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 Post subject: The "Religion" of Shamanism
 Post Posted: Sun Apr 05, 2009 1:10 am 
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Shamanism is not a religion or spiritual belief system, it is a practice of spiritual leaders who work within a number of spiritual belief systems that involve aspects of animism, ancestral guidance and spirit communication. The system itself may have as many names as there are cultures that practice such paths. In my culture, Ixqi’yən is the spiritual belief system in which the shaman works. Ixqi’yən literally means spiritual power, but also refers to a system of belief that believes everything in existence has a spirit - every animal, every tree, every stone, etc. Q´wə́xqs is spiritual energy. Q´wə́xqs is in everything, and can be controlled and manipulated to affect other things positively as well as negatively. Ixqi’yən is a belief system that also acknowledges that spirits guide and govern our lives.

In Ixqi’yən, everyone is able to use their spiritual power to experience spirit in one form or another. In some cases, on a vision quest or some other rite or ceremony, everyone can interact with spirit, with proper attunement of one’s Medicine Eye (Third Eye). To be able to channel Ixqi’yən to heal requires the gift known as ixqi’eyn’əq, meaning to heal with spiritual power – shamanism.

Contrary to what many people claim, shamanism is not an “earth-based” religion. According to wikipedia, earth based religions are “a New Age term used mostly in the context of Neopaganism. It is an umbrella phrase that is used to cover any religion that worships the Earth, Nature, or fertility gods and goddesses such as the various forms of goddess worship.”

According to wikipedia again, shamanism is “a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. A practitioner of shamanism is known as a shaman. There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world and several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Shamans are intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. They can treat illness and are capable of entering supernatural realms to provide answers for humans.” Shamanism is a practice of interacting with spirits and ancestors. We may use plant and stone medicines in our practice, but the main source of our healing is Ixqi’yən – spiritual power. Our ceremonies may follow seasonal changes and we may have many sacred sites, but during those ceremonies and at those sites, we acknowledge and interact with spirits, ancestors, totems, etc. and strive to gain access to other realms of spirit, such as the Lower World.

The word shaman comes from the Tungus word šaman, and is commonly used today as a “catch all” term for many practices. My actual title in my native language is etáminua and literally translates to “spiritual advisor and intercedent”. The title shaman has no gender significance. It does not indicate male or female, so when you see the term shawoman or shamaness, these are incorrect. I prefer to be called etáminua, but use the term shaman to describe my title.

Lastly, I want to talk about shamanic training. I am old school. I went through a traditional apprenticeship. I do not agree with all these online or weekend courses you can find on becoming a shaman. These courses, many with outrageous fees, in my opinion are people cashing in on the popularity of shamanism – just to make money. They practice the “religion of greed”. The only cost of a traditional apprenticeship is that of time and assisting one's teacher with his practice while under apprenticeship. Also, not just anyone can be a shaman because they desire to be; a shaman is a person who receives a gift, either at birth or after a “shamanic death” experience.

Don’t look for any “Certificate of Training” on my wall - when a traditional apprenticeship is over, there is no graduation ceremony or presentation of a diploma (which should actually make the earth-based religions happy, for we don’t sacrifice a tree so that a student can have a fancy piece of paper), the student just begins his path as a shaman and joins society as a spiritual guide and healer and has to build his reputation on his own merits and achievements.


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 Post Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:10 am 
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Joined: Fri Sep 14, 2007 8:12 am
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Location: Canada
Greetings Shaman Cougar

Thank you for your very thoughtful and thought-provoking posting.

I certainly agree with most of what you said. Shamanisn is not a religion nor is it a belief system. There's nothing systematic about it. Like you said, it is a daily practice. It is intensely experiential and highly personal. Within the context of it being experiential and personal, all of your comments make excellent sense. From a shamanic point of view, you are indeed fortunate to have grown up as part of a culture in which shamanic wisdom is alive. I thank you for your willingness to share it with us on this site.

When it comes to shamanic training, my experience is different from yours. I grew up in a tiny, rural, lily-white community in the 50s and 60s. We all shared German ancestry. My family never traveled except to visit nearby relatives; there was no money for such a luxury.

I was a loner with an intense interior life that was certainly not reflected in my behaviour with my family or at school. I kept my knowledge of the winds, the water, the trees, the sky, the land, the birds, the berries, - those voices in my head - entirely to myself. I knew they were a part of me, but I didn't know what to do with them. I certainly didn't ignore them, but I never acknowledged their existence in any kind of public way. I did well at school, eventually got a degree or two, and set out to see the world - which I did. In my late 20s I married, settled down, bought a house, the whole kit.

In my 40s, events in my life drove me to a shamanic circle - and suddenly there was a context for the voices, the spirits, and everything else I had never ever talked about. I've taken quite a number of those weekend courses - here in the city I live in - from a variety of people. By the way, the cost was always quite reasonable. As I've said in another posting, I don't travel for these workshops.

My key point here in this posting is that the workshop settings provided a sacred space in which my spirits could teach me what I needed to know. I felt safe. Notice: I did NOT say "the teacher" - the person giving the workshop. I said "my spirits". They taught me, not the workshop teacher.

I no longer need those workshops. I work daily with my spirits and a shamanic circle. Above all, those workshops provided a space in which I could become comfortable with a world of spirit I knew intimately and simultaneously in some rather gentle sense "disowned" because of my cultural training.

