I’ll be posting new stuff soon, once I get the site names sorted out.
Before You Start: You will need a small ball, something golf ball size or slightly larger. I live with cats and find one of their soft foam toys ideal. You’ll need it as we work through this section.
Hopefully by now, after a couple of weeks practice, you have discovered your energy center and have successfully compressed your energy into it several times.
We want to put that knowledge to a bit of practical use.
Depending on how you are reading this post, either via computer or phone, you want to to take a comfortable seated position. Sit up straight, posture is important. When you slouch you put tension on your muscles. You want to be relaxed but alert.
Hawaiian shamanism, as taught by Serge Kahili King, believes that learned memory is stored in the muscle group which is active or energized during the learning. Good for athletes, because the actions they want to learn use the same muscles over and over again. Genetic memory on the other hand, like speech, is stored across the entire body. That is why someone who experiences a huge trauma and develops amnesia will still be able to talk, and not know their own name.
Less traumatic, when using a learned skill if the muscle group where the learned memory is stored is under stress or tension, it can inhibit the memory. You can literally forget what you learned until the stress is released.
By maintaining a relaxed state during your training, the shaman skills you are going to learn on this blog should then be stored in many places around your body. Making their access later easier and lessen the chance that under stress you won’t be able to remember them.
King, in his book “Urban Shaman”, relates a story of attending a high profile party in Africa that during his introduction to the ambassador, King literally forgot his wife’s name because of the stress he was feeling. It was only when his wife said her name, did the muscles where the information was stored were able to relax and release the knowledge.
Take a few moments to relax then. Close your eyes, breath slowly in and out. Wiggle your body and stretch. Wave your arms and work out any tension you are feeling.
Now pick up the ball you have with one hand (either one to start is fine). As you read the rest of this post, I want you to roll it slowly around in your palm. Each time you change its position, give it a small squeeze. Feel it press into your flesh.
After a few minutes of holding it in one hand, bring your two hands together. Cup the ball between them and slowly roll it around between your palms. Feel the way it presses into them. After a few moments, hand the ball off into the new hand and roll it in that one.
Continue to work the ball with each hand, transferring it back and forth between them after a few minutes. Slowly decrease the time you hold it in one hand and increase the time you hold it with two.
What we are doing is teaching our muscles and brain the sensations of holding a ball in our hands, so that when we don’t have it physically present, your mind has the memory of the sensations.
Its a strange concept, sensation without physical stimulus, for some people to get the hands around it (pun intended). And yet your body doesn’t difference between the actual and the remembered.
Think for a moment on a movie you have seen in the Past, which made you cry. Or perhaps a favorite book. The emotions you felt then were real. As you remember them now, in the Present you may find yourself again crying. Memory has no sense of time.
With practice the memory and physical sensations of rolling that ball in your hand, will be as accessible when ever you need it.
Try this, roll the ball under your bare foot, while picturing in your mind the ball being in your hand. At first there will be a strange out of placeness but soon the ball in your hand will be as real as the one under your foot.
Practical Exercise #2:
For the next week, carry the ball you have been using with you. Every chance you get, roll it in your hand. Build up the memories until you can close your eyes and see it and feel it in your hand, even when its not.
In practical terms what we are doing is developing a “muscle memory”.
Athletes of many kinds have discovered recently, which the ancient world long knew, that practicing a physical action in your head can be as effective as practicing it with your body.
The US Army actually did a study on whether mentally simulating a skill, could help you improve it.
They used the marksmanship training on the venerable US Army 1911, 45 caliber pistol. This can be a hard pistol for many people to learn to shoot well, since it is a large and heavy gun. The ammo is also costly, so anything that could cut down on actual shooting AND produce qualified shooter was something they were very interested in. The US Army took two groups, the first who learned the standard marksmanship training, involving a battery of live firing on the range.
The second group, instead of just firing the weapon, would also spend time just sitting quietly while picturing in their minds the action of raising the pistol and firing. At the end of their respective training, each group was tested for their competency with a live fire session for score.
Not surprising to those of us who have long read Greer, one group did much better. Care to guess which one?
Ok, now that you’ve spent a week building up your muscle memory, lets do a little energy work with that memory.
Creating A Psi Ball
You can form your energy into many different forms, and we discuss some of them later, for now lets learn how to create one of the most basic forms, the Psi Ball.
Psi Balls, also known as Chi Balls, are small sphere of energy, usually formed between the palms of your hand. Typically they are between baseball and softball size, though for this exercise we will make it a bit smaller.
(About the size of a certain ball we have been working with, lol.)
They can though be made much bigger, large enough to contain our body or a space within which to work. The energy then forming a protective barrier and shield. They can be used to do many things.
Practical Exercise 3:
Back to the chair you were using earlier.
Before you do, limber up, do some stretching and wiggling your body to remove any tension in your muscles. Sit down, and pick up the ball you practiced with. Roll it between your palms to re-familiarize you mind with the sensations of doing that.
Once you feel ready, set the ball down.
Close your eyes and image the ball still in between your palms. Let your hands and finger lightly touch. Slowly roll your hands together, imagining the ball between them.
Begin compressing your body’s energy at its center in your stomach. Once you feel it there, let the energy move up to your shoulders and then down into your arms, and then into your hands. Let it slowly fill the space between your palms.
As it collects, imagine it taking the shape of a small sphere. Slowly continue to fill it with your energy. You may begin to feel a bit of warmth (or cold) in you palms. If not don’t worry. We each find our path.
Now slowly spread your palms apart. Imagine the small energy sphere floating between them. Imagine little streams of your energy coming out of your palms and going into the sphere.
When you are ready, open your eyes.
Now only the most gifted of people are going to see a visible psi ball floating between their hands. Especially on the first try. If it were easy, then everyone would be doing it. You may though catch a flicker of something there, perhaps a sense of some movement. Allow yourself to just sit silently, mentally feeling your own energy and the energy of the sphere.
When you are ready, open your hands wider and picture the sphere rise. As it does, imagine it expand and then slowly dissipate.
Take a few minutes and quietly just sit, collecting your thoughts. When you are ready stand up and take a break. Go sit in the garden looking at your plants. Go play with your pet. Recharge.
