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Thread: Learning the art

  1. #11
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    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.
    Thanks for this. I was of the impression that spirits were inherently of the "otherworld", that the physical natural stuff is one thing and the spirits were another. I don't know if you know what I mean, but evidently you're talking about a division of spirits, if you could confirm this, this would be great.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    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.
    Fair points all round. I would like to be able to commune with the ancestors, contact them directly. The why on this point, I have not really figured, to seek their wisdom? To know how to venerate them better, I guess. I don't really know why people try and contact the ancestors in the first place, but that shouldn't really affect my reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    Briton, from my observations of your posts here at PF, I get the feeling that you are inclined to overthink things before you act.
    I know you only meant this as an observation, but in the past people have said the opposite, so I'm going to take this as a compliment that I've improved and matured as a person in ways I have intended.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    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.
    I actually bought a note pad for this very reason. I think, now that the days are getting warmer and longer, I can afford to sit out in them. There is a small woodland behind my parents' house which is rather featureless, really, it's by no means an ancient woodland. There is common land near me, which as far as I can tell has suffered from neglect (as many commons have) and I would like to connect to it. It is an SSSI with many incredibly ancient bogs so quite possibly areas of ancient woodland, I would need to look for ancient woodland indicators to be sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    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'll be honest, this latter part never occurred to me. I guess that's symptomatic of the anthropocentric world I've been raised in. I guess I want to know out of curiosity, and interest. Although I would want to copy them de facto, my line of reasoning is that if it worked for them, it's a lead. Of course, I don't know whether or not it worked for them. That discovered decorated antler photographed in a book may well have been dumped on the very basis that it didn't work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    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.
    Thanks for this. Would you say that your connection to the land spirits helped you connect with the ancestral spirits of the otherworld in some way? Or did your practice with one grow out of a totally different method?

    I'm in the library doing college work right now (honest, I am!) but when I get home, I'll have a couple of hours before dark, so I will wrap up and go out. Can I also ask, and this is not for me to derive influence, but do you have a regular space(s) or site(s) you go to for what you do, or is it more or less different every time? Is it normal to be drawn to a certain spot? I have been drawn to a ring of holly trees, perfectly sized for sitting or kneeling in, near a hedge at the edge of a field but in woodland, and around the periphery of the holly ring grow mushrooms of a "certain variety", I'm not decided on whether or not I will use them, but they, along with another plant which only seems to grow in this patch, seem to make the site naturally special.
    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. #12
    Silver Member monsno_leedra'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.
    That's not shamanism that's just simple knowledge of the land and life cycle. That's knowing when things awaken, when the the courtships occur, when the migrations happen, what things are seasonal, what things are yearly, all the physical events of the landscape. It's knowing the awakening sequences and knowing what the indicators are before things may actually be visible to the common person as it where.

    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.
    Truthfully I see more veganism in Wiccan type circles than in Shamanic / Animism circles. Especially in the aspect that for some pathways allies are consumed to interact with them. Yet allies are not just plants though many mythologies suggest plants are the beings that sided with humanity when the other beings decided to harm us for improper usage and respect towards them. Yet in my opinion I think it's knowing those mythologies and spirits behind them that enables the shamanic practitioner to call upon them.

    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.
    Just my own perspective but you seem to be in that can't see the tree's because of the forest mode of seeing. A forest is not a singular thing or identity so it's highly unlikely anything you do will be for its benefit as a whole. That not even considering there will be individual spirits that hate you, some that will use you for their benefit only, some that will try to get you to side by them and some that won't want anything to do with you. Even then one day you might be welcomed then come the next day and your a threat and they try to drive you off. In so many ways all the positive and negative of human society.

    I will add that I don't necessarily think people before me on this isle practiced shamanic ritual.
    I do wonder what you think shamanic ritual is? Very few rituals had bells, whistles, regalia's, etc that one might look at and say that's shamanic in nature. Yet it could be shamanic in knowing when to hold them. So many times the shamanic aspect is unseen and takes place before many rituals, observations, etc occur.

    We don't even have evidence of incense, although the form of grape pots is convincing we can't say for sure.
    Incense? Why does a ritual have to have incense? Consider Native American's in the south west used White sage, along the northwest they used Hemlock, on the eastcoast they used cedar, All for purification and cleaning physically of the area prior to many ceremonies or rituals. Many of them used birds feathers to sweep the area and call upon the elements to wash away or drive away bad spirits. Notice I said bad not evil, for a spirit can be bad during certain points of the year and good at others. It's like eating a persimmon, when ripe its taste great but any other time its awful and will turn your mouth inside out.

