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Thread: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

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    Newbie MercuryHalo's Avatar
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    What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    I consider myself "shamanist" (or rather exploring my heritage as part cree) in the aboriginal sense. I believe in the great spirits but I have trouble calling on them.

    I some how have the life guide of a lion, even though not indigenous to north america he has been with me since my early teen hood, and more recently the hawk...years ago I experience the hawk as perhaps a journey guide, he/she didn't stick around long but now I've reconnected with her. I had a very clear dream last night that I was taken over the hawk spirit and flying through a dessert canyon trying to dismantle traps before my family got there, and avoid getting caught in them myself. I had seen a hawk that caught my attention in a special way weeks before while trying to reconnect with the earth and find some groundedness but didn't think anything off it.


    Are there any other aboriginal shamans or shamanists out there who can share their stories or offer insight on mine?

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    Cannibal Rights Activist Ophidia's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    I'm a core shamanist, which means I'm not following any one culture, by heritage or training. I use techniques that all humans have used, at some point in their spiritual past, to obtain an altered state of conciousness (primarily drumming, sleep deprivation, fasting and various plants) so I may travel to the Otherworlds and communicate directly with spiritual entities.

    I do try to maintain a sense of 'Place'. Here in Las Vegas, the spirits I have encountered are mainly Coyote, Pronghorn, and the desert Herself - vast, ancient, wise and rather unforgiving. Our mountains all have unique guardians, as do our waterways and wetlands. I've learned as much as I can about the Sonoran/Mojave desert ecology and natural rhythms, and try to do things in accord with our natural seasons. It's interesting to see how Las Vegas' extremely urban vibe meshes with the natural world around it - and I am more of an urban Pagan than one who really enjoys 'getting back to nature'. I can still feel the earth's heartbeat under the concrete, though. We've only changed and molded a small part of the Great Big Empty to fit our needs - but in the end, the desert will win because we consume so much more water than the seasonal cycles can provide.

    The spirits I encountered while living in Washington, Louisiana, Oregon & elsewhere have all been different - but there's different fauna & flora in each region, different water cycles... I keep ending up back in this desert. I'm sort of bound to it, but the spirits know me and welcome me, so it's not a bad relationship.
    The forum member formerly known as perzephone. Or Perze. I've shed a skin.

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    For me, the answer to the title question depends on what you mean when you talk about spirits. I'm an animist as well as a shamanist, and experience spirits and entities in multiple 'places'. I split my understanding and experience of the different 'worlds' into three main categories... Thisworld (and it's Astral counterpart), the Innerworlds and the external Otherworlds.

    I have a similar 'sense of place' practice to Ophidia... where the local landvaettir (land spirits), the local (both endemic and introduced) animal guides/spirits, and the local greenwights (plant guides/spirits) are a key part of my practice. I don't count this as Otherworlds work though... this is Thisworld work, as these are the spirits of our planet and landscape. Certain shamanic techniques are still often involved, but the destination is our own planet and our own land, along with a different perception of the world we already exist within. Working that perception into everyday life is important to me, and I try to sense and touch upon the landvaettr of wherever I happen to be standing at any given time.

    In the Innerworlds I am working primarily with aspects of myself. Which is to say, my own spirit, rather than external spirits. Having said that, my experience is that certain external spirits can interface with our Innerworlds and interact with us there... namely deities and spirit guides. I believe that many of the deity and spirit guide meetings described by neo-pagans take place here, rather than in the external Otherworlds. I work with the 'chakra totem' system that Lupa adapted from E.S. Gallegos' book 'The Personal Totem Pole', where aspects of myself manifest as animal guides as a way to assess the health and functioning of my energy system and it's interface. These 'spirits' aren't external spirits, or external animal guides, but aspects of myself and interface systems, if that makes sense. Similar to the Norse concept of a fylgja. I also have actual external animal guides that I work with, both primary and transient, some of which interact through my Innerworlds work and some which interact through Thisworld work.

    In the Otherworlds I have encountered relatively few entities, as I only visit a few key places. I have encountered deities, my teacher, and a few non-related entities who were passing through the area. You could say that the majority of my spirit work is actually here, in Thisworld, rather than in the external Otherworlds.