You may find you are a bit tired. That’s natural. Unlike most people, who will teach you to utilize one of the outside your body sources of energy, like the Earth, through a grounding technique, I prefer to teach you to know the limit of your personal energy first.
For now, practice this once a day.
One Last Thing – Start A Journal:
If you don’t regularly write, begin now. Go buy one of those empty books, that people use as diaries or journals.
Your mind can play tricks on you. Especially when working with something like shaman practices which don’t conform to what regular society has taught us all of our earlier life. Things that are crystal clear in the moment, can fade and become unsure with time. You can start disbelieving you had the experience and feelings you did. Going back and re-reading your observations documented at the time, can reassure you that what you remember was real.
I actually do a couple journals related to my shaman work.
I have one smaller one which I keep with me as much as possible. Its for the day to day, and is filled with a variety of things. Nature observations from my garden, bits of dreams that stand out (jotted down in bed), signs and omens that come to me during my travels, thoughts on techniques or ideas for future blog posts.
I have a second one, which is actually a school notebook. One of those with the binder rings. The paper in it is the traditional lined paper we all used in school. It is the beginning of my Grimoire.
A Grimoire, or Spell Book, is the place you put what you learned, but in a way you can find it if you need to. Mine has some of those dividers with plastic tabs. Each section then is one related subject. As I learn, I write down my experiences and sometimes some things should go together. I put those in the appropriate section.
Also there are tens of thousands of other people who are on similar journeys, many of them who blog or write about it. Its ok when you find a good protection spell, or some background knowledge about a certain spirit which you are interested in, on another person’s blog or book, that you write it down in yours. You won’t always have the Internet.
Having the base material is also helpful. When you do a spell or ritual, what you experience will probably be different from the original writer. That’s to be expected. Write down your observations of what happens when you try it, especially any differences.
We will revisit your energy training in two weeks, when we discuss “Intention and Breathing”. Next week we will look more at Spirits.
In my last week’s post on Spirit Ecology, I discussed how I personally categorize the way I deal with the spirits in my Life. Its a good foundation for dealing with the various spirits you will be running into as a shaman.
I was going to post the next in the series on “Energy Work” but decided I wanted to do a follow up on Spirit Ecology instead. There were several points, which I was originally planning to add and discuss but didn’t, preferring to focus just on the basics first.
Also Greer has had a particularly interesting thread come up on the subject of “Porn and Demons”, first on his “Magic Mondays” on his Dreamwidth account and followed up on this week’s Ecosophia post which discusses spirits.
First some additional points on my post.
Do I have to have Allies or Patrons?
No you don’t.
A shaman can simply work with spirits as Servants and maintain a very transactional relationship with them to accomplish most of the things you want done.
If you do that though I believe you are missing out on the universe of experiences which comes from having a more personal relationship with spirits. Not having spirit Allies, is kind of like hiring a brilliant concert pianist for your wedding and asking them to do cover tunes. Or driving a race car around a track in just second gear.
You will find that there are spirits you return to on a regular basis for help and knowledge. Limiting your interaction with them to just “payment for services” would seem like a safe option and yet, humans are social animals.
So are spirits.
And having a spirit as an Ally and as a friend offers immeasurable benefits. And responsibilities but then that’s the nature of friendship, isn’t it.
Having a Patron, or seeking out one is not something everyone should do though. I would argue that most newer shamans should not do it. A Patron comes with rules and obligations. Until you are certain that you are ready for such a relationship AND are willing to commit to it for a long time, don’t do it.
Unless you are truly called, powerful spirits will readily work with you as long as you approach them with respect and honor their preferences.
Avatars versus Individuals:
You might have caught a subtle difference in my original post when it came to spirits. Some spirits seem to be the personification of a collective group of entities and some seem to be individuals.
Bear, Owl and Grandmother Mugwort are all spirits which represent the collective of their species. When I work with an individual Mugwort plant in my garden, and offer prayers to its health, I don’t think that individual plant as the spirit of Mugwort. Instead I think of my plant as just one part of a huge whole that is the spirit of Mugwort.
The small spider living in my office with me, is not Grandmother Spider. It is just a small part of the collective spirit which IS her and that allows me to show my appreciation for her protection.
Honestly I’m not sure just how spirits come into being, how they organize or how they come to have places of influence and become individuals. I just know they do.
Now the nations of spirits like the Djinn are spirits who have a family, they have a collective and yet they are individuals. There are times you will deal with just one member and at times, have to deal with them as a whole.
Some individual spirits take residence in places like forests, lakes or even waterfalls. When you need help at a specific location, it helps to see if that place has such a guardian.
And sometimes spirits survive so long they become great powers.
ADDED: Greer had an interesting idea on this week’s Ecosophia comments, that avatar’s of species is an office not an individual.
Much like Tim Allen assumes the role of Santa upon the death of the previous office holder in the movie series “The Santa Clause”, Greer proposes that from time to time the spirit who is the avatar of Bear, Owl or Mugwort moves on and another spirit, perhaps from that time and culture, is picked to fill the office.
That would make much sense. Hecate who began as a Asia Minor hearth goddess, moved on into Greece and the Roman pantheons. Perhaps each time she moved into a larger role, her current spirit left and a new one took her office.
The Truth Behind The Legends:
Once you feel you are getting the attention of a major deity or species avatar as an Ally or a Patron, you will want to spend some time reading the popular legends and myth of that spirit.
Remember something, all the bits of a myth or a legend began as just what one person found when they interacted with that spirit. They told someone else about the experience, who told someone else. At some point another person had an experience with the same spirit and added their information to the growing body of legend.
Your interaction may be different. No, your interaction WILL be different to some degree. Spirits interact with each of us as individuals and as such may take on different aspects and characteristics, some of them unique to just you.
Have respect for how others see a spirit or practice their veneration to that spirit. Just because a spirit asks one person to make offerings of A and ask you to make offerings of B, doesn’t make either of you wrong.
Can I be a Christian (or Scientist) and still a Shaman?
Short answer is yes.
