S H A M A N I S M • H E A L I N G • M Y T H S • W I S D O M WAY S • E A R T H R I T U A L S www.sacredhoop.org
ISSUE 64 2009
CELEBRATING THE CIRCLE OF LIFE
HORSE WISDOM RIDING to SEEK HELP for an AUTISTIC SON HORSE as HEALER BEING REAL with SPIRIT HELPERS
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ISSUE 64 2009
Seeking healing for a son in Mongolia - pages 6-12
Shaman blessings from Tuva - pages 20-23
Jonathan Horwitz: honouring the spirits - pages 13-15 EDITOR, DESIGN AND PRODUCTION: Nicholas Breeze Wood www.twitter.com/NicktheBreeze www.myspace.com/nicholasbreezewood DESIGN AND EDITORIAL CONSULTANT: Faith Nolton (Jan Morgan Wood) PROOF READING: Janey Verney, Faith Nolton CONTACT DETAILS: BCM Sacred Hoop London. WC1N 3XX. UK General Enquiries and Subscriptions Email: [email protected]
Tel: (01239) 682 029 www.sacredhoop.org www.myspace.com/sacredhoopmagazine FRONT COVER: © Nicholas Breeze Wood 2009 PUBLISHING POLICY: SACRED HOOP seeks to network those wanting to learn the spiritual teachings of indigenous peoples as a living path of knowledge. Our contents cover the integration of both old and new ways, and insights that contribute to a balanced and sustainable lifestyle in today's world. We honour all paths and peoples and do not include material from, or give support to, any individual or group which seeks to oppress or discriminate on grounds of race, lineage, age, sex, class or belief. Nor do we knowingly publish any material that is inaccurate. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor. PRINTING: SGC Printing, Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, UK DISTRIBUTION: NORTH AMERICA & CANADA: Disticor Magazine Distribution, Ontario, Canada UK & REST OF WORLD: Sacred Hoop Magazine ISSN 1364 - 2219 DISCLAIMER: Whilst making every effort to be accurate, the editors will not be deemed responsible for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies appearing in Sacred Hoop Magazine. © 2008 Sacred Hoop Magazine and-or individual contributors. No part of this magazine, either written text or visual art, may be reproduced in any way whatsoever without the written permission of the Editor.
RIDING WITH THE HORSE BOY . . . . . . . . . . . 6-12 When his son, Rowan, was diagnosed as autistic, Rupert Isaacson decided to travel across Mongolia on horseback to look for a shaman to cure him.
OUR SHAMANIC INHERITANCE . . . . . . . . . . 13-15 The spirits make shamanism real - it is not just the learning of techniques. Jonathan Horwitz explains why, if there are no spirits, there is no shaman.
CONTINUING THE JOURNEY . . . . . . . . . . 16-19 On a workshop in, an empowered space, it is easier to feel connected to the spirits. But how do you maintain connection when you come back to ‘normal’ life? Faith Nolton gives a few pointers.
SONGS TO A FAR AWAY SKY . . . . . . . . . . 20-23 In traditional societies, one of the roles of the shaman is to perform blessings. Christiana Harle shares her experiences of shamanic blessings in Tuva.
THE LORD OF THE LAKE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24-26 In Central America, the Catholic Church did its best to wipe out traditional shamanism, but sometimes strange hybrids occur. Omar W. Rosales shares the story of the Mayan spirit called Maximon.
RIDING THE HORSE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27-29 Spirit possession features in many shamanic traditions. Raven Kaldera explains the phenomenon, and shares what it is like to be ridden as a ‘horse of the spirits.’
POWER IN THE HAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30-31 The Celtic coins of Europe were often symbols of magical power as well as having monetary value. Simon Lilly deciphers some of their hidden meanings.
Subscribe to Sacred Hoop Magazine see page 49 4
ISSUE 64 2009
Bonding with power animals - pages 16-19
Golden art of the Scythians - pages 37-39
ON THE FLIP OF A COIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32-33 The oldest coins come from China, where they have a long tradition as magical charms and aids in divination. Nicholas Breeze Wood introduces some of their uses.
POWER PARTNERSHIP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34-36 The horse was domesticated around 6,000 years ago, and is a major character in folklore the world over. Leanna Milward explains what we can all learn from these gentle giants.
GOLDEN RIDERS OF THE GRASS LANDS . 37-39 Sweeping across the steppes, 2,800 years ago rode the Scythians - a warlike shamanic culture, whose frozen Siberian tombs often contain wonderful golden artefacts. BOOK AND MUSIC REVIEWS . . . . . . . . . . 40-41 PEOPLE ON THE PATH - EVENTS DIARY . . . . 42-43
“Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and around and about me was the whole hoop of the world... I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit and the shapes of all shapes as they m ust live together like one being. And I saw that the Sacr ed Hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circ le, wide as daylight and as starlight and in the centr e grew one almighty flowering tree to shelter all the c hildren of one mother and one f ather, and I saw that it w as holy.”
The last few weeks before we go to print with an issue of Hoop it is generally pretty mad and rather full-on. At the end of the last issue I had bad office-fever, and just had to get out for a while. So once the magazine had gone to print I went to a beautiful 5,000-year-old sacred site close to where I live, called Pentre Ifan. It was a cold, grey winter’s day, out of the busy holiday period, and so I had the place to myself, and was able to stay there for a few hours, being silent with the ancient stones. But then the thunder started, the thunder of hooves, as about a dozen wild horses came and galloped all around me as I stood by the stones; at one point they formed a wide line and charged me, turning away at the last moment. I took some photos, gave thanks and came home on a high. It was, I think, at that moment with the horses, that this issue of Sacred Hoop began. For the day after my visit to that ‘house of the ancestors’, I came across ‘The Horse Boy’ author Rupert Isaacson, who, I am pleased to say, agreed to write for us, sharing his remarkable tale about taking his autistic son to Mongolia to work with shamans there. The horse spirits stayed with this issue, and as Jonathan Horwitz and Faith Nolton remind us, the spirits accompany the shaman at all times and are there for us at every turn if we allow them. Blessing is also a fundamental part of working with the spirits, as Christiana Harle reminds us in her article about Tuvan traditional healing songs. But tradition is evolving all the time as Omar W. Rosales shows with the story of Maximon, a spirit from Central America. What happens, however, when the shaman is possessed by a spirit, as happens in many traditions? Raven Kaldera explains the process of using this connection in a beneficial way, as the shaman’s body becomes the spirits’ ‘horse’. So what is it with horses - why are they special to so many people? Leanna Milward tries to answer that one - she has been led to working with these gentle giants as an equine assisted therapist. And after all, horses have been in partnership with humans for thousands of years; the Scythians, the riders of the steppes of Central Asia, were remarkable artists and craftspeople, and horses are portrayed as part of their enspirited zoomorphic art. Simon Lilly tells us what to look for in the ancient symbolism of Celtic coins, which show so much about the sacred life of their times if we know what to look for. We also explore how the Chinese, who have the longest history of coinage, have all sorts of uses for their coins beyond mere money. So follow the sound of the hoofbeats through these pages, a trail that stretches back through time. Perhaps like me you will wonder what sacred treasures we will have left for our descendents in 5,000 years time. Only time will tell. Blessings to all Beings Nicholas Breeze Wood
(From the vision of Nicholas Black Elk - Lak ota Holy Man: 1863 - 1950)
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ISSUE 64 2009
riding with the
HORSE BOY RUPERT ISAACSON When his son Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert together with his wif e Kristin looked for ways to help him - including riding across Mongolia in search of a traditional shaman to heal him This is their remarkable true story
Photos Justin Jin
'm sitting across the breakfast table from my son Rowan, seven years old. “I am Iron Man!” he sings, imitating the Black Sabbath song he heard me listening to this morning (part of what my mother would call my Peter Pan refusalto-grow-up complex, oi veh). A red cardinal bird flits past the window. From behind the fence outside, my young horse, just beginning his training, snorts, wanting to catch my attention so I'll come out and grain him. The pygmy goats echo in demanding chorus. “Better go feed them, Daddy,” says Rowan. Then adds: “In the Narnia book the talking animals listen to their God.”
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I look up, shocked - still taken by surprise by this new, lucid, speech of his. Just 18 months ago I wondered if this kind of conversation would ever be possible. A few months before that, I didn't know if he'd ever be toilet trained, if he'd ever make friends, if he'd ever be free of the terrible, firestorm distress tantrums that used to wrack his brain and body as his overstimulated nervous system misfired, like bombs going off inside his body. “The horse and goats are hungry, Daddy,” he says. “Let's go feed them.” Sighing - half annoyed, half glad - I put my coffee down, get up, and go face the new morning, the animals upping the decibel level as Rowan and I step out onto the sunlit porch.
When my son was diagnosed with autism back in 2004, I never suspected that this thing, this horror which seemed to have descended on our family from nowhere, would lead me here, to this desk, writing a story that transformed my own and my family's life completely and utterly for the better. At the time all I could feel was grief, shame - this weird, irrational shame like I'd somehow cursed this child by giving him my faulty genetics. Watching, horrified, as he seemed to float away from me, as if separated by thick glass, or the see-through barrier of dream. We tried everything behavioural therapies, chelation therapy (trying to flush toxins like
heavy metals from his body), Valtrex (yes, the herpes drug, which supposedly helps calm down a nervous system overwhelmed by post-vaccine overload). Nothing seemed to work - or at least nothing seemed to work in the radical and positive way - ok, the miraculous way - we were craving. Then came the day that Rowan managed to get away from me while we were walking outside. We are lucky enough to live in a little house in the country. I found early on that when Rowan was tantrumming badly (autism tantrums aren't like regular tantrums - they come because of pain and neurological assault, rendering the child unconsolable),
if I took him out into the forest, just being out in nature seemed to calm him down. So there we were, him running ahead of me along the well-worn trail through the underbrush, me letting my thoughts drift away... when suddenly Rowan made an unexpected turn and - faster than I could close the gap - sprinted up the bank of a dry creek bed, over the little stretch of grass beyond, and was through the wire fence on to my neighbour's horse pasture before I could grab him. Five horses were grazing there. He ran in among their hooves, threw himself down on his back, and lay there, babbling happily, while I froze, thinking he was going to be trampled.
But then something extraordinary happened: the old boss mare - Betsy - came and pushed the other four horses away, then bent her head to sniff at this little two-and-a-half year-old boy, lying on his back, babbling and kicking his legs - totally exposed to her hooves. She sniffed once, twice, then bent her head further and did something I have never seen a horse spontaneously do to a human being before; she made the equine sign of submission - putting her head as low as she could and licking and chewing with her mouth, which is how a horse says to another horse, “You are the leader and I'm comfortable with that.” The equine equivalent of a dog showing its belly. I'm an ex-professional horse trainer - so I myself have made a horse give me that submission by chasing it around and around a pen until it drops its head and licks and chews - what some people call 'horse whispering'. I had never seen a horse do it spontaneously to a human being before, much less an autistic toddler. But there it was, happening right before my eyes. In all my years as a horse trainer, I'd never seen anything like it. And then I cried, because I thought - ‘Oh, he's got it; he's got the horse gene. But I'll never share it with him, never ride with him, because of his autism’. It's stunning how wrong a parent can be. In fact, I was standing at the threshold of the greatest adventure of my life.
Above: Rowan in the full flood of an autistic tantrum Left: Rupert, Rowan and Kristin ride across the Mongolian steppes
So I’m standing there, looking at this amazing, unfathomable communication passing between my son and this horse Betsy, and even then it takes a while for the penny
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Above: Rupert and Rowan ride on Betsy at their home in Texas
Right & below: Mongolian shamans perform a healing on Rowan
to drop. I assumed he was unsafe around horses - even after years spent as a horse trainer myself. It took me a little while before his repeated visits to the horse pasture resulted in my finally thinking hmmm - maybe I should put him on. We were standing there next to Betsy as she grazed, contentedly hanging out next to us, despite having ten green acres to roam on. “Would you like to get up?” I asked Rowan. “Up!” he said - it was the first lucid, directed speech he'd ever given me. So I put him up. And immediately he began to talk. At first, this new, astonishing language didnt translate away from Betsy. But after a couple of weeks or so, and by now I was actually riding with Rowan, he began bringing it home to the house. Asking for juice (“Want juice?”) instead of just taking mine or my wife Kristin's hand and leading us to the fridge, then melting down
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when we didn’t immediately intuit what he wanted. More than this, his tantrums always close to his mood and ours, like a fist waiting to close at any moment around the heart - would end abruptly if I put him up on Betsy's broad, brown back. A calm would descend on him. He would stroke her soft coat. One day, completely spontaneously, he said “I wuv you Betsy.” He has never said it to either Kristin or I before. I didn’t care. He had said it. Our time would surely come. And indeed he had much cause to say it to Betsy. Unlike Kristin and I, who did sometimes lose our tempers and shout, Betsy never put a foot wrong. If he ran his little red wagon obsessively into her back legs while I was putting the saddle on, she didn’t flinch, much less kick. If he yanked on her lip, ran under her and pulled her
mare's udders, in short did all the things absolutely guaranteed to completely piss a horse off, she didn’t move. Her eyes half-closed, that same blissful, almost trancelike state descending upon her whenever Rowan was near, she seemed to have accepted the role as his guardian. We spent hours and hours in the saddle together, playing singing games, word games, spelling games, as we rode across the broad Texas pasturelands, through the wild pecan groves, through the oak and cactus scrub, sometimes surprising deer, coyotes, or snakes Betsy never shying. I had found my way into his world. At least a little. That same year - 2004 another amazing thing happened. I have this second career in human rights. My family is South African and Zimbabwean and very political. As a journalist it had been natural,
over the years, to gravitate down there for my stories. To cut a long story short, I had followed a story which eventually became a book, ‘The Healing Land’ - about how I had found that my non-white family (my South African family is a real post colonial mish-mash) was related to the last group of San (Bushman) hunter-gatherers living in South Africa. And this clan, reduced to just 30 people, had been kicked out of a national park back in the 70s and suddenly, post Mandela, had got themselves a human rights lawyer, and were asking for their entire hunting grounds back after some 25 years of living by the side of the road as beggars. The story led me inevitably into human rights advocacy. I became active in their struggle and saw them win their land claim against the odds. Then another, larger clan, up in the neighbouring country of Botswana, got kicked off their land to make way
for diamond mines (don’t buy diamonds, people - way too much suffering involved even from those that come from African countries away from the classic war zones). I said “Uh, OK...” and next thing I knew I was having to escort a delegation of Bushmen across the USA, to speak at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill, to protest their cultural genocide. Some of these Bushmen from the Gana and Gwi clans of Botswana's Central Kalahari Game Reserve - were trained healers, or shamans if you like, in their own culture. Rowan came along for part of the trip. They offered, rather casually, to do some work on Rowan. Kristin and I said “Why not? Can’t hurt him”. The results were extraordinary. For about five days Rowan began to lose some of his autism symptoms - began stopping his obsessive behaviours, using
complex language, showing his toys to people, pointing. When the Bushmen went back home at the end of the journey, he fell back into his autism again. But I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I was to take Rowan to a place that combined that kind of healing with horses? These, after all, were providing more radical and positive results than the more orthodox therapies we were trying. What if we were to do something crazy like that? Did such a place even exist? I did some research. It did. Mongolia. The place where the horse as we know it - equus caballus - evolved. the place where humankind first got on a horse 6000 years ago. And the one
The following morning our guide had organised nine shamans to come heal Rowan at the foot of a sacred mountain. Some had travelled hundreds of miles
And right at the end of the cer emony, Rowan turned to this little Mongolian boy who had been standing with the rest of the crowd, watching, opened his arms and said, “Mongolian brother.”