    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.
    Again I'd ask and wonder just what your calling shamanic practices? You seem to be bordering on the edge of equating totemism with shamanism. While totemism may be found within shamanism it's in and of itself is not shamanism. It's like animism and animatism both can be found in shamanic practices but again it doesn't make something shamanic just because it is there or isn't there. That not even touching upon animism in regards to each thing having an individual spirit or having a collective type spirit for the whole, a super spirit if you will. Nor does it really touch upon the individual mind versus a hive type mind that one in my opinion often encounters in nature and the spirit world.

    I agree with Rae'ya in that you have to get out in nature, whether it be the fields, the forest, the waters or even the very cities we live in to discover and contact those local spirits or the greater spirits of place. But you can't presume that what you see today will be the same tomorrow any more than what you see in the deep forest will be the same for the spirits along a wind beaten coastline. Sometimes it's all about timing and knowing the clock cycle to know which spirits to go visiting when.
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  3. #13
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    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 would be interested to know, just to get some perspective. No man is an island, after all (is that an appropriate saying in this situation? I think so).

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    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*.
    That is an interesting approach, and one I would say takes experience to know when which deity applies to which environment?

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    *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.
    This is my definition. The category of deity is not mutually exclusive with anything, if you recognize a landwight, it's a landwight. If you worship the landwight, it is a landwight and a deity to you. I think the label "deity" is relative, in the sense that if something is worshiped, you can describe it as a deity even if you don't personally worship it, because someone else does, whilst the label "landwight" is not relative. It doesn't depend on anyone in order to fill this category, it is a nature, rather than a property, of the entity. Personally, I'm not sure if I would worship anything. I guess again this depends on your definition of worship. To me something is worshiped if it is inherently superior in its nature, whether spiritual or otherwise. You wouldn't worship a priest, (well, most don't) but you may worship the deity they purport to speak on behalf of. Likewise, I believe that all spiritual entities stem from the same essence, stuff you can't grab unlike dirt or wood, and as such we are all equal, so I would thank the genius loci which uses its power responsibly and wisely, or even if it used its power for my benefit in exchange for something in whatever (within reason) way I can, but I wouldn't worship it. It would be a mutually beneficial relationship, I don't necessarily need it (plenty of people go their whole lives without working with spirits) and it doesn't need​ me, but dependency isn't why I wish to do what I do, but to enrich.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    That's not shamanism that's just simple knowledge of the land and life cycle. That's knowing when things awaken, when the the courtships occur, when the migrations happen, what things are seasonal, what things are yearly, all the physical events of the landscape. It's knowing the awakening sequences and knowing what the indicators are before things may actually be visible to the common person as it where.
    Isn't the process of contacting the spirits that dwell within shamanism?

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Truthfully I see more veganism in Wiccan type circles than in Shamanic / Animism circles. Especially in the aspect that for some pathways allies are consumed to interact with them. Yet allies are not just plants though many mythologies suggest plants are the beings that sided with humanity when the other beings decided to harm us for improper usage and respect towards them. Yet in my opinion I think it's knowing those mythologies and spirits behind them that enables the shamanic practitioner to call upon them.
    Can you name some of the mythologies that talk about these things? I would like to learn about them.

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Just my own perspective but you seem to be in that can't see the tree's because of the forest mode of seeing. A forest is not a singular thing or identity so it's highly unlikely anything you do will be for its benefit as a whole.
    I see what you mean, and I didn't mean to imply that it was entirely homogenous.

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    That not even considering there will be individual spirits that hate you, some that will use you for their benefit only, some that will try to get you to side by them and some that won't want anything to do with you. Even then one day you might be welcomed then come the next day and your a threat and they try to drive you off. In so many ways all the positive and negative of human society.
    Fair clarity, thank you. You're right, there is no reason why any single spirit would want to cooperate. How do you figure out which are just trying to use and when to recognize malicious intent? Is it purely trial and error?

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    I do wonder what you think shamanic ritual is? Very few rituals had bells, whistles, regalia's, etc that one might look at and say that's shamanic in nature. Yet it could be shamanic in knowing when to hold them. So many times the shamanic aspect is unseen and takes place before many rituals, observations, etc occur.
    Again, fair observation, thank you. That part you replied to was meant to demonstrate that I recognize that just because something is oft labelled as "being shamanic", doesn't mean it is. Though I guess I wasn't clear.

