Power is one of those things that is difficult to describe and difficult to define to people who are not shamanic practitioners. That’s largely because power is something you experience and through that experience you gain an understanding of it. Power is, essentially, the gifts and blessings of Spirit. It is what fuels all things and animates it. It is different from essence, however. It is also different from the concept of energy that you will typically here about within New Age circles. That’s because power is quite expansive and incorporates various different things. It is elusive, and yet it is present in everything.
We all have power, some more than others. As a shamanic practitioner we fill ourselves with the power of our helping spirits and the stronger our relationship to them the stronger we become in turn. It is this power that we, as practitioners, are able to create shifts and changes in the lives of our community and practitioners. We become vessels for our helping spirits and the power they bring to a particular ceremony. This power is what enables us to do the healing work that we are able to do.
I wanted to reiterate what power is, here, because in today’s article we will be going over a simple–but powerful technique–known as passing of power, or simply passing power. This technique can be used for a variety of purposes, but generally speaking within a shamanic circle it is primarily used for healing. It can, however, be used to fill items with power and empower (or enliven them) these items for spiritual work. It’s how we intend to use this power that is the key.
Whenever we engage spirits, whether it be through the Soul Song, or Power Animal dance, a shamanic journey, singing power songs and dancing power dances, doing healing work or even simply praying, giving offerings and so forth what often times happens is that we are filled with power. In this process we sometimes get overflow, or overfilled with power, or we have enough to ‘share’ with others. We become an antennae or vessel for power to flow like a river.
We may experience this excess of power as tingling or heat in our hands, lightheaded, a sense of overwhelming energy, tingling over the body and so on. This energy can be shared or utilized towards the benefit of others or to help empower ceremonies. This exchange of energy is known as the passing of power.
Normally what happens is that after certain ceremonial procedures we have this excess energy that we can now then share. If there are multiple people present those who feel that they have power to pass stand in the center and those who would like to receive power (typically for healing) stand infront of these practitioners with their backs turned.
The practitioner who has the power then places their hand on the shoulders of the person wanting to receive power with the intention to give or pass power (sometimes with the intention for healing, sometimes more generic). This is where things get a little tricky, most people familiar with other healing modalities tend to want to stand there for five, ten or even fifteen minutes or more passing power.
This is not how this works. At all.
Power is a good thing, but it can also cause intrusions (intended or not). Each person receiving power will get exactly what they need. When we pass power we place our hands on the person (or object) intend for the power to be passed, but once the power has been given we remove ourselves from the recipient. This process is quick, and you’ll know when it’s time to remove your hands and that power has passed.
If we miss the mark or the calling that power has been passed we run the risk of two things:
- We risk hurting someone by sending them unnecessary power and this can cause spiritual intrusions. The amount of power they were intended to receive is no longer there, we are given excess and imposing our power unto another at this point.
- When power is passed and we continue the process we run the risk of not only potentially hurting someone, but we can also hurt ourselves. When power leaves us and we are still intending to send power (but the power of the spirit is gone) it then taps into our own personal reserves. We are essentially using our own power to help others, we can feel drained, lightheaded, potentially have a headache, ill or sick to the stomach. We also run the risk of a splashback effect and we run the risk of taking on the power or symptoms of the recipient has come to receive power.
You’ll notice that we also don’t intend for the power to go anywhere. It is regulated by the helping spirits, they know how to tune power in the right way for the individual receiving it (this is also why we remove our hands when we know power has been passed). Our job, those of us passing power, is simply to pass it. Nothing more. We can intend that the power can be used in a generic sense such as healing. It’s crucial that when you get the feeling to ‘stop’ you stop because power, though it’s a lovely thing, can cause harm regardless if we intend it to or not.
So what happens if you have more power to pass?
It does happen, after you pass power to a person you may feel the need or still sense that you have power to share. The process is simple, you repeat it. You keep standing in place and often times what happens is that people keep coming until they don’t.
It is possible to pass power and receive power during the same instance. This is because the power another person is passing it ever so slightly different from yours, for one reason or another (maybe they’re working with a specific helping spirit who happened to give them the power to pass for example!). As I said, the helping spirits tune and regulate how power is given and delivered. The issue arises when people are not listening to their helping spirits, for that ‘stop’ and they keep projecting power when the power has already been passed. That’s when things can potentially get dangerous.
But receiving or passing power is a blessing in and of itself. Whether you pass it, receive it, or both, it’s an incredibly powerful experience for many. Do not be surprised if people’s knees buckle, or people feel faint. It does and can happen. Some people are so overwhelmed by the power that they get emotional and cry. Power has an interesting way of effecting people.
So what happens if you have power you want to pass but you’re all by yourself? You can a few things actually. If you are doing a specific ceremony the passing of power can be used to empower a ceremony. A fire ceremony, for example, you can have your palms faced outwards facing the flames and intend the power to be passed to the spirit of the fire to help with your ceremony. You can use it empower candles, or lend energy to crystals or the various herbs you might be working with.
If you have people living in your house, or animals, you can ask permission to pass. It’s important to respect the wishes of people, animals and spirits themselves. We never pass power without permission. With animals, in particular, you need to respect the body language and wishes of your animal. For too often, with Reiki practitioners in particular I find, they give Reiki to their animals with no regards of what it is that they want. Reiki practitioners, myself included, understand that Reiki cannot harm and this invasion of privacy is often times overlooked by the ego of the practitioner. But power isn’t Reiki, it is not universal life force energy, it can and does harm as well as heal and bless. If an animal, or person, is resistant to power it can cause spiritual intrusions which can lead to sickness, illness and disease.
Ethics plays an important role in shamanism, and we respect the freewill of all beings.
With plants and spirits (because you can certain pass power to them as well) it’s important to ask and receive permission. Plants are trickier but you’ll get a sense of yes or no, honor what the plant tells you. For spirits, such an Ancestor for example, passing power can be trickier because not everyone is developed enough to commune directly with spirits but similar to plants taking the moment to get a yes or no can go a long way.
You can also send this pass to the spirit of the land and Earth itself. They typically tend to be quite responsive and their answer is normally a resounding yes, but you should also be sure to get permission.
Lastly, you can retain and keep power for yourself. After all, this power was given to you by your helping spirits and you can’t force power unto yourself when it’s yours to begin with. Thus, many practitioners who don’t feel the need to pass power to others do it simply with themselves. Typically they place hands on their heart (or center of their chest) and/or head and intend the power to remain and can also be used in very specific cases. For example, for healing, or manifesting a goal, releasing or integrating a Shadow aspect. Things like that.
The passing of power is a simple, but powerful tool in our shamanic toolkit. Power flows abundantly through us when we work our helping spirits and to share it with the world is a gift.
We should always thank our helping spirits for the power they give to us to help sustain and nourish us. Without power we would not be who we are, and devoid of it we would be vulnerable and weak; prone to sickness, illness, disease and misfortune.