place on the planet, I found out, where shamanism is actually the state religion, alongside Buddhism. The word shaman is actually a South Siberian-Mongolian word meaning 'he who knows.' What if we were to take Rowan there, riding from shaman to shaman? What if we were to do that? No way, said Kristin, when I put the idea to her. Not just no bleeping no! We fought about it for two years. In the end, in the summer of 2007, we found
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Rowan, Tommoo, a lion and a cow, ride together across the open
ourselves boarding a plane to Mongolia, setting out on the adventure of our lives. So we get to Mongolia. I had to admit that the capital, Ulaanbaataar, wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind - a kind of depressed, post-Soviet slum stretching some twenty miles of broken concrete, smokestacks, and old apartment buildings, down a long narrow valley between high mountains. But the following morning Tulga, our guide, had organised nine shamans to come heal Rowan at
the foot of a sacred mountain called the Bogd Khan. Some had travelled hundreds of miles to come do the healing. We drove out to meet them - the city stopping abruptly at the mountain wall, and wild nature taking over with no suburban, farming, or transitional zone. And at first I thought I'd made a huge mistake. The shamans' drumming, whirling, chanting were all too much for Rowan at the beginning. As for Kristin and I - we got whipped with rawhide. Kristin was made to wash her vagina out
with vodka - I thought she was going to divorce me! Vodka and milk were spat in our faces. The day grew hot and humid. Had I grossly misjudged this whole thing? Was I going to have to pack the whole thing up and go home? Then something shifted. Rowan became suddenly comfortable, happy. Started laughing, giggling, playing with the shamans, trying to grab their feathered headresses, drum sticks, and round drums, even as they whirled and danced, deep in trance. And right at the end of the ceremony, Rowan turned to this little Mongolian boy who had been standing with the rest of the crowd, watching, opened his arms and said, “Mongolian brother.” He'd never done anything like that before. The little boy was called Tommoo - the six-year-old son of our guide, Tulga. Seeing the boys' interaction, Tulga decided to bring him along on the trip. Rowan - right there in the ceremony - had made his first-ever friend. So... out into the vast interior we went. At first in 4x4 vans Rowan laughing delightedly as we were tossed about, hour after hour, as if in a cement mixer, as the van lumbered over rough terrain. We switched to horses, and Rowan at first worried me hugely by rejecting the animals, not wanting to get on, then relenting, enjoying himself again, then rejecting them again as he went through the inevitable mood swings of the first few days. It was stressful - imagine taking an incontinent kid, who soils his pants three times per day, to a place with no washing machines, and little surface water. But Rowan loved the open steppe, playing with his new friend out there in the great vastness. There were hazards, alarms, falls from horses, wolves coming round at
night and causing the horses to break their lead ropes and flee, having to be tracked down next morning. Our cameraman, Michel, got sick (not Rowan, luckily - I was very anal about making sure all his water was ultra-violet cleansed before he drank it). But eventually we found ourselves at the edge of Siberia into whose mountains we had to climb on horseback in order to try and find a shaman of the reindeer people. A man called Ghoste. A man who, it was said, was the most effective healer in all Mongolia. So, up into the wilderness we climbed, fording rivers, crossing great meadows of white edelweiss and blue mountain lupins, entering and leaving the great stands of Siberian pine, until we crested the high pass, 12,000 feet up, that heralded the start of the summer pastures of the reindeer herders. Finding a shaman isn’t so easy, however. For example, the reindeer people (Dukha) are nomads, moving between fixed points of summer pasture and winter forage. So assuming you’re going to find them just like that is, well, an assumption. And assuming you do find them, then you have to hope the shaman feels that he or she can help you. And agrees to. We were lucky: the Dukha were about to move to another site, but we had hit them before they moved their tipis. If you ever wondered whether it was true that Amerindians moved across the Bering Strait from Siberia, then one quick look at the tipis of the Dukha and other cultures like them and, it all looks pretty familiar. Ghoste, the shaman, asked us to visit him in his tipi that night. We were all exhuasted from two 10hour days in the saddle (it had
taken that long to make the ascent), but Rowan seemed to love being in Ghoste's tipi. The shaman was perhaps 70 years old, and still fit and lean, with a face crossed by weather, experience, humour. He took dried herbs, and singed them on the stove that sat in the middle of the tipi. He then began to brush Rowan with them, as if feeling him out. As he did so, Kristin, who held rowan in her arms, leaned over to me and whispered: “Can you feel it?” “No” I answered. “What?” “It’s like pins and needles, really strong pins and needles.” I couldn’t feel a thing, but then Kristin was the one holding Rowan. Could he feel it too? He did seem strangely calm. That night, after dismissing us, Ghoste said he had to take a night to commune with the spirits to see what he could do for Rowan. Specifically, he needed to take a spirit journey to talk to Betsy's spirit.He said he felt she was still Rowan's principal protector and guide. OK, we said, not really knowing what else to say, and off we went to our tent to sleep. Rowan slept 14 hours that night - unheard of for him, usually so hyperactive. The following day was peaceful - Rowan playing with the baby reindeer, riding reindeer, playing with Tomoo. We waited to hear from Ghoste what he thought could be done. Finally, at 9pm, with the sky still light, the latitude being so northern, we were ushered into his tipi once more. The ceremony was so low key, so gentle, compared to the high
It was stressful imagine taking an incontinent kid, who soils his pants three times per day, to a place with no washing machines, and little surface water
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Ghoste came and worked on Rowan a third time, running his fingers lightly over his spine and skull, up and down, as if pulling something, or things , out. drama of the ceremony outside Ulanbataar. Rowan loved being in the tipi, crawling around saying “I’m a baby elephant!” and again “There's an eagle, a hawk in the house!” when he looked up at Ghoste, as he stood in the halflight, drumming, the feathered headdress hiding his face as he sent prayers up to the Lords of the Mountain. And then, quietly, without fuss, it was done. “Go sleep now,” said Ghoste, doffing his shaman's coat and sitting down to light a casual cigarette. “There's too much spirit activity here right now. Go back to your side of the river. Tomorrow, before you go, I'll come and say goodbye.” Rowan burst into tears at having to leave Ghoste's tipi. Real tears of loss. Heartbreak even. Next morning, Ghoste came as promised to say goodbye, and worked on Rowan a third time, running his fingers lightly over Rowan’s spine and skull, up and
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down, as if pulling some thing - or things - out. Finally, when he was done, Ghoste said something that surprised even me, with all my years of having worked with Bushman healers in Southern Africa. He said that Rowan would get gradually less and less autistic till the age of nine. But he also said that the stuff that really drove us crazy, the incontinence, the tantrums - these would start to leave now, like today. I was guarding my heart. I didn’t want to allow myself to be disappointed. But as we rode away and down the mountain, that indeed, just as Ghoste had said, was when everything began to change. About 25 hours after coming down the mountain from Ghoste's camp, Rowan squatted down on a sandbank in the river Orghon, where we had stopped to swim and pitch tents, and did his first intentional poo. And cleaned himself. On camera. We couldn’t believe it. Three days later, when we reached the nearest town, Rowan, for the first time in his life, pooed in the potty. We drank the ger camp out of beer that night. And as we celebrated, Rowan joined the other kids in their evening games. One of them. No longer the odd kid out. From then - for about the next three weeks - we had perhaps six tantrums of any note. Before Ghoste that would have been about half a day's worth. By the time we got back to the US, they had gone completely. Rowan arrived home and immediately started making friends with the kids in the neighbourhood. He started riding Betsy by himself. That year he had his first birthday party. All the kids in the neighbourhood came. Now - 18 months or so on from our return - Rowan is doing a first grade curriculum, but reads and does math at 3rd-4th grade. We have also started an equine therapy center near Austin, Texas, where we live - the Horse Boy Foundation. Every day we have between three to seven kids coming through, some are autistic, some are not, but just want to learn to ride. We make sure they mix, and spend good, long periods of time in nature, playing together. Rowan did not come back from Mongolia cured, he is still autistic.
But he did get healed of the three terrible dysfunctions that so plagued him and so impaired his quality of life and ours: the incontinence, the tantrumming and being cut off from his peers. All those are a memory. Rowan's autism comes across now as more of a charming quirk. It’s who he is. I’m starting to realise that you can be an incredibly effective, productive human being and also be autistic. Its another type of person, rather than necessarily a disorder per se. Ghoste also told us that we should take Rowan for at least one good healing a year, every year until he's nine. What a brilliant excuse for a yearly family adventure. Last year we took him down to the bushmen in southern Africa's Kalahari. This year, because of the book tour, we'll be in Australia, so I am looking for the right Aboriginal healers. The adventure continues. One last thing - whenever I have tried to pin one of the healers down about how it all works, this shamanism thing, they all of them - whether Mongolian, bushman or from wherever - give me the same answer. “It’s just love” they say. “Pure and simple. Only through training you can learn to direct it. That's what we do.”
Rupert Isaacson is an author and journalist. He was born in London to Southern African parents and now lives in Austin, Texas with his American wife Kristin and their son Rowan. He is the author of several books, including ‘The Healing Land: The Bushmen and the Kalahari Desert’ and ‘The Horse Boy’ (see the review in this issue of Sacred Hoop). The Horse Boy Foundation runs a small learning and equestrian center - The New Trails Center - in Elgin, Texas, just outside of Austin. www.horseboyfoundation.org There is also a film due for release about his healing trip to Mongolia. www.horseboymovie.com www.myspace.com/horseboymovie All photos (except photo of Betsy p8 and Ghoste on p12): © Justin Jin Justin is a former Reuters correspondent, for China, and now works as an independent photojournalist tackling such themes as authoritarianism in Russia, exploitation in China, and illegal immigration in Europe. His work appears in leading magazines and newspapers world wide, as well as in galleries and museums. He lives in Moscow. www.justinjin.com Sacred Hoop wishes to thank Justin for his permission to use the photos in this article.
EMPOWERMENT ~ our Shamanic Inheritance Jonathan Horwitz
Things have changed a lot since the old days. By the old days I don’t mean twenty-three years ago, when I first started teaching courses in shamanism. No, I mean the old, old days - long before the Vikings, long before the Druids, long before the megalith builders, back to that time when our ancestors sat around campfires fashioning wooden tools with stone tools, listening to the silence, feeling the presence of the spirits. And even though things have changed, still there is a connection to that time. I find it wonderful that we, as shamanic practitioners, are the ones who are consciously carrying that connection to our most remote ancestors, and yet this is something that we forget, question, and often fail to realise to its full depth. We make comparisons. “Why can’t we be like the shamans of old?” I have heard people ask. The answer is, mainly, because we don’t live in the past. We are here, for better or worse, at the beginning of the 21st Century. Once, a participant asked if we weren’t just ‘playing Indian.’ It’s a fair enough question, because to the untutored eye, that’s how it may appear. There we are, twenty-some people, sitting in a circle, a circle which was originally made around a fire, then moved to a skin tent, and which we, in our time, have rediscovered is the best way to sit, especially in a square room, if we are going to talk together. And talking together, we find out that this rediscovery of our inheritance, our true nature, is what some people not only want, but also need. And some people ask "But how
can I bring my shamanic practice into my 21st Century life?" Again, this is a fair question, and many people ask it. But first - what is it we want to bring back into our lives? Many of us are urban or suburban dwellers. We are surrounded by modern conveniences, which we eagerly consume, pre-packaged foods, synthetic materials, and air pollution. If we are lucky, we have a job which we enjoy on some levels, and live with people who are supportive of us, and for whom we try to be supportive. And we have our shamanic practice. But what is that shamanic
practice? The answer to this question is as different as the people reading these words. My experience from teaching shamanism tells me that the majority of people who practice shamanism today do not do so because they want to bring back the past. For me, and for many others, the reason for practicing shamanism is to maintain our contact with the Spirit World, and to bring the power of that contact into our lives and to our world today. This power is our spiritual heritage. We do, however, live in the computer age and not in the stone age. The power from the Spirit World is the same as it always was, but the world around us has changed. About fifteen years ago a Sami friend of mine arranged a course for me in arctic Finland, primarily for Sami people. One of the things that struck me was the difference in the quality of the intention of the journey missions. While I was used to hearing such missions as “How can I heal my inner child?” from course participants in England, a Sami man asked his spirit helpers “Where on the river can I catch most fish?” Even in our day and culture, people come to see shamanic practitioners for physical health
Jonathan at his centre in Sweden
the reason for practicing shamanism is to maintain our contact with the Spirit World SH
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Petroglyphs in the Superstition Mountains Arizona, USA
problems; but, unless they know about shamanism beforehand, the shaman is often the last of the health practitioners to be visited, and often only when all other practitioners have signed the case off as hopeless. But in many cases, people who don’t know much about shamanism come to see shamanic practitioners about ‘life issues’ rather than ‘health issues’. I feel there is a tendency in the western shamanic revival to (psycho-) therapeutise shamanism, and given the life-style of the 21st Century, this is natural enough. Probably more than at any time in the history of the world, people are daring to ask the questions of themselves and their lives that only philosophers asked before. We dig deeper. We want to know the answers. We want to do better, better at least than how we were doing before.
So not surprisingly, one of the big drawing cards of shamanism is soul retrieval. People who know nothing about shamanism hear the phrase ‘soul loss’ and it rings a bell. This is because so many of us suffer from soul loss. The result of this is that pressure is put on the shamanic practitioner to perform the soul retrieval ritual in such a way as it is palatable to our times’ taste, even in cases where it may not be appropriate. And this presents an interesting cluster of related conundrums. I feel a major problem for people interested in practising shamanism in the western world, is that shamanism is viewed simply as techniques we can learn. However, it is the spirits who empower, not the use of techniques. Workshops can inspire and give introductory experience. You can learn to journey to the spirits. You
can learn the basics of power or soul retrieval. You can learn to diagnose, to find the spirits of illness, and how to remove them. And this is all very valuable. Sometimes when I teach a basic technique someone says ‘Oh, but I’ve done this before.’ This is what I call the ‘Pepsi view’ of life - ‘been there - done that’. Fortunately, life is not like that. Each moment is new, each experience is new. It is just our closed minds which keep us from seeing and experiencing the everchanging colours of the sunrise. Detractors of shamanic healing often say that the patient has to believe in shamanism, that is, believe in the spirits, for it to work. This is patently not true. One of the most graphic examples of this was when I was doing an afternoon healing workshop at a conference on shamanism held at a University in northern England, some years ago. The person we were working on was very ill with colitis and had been for two years. She was a psychologist working in a psychiatric ward of a large hospital. She had no previous knowledge of shamanism whatsoever, except that one of her colleagues had told her it was like stone-age psychotherapy. She had come to the conference to learn about shamanism. Fortunately, there were sixty rattling singers and an excellent drummer on hand. While I was doing the diagnostic work, I was shown a huge sleeping snake some thirty feet long and a yard wide, right where her lower intestine should have been. “What’s THAT!?!” I shouted at my very relaxed looking healing teacher spirit, who was sitting right next to me. “Oh, yes, that’s her power animal. It’s making her sick because she refuses to recognise it.” my teacher replied to me. My healing teacher then told me how to remove it, and to put it into a small piece of amber which I had been carrying in my pocket for the past two years, and then told me to give the amber - and the snake - to the woman. Three months later I received a letter from the woman. At the moment of healing at the conference, all the symptoms of the illness had totally disappeared.
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Perhaps from her point of view, I did the healing. But from my point of view, it was my teacher, my power animal, and her’s who brought her the power which restored her health. Yes, I was the conduit - and the power flowed through me - but it was the work of the spirits. For non-practitioners, the shaman’s relationship to the SpiritWorld is problematic, to say the least. Those who do not experience the Spirit World, and its power, view shamanism with an intellectual interest or a beneficent tolerance; still others with irritation, or even fundamentalist rage. This is something we have to live with. But what has interested me increasingly over the years, is the effect this has on some shamanic practitioners. For many, the result has been to emulate psychotherapists, even to the extent of getting an education as a therapist in order to have a façade of respectability. The result of this is that the burden is put on the practitioner to use ‘techniques’, be they shamanic or psychotherapeutic. But where are the spirits in this? The techniques are the beginning. But with each gift comes responsibilities, and for shamans the responsibilities are spiritual. If we do not accept the responsibilities, then the techniques - together with their short-term peak experiences become empty rituals. The spirits want us to learn from our experiences, change, accept responsibility, and become as powerful as the power they offer us. Shamanism is not psychotherapy. The person visiting a shamanic practitioner may well have worked with a psychotherapist before and, not unreasonably, may be expecting something similar to whatever that was. In psychotherapy, the relationship is between the therapist and the client. In shamanism, the relationship is between the shamanic practitioner and the spirits and the client. This means that from the shaman’s point of view, the power she is working with comes from the Spirit World through her to the client. The shaman’s relationship to the spirits is the very essence and foundation of shamanism. No spirits - no shaman. The shaman’s power
comes from the spirits. This is one thing that has not changed for the last quarter of a million years. This is also what differentiates a shaman from a so-called ‘normal’ person. A normal person may well know who their spirit helpers are, but a shaman knows how to communicate with their spirits and how to interact with them1. It is practice that takes us further. Practice, practice, practice. What I mean by practice is: manifesting in our lives what we learn from our spirit teachers and guides. This is why I have started doing individual practice trainings at my simple retreat center in the woods of southern Sweden. I start with where people are in their practice, and listen to where they want to go. So many people don’t even know what they want, but if you listen you can generally hear it. The interesting thing is that the spirits know well what we want, but they are more interested in giving us what we need. The tragicomic truth is that often we are presented with what we need and we reject it because our tightly clutched agenda keeps insisting on what we want. I know a lot of people who argue with their spirit teachers. I’ve even heard myself doing it. There are two key words in successful spiritual practice, shamanism included. The two words are trust and surrender. We have to trust our spirit teachers if we are to surrender to their power and wisdom, otherwise we cannot receive what it is that they have to give us. By this I am not saying that we should resign all responsibility for our lives to the spirits. We have responsibility for our lives. Our shamanic practice is a part of that responsibility. When we go to them, do we listen or not? Do we receive their power? Do we follow their teachings? The experience you get from practicing, from doing the work, builds on itself and is ever expanding. Every time I do a healing I learn something new, as with the woman with colitis, because each case is different. True, I am often slow to learn, for instance, up until then, it had never occurred to me that one’s own power could make one sick. But not only did I learn from my teacher that unaccepted personal power can make you ill, I also
I feel a major problem for people interested in practicing shamanism in the western world, is that shamanism is viewed simply as techniques we can learn. However, it is the spir its who empower, not the use of tec hniques
learned new techniques on how to take care of the situation. And this is how I continue to learn, by giving the spirits room to work, not only with the person coming for treatment, but also with myself. Shamanism is a demanding practice for many reasons, but in one very special way it is not. When we work with the spirits they give us the power we need to do the work. The hardest part is learning to hold onto the power. The reasons for this being difficult are many, but it is often because we do not feel ready. But, both with myself and the people I work with, what I find is that when I am journeying, the further I get away from the ordinary reality of my ego, where I formulated the mission, and go deeper into the world of the spirits, the further I get away from what I want and closer to what I need. One day, when I was doing my morning ritual, suddenly several of my spirit helpers were standing before me in my room. I was stunned. One of them said: “Now you have given yourself to us.” “Wait a minute!” I protested, rattle in hand. “I didn’t ask for Jonathan Horwitz this!” I felt faint, and began to fall. and Nicholas Breeze One of them caught me before I Wood will be leading a workshop together hit the ground. “Don’t worry,” he on Spirit Blessings, said, and continued, “We have also at the Conference for given ourselves to you.” Shamanic Practitioners Jonathan Horwitz has been practicing shamanism since 1972, and teaching courses and retreats since 1986. He set up the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies together with Annette Høst, and regularly runs courses in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Russia and Hungary. For the last two years he has run a small retreat centre in southern Sweden. All his courses and information can be found at www.shamanism.dk
at Gaunts House, Dorset, England in September 2009 www.shaman conference.co.uk NOTES: 1: ‘Aspects of the Moral Compact of a Washo Shaman.’ (Handelman, Don  in: Anthropological Quarterly, 45, 2.)
