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Scott K Smith

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Awakening to the Spirit World. Chapter 1 review: What is Shamanism?

Scott K

Well I did it. Didn't I? I made my own deadline and for that I give myself a pat on the back. Here's my diddy. FYI there is a bit of what the chapter is about and a lot of my opinion here. So... I read through the introduction and the first chapter of Awakening to the Spirit World: What is Shamanism?

After some discussion on earlier entries here at Lifencompass, I found that much of the tit-for-tat on defining a shaman in earlier posts, addressed in the first chapter of the book, namely the origin of the Shaman, the comparable practice of native/cultural "Shamans", and the modern amalgamation of earth based practices from tribal cultures; where those who have gone before and the authors derive the Modern Shamanic Movement.

"The word 'Shaman' comes from the language of the Evenki peoples, a Tungusic tribe in Siberia. This is a word whose meaning has to do with esoteric knowledge and extraordinary spiritual abilities and as such a Shaman is often defined as an intermediary between the human and the spirit worlds. In shamanic cultures,* the word 'Shaman' has come to mean 'the one who sees in the dark' or 'the one who knows."

The research from the various voices of the book comes from "fieldwork done among tribal peoples of Siberia, Asia, Africa, Australia, Greenland, from North, Central, and South America." The authors draw commonalities in the practices of people who work with spirits. That said, the book is not a how to become a Shaman book, as Sandra Ingerman writes, the Shaman is chosen. It is however a guide to integrating the common practices into your (the readers) life. Sandra Ingerman along with Hank Wesselman, weave together practices and voices from various contributors including: Tom CowanCarol Proudfoot -EdgarJose Luis Stevens, PhD, and Alberto Villoldo, PhD.

In addition to a discussion on visionaries, and the Shadow Side of Shamanism where we read about the uncommon values of practicing native medicine peoples. Those that seek power over others, those that seek gain, and finally those that serve the people. A guideposts of sorts directing the reader towards a self-less path of service versus monetary gain or dominion. Expanded states of awareness, the "technology" of the mystical path and where the tools are derived from lead us to the chapter's end: Gratitude, Seeing, and Blessing.

I know a few  traditional teachers of Native Ancestry. I've had the privilege of meeting and listening to Kachinas Kutenia on several occasions, through Maria Yraceburu, a wonderful friend, spiritual functionary, and teacher. One of the things that Kachinas Kutenia said stuck with me and set me on a path of discovery, "before you learn my native ancestry, you should learn your own" and I, being a mutt in many senses I couldn't pick a path based on that guidance chose many.

I've got a point. You know I do.

So I'm Italian, French, English, Haudenosaunee (Iriquios), possibly Irish and potentially Austrian, or more Italian, depending on who you ask. I'm half a mind to send in some of me and do the genetic tracing to see what exactly our ethnicity is, where we came from ultimately but that's another story... If I were to pick a culture I'd have to say European with some First Peoples of North America. "European" as a descriptive is kind of generalized, there are many diverse people, and a lot of culture packed in there... history, and many tribal cultures with shared and  diverse practices.  For me to "learn my ancestry" in a tribal sense I have to go way back: pre-war, pre-church, back to Picts, and Gaul, Celtic, and possibly Scandinavian roots. And I suspect my family has been "mixed" for a long time, like many of us with European ancestry.

So what is my tribal culture? Who were my Shamans?

Eventually I turned to Witchcraft as a practice and Wicca when I was younger. I then read Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism. I followed a path into meditation, mixed and match various dogmatic and mystical approaches, and at some point I just said to myself, the real way is within. I have no one single tribe. I don't know that I actually have any tribe to be honest. I'm "eclectic", meaning I've found threads of what works and used them, combining my experience into what I do versus identifying with one way. Maybe I'm part of the Universal Tribe. :)

The conundrum at the time became owning my tribal culture because I'd have to smack myself if Capitalism and a two-party  government was my tribal identity!

No I didn't really root in "gay" culture, or "alternative" culture, or even "drug" culture. It's not that I haven't had my connections to them but again, they weren't me. They were phases of discovery, where I found more roots that lead deeper into me. In short, I couldn't find my ancestral / tribal culture unless I went way back to early peoples. From this vantage point and moving forward I could, like these authors here in Awakening to the Spirit World, begin to thread together links, bridges, similarities.I get that this is my journey, my way of resetting myself and I'm grateful that I had so many diverse elders with me as I learned, grew and found parts of my long lost self.

Remembering me, this then is who I am, a threaded being. I who is woven of many practices, loomed together into a clashing tapestry of me.

In many sense that is what appeals to me about Awakening to the Spirit World. It isn't one culture. It isn't one practice from one specific peoples, to be done is such a way, at a certain time, when the stars are aligned just so. Pan-primeval spiritual practices brought forward with a message for those, I think, that need it the most: Fast food spiritual peoples, aka those that need to find a way within themselves. It's not a judgement. I mean, if we need to be more aware of the planet and our place on it environmentally, psychologically, emotionally, and maybe even "spiritually" we need to turn to our earth based ways, but if we don't have one. If we are tribe-less, or even, native confused, where do we go? Like me, we ask ourselves the question, who do we turn to?

