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Thread: Why Shamanism?

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    PF God-Empress Juniper's Avatar
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    Why Shamanism?

    If you practice any one of the various traditions of Shamanism that we have in the world today, and are feeling inclined to share, why did you choose this path?
    What was it that drew you to it?
    What inspires you to continue?
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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    To be honest I never chose it. My elders and the Spirit's would say they chose me and I was given little choice in the matter. They'd say when I died at one year of age it was the first selection, then near death incidents that followed closed the deal.

    I tried to avoid it for a long time and things occurred to make me change my mind. Some lets say were not to bad, other's we'll i'd have passed on them in a heart beat if given the chance. Elder's I have known over the years have told me it is never a path that is chosen by the person though many are tested to various degree's to see if they are desired / acceptable. Even being tested doesn't mean you are chosen and if chosen to what level the Spirit world will take you to.

    What inspires me to continue? Honestly if would have to be the lessor of two evils. Do as asked when asked and your life may seem only partly screwed up. Ignore it and your life can be totally screwed up and multiple death's will probably be your life long companion.
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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniper View Post
    If you practice any one of the various traditions of Shamanism that we have in the world today, and are feeling inclined to share, why did you choose this path?
    What was it that drew you to it?
    What inspires you to continue?
    Basically, it's just me doing what I'm told lol.

    I first came to shamanism through a few different avenues... books, a shamanist ex-friend who I was very close with at the time, discussions on forums, the writings of a Northern Tradition shaman... but didn't go very far with it at first because of the shaman vs classic shamanist vs core shamanist politics that exists in the neo-shamanist community. I just wanted to learn techniques for what I now call Innerworlds work, so that's what I did. And while I've always been fairly outspoken about shamanism and my research, I was always very careful in the beginning not to adopt the title for myself (because I didn't think that I deserved it). It took a good 5-6 years of steady evolution of my practice and some major prodding by the spirits that I work with to accept that what I do is, in fact, a form of shamanism. So for the last few years I've claimed the title 'shamanist', though I don't have a clear title for the form of shamanism that I actually practice. It's not a traditional form, but I operate primarily within a bioregional and secondarily within a Northern Tradition context.

    What inspires me to continue? It's my job and my calling. Part of my shamanism is tied up with my actual profession, part of it with my passion for animals, part of it with my sense of responsibility to the land and it's vaettir. It's the job that I've been given by the spirits that I work with, and the major function that I have as part of my service to Skuld. I'm not a shaman, in the sense that my health and sanity is not tied to this job... and there are things that I find very difficult, if not impossible, to do (those things are for actual shamans, not those of us who walk the halfway path). I could walk away from this if I wanted to, but it would mean sacrificing some of the gifts and the network that I currently have. But I don't want to walk away from it, because it's my job and my calling. It gives me purpose and direction, and it gives me a sense of fulfillment. I'll keep doing it until I'm told to stop.

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    .. , I was always very careful in the beginning not to adopt the title for myself (because I didn't think that I deserved it). It took a good 5-6 years of steady evolution of my practice and some major prodding by the spirits that I work with to accept that what I do is, in fact, a form of shamanism. So for the last few years I've claimed the title 'shamanist', though I don't have a clear title for the form of shamanism that I actually practice. It's not a traditional form, but I operate primarily within a bioregional and secondarily within a Northern Tradition context. ..
    I still do not think I deserve the title of Shaman, so do my utmost not to claim it. I have tried to separate myself from being called a shaman and what I personally think it implies regarding typical first nation or aboriginal peoples practices. Many aspects of my practice cross-over so called traditional practices I am told but it is not traditional to me. I tend to self identify as a shamanic like practitioner and tell others that is what I am so I can truly understand what your saying here.
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    PF God-Empress Juniper's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Thank you for your answers. I ask because I've recently decided that I wish to reconnect with my shamanic teachings, because it's still the only spiritual path that ever seems to call to me. In recent years, I haven't done much of any type of spiritual practicing, or reading. I was so caught up in the here and now that I stopped thinking about all the other layers.

    With my change in career choices, I've also been feeling a sort of revitalization of my spiritual path. I will be walking a healing path while I "work" so it seems to only be natural (or obvious) that my spiritual healing path would be there, right beside it. Or be one and the same path. I do frequently find myself using the Andean names for what i see around me. Pachamama for Mother Earth, Apu for Mountain (Spirit of that mountain), etc. I greet the sky, the sun, the moon (when I see her), the ground every day. I say thanks to the beautiful spectacles of the weather. When I greet a crow, I greet Crow, the spirit. I see a mini Otorongo in my cats. So, in a sense, I didn't ditch everything. But I miss that spiritual connection with everything.

    I'm thinking I'll start by rereading some of my books. I've also recently found out there's a lady in town that hosts rituals like the ones I attended when I first started following this path, so that is definitely something I'll be looking into as well.
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    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    I was putting off replying until I could be at my PC and not keep using words I hadn't typed (my phone still has a mind of its own).

    In my case I didn't deliberately set out to practice shamanism. I don't even remember who was the first person who told me that what I do IS shamanism, although it might have been Jocelyn Almond of the FOI because she taught me how to safely use my inner world 'Rotokia' and I know that it was largely Rotokia that caused the switch in my path from purely wiccan without any specialised area, to something that other wiccans would tell me was shamanic in nature (although I should point out that at least in my part of the world, wicca IS a shamanic path, or at least encourages its members to train in that direction. I'm starting to realise that I know very little of what classes as wicca elsewhere, because much of what I read about it these days doesn't sound familiar at all).

    I only recently started to describe myself as a 'shamanist', for the same reason that Rae'ya prefers that name but even then I tend not to use that term much either. There's no denying that shamanism is what I am doing, but to me I'm just a witch. My own version of witchcraft just happens to be deeply rooted in lucid dreaming, pathworking and journeying but that's because of Rotokia, and I never deliberately set out to create Rotokia, it created itself, building up around the little inner sanctuary I had deliberately created in my mind.. like the way wild plants reclaim wasteland (and just as unruly and full of spines, stings and thorns).

    I've recently started to study druidism/druidry, and again I'm struggling to find many differences between what the druids do and what I was already doing. It's quite encouraging to see that while I thought I had 'made it up' when I attempted to base my path on the land itself, it turns out that modern druids, many of whom have attempted the same thing, came to many of the same conclusions that I have. It's encouraging because it seems that whatever your background if you ask the land how s/he wants to be worshiped, you always get the same answer. You might translate the answer a bit differently depending on your own personal filters, but it's largely the same.

    This is why I think it's a shame that in the US people are sensitive about using terminology that could see them accused of borrowing from Native American spirituality. Popping on their costumes and claiming it's your heritage would be offensive, but I think it is sad that some feel they must avoid using the same names or following similar customs for fear of being hauled over the coals. If in my own experience we're always given the same answers from the land spirits, (or gods if you prefer) here in the British Isles, why wouldn't the spirits you speak to in the US tell you a similar story to the one they told the first human inhabitants that sought them out? After all, to them that wasn't all that long ago. The 'human animal'.. the one that talks to them.. is still a recent curiosity in the eyes of the land spirits.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Just my mind wandering as it were but here goes again.

    The term shaman and shamanism has become so much a collective term that in many ways it no longer is reflective of first nation or aboriginal practices. Definitely not reflective of the Hedge-rider aspect of witchcraft or the many other "regional" and "Cultural" practices that were similar yet also unique to a given people, region, culture, etc. A number of terms already dropped from many shamanic pathways such as "Totemism" as they became really corrupted and to a degree unusable.

    In part I lay that blame at the foot of the core shamanist program and push. Yet many times I think what people are recognizing as shamanic influences are "core" components in that they are to be found in nearly every usage. Perhaps that influence of the local spirits, the divine or what ever name we wish to call and recognize it by. Yet I also think we (collective) also tend to screw it up by seeing it only as core aspects. We focus so much upon the core aspect that we loose all the vibrancy and ritual / lore that tied it all together for a given people. Even to the point I think where we we've made it a spiritual pathway of it's own it's wrong for when if you look most often at early practices it's not spiritual to the people but a companion to their own spirituality. For the practitioner regardless of what they might be called followed and held a belief in the same divinities as the people they served and spoke to the spirits for. Figure the practitioners gods / goddesses / spirits / etc where the same as the peoples. It was only their allies that made them really different from the holy person or the average person in the group.

    I know for me I tend to bounce back and forth between calling myself a shamanic like practitioner and a hedge rider. In part due to the fact not all practitioners crossed into all the realms to do their workings. Some focused upon the material realm only and it's spirits, some focused upon the celestial while some only focused upon the chthonic. Of course some might go to all of them if the situation demanded but it didn't mean they utilized all of them normally. That didn't even touch upon the psychological function that many were well versed in when it came to aiding people and reaching into a realm that was all internal and belief filled by the person or persons being aided. Almost a social egregore built upon the cultural and social memories and mindset's of the collective whole and the collective view. Nor can I with any truth state that even when the people or a practitioner does go to the other realms / worlds it's not simply internal vice an actual external projection. Sort of like an Out Of Body Experience (O.B.E.), Near Death Experience (N.D.E.) or remote viewing type thing versus more of a dreamstate induced projection into ones own subconscious. That or a combination of both internal and external such as experienced during a Vision Quest type ritual that is experienced over many days and various fasting, purification and meditating rituals involved. Nor can one ignore the waking or walking visions that play like a movie upon the back of the eye or upon the 3rd eye region as the spirits speak to you as you enter an area.

    I had many problems in my youth with the aspect that if you were to aid someone then you had to be in the same paradigm as them. You had to know their divinities, their spirits and their beliefs. For your connection to them and their social / cultural beliefs is what gave you credibility and allowed your connection to the spirits to be believed. You had to truly walk in two worlds at once and be able to speak in both. Yet those two worlds were not just simply the physical and the spiritual but also the psychological world that people carried within and without. At times even the idea of a shadow world and a sun filled world where ones fears, hopes, anger, lust, etc all walked, took form and had voices and desires of their own. I say desires because at times it would be like dealing with a person with multiple personalities or projection of those same upon things.

    I admit I have a hard time when people seem to equate shamanism as being both only healing path and a connection to the earth. While some aspects of some shamanic practices did work towards the earth it was not all of them. Figure in more than a few the healer was only one aspect, perhaps a clan like group composed of various skill sets and functions. The practitioner might also be aligned to fertility / fecundity of land for his / her people while taking that away from an enemy. The practitioner might be one who death only with death and death rites. The practitioner might have been within the warrior society and focused upon things of war, strength, etc and went on war events as well. Far to many things vice simply being healers or earth focused. Especially in the modern sense that so many seem to want to make it, an eco focused pathway. Save the tree's and save the whales was not something you encountered to often except in modern beliefs it seems to me. Figure death, dying, destruction were seen as normal and everyday as much as birth, living, creation, etc were. It was understood the land, the spirits, etc might try to aid you but also be just as willing to kill to you. So many times survival was a balance of appeasement and control, of give and take and yes feast or famine.

    I recall things I did and said it made me a witch but was told I was wrong. Not wrong because of the things I did but wrong because of how they were used and why. Consider a root worker has allies in the sense they know herbs and such and healing or killing properties. Very similar to a shamanic worker but the shaman knows them on a different level and tends to utilize them as spirits and life more than a medicinal plant. So they cross over but are not the same regardless of the core function of using plants for something. Figure in many ways it's a matter of the root worker focusing upon the physical while the shaman focused upon the energetic / spiritual nature of the plant and how to manifest it on the physical as well as how it interacted with the rest of the spirit world. I recall holding a plant in my hands and being asked what it told me and how it spoke to me. My answer became a guide for my calling to some of my family. My aunts would say they felt something of the specific plant yet I always felt like I plugged into a whole network of things. It was not a matter of not being able to read the plant but of knowing the spirit versus knowing its physical purpose.

