My Experience with Shamanism

My introduction to shamanism came from Native American friends, who upon hearing about some meditative experiences I had had, asked if I knew about shamanism. When I told them I had heard the term, but didn’t know what it meant, they told me they recognized in my experiences what they thought was shamanic. Furthermore, they urged me to join them at Michael Harner’s basic workshop in core shamanism through his Foundation for Shamanic Studies offerings. In their words, ‘Maybe you ought to find out what you’re really doing.’

I did join them in 1986, and I’ve continued my training and work since then. Of course, I hadn’t been ‘doing shamanism’ before 1986, but I’d certainly had some shamanic types of experiences. As mentioned on my Home page, I was raised a Vatican II Catholic steeped in teachings about the Mystical Body and Social Justice. Experience in co-creating experiential liturgies and ceremony and in learning meditative practices, such as contemplative prayer, guided imagery, active imagination, and self-hypnosis, also helped lay the groundwork for my opennes to shamanism and a shamanic worldview.

After 15 years of shamanic training and practice, in 2001, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, to pursue a PhD in Celtic Shamanism at the University of Edinburgh. What unfolded was an initial MSc in Celtic & Scottish Studies, in which I explored topics such as Celtic Civilization, witchcraft in Scotland and Europe, cosmologyshamanism and the Celtic Otherworld. However, I also identified shamanic elements in several Scottish tales that had been gathered by Scottish ethnologists. I enjoyed that, and I discovered a shamanic thread in quite a few of the old stories.

After that, I assumed the role of ethnographer and interviewed several communities of contemporary shamanic practitioners in Scotland to learn their stories and to discover whether their work contained elements of core shamanism. It was a privilege meeting those practitioners, and I’ve included their websites in the resources that follow.

Their stories became a core component of my thesis, which resulted in receiving a PhD in Religious Studies/Divinity in 2005. The essence of that work went into my book, which was published in 2008 (see ‘Who We Are’ under About and the Selected Resources bibliography in this ‘Shamanism’ section). Yes, I had learned about ancient Celtic Shamanism, but I chose to focus on contemporary shamanic practice in Scotland.

Since around 2005, I have continued my shamanic training and practice – in some ways that have been very traditional and in some that have revealed new opportunities I might not have considered before. One new way was participating in the planning, organizing, presenting, and workshop facilitation of various shamanic workshops and conferences in collaboration with the Edinburgh International Centre for Spirituality and Peace (EICSP). Another was integrating shamanic elements into my work at the Univeristy of Edinburgh. A further unexpected opening occurred in 2004, when I became a founding member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners, which remains a vibrant organization.

An important aspect of my shamanic work in the past twenty years has been the inspiration, guidance, and experiences of expanding, deepening, and evolving my understanding and participation in healing and activating the anima mundiAs I implied on the Home page and have learned over time, all aspects of our life evolve, if we allow that natural process to happen. As we start to emerge from the pandemic precautions, I am aware of how my shamanic perspective is expanding even more globally/universally, and that is exciting.

Finally, I’ve recently been asked to contribute a chapter in a book that will include the stories of some shamanic practitioners – how they were called to this path and how it has unfolded for them. I am honored to be included, and I have found that the process of writing has become a deeply significant life review. For that, I am grateful.

Whether facilitating a drumming group, teaching a class on core shamanism, doing shamanic healing with those who’ve requested my help, reading and writing about shamanism, or taking time each day to connect with my spiritual allies, shamanism has become an integral part of my life.

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