The longer answer is that religion and science both tend to feel they get to controls all the facets of Life when they really just deal with one of them. Greer discussed this:
The difficulty here is that the universe doesn’t just consist of material and spiritual worlds; there are realms between those two. Science is the appropriate way to understand things of the material world, and religion is the appropriate way to understand things of the spiritual world…but the world between these, the world that occultists divide into etheric, astral, and mental planes, is not well addressed by either science or religion.
That’s where occultism comes into its own. Occultism isn’t a religion, and it’s also not a science (in the modern sense of that latter word); it’s the collected body of knowledge and practice for understanding and dealing with the middle world I’ve just sketched out. It’s just as possible to be an occultist and a Christian at the same time as it is to be a scientist and a Christian at the same time, and it’s really unfortunate that so many Christians aren’t willing to consider that even as a possibility — even though there are plenty of examples of Christian occultists in the past and present alike.”
You can be a very knowledgeable scientist who looks at the Universe as a machine and yet go to Church and accept the wonder and the unknowingness that religion preaches. Try and separate the dogma of both science and religion, but remember that they both are jealousy mistresses.
The occult practices, like shamanism, exists in the third realm between these two, and tries to answer questions from that point of view. They don’t have to conflict unless you want them to.
How Can I Find My Spiritual Allies?
The method I originally used to guide me to spirits who might be open to helping me was a type of divination.
In the mid 1980s when I was first studying shamanism of the Native American variety, I ran across Jamie Sam’s book “Scared Path Cards : The Discovery of Self Through Native Teachings”. It was a set of divination cards but ones that used a Native American motif.
Later Jamie Sams with David Carson would create a second deck of cards, “Medicine Cards: The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals”. Unlike traditional divination decks, the cards were each of an individual animal who had some significance in Native teachings.
The book included several layouts for different divinations, including one which was meant to help you identify the spirit animal who was sitting in a particular area of your Life. I think that was the first deck to use animals like that, in a divinational role.
Now, as an quick observation, I’ve gone with friends to several Physic Fairs in my Life. Most include at least 2 or 3 people doing past life regressions. I always wondered why, when someone has a regression, their past life ends up being someone famous?
Why no scullery maids or pig farmers?
Sometimes, when I read the Internet blogs or watch the Youtube videos which discuss their Spirit Animals, it seems the same. People have the well known ones, of Eagle or Wolf, and not the minor ones like Ground Hog or Bass.
Yes, my two current spirit Allies are both well known Native spirits but my original divination with the Medicine Cards included others less well known. I also had Turkey, Grouse, Moose, Rabbit and Deer as well as a few more well known like Hawk and Buffalo.
Its ok to be ordinary sometimes, there is power in the under brush too.
A quick look at Amazon shows many more books and divination decks which use animal spirits now, so take your time, review them. See if you can’t get to a occult shop and look at them. Find one deck which speaks to you and try it.
Though don’t over look what the Signs are telling you too. Look at what animals you keep seeing in your own life.
I would also highly recommend the book “Neolithic Shamanism” by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova. They expand the field of spirits that you might want to work with tremendously, discussing both the major Spirits of Sun and Moon (which differ from gods with a solar or lunar aspect), the Elemental Spirits like Fire, Earth, Water and Air, as well as our Ancestral Spirits, who are important in their own way.
Their writing introduced me to the green wrights of the plant world, which Mugwort is among. They are powerful and ancient.
Why Do Spirits Help Us?
Short answer, I don’t know.
Longer answer, I suspect that the act of venerating them by us, feeds them in some way, (see the next section) but I’m sure its more than that.
I volunteer at an animal shelter here in St Louis. We take in cats and dogs who are found on the street, abandoned or whose owners can no longer care for them. Why do I do this when it costs me time and money to do it, and you could argue doesn’t benefit me?
That I like these animals and want to see them cared for and eventually to find new homes is a big part of it. I suspect that for the spirits who help humans and shamans, its something of the same. They like us and want to see us succeed and do better with our Lives.
Are Some Spirits Evil?
Depends on what you mean by evil. Again from Greer:
“A great deal of Christianity remains stuck in a quasi-dualist worldview in which every spiritual entity is either an angel or a demon — that is, either a servant or an opponent of the Christian god. That impressively narrow view isn’t the worldview of classic occultism (and it’s not well supported by the data from human spiritual experience worldwide, either). To occultists, the cosmos is full of a vast profusion of spiritual beings, most of which are serenely uninterested in human beings and their concerns.
In the cosmos, there are certain beings who, under some circumstances, prey on human beings. Are they all servants of One Big Bad Guy? No. As Eliphas Levi pointed out a long time ago, unity is a divine characteristic, and the most notable common factor of the patterns of behavior we call “evil” is that they conflict with one another. So instead of a Satanic “Lowerarchy,” in C.S. Lewis’ phrase, that end of the realm of spirits is a vast penumbra of vague, quarreling, dissentient beings pursuing their conflicting goals at each others’ expense — and occasionally at ours.”
He goes on to explain:
“Malign spiritual entities tend to be attracted to one of two broad patterns of consciousness and behavior, which Rudolf Steiner called “Ahrimanic” and “Luciferic” respectively. Ahrimanic evil is the kind that focuses on mindless wallowing in sensory cravings. Luciferic evil is the kind that focuses on glorifying the ego at everyone else’s expense. It’s very common for people to fall into one in the course of rejecting the other — thus, for example, a lot of the people who are quick to condemn sexual excess (an Ahrimamic habit) are basking in the imagined glory of their own superior virtue (a Luciferic habit).”
So yes there are spirits out there who can harm you. No, they aren’t doing it to be “evil”, no more than when I eat a steak I’m being evil to that cow. Though the cow clearly gets the raw end of the deal.
That there are spirits out there whose interactions with us can be harmful, is one of the big reasons I believe a shaman needs an Ally or two. That more intimate relationship can be a source of protection for you. There’s someone out there watching your back.
When we get to the “Working With Energy” section on shielding, we will discuss some ways to protect yourself from such spirits. In the mean time, read this thread by Greer:
Greer has decided to continue his discussion on his Ecosophia blog. Read it with a focus on what he says about spirits.
We’ll look at this further in two weeks. Next week we get back to energy work.
It is tempting when discussing the subject of Spirits to begin with the most basics of questions: Do they exist and how did they come to be?