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Incense? Why does a ritual have to have incense? Consider Native American's in the south west used White sage, along the northwest they used Hemlock, on the eastcoast they used cedar, All for purification and cleaning physically of the area prior to many ceremonies or rituals. Many of them used birds feathers to sweep the area and call upon the elements to wash away or drive away bad spirits. Notice I said bad not evil, for a spirit can be bad during certain points of the year and good at others. It's like eating a persimmon, when ripe its taste great but any other time its awful and will turn your mouth inside out.
    I was wrong to use the word "incense", I didn't realize it explicitly referred to burnt gums. Whatever the word you wish to use, I meant burnt organic materials such as woods or leaves as well as gums and resins, much like the sage leaves you mention. Again, I intended to suggest that I'm aware even facets associated superficially with shamanic practices are lacking. But of course, just because they didn't occur, as you suggest, that doesn't mean they didn't happen. They maybe just didn't use anything some times, or the stuff they did just isn't recognizable to us. Maybe those Neolithic orbs are? Who knows. I don't know what to think most of the time to be honest.

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    Again I'd ask and wonder just what your calling shamanic practices? You seem to be bordering on the edge of equating totemism with shamanism. While totemism may be found within shamanism it's in and of itself is not shamanism. It's like animism and animatism both can be found in shamanic practices but again it doesn't make something shamanic just because it is there or isn't there. That not even touching upon animism in regards to each thing having an individual spirit or having a collective type spirit for the whole, a super spirit if you will. Nor does it really touch upon the individual mind versus a hive type mind that one in my opinion often encounters in nature and the spirit world.
    I didn't mean to imply that I was equating totemism to shamanism, I wasn't even intending to describe totemism. I mentioned the animal cave paintings because there has been, in the past, speculation that these paintings had a ritual purpose, but that these speculations didn't stack up with the idea of ritual magic or attempts to convene with the spirits as they were inconsistent or too vague.

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    I agree with Rae'ya in that you have to get out in nature, whether it be the fields, the forest, the waters or even the very cities we live in to discover and contact those local spirits or the greater spirits of place. But you can't presume that what you see today will be the same tomorrow any more than what you see in the deep forest will be the same for the spirits along a wind beaten coastline. Sometimes it's all about timing and knowing the clock cycle to know which spirits to go visiting when.
    I intend to. So would you recommend going at all different times of day?

    I feel like the conclusion to draw here is that practice with spirits is really a trial and error thing, and unless you know what you're looking for in the first place, you're basically going into a dark room waving a knife about. It's aimless and quite possibly harmful to both yourself and those you're trying to find.

    I would like to know some of the reasons why people here try and contact the spirits either of this world (land spirits) or the other (the dead), if it's not too personal of course. I don't want to be trying to do anything for its own sake, but I guess I've realized I don't really have any good reason.
    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. #14
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    Re: Learning the art

    I would recommend that you work with a shaman to learn the practice. There is a sub-group of the "Eclectic Circle of Pagans" called the "Eclectic Circle of Shamanism" and the teacher there, who goes by "Randy Kerby" is a good friend and trained from early childhood as a Shaman. He might give you a better understanding of what it means to be a practicing shaman than you are getting here. He is attempting to teach his "trade" and is having some of the same challenges that I have had trying to teach, the magikal life, in the long distance setting. Tell him that you were sent by his neighbor "Rev. Paul" and he will welcome you as a student until you prove different to him. "Randy" was trained on the reservation and is likely to share some things that are "different" than you might imagine.

    In any event, have an interesting journey and follow your own path.

  5. #15
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by DragonsFriend View Post
    I would recommend that you work with a shaman to learn the practice. There is a sub-group of the "Eclectic Circle of Pagans" called the "Eclectic Circle of Shamanism" and the teacher there, who goes by "Randy Kerby" is a good friend and trained from early childhood as a Shaman. He might give you a better understanding of what it means to be a practicing shaman than you are getting here. He is attempting to teach his "trade" and is having some of the same challenges that I have had trying to teach, the magikal life, in the long distance setting. Tell him that you were sent by his neighbor "Rev. Paul" and he will welcome you as a student until you prove different to him. "Randy" was trained on the reservation and is likely to share some things that are "different" than you might imagine.

    In any event, have an interesting journey and follow your own path.
    Thanks for the advice!
    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. #16
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    I would like to know some of the reasons why people here try and contact the spirits either of this world (land spirits) or the other (the dead), if it's not too personal of course. I don't want to be trying to do anything for its own sake, but I guess I've realized I don't really have any good reason.
    I moved this to the top as it is one of the more important questions for me. While some, perhaps many, seek this out I never did. I died when I was about a year old then barely avoided death quite a few times over the years after that. We're talking situations where my parents were going to take me with them, my grandmother intervenes to keep me home, my parents wreck and my car seat is found compacted under the passenger seat. For certain I would have died. Along with that seeing people who others didn't see in the same room. To give an example I was walking home one night when I ran into a man who stopped me and told me I really needed to take an alternate route home. He impressed me quite a bit and I did. The route I would have taken I probably might have died on as there was a really bad accident and I would have been right there when it happened. i should add the man I encountered I would see his photo later only to discover he was an ancestor who died the day of my birth or close to it.

