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COMING HOME TO THE COSMOLOGY
Most shamans believe that the known world is only one of three. They believe that like our bodies (legs, torso, and head), our cosmos is divided into three main portions, the Lower World, the Middle World and the Upper World.
Each of these worlds has its own characteristics, symbolisms and power. Each can also be understood as relevant to our physical, emotional and spiritual lives.
The Lower World
The foundation of creation is The Lower World, traditionally called, the Underworld. It plays a big role in the ancient Egyptian and Greek mythologies.
Later, with the development of Christianity, it transformed to be associated with the concept of Hell and the place of punishment by burning.
Some cultures believe that there are more levels in the underworld. Different shamans experience these differently in their trance visions.
In the Mayan tradition there are nine levels, representing the nine levels of consciousness one needs to go through to reach enlightenment. The ancient Hebrews believed that Sheol (underworld) is divided to either four subsections, or two major ones.
The Lower World is the realm that is associated with the Mother, or feminine energy, and the cycle of life, death and rebirth. It corresponds to the element of Fire, the transforming element that is in the Earth's core. Fire infuses us with our life force and embodies us with primal passion and sexual potency.
Shamans journey into the Lower World through a portal in the earth, with the help of rapid monotonous drum or rattle beats, or plant medicine on behalf of their patients. Within the shamanic tradition it is believed that you can find the healing and wisdom of Power Animals in the Lower World. Amazonian shamans often work with the anaconda which represents the forces of change and the white dove which represents the messenger between the different worlds.
The Middle World
The Middle World, also called the Physical Realm, is the world in which we live. It is positioned between the worlds of Heaven and the Underworld. In the shamanic tradition this is the world of dreams, illusions and of make believe."The world is as we dream it," the Amazonian shamans claim.
The Middle World is represented by the element of Water, which is symbolized by Emotion. Emotion is energy in motion, a world, like water, in constant change that flows in one direction, from birth to death, from beginning to end. Water needs a container to hold it otherwise it shapeless. The middle world is such a container.
The Middle World also consists of unseen earthly powers, magical forces, and spirits. Organic powers such as spirits and gods and mechanical powers such as gravity and electricity.
Shamans journey to the Middle World, connecting through the spirit of mountains, springs, trees and other living things, if they want to "see" or "visit" people or events in distant places, to bring knowledge and to affect change in this realm.
The Upper World
The realm of the dead, our ancestors is the Upper World. There one can find amongst the dead, angels, gods and spiritual teachers. Many cultures count more than one level at this world: seven, nine, thirteen, eighteen and even ninety nine.
The Upper World is symbolized by the Air element. This realm represents thoughts, ideas, light and inspiration. Some believe that after passing through the Lower World you emerge within this celestial realm, where you can connect with the source of creation (God). Commonly we think of the upper world as Heaven, a place of joy and light, contrary to the Lower World that is marked by death and sadness.
In the Greek religion, the Upper World is ruled by Zeus, the king of the Gods. Shamans journey to this world to obtain knowledge from ancestors' spirits and the dead.
The three worlds are within us
The Quechuan shamans, also known as the Yachaks believe that the three physical worlds are reflected in human bodies.
The legs represent the lower world, our connection to the Earth and roots. Strong legs are the conduits which bring the nutrients and fire into our furnace, or sexual organs.
The torso, the middle world, is the world of constant physiological and emotional changes. As a bridge between the lower and the upper parts, it needs to be kept healthy and physically powerful.
The head is the upper world - a place for thoughts, ideas, spiritual practice and our connection to the ethereal. We need to exercise this gate by mediations and prayers.
Would you like to experience those worlds, by taking a shamanic journey?
Lie down comfortably on your back in a quiet and dark place and cover your eyes. If you do not have a drumming CD to listen to, put your hands on your heart and concentrate on the heart beats.
Inhale, exhale, and imagine that you are entering through an opening (a spring, a cave, a crack in the ground or anything else) into a tunnel that leads to the center of the Earth. Feel the temperature and observe your surroundings as intimately as you can.
Do you see animals, trees or any other entities? If you do, ask them if they have any special message for you to help you in your daily life, and wait for an answer.
Thank the messengers and go back through the tunnel to the Middle World and while you are there observe its terrain. What do you see? If you see or meet another person, natural object (a tree, rock, mountain etc.) or animal, ask that spirit for a message too and give thanks.
Now, imagine you are entering a tree trunk and ascending to the top of the tree. Allow yourself to go higher, through to the clouds, and see if you can meet a teacher, who may give you a message regarding your daily life. Be thankful for the message and come back to the middle world.
Inhale, exhale and open your eyes. Write down the three different messages you just received. Are they different? Is there any common theme?
About the author:
Itzhak Beery, is a shamanic healer and workshop leader. He was initiated into the ancient Inka healing tradition by an Ecuadorian Yachak and a Shaoré from the Brazilian Amazon. He also studied, with Ipupiara and Cleicha as well as other shamans from Ecuador, Peru and the United States. He is a co-founder of the NY Shamanic Circle, and a member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners.