Reading over Lupa’s new(ish) blog about the ongoing development of her personal path, Therioshamanism, has prompted my own thoughts regarding how my path or practice (whatever it is) relates to shamanism. Over the years, many people have suggested that I am a shaman or somehow shamanic in my practice, but I’ve studiously avoided owning the label in much the same way I’ve avoided calling myself a “psychic.” But surfing from her blog and looking around Wikipedia and so forth have inspired me to think about it a little more openly.
“Shaman” is one of those titles of traditional privilege that far too many people grab for themselves out of some effort to gain instant status. “Priest” and “Priestess,” in my opinion, are others that are too easily claimed, as are “Elder,” “expert,” “authority,” and even, nowadays, something as simple as “witch.” In particular, “psychic” and “medium” are taken as titles by those wishing to be considered special. I have a real distrust for anyone flaunting these titles and in my need to avoid self-disgust, I tend to avoid them like the plague. I think people who take these once relatively harmless words and contribute to their increasing disreputability should be punished appropriately, though god knows it’s hard to figure out what an appropriate punishment would be. Fines don’t stop them and in all likelihood, drawing and quartering would be frowned upon by animal rights activists. Those poor horses, after all.
Lupa, however, isn’t one to claim extraordinary status or in many ways toot her own horn, and if she can look at the terminology without flinching, I can give it a try. (I encourage you to check out her blog if you’re at all interested in someone seeking a valid modern shamanic practice. Her practice is not based on “core shamanism,” which I’d never heard of prior to today. Guess I’m out of the loop.)
Wikipedia has this to say (at current date) regarding Shamanism—
“Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world. There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, though there are some beliefs that are shared by all forms of shamanism:
- The spirits can play important roles in human lives.
- The shaman can control and/or cooperate with the spirits for the community’s benefit.
- The spirits can be either good or bad.
- Shamans engage various processes and techniques to incite trance; such as: singing, dancing, taking entheogens, meditating and drumming.
- Animals play an important role, acting as omens and message-bearers, as well as representations of animal spirit guides.
- The shaman’s spirit leaves the body and enters into the supernatural world during certain tasks.
- The shamans can treat illnesses or sickness.
- Shamans are healers, gurus and magicians.
Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits that affect the lives of the living. [. . .] Shamans act as “mediators” in their culture. The shaman is seen as communicating with the spirits on behalf of the community, including the spirits of the dead. In some cultures, this mediator function of the shaman may be illustrated well by some of the shaman’s objects and symbols [animal totems].”
There are ways in which my practice and paradigm conform to the above (which does not remotely encompass the scope of the Wikipedia article), and ways in which it doesn’t. For example, while I do work with spirits (focusing on one in particular most of the time) and visit other planes of reality, I don’t consider myself any sort of major boon to my community — unless maybe you consider “my community” to be the occult community in general and the spirit companion community in particular. Not many people outside those groups have much use for what I do, at least as far as I’m aware. Nor do I require trance to interact with spirits or to visit the subtle planes. Since I don’ require trance, I don’t require drumming or drugs or any other sort of gateway stimulus, except perhaps some peace and quiet. And while animal totems or signs play a role in my practice, I guess I never considered it outside of my personal context. Most importantly, I don’t consider myself a healer and wouldn’t dream of giving medical advice or care beyond the scope of any average citizen with a clue.
The temptation to find a label for my practice from which people can immediately gain some sort of understanding is strong at times. The idea of built-in brethren doesn’t suck, either. But while I may fit the various labels of shaman, medium, psychic, and so on to some degree, I still find it difficult to accept any of them. For one thing, I don’t want to waste time explaining what I’m not when I can use that time explaining what I am — the knee-jerk reactions to the labels cover a wide spectrum from true and blind belief to instant dismissal. More importantly, I think what we have here is a whole new ballgame.