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CONTINUING THE J O U R N E Y life with the spirits after the workshop FAITH NOLTON After more than 25 years’ working alongside my spirit helpers, I now work as a shamanic mentor and listen to other people’s soul travels And I am often the one to say “It’s OK – that’s normal - good job!” We all need that from time to time
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People who contact me for mentoring have often done shamanic journey training. This is the process of entering an altered state in a controlled way, usually with a drumming rhythm played to assist the change of awareness, and with an intention or mission – a question for their spirit helpers in ‘Non Ordinary Reality’, where they live. One of the first such ‘journeys’ that people often go on is to find a spirit animal helper (sometimes called a power animal), who guides and aids them in their experiences in the spirit worlds. In the journey, at the end of a pre-decided time, the journeyer is called back to ‘Ordinary Reality’ by an agreed signal; they then reflect on all that has happened as a response to their original question. When people call me for mentoring, sometimes long after their original training, they often ask whether their previous experience with their spirits was real or imagined. I can only say that over the years, life with the spirits has been very, very real for me. On one occasion I was putting up a large tipi in a very gusty wind – not a wise move. The poles were in place and I was inside the familiar cone shape, about to tie the canvas - and therefore the whole structure - to the ground. In effect, I was holding an umbrella of heavy canvas and small tree poles. A gust of wind suddenly got under the canvas and lifted the whole thing, and it was about to collapse in on itself – and me. At that moment my wolf spirit helper came to me and somehow guided me through the only available exit, the door opening that was hanging a few feet from the ground, some yards away. I am not athletic, but amazingly in that split second we leaped together, and apparently were seen to shoot out horizontally just in time. A second later the tipi was a tangle of canvas and broken poles behind us. Another time, a young woman told me about the strong relationship she had with her two tiger spirit helpers. Returning home late one night, her thoughts far from shamanic matters, she was the only passenger in an underground train carriage. At a station several youths barged on just before the train moved off. They were clearly off their heads on
drink or drugs, and began jeering, and advancing on her. She had no doubts about their intentions. As she braced for attack, her tigers appeared to her, standing in the central walkway between her and the youths, growling and snarling and ready to defend her. The youths instantly stopped in their tracks, backed off and remained cowed at the other end of the carriage until the next station, where they beat a hasty retreat. Then her power animals stood down. Of course our life with the spirit helpers is not often that dramatic, thank goodness, and one cannot rely on leading a charmed life – but it can happen that way. Life with the spirits relates to real life situations, not just personal development or therapeutic concerns. This connection with our spirit helpers, and the wider awareness it brings, develops over time, and through our time shared together. As a mentor, I often get contacted when people have not managed to journey in their home space, or have lapsed in their practice for a period of time, sometimes several years. They may really miss their power animal, and the world of the spirits - it is still nagging inside. The spirits may have been giving them a nudge in some way in their everyday life, maybe an odd page falls out of a workshop journal, or someone sends them a card with their animal on and they feel the heart connection again. Whatever the reason, they have not got going with journeys, and feel out of touch and isolated. For their world changed when they met their spirits; they took a step into a larger view of the reality and got a new skin, whether it feels comfy now or not. Experiences can’t be un-experienced. The initial shamanic workshop space may have been exciting and real for them. They had the support of a ready-made, safe and empowered space to work in, the safety net of a group of fellowtravellers and an experienced guide. This safe containing of the workshop setting is often not noticed. But back at home, where they cook supper for the kids, or make sure the car is serviced, go to work each day, and deal with their personal relationships, all that workshop stuff can look very, very unreal.
Often people feel they are the only ones having difficulties, that they have let themselves down in some way, and it has been hard to ask for help. So I would like to share with you some of the typical questions that arise. And before I do, let me also say that all practitioners find mentoring, or reflection from others, invaluable at times, regardless of their length of experience. I have people I can meet or phone when I get stuck with my practice or my life. And I value this greatly. These are some of the very typical questions I have been asked by people:
“Wasn’t that journey just my imagination… how can I be certain it was real…?” Of course there are no absolute proofs. Imagination, however, is not a sign of mental insufficiency, or something we should have grown out of; it is a vital tool which we understand more as we use it, like a muscle. As we gain experience with the shamanic journey, we learn to distinguish between fantasy, our own busy mind-stuff, ‘self-scaring’, and connection with the real world of the spirits. This discernment grows with experience – and if doubts set in before that experience is gained, it can be a big stumbling block. “I have no power animal yet, after lots of attempts to find one – haven’t I got one?” In my experience and traditionally - we all have at least one. When there is a difficulty connecting with the power animal it is often we who are not seeing them. This is often through feeling we don’t deserve one, fear that spirits might be real (or not real), belief that we are ‘always left out’ (Lonely Playground Syndrome), trying too hard, not finding what we expect, or the very common ‘Helper Retrieval Dysfunction’ – if you failed once, it’s for sure gonna happen again!
When people call me f or mentoring, sometimes long after their or iginal training, they often ask whether their previous experience with their spir its was real or imagined. I can only say that over the years life with the spirits has been ver y, very real for me is really important. If you feel you are going to meet a familiar friend on the journey, it becomes a much less daunting prospect.
“My power animal doesn’t seem to be around, but a new one keeps appearing on journeys – do they change?” Ask it if it is a new helper for you. Ask, ask, ask - a golden rule on journeys. Sometimes power animals seem to take a back seat for a while – but I find this is more about what our soul and development needs are at the time. They will get closer again when the time is right. Recently I had been missing one of my original helpers, whom I had known over twenty years, but who was not accompanying me much any more - just a quick hello at the start of the journey. Then on a recent workshop I took part in the drumming - which I don’t usually do - and there he was, right in close, relishing the drumming and dancing around. So it seems like I found out a bit more about him, and will try doing some drumming to invite him to be with me.
You can always ask a practitioner to retrieve your power animal for you, then it is up to you how you get to know each other. This is a process there is often not time for on a workshop, but it
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one client was moved to tears as he realised that the spirit animal he thought he had abandoned some years before had been patiently following him. Once he took off his ‘guilt blinkers’ he sensed the presence of his power animal so strongly
“My power animal got cross and attacked me in a journey. Is she trying to tell me to back off?” You went to ask the spirits a question – your ‘mission’. Everything that happens on a journey is part of the spirits’ response to that. Always. I have been cuffed round the ear by my helpers, even knocked on my back, been roared at … all part of responses to my question. It is not personal. And helpers won’t give you this kind of response until you are experienced enough to get the message – even if it takes you a while! They are there to help, but not make it easy. Otherwise we would never learn, push our boundaries, get out of our comfort zones. This response can also be a way of testing our intent, our commitment, our trust. We are being trained by the spirits. This is not human territory but it is in my experience deeply loving. “I have tried to journey with several practitioners, but when I imagine going into my entrance tunnel there is just blackness, no vivid scenery like I hear other folk describe. What am I doing wrong?” Nothing, except maybe doubting yourself, and comparing your experience to that of others. Ask your power animal to help you. Work with all that you experience – with the nothing: the quality of it, the sound of it, the smell. Reach out, walk forward – don’t assume you are suspended in a void. Don’t assume anything! It is so important to be pro-active in journeying, not float about without direction. So keep repeating your mission to the ‘nothing’ and pause
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for any new response. Explain that you cannot see. Use your imagination to try out different ‘tools’. One woman I worked with was stuck like this, and eventually remembered she could use imagination to picture herself a flashlight. She switched it on and yes, there was the entrance tunnel around her; and when she looked up she saw a circle of sky, the hole at the start of her entrance tunnel she had just stepped through, with her power animal peering down at her. Many traditional shamans have little replicas of such tools tied to their costumes, their drums, painted on their rattles – each person’s tool kit is different, according to his or her needs. It might be a ladder, grappling hook, light sabre, scissors, axe, summoning trumpet, fear dispersing wand… There are no rules or right aesthetics – just what works for you. Also, not everyone ‘sees’ in technicolour pictures. Some people navigate by sounds, smells, patterns… it is a conversation with the spirits that we are learning to interpret.
“I have had a power animal for a couple of years, but now another animal is joining us on journeys – can I have more than one, and what will my original one think?” Yes, there is no limit to numbers, but usually there are one or two main helpers; the others may visit in different situations, contributing their particular energetic powers. For example, I have one who tows me in the spirit world to where I need to go; there is another crowd who turn up to encourage and cheer me on when I need it. Ask the new animal if it is a power helper for you, and if so, thank it and acknowledge the relationship. Your original helper will probably not see why you are concerned about its feelings – emotional hierarchy is a human pre-occupation. But by all means check it out with them. Again ask, ask, ask. “I used to be close with my power animal but have lost touch through not journeying for quite a while. I feel like journeying again now, but wonder if they are still there for me and if so, will they be angry?” We may really feel we have blown our relationship through neglect.
We just have to take the plunge and go and ask. Recently during a mentoring session one client was moved to tears as he realised that the spirit animal he felt he had abandoned some years before, had been patiently following him. Once he took off his ‘guilt blinkers’ there in my practice room, in a safe space, he sensed the presence of his power animal so strongly. He realised it was still by his side and the reunion was heart-toheart and a privelege to witness. I have known this happen over and over. And when that man reflected on the events of his life during the ‘separation’ period, he could see the influence and presence of his helper all along. We do not know what timing schedule we are part of, on our soul journey. Sometimes an apparent absence from a spiritual process like journeying – it could as easily be meditating or ceremonial work – is simply a detour of learning and growing that we have to do as part of our own soul growing process. If your helper seems withdrawn, or not enthusiastic - ask why, and ask if there is anything you need to do or know in order to reconnect again. There may be a teaching you are being offered, so note your own feelings as this is going on – it is all part of the spirits’ response to the mission.
“I have been told by a teacher that I trust that journeying is not for me. How else can I connect with the spirits?” Shamanic work through journeying is not for everyone. Not all shamans work with journeying – there are many ways. Indeed, you may already have a practice that is working fine for you. Or it may not be the right time for you for other reasons that you do not know about. And you can always ask other people to journey to ask questions on your behalf. The spirits have not shut you out. This is not a rejection – you simply need to find how to connect with the spirits in ways that suit you. Spirits are an integral part of the many dimensions of life, part of the soul landscape. You can no more be separated from them than the wind can avoid contact with the land. Prayer is a powerful – though often neglected – way to connect
with your spirits too, as is ritual, dancing and dreaming.
“Every time I try to journey something in this reality stops me, whether it’s the phone ringing or the washing machine leaking ….. is it a sign I shouldn’t be journeying? Ah yes - that old problem of omens and signs! The difference between superstition and discretion can be a fine line. Superstition operates on irrational fears, whereas discretion operates on logic and reflection. And of course fear happily uses interruptions and distractions as a way of avoidance. Also we might wait for perfect conditions – those don’t often happen, and are not necessary. One day you might need to do a journey to ask for help in much less ideal circumstances. To check out the fear option, consider what you might be avoiding. Are you making your missions a bit too challenging? Or are your questions to the spirits ones you don’t really want to hear the answer to? Take small steps: get familiar with the practicalities of journeying at home, organising the space you are using, settling yourself beforehand. Practice setting up your journey space in different ways, different rooms, sitting, lying down… experiment! It is important that you are comfortable with the process and there are no rules. On that original workshop all the preparation of space and energies was done beforehand by the workshop leader, and now you must find out what suits you in your particular circumstances. RECAPTURING THE MAGIC People often seek mentoring because they feel isolated, with no shamanic connections now they are back home. They feel they have lost contact with a beautiful and fulfilling place and the spirits that live there. They need to regain confidence. The first message has to be that that beautiful place is still there for them, when they are ready. To get the feel of working in your home, why not settle down in the place you are thinking of using for journeying, maybe light a candle, and take some quiet time to reconnect with the circle by reading through your original journal entries and notes. Send good wishes out
to the circle you learned with, and to your trainer. Send love to your spirit helper(s) and recall how meeting them had felt. You might play a short track on a shamanic drumming CD, and go to the place you originally pictured to start your journey. This starting place, or gateway to the spirit worlds may need changing and experimenting with. No need to make a journey this time, the intent is simply to go visit, reconnect with the place, review it, take a look around and then come back. You may ask your power animal to meet you there and hang out for a while. The helpers work with us as real people, not spiritual performers. They, too, are concerned to have strong, clear communication. Whatever our human world situation is, whether we belong to a drumming group, or have friends who journey, the helpers are always there in their world as a support system and community. On an everyday level, there are online shamanic forums, associations or web communities. But don’t expect perfection from other practitioners or circles – or teachers - just because they have a spiritual tag; people will be people, fallible in all the same old ways. If you are seeking to restart or deepen your practice, you might choose to repeat the basic training to give yourself a boost, or consider finding a phone or email buddy with whom you can swap notes and check out progress. You will need to have a contract for confidentiality, and promise each other to say if the contact is too frequent, or if the timing needs organising better. It can help
confidence to have a shamanic friend to phone before and after a journey in real time and share your journey with. Supervision from a practitioner can be very helpful too, to advise on the wording of your journey missions and share the results with, or you might book to have a couple of one-to-one sessions with a trained shamanic counsellor. In shamanic counselling the spirits are the counsellors, you do the journey, while the practitioner holds the space, supports and witnesses. You can always get in touch with your original trainer to see if they can recommend possible contacts for any of this. For those of you who have felt stuck, I hope this has opened some doors that seemed shut. And I wish you a close and supportive relationship with your spirits that unfolds in beauty and truth.
Faith Nolton (formerly Jan Morgan Wood) is a shamanic artist, mentor and trainer and also works with the Medicine Wheel teachings. She founded Sacred Hoop Magazine, being editor until recently. She is author of the illustrated workbook ‘Easy to Use Shamanism’. She offers workshops, talks and individual mentoring sessions on shamanism, soul awareness and creativity. Faith’s visionary artwork is in collections worldwide and can be seen at www.soulgardens.co.uk She lives in West Wales (01239) 682 071 www.soulgardens.co.uk (artwork gallery) www.earthstarcentre.com (soul and shamanic work) Tigers on the train photo © Nicholas Breeze Wood
Songs to a
Faraway Sky The use of blessings in Tuvan Shamanism Christiana Harle
We are all stuck in our own stupidity and narrow-mindedness, in our own limiting and border-filled worlds, walking with a closed heart. Especially me. But that is who we are at that moment, and if we are blessed enough, then maybe we will open up, maybe we will learn something. I like to think that I have, as time has gone by. But what is blessing more than simply a well-wishing for others? And who has the rights to perform a blessing? The priest? The official? Me? Raised in a Christian household, actively participating in choirs, attending and/or leading Bible studies, and later doing healing work through the Holy Spirit, I grew up thinking that it was only the priests and ministers who could bless others; thinking that they were endowed with exclusive special rights and authority. I experienced their blessing at the end of a church service as a powerful tool which was somehow intimidating. I never even noticed my father blessing me all those years when he said grace over dinner!
Blessings are a an important part of the role of most shamans, bringing the gifts and grace of the spirits to the people
When the spirit of a magnificent fir tree came to assist me in my healing work, my road with the church split, and I became seen as someone who was not working through the Holy Spirit. I began to spurn the prayers of my family, friends and church ministers and of anyone associated with Christianity. I didn’t want their blessings because they seemed only to want me to convert back to the ‘true path’, their path. They didn’t want ‘good’ for me; they just wanted their way because it was the ‘right way’. And so I thought and believed then, and for the next nine years or so lived that truth. What closed eyes and heart I must have had! Why was I running around thinking of protection from other people’s energy? Thinking that others were trying to manipulate me and my path? Was it that their Christian blessings were expressed from a place of love for humankind and humanness after all? Were my eyes and heart so closed as to not see the blessings that were being given all around me?
AN EYE-OPENER I didn’t get much information on blessing during my initial shamanic coursework with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in early 1990’s. Reviewing notes taken on journeys and teachings, it wasn’t emphasized much back then. Spirit helpers did give me blessing or healing songs however, and I experienced blessing in my journeys to the Spirit World from my helpers, but not so much from us humans on this side of the fence. It wasn’t discussed in ethnographic literature very much either, and when it was, it was degraded, misinterpreted by the reporter. My path led me to Tuva (see Sacred Hoop, Issue 25, 1999) where I found shamans spending most of their time blessing people, and their animals, places and things; where the everyday human would bless the sky, their home, their path. And they weren’t Christians! Something snapped inside of me. Something was healed, for wounded I was. BLESSING: SALT OF LIFE In Tuvan culture - and elsewhere blessings are an integral part of daily life. They are everyday commonplace occurrences. For example, when a blessing is offered in the morning with the first milky tea made by the mistress of the yurt, she will burn artysh (juniper) by the door of the yurt and offer her tea with her tos-karak1 to the skies, mountains, forest and to the rivers. After completing the ritual she will say something like: Be merciful, my Khaiyrakan2! Be merciful, my mountains! Be merciful, my sky! Be merciful, my earth! When she has offered the morning tea to the Universe first, she then offers it to the host of the yurt to drink. Blessings are part of celebrating and marking the seasons and the rhythm of nature in Tuva, and they are carried out by both the common human (in Tuvan,
someone who does not ‘see’ and work as a shaman) and the shaman. Offerings and blessings are part of daily life. For instance, under a spring sky, during a thunderstorm, a Tuvan mother might offer milk to the sky, to the khan (Lord) of the azars3 living in the White Sky who would then become glad and peaceful. The yurt’s mistress’s blessing prayer would be: The head of the year is coming, Khaiyrakan! The snake’s head is shedding, Khaiyrakan! Let white food be abundant, Khaiyrakan! Let milk and dairy products be tasty, Khaiyrakan! Let coughing be still, Khaiyrakan! Let snot stop running, Khaiyrakan! Let the grass and plants be lush, Khaiyrakan! Let our native-place be prosperous, Khaiyrakan! BLESSINGS AND THE FAMILY Shamans are called in to bless the immediate family and relatives. The shaman Kuular Makar-ool told me how he experienced healing, power and Spirit. He said there is an egg-like orb of protective energy surrounding an individual; another orb around their family, and still another larger orb around near relatives and their aal (a group of yurts situated near one another, all members having kinship; sharing in daily work) which contained also their belongings, animals and even drinking water. The shaman is called in specifically to bless them when there is some new event. If the orb is broken then malicious energies enter: people fall ill, or there is ‘bad luck’ or fights occur or animals disappear, etc. If this happens, the shaman’s job is then to close this energy-orb by blessing and purifying. I assisted Makar-ool during one house call: a family’s son was moving to the
Opposite page: dark skies and a rainbow over Tuva’s wild landscape
Tuvan capital Kyzyl to attend technical school and the parents wanted Makar-ool to check the path: to make sure that his road would be clear, to bless the road and family while he was away, as well as bless the relatives also. The ritual lasted over six hours during which he drummed, sang, ate, made divination, and washed the immediate family’s bare feet and hands; he even included instructions in right living! I was too busy working and was unable to record his shamanic song, but this one below by Kuular Chanzan-ool Bulunmayevich, an old shaman born in 1901, was recorded in 1990 by Mongush Kenin-Lopsan4, and it contains similar elements.
