My Spiritual Path and what it Entails
While I have studied many paths, I have embraced the term shamanic practitioner. I’m going to discuss some of what this means to me, and briefly what it doesn’t mean. I do this so that I represent what I’m doing and what I stand for transparently, and also to hopefully educate some people. To be totally fair, the topic of shamanism in today’s culture versus its historical meanings deserves its own article which I will eventually write. For now, this will have to do.
Shamanism tends to get a strong reaction from people of either awe or criticism. It is why I didn’t use the word ‘shaman’ in any form in the name of my business because I was so afraid of criticisms, but in the end you need a word to convey things to people and that is the closest one in the English language that I know of to describe what I do.
My Path: What it is not
Although shamanism can conjure up images of Native American rituals, the word itself is not from that culture at all. In fact, I was taught that it is not proper to use that word for anyone in the Native American community. I do have some training from a Native American elder, however, what I offer here is things I learned over the years that is not Native American specific although there will be some influence as the teachings I received are very precious to me. When I say ‘shamanic healing’ I am not talking about a Native American practice.
Some may argue that some of what I have here is heavily Native American influenced, but historically totems, the medicine wheel, and other spiritual concepts are actually shared across many ancient cultures. When I say shared, I mean they all have versions of these things, but may have slightly different forms and beliefs. It is a pet peeve when people say Native Americans believed this or did that. Native Americans have different beliefs based on their region and tribal groups.
Medicine wheels are a great example. I’ve seen multiple tribal medicine wheels and they have different associations, and colors. All of them are traditional, but they are legitimately from different tribes. I have also seen medicine wheels that have the same structure as the Native American form (circle with a cross in it0 with different associations from the African, Germanic and Asianic regions.
Today’s shamanism is not the same as traditional spiritualities that many associate it with. My native teacher did not sit me down with a drum and tell me to do a certain beat to journey into another spiritual plane. I did learn certain beats for songs, but that is not the same. He did discuss incredibly taxing rituals and methods that were considered essential to life. Some of these put the lives of those practicing these ways at risk. What many refer to as shamanism is not the same as the hardcore practices of indigenous people although may have some influences.
What My Path Is
Today, shamanism has often become commercialized into a product that involves a specific form of drumming and set of techniques that often do not come from a specific culture and generally involve a lot of self-improvement techniques. While I am familiar with these and utilize them in my personal and commercial practices, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shamanism.
Shamanism to me goes much deeper and refers to my relationship with my Spirit. My teacher continually referred to the Spirits that work with us as “Spirit Friends.” So I pray to God daily, but I also talk to my Spirits daily. I have one altar, sometimes more, where I place on-going spiritual works, things that are important to me personally as well as spiritual offerings. My Spirit Friends offer my clients and I wisdom, healing and protection and they deserve to be honored.
Prayer is a huge part of my path. Often times this is done in private, but I have also participated and led rituals.
Spending time in nature has always been important to me. In college, I took classes on dendrology (the study of trees) and it helped me to get much closer to the plant people. Taking time to look at the tips of tree branches to see their buds, and studying tree bark really has changed how I’ve perceived trees. There are so many wonders in nature then people realize because they tend to go too fast. I’ve always been a slower moving person, and I don’t tend to like nature walks, as much as nature wondering. Even when standing still, there is so much in an area that I’m generally content just to take in all that there is to see in smaller areas because there is just so much to take in when using all of the senses.
In addition to studying the scientific names and structures of plants and trees, I have also spent many years studying the medicinal and magical properties of plants.
As a child, I spent hours watching documentaries on animals, and I’ve always loved animals of all sorts. It was natural for me to take an early interest in animal spirit guides. In 1998, I began studying animal spirit guides with a teacher that lasted just over a year. Almost daily I was required to do on-going homework assignments that really helped me to understand how to know the difference between signs and coincidences as well as gain an intimate knowledge of animal spirits. As I’ve spiritually developed I’ve learned a lot about reading signs.
I have experimented in several forms of divination including:
- Ceromancy: Studying the meaning of wax drippings from candles
- Oracle and Tarot Cards
- Dowsing: Using a pendulum
- Pyromancy: Divination by flame
I have also begun studying lithomancy (divination by stones) and palmistry.
Self-improvement, healing and dealing with the shadow self has also been part of my path. In helping myself I have developed greater understanding, compassion, and methods to help others who face similar issues. My entire life I have suffered from chronic health conditions that despite my best efforts are not curable. They have intimately shaped my life, spiritual practices, and healing journey. If you’d like to read an introduction about this, and why I feel like this has made me a better healer, read more here.
While many separate religion and spirituality, I do have both as part of my life, but my clients have come from many traditions and backgrounds. I grew up Lutheran, and continue to include Christian prayer and practices; although, I do not belong to any church or denomination.
I’ve also studied Wicca, Paganism, Druidism, Osage/Lakota Native American tradition and some hoodoo. I also am familiar with those in the otherkin and therianthrope community. This is a fringe community, but I’m choosing to mention this here in case there are those who identify with this community so they know I am knowledgable and safe to talk to about these related topics.
Because people’s spiritual paths are very personal to them, I try to speak to my clients using methodologies and vocabulary that most resonates with them. This is why you may see me write ‘the divine’ or generic words for God as some view the head of the universe as a Goddess to try to write to more people.
Despite having a varied background, I do try to remain respectful of each tradition and understand it as fully as possible integrating anything. There are things I have studied how to do, but will not do them for others.