    I think many have issues with using words but more so because of the words being forced to change or not being true. It's like Shaman, Medicine Person, etc were all white words being applied to things observed or presumed on the part of the observer. Then sometimes derogatory words connected to them as sort of a slam upon the group such as snake oil salesmen / snake oil medicine men, white or plastic shaman. Yet in each of those instances I wonder is it because of assuming the title / name or is it because of the sheer lack of depth and connection to the material it is drawn from? I heard it once explained along the lines of being a sailor and never going to sea at all. To be a sailor was seen as a person who went to sea on ships. If you didn't go to sea then how could you be a sailor? I can assure you "Sailor" is just as hotly debated as to what makes one a real sailor as Shaman, Medicine Person, Spirit Walker, Hedge Rider, etc are debated.

    For me being a practitioner I tried hard, and still do, to understand just what it meant to be a practitioner. To know the supporting roles and functions, the full cast as it were of the play I was being an active participant within. Yes to even walk that line where the spirits and physical world was different than the spiritual / religious world that called to me. Figure I am mostly surrounded by Christian's and that dogma so following Hellene Gods / Goddesses makes it a bit difficult to speak about the religious influences. Yet the land spirits really do not care which gods I follow or how I follow them as they are not concerned with them. I think in part because the land spirits in my opinion are in the physical realm not the chthonic or celestial realms. So it is within that realm or world that I function more so as a practitioner than within the cthonic or celestial realms. How I define and construct the physical as internal landscape or external doesn't matter in many ways for its all upon the physical. Yet it can be confusing as all get out trying to say its astral, etheral, material, mental, physical even corporeal or non-corporeal when describing things. Disembodied voices get some interesting looks when you speak on them as do partial manifestations whether they be spirits, once human or non-human or things not even of this earth.

    Yet today as a term Shaman and Shamanism is nearly as useless and burdensome as Totemism became a few years ago I think.
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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Monsno, I largely agree... and that is one of the hypocrisies of the elitist neo-shamanic community that I take issue with.

    The reality is that Harner and his core-shamanism bought the terminology into neo-paganism, which has created a disconnect between the practices and their cultural contexts. A LOT of traditional and reconstructed pagan paths include techniques that are also in indigenous shamanic paths. Does that make them shamanic? In the original sense of the term, no. In the modern sense of the term, I suppose it does. The terms have evolved well past their original use, and the only ones maintaining the original definitions are the academics and the elitists.

    One of the strongest examples of that is, I think, Hedge Riders... because it clearly straddles the witchcraft-shamanism border and has been squabbled over for years. Is it shamanic? Is it not shamanic? We see similar stories with Seidhr. With Druidism. With any path that has elements of Otherworld contact, spirit work, energy healing and trance practices.

    Honestly, I think I've reached a point in my own spiritual evolution where I'm getting less and less tied up with terminology... and more concerned about people understanding the conundrum behind the terminology. I don't really care who calls themselves a shaman or a shamanist or a shamanic practitioner... as long as they understand that the terms are controversial, and as long as they understand why they use those terms (and haven't just jumped on a bandwagon). I'm less interested in how shamanic practices set us apart, and more interested in how they bring us together. How we, as practitioners of disparate beliefs and religions, can find commonality and connection through the techniques and foundations that we share.

    But we're not here to debate what is and isn't shamanism (I've been falling more and more on the 'inclusive' side of the argument over the last few years). At the end of the day what it comes down to is the same argument that I was seeing when I first came to the path... cultural context. Which doesn't mean 'indigenous cultural context that makes you legitimate' (as some people would have us believe). It means 'all the religious and spiritual bits that tie it together into a cohesive spiritual practice vs a naked set of techniques). So maybe we should change that to 'spiritual context'?