    As to what kind of shamanist I am... I actually don't tend to use the term 'shamanist' to describe myself, even though I technically am a shamanist. I work within a Northern European cultural context in the sense that my axis mundi is Yggdrasil, my deities are primarily of the Nine Worlds, I am sworn to a Norse deity, I honor my local landvaettir, I honor my domestic vaettir, I honor my ancestors, and my concept of the soul and the fylgja are distinctly Northern. I am a classic shamanist rather than a core shamanist, because of this cultural context. But I am definitely at the 'shamanist' end rather than the 'shaman' end (and I do have clear opinions about who the term 'shaman' applies to).

    Cultural context is a funny thing... it's something that we, as shamanists, often talk about and consider to be 'essential' to a 'classic' rather than a 'core' practice... but at the end of the day a large proportion of those of us who have a cultural context are simple reconstructing a cultural context (which is not a bad thing), or appropriating from extant cultures (which I usually tend to think is a bad thing). Either way, I generally dislike that within the neo-shamanist community, having a cultural context is somehow automatically superior to not having one. In some ways, core shamanism (as defined, not necessarily as practiced) is more respectful to extant cultures, in that it doesn't claim to be anything that it's not. Ophidia's opening statement is a good example of this.

    Quote Originally Posted by MercuryHalo View Post
    Are there any other aboriginal shamans or shamanists out there who can share their stories or offer insight on mine?
    I fully admit to being somewhat of a purist in this respect, in that I believe it's very difficult for a non-indigenous person to truly and respectfully practice an extant indigenous religion or set of beliefs without having been immersed in that living tradition for at least a part of their life. There are extant indigenous cultures and faiths here in Australia (and similar to in the US, the Aborigines are not ONE culture, but many), and I can research and learn all I like, but I would never attempt to practice their faith without actually living within it, inside the community, and being taught or raised by the people.

    So while I connect with many of the same landvaettir that my local indigenous tribes connected to, I do not claim their culture, cultural context, terminology or faith. Several of the landvaettir here in Adelaide have names and stories that were recorded by the Paramangk and Kaurna people, and I respect that and include it as part of my research and connection with those landvaettir. But I cannot, and would not, say that I have any indigenous aspect to my practice.

    Finally... a disclaimer... I'm not specifically addressing anyone's right or claim to indigenous culture. I don't know you... I don't know where you grew up, who raised you, who taught you, or what's inside your head or heart. My comments are about ME and my opinions on why I feel that I can't claim indigenous shamanism even though I work with many of the same spirits.

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    For me you'd first have to define how your using "Spirits". Since I see the spirit world through the notions of animism and animatism I can interact with the greater spirit of a species or I can interact with the unique spirit of a given entity. I also tend to relate to them via an elemental association so say at a river I see water aspects such as undines, water horses, etc but also winged and fined ones such as Heron and Trout as well as a more primordial greater or lessor spirit of place that is very much a base spirit if those are present.

    I tend not to use a core shamanistic approach for I believe that a spirit and the means of connecting to it is not only how its done but how the spirit / entity is related to within the confines of the social / cultural system. So say Mother Earth, Grandfather Mountain, Old Man River, etc its more than just opening the doorway to them its the whole dynamic between how they are part and parcel to everything.

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    I tend not to use a core shamanistic approach for I believe that a spirit and the means of connecting to it is not only how its done but how the spirit / entity is related to within the confines of the social / cultural system. So say Mother Earth, Grandfather Mountain, Old Man River, etc its more than just opening the doorway to them its the whole dynamic between how they are part and parcel to everything.
    I would say that this can be done without a specific cultural context, though. I know some core-shamanists who have a very respectful and profound practice. I also think that 'cultural context' is somewhat of a misleading term... in that it's possible to have a cultural context outside of traditional, recognisable 'cultures' or 'paths'. I suspect that many people who identify as core-shamanists actually DO have a cultural context, it's just that they don't necessarily identify it as such because the shamanic techniques are not a recognisable part of their taught tradition. And self taught paths often have their own cultural context... for example, bioregionalism is something that I consider to be a cultural context.

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    I would say that this can be done without a specific cultural context, though. I know some core-shamanists who have a very respectful and profound practice. I also think that 'cultural context' is somewhat of a misleading term... in that it's possible to have a cultural context outside of traditional, recognisable 'cultures' or 'paths'. I suspect that many people who identify as core-shamanists actually DO have a cultural context, it's just that they don't necessarily identify it as such because the shamanic techniques are not a recognisable part of their taught tradition. And self taught paths often have their own cultural context... for example, bioregionalism is something that I consider to be a cultural context.
    I agree in general. For me where it goes out though is that I spent 6.5 years in Japan for instance and the whole mindset is far different than say my European heritage or Native American Heritage. So if I function in a shamanic role within a given area then I have to function within the dynamics of that cultural and social context. Figure I can't guide a Japanesse person using Christian or European connections to interact with the spirits, allies, guides, etc for a given region unless I connect through that region. Same with the US or Europe in conveying messages or guidance.

