Ah, the question I get asked probably the most frequent next to “what is shamanism?”, why is it that I personally practice core shamanism? It’s a good question to ask because we live in a very sensitive time, a very aware time, and as a Western culture specifically we understand the impact of cultural appropriation and misappropriation. The modern Neoshamanic movement in particular is notoriously bad at appropriating ceremonies and teachings from other shamanic cultures and indigenous groups. It’s something that we, as shamanic practitioners, should be vigilant with. Many of us who come to shamanism come to it in one of five main ways.
The first is through a particular indigenous practice that is still practiced today. The particular gods or spirits for one reason or another has chosen a particular person. I myself practice two such practices, as an example. These particular practices have very specific ways in which they are worked and needed to be respected in. The lines between traditions should be made clear and understood and without proper permission these lines should not cross or bleed over. This is largely because the various spirits, gods, teachings, lore and ceremonies all revolve around a particular way of working. Often times these spirit religions and traditions have very strict rules of operation, especially for those who find themselves in African religions such as myself. Some of these practices are more shamanic than others, but regardless we should respect the elders of these traditions and the boundaries that they setup. You cannot incorporate what you do not understand or that you don’t belong to. Despite one’s efforts.
The second way in which people come to shamanism is through Neoshamanism. For one reason or another a person find themselves intrigued and interested in shamanism and their first exposure just happens to be a Neoshamanic tradition. It is these traditions that people often find themselves in trouble because Neoshamanic practices today often times mimic or steal various cultural elements and teachings that do not belong to them. However, with that said, some traditions like core shamanism look to the universal or near-universal practices found all throughout the world and from that create a very unique system that is their own that they pass down through what is sometimes known as a lineage. The Neoshamanic traditions tend to be more spiritual or religious in nature, some appropriate and some do not.
The third way people find shamanism is through core shamanism, through the Foundation of Shamanic Studies. Core shamanism makes itself available to the public and specifically to the Western world. Many of the modern authors in shamanism either come form a core shamanic background or a Neoshamanic background. Core shamanism is what I personal practice, and I’ll explain that in just a little bit. Core shamanism is not a spiritual or religious practice, instead it teaches methods vs contents. It’s purpose is to give tools to their practitioners to engage the non-ordinary reality to build their own understanding of what shamanism means to them. This approach to shamanism is what personally drew me to it, this idea of teaching methods instead of content meant it was incredibly versatile and inclusive which was perfect and is perfect for my own personal worldview and the community that I serve.
The fourth way people find shamanism is through religion, and more specifically reconstruct and revitalized religions such as Asatru or Druidry who seek to restore certain ancient practices that no longer exist, or continue and rebirth practices that they draw inspiration from. Many of these ancient practices have some form of shamanism, and many of those who begin to explore these religions find themselves drawn to these more primal aspects, these ancient roots that lead to shamanism such as through the practice seidr, which was my first real introduction to shamanism actually.
Lastly, people come to shamanism because for one reason or another they are like mediums. They are open to helping spirits and their guides and for whatever reasons their guides begin to teach them specifically shamanic practices; such as guidance, healing and journeying between the worlds. Most cultures understand that to be a ‘shaman’ one dies and is reborn, they become bridges between the realms and they undergo a ritual or very real death. We often refer to these people as having shaman sickness or a healer’s crisis. These people may not have any formal training whatsoever from a particular lineage or tradition. Instead, they receive all information and guidance from their helping spirits and guides and for whatever reasons they move beyond being just a medium and move into the realm of the shaman.
The reason why I describe how people usually come to shamanism is because it will help you better understand why I practice a particular kind of shamanism. I’ve had the fortunate event to be involved in all five of these categories. I practice two spirit religions that have deep mysteries, these practices I hold quite sacred and they do not touch or bleed over unto other spiritual practices and vice versa. They have very specific ways they are to be worked within.
I am a natural medium and have gone through events in my life that has led me unto the path I am today, and though my shamanic practices are filtered strongly through a core shamanic lens my particular kind of shamanism that I practice today is quite spiritual and religious to me, thus bordering on the line of Neoshamanism. And lastly, my introduction to shamanism comes from friends of mine involved in the Asatruar community and who also happen to practice seidr, a type of Norse shamanism if you will.
All of these various kinds of shamanism if you will has helped me develop into the shamanic practitioner that I am today, and the respect I have for the various indigenous and keepers of traditions who still practice spirit religions or still practice shamanism.
With that said, my shamanism is core shamanism, and now it’s time to answer why I personally practice core shamanism.
Simply put, I practice core shamanism because it works effectively well for me and my community, and my helping spirits encourage me and support me along this particular path. I don’t think I would personally be here today practicing core shamanism if my particular spirits didn’t allow it. For me, I was very hesitant to learn about core shamanism all those years ago. I was well aware of the risks of cultural appropriation and misappropriation. Something that I highly discourage and am not apart of.
Shamanism belongs to every person on Earth. It is the oldest spiritual tradition known to mankind. All of us have a shamanic heritage of some kind. Some of us forge new paths. Some of us resurrect those that have died. And others still help progress and maintain traditions that span over hundreds of years.
For me, core shamanism was a nice middle ground. It gave me all that I needed to get started and to sustain my relationship to non-ordinary reality. It gave me a series of methods and techniques that worked very well for myself. To bring guidance, healing and direct revelation. I co-create with my spirits the life I wish to build and live. I have no need to steal from any culture, I have all that I need. The shamanic journey is all I will ever need when it comes to shamanism, because my teachers are not just those that I meet at workshops or those practitioners I have come to call friends, but my biggest teachers are my helping spirits.
I have the skeleton to put substance. To build something personal and meaningful to me. No one needs to understand how my shamanism works, because my shamanism isn’t for anyone else–but me.
I practice core shamanism because it’s also inclusive. I serve a community who are quite varied in background and religion but for one reason or another have been drawn to shamanic practices. By practicing core shamanism our religious and spiritual identities don’t matter. Together we co-create something beautiful, and we build a foundational community. Core shamanism also enables me to reach and communicate with people outside my own community and into the greater community. This inclusiveness enables me to work with people from various backgrounds who may come to me seeking guidance and healing.
Lastly, core shamanism encourages us to honor our unique experiences. Our sacred ceremonies revolve around our shamanic journeys. Thus, in a facilitate space everyone present can have their own unique and individual experiences. This type of shamanism fosters individual experiences very well but also building and maintaining strong community.
This is why I practice core shamanism, for it’s individual experiences but collective building. The way it shapes me and helps me, giving me direct guidance and healing are all reasons why I practice core shamanism.
I hope this helped explain why, in particular, I practice core shamanism. Why do you practice shamanism? What drew you to the practice?