Those two questions have filled hours upon hours of discussion, and made for literally libraries of books and papers. Its led to arguments, fights and even wars between people with different opinions on these questions.
Are these the important questions though?
I have very little idea of just what “gravity” IS. I’ve read scientific papers and research by many people with much more learning than I. All seem to claim some truth and yet they all differ.
Though I don’t need to understand what gravity is, nor where it comes from to work with its effects and use it to make something happen, do I?
Humans have a long history of practical knowledge of how to use something, while not knowing just what that something is. We sailed the oceans without understanding the atmospheric forces which created those winds. Shamans are like those old seafarers. We watch and learn the ways of our occult oceans, study them when they are calm and when they are angry. Sometimes we pray for their help and sometimes we get it. Sometimes we don’t.
The beings that make up the many spirit realms are like gravity for a shaman. The “why and how” they exist, are less important as the fact that they indeed “do exist”.
Remember my earlier definition of what a shaman is: “Someone who specifically communicates with the Spirits. Who learns what the Spirits want from us, learns how the Spirits wish to interact with us and learns how to placate these Spirits and seek their help.”
There is no “why or how” in that definition. They exist. They have rules and they have preferences. They have ways they want us to behave when asking for their help. They have ways they interact with us and ways they would rather we not do.
A shaman needs to learn to accept that and save the academic questions of how and why, for those barbecues with friends on a warm Summer evening. Get drunk and argue how many Spirits can dance on the head of a pin until the Moon comes up. Then in the morning, wake up and get back to practical matters.
When dealing with Spirits, you will find they will interact in your Life in several different yet familiar roles.
Humans are “social animals” and we form relationships. It is perhaps our defining characteristic. Above our courage and our curiosity. We form relationships with each other and we form them with species beyond our own. Ask a person who shares their life with a pet or raises animals for food.
We also form relationships with the Spirits.
Now, I want to step back for a moment and use a real world example to help illustrate the types of relationships I have with Spirits. The example I will use is my past work experience during my Life.
Like many of my age (I’m in my early 60s) I have spent much of my Life working in manufacturing and industry. I have primarily been a skilled machine operator. Means I made things with my hands.
Such work is less common today. We’ve off shored out ability to make things as a Nations, to our loss I believe. We’ve gone from dreaming that “We” could do anything, to a country who says “Welcome to Walmart”.
Still even in the service industry and casual retail, the relationships I have had with my fellow employees is pretty much the same.
My last employment was with a company which sold metal. We handled everything from coat hanger wire to beams of steel used in bridges. We were one of 60 branches, in a much larger company and had about 50 people working there. My job was as a saw operator. Our company would sell full bars of metal but would also custom cut those bars to a required length if you wanted.
The primary relationship was between me as an employee and someone else who held a supervisory role, who was in a dominate role and whose decisions affected me. I was lucky, especially in my last job, in that I had a friendly relationship with the two people who were my immediate supervisor and his boss, our Plant Manager. We even went out for food and beer as a group sometimes.
That familiarity though didn’t mean I thought we were on the same level of power and interaction. I knew that if either of them told me to do something, then I was supposed to do it. True, I would often disagree and tell them why I thought their command wasn’t going to accomplish what they wanted. Still they had the final word on it.
Then there were other people, fellow employees who I had a inter-connective relationship with. How they worked directly affected my own work. A good example was the other saw operator James. He and I worked third shift together. We would interact and work together in a way that would assist us each and get our commonly required jobs done. We also developed a good solid personal relationship as well.
Beyond James, there were two other people who worked directly with me. One person who ran a forklift to retrieve the material we both would cut, and return it to storage when I was done. A second person was responsible for packaging up our finished product and getting it to the truck area for that night’s loading.
Those two I most directly worked with but we had a more top/down relationship. They serviced my needs. We had another 6-8 people on that shift who would handled the truck loading. My interaction with them was mostly incidental and more along the line of me providing them with things to load.
That was what I would call my “Work Ecology”.
There was a fourth category of people in that ecology, the people who also worked at our branch, but did so on first and second shift, as well as the sales staff and secretaries. They are the ones you barely interact with.
Much like most spirits.
Just as I had people I worked with in various capacities, as a shaman I have a “Spirit Ecology” too.
For our purposes of discussion on this blog going forward, I will categorize the spirits I work with regularly as falling into three main categories; Servants. Allies and Patrons.
There is a fourth, which are the many spirits in the World who I will never interact with and who don’t really want to interact with humans either.
(There is a fifth category, of spirits who interact with me but in a unhealthy way. We’ll talk about that category another time.)
This isn’t meant to imply that the spirits themselves recognize these categories, just that much like my earlier post on “What is Shamanism”, establishing a common framework of concepts between you the reader and I the writer on the categories of occult workers, will make discussing more complicated ideas easier and more clear.
For the rest of this post I will talk about the roles each category has and how a shaman interacts with each.
At the most casual level, there are spirits who a shaman will interact with who do things for you, like my forklift operator or packager. I call these spirits “Servants”.
When talking about magical servants, probably the most well known spirit that comes to mind are the Djinn.
From Barbara Eden’s character in “I Dream of Genie” to the recent movie “Aladdin”, the Djinn have become synonymous with spiritual servants capable of giving people their fondest desires and wishes. The real story about this spirit and its kind is much more complicated than that.
Notice I use the word servant and not slave.
Slaves don’t get paid, but Servants do. And have an attitude to boot. Anyone who has watched the BBC drama “Downton Abbey” knows you piss off the servants at your peril. Unhappy servants may just up and leave at the worse moment. Angry servants can do much worse. They know your secrets.
Spirits, while they can be compelled and even forced to do things by someone skilled and powerful enough, have a long memory. Don’t ever get on the bad side of a spirit if you can possibly avoid it. Its much better to establish a cordial relationship with the spirits you work with.
(We will though discuss what to do if you do end up pissing off a spirit in another blog post. Its ugly and dangerous but can be handled if you keep your head.)
A better example for this type of relationship would be the Spirit of Squirrel as Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova talk about in their book “Neolithic Shamanism”, which I highly recommend for your library and the way that a shaman may interact with spirits.
