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Thread: Learning the art

  1. #1
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Learning the art

    I am sure there is no "1 secret trick that shamans don't want you to know!", but is there some advice for practical learning? What sort of ritual or actions help facilitate connection? My best hope would be to find and meet a genuine Sami or Siberian practitioner but, well let's face it unless there is one living in my area (highly unlikely), this is not going to happen. The way I see it is a little like how I see my woodworking. You can only do it if you care about it. If you don't care for a spiritual path, then you can never connect to it, like doing a university degree to become a doctor when you really don't care about the career to dedicate time learning it. Furthermore, books will always be the lowest form of education in something so practical, with tutoring at the top and trial and error somewhere in the middle, based on your tutoring / books balance.

    I genuinely and earnestly believe in the ongoing existence of ancestors, although I am uncertain on who constitutes ancestors, and how far back it goes. I don't think I will ever be 100% certain. However I also believe in the genius loci, the spirit of a place, and am also an animist and also believe that not all spirits are lovely and friendly, some may abuse those who are too open, either passively by leading them away from where they want to go, or with real intent to harm. As such I want to ensure the bad doors remain locked and that I can safely ask for the good doors to be opened. I cannot get tutoring in such a path, but I need some sort of direction.

    I think a part of what holds me back is my rather arrogant Christian history, scoffing at certain pagans because of New Age influences incorporating into their practice the things I wish I did, but I don't want to be seen as "being like them". I don't know if it's because their behaviour is comical to me, or because they go further than I would. I'm a non-worshiping person. I venerate and thank, but I don't think I could worship anything.

    This is turning into a blog post, so I'll try and wrap it up with a question: how did you go from "that sounds right to me" to "I understand what I believe personally, through experience"?
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  2. #2
    Sr. Member faye_cat's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    I've not studied much in the ways of Shamanism, not the new Age aspects or the cultural or historical, but

    This is turning into a blog post, so I'll try and wrap it up with a question: how did you go from "that sounds right to me" to "I understand what I believe personally, through experience"?
    Research. Research and examine every aspect. Does it make sense to you? Why or why not? If it does, how can you adapt it into your practices. Do you understand the cultural aspects and historical aspects and how they do or do not apply to you?

    I'm sure someone will have a better answer soon.
    “I am Cat and I walk alone and all ways are the same to me.” ~Rudyard Kipling, The Cat Who Walks By Himself

  3. #3
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by faye_cat View Post
    I've not studied much in the ways of Shamanism, not the new Age aspects or the cultural or historical, but ... Research. Research and examine every aspect. Does it make sense to you? Why or why not? If it does, how can you adapt it into your practices. Do you understand the cultural aspects and historical aspects and how they do or do not apply to you?
    Well, there is no precedence of shamanic practice in pre-Christian Britain as far as I'm aware, so I'm not sure how much they apply to me culturally or historically.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  4. #4
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    Well, there is no precedence of shamanic practice in pre-Christian Britain as far as I'm aware, so I'm not sure how much they apply to me culturally or historically.
    Pre-Christian Britain I think the shamanic practitioner would be more recognized as an aspect of the Druid influence. I think it's Talisan (sp) that is recognized as both a druid and shamanic practitioner. Of course many of the stories of Merlin fall into the world walking and seeing aspects that many shamanic practitioners held that allowed them to connect to the spirit and magical realm to aid their people. Many of the Irish invasion hero's could be seen in that light when you think of the "Deaths" they have to go through and the spirits / gods / goddesses awakening them and teaching them.

    I think part of the problem is most seem to look to the Shaman of Siberian influence or the Medicine Person of Native American influence. Then change their focus even more to simply see the "Healer" as a shaman yet ignoring or never learning that the shamanic practitioner held many roles and functions within their peoples mythologies. The healer was only one segment of those who were seen as touched or chosen ones. Yet I do find it interesting that while so many look to those two groups they tend to ignore or omit the very core idea of having to die and suffer that is one of the keystones of being a shaman / medicine person.
    I'm Only Responsible For What I Say Not For What Or How You Understand!

  5. #5
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Pre-Christian Britain I think the shamanic practitioner would be more recognized as an aspect of the Druid influence. I think it's Talisan (sp) that is recognized as both a druid and shamanic practitioner. Of course many of the stories of Merlin fall into the world walking and seeing aspects that many shamanic practitioners held that allowed them to connect to the spirit and magical realm to aid their people. Many of the Irish invasion hero's could be seen in that light when you think of the "Deaths" they have to go through and the spirits / gods / goddesses awakening them and teaching them.