Opposite page bottom: Tuvan shaman drums during a ceremony
With golden hair you are my children! Let your mountain pass to cross over be low, Let your horses be fast, Let your food be satisfying. You are beautiful my children! Let your river-crossing be shallow, Let your path be fulfilled, Let your happiness be complete.
Tuvan mother and child
blessings are an integral part of daily life. They are everyday common place occurrences
shaman’s ritual milk spoon
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Below: Tyeing cloth prayer offerings on a sacred tree
My abundant children! Let them sing their charming songs, Let them carry out their tasks, Let them have friends to be together with.
Let my children, having come from afar Get to their home. Let my children, who have come from such a far away country Let them always be lucky.
A flying bird needs wings, A big person needs a legacy. Drinking water needs to be clean. The girl whom you need to marry is not a relative.
The beauty-girl, pull up your stirrups, And ride quickly the horse by the name Emdik-Dai Let you be lucky at work.
My walking path has been fulfilled, Let me continue shamanising. My task to complete has been fulfilled, Let me go further and shamanise.
I have got a pasture, spacious and wide It seems to be quite near, at the distance of an inch.
BLESSING AS HEALING Anthropologist and film-maker Heimo Lappalainen made numerous visits to Tuva in an attempt to retrace the shamans in Tuva. Heimo was the organiser of the first conference between Tuvan shamans and researchers and western practioners and researchers (mostly associated with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies) in July, 1993. During one of Heimo’s 1992 visits he revisited shamaness Töszhu Teshit where she performed a healing (Heimo had a cold) and a blessing ritual which contained this song:
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If I am asked where my homeland is, Then it is my Tere-Khool with its hills and tussocks If I am asked where your homeland is, Where you were growing, Then it is my taiga country. I will sing, I will present my song And we will go my daughter I will play, I will tell you And then we will go to Ortuluktug across the island Aai-ooi, aai, opei, opei, Let you have many children. Let those ones, who will stay after us, be happy. Let my present life be prosperous
Let my future life in the next world, Be as happy as my present life. Let my horses be fat which graze in Oyalyk. Let you have many children Who will stay to live in your native land My native, vast and spacious taiga, Where I grew since my childhood, My beautiful homeland Where I have been living for a long time This is my rich abundant homeland. When I am thinking for a long, long time It seems to me that my Homeland is nearby It is only one inch away. My cradle is my Homeland, I have grown up carefree In my spacious and wide taiga. (translated by Aldynai and Chrisse, 1994)
SONGS TO A FAR AWAY SKY The Tuvan cosmology cannot be summarized in one general statement. Shamans, researchers, and the common man’s opinions vary about what we, in the West, call the Upper World. Many state that there are ‘Nine Heavens’ or ‘Nine Skies.’ Tuvan shamans often pray to these Skies, especially the White and Black
In Tuva blessings are an everyday commonplace occurrence... a blessing is offered inthe morning, with the first milky tea, to the skies , mountains, forest and to the r ivers
Skies, both of which lie far beyond the sky we can see with our eyes. Some shamans are said to have their origins in the Skies. In one area of Tuva recently people said of the oldest shamaness Mongush Targyn-Kara that she was from the Skies because she knew what would happen in the future beforehand: what disaster would come, what disease would come and when death would be. Before the Soviet repression of shamanism in the 1920’s, the great shamans would perform ceremonies to the sky on the top of a mountain and when they did, only close relatives could come to that place during the ritual. During the Soviet repression the shamans lost their rights and were driven away from their native places. The greatest shamans were taken to prison, some of them were shot, and the people didn’t perform ceremonies to the sky publicly anymore. There are many songs to the Skies, here is one told by an old shaman called Kuular Orus Donguroolovich in 1990 to Mongush Kenin-Lopsan. The worshipper of the war sky I am Targyn-Kara I am burning my artysh I am worshipping with my white milk. I am honouring my White Sky Let my people be rich I am honouring my Black Sky Let my people be safe and proud. GRACE AND BLESSING TODAY Every day I have lived, I have encountered blessing and grace! Every day now I encounter it! It is all around me! Blessing keeps you full. It keeps you full of Life. I need no amulets or power-objects, no
protection rituals or similar, for I am full of blessings. I can ask for blessing for myself and I have the right to bless others, places, events. Makar-ool’s teaching me about his view of power opened my eyes: When one gets blessed, only life can happen. I am full of power; I can walk with no fear. It doesn’t take away from me, it only adds. In all the time I was in Tuva I never observed or heard of a shaman making ceremonies for protecting. Their algyshes (ceremonies) are full of blessing words, wishing and praying for good things for place and people. Fear is not an factor, only life, living and walking the path before us. Christiana Harle (-Silvennoinen, BuckbeeLappalainen) lives in Sotkuma, North Karelia, Finland. Chrisse has been working shamanically for nineteen years. She has studied extensively with Jonathan Horwitz and Heimo Lappalainen. Chrisse has worked also worked intensively for several periods with traditional shamans in the Republic of Tuva, Siberia. She carries a Düngür Shaman red membership card. She is the assistant editor of the book ‘Shamanic Songs and Myths of Tuva’ by Mongush Kenin-Lopsan and also made a film on Tuvan life: ‘In the Arms of Buddha and the Drum’ (director Jouko Aaltonen: www.illume.fi). Chrisse is a shamanic counsellor and has been teaching for the past 15 years, offering shamanic healing and drum birthing. She is also a bee-keeper and maintains a Finnish handmade natural and organic soap company. She still keeps in touch with Tuva. NOTES: 1: A tos-karak is a large wooden spoon with nine small indents for scooping and scattering milky tea made with salt during rituals. Nine ‘holes’ represent the Nine Skies or Heavens (one explanation). 2: Khaiyrakan is often interpreted as ‘My Bear God’ ‘Master Bear Spirit,’ ‘Master of Sky,’ or ‘Bear Khan’ This phrase is often used in rituals to express honour and high praises. Tuvans have stories how their ancestor is the Bear. This tradition is also found in Fenno-Ugric culture, as well as with some Siberian, and North-American peoples. Some shamans also claim their power
comes directly from the Bear Ancestor. 3: The Azar are beneficent beings or spirits, living in the Ninth Sky, which is far, far away. Some shamans claim their power comes from the Azar. 4: Mongush Kenin-Lopsan is over 80 years old, and is a revered Tuvan poet, story-teller, folklorist, researcher, shaman, collector of Tuvan peoples’ stories and shaman’s algyshes. He has recently received his doctorate. He is affectionately known as ‘The Professor’. For tens of years he has maintained a small one-room office at the Museum of Kyzyl where he received visitors and made his research. Kenin-Lopsan founded Düngür (Shaman’s Drum) Shaman Society in Tuva in 1993-4. Proven shamans are issued with a redleather-bound membership card. Düngür still operates today.
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Omar W. Rosales
Deep in the jungles of Central America, along the shores of an ancient volcanic lake, a secret society of shamans practice Pre-Columbian ceremonies that have not changed in over 500 years. These brotherhoods or cofradias, maintain a tenuous relationship with the Catholic Church, as they worship the last living Maya god, the Lord of Lake Atitlan, Maximon. Neither plagues, nor conquest, nor civil war has stopped the veneration of this saint. Yet what lessons do the origin myths of Maximon teach us, and how is this ritual belief system used by shamans today?
The world’s highest volcanic lake, Lake Atitlan, is ringed by four volcanoes and found in the Solola region of Western Guatemala. Formed more than 50,000 years ago, the lake and its shores are home to the Tzutujil Maya. Legendary shamans, the Tzutujil, practice nature worship, and call upon forces varying from the spirit of the mountain, Pascal Abaj, to the mysterious gods of xibalba, the Maya underworld, who are summoned in caves. What the Catholic Church was unable to conquer after five centuries, it learned to accept. Thus, begins the tale of Maximon. Maximon (pronounced Mashee-moan), represents syncretism and an indigenous culture’s will to survive. Elaborately dressed in suit, silk tie, cowboy hat, and fine jewelry, the effigies are venerated throughout Central America as the patron saint of the hopeless. Called San Simon, Maximon is worshipped and petitioned to
provide miracle cures, wealth, success, safety, and even revenge. The cofradias, who care for and protect the saint, maintain their power structure over the gritty town of Santiago, Atitlan. With its populace subject to extreme poverty and the remnants of the 20-year Guatemalan civil war, Maximon is a glimmering ray of hope to the people of Santiago and Guatemala. Moreover, the statue represents the success of indigenous beliefs, continuing long after the onslaught of conquest and colonialism. BIRTHING A GOD The legend of Maximon begins in the forest, with two brothers, Salvador and Juan Co. Led by the Spirits of the nahuales - the ancient shamans pre-dating the Maya, the brothers began their quest to birth a new deity, a god that would combine the forces of the natural world. Intuition and dreams led them to a clearing and an enigmatic
Above: volcanos surround the blue waters of Lake Atitlan
palo de pito or coral tree. On its trunk, the tree’s skin held the mysterious symbols of the Maya, including birds, snakes, caimans, and a double-headed eagle. After felling the tree, and carving longhours into the night, the effigy was finished, but inert. A long and elaborate ceremony infused the statue with the nature spirits of the forest, the lake, the moon, the trees, and the earth. But just as nature has a sense of humour, the statue was also infused with the trickster spirit, giving Maximon a somewhat mischievous personality.
Yet, after several mischievous exploits upon the populace, including visiting the beds of village women at night, the village elders decided to bind the hands of Maximon with rope and cut off its feet. Thus Maximon would forever be destined to serve only the telinel and be called the hombre amarado or ‘tied-up man’.
The eldest brother would become the statue’s standard bearer, and chief shaman, otherwise known as the telinel. Once taken back to the village, the village families charged to protect and care for the statue became the cofradias or brotherhoods, responsible for Maximon’s upkeep and veneration.
MAYA MODERNO Today, the cofradias care for Maximon in alternating one-year periods. Whichever cofradia hosts the effigy, is also responsible for the distribution of funds and gifts given to the statue. Much like the potlatch ceremonies of the peoples of American Northwest Coast, the
cofradias throw elaborate fiestas or festivals where goods and food are re-gifted to the local community. The hosting of Maximon is a great honor, bringing both prestige and money to the cofradia. At the end of the one-year cycle, the Maximon will communicate through dreams to the telinel and say where he’s to be moved to. But suffer the consequences if the effigy is moved to somewhere it does not wish to go, for the heavyhanded village elders will soon fall victim to mysterious and inexplicable illness. The festival days for Maximon fall on important Catholic feast days. And the effigy is always displayed next to a glass
Insets - top: cofradias make offerings to Maximon, who sits smoking a cigarette Bottom: the ritual entry cave to xibalba the Maya underworld Opposite: an effigy of Maximon sits with cigar in mouth, and a plate for offerings in front of him
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Maximon is a glimmer ing ray of hope to the people of Santiag o and Guatemala. Moreover, the statue represents the success of indigenous beliefs, continuing long after the onslaught of conquest and colonialism
Omar W. Rosales is an author, attorney, and expedition leader. He writes extensively on the topic of shamanism and spirituality. A student of William R. Fowler, Arthur Demarest, and Edward Fischer, Rosales graduated from Vanderbilt University with an Honors degree in Anthropology in the late 1990s. His newly released book, ‘Elemental Shaman’ details his adventures to Sedona, Guatemala, and Bhutan to meet a Cherokee spiritwalker, a Maya a’j r’ij, and a Vajrayana Buddhist master. Rosales currently lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest.
sarcophagus holding a statue of Jesus. By aligning themselves with the Catholic Church, and incorporating the symbology of the Catholic faith, the cofradias are allowed to continue their veneration of the Pre-Columbian saint. Yet, the ceremonies and the offerings to Maximon are clearly pre-conquest in origin. The statue itself exhibits strange physical properties; local shamans honor the effigy with cigarettes and aguardiente (sugarcane alcohol). When lit tobacco is placed in the statue’s mouth, the cigarettes and cigars remain alight until they burn down. Occasional cigarettes of cannabis, remarkably, do the same. When shot glasses of aguardiente and beer are poured into the statue’s mouth, the liquid flows somewhere into the statue, yet the effigy never leaks, nor is drained from its litres and litres of faith and libations. Also known as Ri Laj Mam, the effigy consists of a wooden
shamans gather to perform a ceremony for the spirit of the mountain Pascal Abaj
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framework, buttressed with sticks and wire. The face is made up of a wooden mask, carved with angular features. The current mask is a reproduction, crafted in the 1960s, after the original mask was stolen by a zealous and brave Catholic priest - someone who perhaps did not value their mortal life. After being sold to a Viennese museum, the original mask was returned after lengthy negotiations, and now sits hidden in one of the cofradias many lock-boxes. Rumours swirl of another famous item in the lock-boxes - an additional copy of the ancient Maya codex known as the Popul Vuh. LAKE OF ENIGMA Unknown to many, the city of Santiago also holds another secret - a female Maximon. Worshipped and revered, the female version of the effigy is petitioned for love, luck, romance, and fertility. Slightly smaller, the female Maximon statue is displayed on a bed, resting horizontally. She is adorned with roses and colourful sashes of pink and lavender; the setting is completely feminine and meant to invoke the female Maya gods. A normal ritual to venerate Maximon will consist of lighting copal incense, pouring alcohol down the statue’s mouth, and then the shaman petitioning Maximon for relief. The telinel will always begin the ceremony, gently rousing
Maximon. A few prayers, songs, and shots of liquor later, the effigy is fully awakened, ready to receive the shaman’s requests. Yet, Maximon is still an intermediary, taking the petitions to higher gods. The cofradias are named after Catholic Saints and symbols. To further maintain their worship of the pre-conquest deity, the cofradias say that Maximon is Saint Simon, or the child of Jesus; yet, this is patently false, as the Catholic Church has never recognised a Saint Simon, nor maintained that Jesus fathered children. Other mysteries abound in the Solola region: the city of Chichicastenago holds a mysterious mountain deity called Pascal Abaj, and an even more enigmatic Catholic Church, complete with shamanic ceremonies and spellcasting. Near the lake, the town of Cerro de Oro holds the cueva, a cave said to be a portal to the underworld, xibalba. More quixotic still, is the Lady of Cerro de Oro, the Madre Luna of the Maya. An experienced healer with the gift of telepathy, she tends to those seeking a miracle in a hopeless world. Maya and non-Maya from all over Central America travel for days to visit this healer. TRIUMPH OF CULTURE Ultimately, the syncretism of mysterious religious symbols found near and around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, represents one thing - a culture’s will to survive. For neither Conquest, nor plagues, nor the Catholic Church have been able to wipe out these iconic Maya beliefs. More profoundly, it is the beliefs of the Maya themselves that give life force to their ancient gods and symbols; it was belief in them that motivated the two brothers to craft a new Maya Lord. It was belief and faith that energised the statue of Maximon, and it is through belief and faith that ancient Maya religious symbols are able to survive the onslaught of chaos and technology, the new gods of the 21st century. Five hundred years from now, as human beings travel the stars, will the Maya still preserve their ancient and beautiful culture? Only time will tell - but don’t ask the telinel, for he is far too busy attending to his Maya king, the Lord of the Lake, the venerable Maximon.
have a client coming at dusk, and I am getting ready for their arrival. Normally I might drum and sing, or meditate, or do physical rituals with my partner, in order to open myself properly to the gods and spirits. I need to be an open channel in order to properly communicate the right messages, in order to know the right things to do. I need to be able to put myself and all my own baggage entirely out of the way, to have good ‘signal clarity’, as some of my spirit-worker colleagues call it. Today, though, it’s a very different and much more serious service. I have been asked not merely to do some divination and healing work, but to be an empty vessel for a goddess, the patron deity of my client. Sometimes just praying and listening is not enough. Sometimes people need to look their deity right in the face and ask, and hear an answer phrased in human words, with a human voice. That’s when they call me, or one of my colleagues who has this gift. It’s called ‘possession’, and it is the hardest and rarest of altered-state techniques.
