cards. With a lifelong interest in metaphysics and parapsychology, he has given tarot and spirit readings for over 40 years. He travels to many events with his wife Tina, exploring the power of shamanic drumming to heal, and induce therapeutic trance states. They also hold a regular drumming circle in the picturesque Lincolnshire Wolds.
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