    Quote Originally Posted by Juniper View Post
    With my change in career choices, I've also been feeling a sort of revitalization of my spiritual path. I will be walking a healing path while I "work" so it seems to only be natural (or obvious) that my spiritual healing path would be there, right beside it. Or be one and the same path.
    This seems natural and obvious to me, too! Especially with you new line of work... the possibilities for healing on multiple levels are exciting. And as a person who's spiritual path is tied up with her daily occupation... it is a double edged sword. It's fulfilling on multiple levels, but it's also easier to overwork, to put too much of yourself into your work, and to take your work home with you. So work on boundaries nice and early in your journey!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jembru View Post
    In my case I didn't deliberately set out to practice shamanism. I don't even remember who was the first person who told me that what I do IS shamanism, although it might have been Jocelyn Almond of the FOI because she taught me how to safely use my inner world 'Rotokia' and I know that it was largely Rotokia that caused the switch in my path from purely wiccan without any specialised area, to something that other wiccans would tell me was shamanic in nature (although I should point out that at least in my part of the world, wicca IS a shamanic path, or at least encourages its members to train in that direction. I'm starting to realise that I know very little of what classes as wicca elsewhere, because much of what I read about it these days doesn't sound familiar at all).

    I only recently started to describe myself as a 'shamanist', for the same reason that Rae'ya prefers that name but even then I tend not to use that term much either. There's no denying that shamanism is what I am doing, but to me I'm just a witch. My own version of witchcraft just happens to be deeply rooted in lucid dreaming, pathworking and journeying but that's because of Rotokia, and I never deliberately set out to create Rotokia, it created itself, building up around the little inner sanctuary I had deliberately created in my mind
    This ties into a lot of what MonSno is saying, with the evolution of the terminology and the difficulties it presents. It's become a more common story over the years, and I think shows us that we CAN do core-shamanism with a full and rich cultural context... and that maybe when that happens, we actually are practicing a form of shamanism. It shows us that the modern usage of the terminology CAN be a legitimate and useful label. What we do is different to what the 'classic shamanists' do, but it's a valuable and fulfilling path nonetheless.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jembru View Post
    This is why I think it's a shame that in the US people are sensitive about using terminology that could see them accused of borrowing from Native American spirituality. Popping on their costumes and claiming it's your heritage would be offensive, but I think it is sad that some feel they must avoid using the same names or following similar customs for fear of being hauled over the coals. If in my own experience we're always given the same answers from the land spirits, (or gods if you prefer) here in the British Isles, why wouldn't the spirits you speak to in the US tell you a similar story to the one they told the first human inhabitants that sought them out? After all, to them that wasn't all that long ago. The 'human animal'.. the one that talks to them.. is still a recent curiosity in the eyes of the land spirits.
    Ironically, shamanism has nothing to do with indigenous Native American spiritualities. There are people who apply the term 'shaman' and 'shamanic' to them, but that's precisely as accurate as saying that a Hedge Rider is a 'shaman' or 'shamanic'. Which is to say that it's not academically 'correct', but the modern usage of the term is appropriate. Ergo using the term isn't taking anything at all from Native American spiritualities... anyone who uses the terminology in relation to them is doing exactly the same thing we are doing in using the terminology in relation to our paths. But yes, as someone who works with landspirits, animal spirits, hides, bones, feathers and other animals bits... I understand what you're saying here!

  9. #9
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Why Shamanism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    Monsno, I largely agree... and that is one of the hypocrisies of the elitist neo-shamanic community that I take issue with.
    I hear you there. The neo-shamanic community is something else in that regard, the elitist. What makes it bad, well to me anyway, is some of their arguments have merit but they get lost in the totality of their position. More than a few shamanic type sites I no longer visit due to that mentality and position.