The spirits started coming for my body when I was in my twenties. Before then I’d talked with dead people, with plant spirits, but they never entered my flesh. In my twenties, however, I endured a long illness that ended in a near-death experience and a dismemberment-type vision of my patron goddess (and her family of various spirits). One of the things that she did, while she butchered me like a dead animal, was to make a big astral hole in the back of my head. Later, people would walk in… but only the ones that my goddess approved of. I have her protection, and that’s a good thing, or I’d be insane in short order. I’m a neo-pagan, but at the time there were little resources in that religious community for pagans who were being permanently annexed by spirits and having classic shamanic rebirth experiences, much less being possessed by them. I had to go to an Umbanda1 house for help. They Right: A young girl rolls her eyes in trance, possessed by Mami Wata - a water goddess, during a Voodoo ceremony in a village in West Africa
HORSE SHAMAN AS VOTIVE OBJECT
possession experiences in modern shamanic practice Raven Kaldera
Most Native American shamanic traditions have little if anything to do with spir it posession, but it is often a staple par t of African and Eurasian shamanism Right: Brazilian Umbanda practitioner in trance
Below: Korean Mundang (shaman)
taught me how to handle the phenomenon, and how to negotiate properly with the spirits for time, place, context, and safety. My spirits weren’t their spirits, but I learned enough to go on with. In the intervening years, I learned what a shaman was, and that I’d been dragged willy-nilly down that road… and that this act of giving over my body was just part of the job. There has always been a good deal of argument among researchers as to whether spiritpossession is part of the shamanistic bag of tricks, or not. The answer seems to be: sometimes, depending on the cultural tradition. Most Native American shamanic traditions have little if anything to do with it. On the other hand however, it is often a staple in Africa and Eurasia. In Korea, for example, nearly every mudang (shaman) is not only expected to be able to be possessed by various gods and spirits, but their competence is often judged by how many spirits they can carry. Mircea Eliade, that muchdebated grandfather of shamanistic research, preferred to shelve spirit-possession elsewhere,
and was wary of including it in the shaman’s bag of tricks. Part of his problem with it was the bad rap that possession had gotten, derived from a long and worldwide history of painful and unplanned possessions that sometimes plagued ordinary people. Certainly these sort of things get more press than planned possessions by spiritworkers - after all, what do most people think of when they hear the word ‘spirit-possession?’ Probably something out of the movie The Exorcist, with screaming, writhing victims and holy men trying desperately to cast out their devils. This has created a distrust in the Western mind towards anything that even smacks of an external power taking over a human body, regardless of intent, context, and outcome. I’m not trying to say that the aforementioned sort of mess doesn’t happen; indeed, it can, and I’ve had to clean up that mess when unsuspecting people get taken by harmful spirits. In my experience though, there is a world of difference between that scenario and the kind of work that I do for clients and for group ritual. Sometimes people need to touch the numinous up close, and skilled, appropriate deitypossession is one way that they can see that. For the client this evening, I have taken a ritual bath and meditated, concentrating on clearing my mind of everything except the specific deity who will be inhabiting my flesh, wearing my body like a suit of clothes, using me as a spiritual limo driver, an interface to speak with my client. I have made an altar for this goddess, and I have prayed before it, allowing her to extend her energy into me. A special drink made of fruits sacred to her has sat, bottled, on the altar for three days; when I drink it, its energy will become a thread that she can use to guide some small piece of herself into me. I stand still as my assistant dresses me in her sacred clothing. The costume helps, partly because
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it is imbued with her energy, partly because it will help the client to see her and not me (which helps because I don’t have a female body), and partly because it makes me into a votive object. I stand passively while I am dressed, getting myself into a passive and open mode, ready to be ‘ridden’. Being ridden, that’s what they call it in Africa, in the Caribbean, in the religions that sprang from the marriage of those two areas of the world via slavery. The person being ridden is a ‘horse’. That’s what I am: bridled and ready for the rider. Real possession isn’t about touching the divine within; it’s about opening to the divine without, the part that is bigger than you, that you might touch but cannot control. My job isn’t to connect with the part of me that is this goddess, or to find her within me. My job is simply to get the hell out of the way. She’ll handle the rest. I work within the ‘Northern Tradition’, which means that I am a spirit-worker in a specific cultural context: ancient premedieval Norse-Germanic shamanism. Since there is almost no written information on this tradition - it was orally passed and never written down before the Iron Age conversions - it survives today as a spirit-taught practice among a small but growing number of spirit-workers. We have all been claimed by this tradition’s particular gods and spirits, and we compare notes as we relearn from them. Sometimes things are very different; sometimes the similarities are stunning.
The differences mostly seem to lie in the fact that we spiritworkers are all different and have varied gifts and talents, and They know this is so… and, of course, different patron gods and spirits within the same cosmology will ask one to do differing things. However, possession definitely seems to be one of the items on the menu. While not all of us are horses, some certainly are, and it seems that the ancient ones want this to become part of the modern shamanic tradition. How are we to go about this? It’s up to us to navigate the waters of this practice, work out the social kinks, and make it as safe as any practice involving otherworldly beings with agendas of their own can possibly be. A few years ago, I went to a neo-pagan gathering, and joined the drummers and dancers around the main bonfire. I stood there drumming and swaying, when suddenly someone began to dance very close to me. I turned, smiling, and stopped cold as I looked them in the eyes. I felt them open, and someone came through… their body yelled and danced around the fire for a minute or two, and then it was over, having caused quite a stir. I knew instantly that this person was a ‘horse’, and that my drumming had opened the door for someone to come through and dance. The problem was that the staff of the gathering weren’t prepared for a possession, and didn’t understand what was going on. They thought that they had a bad drug trip on their hands, and their attempts at aftercare were less than useful because of this. The next day, the dancer came up to me and was introduced as Kenaz Filan, a ‘si pwen’ (a second grade initiatiant) of a New York Voudoun temple. The lwa Ogou had passed through Kenaz, although certainly not for the first time. We talked about the difficulties with explaining possession to people who are still thinking about The Exorcist, or who don’t believe it at all. It’s a difficult thing: to believe in spirit-possession, one must believe in spirits; otherwise the ‘horse’ is simply mentally ill, or actively manipulative. While this, too, is possible - there are people who
fake possession because they are delusional, or trying to get attention - there is also the very real possibility that someone has the right ‘wiring’ to be chosen for this job. How to tell the difference? Kenaz and I decided to write a book about it, because we realised that no one had written anything down-to-earth on the subject from the insider point of view. It was always researchers writing about people like us, academics who didn’t believe in the reality of what we were doing… and thus would always miss some pretty big points. That view isn’t helpful to the beginner ‘horse’ who doesn’t know how to handle what’s happening to them, or the spiritual group leader who has a ‘horse’ on their hands and needs to know how to tell what’s fake and what’s real, what needs to be cast out, and what needs to be revered. In certain spiritual traditions that are being revived again today, the practice of ritual possession is growing… and group leaders are too often bewildered as to what to do about it. The gods and spirits want to walk in the world again, as they once did, but it’s a different world now. It’s up to us, somehow, to make it work.
What do most people think of when they hear the wor d ‘spirit possession?’ Probably something out of the movie The Exorcist, with screaming, writhing victims and holy men tr ying desperately to cast out their de vils groggily returned, that was enough to pay for it every time. Raven Kaldera is a Northern Tradition shamanic practitioner, homesteader, astrologer, transgender activist, and the author of many books, including the Northern Tradition Shamanism series, and ‘Drawing Down the Spirits’ co-written with Kenaz Filan. [email protected]
www.northernshamanism.org See a review of the book ‘Drawing Down The Spirits’ in this issue of Sacred Hoop Notes: 1: Umbanda is an Afro-Brazilian religion which blends traditional African religions with Catholicism and Spiritism.
Below: A shaman from Mongolia is taken over by one of his spirits during a ceremony
My hand reaches for the drink on the altar, and I taste it on my lips. Almost immediately, I start to fade out. Things become blurry. There were no drugs in the drink that’s not a technique I have permission to use - but they are not needed. The energy of that goddess comes on me like a rush, like an ocean wave breaking over my head, and I pass away into a quiet place where I wait. Sometimes I’m present but distant, hearing nothing and seeing as if through a window, while my body moves and walks, speaks to people, sometimes does things that I could not do. Sometimes I’m slipped a mickey and locked in the trunk. This is one of those times. Whatever the goddess I carried had to say to her devotee, it was not for my ears. For these few hours, I was a votive object, a mere container for the sacred. When it’s over, I go home and continue to do my job, no more divine than before. The light in the eyes of the client, the expression on their face when I
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Power in the
Hand Coin Magic of the Iron Age Celts
Above: Image from a Boii tribe coin, Germany.
Below: British coin showing a cornucopia 10-40 CE
he stands in profile, a winged female charged with energy. Hardly human any more, her head turned into a bird mask – one huge eye surrounded by zig-zags of lightning-like force. Her feet are shown from a side view so that we can say for sure that we are looking at a human being. Her left arm and hand rest down by her slender, robed waist. Her right arm has become transformed into both wing and vine-like plant, the fingers turning into flowers and fruit. From her shoulders wings have sprouted – they are the divine attribute of spiritual power, indicated also by the use of triple circles and three main feathers. The right arm reaches out beyond human skill, it reaches out to bestow riches on the brave warriors of the tribe, it reaches out to slay enemies wherever they may be. An all-seeing, protective vulva or eye is shown by her knee, and from her belt hang three rods – perhaps for divination, perhaps they are whistles made from bird bones to summon spirits, to call the carrion feasters to the site of battle. She is spirit of wild victory, a deity, or priestess possessed by a deity. And she is one of the images that
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first alerted me to the visual power of the pagan European Iron Age, the Celts of the West, whose story has largely been left for unsympathetic contemporaries of the Classical world and medieval Christian monks to tell. The visual and technical skill of the Celtic culture is well-known, though mostly focused on the Early Medieval Irish expressions of the art; it is largely, and especially in its pagan heyday, abstract and vegetal in character, rather than narrative and figurative. Some of the best evidence for the expression of the pagan Celtic psyche can be found in the visual language of Celtic coinage. It is here, if anywhere, where we should be able to find evidence for a shamanic cosmology and shamanic practices free from the censorship of Christianity. Coin art is much more figurative than most other surviving examples of Celtic art. Despite the small size of the metal flans – often no bigger than a fingernail – the imagery is often powerful, complex and aesthetically ‘modern’. The value of the symbolic form of money relies on its ability to be recognised as such, so designs are necessarily conservative. Indeed, two and a half thousand years from the earliest Mediterranean models for Celtic coins, our modern coins essentially carry the same form (‘heads’ and ‘tails’) and the same use of symbolic imagery. Celtic coin art is useful in the exploration of Celtic belief and practice because we can place the imagery fairly confidently within a well-defined context of history, geography and function, allowing us
to speculate with more confidence on some of the meanings present. We can be fairly sure that coin art will show us attitudes to do with power, authority, sovereignty (the right to rule), procurement of riches, and security of wealth and land, concepts of obligation and bonds, allegiance, loyalty, warrior status and spiritual identity. Does this allow us to see into the spiritual attitudes of the Celts? We know from contemporary sources that the peoples that comprised the Celtic culture across Europe were, even by the standards of the time, profoundly religious. We also know (via Ceasar and from later records), that the highest status was afforded to only two groups of people: ‘knights’ (nobles or horse-owning warriors) and ‘druids’. In a volatile Celtic society hierarchical obligation and bonds of service were complex and strict. The warrior elite was a powerful social, economic and political force. No tribal leader could hope to flourish without the support and the allegiance of warriors. Display and the distribution of wealth encouraged support, but gold alone was not sufficient. The druids and other ‘men-of-skill’ (craftsmen, poets, smiths, jewellers), were vital if a chieftain or tribal king wanted to maintain influence. Of all the Celtic classes only the druids were not obliged to fight for their lord, nor were they constrained by service to one lord. Free to roam between clans, they acted as arbiters and a neutral judiciary, but their training and power made them a precious status symbol to those whose patronage they accepted. We know very little of pagan druid practices. On the whole they seem to reflect the ideas of a structured priesthood, but within this, many shamanic elements can still be recognised. At a time when life expectancy was short, to consider spending up to twenty years in training suggests that the role of druid was a highly regarded attainment, worth the effort. It was the druids who upheld the divine authority of each ruler, chieftain or clan leader, and who could just as easily destroy that
credibility and authority. They were an intellectual and magical elite who would have certainly played a significant role in the design and creation of coinage. For the Celts, coinage was not common currency. It largely served to recruit and maintain warriors in times of conflict (most of the time!) and so it reflects the functions of upholding the tribe, securing the tribal boundaries, promoting the power and authority of the king or queen, whose status is necessarily maintained by spiritual forces that also ensure fertility and wealth within the tribal lands. The ability to strike large numbers of coins in precious metals – gold and silver as well as bronze and tin alloys - required substantial resources and was a clear sign of both temporal and spiritual power. The imagery on the coins is a clear display of this magical power. The job description of shamanic practitioners varies around the world but at their very fundamental level they all intercede with the spirit worlds with an unusual degree of skill in order to protect the tribe. We shall see that many motifs in Celtic coin art reflect this function. HEADS AND TAILS The head and the horse are by far the most prominent image on coins, deriving from Greek originals well-known to the Eastern Celts living around the area of the River Danube, whose main trade with the south was in slaves and the supply of mercenary soldiers to warring city states. For the Celts the head represented spiritual power and numinous energy, and the horse represented the power of the land, sovereignty and the tutelary goddess, defended by the warrior class. These images continue to echo the Classical originals, but the Celtic artists delight in playing with the symbolism, extracting endless new metaphors and levels of interpretation. The wreath of bay laurel, for example, transforms into trees, wheat, flames, and animals. The horse gathers symbols of Celtic power and divinity as it dissolves and re-appears as the essence of dynamic movement with stars, torcs, shapeshifting riders, suns, moons, flowers, birds and spirits of tribal ancestors.
SPIRIT RIDERS Riders are often shown as birds and animals suggesting that the warrior has a spiritual power derived from that apparition, or represents his or her name, or is the guardian spirit or deity that protects the warrior and tribe. Sometimes the rider simply becomes a head casting spells from its mouth, or an eye floating menacingly above the horse’s back. Recognisable weapons – swords, shields and spears are less commonly held than branches, trees and birds, for it is the magical force rather than just strength of arms that will bring victory and abundance to the tribe. THE SACRED TREE Images of trees are important motifs, often central to the design, for they are themselves the axis, the sacred centre of the tribe, found in the most protected and powerful grove at the heart of the territory. Trees usually have a simple symbolic motif, but sometimes they can be tentatively identified. The main motif of the coins of the Dobunni tribe of western England resembles an ash branch, or ash leaf. Oak leaves and acorns appear, as do fruiting trees and what looks very much like yew branches. Coin imagery is full of familiar, repeated motifs but it can be difficult to be certain of their meaning. Animals, for instance, can often be clearly identified but we may not be seeing other symbols of animals because they are now unfamiliar in our visual vocabulary. Are those shapes bear-claws, horse muzzles, animal tracks, feathers? Is that a spirit creature, a boar or a badger or hedgehog; that long-nosed being a weasel or a rat? MANY LEVELS OF BEING Even the simplest visual motif can morph into spiritually powerful ambiguity. The torc, the twisted metal open neck-ring that sums up the self-identity of the Iron Age Celt more than anything else, is a commonly found coin motif. It is shown being held by deities, being given as gifts, around the necks of goddesses, rulers and warriors and is also seen floating above the warrior and the horse, twisting and writhing to become a serpent or double spiral, wrapping around the sun or opening out to
become a crescent moon. The torc symbolises the ‘enfoldment’ of the people to their land and their deities. It is, in essence, a transformation of the slave collar - a willing subjugation to the power of the spirits, an obligation to the gift givers, be they fertility goddesses, or tribal chieftains, or druid bestowers of knowledge. Its shape is the movement of the sun and moon across the sky and cycles of time and space, which perhaps is why the torc is found in mandalas with celestial symbols, sun, moon, stars and comets. ANCESTRAL WHISPERS From an artistic and art historical perspective Celtic Iron Age coin art deserves to be acknowledged as a significant addition to our knowledge of European spiritual traditions. The imagery is at once sophisticated, immediate and evocative. Nearly every stylistic device, from figurative realism to cubism, futurism and surrealism can be seen in this art that flourished for three hundred years or more between C3rd BCE and C1st CE. From a metaphysical and shamanic point of view Iron Age coin art is the last message to us from pre-history, the last flourishing of a continuity of worldview and practice that extended backwards into the Bronze Age and Neolithic - four thousand years - before it became submerged and censored by the Roman Empire and then the Christian Church. The unconscious mind, the deep mind, is a timeless mind that never forgets. It can recognise and remember the powerful symbols of the past and can stir up profound insight even as it often leaves the conscious awareness floundering in mists of ambiguity and a fruitless search for unequivocal meaning. The artist-magicians of the Iron Age gathered together the most precious metals, light of sun and moon and stars, to create spells of victory, promise and power, weaving them into images that impressed themselves on those who saw them. Look now, and the images will still come to life. Listen, and the voices of the past rise up again from the deepest levels of awareness. We are our ancestors, the past lies in shining pools of silver and gold, hidden beneath our feet – a gift from the Otherworld.
Below: symbolism suggests the rider is guided by the spirit of War (raven) and the spirit of healing (duck)
Inset left: Iceni tribe coin from Britain, mid-C1st CE Below: reverse face of the same coin
Simon Lilly has an MA (Hons) in Fine Art from the University of Edinburgh and a post-graduate diploma in Sculpture from Edinburgh College of Art. He has written books on art history, crystal healing, shamanic processes and tree spirit healing. ‘Ancient Celtic Coin Art’ was published in 2008 by Wooden Books. www.greenman essences.com www.greenman shop.co.uk
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Chinese coins have been valued by the tribal people of Central Asia, Siberia and even North America, Nicholas Breeze Wood looks at their use in divination, decoration and as amulets and charms
Above: Mongolian nine coin divination set and bag. Bag mid-late C20th. The coins are older than the bag and have worn almost smooth through use over time
here has been a very long history of metal coin manufacture in China, stretching back many thousands of years, and coins with holes - perhaps most peoples idea of what a Chinese coin should look like - have been part of the currency for over 2,000 years. During this long period of use, a lot of semi-magical lore and tradition has been developed in connection with coins. But perhaps their most common nonfinancial use has been in divination, both within China and beyond, in the surrounding lands of Central Asia.