    I think part of the problem is most seem to look to the Shaman of Siberian influence or the Medicine Person of Native American influence. Then change their focus even more to simply see the "Healer" as a shaman yet ignoring or never learning that the shamanic practitioner held many roles and functions within their peoples mythologies. The healer was only one segment of those who were seen as touched or chosen ones. Yet I do find it interesting that while so many look to those two groups they tend to ignore or omit the very core idea of having to die and suffer that is one of the keystones of being a shaman / medicine person.
    I am really interested pre-Iron Age, before the Druids, but I think we know even less about that than Druids, which is virtually nil.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  6. #6
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    Re: Learning the art

    Application of principles taught and looking back on how my life has changed for the better or evolved in some way that had to do with applications of principles taught. Experience, experimentation, retrospection, and introspection, basically.

  7. #7
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    My 'most helpful advice for budding shamanists' has changed over the years, but it seems to have settled at this.... first of all, work out WHY. Why does shamanism draw you? What do you hope to gain from it? Why do you want to learn it? If you want to go traipsing around in the Otherworlds... why? Healing? Knowledge? Self growth? Power? Ego? To meet you teachers on their turf? Because the spirits told you to? Because you think it would be cool and fun?

    Shamanism is a loaded word nowdays and can mean a number of different things. It's also easy to look to shamanism when what you really want is 'Iron Age practices' or some other ancient practice that we have no knowledge of. People think it's old, it involved animal skins, bones, herbs and cave paintings so OBVIOUSLY it was shamanic. Not necessarily.

    So first work out 'why'. Then we can help you with the 'how'.

  8. #8
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    The meeting on their turf point, and knowledge so that I can be a better custodian, which my line of work will make me, I want to be able to consider the forest or woodland, not as a crop, but as a mutual relationship. I think these days many people who are into animism or shamanic practices turn to veganism because they feel they cannot kill or allow an animal to be killed for their benefit. And yet when neolithic humans discovered farming, they didn't stop at plants. Equally, in fact more so, through proper management using trees for timber can be doing forests a greater favour than not using trees for timber, as we can reduce pollution. I see it as a mutual relationship, but I want to do it with the genius loci in mind. If a forest doesn't want to cooperate, I would want to know so it doesn't feel I'm raping it for resources, no matter how good my intentions are.

    I will add that I don't necessarily think people before me on this isle practiced shamanic ritual. We don't even have evidence of incense, although the form of grape pots is convincing we can't say for sure. The closest is some animal bones from the Palaeolithic which have been carved into spatulas very very similar to tools used in Siberia, whilst we also traded with Baltic states with elements of shamanic practices in the Bronze Age. However I acknowledge there may be no precedence of shamanic practice in Britain, regardless of animal depictions on walls, or carved bones, our anything.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  9. #9
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    The meeting on their turf point, and knowledge so that I can be a better custodian, which my line of work will make me, I want to be able to consider the forest or woodland, not as a crop, but as a mutual relationship. I think these days many people who are into animism or shamanic practices turn to veganism because they feel they cannot kill or allow an animal to be killed for their benefit. And yet when neolithic humans discovered farming, they didn't stop at plants. Equally, in fact more so, through proper management using trees for timber can be doing forests a greater favour than not using trees for timber, as we can reduce pollution. I see it as a mutual relationship, but I want to do it with the genius loci in mind. If a forest doesn't want to cooperate, I would want to know so it doesn't feel I'm raping it for resources, no matter how good my intentions are.
    None of this actually requires shamanism, but it's a very common assumption amongst neopagans that it does. Shamanism is about communion with the spirits and the spirit world, and while the spirits of ThisWorld are included in that, it is possible to have a spiritual practice that focuses on the genus locii and other local spirits without any form of shamanic practice at all. You don't have to go very far to work with your local landspirits, and while trance journey could facilitate communication with them, you can do that with no journey skills whatsoever. I don't use my shamanic toolkit when I commune with my local landspirits... that connection is there all the time and was built through intention, focus and maintaining a ground that facilitates a two way relationship. You will find relatively few spirits in the Otherworlds who can help you connect with your genus loci... they have their own genus locii and local spirits. The spirits of ThisWorld are the ones you want.

