Neo-shamanism in and of itself is a descriptor term regarding the recent phenomena of creating a spiritual practice without; meaning, outside of a community, tribe and village. In our spiritual isolation we have reached into a grab bag of spiritual traditions with the intent of creating a self-personalized connection to the Universe. Our choices are currently fairly narrow regarding the study of traditional shamanism within the whole context. I am not sure that we could, at this present time, all move to, live in and apprentice with a traditional shaman. Nor are there communities, villages and tribes willing to take the two million people globally attempting to learn a traditional form of shamanism.
My path to where I am now has been in part a study of anthropology, mythology, and psychotherapy, in an effort to incorporate traditional knowledge in a non-traditional society.
Through journeys, circles, books, discussions and explorations in general, I am following the tradition of the shaman as a healer, diviner and warrior. In my practice I still utilize traditional practices such as dance, music, fasting, drumming & chanting as ways of achieving an ecstatic trance state. In this state our soul travels far and wide seeking answers to questions, healings, to bargain as well as forge relationships with spirits of other plains.
The other side of neo-shamanism is the sale of shamanism with the illusion that the dangers of the otherworlds are not always present. Neo-Shamanism, as it has been described to me, is a fairly vanilla practice. There is a denial of the shaman’s initiatory preparation usually fraught with great battle, hardship, study and the development of a keen understanding of the Spirit World. Most Neo Shamans I have conversed with differ from me in that very few have undergone rigorous training. Which is not necessarily a bad thing however; dedication to a deepening of your practice is what counts. Neo shamanism feeds our need to be safe. That is the difference between traditional and the current shamanic traditions. There is a real role to fear in shamanism, there is a very strong connection between our darkness and the ability to see someone else’s.
Neo shamanism however fails to be shamanism because it fails to address:
For traditional societies, out-of-body shamanic projection has specific purposes. The primary goal is to cure illness including `loss of soul’. He or she also functions as a psychopomp who escorts the souls of the dead to the otherworld. In the shaman’s capacity to direct communal ceremonies along with the propensity to commune with extra-terrestrial regions, he/she functions as a kind of `psychic safety-valve’ for the host community. The shaman may also practice divination and clairvoyance and thereby serve to locate lost objects, animals or people for the benefit of other members of his/her society or for the social collective as a whole.
The most crucial factor for the indigenous shaman, therefore, is his/her social role. The shaman is the specialist who explores the outer reaches of the mind, the realms of fearsome archetypes…. It is the vitally important social duties of the shaman which serve as the psychic-explorer’s anchor. In other words, it is the shaman’s society and his or her obligations to it which constitute the source of security and support in the specialist’s explorations…
Quoted from “The Role of Fear in Traditional and Contemporary Shamanism” Copyright: Michael York. Bath Spa University College.
The difference between neo-shamanism and my shamanism is that the main concentration of neo-shamanic activity is directed toward the self. In this sense, it is in full accord with the essential thrust of New Age concerns with personal transformation. This use of shamanic techniques as a `quick fix’ and human potential tool, however, is at complete variance with traditional tribal shamanisms in which rarely does an individual choose on his or her own accord to become a shaman. In the indigenous context, the long and arduous training which leads one into being a shaman is something which befalls an individual – usually after the experience of an unwanted and major trauma.
Shamans serve the whole, neo shamans serve themselves.
Core shamanism was the catalyst for me to find my inner calling, for that I am grateful. It provided me with a very strong framework.
Core shamanism essentially provided a very brief framework for shamanic practice which is purported to be present in a majority of shamanic cultures. This creates a completely different dynamic, indigenous shamanism is esoteric, meaning knowledge given to a small group of individuals whereas core shamanism knowledge becomes exoteric, knowledge shared between larger groups.
The Ecology of Shamanism
Throughout the varied forms of shamanism in diverse cultures worldwide, both male and female shamans cultivate intense intimate and transforming relationships with local lands, animals and life forms, and it is these intense relationships that are referred to when ecology and shamanism are discussed. When I meet and work with the spirits of a place or the spirits of the land I relate to the spirits as my friends with whom my relationship provides me with the tools of the natural and spirit world to work shamanically. This relationship imparts to me a privilege as well as a responsibility, much akin to any other close and vital family member.
As the conductor of ritual it is my role to enact my relationship with the Universe, with the other-than-human aspect of my life, and bring it to my community. The ability to do so comes from building a relationship with other-than- humans surrounding us. We use kinship terms such as the Elders, Grandmother, Grandfather you get the picture. Animism, all that is, is alive and all that is alive, is.