Like you, I'm not interested in any shamanic certifications of anything. I experience what I experience. I do what I do. I don't expect others to agree with me or to believe me. I don't advertise. I do what I do shamanically for those who ask for help - and then, I get on with my job (the one that pays the bills) or I cook dinner or whatever needs to get done around the house.

I share this with you from a place of deepest respect for your experience.

Humanity desperately needs to reconnect spiritually. Any path at all that leads to genuine spiritual reconnection, whether it be through a workshop or apprenticeship to a traditional shaman (who might conveniently live next door!), needs to be honored.

With profound respect and awe at the immense diversity of experience -

Chris















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 Post Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:08 pm 
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:35 pm
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Location: Finland
Hi!
Great words and stories you have to learn from. I would like to add mine to enhance diversity. My shamanic practise started by calling, I felt the urge to go into weekend course. I visited the courses about three times, and after that it stopped, I had a feeling, and stilla have that those courses are nomore for me.

Then the dreams came, and spirits taught me through those. I wondered, if I could do weekend courses of my own, it never happened. My former human teachers showed their will to control. I asked guidance from spirits and they told to stay far, do not try to teach shamanism, you may teach 'tietäjyyttä', which is native word of knowledge or understanding, rememberance of your ancestor and spirits, how to show respect for them, knowledge of your self and understanding the world.

It may seem the same as shamanism, but obviously it is not. Tietäjyys is the legacy of my ancestors, born in this country, this landscape, which has formed the people here as they are. Tradition is long been dead, but the soil is still the same, and earth and spirits still remember and they teach me. The seremonies learned from courses do not have so much value, when not in their original, cultural place, but the value of the heart makes the real difference. Life itself is the best teacher.


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 Post Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 6:46 pm 
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Chris and Jusma,

Thank you for your reply to my posting. Yes, I did mainly stick with the shamanism of my specific tribal culture, and I know that shamanism existed (and exists) across the face of the planet. I have studied a great deal about them also. In some cultures, shamans are trained specifically by the spirits, with no human teacher. I honor that. My opinion on classroom and seminar based instruction is not from personal experience, and I probably should have stated that. What I know of them is from talking to people who have taken some of these courses and their experiences, which of course were bad ones.

My opinion is still that of believing in traditional apprenticeships for these reasons mostly. First, it is a one on one training with all of the teacher’s attention on one student. Also, because I believe that money should not change hands for this, not only because it is a continuity of tradition, but also a student progresses at their own pace, and paying for a course in advance that is taken with other people is sure to drop many students who progress differently. Lastly, those courses will teach ANYONE who is willing to pay, and shamanism is not something someone learns because they have a desire too, it is a gift given by spirit to a select few and one that needs to be guided and honed by an experienced teacher.


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 Post Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:25 am 
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 3:35 pm
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Location: Finland
Well, that is something to hope for, but for many weekend courses are only way to have any teachings at all.
Once I get into workshop held by indiginious american, and he really showed what it was all about. The very base things may not include in weekendcourses, when just the techniques are studied.
It was also easily seen that the seremonies he held were not so fit for people here. Loud and openhearted prayers with tears made so publicly known are something not used here, where people tend to be more silent and shy.
Anyway the course was important to me to have and attend.
If it is possible that apprenticeship were given free, I would gladly welcome the change, but courses are nowadays too good business and for too many only option available.
That way it is sad, that old tradiotion is 'sold'. Anybody curious enough may attend. Amongs them are also people, who are after labels, who competite on how many courses they have and so on, never actually doing the shamanic work. But people are same anywhere, also amongst tradiotionally teached, there are always those who turn their skills to receive personal gain at any cost.


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 Post Posted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 9:48 am 
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Hello to you both,

Truth be spoken, I would have been delighted to have had the gift of an individual human teacher from my community to guide me, but it didn't happen that way. The workshops made it possible for me to break out of my cultural training.

Having watched and listened to many people in those workshops, I also know that they provide a place for participants to reconnect each in their own way, each to their own level, to the world of spirit around them.

Many of the people I have met in these workshops are appalled at the thought of doing shamanic work for someone else, but are delighted at the sense of connection that they have found in their souls to the spirits around them. They have adopted an animistic worldview, to put a label on it, that makes it possible for them to feel far less alienated and isolated. Surely, this is a good thing! The enivronmental crisis we face is due to the fact that we view the mother earth as an inanimate resource to be ruthlessly exploited for our benefit. The more people connect spiritually to her and her energies, the better it will be for her.

On this forum and in other places, we often read about those who use their shamanic "workshop certifications" inappropriately. This certainly happens. But no one speaks up for all those people who take these workshops, who go about quietly living their lives with a deeper appreciation and connection to mother earth because of those workshops and who have no notion of healing anyone but themselves. In my experience, those people far outnumber those who are seeking "certifications" etc.

Finally, I do need to say loudly and clearly that some or many of those people with workshop certifications are indeed very powerful healers for whom I have the greatest respect. Their spirits have led them to choose a far more public path than mine have chosen for me. I know a couple of them. That takes great personal courage. I honor that. These healers clearly understand that their certification has everything to do with social pressures and nothing at all to do with spiritual connection.

Every mode of learning has its potential drawbacks. I had a client who told horror stories about terrible abuse from a supposedly traditional
shaman. The bad apples exist in every human endeavor.

But then, without dark, we would not understand light. Without bad, we would not understand good. Without deep pain, we would never understand great joy. Everything has its place.

And as always, I continue to honor and to be astonished by the incredible diversity of experience.

Chris


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