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CHINESE DIVINATION Probably the oldest regularly used Chinese method of divination still in use, is the I Ching, the traditions of which began to be formalised around 400 BCE, although some authorities say it has been in use for as long as 5,000 years. In the I Ching, a series of either solid (yang) or broken (yin) lines are determined, and subsequently read to gain understanding. These lines are traditionally found by tossing three coins into the air and seeing which way up they land. If two or more of the coins are heads, then the line will be yang, and if two or more coins are tails the line will be yin. This process is repeated six times, and the subsequent pattern of six solid or broken lines is called a hexagram. Once the hexagram has been determined it is looked up in the I
Ching texts (generally called ‘The Book of Changes’) to show the meaning of each of the hexagrams; so by looking at a series of hexagrams, an answer to the question is acheived. SHAMANIC DIVINATION Chinese coins have been valued as a favourite form of divination by Southern Siberian shamans for a very long time too, although they have worked out a separate method of divination. In her books, the late Mongolian shaman Sarangerel gives various methods of traditional Mongolian shamanic divination, including casting stones, reading cards, the use of sheep knuckle bones and two methods using Chinese coins - one method with five coins, and the other method with nine coins. Both of the methods of divination she describes are used by the general populace, as well as by shamans. The readings she gives for each of the five or nine coins used are too complex to go into with this article, but readers who wish to learn the method can read her books. (See the notes at the end of the article.) USING A COIN SET If you wish to practice this sort of divination method yourself, or wish to use coins in combination with the I Ching, you don’t have to use Chinese coins. If you want to use old Chinese coins, these can be bought fairly easily and cheaply online - eBay will give you a wide choice of them from different periods of history - including fakes! For the effectivness of the reading it doesn’t matter if they are fakes or real coins. You ideally need well-worn coins, so that they can be shuffled with ease, which need to sit in your hand well and ‘feel’ right. It is nice to get a bag to keep your coins safe; this could be made from leather or cloth. If you wish to buy a ready-made bag, many shops who sell ritual objects used for Tibetan Buddhist practice, sell small brocade bags, and these are ideal.
Before you use your coins, you may wish to smudge or clean them in some way. You may also wish to make an offering to the divination spirits - this can be done by rubbing a little vodka or milk on the coins before you begin. The person asking the question then holds the coins in their hand, blows on them, asks their question and shakes them, as one would shake dice. For a reading of the I Ching the three coins are simply tossed and allowed to fall heads or tails up. For a Mongolian coin reading, a stack of the well shaken coins is made - generally in the palm of the right hand. Once stacked, the two hands are brought together, turned upside down and the coin stack deposited upside down on the palm of the left hand. The coins are now ready to be read. Each coin is taken in turn from the stack and placed down in a line, often on a special cloth. The line of coins is then read in the order they were placed on the cloth. Each pattern of heads and tails has a specific meaning. AMULETS AND CHARMS Chinese coins have a long history of use as magical and symbolic objects. In Feng Shui, coins either real or fake - are grouped together in auspicious shapes, generally bound together with red cord, and placed at specific points around a building, to help to increase the flow of chi and to attract wealth. There is also a long tradition in China of making coin-like amulets for luck, good health and prosperity, which, although they resemble coins, are not currency. These charms were sometimes very finely made, and would be worn around the neck, although
Heads - yang
Tails - yin
some had small holes in them and were used as buttons, whereas others were made into jewellery. The designs of these charms often included popular symbols of the dragon and the phoenix (symbolising male and female energies meaning fertility and marriage), together with other animals - horses being popular - or words enouraging fortune such as, ‘may the bearer have fortune, luck and health all year round.’ In areas of Siberia, away from the lands where the coins were actually used as money, Chinese coins were used as trade goods. Amongst the Ulchi people of far Eastern Siberia a bag of coins was generally given as a gift to a shaman asked to do a healing. This was not so much as payment for the healing, more a gift to the shaman’s spirits, as the shaman had no way to spend the coins. Like amulets, the coins could be made into jewellery or tied onto objects. Some shamans coats have coins on them and - like glass beads - they became important trade items, passing between peoples right across Siberia and the Arctic, even getting as far West as the Pacific coast of North America, whose Native peoples people greatly prized any form of metal. Decorative, and with a long history of use in both shamanism and in other ways, Chinese coins make an interersting item to seek out, collect, and use.
Above and right: front and back of an ancient Chinese charm coin
Left: three coins bound with red cord as a Feng Shui amulet Below: Native American Elk-skin battle armour with Chinese coins and sailors’ buttons C19th Pacific North West
FURTHER READING: The I Ching: There are many versions of ‘The Book of Changes,’ the text for the I ching available. Mongolian Shamanism: Sarangerel wrote two books, both of which are still available and both of which give Shamanic divination techniques as well as other Mongolian shamanic teachings. The two books are’Riding Windhorses’ ISBN: 0 89281 808 5, and ‘Chosen By The Spirits’ ISBN: 089281 861 1
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and Allah took a handful of
southerly wind, blew His breath over it, and created the horse...
thou shall fly without wings,
and conquer without any sword, Oh Horse
partnership Leanna Milward
ince my earliest childhood memory, horses have always held a special place in my heart. This sacred journey with horses was to become my life, a voyage of personal discovery and insight that led me to the very depths of my soul. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined how expansive the realm of horses could be, let alone that one day I would be uniting with horses themselves to offer healing to people.
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Yet in order for me to get to this point, it was myself that needed to open up to receive healing from my animal friends, a path that unfolded into the world of animal communication, and showed me the magical and intricate connection between all life. Growing up, my contact with horses was sporadic and rare. It wasn’t until I was in my later twenties that I was blessed with being the guardian of horses, as the Universe synchronised events beautifully to bring me my herd of four native breed animals. This humble beginning led me through experiences both uplifting and extremely challenging, as the horses all used their mastery to call me to leadership, making me look at where I was denying myself, where I was limiting and compromising myself. And, once I had acknowledged these insights, they were there to support me as I underwent the process of
reclaiming myself. I had never experienced such unconditional love, such peace, such consistency and support as I have with these special animals. AN AGE-OLD RELATIONSHIP All over the world horses serve the human race, and this is their greatest gift. They have been sacred for millennia, and are depicted in cave paintings dating back 16,000 years in Lascaux, France. They have been domesticated for over 6,000 years, helping us to shape the very world in which we live today. Horses still come galloping to us out of our history, from winged Pegasus, who was graced with a star constellation by Zeus in honour of his service to the gods, to the unicorn, who was revered for its purity and the healing, life-giving properties of its horn. Even the British coat-of-arms depicts this magical animal, alongside a lion.
A BALANCE OF OPPOSITES Horses are wild, yet tameable, powerful yet humble, fast yet gentle and peaceful. Perhaps this is one of the greatest gifts that horses have to teach us: to be, and fully express all that we are. They show us how to be at peace with the opposing forces within us, not to exclude any part of us, no matter how much we judge those parts as unworthy, unspiritual, or not good enough. Our connection with the horse holds a world of information for us, as they reflect back to us great wisdom, through which we can gain insights into ourselves. Horses are revered for their physical strength and power. Images of wild galloping herds, thundering hoof-beats beating on the soil, manes dancing wildly in the wind, are enough to make our hearts beat faster and uplift our spirits. PARTNERSHIP OF POWER Our ancestors valued them, not just for their physical supremacy, but for their spiritual power; and so they strove in their relationships with horses not to suppress or dominate them, but to become one with them, uniting with their special energies to create something even more powerful. One of the most remarkable peoples to bring horsemanship to a higher level were the Native Americans, whose skills with horses far exceeded those of the European settlers, as they chose to harness the natural way of horses. The Europeans had brought the horse with them ironically bringing it back to the land of its origin, the original horse having become extinct in America. The peoples of Central Asia such as the Mongolians, also highly respected the horse as an integral part of their culture. In a medieval fresco from the Templar Chapel at Cressac, knights are depicted riding into battle on unbridled horses. How is it that these knights were able to go to war without having to control the horse with a bridle? It is easy
to imagine the fraught energy of the battle scene, with hundreds of horses and knights, tremendous noise and chaos, but still the knights were able to guide and control their mounts. These knights had mastered the gift of the horse, which is something that can never be taken by force. It has to be earned, by one who does not strive to control through force, but instead seeks for something much more fragile, and incredibly beautiful. In striving not to control the horse, but instead embarking on a voyage of mutual trust and respect, something very special happened in the horse-human relationship. It enabled a deep, spiritual union, with both sharing the sacred, magical energy that this created. In our society, it is clear we have sacrificed the fragile, beautiful world of living as one with nature. Instead we seek ever more gain, yet never feel the warmth of fulfillment; we have denied ourselves the gifts within us.
And this is the gift of the horse, to bring us back to ourselves, to see the magnitude of our brilliance, to assist us in reclaiming the parts of ourselves that we abandoned long ago, and to guide us safely back from the artificial world of materialism. We already see some signs of this transition happening around us, as many people have a
People are uniting with hor ses in order to receive this healing. During unbridled interactions with horses, we can experience a great inner transformation as we are guided by these gentle giants
yearning to replace the stresses of city life for rural and selfScythian sustainable living. horse-shaped belt buckle This is also reflected in our C6th BCE relationship with horses, as the tradition of controlling the horse for our pleasure by using bridles, whips and spurs is slowly giving way to horse-human relationships that focus on the bond between horse and rider. Where people are stepping up The Lascaux horses to take leadership of themselves, and other animals they gain the trust and loyalty of
the horse, instead of taking from it with dominance. In not taking from the horse, the horse is free to give, and we receive far more in our openness than we could ever take by force. HERD OF HEALING Having evolved for over 55 million years, horses have been here on earth much longer than humans,
Tibetan silver and coral horse pendent
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One of the most remarkable peoples to bring horsemanship to a higher level were the Native Americans, whose skills with horses far exceeded those of the European settlers Horse dance stick. Lakota late C19th
and being prey animals, they have developed an incredible ability to read their environment, and all within it. Living within a structured herd hierarchy, horses also have advanced communication, and it is these two specific qualities that most enable the horse to assist us in our own healing. Horses are able to read our inner, subconscious state with ease, and if in doubt, it is this, as opposed to our more deliberate, conscious actions, that horses respond to. By observing horses when we are around them, we have a direct mirror into our subconscious, with the horse reflecting
back to us any areas where we are being inauthentic. Contrary to the popular beliefs, ‘never show fear around a horse’ and ‘when around horses leave your anger by the gate’, a horse does not really care how we are feeling, the horse is far more concerned with how we are
reacting to our feelings. If we suppress or deny our feelings when we are around horses, we will see them ‘playing up’ as they attempt to assist us in realigning with our true self. Once we fully embody our true self and our feelings, then the horses relax. A horse will be relaxed around us even if we are feeling angry, as long as we are not in denial of our anger. This was one of the biggest gifts given to me from a very special mare, Angel. She had a history of physical abuse in her past, and during our first months together we made huge steps in rebuilding trust. But occasionally Angel would go into great fear around me, trotting away, not letting me near
her, snorting if I approached too quickly. I was perplexed at this behaviour, as we had established a strong bond of trust and this was out of character for her. It didn’t take me long to realise however, that whenever she showed this fear, I would react with anger so much anger that it would shock me. Soon I realised that she was picking up on my anger before I was even aware of it, and through her behaviour, she was bringing this suppressed anger up within me for me to realise it. As soon as I was aware of it, she would stroll over to me, rewarding me with her gentle, nurturing presence. HORSE HELPERS This is how Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT) works in assisting people through personal development and healing. Across the western world this form of therapy, known by various names such as
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Equine Facilitated Therapy (EFT) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), is helping people with reclaiming lost aspects of themselves and embracing the ability to lead more natural lives. During an EFT session, it is the horses that guide and lead the therapy, although an assistant human works alongside them to help clients in understanding their communications and to guide them. Horses are able to sense the heart of the issue, and take you right there, with their loving support. At times this form of therapy can feel quite intensive, as the horse is confronting us with the issues that we fear and suppress the most; but when we are ready to let go of these issues, then we have found our mentor. In just a few hours, we can be transformed and enriched. People are uniting with horses in order to receive this powerful healing. During unbridled interactions with horses, we can experience a great inner transformation, as we are guided by these gentle giants to let go of buried hurts, unhealed wounds, and limiting beliefs that we hold about ourselves. Masters of authenticity, self leadership, clear and confident communication, establishing balanced boundaries and working together for the good of the whole, the horse truly has the greatest gifts to offer humanity. And, as we awaken to this beautiful truth, the horse is there, waiting patiently until we are ready to step forward and claim those very same qualities ourselves. When we allow ourselves to fully be and express all that we are, when we embody ourselves with joy and confidence, when we are true to ourselves, without limitation and fear, daring to experience the fullness of each moment as it unfolds before us, then the horse has found their leader in us, and will follow us willingly and freely, with their pride undiminished and their glory free to be fully expressed. Leanna Milward is a horse whisperer, equine facilitated therapist and animal communicator. She is founder of ‘Flying with Horses’ an EFT centre in Hampshire, England. Contact: (01252) 844 246 www.flyingwithhorses.com
The yurt-dwelling nomads of Tuva, herding sheep, and wandering across the vastness of the steppes, seem to have been there for ever. But if you dig in Tuva and other areas of Central Asia, you may find traces of an earlier, gold-rich, warlike culture whose stunning art mixed the fabulous with the domestic.
Golden Riders of the
Grass Lands THE ART OF THE SCYTHIANS
The nomadic Scythian culture stretched right across the steppes of Central Asia from the Crimea in southern Russia to Western China, and dates from around 700BCE to 0CE. Genetic tests on human remains found in graves show the Scythians were of mixed blood, but mostly of Iranian and European origin, with some individuals having a more Asian heritage. It appears, however, that they shared a common spoken language (although there was no written one), and maintained well-used trade routes that connected Eastern Europe to China. They were expert horsemen, being some of the earliest peoples to ride and use horse-drawn wagons, in which they sometimes lived - a little like gypsy caravans. This skill with horses was how they maintained their vast empire and kept the trade routes open. Although they were nomadic, the Scythians had a single kinglike leader, tp whom different clan chieftains paid homage. They were expert warriors, and their rich elite wore bronze helmets and chainmail, with round shields made of leather, wood, or iron, often decorated with a central gold ornament in the form of an animal. They used a double-curved bow, shooting over their horse's left shoulder, and also swords, the sheaths of which were often encased in embossed goldwork with ivory or gem-stone inlays. Many carried spears with bronze terminals depicting real or mythical beasts. And underneath all the splendidly crafted gold, bronzework and ornate costumes, the Scythians also decorated themselves with intricate zoomorphic tattoos. The Scythian's horses were also often dressed in beautiful and
ornate costumes, with gilded bridles, bits and saddles; many parts of which have survived in graves excavated from the often frozen ground. These frozen tombs are found in Tuva, areas of Southern Russia, Kazyktstan and other places across the Eurasian plains. Because the graves are often frozen in perma-frost, the weapons and domestic items, jewellery, The wooded hills and valleys of the Tuvan steppes
clothing, textiles and even the remains of the deceased are often in an incredible state of preservation. SHOCK AND AWE Their extreme warlikeness generated much fear and fame with the surrounding peoples.
Top: two Scythian lovers sit under a tree, the man’s head in the woman’s lap; their horses are held by a servant. Gold belt ornament C4-5th BCE. Southern Siberia Left: Golden griffin’s head C4th BCE. Southern Russia
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Below: golden cat, probably a leopard.C4th BCE. Southern Russia
Ukok Plateau in Tuva, a sacred place to the native people, is dotted by many Scythian burial mounds (kurgans)
Above: back of bronze (shaman’s) mirror, decorated with stags C7th8th BCE. Tuva
Right: ritual cup with a bearshaped handle. Carved from birch, the cup’s shape has deformed over time C6th-7th BCE.
Herodotus, the Greek historian, wrote: “The Scythian soldier scrapes the scalp clean of flesh and softening it by rubbing between the hands, uses it thenceforth as a napkin. The Scyth is proud of these scalps and hangs them from his bridle rein; the greater the number of such napkins that a man can show, the more highly is he esteemed among them. Many make themselves cloaks by sewing a quantity of these scalps together.” Scythians captured Persia, Syria and Judea and even reached the borders of Egypt, who quickly made a peace deal with them. And it was not just the men who were to be feared; the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote that Scythian women 'fight like the men and are nowise inferior to them in bravery'. It was also
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Centre: Bronze stag C4th Tuva
recorded by another contemporary historian that a Scythian woman had to kill three enemies in battle before she could wed. ART AND SPIRIT The Scythians were an animistic culture, with shamans called enaree who they esteemed
highly. Because of their war-like nature, weapons were considered sacred items, and special ceremonies were performed for any weapon capable of killing. They made sacrifices of sheep and goats, like modern day Tuvans, but also sacrificed prisoners of war to the gods and spirits of the Three Worlds of the shaman’s cosmos. Loyalty to the culture’s world view and spirituality was total. A Scythian wishing to follow other spiritual beliefs faced a death sentence. Although the exact nature of Scythian shamanism is not known, the one thing that all historians remark on is their use of cannabis, especially in relationship to a cult of the dead, which was an important aspect of Scythian culture. The stag seems to have been an important cultural animal, and many gold, bronze and wooden figures of them have
Left: bronze horse chest decoration of two camels fighting and biting C4th BCE. Southern Russia
been found. Other animals include the bear, wolf and eagle; and of course, their beloved horses. Despite their appalling violence and war-like nature, they were the creators of stunningly beautiful artifacts.