In Norse mythology, the Great World Tree Yggdrasil is managed by three animal spirits, Eagle at the top, a Dragon at the bottom and in the middle a Squirrel named Ratatosk, whose job it was to take messages back and forth between the two and among the other residents of the Nine Worlds. Ratatosk in his journeys has learned the nooks and crannies, the paths both obvious and hidden among the branches. He knows and he notices.
So a shaman who needs to find something hidden might then petition Ratakosk with offerings of nuts and fruit, to see if he would lend his skill.
(The methods of petitioning spirits is a subject for a whole series of post.)
Other spirits are known for different skills and abilities. Knowing which ones to approach is important. Also, remember even a minor spirit, if their dominion fits your needs can become very important. And a powerful spirit once worshiped as a god, might be needed rarely and treated as a servant but with huge respect.
I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Judika Illes’ “Encyclopedia of Spirits” and adding it to your library. Its a huge volume of over 1000 pages and covers many of the spirits that are open to interacting with humans, their history and lineage, as well as things they like and ways to approach them.
An active shaman may have many spirits which they interact with on the occasional basis. That relationship will probably be very transactional. You have a job and need their help just for that job. That’s fine with spirits. They are old and wise and have seen us humans come and go. As long as we treat them with respect, they are fine with that.
Though if you find yourself returning to a certain spirit, developing a relationship beyond the one night stand, then you may want to take it further.
Just as I had a interdependent relationship with James, the other saw operator at my previous employer, which was both work related as well as personal, I have several spirits who I have similar relationships with.
I call these spirits my “Allies”.
The interaction I have with these spirits goes beyond the mere transactional nature that I have with spirits like Squirrel, into a more deeper and meaningful relationship. At times, I ask for favors unable to pay. At others, I make offerings while having not asked for anything in the recent past.
It reminds me of a good friend and our monthly lunches. We may pretend to keep track of whose turn it is to pay but not with any seriousness.
I have two spirits who have been with me from my first journey into shamanism in the late 80s. I have a third Ally I have recently approached and who I’m just beginning to work with. Maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t. That is the way of such things.
The first of my Allies is Bear. He is the protector of my Male side, carrying my courage and warrior spirit.
Now for a long while Bear was in the background of my life as I neglected my shamanism studies but a few years back as I began to re-look at them, he returned in the form of a small stuffed animal found laying in a store parking lot. He seemed to know I was again in need of guidance. Now he sits on the dash board of my car and protects me when I’m out and in the World.
(Yes, Spirits can come into your Life in very strange ways.)
Bear is there to teach the power of Introspection. How to take all the knowledge and experiences you have gotten this past year and then seek the quiet of the Sacred Cave to learn from it. To accomplish the goals and dreams we have, you have to learn to be quiet.
The Sacred Cave is the entrance to the Dream Lodge and the Vision Quest. It is there that the shaman journeys to Realms of the Spirits, the Lower World and the Upper World as well as to the many others states of consciousness.
Remember though, Viking Berserkers looked to Bear as an ally. Bear can be fierce and fight without worrying about the consequences to themselves or their enemies. A good ally, a dangerous enemy.
My second old Ally is Owl.
Now don’t think the order I post them implies one is more important than the other. Both spirits are of equal respect and utility.
Unlike Bear’s recent humorous return, Owl came into my life in a more traditional way, with the gift of her body and her feathers. During a trip to Texas in the mid 80s, I came across an dead owl on the side of the road. Birds, especially night birds like owls, can confuse the glare of on coming headlights for prey, swoop down and then be hit and killed.
By “dropping her robe” as she did, Owl said quite loudly “I am going to be in your Life now.”
Owl teaches how to see the unseen and the truths people wish to keep hidden. With her as an Ally, its hard for you to be deceived. You can seem to have a special ability to know a person better than they do themselves.
Those who walk in the night and along the out of the way places, like witches and shamans are often protected by Owl. Remember she is a mighty predator and travels the places others won’t. She can see clearly even in the darkest night as her feathers silently carry her to her prey.
One of those feathers is on the bush hat I wear sometimes, in a place of honor and respect. I am reminded of her power every time I see it.
She is the “Night Eagle”.
Quick Note: Yes, many spirits are usually either male or female. While all spirits are shape shifters, they do tend to have preferences in the way they present themselves to humans. And the more well known ones, have a long history and lineage. If you have a spirit come to you out of the blue, still be prepared to spend a lot of time learning about them.
If you are trying to establish a relationship with a spirit on your own uninvited, be doubly prepared to spend the time and effort to learn their ways.
When first starting out, people often focus just on the animal spirits or the higher ones, which were worshiped in the past as gods. They shouldn’t. Spirits are in everything. The mountains and the rivers, the forests and the lakes. And especially plants and trees.
One of the oldest of plants is Grandmother Mugwort.
(You will often find that shamans add honorifics, like grandfather or grandmother to especially old spirits. Very important ones, like the Sun and the Moon, will be addressed as Father or Mother. Spirits are our family and you should treat them as such.)
Mugwort is of the family Artemisia, which includes a wide variety of perennial (they grow back next year) plants, who are aromatic (smells highly) and who have a wide variety of uses for humans, from culinary to medicinal. Her relationship with humans is ancient.
Shamans on every continent have learned that plants of this family, when burned will clear away negative energy. They bless a space and make it sacred. They are often used as incense and smudges.
The honorific Grandmother is not out of place for this spirit. She is lunar, of feminine nature but one of immense age. Imagine an old fashion housefrau, armed with her formidable broom, sweeping out the bad energy from the space you want to work in. And like that grandmother, not one you would want to cross but having seen it all, she will often let you make your own mistakes.
Useful for shamans, teas made from this herb can bring about vivid and prophetic dreams.
Mugwort seems to be a spirit which is open to relationships, though rare of really personal ones. As a protective spirits, she’s one that I thought would be better as a Ally and so I’m working at that.
Those are the three I have at the moment.
Entering into a relationship with a spirit who becomes your Patron is perhaps one of the most intimate and personal things you will do as a shaman. Beyond the kind you will have with a life partner or spouse. You can always keep secrets from a wife or husband. With the Spirits there are no secrets. They will know you like no other.
