A MODERN SHAMAN
By E. Nora H. Amrani [Starlight Medicine Dreamer]
WHAT IS SHAMANISM?
Some people are uncertain about Shamanism, so let me share with you some of the facts about Shamanism. Wikipedia cites, "The term "shaman" originally referred to the traditional healers of Turkic-Mongol areas such as Northern Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia; shaman being the Turkic-Tungus word for such a practitioner and meaning "he or she who knows." Other scholars assert that the word comes directly from the Manchu language, and indeed is "the only commonly used English word that is a loan from this language."" Some of this information was taken from the book "The Sacred Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life", by Peggy V. Beck and Anna L. Walters, 1977. (This is probably the first book written by Native Americans teaching about Native American culture.) It gives the Native American view on Shamanism, and I add my personal story about becoming a Shaman.
Shamanism is a belief in or knowledge of unseen powers, knowledge that all things in the universe are dependent on each other. Shamanism has slight variations depending on one's culture, but all Shamans share the same basic traits. A Shaman can be of any gender, any color, most any age, any ethnic background, and in any country. Most communities and tribes recognize individuals who are responsible for specialized and sometimes secret knowledge. These individuals help pass on knowledge and sacred practices from generation to generation, storing what they know in their memories. Persons who are responsible for specialized knowledge are most often individuals who live to understand the sacred. Their life and their vocation is devoted to learning about the mysteries of the world and knowing and handling (working with, using) the relationships by which the world operates. These individuals are born with or develop a special sensitivity to and interest in the elements that make up the sacred. Often, these persons are exposed to greater hardships than most people; personal injury, fright, anxiety, and loneliness. If they succeed in their journey or quest for knowledge and in their work as sacred practitioners, they then have greater responsibilities than most people and are respected for this.
"WOMAN IS BY NATURE A SHAMAN"
These individuals are most often responsible for maintaining a balance relationship between the people and the natural world of the sacred powers. They know and they teach us that there are some questions that cannot be answered, some mysteries about the world that are to be wondered at, with reverence, but never explained.
Shamans are individuals who, through some inborn sensitivity or need, take as their vocation the quest for knowledge that uses a direct attempt at experiencing the Mysteries. Usually the most powerful Shamans are individuals who are forced by illness, a compelling dream or vision, or some other need, to become Shamans whether they want to or not. Shamans receive training and develop areas of expertise. Often the knowledge they receive is so specialized that it would be too dangerous for other individuals to practice. A Shaman learns how to interpret and understand dreams and visions. A Shaman also studies and works with relationships and balances in the world of humans and the natural world through song, dance, ceremony, stories. The Shaman is adept in altered states of consciousness and interdimensional experiences. A Shaman is considered an artist of the sacred. A Shaman knows they are one with the Source, that all life is interconnected, and that love is the most powerful energy. They know that all the gods and goddesses throughout time were archetypes, teachers, energies of the sacred - and that vital balance of male and female and both are vital to existence and creativity.
A Native American Shaman can be summarized in this way - he/she is a composer of special healing songs; can cause themselves to enter a trance or trance-like condition; travel after souls or to seek other things; can diagnose and cure illness; and has spirit helpers who help and communicate with them. They know the order and structure of things - names of things. They are servants to the people - they maintain their power and knowledge by using it to help others. Shamanism is a very personal or private profession, yet at the same time it affects a great many people.
WHY I CALL MYSELF A SHAMAN
I had many experiences and teachers who helped me develop my abilities as a Shaman, beginning with a life-threatening illness when I was four years old. I had a stomach virus and was violently ill with high fever - I nearly died. I got sick as my family and I were driving to a vacation spot. A doctor was called in to see me and he said my parents had to take me back home to my doctor and to be near a hospital. While I could do nothing but lie flat on my back in the flat rear section of our family's green Chevy station wagon, I had visions and spoke to God and the beings I saw. I told them I was ready to go and die, it was alright. I just didn't want to keep feeling so sick. I told them to take me. They did not feel it was my time to die. I recovered several days later. I never forgot that experience because it was so intense, and as a young child I knew there was more to life than just me in my tiny body and it was not frightening, but welcoming and trusted.
Throughout my youth and teenage years into my adulthood, I had many psychic experiences and channeling experiences began. You can read about them here.
When I met medicine woman, Shaman, author and teacher Lynn Andrews in the mid-1980s she looked me over, asked me questions, read my energy and said that I already was a Shaman, there was nothing she needed to teach me, I had all that I needed to teach and help others. At that time, I wasn't fully ready to accept it in myself, so I had 15 more years of training with different teachers in different areas of expertise. I didn't use the title Shaman in the past because it might have been confusing for people (since I am a white woman and some people don't think whites can be Shamans), or come across like I was just full of myself. I am a Shaman and have no more issues about using that title. It isn't an ego trip by any means. It just speaks about my truth, my abilities and right to call myself a Shaman.
One thing though, I never use drugs or alcohol as a Shaman. I don't like it or enjoy not being in control of my faculties, and substances easily taint the work and messages from spirit. The only substances I use is water. smoke and smudge, which cleanses and communicates that which is not said out loud.
