The Shaman's Tools
The Shaman’s Tools
So, how does one bring the sacred into the city? With a drumming circle of course! I have led and taught drumming circles for fourteen years. I can tell you that I have learnt a lot along the way and brought a lot of people with me. Some literally kicking and screaming, some crying, some laughing, but all searching for meaning in a world that is cold and distant.
Over the years I have held circles in the basement of my home, to healing centres and finally in a buddist temple. I have never encountered any opposition from either my neighbours or people around me. I wish to gently remind us that we can find sacredness anywhere we look. The spirit of water hangs out in the pipes that run through buildings. One example, a very cold night, like -30 celcius, someone knocked on my door to tell me that there was some issue with the pipes under the townhouse complex I lived in and that every house was going to be flooded. Instead of looking at it as though it was a bad thing I chose to see the positive side. I went to my basement, lit smudge (home made incense) said a prayer to the spirit of water asking it to be gentle with my children and I. I then set about cleaning my basement and getting things off the floor.
Nothing happened that night. I spoke to my neighbors on either side of me and they experienced a flood and had lost items and were left with quite a mess to clean up. I, on the other hand, did not experience any flood at all. The spirit of water listened and I was spared. Yeah me!! The spirit of fire lives in your electrical outlets. The spirit of earth is in the bricks and the cement and the wood that hold our structures together. Or the very sidewalk you walk upon everyday. The world around us, whether we are urban or rural, is sacred and contains spirit. It is simply a matter of looking for it in a different way than you have seen it before.
Journey work, as I stated earlier, is the most important component of core shamanism and one of the most essential of the shaman’s tools. This is the primary means of communicating with the world around you. Urbanites are often left with a sense of disconnection from the natural world which in turn leaves an absolute disconnection to the world of spirits that are commonly associated with nature. Shamanic techniques offer ways to connect to the world around you. Over the years I have taken individuals through over a thousand different spiritual scenarios ranging from meeting a dead ancestor to greeting the spirit of your favourite tree. For each circle I create a lesson plan.
One of the differences between an ecstatic state and visualization is visualization comes naturally caused by various factors: daydreaming, wishful thinking, spiritual contact, psychic vision, to name a few. What each person experiences in those states is quite dependent on the experiencor. Quite often tho’ the experiencer can stop the vision or change the vision if they are uncomfortable or startled, any number of factors really.
In journeys, the ecstatic state however it is different. The hallmark difference is interaction. In an ecstatic trance state you are involved in the action, however you cannot magically or at will change it. You can will it but whether or not it happens is not up to you. It is as real there as it is here. The qualifier for that is you can ask for help in the Spirit World and it CAN come more directly and quickly than if you ask for help in the 3D circus we are currently conscious in. In the journey however you have more shaman’s tools at your disposal than you have in this current 3D, such as shapeshifting, flight, spirit helpers… What we need to remember is that the spirit world operates INDEPENDENT of us, not because of us. We are interacting with something that is already present, we did not create it. Hence we therefore are merely participants, such as everything else we encounter.
The Three Worlds
The first of the concepts I teach is the three worlds, Upper, Lower and Middle. There are distinctions for each, but suffice to say that there are many ways to explore these worlds. It is also important to point out that although the basic teaching is that there are only three worlds, the deeper one goes into shamanic training the more apparent it becomes that the three world distinction is a gross oversimplification.
Michael Harner has been credited with bringing the core shamanic tool kit to North America. He wrote “The Way of the Shaman” in 1980. Non Ordinary Reality was a new term to the Western culture then as was the “shamanic state of consciousness”, or SCC. OSC then was Ordinary State of Consciousness. Complicated eh! He introduced me to the concept of the “prelogical” mind. The Western mind, yours and mine, is simply put unsophisticated from a shamanic point of view. Unsophisticated… when was the last time your mind was called that. But unsophisticated we are… the Spirit World is broken down into simple enough terms for us to grasp the concept of a living breathing world beyond our three d reality. With the Jivaro Indians, for instance, no one had to explain which reality the shaman was talking about, everyone already knew what kind of experiences occur in SSC. They have a shamanic background and language, we don’t.
I encourage my circle mates when we do our spiritual work to pretend we have sophisticated shamanic minds. Lets enjoy our, as Carl Jung would call it, active imagination, put aside our critical self and enjoy the sophisticated journeys and experiences prepared for us by Spirit.