    So for me it's never been an option of going and looking for it. It's always been a fact of accepting it or being hurt until I do and stop resisting it. That as my family elders would say was "Spirit" claiming me and giving me an option, follow or suffer. I refused for many years and suffered then I got tired of hurting and started doing as asked. It didn't specifically end the pain just changed it, perhaps made it understandable.

    Don't like dealing with the dead but then I've never been asked if I like it. Yet seen more than a few of them over the years. Some I could help finish up things that held them earth bound. Other's not sure I aided or not but I listened and they sort of faded into the background, perhaps eventually crossing. Some gooey and dripping which scare the heck out of you, other's appearing as alive as the person next to you. Some human, some not and some your never sure what they are. Imagine sitting under a tree and speaking to it yet there is no longer a tree there, but you see it, smell it, feel it as if it still was.

    But you never ask for it. One of the reason I suppose so many shamanic practitioners have undergone the physical death. Some go through a shamanic death where some illness takes you to the border and you hang on the edge. Fever, sweats, illusions and nightmares all of it thrown at you as your mind and spirit is torn apart and put back together. Many times multiple shamanic deaths in journey or vision work. To be torn apart as some creature destroys your body and then puts it back together again. I can still feel at times the teeth of the wolves tearing into my, their hot breath on me, the course hair rubbing against me as they pulled and ripped. Even to the point of for a few days my physical body had red welts and bruises from it. Have to admit though that was better than the snake that bit me multiple time, the inability to breath as your chest locked up and tightened. The lightning quick strikes as it coiled back then lunged forward and the burning sensation of each bite. But as I stated you don't ask for it and many don't want it.

    Then the realization that even after all of those type things it doesn't mean you were accepted. Was always told many are tested, fewer are retested and even fewer are actually accepted to be trained. Then of that number even fewer who get to choose what aspect they will be directed at. But they will always be loners even in a room full of people. To have one foot in the real world, and one in the spiritual world and if lucky only be bound to one plain at any time. Going to the other plains something they choose to do vice having a spirit that is almost shredded and existing on multiple plains all at once. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that other plains can't impose upon them at any time, any place and under any condition.

    Isn't the process of contacting the spirits that dwell within shamanism?
    For me knowing the cycle of things is the movement and heartbeat of the living yet that is not connecting with the spirits of a place. Yet that also requires you to define just what spirits and such mean to the individual. From a shamanic perspective also what the term means to the people the shaman would support. Figure for many a Shaman is a calling and a position that exists to serve as a juncture between his / her people and the spirit world. It's typically not a religious calling as the Shaman follows the same religion as their people.

    Can you name some of the mythologies that talk about these things? I would like to learn about them.
    That's harder to do as many times it's contained within the stories and such. For instance nearly every Native American nation had stories of the Corn Maiden / Corn Mother and how she showed up to some ancestor and became his bride. Then she commands that he kill her and prepare the ground with various cleanings then drags her body around the area before burying it. Ever after the nation remembers her through the corn ceremonies and such. Yet contained within the story is how the ground was purified by sweeping it with sage or cedar for instance. SO many times the things are there but there sort of hidden within or downplayed in the written word because it's presumed the people already know it. Think about the old ruler legends where the King and the Land are one such as in Arthur. King healthy and robust and the land is fruitful and robust, king dead, sickly, etc and the land is the same. In Arthur you figure one tale is the Knights Quest to discover the Holy Grail but it's probably more correct in that it was a quest to discover the heart and soul of the land and people, their spirituality as it were.

    Fair clarity, thank you. You're right, there is no reason why any single spirit would want to cooperate. How do you figure out which are just trying to use and when to recognize malicious intent? Is it purely trial and error?
    Most of the time it is trial and error I think. The other side of that coin is the spirit world does not move and act within the same morality and ethics of humanity. Figure in most instances they really do not even understand it as they've never lived it. So to be used is not specifically bad in their perspective it simply is. A single tree spirit might aid you because its of benefit to their tree yet drive you away a moment later because it serves no useful purpose for them. Then you have to figure the angry or restless dead is not confined to just humans. That and the idea of the dead only being human is also a falsehood in my experience. While not well recorded I think again many legends and tales speak of restless dead that are not human. Sometimes they get transcribed as demons or evil spirits but I do not believe that is how they were originally seen.