Most of the time, you do not seek out a spirit to be a patron. They find you and claim you for their own.
For those of us not chosen this way, its on us. I liken it to a seduction but that wouldn’t describe the true courtship that happens. Those of us not chosen, can develop deep relationships with spirits but it takes time and hard work.
My only current Patron and one I love dearly is Grandmother Spider.
Native Americans say that she taught humans writing and letters with her web. She was there at the beginning. As a writer of many decades, when I reach a point I can’t write, I pray to her for inspiration. She is behind me when I type and whispers in my ear as I fall asleep.
She is my constant Companion.
Grandmother Spider gave humans weaving as well. Before that our ancestors wore furs and skins. Clothing perhaps in a way made our civilization happen. We do like getting dressed up, lol.
When I sew, infrequently now, her hands guide mine.
On a bigger picture, her body represents the concept of Infinity, the hourglass of Time and Space.
As my Patron, Grandmother Spider reappeared to me this Summer. I noticed while taking my morning shower, a small spider had taken up residence in a nook of my bathroom window. I offered her insects.
She grew bigger.
As best as I can tell, she is a variety of the North American yellow sack spider. A common household spider which feeds on small insects and doesn’t harm humans unless we accidentally intrude on her space and even then her bite doesn’t do much more than a tiny bit of pain. They have evolved to live among us.
In the Fall, when it began to get colder, I bought a small habitat at a pet store, a plastic aquarium tree and black pebbles for the floor. With respect I asked her to move to a new home.
Several times a night I offer her small insects I find in my home. Often they fall right through her web. Sometimes they stick but then get loose. Sometimes she ignores them entirely. About once every 5-6 days she accepts my offerings and eats.
She is my Patron and gives me her protection and her wisdom.
I have two other spirits, old and wise which I’ve begun approaching recently.
One is Bast, the Egyptian goddess of cats. I’ve had a cat companion before and recently after her death, began volunteering at a local pet shelter. At the moment I have three foster cats, and am praying to Bast for all the help I can get to help them find their forever home.
The second is Hecate and she deserves a blog post just on her alone.
Whether these two will end up being a Patron or just Allies will be seen.
The World around us is old, dark and ancient. We have forgotten that.
The false veneer of our new mundane Industrial and Scientific Age has made it seem to most of us that humans are the masters of all we see. That things our ancestors knew as truth for thousands of years are but childish tales.
That’s not true.
See I know that there are monsters in our World and we sometimes we are but prey to them. As much as we might pretend, tell me if at midnight on a cold full moon, do you not shiver when you see a shadow move.
Maybe its just a cat on a nocturnal hunt. Or maybe its something more dangerous.
If you want to explore that old occult and ancient world our Ancestors knew then the first thing you must learn is how to protect yourself.
Humans have powerful personal energy that for most of us goes untapped and ignored. For those who want to develop their occult abilities, like shamans, you must learn how to tap into that power. To harness it to your will and to your purpose.
Our bodies are a collections of shells. Mind, Body, Soul, Arua, even your own Magnetic Field, which yes you generate. What you think of as a distinctive and solid body with limits is anything but. Those shells extends deep into the physical body and extend out beyond it as well.
Energy flows through those shells as currents and patterns that are difficult to describe to someone who has never experienced them. Yet as you work with your own, and learn to harness them you will see.
Its a unfortunate fact that our mundane language does poorly in giving us the ways to describe what it happening in the occult, so bear with me. Up may seem like down, sideways may seem round. Square may seem linear. Its an imperfect process. Just go with it for now (grins). I’d like to say it gets better but it doesn’t.
Occult lore and practices are as diverse and varied as there are cultures in the World. Wiccans and magicians, dervishes and wizards, they all arose when humans had settled in towns and villages. When religion got organized and built churches.
Shamans though, are of the most ancient school of the occult. We practiced our trade in caves where our fellow tribe wore furs from cave bear and saber tooth lion, and our members painted the images of deer, antelope and oxen on the cave walls to bring our hunters luck.
They worshiped the most oldest of Patrons then. Sun, Moon and the Stars.
We’ll talk more about the Realm of the Spirits in a later blog post, for now lets discuss working with Energy.
Before we start, a explanation and a brief disclaimer: The order I’m going to teach you to work with energy will be a bit different from the traditional. Its not the order I learned, but I’ve come to realize some techniques work better if you have a working knowledge of another technique first.
The order I will use is:
- Centering Your Energy
- Working with Psi Balls and Energy Shapes
- Sensing Other Energy Fields
- Grounding and Channeling
- Personal Shielding
I’ll explain more on why I use this order as we go along in this series of posts.
FINDING YOUR CENTER:
The first technique in working with energy is “centering”.
When we speak of “centering” we mean the technique where you collect the flow of energy inside yourself, and collect it into a spot, typically its a point around your navel for men or just a few inches below that for a women.
One way to visualize this skill is to image your energy as the air in a room, centering it compresses that air into a balloon.
I wasn’t taught centering as an occult skill. I learned as a technique in a class on Drama and Acting when I was much younger to help you get a better feel for your body. As an actor that is important.
When I was in my early teens, I joined a amateur theater troop. I didn’t have the guts to be an actor, but I was happy to be one of the backstage crew that helped put on the play. As I remember it, I ended up doing sound effects, like door bells and telephone rings.
Our troop leader was big on team building exercises. You know, like the “close your eyes and fall backwards, your team mate will catch you” kind of things.
One Saturday, he brought in a woman who had us all lay on our backs on the floor of the theater. She had us close our eyes, then begin to imagine our bodies in our minds. To imagine the energy within each of us, as a swirling flight of luminescent light racing around inside of us.
Perhaps she was an occult practitioner, perhaps she just learned this technique as a way to get in touch with your body.
She said then, “Imagine then taking the energy running around in one finger, and slowly pull it back, letting that energy add itself to the small spot in your stomach. Imagine then the energy in each finger and each toe, making its way to that same spot in your stomach. Once that energy has settled into the spot, do the same with your hands and your feet.”
Slowly she walked us through taking all the swirling energy of our bodies and collecting it into a small glowing spot in our stomachs.
(I think she had soft music playing but don’t remember.)