THE CELTIC CONNECTION Some of the famous tartan-clad, red-haired ‘celtic’ Tarim mummies, found in Xinjiang, China, date to the Scythian period, and if you compare Celtic and Scythian artwork you will often see striking similarities. The exact origin of the Celts of Western Europe is not completely understood, but it is known that there was what is called a ‘protoceltic’ culture in eastern Europe between around 700-450 BCE Named after an archaelogical site at Hallstatt, Austria; the Hallstatt Celts were expert metal workers, and like the Scythians, they were also expert horsemen. Hallstatt burials show some distinctive trademarks of the Scythian culture, and this period
of history in Eastern Europe was turbulent, with many peoples, including the Scythians, fighting for control. It is a very plausible theory that the war-like Scythians of the steppes were in fact the protocelts, who eventually moved to Western Europe, bringing their artwork and shamanic practices with them. But whether they are the ancestors of the Celts or not, their beautiful animistic treasures are a wonder of the ancient world and still an inspiration today.
The Scythians were expert smiths, sometimes making objects of solid gold or bronze, or sometimes wrapping beautifully carved wooden objects in gold foil. It needs to be remembered when looking at their material culture that they were nomadic, and this makes the results of their craft even more spectacular. The world’s very first carpets have also been found frozen in Scythian tombs, especailly those from Pazyryk (see Sacred Hoop Issue 59)
Above: very Celticlooking golden antelope C4th BCE. Southern Russia
Left: a golden wolf carries a sheep’s head in its jaws C4th BCE. Southern Russia
Left: carved cedar wood stag with stiff leather antlers C5th BCE. Tuva
Scythian burial mound (kurgan) at Pazyryk, Tuva
Below: Scythian archer on a horse. C4th BCE. Southern Russia
ISSUE 64 2009
REVIEWS . . . . . . . . . . . AY AMOR Constantinople Atma Classique ATMA 22594 CD: 76.56 mins (Full Price) Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood I know this might be contentious - but I have yet to hear a convincing American early music group. I suspect the American psyche, being so cut off from its roots in Europe, is simply unable to get the spirit of it. So I played this CD with suspicion - a group from Canada had to be the same as an American one didn’t it? How wrong I was; if this is a sample of Canadian early music all I can say is - Canada has soul. This is a breathtakingly beautiful and uncluttered album by four skillful musicians, with huge amounts of poetry. Played in a highly improvisational style on setar (a delicate long necked lute from Iran), Kamanchie (a sort of Arabic fiddle), percussion, and with the beautifully haunting and passionate voice of Françoise Atlan, the CD is a collection of women’s music - a mix of medieval and traditional songs from the Mediterranean area - spanning the past 900 years or so. Really beautiful, authentic music you can believe in. Available from Amazon.com etc Podcast interview and music taster: http://bit.ly/1VrzeP
MUSIC FROM THE BLUE NILE Hassouna Bangaladish Arc Music EUCD 2212 CD: 65.12 mins (Full Price) Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood Many years ago, my mother bought me two LPs of songs from the Sudan, and I have loved Sudanese and Nubian music ever since - and the LPs are now MP3 files on my Mac. Played mostly on oud, accordion and drums, with a scattering of other instruments and lots of vocals, it’s fast pulsing, and yet mournful and haunting pop music with accessible, catchy melody lines and a sense of lightness - all of which combine to make it one of my favourite forms of North African music. This is a good album and a very good introduction to the style - explore these desert sounds, you won’t be disappointed! Available from High Street record shops Hear tracks at: http://bit.ly/Klm8e
ROADSINGER Yusuf (Cat Stevens) Island Records: 2705149 CD: 31.36 mins (Full Price) Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood I bought my very first Cat Stevens album when I was 15, and it’s nice to have him recording again, but 31 minutes - that’s pretty feeble in these digital days. But however short, the album sees him return to a more stripped early 1970’s sound, acoustic guitar and a sense of reminiscence. It seems that perhaps he’s feeling his age and looking back, there are musical references
ISSUE 64 2009
to earlier songs, and the cover sports a VW camper van, complete with hippy paint job. The songs are not too overtly Islamic either, as if he is trying to instruct less and get back to the more mystical songwriting that was his strength in his heyday. My copy of the CD is the limited edition version which also includes a DVD. This contains an extra new song not on the audio album, a new blues version of his classic song ‘Peace Train’. There is also a delightful 30-some minute interview with him and his 1970’s backing band member and buddie Alun Davis (the interview is while they are fishing on a canal bank in London and they talk music, not Islam) and for the rev-heads, a doc about the customising of the VW van. It is much more Cat Stevens than the Yusuf that brought us the previous album ‘Another Cup’, and I do sense he is getting back to his old self again - I very much hope so. Available from record shops, Amazon etc www.myspace.com/yusuf
TOWNES Steve Earle New West Records CD: 54:12 mins (Full Price) Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood Americana superstar Earle’s latest CD is an album of songs written by his friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt, who died aged 52 a few years ago, and I have to say I think it’s perhaps the best he has ever released. Mostly acoustic, with guts, barbwire, grit and sentiment all mixed in, the 15 songs on the album see Earle at his very best. His strong voice and the strength of the songs (which are very much like Earle’s own songs) show just what a mighty musician Steve Earle is. The CD’s production is raw and adventurous, and the musicianship impeccable. Outstanding CD. Available from High Street record shops MySpace: www.myspace.com/steveearlemusic
HOLD YOUR HORSES Ella Edmondson Monsoon Music MONMUCD 001 CD: 43:14 mins (Full Price) Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood A first album made up of twelve original songs; Ella is joined by some amazing and well known ‘session’ musicians (Andy Cutting and Kate Rusby to name just two). With an obvious talent for songwriting, and a most delightfully beautiful voice make it a dead cert it won’t be her last album. Performed in a contemporary acoustic folk style (complete with djembes), Ella is a Dartmoor based singer-songwriter with things to say and the ability to say it. Very nice album indeed, I look forward to her next one. Available from High Street record shops www.myspace.com/ellaedmondson
. . . . . . . . . . . REVIEWS FATE OF THE LHAPA Director: Sarah Sifers DVD: 63 mins. Region 0 Documentary Educational Resources Films Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood A lhapa is a male Tibetan shaman (a female shaman is a lhamo). Traditionally, the stories goes, Padmasambhava when he brought Buddhism to Tibet created four shamans - one for each direction, and these are the ancestors of today’s Tibetan shamans. Now of course, shamanism in Tibet predates the arrival of Buddhism by tens of thousands of years, so the lhapa’s traditions are a mix of Buddhist and pre-Buddhist ways. However, like many cultures and traditions worldwide nowadays, the way of the lhapa is sadly on its last legs, and this film is an attempt to record some of it while it’s still here. It’s a fascinating film, containing interviews with the lhapa and film of them doing healings, soul retrievals and other ceremonies. They also give some interesting background on their tradition and the way they use certain ritual objects such as shamans’ mirrors. If you have an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and shamanism it’s a must-get film, as documentaries on this subject are rare, and as the tradition is sadly showing signs of fading out, they are going to get rarer. Available from: www.der.org/films/fate-of-the-lhapa.html Trailer found at: http://bit.ly/U0R4o
THE HORSE BOY Rupert Isaacson Penguin (Viking) Books HB: £12.99 - 322 pages ISBN: 978 0 670 91736 5 Reviewer: Nicholas Breeze Wood If you’ve read our lead article by Rupert Isaacson in this issue of Sacred Hoop, you’ll know the basic story of the book; how Rupert and his wife had a child called Rowan who was diagnosed with autism, and how they, as a family, set off to journey across Mongolia on horseback in search of a powerful shaman, in the hope that the encounter would cure, or at least help, their son. In essence this book is the unabridged version of our article, giving detail of the adventures the family had as they travelled across the vast steppes and met the shamans who would change their family for ever. It’s a powerful, emotional ride, I couldn’t put it down, and you won’t be able to either. There is not a huge amount of information about what the shamans actually do, although it is quite possible to read in between the lines when the author does encounter them. Instead, the vast landscape of Mongolia, the people they encounter along the way, and the daily struggles with the family situation, take centre stage. There is a film being released of the story too, and I look forward to seeing that. It is one hell of a story, deeply inspirational and warm-hearted. Read our lead article and then buy the book - you won’t regret it. Available from high street bookshops or from Amazon etc.
DREAMWORLDS OF SHAMANISM AND TIBETAN BUDDHISM Angela Sumegi State University of New York Press PB $19.95 - 166 pages ISBN: 978 0 1 7914 7464 8 Reviewer: Martin Hicks This book has the best description of shamanism in it I have ever read - I wish there was room to quote it. The book is an exploration into the concept of dreams in Central Asian and Siberian shamanism, tantric Tibetan Buddhism and ancient Hindu and Buddhist India, all of which are cultures that have a high regard for dreams and a similar cosomolgical world view, to some degree. It’s really an anthropology book (the author is an assistant professor), rather than a shamanic practitioner’s hand-book, but it’s an interesting read, and if you are drawn to some of the aspects of dreamwork in shamanism, it’s a book for you. Available from high street bookshops or from Amazon etc.
DRAWING DOWN THE SPIRITS Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera Destiny Books PB $18.95 - 352 pages ISBN: 978 1594772696 Reviewer: Martin Hicks Co-author Raven Kaldera writes in this issue of Sacred Hoop on the subject of this book - spirit possession - and the book is a most interesting read. It starts with a brief, historical, world overview of the phenomenon, which is by no means comprehensive, as it misses out the whole of Asia further north than Tibet. It moves on to personal insights and the mechanics of the tradition and it is both thought-provoking and practical. As spirit possession is a very important aspect of shamanism rather neglected by the modern Western shamanic revival, the book is to be applauded. Available from high street bookshops or from Amazon etc.
DISCOVERING YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL Lucy Harmer North Atlantic Books PB $12.95 - 97 pages ISBN: 978 155643 796 0 Reviewer: Martin Hicks
A nice, informative little book about spirit animals - what they are, how they come to us and what to do with them once they have arrived. It contains a good section on basic animal archetypes, and all in all makes a good introduction to this popular subject. Available from high street bookshops or from Amazon etc.
ISSUE 64 2009
PEOPLE on the PATH
SHAMANIC EVENTS LISTINGS JUNE to AUGUST 2009
NEXT POP COPY DATE
JULY 15th PLEASE NOTE: Whilst it is hoped that the advertisers of events shown here practice according to the ethics of respect and right relationship with all aspects of creation, inclusion on these pages does not imply endorsement by the magazine or its editors.
JUN 5-7: THE SHAMAN'S JOURNEY (TOTNES) Learn to journey to the world of the Spirits for empowerment, healing and to touch the spirit side of nature. With Jonathan Horwitz. Contact Lisa Sture: (01769) 550 408 [email protected]
or to book www.centreforshamanism.co.uk JUN 8: THREE RIVERS SHAMANIC GROUP (IPSWICH AREA) 12-5 pm. Working with Stones. Contact Justine (07921) 334 293, or Julia (01206) 392 440 JUN 8: INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY SHAMANISM (LONDON) With Zoë Brân (07748) 964 986 [email protected]
www.shaman.uk.net JUN 8: WOMENS FULL MOON SWEATLODGE CEREMONY (DERBYSHIRE) An opportunity for reflection, cleansing, & birthing your dreams in a friendly open hearted space. Lodge of the Singing Stones www.singingstones.org Contact Helen Starcave [email protected]
JUN 12: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 [email protected]
JUN 12-14: INTO THE JOURNEY (LONDON) Deepen your journey skills and learn to work more powerfully to concretely help yourself and others in your daily life. Suitable for novice and experienced alike. With Jonathan Horwitz and the Centre for Shamanic Studies. Contact Lisa Sture: (01769) 550408 [email protected]
www.shamancentre.co.uk JUN 12-14: THE HEYEOKAH TRICKSTER (E SUSSEX) Laughter, play, fun, games, lose inhibitions, enjoy and embrace your true self! Advanced workshop for those willing to let go and move beyond boundaries into the world of the ‘magical child.’ With Leo Rutherford & Dawn Russell (01435) 810 308 [email protected]
JUN 12-15: KHOOMEI - TUVAN THROAT SINGING WORKSHOP (ANDALUCIA, SPAIN) Introduction to the art of Tuvan throat singing, closely linked to shamanic rituals, with an insight into Tuvan culture, society and food. Led by Gendos. Contact [email protected]
(0034) (639) 185 422 www.cortijovadillo.com JUN 12-14: ENERGY AND PERSONAL POWER A MAYAN TOLTEC PERSPECTIVE (GLASTONBURY) In depth look at personal freedom and energy, how we use, waste or conserve it. and how choices and actions empower or disempower us. Using teachings and practices from the Toltec traditions to help gain a life without fear. With Duncan Wordley: www.medicinewheelshamanism.co.uk [email protected]
JUN 13: HOW TO DO PSYCHIC ART (GLASTONBURY) Learn to trust your intuition and draw your spirit guide or loved one. With visionary artists Stephen Cox & Gwyn Ardyth. Penny Lewis: (01458) 833 933 [email protected]
JUN 19-21: WOMEN'S SUMMER SOLSTICE GATHERING (E SUSSEX) Enjoy this moment in summer, experiencing and being inspired by nature and allowing her to mirror your own creativity/life force, to feel the flow, the beat and rhythm of life within you and around you. Includes Fire Ceremony (01435) 810 308 [email protected]
www.celebratingwoman.co.uk JUN 19-22: KHOOMEI - TUVAN THROAT SINGING WORKSHOP (ANDALUCIA, SPAIN) Introduction to the art of Tuvan throat singing, closely linked to shamanic rituals, with an insight into Tuvan culture, society and food. Led by Gendos. Contact [email protected]
0034 639185422 www.cortijovadillo.com JUN 20: SHAMANIC GATHERING (W LONDON) Regular half-day gatherings to journey to other
HAVE YOUR EVENT APPEAR IN PEOPLE ON THE PATH This FREE service promotes shamanic and related events. You can send up to 5 entries Only send dates for the next 3 or 4 months. Emails are preferred - so always email if you can. We reserve the right to edit or omit entries. TO SUBMIT YOUR LISTINGS Please send following information for each entry, AS IT IS TO APPEAR IN THE LISTING
DATE, TITLE of event, LOCATION (UK county or country), DESCRIPTION - with leader’s name (max 25 words), CONTACT details (phone or Email or Web)
ISSUE 64 2009
EXAMPLE SEP 9 - 11 TSAMPA AND BUTTER TEA MAKING (LHASA, TIBET) A chance to experience real nomad’s food in the peaceful free land of Tibet where the Chinese never bother the indigenous people. Contact: Tsampa Barley-Flower (01111) 313 999 www.not-very-likely.com
realities for guidance and on-going training. With Howard & Elsa Malpas www.shamanicwarrior.com (020) 8758 9950 [email protected]
JUN 20: KISS THE EARTH (LONDON) An introductory workshop to healing the land, for women and men. (02380) 891 893 or (0791) 951 6651 www.divinewomenworkshops.com JUN 20-21: THE POWER OF GRANDMOTHER EARTH (MID-WALES) Focus on the worlds of Grandmother Earth, experience through practical work the wisdom that comes from these interactions, to journey for power allies from the animal, plant and mineral worlds. With sweatlodge. With Duncan Wordley. www.medicinewheelshamanism.co.uk [email protected]
JUN 20-27: THE ORIGINAL QUEST (FINDHORN) Soul retrieval, the shamanic connection with physical reality, the application of the astrological circle to the territory and the exploration of the multidimensional self. With Franco Santoro and Sverre Koxvold. Contact: Findhorn Foundation, (01309) 691 653, [email protected]
or www.findhorn.org or www.astroshamanism.org JUN 22: MENS NEW MOON SWEATLODGE CEREMONY (DERBYSHIRE) An open invitation to all men to join the sweatlodge ceremony & use it to manifest their dreams. www.singingstones.org Contact Pete Spotted Snake Edwards [email protected]
or Steve Mahtoweyah Baker - [email protected]
JUN 22: INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY SHAMANISM (LONDON) With Zoë Brân (07748) 964 986 [email protected]
www.shaman.uk.net JUN 26: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 7pm til 9pm [email protected]
JUN 27: SHAMANIC EXPLORERS (RICHMOND) Use group shamanic journeying for deep exploration and research. Our intention is to discover healing answers to living in our world and to share our findings with the wider community. Booking essential. With John Hambrook and Kathy Fried (020) 8459 3028 www.kathyfried.co.uk JUN 27: JOURNEYS OF DISCOVERY (LAUNCESTON) Drumming and journey circle. All welcome, novice and experienced who would like to join a circle and explore the world of the shaman. Warm and friendly group. Contact Derek (01566) 785192 [email protected]