    I was wrong to use the word "incense", I didn't realize it explicitly referred to burnt gums. Whatever the word you wish to use, I meant burnt organic materials such as woods or leaves as well as gums and resins, much like the sage leaves you mention. Again, I intended to suggest that I'm aware even facets associated superficially with shamanic practices are lacking. But of course, just because they didn't occur, as you suggest, that doesn't mean they didn't happen. They maybe just didn't use anything some times, or the stuff they did just isn't recognizable to us. Maybe those Neolithic orbs are? Who knows. I don't know what to think most of the time to be honest.
    Just my personal opinion but I think as a hunter gather society any "aides" would be more perishable so less likely to survive. Yet those things that do I would think less likely to be shamanic and more likely magical. Think of the fetish that survives that one might equate to both an association to a given creature but also magically tie the hunter to the animal so he / she might better hunt them and have better success. The shaman might ask the spirit of the species why it moved away or where it is hiding but the hunter and his / her magic and charms is what would be carried. It's like I know growing up it was common practice to use mint, skunk cabbage or some other plant to wipe on us to hide the human scent. it wasn't shamanic but it was magical and part of the hunting preparation and bonding. Part of the same process of keeping charms such as a rabbits foot, a bear claw or tooth, deer antler etc and making it part of your hunting garb.

    I intend to. So would you recommend going at all different times of day?
    Personally very much so. Is the daytime city the same as the nighttime city? Is the morning city the same as the midday city? The answer on one level is yes they are yet on other levels very much different. The day time predators are pretty different than the night time predators, same as the prey animals are different. Not just time of day but time of year as well.

    I feel like the conclusion to draw here is that practice with spirits is really a trial and error thing, and unless you know what you're looking for in the first place, you're basically going into a dark room waving a knife about. It's aimless and quite possibly harmful to both yourself and those you're trying to find.
    In many ways I think it is trial and error, and its quite easy to offend and never even realize you did it. Which is why I personally think so many tales of journey work and vision work involves guides, allies, etc to take you into those places and act as a go between. Yet many times those same guides, allies, etc sit and watch as you group in the dark to see if you are worthy and dedicated to the task. Some will screw with you just to see how you react, others will rip you apart to prepare you for the task and some are simply tricksters who get a sense of enjoyment from messing with you.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by DragonsFriend View Post
    I would recommend that you work with a shaman to learn the practice. There is a sub-group of the "Eclectic Circle of Pagans" called the "Eclectic Circle of Shamanism" and the teacher there, who goes by "Randy Kerby" is a good friend and trained from early childhood as a Shaman. He might give you a better understanding of what it means to be a practicing shaman than you are getting here. He is attempting to teach his "trade" and is having some of the same challenges that I have had trying to teach, the magikal life, in the long distance setting. Tell him that you were sent by his neighbor "Rev. Paul" and he will welcome you as a student until you prove different to him. "Randy" was trained on the reservation and is likely to share some things that are "different" than you might imagine.

    In any event, have an interesting journey and follow your own path.
    The only problem with that is the net, and by default book publishers, is full of self claiming shaman. Especially in the aspect that Native American nations tend not to use the term "Shaman" to self identify as. Each nation having a specific term to identify both the individual and many times the specific clan within the larger tribe, nation.

    You might trust him and find his statements to be truthful but it doesn't mean its true or he's recognized by any given nation. I always think of Brooke Medicine Eagle when I see people promote and endorse "Shaman" who were trained on some reservation. She is only the tip of that iceberg of supposed reservation taught medicine people who are actually white shaman or plastic shaman as defined by many Nations.

    Lots of presumption on your part in stating or suggesting we do not know what it means to be a practicing shaman or were not trained.
    I'm Only Responsible For What I Say Not For What Or How You Understand!

  7. #17
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    I'm cutting from a couple different places, not all of which were addressed to me...

    Can I also ask, and this is not for me to derive influence, but do you have a regular space(s) or site(s) you go to for what you do, or is it more or less different every time? Is it normal to be drawn to a certain spot? I have been drawn to a ring of holly trees, perfectly sized for sitting or kneeling in, near a hedge at the edge of a field but in woodland, and around the periphery of the holly ring grow mushrooms of a "certain variety", I'm not decided on whether or not I will use them, but they, along with another plant which only seems to grow in this patch, seem to make the site naturally special.
    So, I had three regular spaces (one of them "a regular") before I moved. Now I have one that I think will be for sure, and another maybe. I would say both...it depends on what you want to do. I had the regular spots for making offerings, meditation, and prayer, but occasionally I would feel compelled to go elsewhere. Sometimes its a matter of instinct, of the gut...and sometimes a matter of conscious choice and intellect.