    The reality is that Harner and his core-shamanism bought the terminology into neo-paganism, which has created a disconnect between the practices and their cultural contexts.
    Harner brought a lot of it in but I think a lot also came in, especially Native American, with the rise of the 101 books in the late 90's and later. The disconnect between practice and culture really separated at that time I think. IN part because of the shake n bake method coupled to the take what you want method so many of those books seemed to preach. In many ways it became filler material to give the books extra pages I think.

    A LOT of traditional and reconstructed pagan paths include techniques that are also in indigenous shamanic paths. Does that make them shamanic? In the original sense of the term, no. In the modern sense of the term, I suppose it does. The terms have evolved well past their original use, and the only ones maintaining the original definitions are the academics and the elitists.
    Sometimes I think it's more purist than elitist that cling to academic terms and cultural usages. The elitist in my opinion cling to the term as sort of a "I am better than you!" or "I am more authentic" in their practice. Yet the purist clings to them in the belief it makes speaking more correct or revealing. Revealing especially in the sense that it connects the belief and perspective to the larger practice and functionality. Granted can be very close between them, to the point of the point actually being lost I suppose. Yet at the same time terms give clues as to where something originates from or influences.

    One of the strongest examples of that is, I think, Hedge Riders... because it clearly straddles the witchcraft-shamanism border and has been squabbled over for years. Is it shamanic? Is it not shamanic? We see similar stories with Seidhr. With Druidism. With any path that has elements of Otherworld contact, spirit work, energy healing and trance practices.
    Definitely agree. See it also when you start looking at the idea of Animism, Animatism and similar influences. It's like I see at times where to be a shaman you have to believe in animism to some degree as the rule. Then it gets broken down into the all things have a individual spirit versus all major groups have a super spirit while the individual may or may not have an individual spirit / awareness.

    Honestly, I think I've reached a point in my own spiritual evolution where I'm getting less and less tied up with terminology... and more concerned about people understanding the conundrum behind the terminology. I don't really care who calls themselves a shaman or a shamanist or a shamanic practitioner... as long as they understand that the terms are controversial, and as long as they understand why they use those terms (and haven't just jumped on a bandwagon). I'm less interested in how shamanic practices set us apart, and more interested in how they bring us together. How we, as practitioners of disparate beliefs and religions, can find commonality and connection through the techniques and foundations that we share.
    I personally have found instances where looking at other similar pathways or practical aspects has enabled me to understand something in mine better. Even speaking to other practitioners and how they understand or explain things has been a bonus and I think brought us closer together in understanding. I think we have a split responsibility though in that we need to understand other's and their methods but also be true to our own with regards to heritage, culture, etc. It's like I picked up a bit of Japanese influence after living there for 6.5 years but it doesn't make those items Japanese even though they were influenced by them for they are lacking the cultural and ethnic connections via society and culture. Sort of understanding why you remove your shoe's and respect for the tatami mats vice simply thinking of bringing dirt into a home.

    But we're not here to debate what is and isn't shamanism (I've been falling more and more on the 'inclusive' side of the argument over the last few years). At the end of the day what it comes down to is the same argument that I was seeing when I first came to the path... cultural context. Which doesn't mean 'indigenous cultural context that makes you legitimate' (as some people would have us believe). It means 'all the religious and spiritual bits that tie it together into a cohesive spiritual practice vs a naked set of techniques). So maybe we should change that to 'spiritual context'?
    I could agree there. It seem's many times a lot of us speak of the separation between religion and spirituality but forget those same separations exist on a cultural level as well. I think many get hung up on religion in its dogma and structure while loosing the spiritual aspect of the other worlds and such. While core aspects do tend to separate the concept from the dogma and structure I think it is both a blessing and curse. Blessing in that we see the structure but also a curse in that we loose the nuts and bolts that support and frame it.

    For me personally I think if I understand the why for selection of certain nuts and bolts then I can substitute or exchange my own based upon my own particular pathway or cultural / social and ethical influences.

    Ok lost my train of though so figure I had better end this less I really wander off track and get lost or loose what I am trying to convey.
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