Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Shamanic Journey

Hello again. Firstly, thanks for all the kind comments, you’ve been so welcoming - it’s good to know that someone is out there and I’m not just talking to myself.

Now back to the shamanism...

It’s difficult to decide when my shamanic phase started - after all I do not look the part. I have neatly trimmed hair, a tendency to wear suits rather than cheesecloth and what I like to think is a healthy scepticism for anything spiritual. However a couple of years ago I found myself lying on a treatment bed in a Bavarian Schloss while an intelligent and very courteous middle-aged gentleman felt my head for ‘moving plates’. He said that lack of movement in my skull indicated I had a blockage elsewhere in my body, but I have not yet found out where it is. He mentioned that his technique had an American Indian influence which I guess stoked the first small flame of interest.

Another contributing factor, the main one, is 'the book'. I had been searching for a voice to tell the story I was writing set in South America and by reading around came across an Indian who had been cast out of this tribe for apparently causing the death (by witchcraft) of one of the chief’s relatives. I think most writers can relate to outcasts. Sometimes I think I am one.

Then I learnt from a TV programme that the same images recur in shamanic trances, no matter how they have been initiated - drugs, days of sleep deprivation, self-hallucination, drumming - and that these same motifs have been drawn on cave walls by homo sapiens tens of thousands of years ago: grids, animal helpers, geometric shapes. I think that is when I became hooked and wanted to find out more. Up until now my Indian had just been a bit odd, now he was going to be a fully initiated shaman.

So I did a little research, googled ‘practical shamanism’, was surprised to discover that there are some UK practitioners and signed up for the weekend course.

It was excellent. Henry Shukman in a recent article in the Guardian (http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,1434889,00.html) recommends a drug-induced shamanic journey to relieve writers block, but I found that drumming surprisingly had the same effect without the nausea. I told Jeff before I went that if my ‘animal helper’ (an animal guide to the spirit world) turned out to be a meerkat I was legging it, but mine turned out to be a fairly quiet and inoffensive tortoise. I didn’t see shapes but I did see myself dismembered by angels, my organs removed and cleaned and then replaced and afterwards I felt so unaccountably happy I am calling it my ecstatic experience.



At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno. Grids, geometric shapes, and animals are things everyone can draw.


At 4:05 PM, Anonymous jmorrison said...

sounds like you're curiosity lies not so much in the "religious" (taking into account your healthy skepticism) but in the mysterious and historical (and history is nothing if not mysterious). the lost and unkowable if you prefer. i can dig that.

it seems only natural for a skeptic to find hope of discovering something interesting or unexpectedly profound in a "past its prime" or underdog spiritual system. the prevelant systems are often laughable in their contradictions and thus focus of our skepticism. but the questions which these systems seek to (and too often claim to) answer are themselves of the greatest value and unquenchable. so shamainsm? sure. why not? it's simply another of the endless human inventions seeking to order the chaos.

don't we always suspect those who came before us knew something we've forgotten? (don't we in fact fondly hope they did considering the state of each individual's modern age?) doesn't mystery and still hover over everything, permeate everything, no matter how fervantly current belief systems claim a strangle hold on truth? if we can't look to unlikely sources for inspiration and clues then where can we look? inwardly, of course, but boy does that get lonely after a few decades.

the great thing about your search is self evident... you are still searching. and realistically that's all you can hope for. it's no minor feat. so many accept something as truth and in doing so have no need to search any further. in my mind, though th ejoke is on everyone, the punchline lies on them.

keep the findings coming clare.

At 11:40 AM, Anonymous Clare said...

tnh: see what you mean, and I hadn't thought of that...but... on the other hand, people who have had near death experiences report seeing the same images too. I like the weirdness of it all.

jmorrison:yes, I still search. I think I know something and then something else comes along and I find I don't know much at all. That sudden wave of inexplicable happiness I had, for instance, I wasn't expecting that, don't know where it came from. It's so out of character - I'm generally a real old misery.

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