JULY 2009 JUL 1-14 ON THE ANCESTORS SACRED PATHS IN ESTONIA (ESTONIA) Experience this unique shamanic work in the space of simplicity, softness and love on the lap of the Mother Nature in Estonia, listening to the voice of your heart. With the Brazilian shaman Alba Maria. Contact Ylle Pehk [email protected]
www.terramirim.org.br http://xamaalbamaria.blogspot.com JUL 5: SACRED DRUM MAKING (NORFOLK) Using ethically sourced materials, fashion your own drum and come to understand its sacred spirit, its tribal significance and how it can help to heal you, your soul and the Earth. Contact Whitefeather (07765) 428 011 [email protected]
www.earthtraditions.moonfruit.com JUL 6: INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY SHAMANISM (LONDON) With Zoë Brân (07748) 964 986 [email protected]
www.shaman.uk.net JUL 9-12: THE RIVERS OF TEARS AND BLOOD (GLOS) Explores and work with the mystery of the rivers that flow in the UnderWorld. Known in faery & in both pagan and early Christian tradition, the rivers are essential for our inner transformation and initiation. With R.J. Stewart. www.hallowquest.org.uk [email protected]
(01453) 759 034 JULY 9-22: MYSTICAL IRELAND TOUR (IRELAND) Spiritual journey to the magical sacred landscapes of mystical Ireland, including 2 days with facilitators Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. Contact Ann Mason 02380 695 841 www.ancientsacredsitestours.com JUL 10: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 7pm til 9pm [email protected]
JUL 10-12: STAR MAIDEN’S CIRCLE TWO (GLASTONBURY) For those who have attended part one. Continues the journey of exploration, and how it can be used to liberate our true nature and empower ourselves and others in a positive and beneficial way. With Duncan Wordley: [email protected]
JUL 11: SHAMANIC GATHERING (W LONDON) Regular half-day gathering to journey to other realities for guidance and on-going training. With Howard & Elsa Malpas www.shamicwarrior.com (020) 8758 9950 [email protected]
JUL 11-12: CRYSTAL BOWLS (GLASTONBURY) Sound healing in Avalon. Tune into the crystal sound and embrace life and feel vibrant. With Michaela O'Driscoll. Contact Penny Lewis: (01458) 833 933 [email protected]
JUL 11-12: LIVING ALIVENESS WIDE OPEN (GLOS) Intensive, a profound tool for growth in consciousness and freedom. Release limits and conditioning. Supports transformation, clarity, happiness and the achievement of appropriate soul goals. Joy Hicklin-Bailey www.secretgarden.eu.com (01452) 813 241 [email protected]
JUL 11-12: STALKING POWER (E SUSSEX) Power is the most subtle and devious enemy and is misunderstood by almost all culture. True power is mastery of the self (not the ability to bully others!) and when one manages to galvanise all the parts of oneself into a coherent oneness for united purpose, one becomes truly unstoppable. With Leo Rutherford (01273) 204 204 JUL 12: THREE RIVERS SHAMANIC GROUP (IPSWICH AREA) 12-5 pm. Past Lives. Contact Justine (07921) 334 293, or Julia (01206) 392 440 JUL 12: DRUM AND SOUND HEALING MEDICINE (NORFOLK) Learn how to understand the language of your drum and how to use it as a sacred tool for healing and transformation. Contact whitefeather [email protected]
(07765) 428 011www.earthtraditions.moonfruit.com JUL 15-17: THE BRIGHT KNOWLEDGE (ICELAND) For those whose journeying is firmly established. Explore roots of Celtic Shamanism through the 3 candles of truth, nature & knowledge. Learn to work with the auguries of nature, bardic prophetic methods, and the healing of the Celtic soul song. With Caitlín Matthews. [email protected]
(+) (354) 895 3319 www.vanadis.is JUL 17-19: VIBRATIONS FROM THE WEB OF LIFE (E SUSSEX) Whatever you believe about your voice, come and join us for a weekend of exploring the wonders of sound from within and all around to include individual dreaming, healing and creativity. With Lorraine Grayston & Dawn Russell (01435) 810 308 [email protected]
www.celebratingwoman.co.uk JUL 18-19: MAKE, SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL (RICHMOND) With spirit guidance and practical help learn to make and work with rattles; a step-by-step process of making and decorating a sacred medicine rattle for use in your practice. With John Hambrook & Kathy Fried (020) 8459 3028 www.kathyfried.co.uk JUL 23-30: VISION QUEST (N WALES) 7-day camp with 3 days solo. A wonderful experience of your true self and Mother Nature who gave birth to you and nurtures you through life. With Leo Rutherford, Dawn Russell, Andy Raven (01435) 810 222 [email protected]
JUL 24: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 7pm til 9pm [email protected]
JUL 24-25: THE TYRANTS OF LIFE (MID-WALES) Explore the relevance of these ancient teaching. Stop how the tyrants of life, push your buttons and dive you crazy. Sweatlodge. With Duncan Wordley. www.medicinewheelshamanism.co.uk [email protected]
JUL 24-26: SHAMANIC DRUMMING (NORFOLK) Buddha and Reiki Healing Ceremony, Tribal Dancing and much more. (01442) 398 005 JUL 25 SHAMANIC EXPLORERS (RICHMOND) Group shamanic journeying for deep exploration and research. Our intention is to discover healing answers to living in our world and to share our findings with the wider community. With John Hambrook and Kathy Fried (020) 8459 3028 www.kathyfried.co.uk JUL 31- AUG 3: MASK OF POWER (CORNWALL) Shamanic creativity retreat for women to strengthen, affirm, nurture and celebrate our creative power through shamanic journeying, mask-work and work with writing and clay, ritual and working with and in nature. Contact Eva Weaver (07757) 747 027 [email protected]
WE WANT TO SAY A GREAT BIG THANK YOU to all those who send us donations when they send their POP entries. We very much appreciate these and they really do make a difference
AUG 2009 AUG 1-8: ASTROSHAMANIC TRANCE DANCE & DRUMMING (FINDHORN) A full immersion into the realm of shamanic dances, movement, drumming, sound and silence, all in alignment with the astroshamanic zodiac circle. With Franco Santoro and associates. Contact: Findhorn Foundation, (01309) 691653, [email protected]
or www.findhorn.org AUG 7: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 7pm til 9pm [email protected]
AUG 7-9: SHAMANIC REIKI HEALING (OMEGA RHINEBECK, NY USA) With Llyn Roberts www.eomega.org (877) 944 2002 (USA), (1) (845) 266 4444 (international) AUG 8: SHAMANIC GATHERING (W LONDON) Regular half-day gathering to journey to other realities for guidance and on-going training, booking essential. With Howard & Elsa Malpas www.shamanicwarrior.com (020) 8758 9950 warriorinthehe[email protected]
AUG 10-22: QUEST FOR THE GRAIL (SW ENGLAND) Experience a journey to recapture the power of Mother Earth with facilitators Ronald Hutton (Glastonbury) Gary King (Crop Circles) Caitlin Matthews (workshop & ritual Stonehenge). Contact Ann Mason 02380 695 841 www.ancientsacredsitestours.com AUG 10-14: ADVANCED SHAPESHIFTING (OMEGA - RHINEBECK, NY USA) With Llyn Roberts & John Perkins. www.eomega.org (877) 944 2002 (USA), (1) (845) 266 4444 (international) AUG 13: CREATING CRYSTAL MATRIX (GLASTONBURY) Evening ceremony to dedicate your own crystal, to the work of creating a global healing matrix to use when global disasters occur, Bring your own quartz crystal. With Howard & Elsa Malpas www.shamanicwarrior.com (020) 8758 9950 [email protected]
AUG 14-16: DANCE FOR BALANCE WEEKEND RETREAT (DARTMOOR) Shamanic dance enables reconnection with ancestors, discover your authentic powers, reaffirm your purposes and goals, clarify answers to important life questions. Tipi village tranquil setting. With Zelia Pye www.tipivillage.org (07807) 525 724 [email protected]
AUG 15-16: AWAKENING THE PERSONAL DREAM (MID-WALES) Learning to come into harmony with change and movement, the natural cycles of the self and the world, help us to feel connected and part of the web of life. Sweatlodge. With Duncan Wordley. www.medicinewheelshamanism.co.uk [email protected]
AUG 15-16: HEALING HANDS (GLASTONBURY) Aroma massage for ultimate wellbeing. Learn how to give through the power of touch. With Michael & Lynne Orchard. Contact Penny Lewis: (01458) 833 933 [email protected]
AUG16-21: HUNA RETREAT (GLOS) Connect with the spirit of aloha and realise the truth and love that you are. Master the art of living happily share Hawaiian shamanism, invite presence, power and grace into every aspect of your life. Joy HicklinBailey www.secretgarden.eu.com (01452) 813 241 [email protected]
AUG 18-19: JOURNEY INTO THE WILD CENTRE OF CREATIVITY (E. SUSSEX) Introduction to Core Shamanism. Connection with spirit helpers and power animals, with a focus on supporting our creativity. Contact Eva Weaver [email protected]
(07757) 747 027 www.wildwing.co.uk www.tiltonhouse.co.uk AUG 21: WARRIOR IN THE HEART (GLASTONBURY) Shamanic journey circle with Mark Loman (01935) 428 534 (07875) 157 746 7pm til 9pm [email protected]
AUG 21-25: MEDICINE WHEEL RETREAT (DARTMOOR) Our ancestors recognised the cyclical nature of life, the Medicine Wheel is a vital tool to help navigate it. A strong foundation for life's journey. with trust, authenticity, freedom. Tranquil setting, Tipi village. With Zelia Pye www.tipivillage.org [email protected]
(07807) 525 724 AUG: 21-23: THE SHAMANS DRUM (DORSET) The shaman's drum is for anyone who wants to explore and deepen their connection to the drum and to feel more confident and technically proficient! With Peter Bengry and Chetna Helen Lawless [email protected]
www.vision-voyages.com (01297) 444 680 AUG 22-23: YOGA & MINDFUL WALKING WEEKEND (GLASTONBURY) Explore your inner & outer worlds in the beautiful Avalonian landscape. with Jennifer Hunter & Chris Twroga. Contact Penny Lewis: [email protected]
(01458) 833 933 AUG 23 SHAMANIC EXPLORERS (RICHMOND) Group shamanic journeying for deep exploration and research. Our intention is to discover healing answers to living in our world and to share our findings with the wider community. With John Hambrook and Kathy Fried (020) 8459 3028 www.kathyfried.co.uk AUG 28-31: FIREBIRD AFRO-BRAZILIAN TRANCE-DANCE (E SUSSEX) Trance dance in the spacious village hall! Special programme with all four of us! Residential. With Sweatlodge. With Leo, Doug Blacksmith & Paul, Dawn Russell (01435) 810 233
NEXT POP COPY DATE JULY 15th
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ISSUE 64 2009
drums Siberian and Native American styles By Nicholas Breeze Wood drum maker with 25 years experience Deer or Reindeer Skins Prices from £99
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SHAMANIC TRAINING SWEET MEDICINE SUNDANCE PATH OF THE
WORKSHOPS, WOMEN’S WAYS, SWEATLODGES, CEREMONIES, SPIRITUAL SEXUALITY, ON-GOING COURSES AND MORE
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ISSUE 64 2009
Solid wooden frames Sizes 10 inches to 24 inchs
www.wotie.co.uk College Of Shamanic Medicine Leo Rutherford, Dawn Russell, Lorraine Grayston & Friends
Comprehensive four module training in shamanic practice a modern day apprenticeship ʻOne foot in the spirit world and one foot in the everydayʼ
Tel: 01435-810 233 or 810 308 [email protected]
The Music of Nicholas Breeze Wood Drumming for the Shamanic Journey, Lakota Ceremonial Songs, Shamanic Songs as well as his own albums of music Listen to complete albums online
Reversing Environmental Pollution through
Spiritual Practice The Earth gives us life Air gives us life Water gives us life The Sun gives us life As within, so without: Our health and the health of the planet are one join us for a
Medicine for the Earth training you will learn: F
Simple personal practices and community ceremonies to transmute toxins
How to embody your own divinity on a cellular level: who you become, not what you do, heals the world!
How to bring forth the light from within to create health for yourself and the planet
For trainings based on the book, and for an international list of more than 60 qualified teachers, please visit
www.medicinefortheearth.com or write the author,
Sandra Ingerman, PO. Box 4757, Santa Fé, N.M. 87502. USA.
Reclaim your power to restore the earth’s balance! SH
ISSUE 64 2009
Unique 15th-16th century Ongon spirit figure
Mongolian Collectables Online Gallery Specialising in authentic Mongolian Buddhist and Shamanic artifacts. Showcasing genuine antiques sourced from our extensive network across Mongolia. The integrity with which we conduct our business means that we bring to the market a peerless selection of Mongolian collectables at the most competitive prices.
FOUNDATION FOR INSPIRATIONAL AND ORACULAR STUDIES FíOS - Vision Knowledge Dream Shamanic and Celtic Courses with
CAITLÍN & JOHN MATTHEWS Shamanic Practitioner Training, Anam-Cara midwifery for the dying & Singing the Soul R.J.Stewart Masterclass: UnderWorld Initiation Regions of the Otherworld for full details send medium SAE to
Caitlín Matthews BCM Hallowquest, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.
or see www.hallowquest.org.uk
ISSUE 64 2009
Songs of the Old Ways and the Music of What Is Return to Story, Ritual and Community with Shivam O’Brien, Erika Indra and the Spirit Horse Tribe. Shamanic adventures in wildest Wales and Ireland. Visit our magical Welsh valley and grow and dream in “The Village that Faces up to the Sky”! Women's Camp Enlightenment Intensive Sacred Man Sacred Woman Boys & Girls Wilderness Camp
8 th -12 th July 6 th - 9 th Aug 13 th - 17 th Aug 20 th - 23 rd Aug
Village Heart Gathering Sacred Speech
27 th - 31 st Aug 26 th - 29 th Nov
One Year Course Starts October 2009
Send SAE for our program for full details
SPIRIT HORSE. P.O.BOX 66. LLANDRINDOD. LD1 9AH. TEL. 07882 522 878. WWW.SPIRITHORSE.CO.UK
SHAMANIC HEALING AND MUNAY KI RITES
THE LEGACY FROM THE INCAS Receive the 9 Munay Ki rites, learn to Journey, to heal yourself and others with powerful Shamanic Healing Techniques. The rites heal us and transform our human energy field into that of ‘Homo Luminous.’ Your chakras will become clear and you will acquire what the ‘Laika’ tribe knows as the Rainbow Body. This is when your chakras grow with their original radiance and your DNA is reactivated to its full potential. For dates and further details visit:
JOHN OF GOD
e a l i n g Quests provides the opportunity to visit John of God, one of the most powerful healers alive today. Heather C u m m i n g , experienced group leader, grew up in the HEATHER CUMMING interior of Brazil, TRIP LEADER & is fluent in OFFICIAL TRANSLATOR Portuguese and for JOHN OF GOD will facilitate this CO -AUTHOR ‘JOHN OF GOD healing journey THE BRAZILIAN HEALER for you. WHO'S TOUCHED THE LIVES OF MILLIONS’ SHAMANIC PRACTITIONER FLUENT IN PORTUGUESE JOHN OF GOD CRYSTAL THERAPY REIKI MASTER
www.earth-keepers.co.uk or tel: 01239 698314 Affordable Courses held in West Wales
Call or email for trip dates and schedules:
203.255.2123 001 203 255 2123 from the UK
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VISION Q UEST
THE WAY OF INNER JOURNEY
With Nature as your Teacher, Companion and Guide
Personal Rites of Passage in which you will find your place on the land, under DAVID WENDL BERRY the guidance GREEN COURT, MIDDLE YARD, offully trained KINGS STANLEY, STONE HOUSE, & experienced GLOS, GL10 3QH leaders & (01453) 828 645 base camp [email protected]
ISSUE 64 2009
The Oracle For Change …is here to help you If there is one unchanging certainty in life, it is that there IS no certainty… Everything changes, continually Shamanic, Tibetan and Chinese divination performed just for you If you are at a crossroads in your life visit
www.theoracleforchange.com 48 SH
ISSUE 64 2009
UNIQUE ANTIQUE RITUAL ITEMS FROM TIBET, MONGOLIA, NEPAL AND NORTH AMERICA lovingly gathered and offered to shamanic practitioners and collectors b y Nicholas Breeze Wood Early C20th Mongolian Shaman’s Divintaion set
Antique Shamanic and tibetan Buddhist amulets
An offering of beautiful shamanic ritual treasures
FREE SHAMANIC PODCAST & ARTICLES on aspects of shamanism
Early C20th Nepalese Shaman’s Drum
C18th Tibetan Bronze Statue of Amitayus the Buddha of long life
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ISSUE 64 2009
ISSUE 64 2009
FAITH NOLTON VISIONARY ARTIST SHAMANIC PRACTITIONER
visit the online gallery . . . ~ MANY inspirational paintings ~ FREE ‘Print-Your-Own’ images ~ DEVELOP your own visionary artwork
w w w. s oulg a rd ens .co.uk shamanic guidance . . . journeying work shamanic training spiritual mentoring
THE SHAMAN'S JOURNEY BASIC COURSE, NON-RESIDENTIAL JUNE 5 - 7, TOTNES, DEVON OCT 16 - 18, LONDON INTO THE JOURNEY ADVANCED COURSE, NON-RESIDENTIAL JUNE 12 - 14, LONDON SHAMANIC COUNSELLING I ADVANCED, RESIDENTIAL OCTOBER 20 - 25, HEREFORD
for talks, workshops, training & individual sessions studio visits & commissions contact Faith on
01239 682071 [email protected]
NATIVE AMERICAN PRODUCTS
WARRIOR IN THE HEART
Direct from our North American suppliers
Shamanic Training with
• Smudge Sticks • Oils and Herbs • Bone Jewellery • Dream Catchers • Medicine Wheels • Medicine Bags • Totem Power Stones
• Incense • Peace Pipes • Shields • Rattles • Mandellas • Books • Fetishes
and a large range of CRAFT SUPPLIES
Howard & Elsa Malpas, Robert Blake Assisted by Mark Loman
SOUL REGENERATION One Year Training - A Transformational Journey Welcoming back parts of our Enlightened Self. November 2009 – November 2010 Leading to a Cer tificate of Competence And a place on the Soul Regeneration Practitioners Register 5 non-residential weekends in Glastonbury & 3day Residential at EarthSpirit Centre Nr Glastonbury
Cost £650 (monthly instalment scheme available) For more information on this and our other Trainings, Workshops and Gatherings,contact:
Howard & Elsa Malpas Send for our free colour catalogues, specify wholesale or retail, or order online - see our new website
LATITUDE IMPORTS Wtra, Trefeglwys, Powys, SY17 5QG 01686 - 430766 Email: [email protected]
Tel: 020 8758 9950 or 07977 935 633 e.mail:
ISSUE 64 2009
SOCIETY FOR SHAMANIC PRACTITIONERS 3rd UK Residential Conference
Dancing With Our Ancestors
10th – 13th September 2009 Gaunts House Dorset, England
Betsy Bergstrom Tom Cowan Alan Davis John-Luke Edwards Jonathan Horwitz John Lockley Chris Luttichau Leo Rutherford Annie Spencer Nicholas Breeze Wood Carol White Owl Youngson And many, many more With Shaman’s Market
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