Its hard to describe the sensations you have when you do this. There is a floating feeling like you aren’t really on the floor anymore. A limpness yet serious silence to your being. And yet your senses seem to slowly seep out past the boundaries of your body.
After a few minutes, the guest speaker had us slowly allow that energy to return. First in the center, then slowly to the extremities of the arms and legs, until our bodies were full again of our energy.
Truthfully, I can remember being a bit groggy after it. I can remember having a feeling of beyondness to my body, like the energy inside it extended outward past the boundaries of my physical body.
I was a member of that theater troop for about a year, before my family moved to California, and I meet my witch. That’s a story for another day.
PRACTICAL EXERCISE #1:
I’ve done the previous exercise many times since I learned it then.
Now over the course of my life, and after much reading I think what this exercise is best for, is to find the “energy center” of your body. Traditionally for women, this has been the point just above their sex. For larger women, and most men, it is a point around their navel.
For beginners do the following exercise over a course of several weeks, and pick a mental point upper or lower of that traditional point, and seeing how your body feels as you collect your energy into that point, and how it makes you feel after the exercise. Do you feel centered afterwards or off centered? Once you have found your personal spot, you can move forward with your training.
I like to do this exercise during the late morning or early afternoon. If you are tired, this exercise can put you into a light sleep sometimes. You should be rested and if you have eaten, be sure its light or just a snack. Hold off on a lot of fluids too. Take a shower or short bath and don clean comfortable clothing. I tend to be barefoot because I like to wiggle my toes and fingers as I begin to reconnect with my edges.
(Use the restroom too, nothing kills the mood of a exercise like the need to pee in the middle of it, lol.)
I do this exercise on my bed, but you can do it on the floor, or outside on a blanket on the ground. The inner world is more important than the outer in this.
You should have some music available, something soft and without distracting vocals. Even environmental sounds like ocean waves or a rain storm work (but not alot of lightning). I find that this helps quiet my inner voices and I can focus more on the exercise than last weeks arguments at work or bills needed to be paid.
(I actually have a set of Viking ambiance tracks I found off of Youtube that I use when I need to reconnect with my center which I play. The deep base track seems to help center my attentions.)
Before you begin, do some stretching and then say a short prayer out loud asking for guidance and protection. As a beginning shaman you won’t have established relationships with spiritual allies yet, so I recommend you make your prayers to your ancestors. Family is important in working as a shaman. Even if you haven’t begun to honor them, your Ancestors are still watching over you.
Some incenses or light smudging is ok, but stay away from lighting candles or other sources of energy (salt lamps). This can distract your sensitivity to your energy.
Start the music and lay down on your back. A small pillow to rest your head is fine. Put your arms at your sides and spread your legs slightly. Just relax at first and breath slowly in and out.
Wiggle your toes and fingers if you want. Try to feel any stress or tension you have and let it slowly seep out of you, sinking into the ground. As you do, begin to feel the energy within you. How it slowly spins in rivers and flows, from the tips of your fingers into the heart of your chest and head. To some it appears as golden and glowing, but I’ve had people tell me to them it was like deep water, dark blue with deep currents. Don’t make judgement calls about how you see it.
For some, you may not even “see” the flows, but instead sense it as waves of sound, or even smell. Much is made over the skill of “visualization” but not all of us relate to the World though sight, and that is ok too.
For a few minutes just watch the flow of energy, how it moves through your body and how it feels. You might even see places in your body which are like rocks in a river, where the energy ripples and goes around. Make note of where this is but don’t dwell on it at this time. (we’ll get to blockages later.)
Once you are comfortable with the flow of energy within you, begin by seeing in your mind the fingers on your hands. Slowly wiggle them and see how the energy changes and moves. As you do, imagine the energy leaving them. Like the tide, gently lapping away bit by bit.
Then imagine the energy leaving your hands. Toes too. Begin to pull the flow of your energy from the extremities and into your body.
You may find that the cloud of energy inside yourself grows brighter (or darker for those who saw it in opposite) as you collect your energy. That’s good. At some point, you may begin to see a focus develop, usually around your stomach. Let it progress naturally. Often your body will find its center for you.
If not, use the point you had decided on at the start of this exercise. Don’t worry, if you are off, you’ll learn and correct it. Continue to pull back your body’s energy until its in your stomach, chest and head.
Begin then to let the energy in your head drain into your core. If you’ve had a center point develop, see your consciousness descend from your forehead to your stomach. This can be dis-conjoining, or even a little frightening. Or it can be peaceful. Or beautiful.
Don’t force it, in these first few tries. If you are feeling uncomfortable, then stop. If you can, note where your center sits. Is it above your sex, in your navel, perhaps above that.
Let the energy in your body settle into that one small spot, your energy center. Try and see how that feels. Let yourself experience it for a few minutes, then slowly step back.
Begin to take your energy and expand it. Let the tide return to wet the sands of your body. Feel it radiate out slowly, filling first your arms and legs and then the fingers and toes. When you have filled your body with your energy again, open your eyes slowly.
Be warned, the first few times you do this exercise, the moment you open your eyes can have all sorts of strange impacts on you. From a room filled with glowing balls, to reality vibrating to an unheard song, to even being temporarily blind. Don’t fear, it will pass. Take your time and just breath.
Once you are ready, sit up. Try to stand if you can. You’ll be wobblie I can guarantee you. Thank your ancestors for their protection. If you can, write down what you experienced while its fresh in your mind.
I often take a long shower afterwards, something about the feel of the water on my skin seems to bring the various parts of me, physical, astral, and soul back into sinc.
Now if during this exercise you didn’t see a clear “center”, then here is a work around.
Find yourself a fist size rock, something with a bit of weight but not overly heavy. Find a rock that speaks to you because this rock will be important to you. If you are having trouble, make a prayer to the Earth, asking its guidance and help in your quest. I’ve found that the spirits of stone look kindly on humans.
In a big city this can be hard. Try the river or streams near you. Water and stones together are ideal for energy work.