    The advantage of what I do is that it is largely friendly to spontaneity.

    With that being said, to start out, the best idea (this is something ADG requires for those going through their program--tbh, I think you might get some usefulness from aspects of ADF) is to pick that place and commit to it for an entire year. Go to that one place at least weekly. Shoot for an hour, but stay at least 20 minutes. Even if its raining, or cold, or snowing, or dark. Try (if its an area where that would be possible) to sleep overnight there at least once. Go in the morning and in the evening and on a sunny afternoon. Pick up litter, pull out invasive plants. See what lives there--track which plant blooms when, what trees turn colors first, what bird lives in the tree on your left, on your right. Know their names, know their folklore. Talk to them (yes, you will feel stupid). Go barefoot. Dance. Yes, you will feel stupid...our society has removed the agency from these things in a way that has served to separate us from the rest of nature.


    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    I would be interested to know, just to get some perspective. No man is an island, after all (is that an appropriate saying in this situation? I think so).
    So...IRL, I'm a scientist. By training, conservation biology, but by vocation I work in occupational and environmental health. So, my approach is probably more nerdy than most, at least initially. A bioregion is a bit like its own organism. It has its own bauplan (one of the reasons I fell into using the Greek, Roman, and Etruscan mythologies was a similarity in climate...also a preponderance of Greek symbols in civic life), its own heartbeat...the different ecosystems and habitats are organs, in a sense. But in another way, a bioregion is its own community--each of those elements act as their own organisms working together (or sometimes against one another).

    As a scientist, the foundation of all knowledge comes from observation and experimentation...but first from observation. And in the great tradition of science, looking at other people's observations as a shortcut is perfectly acceptable, generally helpful, but occasionally terrible. So, I actually start with research. Sure, I can say "hey that's beautiful and inspriring" but if I don't actually know what it is, what it is called, making my own thing up for it is actually a bad idea. Names mean something (why the sky is not blue).

    So, knowing what a plant *is*, what role it plays in an ecosystem; where the water comes from, where the water goes; what the soil type is; what animal eats what other animal; who the original peoples were and what they did, etc...that matters. All of those things impact how the bioregion functions, and different lessons can be learned from them. Using a field guide is just as anything else. Knowledge deepens experience because it adds dimensionality. And just as much of that knowledge CAN'T be gleaned spiritually as what can (I once saw a grown man seriously ask for guidance aloud from mother nature on whether or not he should pick and eat a mushroom he found growing randomly in the woods at a festival we were attending)

    Knowing what things are--knowing their name, their place is important. It is just as important as then experiencing that thing, IMO. For some people, they might prefer to experience before knowing...but for me, it can be a distraction. This doesn't mean you have to know everything before you do anything--nothing would ever get done! But know *something*, then do something, and take notes (or pictures) when you see something new, and come back and look them up...but don't overlook or forget just *being*---its about balance. Ask questions. Apply your answers, apply that knowledge to your experience....let it deepen your understanding and your communion. This is how you learn that your stretch of beach is perfectly happy to go by the name and personality of Psamathe, or your salt marsh feels a little more modern and sassy and prefers to be called Spartina, after the genus name of the predominant plant. And who cares if that answer comes from within or without? Because the land, in my experience, does not care what you call it or how you identify with it--it "cares" that you are listening.

    Experiences come one of two ways--planned and spontaneous (and planned experiences often become spontaneous). Both are vital. If you feel something, try it out (assuming legality, etc). Forget WWJD, ask WWLW (what would the land want)... Beaches like to be clean, they don't like dead shorebirds or turtles from plastic pieces--cleaning the beach is better than any libation or food offering to an ocean deity (and that goes whether its a landwight sort of entity or Neptune Himself). Forests where I used to live don't like English ivy--its invasive and drowns them out...you can't get it all, but you can try. Service to the land is its own form of worship.

    Humans, I think, are the sum of our relationships. Your body may be what you eat, but your life is ultimately defined by who you love. That is your real "afterlife". So religion (a word that comes from "to bind") is about relationships. Whether those relationships are one-sided or not is immaterial, what matters is that we have them and they enrich our experience. The goal is to forge a relationship--I've never not had *something* come out of an hour or so of service...maybe its something simple, like a flyby from a pod of dolphins close enough that I could have swam the 10 feet to them and touched them during a cooling off swim...or maybe the $200 pair of perfect condition Oakley's that I pulled out with a shopping bag half-buried in the sand on a day that suddenly turned sunny when I'd forgotten my own, much cheaper pair...or maybe its just a really cool shell that I've never seen before...or meeting up with someone I'd lost contact with.