    Which is not to say that you can't have or seek a shamanic practice if this is your intention, just that you should have straight in your head what shamanism actually is and isn't. Modern pagan practices have bought the skills of spirit communication to the common people, so to speak. It's no longer a skill that is reserved for select individuals who serve as a go between for the spirits and their community. I think it's important for us to remember that when we set out on this path. This is also why the question of 'why' is so important... because it's very easy to get caught up in the theory of it all, only to find that at the end of the day, you didn't need half of what you thought you needed.

    Briton, from my observations of your posts here at PF, I get the feeling that you are inclined to overthink things before you act. You ask what rituals and actions facilitate connection, and state that it's the genus loci and forest you wish to connect with? You don't need to research anything for that. You don't need our advice. You need to walk out into the forest, find a quiet spot and sit. Watch. Listen. Feel. Take a notebook and make notes if it helps occupy that part of your brain that needs theoretical stuff. But go out into the forest. You can't connect with it it you don't visit it. Sitting at home with books and webpages will not help you. What plants grow there? What animals make their homes there? What insects? What do the trees tell you? If you sit out there and close your eyes, how does the forest make you feel? What does it say to you? How does that forest feel different to the next one? Where does the forest spirit end and another landwight take over? How do they interact with each other? What other landscape features are there? Rivers, creeks, mountains? Immerse yourself in the forest and you will find your connection. But it takes time and patience. Landwights do not move as fast as we do, they do not have the same sense of time. You can't rush them, you can't make appointments and you can't hold them to a schedule. You have to go to them, plant your feet into the dirt, let the ants crawl over you, feel the breeze on your skin, listen to the whisper of the trees and FEEL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    I will add that I don't necessarily think people before me on this isle practiced shamanic ritual. We don't even have evidence of incense, although the form of grape pots is convincing we can't say for sure. The closest is some animal bones from the Palaeolithic which have been carved into spatulas very very similar to tools used in Siberia, whilst we also traded with Baltic states with elements of shamanic practices in the Bronze Age. However I acknowledge there may be no precedence of shamanic practice in Britain, regardless of animal depictions on walls, or carved bones, our anything.
    The ancestors are the best source of knowledge about pre-historic practices, assuming you even need to know about pre-historic practices. Yes, anthropology and academia will tell you some, but it's largely educated guesswork anyway. Academic research is important for context and to engender a sensitivity to cultural practices. But at the end of the day, what the ancient peoples of your area did is irrelevant to your practice. If you want to serve the land and it's spirits, you do what the spirits want you to do. I work with hides, pelts, feathers and bones not because the ancient peoples of my area did it, or because it's 'shamanic' to do so, but because those things are the physical manifestations of the animal spirits that I work with. I have a wooden staff because a tool made from my local tree helps to connect me to my local landspirit. Even my drum (which is not at all traditional to the ancient peoples of Australia) is made from kangaroo hide and Australian wood and connects me to my genus loci while she helps me journey into the Otherworlds. My spiritual tools have been made and collected by intuition and prompting by the spirits I work with, not collated as part of a checklist from a book. Connect with your spirits and let them guide you. That's how you turn your intention into an experiential everyday practice.

  10. #10
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    I am not a shamanist (though I use some shamanic techniques), but I am very much a person that literally worships their bioregion--the flora, the fauna, the landscape, the history and culture.

    I've had to move a couple of times, so I've effectively "changed religions" any time we've moved to a new area. I'm actually in the process of that right now. It means making new connections, imprinting a new landscape, etc. If you are interested, I can go into more detail on the specifics of what I do and how I do it.

    I use the ideas, language, symbols, and ritual forms (adapted of course) of existing (mostly Greek, Roman, and Etruscan) paganisms, with some other inclusions (mostly water deities---I find they tend to travel well) as they "feel right" for the place or the occasion. For the most part I consider anything descended from PIE cultures as "fair game"; IMO, all the deities people see as "real" are culturally evolved (and revised and edited and added on to) projections of the same "originator" gods (think of Divinity like Pando, and gods as the individual trees). I generally "graft" (going with the tree analogy again) those ideas that "match" my bioregion best into my own, private religion. I'm not adverse to "pop deities"--no superheroes here, but I do include two deities based in fiction and several "invented" (or "newly recognized", if you prefer) deities*.



    *If its worshipped/revered, I consider it a deity, even if its technically a really minor one at best, or something else all together. I go by function--if you prayed to your dining room table every day, that makes it a god.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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