The answer should be, someone who turns me inward towards myself, and through learning myself what the world is and all things that populate it, but that isn't always the case now is it?

And why do we need to be so earthy-connected? I believe it is because we are natural beings. Whether you want to think we came from space or another dimension, I'm not contesting anything but the fact that we are here now on this planet and to it we should be connected. We live here. We love here. We war, have sex, eat, give birth, and die here (not necessarily in that order but note that the death is our shared exit and one way or another you pass through that doorway).

I believe that through our actions, what we eat, where we get our food from, what we buy, who we buy it from, how we interact with each other and the planet are all telling signs of the vast disconnect that our species is suffering from. Not a disconnect from God in some bearded Yahweh, or any other deity, but from Gods, the enriching flavors of life only found with connection, naturally, to the world and all things of it.

An animistic invocation of the spirit of life, of all things, is necessary for our own self. I'm not saying in any specific way except finding life in your own life and connecting to it. Your plants, what you purchase, what you eat, you who love, and the complete strangers in your life; finding the bonding, intimate, flow of life that we modern people just tend to dismiss. Or when we do listen there is the dread that we will be dammed, or condemned... fearing that we can't be our truly magickal selves because of who we love, or fear, or respect, and what they might think.

But if they love us, and we love them, then shouldn't there be acceptance?

What happens if we get over griping about how ridiculous someone is about their choice to be conscious beings every day and instead spent that wasted energy on undermining a friends growth, we tried to be just as conscious in our little every day lives? When we clean, cook, talk, have sex, watch television, play games or just veg?

What Scott? What are you saying?!

We have a relationship with everything we interact with and a responsibility to be mindful of it.

Which brings me to the first three practices of the book, and why they are so important: Gratitude. Seeing. Blessing.

The Path of Shamanism Today

"At one time, the way of the Shaman was practiced exclusively by hunters and gatherers in order to find food and other resources for their tribal bands. They accomplished this by achieving an expanded state of awareness in which they could connect with the spirits of the animals that they needed to kill for meat and hides. Connecting with the spirits was about correct protocol - about getting permission to - and this always fell within the realm of the Shaman. In traditional cultures, they were often just a few people in the community who were able to step into the role of the Shaman to ask the transpersonal forces with whom they were in relationship for sustenance, support, guidance, and healing on behalf of others."

The authors then speak of the Tools of the Visionary.


Coming from a place of thanks giving can be a glass-half-full mindset, but I think it works. We pave our path. If we come from a place of hunger, fear, and pain, we are hungry, fearful, and pained. When we practice gratitude we are correcting our point of view, getting in line with our inter-connectedness to all things. Opening our hearts.

The heart is the seat of alchemy, where we take in and give out through voice and touch along the avenue of our throat and our arms and hands. This then is the doing place because what we speak and hear and what we take in and then send out is corrective to our living environments.

It takes practice, I know, I need to practice as well, but practice isn't not-doing. Practice is a meditation in doing where we are no longer rigid, we enter a posture of active participation. We never stop practicing because it isn't trying it is a continual movement and if our hearts are in the right place the practicing becomes the method.


My friend Astrid once said, "The Seer is not afraid to see". She was also found of the Blessing Way, healing, creation, harmony, and peace.

To practice gratitude we must be able to see who and what we are interacting with, without letting our psyche in the way. Rather we are directing our mind to perform in the  most compassionate way by interacting in a flexible approach. Leading our minds instead of our minds leading us. If we reject what we see because we fear, hate, disagree with it, we are no longer the seer. I'm not saying you can't disagree, I am suggesting that you should learn to see the world regardless of your opinion.

When we observe from our opinion, rather then through our opinion we color the experience. We are no longer actively interacting with life. I believe we are then interacting with ourselves. This is not compassionate action. In order to give blessing, the next "tool", we first must be able to set aside our opinion in order to serve in the correct way. A hallmark of the modern mystic, to give without taking. This is the way I believe the highest natural human calling is accomplished.

It's the place where I feel the best when I do what I do. :)


To bless we need no more than our own divinity, which is our grateful spirit. We do not need gods or beings, which are avatars of greater values, movements, luminous aspects of universal powers, mythical power brought to life within us. We can call up on that connection to facilitate the blessing state but it isn't necessary.

And blessings, what sort of blessings are we passing into the skin, the food, the family?

Within the realm of all that's been said, I think what we are blessing with is the spirit of Life. The Life Force Energy. An uplifting of the living spirit shared with all things. The power that connects us in love, at supper, over wine. When we bless with this grace, a sentiment of gratitude, we are empowering the spirit that infuses all things.

Being grateful, seeing and so interacting with all our connections, and completing the circle of these living tools by providing a heart-felt thank you. This provides the blessing that is needed each day.


I've spent the longer parts of the last two days attempting to finish this post. In that time I have been "interrupted" many times over. In those breaks I found the demonstration of the above listed "tools".

To be present, to show my thanks, and to give back by letting go of my drive to press all this to the Journey, and write a post.

I'm moving on to chapter two, The Shamanic Journey, which will be posted next Tuesday. I hope you will continue along with me in  my chapter-by-chapter review of Awakening to the Spirit World, the Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation.


Scott K Smith TheSacredOther blog and The Temple Well of LA.

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