    I do some sitting meditation, some guided imagery, a lot of cleaning...I watch what is going on. I watch things die, things be born, things bloom, things get eaten... I talk, and sing, and dance (and yes, sometimes I feel stupid), I dig in the dirt, I plant things (that belong there) I dig things out (that don't), I listen. If you listen hard enough, deep enough, the land has something to say. I pray. I nap. I read books to my kids and take picnics. I pick up rocks and shells and shark teeth. I practice geomancy (its a form of divination based on patterns in numbers of objects).

    [/quote]That is an interesting approach, and one I would say takes experience to know when which deity applies to which environment?[/quote]

    It does take some knowledge of mythology, yes...but just as much of it is a matter of UPG and trial and error. This is a experimental religion--its not about getting it right the first time. TBH, if you get it right the first time, you are probably doing something wrong!


    Personally, I'm not sure if I would worship anything. I guess again this depends on your definition of worship. To me something is worshiped if it is inherently superior in its nature, whether spiritual or otherwise. You wouldn't worship a priest, (well, most don't) but you may worship the deity they purport to speak on behalf of. Likewise, I believe that all spiritual entities stem from the same essence, stuff you can't grab unlike dirt or wood, and as such we are all equal, so I would thank the genius loci which uses its power responsibly and wisely, or even if it used its power for my benefit in exchange for something in whatever (within reason) way I can, but I wouldn't worship it. It would be a mutually beneficial relationship, I don't necessarily need it (plenty of people go their whole lives without working with spirits) and it doesn't need​ me, but dependency isn't why I wish to do what I do, but to enrich.
    For me, worship is an action--prayer, ritual, devotional actions, offerings, etc., rather than a state of mind. Something isn't worshipped because its better than you (a value), but because its greater than you (a state of being), also more complex, longer lived, etc. The experience, is worship...the added dimensionality to the purely physical and materialistic is the enrichment. Its about the widening of our experience by sculpting, cultivating, and ultimately traveling though our inner landscapes to experience, more fully, the what it means to be alive and to be human.




    Isn't the process of contacting the spirits that dwell within shamanism?
    Personally, I'd consider it more an animistic practice that may or may not be shamanism. I don't truly consider myself an animist. If anything, I'd call myself a neo-hylozoist (something I totally made up as a riff off the definition of hylozoism, since I don't literally believe that everything is biologically animate).


    You may be interested in learning more about bioregional animism:
    http://sarahannelawless.com/2014/02/...ional-animism/ (I like her blog...I write on the subject a little, but she does more--she's more of a "professional" Pagan than I am)



    I would like to know some of the reasons why people here try and contact the spirits either of this world (land spirits) or the other (the dead), if it's not too personal of course. I don't want to be trying to do anything for its own sake, but I guess I've realized I don't really have any good reason.
    Intellectually speaking, when I'm not "there", I don't think I'm communicating with anything. I subscribe to suspended disbelief. I do some "ancestor" work (but not of my specific ancestors), but not a lot, and when I do its usually in the context of the land (as in the people that were there before). There are ruins of an old sugar mill here that are a public park...its my "maybe" (perhaps "sometimes" would be a better name for it) spot...it is a place that speaks, and speaks loud...but it is a very hard place to go to--this is, after all, southern Georgia, and I'm sure we all know where the men and women that worked there came from and how they got here.

    But when I am there...when I am doing, I completely and utterly let the experience speak for itself. And the reasons for the individual events/sessions/whatever vary, but at the end of the day the experience in its entirety is about enrichment and relationships.


    Fair points all round. I would like to be able to commune with the ancestors, contact them directly. The why on this point, I have not really figured, to seek their wisdom? To know how to venerate them better, I guess. I don't really know why people try and contact the ancestors in the first place, but that shouldn't really affect my reasons.
    Nike has a really good motto for this--Just do it. You don't need any specific format for anything. Just trial and error. Sure, looking at how cultures used to do thing and how they do them today offers a shortcut in a way, but you still have to find what works for you.
    “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

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  8. #18
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Thanks for your deep input, all. It has given me much to think about, and much confidence.