A LIFE-ALTERING EXPERIENCE FOR TWO PEOPLE
One experience in 1987 was a very powerful indicator of my abilities as a Shaman. I had written a letter to a newspaper in response to a legal issue about Native American legalities and rights. My letter spoke about the Native Americans and their rights and the hardships they went through from the U.S. government, since the Europeans came here, and how it related to the present. A local Lakota medicine man and teacher named Carl Bryant (who operated the American Indian Unity Church in Orange County) read my article in the paper and we connected via two ways: one was in person through a legal adoption forum on Native American babies, and because of my letter. He thanked me for my letter and said it was the perfect healing for the whites and Indian people, he loved it. I was interested in what he did as a medicine man and was put on his mailing list and thought to visit his center, and planned for him to do a spiritual reading for me.
In the interim, (this was in the summer) before I had the reading with him, I was floating on a raft in my pool. I looked up and saw a black crow circling above me and I talked out loud to it, surprising myself that I knew who it was, "Aha, what are you doing here, Carl Bryant? I see you!" I spoke with the crow and he told me he was checking me out to see my abilities, spying on me. I laughed and told him to go right ahead, but I knew what he was up to. I then wrote a letter to Carl and told him of my vision and experience with the crow. He wrote me back a very touching letter telling me that my vision of him as the black crow was the indicator he needed to prove that white people could do what the Native medicine people could do. His belief was (one that is shared by some others) that when the whites can do this, then it's time to come together and be equals. He also said it was the sign he needed to allow himself to use his medicine name in public now, (little) Black Crow. He validated my vision and thanked me for it. Since that day, he used his medicine name Black Crow in everything he did. Imagine that a blond haired, blue-eyed white chick told a Lakota Shaman what his name is and that it's okay for him to come out now! It was funny, and it was sweet, and I respected him. I just found out that he died a few years ago. He did a lot for the community in bringing together all cultures.
I had many teachers in my Shamanic training: anatomy; learning about plants and herbs; healing work (mind/body/spirit/emotions); channeling; interdimensional travel; dreamwork; spiritual counseling; and I am a certified Transpersonal Hypnotherapist, a Certified Energy Worker. I have a B.A. Degree, was on the Dean's List; and did my M.A. work in American Indian Studies, focusing on ritual theatre.
As a Shaman, I focus on healing which is done through working with various elements, rebalancing energies (again, mind/body/spirit/emotions) and changing patterns, resulting in integration and Source consciousness. I do whatever is necessary for a person to become rebalanced and for them to continue to heal themselves and discover their passions and talents and how to use them. That often includes teaching them to meditate and connect with their own intuition, higher self and guides.
My Shaman name is Starlight (the meaning of my first two names) Medicine Dreamer, and I work with what I call Dream Medicine. Dream Medicine is Bear Medicine that teaches us the power of introspection, manifesting our dreams, and connecting to the Earth. I receive messages in my dream state and work in the dream state (lucid dreaming). I am adept in traveling and working in other dimensions not only for human beings, but for spirit and other interdimensional beings. I bring back the knowledge garnered from my dream state and put them into use in the material world. Sometimes I do spiritual art for people, that which gives them a special message from loved ones, guides, or about their path in life. I am able to help others have better lives through my family's charity. And I also write articles and books.
It pays to be a Shaman, too, and here's a simple example why. I went to a shop in a mini-mall. As I exited the store, I heard a very loud crow cawing. I looked to where the crow was, perched on top of a telephone pole. He was huge. He kept on with his intense cawing. I felt it was a warning. I asked him what was going on and I got the message to beware and not to move. I stood there for a minute looking around to see what was going to happen, and from which direction. Then I heard a loud BANG! There was a car accident on the street right off the driveway to the mini-mall. Had I gotten into my car immediately after leaving the store, I would have taken that driveway out and probably would have been involved in the crash. The crow warned me not to move until it happened. I was so grateful to that crow for that, and for paying attention to it. Luckily, the major damage was to the cars and no one was seriously harmed in that accident. One does not have to be a Shaman in order to have such experiences, however. One merely needs to be open to communication from the universe and be in the synchronicity of that energy in order to be able to receive it and act with it.
"The shaman is a self-realized person. She discovers the ways of Spirit through her inner awakening."
Yes, I am a Shaman by all definitions of the term and this is my personal path. It is often a hard one because there is so much work to be done, and it is mostly a solo path. I am lucky in that as a Shaman I also have a family; in some societies having a marriage and children is considered to be very important in order to be an effective Shaman. I accept who I am, love who I am, and what I do. I'm always learning something new and love learning, and then sharing what I've learned. So if you come across somebody who is a Shaman, and who may not fit the old idea or picture of what a Shaman is, don't judge them: Think again. Shamanism may not be 100% exactly what it used to be because our world isn't what it used to be. (Change is the only constant in the omniverse.) But it is still Shamanism.
*Czaplica, M. A. (1914) Aboriginal Siberia, a study in social anthropology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p 243
© Copyright, 2008 E. Nora H. Amrani, email shamannora[at]gmail.com