If you’ve been reading about shamanism, and specifically Neoshamanism and core shamanism, you’ll often come across a particular word. Power. We all have it, we all use it and we all need it. It can often be difficult to describe what exactly power is. For those of us who are shamanic practitioners we work with it and utilize it for our benefits and the benefits of others. Our understanding of what power is comes from direct experience of using it. Some aching it to the broad term and definition of energy, and others tend to see it altogether as a separate thing. To be quite honest, describing what power is without a person having any sort of real experience with it is difficult. The understanding comes by using it.
However, in this blog post I will do my best to describe power, what it is, why we need it, where it comes from and how it is often used. Furthermore, we will delve deeper into what a power retrieval is and how it is incorporated in shamanic healing.
So, the first question is, what is power?
Energy, a typical term you’ll hear in New Age and modern psychic circles, is a broad category and can mean different things for different people. Many associate energy with vitality and your personal life force. This, for us in shamanism, refer to these type of energy as ‘essence.’ But energy can be manipulated and utilized to manifest goals, to help facilitate healing and to create changes. It can be stirred and called forward, and it’s this aspect of ‘energy’ that we would closer link to what we as shamanic practitioners often refer to as ‘power.’ Thus, energy for us anyways, and in my experience, is broken up into these two types.
Essence, which is our soul, and is our vital energy and life force. It’s what sustains us. When we lose a part of our soul we lose a part of this life force and vital energy. Power, on the other hand, is an expression of energy in that which we can harness and utilize. It’s what animates the world around us and fills it. Where essence is the vital force directly, power is what animates that vital force into existence and into motion. Thus, when we say we are powerless it means we are vulnerable to the world around us. We can pick up psychic gunk that needs to be removed else we may lose our essence–our life force.
Thus, power is what protects us from a spiritual standpoint. It’s what fills us, energizes us, gives us purpose, it’s what helps us move forward on our path but it’s also what protects us. Protects our vital force. It’s really as simple as that. Where this power comes from is what’s important to a shamanic practitioner. If a person isn’t filled with power the logical conclusion is that they no longer hold it. But where exactly does power come from then?
From a shamanic perspective it comes from a guardian spirit. When we are powerfilled, when we are power-full, we can resist intrusions of external forces. We feel energized, we feel full of ‘power,’ we are less prone to sickness, or illness, luck finds our way and the doors open. For those of us who are shamanic practitioners we work with this power to help heal, perform sacred ceremonies, to create changes in the world and to divine. For us, power comes from our helping spirits and more specifically from our guardian spirits that are there to protect our essence and our power.
When we have a guardian spirit we are full of life, our physical energy is increased and our ability to resist disease and illnesses is increased. Life moves smoother and easier. When we do not, we feel tired, depressed, perhaps more prone to illness and disease, we have many misfortunes and a lack of motivation. When people say they don’t have energy and it’s fairly consistent it’s usually a symptom of power loss. They no longer have the power of their guardian spirit filling them.
It is here that power retrieval is performed on behalf of a client. This is typically the very first kind of shamanic healing a new practitioner encounters and is taught. By having a guardian spirit we are capable of doing so much. By being power filled, though the intrusions remain until removed, a force field is erected preventing more from occurring and building. By learning to work with your guardian spirit, for example seeking healing, that guardian spirit can slowly teach or perform healing to remove these intrusions. Or, the client goes to a practitioner to remove these intrusions.
Generally speaking, if you need a power retrieval a shamanic practitioner will also be in need to do a shamanic extraction. A void was filled with spiritual intrusions and by removing them we fill this new void with power and vitality.
Guardian spirits take on many different forms, though typically a shamanic practitioner purposefully journeys to the Lowerworld (typically) to retrieve a very special kind of guardian spirit which we refer to as a power animal. There is a difference between a power animal and a helping spirit, or a guardian spirit and a helping spirit. A power animal is a specific type of guardian spirit in an animal form that comes to protect your power and your essence. They help you in your life and make life easier. And though helping spirits can and do give power and do help make life easier they are not guardian spirits that protect your power and your vitality. It’s a small difference but it’s an important one to understand and realize early on. Not all helping spirits are there you be a guardian spirit, to be a power animal, many come to support your work, to act as a guide or teacher, to help only for that instance but perhaps never again. Power animals, and guardian spirits, sign up to act as helping spirits but to also be a link and protector to your power.