    Tonight I was at the local pagan moot, and I had something interesting. Recently I found a flint which for the life of me looked knapped. It was harsh and feeding on the back, but the front was smooth and, believe it or not, formed exactly like a feline nose. The 'triangle' underside was rough, much like a cat's nose, with even shaped and sized nostrils. I put a photo up and a lady told me to bring it to the moot. She is actually an archaeology graduate so knows her stuff. She said it was not knapped but in fact natural, which makes it all the more bizarre. She, like me, is interested in ancient British prehistory and knew that I was. She said that when she saw it, she knew it wasn't an accident that I found it, there were no other flints like it where I was digging, and she said she felt compelled to tell me she felt it was a clue about a spirit guide, that it was going to be a member of a feline wild species long extinct or non present on these isles.

    Now, I've never put much stock in tarot cards, but someone had brought a special pack which related to organic, historic and mythical subjects of the British isles. I had randomly split the deck and got a card which depicted a man at standing stones, who was named tradition, and whose book description stated an admiration and interest in the ancient paths. The other one, more significant was when I stopped stopped at the Woodward (maybe relating to the woodwose?) whose attributes not only matched me, but also matched the crystal grid I had laid out (crystals are another thing I don't put much stock in, but it was a crystals workshop at the moot this month), but also the figure is accompanied by a large wild cat.

    Are these things coincidences? They're very disconnected from each other despite being so linked, so I am inclined to think it was not a mistake.
    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. #19
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    Thanks for this. I was of the impression that spirits were inherently of the "otherworld", that the physical natural stuff is one thing and the spirits were another. I don't know if you know what I mean, but evidently you're talking about a division of spirits, if you could confirm this, this would be great.



    Fair points all round. I would like to be able to commune with the ancestors, contact them directly. The why on this point, I have not really figured, to seek their wisdom? To know how to venerate them better, I guess. I don't really know why people try and contact the ancestors in the first place, but that shouldn't really affect my reasons.



    I know you only meant this as an observation, but in the past people have said the opposite, so I'm going to take this as a compliment that I've improved and matured as a person in ways I have intended.



    I actually bought a note pad for this very reason. I think, now that the days are getting warmer and longer, I can afford to sit out in them. There is a small woodland behind my parents' house which is rather featureless, really, it's by no means an ancient woodland. There is common land near me, which as far as I can tell has suffered from neglect (as many commons have) and I would like to connect to it. It is an SSSI with many incredibly ancient bogs so quite possibly areas of ancient woodland, I would need to look for ancient woodland indicators to be sure.



    I'll be honest, this latter part never occurred to me. I guess that's symptomatic of the anthropocentric world I've been raised in. I guess I want to know out of curiosity, and interest. Although I would want to copy them de facto, my line of reasoning is that if it worked for them, it's a lead. Of course, I don't know whether or not it worked for them. That discovered decorated antler photographed in a book may well have been dumped on the very basis that it didn't work.



    Thanks for this. Would you say that your connection to the land spirits helped you connect with the ancestral spirits of the otherworld in some way? Or did your practice with one grow out of a totally different method?

    I'm in the library doing college work right now (honest, I am!) but when I get home, I'll have a couple of hours before dark, so I will wrap up and go out. Can I also ask, and this is not for me to derive influence, but do you have a regular space(s) or site(s) you go to for what you do, or is it more or less different every time? Is it normal to be drawn to a certain spot? I have been drawn to a ring of holly trees, perfectly sized for sitting or kneeling in, near a hedge at the edge of a field but in woodland, and around the periphery of the holly ring grow mushrooms of a "certain variety", I'm not decided on whether or not I will use them, but they, along with another plant which only seems to grow in this patch, seem to make the site naturally special.
    I just put in like an hours of work replying to this and then lost the whole damn lot for no apparent reason. I don't know whether to be angry or devastated.

    I'll have to come back to it. I don't have the heart to start all over again now.

    Stupid computers.

  10. #20
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Learning the art

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    I just put in like an hours of work replying to this and then lost the whole damn lot for no apparent reason. I don't know whether to be angry or devastated.

    I'll have to come back to it. I don't have the heart to start all over again now.

    Stupid computers.
    Argh, I know that feeling, and made worse by not knowing what caused it! It is remarkably off putting, so I look forward to your reply when you feel up to it.

    - - - Updated - - -

    By the way if I repeat a question or say something that sounds like I've just ignored what someone has said, there's been a lot written here and may not have taken everything in straight away! Also there have been a couple of contradicting beliefs, which is fine of course but I may end up replying with something the opposite of your experience and I got mixed up between who said what exactly.

    The 'you' here replies to nobody in particular, but those who have already replied, just to clarify.
    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

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