Do the exercise again, but place the stone on your stomach at your navel (or for women about half way from the navel to your sex). As you collect your energy, you should feel the dent in your body from the stone. This will usually help your body’s energy find a center. Now it may want to coalesce above or below the point you have placed the stone on your body. That’s ok. Take a few days off, return and do the exercise again placing the stone at the new location. See if the weight of the stone settles at the point of your body’s energy center. If it does, then you’ve found it.
Once this is done, don’t just toss the stone into your garden. It is your first “Ally” and deserves your respect. It will be there for you if you want.
I find that a small offering, perhaps of rum or other spicy alcohol is appropriate. Pour a small bit for you and pour some over the stone. Drink the alcohol yourself, while offering the taste of it through your mouth to the stone. Put it in a place of respect in your home and don’t be surprised if the spirit of the stone visits you in your dreams.
For those of you who found their center easily and don’t need a stone ally, don’t fret, there will be plenty of chances to acquire other allies going forward when we discuss “Allies and Patrons”.
My name is David Trammel and I run the sustainable living website Green Wizards. We are an outgrowth of the popular (and now closed) blog named “The Arch Druid Report” written by author, scholar, historian, political commentary and yes, Archdruid, John Michael Greer.
(He now posts on the blog Ecosophia)
He came to the conclusion that our present civilization, like the many Empires before it, is headed towards a economic, social and political collapse which will slowly over the next few centuries lead to another Dark Age. That in the near term, over the next century, pressures of resource depletion, agricultural over farming, peak oil and yes, climate change, will cause a stair step regression to a tech level more like the 18th century than the 22nd.
Greer proposed that people should look back at the first oil crisis of the 1980s, when rising gas prices made people look at ways to conserve energy and live with less. He wrote a book on what was then called, “appropriate technology”, called Green Wizardry. In it he said this:
“One of the things the soon-to-be-deindustrializing world most needs just now is green wizards. By this I mean individuals who are willing to take on the responsibility to learn, practice, and thoroughly master a set of unpopular but valuable skills – the skills of the old appropriate tech movement – and share them with their neighbors when the day comes that their neighbors are willing to learn. This is not a subject where armchair theorizing counts for much – as every wizard’s apprentice learns sooner rather than later, what you really know is measured by what you’ve actually done – and it’s probably not going to earn anyone a living any time soon, either, though it can help almost anyone make whatever living they earn go a great deal further than it might otherwise go. Nor, again, will it prevent the unraveling of the industrial age and the coming of a harsh new world; what it can do, if enough people seize the opportunity, is make the rough road to that new world more bearable than it will otherwise be.”
If you are worried about our Future, and our children’s Future, please check the site out.
This blog will not focus on those subjects, except in occasional minor ways. Instead we will follow my journey into becoming a practicing “shaman” and spirit worker.
More background: I just turned 62 in July of this year. Might seem a bit late in life to begin exploring alternatives to established religions but my family was never particularly religious in an organized way.
And as a way too intelligent kid, I was used to exploring the boundaries, with encouragement of my parents. As I remember it my first introduction to the occult arts was a paperback book with a title like “Love Magic” in either sophomore or junior year of high school. Any shy and smart kid will always look to getting some advantage with the opposite sex, lol.
We moved a lot while I was growing up, my Father worked for McDonnell Aircraft Company (later McDonnell Douglas), primarily in their space program. He was John Glenn’s flight chief on his historic first flight into space. You could say I was raised on the idea that the world was larger than people thought.
In 1975, we moved to Camirillo, California so my father could work on a US Navy missile project. The town is north of Los Angeles and near Oxnard. At the time it was a farming town with suburban housing divisions sprouting up between the fields. In my then senior year, I meet a young woman named Mary Beth. We hit it off and while she wasn’t exactly a “girl friend” she turned into a real friend.
Mary Beth was also old Wiccan, in that her mother and aunt were Wiccan. Her grand mother and her great grandmother had been Wiccan. Mary Beth had a beat up VW Beetle and knew where all the occult shops were in Los Angeles. We spent many a weekend visiting them.
Wicca was interesting for me, but never quite clicked.
At June after graduation, my family moved back to St Louis, Missouri. I kept in touch with Mary Beth via letters (yes we wrote those things back then). I went into a local college on Physics major, but after a year and a half had teen aged rebellion, and joined the Army. Told the recruiter “I wanted a job that I didn’t have to think”.
Fast forward 4 years and I was back in college on the Government’s dime via the GI Bill. I didn’t want to be in a lab any more, and unsure of a major I took a bunch of unrelated course. One I took was on “Central and South American Prehistory.” The professor was amazing and I took most of the course he lectured in.
About this time America began rediscovered its Indian history.
Now I’m from Oklahoma, specifically being born in Muskogee. Yes, I am a “Okie from Muskogee”. Being Oklahoman born, your family almost always has some Indian forbearers and relatives.
Then “Dances With Wolves” came out.
It wasn’t the first movie to explore the past practices of Shamanism, and truly didn’t do that much. Instead it gave Americans, who I think at the time were yearning for a simpler life something. Remember by the 1990s, the counter culture hippies of the 60s were turning 50. They had sold their revolution for a corner office and a six figure salary.
American Indian spirituality and the idea of a reconnection to the Earth had a powerful impact on me. And yet, it is a spirituality of conflict, dominance and power in many ways. It is a warrior tradition.
At about the same time, I ran across the book Urban Shamanism by Serge Kahili King. Unlike American Indian shamanism, King’s training was of a tradition of Hawaiian adventurers. Less about power and more about cooperation.
It offers too a amazing conceptual world view and way of thinking that while I have moved on past his style of shamanism I still use and find helpful in my day to day life, both practical and spiritual. I will discuss his framework in several future posts because I find it fits the real world and the spirit world better than anything I’ve found.
Where I find King’s style lacking is that he ascribes the powers that shamanism deals with as more human centric and derived from human consciousness rather than having an outside realm of actual beings.
Greer has written on the pathways of the sparks of Life take to reach enlightenment, and I believe that when I interact with a spirit, I am dealing with a distinct and individual entity. One that can be either a friend or an enemy, and which decides for itself which it will be.
What we do then on this blog is follow my journey into a relationship with those same spirits. In a path of discovery. And at times I’m sure, a path of frustration too but one that will eventually lead to reward.
We will explore this further over the coming years.