    I think to me that is where core and traditional really fall apart. Core almost always is about the self and almost personally religious in nature. Traditional is about the community or group and is almost always spiritual yet also a way of life which utilizes the religious construct of the people your working with. So traditionally I move within Christian paradyns, animism paradyns, animatism paradyns, pagan / occult paradyns, etc all at the same time and utilize those constructs to do for whatever the group is I am working with.

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    Newbie MercuryHalo's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    and I can research and learn all I like, but I would never attempt to practice their faith without actually living within it, inside the community, and being taught or raised by the people.
    The problem with this particular statement however, is anyone who knows anything about residential schools and the history of louis riel might understand that there really is a struggle with heritage and identity amongst metis who were never fully accepted in aboriginal communities or white communities. Louis Riel was hung for being a trader and later given his own day of celebration for his advocacy and sacrifice for the metis peoples. I am a direct descendant of louis riel on my dad's side and on my moms side i am cree, but so far in generations that i cannot obtain a metis status card. This does not make it my heritage any less. No less my best friend growing up was a native girl, whom was grand daughter to the chief on the rez a 5 minute drive away. I have gone to pow wows with her family, been with her to her family gathers where native prayers and traditions were said/preformed etc and thus I've always felt shamanism was right in my heart. that the aboriginals had it right and Christianity for me was an imposter. The difficult thing is that I am so white it's dangerous for me to spend time on the rez alone.


    On another note I am asking how people experience spirits in regards to how do they come to you and in what form? Is it unusual to me as it is to anyone else that my spirit is a lion...and has been this way for a good handful of years. Yet I have never been to africa or anywhere the lion was indigenous?

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    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by MercuryHalo View Post
    The problem with this particular statement however, is anyone who knows anything about residential schools and the history of louis riel might understand that there really is a struggle with heritage and identity amongst metis who were never fully accepted in aboriginal communities or white communities. Louis Riel was hung for being a trader and later given his own day of celebration for his advocacy and sacrifice for the metis peoples. I am a direct descendant of louis riel on my dad's side and on my moms side i am cree, but so far in generations that i cannot obtain a metis status card. This does not make it my heritage any less. No less my best friend growing up was a native girl, whom was grand daughter to the chief on the rez a 5 minute drive away. I have gone to pow wows with her family, been with her to her family gathers where native prayers and traditions were said/preformed etc and thus I've always felt shamanism was right in my heart. that the aboriginals had it right and Christianity for me was an imposter. The difficult thing is that I am so white it's dangerous for me to spend time on the rez alone.


    On another note I am asking how people experience spirits in regards to how do they come to you and in what form? Is it unusual to me as it is to anyone else that my spirit is a lion...and has been this way for a good handful of years. Yet I have never been to africa or anywhere the lion was indigenous?

    The Puma, Mountain Lion or whatever name you wish to use is found on the American landscape, so not strange to me. Unless your using an African Lion with its large mane doesn't strike me as odd. Well except that the maned lion is the leader the other males in the pride will be maneless at the time.

    As for how the Spirits come and appear to me depends on to many factors I believe. Some as flickering lights, some as ghostly or smoky forms, some as an intense presence that dominates the landscape. At times like a pair of detached eyes that watch and you can feel them, occasionally see them. Other times like a whispy breeze that blows upon the skin, scalp, neck and a detached voice but you never see anything, its just there.

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    Newbie MercuryHalo's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    and I can research and learn all I like, but I would never attempt to practice their faith without actually living within it, inside the community, and being taught or raised by the people.
    Also, I do see the end of your post and appreciate it. I just want to put myself out there as far as my experience so far goes in general, for other readers. This is my struggle, and the reason I have come to this forum as an alternative. Or at the very least a starting point.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by monsno_leedra View Post
    The Puma, Mountain Lion or whatever name you wish to use is found on the American landscape, so not strange to me. Unless your using an African Lion with its large mane doesn't strike me as odd. Well except that the maned lion is the leader the other males in the pride will be maneless at the time.