They fill you with power and protect you from spiritual instrusions. They’re there for your needs and they require our attention. They require us to work them, to call on them, to merge and shapeshift, they require us to utilize their power because by doing so we are powerfilled and they also get to experience this Middleworld once more. It’s a symbiotic relationship that you share.
As you have probably already guessed a guardian spirit can be lost. It’s why we do power retrievals. Guardian spirits leave for a variety of reasons. They may leave because they have no more to teach you and it’s a natural departure but they can also leave because they’re unhappy and displeased with your behavior or lack of attention to them. This is why shamanic healing, in particular, integration is so important.
We integrate our helping spirits, and more specifically our power animals and guardian spirits, into our lives. We work in partnership with them. We utilize the power they give us for the betterment of ourselves and others in an ethical way. We listen to our guardian spirits and incorporate their vast wisdom that they bestow. If we don’t use our power, we lose our power. It’s not bothering our guardian spirits in particular when we call on them because we’ve had a bad day, or a long day and we just need to talk. Or calling on them because you need their assistance. They’ve signed up for this! They are here for you! They want you to use their power. This is why we, as shamanic practitioners in particular, work with very specific spirits. All loving and compassionate spirits, so that they are willing to work and willing to help without their own egos getting in the way.
When we incorporate a guardian spirit that is not particularly all loving or compassionate we run the risk of easily offending or insulting a spirit. They may demand more and be more insisting. The way they help may not necessarily be particularly helpful or useful. They might be overly protective and may harm others in that protection. It’s why we are so specific in the helping spirits we work with.
So what exactly is a power retrieval?
Essentially, a power retrieval is a retrieval of power. It’s as simple as that. It’s fairly easy to teach and learn thus it’s often the first kind of healing a shamanic practitioner learns. Typically, guardian spirits want to return and want to be integrated and incorporated into an individuals life. This is largely because it gives them a unique opportunity to experience this Middleworld again. If you’re working specifically with all loving and compassionate spirits (and don’t mistake those terms for fluffy and not willing to put you in your place, they will) they’re doing so because they want to do this. They want to do good and bring good into this world.
A shamanic practitioner journeys between the worlds with the specific intention to locate (or hunt if you will) a guardian spirit, generally in the form of an animal (referred to as a power animal). This power animal, or guardian spirit, is then brought back to the Middleworld and blown back into the client at certain parts of the body, and in particular the heart and head. The power is then sealed and the client is taught how to integrate and utilize the power they have received.
Sometimes I often get asked, why did I get this power animal?
It’s a hard question, and some shamanic practitioners will often times ask the power animal or guardian spirit why it’s returning. Some practitioners, including myself, leave it to other people to discover for themselves. I don’t need to know why a spirit is wanting to be a guardian spirit, especially if they’re an all loving and compassionate one. They’re coming back to help you, they’re coming back to restore well being, harmony and power. They’re coming back because there is something about you, in particular, that the spirit is seeing that you need and it’s coming back to bring it to you.
We live in a world where everything is ‘why’ and sometimes the answer simply is: it just is what it is.
People want big meaning and huge arrow signs and flashing lights, but in reality when a power animal or guardian spirit is returned the why isn’t important only that it was returned. That your power is returned. That your life improves because of this power. If you want to know why you can always ask, just don’t be surprised if and when the spirit shrugs its shoulder and says “I just did” or “I saw in you something of myself, so I came” or “There is something I need to teach you.”
We want all the answers, we want those answers desperately answered now. But sometimes, our helping spirits aren’t willing to answer whys. Not because they’re trying to trick or something of that nature. They’re doing it because you don’t need to know why. Sometimes you’re asking the wrong question, sometimes it’s “What are you bringing to my life?” or “What lessons are you here to teach me?” and even then sometimes the answer isn’t one we want to hear or were expecting. Sometimes the answer simply is: I’ve come to give you power.
In the end, power retrieval, guardian spirits and power are a vital practice to core shamanism, Neoshamanism and shamanism in general. It’s an integral aspect of this practice, though often times a subtle one. To gain any sort of real understanding of power one needs to work with it and their helping spirits who fill us with power.
So I leave you with this.
If you a have a power animal (or power animals) or guardian spirits, integrate them into your life. Show genuine gratitude for what they are giving to you. Learn to work those spirits, they are here to make your life better and easier. They are here to heal, to teach and to guide. I encourage people to talk with their helping spirits, to make them friends and partners in your life. Even though you may not see them, and even though you may not feel them, they are there. They’re helping you in your life and without them we may not even be here.