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.