    As for how the Spirits come and appear to me depends on to many factors I believe. Some as flickering lights, some as ghostly or smoky forms, some as an intense presence that dominates the landscape. At times like a pair of detached eyes that watch and you can feel them, occasionally see them. Other times like a whispy breeze that blows upon the skin, scalp, neck and a detached voice but you never see anything, its just there.
    My guide is a maned lion, and his presence is very dominating. When I was 15 I remember seeing him almost as if a hologram pacing back and forth infront of me. More recently I feel a strong unmistakable presence and a presence that I feel when I look at the spirit within myself. I guess this would mean I lean more toward "core shamanist" If i focus more on the spirits within myself and around, as apposed to the community that i am in?

    Otherwise spirits often come to me in dreams then soon after appear physically, as if to tell me do not doubt myself when I feel the spirits are reaching out. One day I will see a fox or a hawk (the two that most stand out to me) and I will tell myself its just a coincidence they came up in my dreams, and then I will see a real fox or a real hawk usually a few days before or after. It is like they know I need that confirmation.

    I've always felt a little crazy though with these experiences and like sharing them would make me seem like I am hallucinating or making things up, so I have often kept them to myself. Also there is the bit of not being welcome on the rez to seek out any elders.

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: What kind of shamanist and how do you experience spirits?

    Quote Originally Posted by MercuryHalo View Post
    The problem with this particular statement however, is anyone who knows anything about residential schools and the history of louis riel might understand that there really is a struggle with heritage and identity amongst metis who were never fully accepted in aboriginal communities or white communities. Louis Riel was hung for being a trader and later given his own day of celebration for his advocacy and sacrifice for the metis peoples. I am a direct descendant of louis riel on my dad's side and on my moms side i am cree, but so far in generations that i cannot obtain a metis status card. This does not make it my heritage any less. No less my best friend growing up was a native girl, whom was grand daughter to the chief on the rez a 5 minute drive away. I have gone to pow wows with her family, been with her to her family gathers where native prayers and traditions were said/preformed etc and thus I've always felt shamanism was right in my heart. that the aboriginals had it right and Christianity for me was an imposter. The difficult thing is that I am so white it's dangerous for me to spend time on the rez alone.
    Shamanism isn't just an indigenous practice, though. Shamanism itself is a set of practices and techniques that are used for certain goals. The term didn't even apply to the native peoples of the North American continent until relatively recently, and only then because of the fact that they use some of the techniques and practices that Harner popularised in his books. What I'm getting at here is that you don't have to practice any semblance of Metis or Cree (I'm not sure if I used those terms correctly, forgive me if I didn't) practices or faith in order to incorporate shamanism into your daily and spiritual life.

    We just have to be so careful in regards to extant indigenous cultures, because of cultural appropriation and the damage that does to those living cultures. In my opinion, it's not about your blood, but about your immersion in the culture. If the people themselves are willing to take you in and immerse you into their culture, that's far more valuable and legitimizing than any amount of blood heritage. On the flip side of that, if outsiders are unwelcome and they will not teach you themselves, then it's pretty much impossible to respectfully practice their faith. Remembering that 'outsider' in this context is often not actually about blood, but about whether you and your parents were born to the people, and whether or not you live with the people. People not born into a culture have to unlearn a lot of stuff before they can be fully immersed into a new culture, but even then there is still those other influences (past and present) that mean that we would experience things slightly differently to one born into it.

    Quote Originally Posted by MercuryHalo View Post
    On another note I am asking how people experience spirits in regards to how do they come to you and in what form?
    Spirits come to me in different ways, depending on where I encounter them, as I explained above. In Thisworld it's generally more a sensory thing... I feel their energy interfacing with my energy. Usually I am looking at Thisworld with my physical eyes, and so encountering spirits here is about feeling them with my non-physical senses. In the Innerworlds and Otherworlds I visualise spirits and entities. There is sensory feeling as well, but I also have a visual cue, which I assume is my corporeal brain's way of translating the experiences that my non-corporeal body (which is called the hame in Old Norse) is having.

    Quote Originally Posted by MercuryHalo View Post
    Is it unusual to me as it is to anyone else that my spirit is a lion...and has been this way for a good handful of years. Yet I have never been to africa or anywhere the lion was indigenous?
    The advent of the internet and television has made it possible for us to connect with animal guides well outside our local area. Indigenous peoples tended towards indigenous animals because they were rooted within their local area (or migratory areas, if they were migratory). We have ready access to a much larger range of plants and creatures. In that sense, no, it is not unusual for a white person with access to the internet to have an African Lion as a primary animal guide.

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