Shamanism: Initiation and the Truth of Living
Shamanism is an ancient, multi-cultural practice of relational living and communication with benevolent spirit beings that reside within ordinary and non - ordinary realms of existence. The spirits of all beings, including those of our ancestors, offer guidance and wisdom in support of ourselves, individuals in the community and the world at large. Deeply founded within shamanism and a shamanic life pathway is the belief of Animism, where all objects, places, and creatures hold sentience and have a spirit essence that is connected to all others within a great web of life. The values of gratitude, respect, honor, and living in reciprocal relationship with all there is cannot be overstated in this practice.
Our ancestors relied on the sight and visions of their community's “seers” the medicine people and shamans/shamaka (female), to guide them in all aspects of life from sourcing food to locating places to settle, healing dis-ease and overseeing all births, deaths, and life passages. The community depended on the wisdom brought forth by the Seer for their survival and wellbeing.
The shaman/shamanka was responsible for the care of the soul of their family, communities and of the spirit of the place where they resided. Communication with the spirits of the land, the weather, and all beings supported their lives. The position of shaman was not treated lightly and was not always welcomed. A person that was born into the lineage as a shaman or shamanka often had to endure and overcome difficult initiations before accepting their birthright and the responsibility for the community. These initiations included health issues ,challenging rights of passage, and great sacrifices.
Communication with the spirit world and the shaman’s spirit allies comes by way of the Shamanic Journey where part of the shaman’s spirit intentionally travels to non-ordinary realms of realty to meet with spirit allies for consultation; entered by an altered state of consciousness and trance state induced by the repetitive sound of a drum or rattle while engaging in charismatic dance or movement.
Some cultures employ the spirits of specific plant allies through ceremonial ingestion to aid in transition into an altered consciousness and open channels to receive spirit communication.
Contemporary, euro-western Shamanic Practitioners, as we are referenced out of respect for indigenous communities, may be born into a lineage of gifted Seers or we may be initiated into the practice by a deeper, ancient knowing and a calling through challenging life initiations, including near death experiences. We are called into service to support individuals within our families, our communities, and for global issues, as well for ourselves.
Contemporary concerns may not be of survival in terms of food sourcing or where our predators may be lurking, however there are questions and concerns that may be more relevant to our times today and do closely relate to those of our ancestors. Questions around personal trauma, illness, family dynamics, or how best to discern a major life transition. Practitioners support individuals in transitioning at the end of life, communicate with deceased loved ones, find lost soul essences due to trauma or serious illness, retrieve and introduce animal allies that we are born with - called Power Animals - to support personal power, extract trapped non- supportive energies - called energy intrusions - and guide Transfiguration ceremonies that open individuals to their own Divine Light, to mention a sampling of shamanic practices.
Over time Shamanic practitioners develop very trusting relationships with their specific Spirit Allies, or Helping Spirits as they are also known. It is important to mention that these relationships are nurtured through frequent Shamanic Journeys or by intentional ceremonies, not only to divine wisdom or to ask for a healing, but simply to show our respect and gratitude for their constant presence and support in our lives. A simple, “What can I do for you?” as one may ask another in ordinary reality. The spirits that are within the seen and unseen realms are as much of our relatives as our human ancestors within a shamanic world view.
The spirits within the seen and unseen realms speak to us in many ways, particularly by Direct Revelation; the “aha” moments of our life where answers to our deepest questions suddenly become as clear as day. This is a prime example of living a shamanic, spiritual life. Being awakened to sources of spirit support that exists outside of time and space, as well as in the moment, and through reciprocal action, by expressing our gratitude and respect for their presence.
I came to my practice through a deep love and connection with the natural world and a series of initiations that began as a small child. However, after years of knowing about spirit world communication but not acting fully on my calling, I experienced an initiation of particular magnitude in my late 40’s. I was on a solo backcountry hiking trip through some very rugged mountainous terrain. The day had been lovely with high clouds and seasonal temperatures. But as I summited my peak, the sky became filled with storm clouds. I started back down the mountain and a third of the way down the skies opened up in a thunderous clap. The rocks became slick and lightning strikes were all around me. One strike came so close to me that I was surrounded by a flash of light, felt the hair on my body raise and was knocked off balance.
It was raining so hard that I couldn’t make out the rocky trail well and the markers were invisible. The chances of my going off trail and plunging down a ravine, or getting struck by lightning, were equal. Shaken but determined, I heard a voice instructing me to trust, trust in the unseen guidance of the spirits that were with me. This may not seem unlike other spiritual revelations where a higher being sees us through seemingly impossible challenges, only this for me was different. This voice that spoke to me through my intuitive senses told me that it was time that I listened. Was I awake now? I can assure you that I was!
I was guided by unseen help and miraculously made it down the mountain and back to level ground, thanking Spirit for my teaching and my safety.Shortly after that experience I intentionally sought council with my helping spirits and deepened my practice with shamanic mentors, which I continue to do twenty plus years later.
Since that time, the most impactful teaching that my helping spirits have given me is that being awakened to the Spirit of All Things will give us the truth of living. Living is the ultimate classroom. We are here to learn what we need to know in order to evolve into who we were meant to be. The practice of Shamanism; the shamanic journey, and direct revelatory experience through life’s initiations provides us the truth of life; who we were meant to be and that we are a strand connected to all there is in the great web of life. All we need to access our innate wisdom to empower our lives is to seek support from the wisdom keepers; the Spirits of All that hold the answers to our past, present, and future within the seen and unseen realms.
Jody Breton is a Shamanic Practitioner & Teacher and Interfaith Minister. Together with her husband, their cat and all the other Beings on the land there, they share and steward a piece of property in Freeport, Maine.
Jody can be reached at: https://www.Maineshamanism.com