Sunday, May 30, 2010


I received a call from a young woman who got my name and number from a friend of a friend of a friend. You know how that goes….

After she told me her story, where she comes from, who referred her and what she’s been learning in the last decade – she asked me if “I did sweat lodges and if I could give her access to an honest-to-goodness-real-shaman?” I couldn’t help but shake my head and roll my eyes. I wondered for a moment whether it was best to be polite or give her a piece of my mind. In the end, I simply said: “I got to go. Good luck with your search.”

Unfortunately and it’s sad to say – I get these kinds of calls often. There’s so very little and authentic or genuine literature or oral information out there on the topic of Shamans or Shamanism that it’s natural for people to quickly jump to conclusions. Lots of people believe for example that Shamanism is synonymous to Native Spirituality.

It is not!

Many individuals will assume that if you’re into Shamanism – you’re also into sweat lodges, sun dances and vision quests. All three of those are religious ceremonies and rites of passage traditionally done by First Nation Tribes from Western Canada and the U.S. Again, you can be shamanic without having an interest in the old Indian religion.

On a few occasions during the open mike session at conferences, I’ve been asked: “how does someone with a sincere desire to follow a shamanic path come to be initiated by a real teacher or shaman?” Always with an intonation on the word real. My response to such a question as always been so far: “What does real mean to you? Obviously if you haven’t found a teacher yet it is because you have a precise definition and lots of expectations.”

It’s actually a fact that when you let go of expectations, programs, and definitions that whatever you are looking for will appear in the shape or form you were destined to find it. If you can’t trust and surrender to the Universe usually you stay stuck in a box and very rarely see where this box floats… In Shamanism and especially in sacred circle tradition it is important to be able to let go and have faith. It’s actually an ability (so to speak) that is crucial before embarking on any spiritual journey.

I realize that a good amount of people these days will call themselves shaman and will attempt to convince their audience that they are the real deal and that everyone else who advertizes they are shaman too – are not.

“How can we tell who’s telling the truth?” is often a common question.

For starters, according to tradition there are a few ways someone can be called to be a shaman:

1. You can be called to be a Shaman because it is part of your genetic make up: Your father or mother, grand-father or grand-mother, great-grand-father or great-grand-mother etc…. were shaman before you.

2. You can also be called to be a Shaman by Spirit. Usually the call will come to you through a vision or a dream and will continue to be repeated through synchronicities. What most people don’t understand is that it isn’t enough to just say “they told me in my dream – I’m a Shaman.” Often enough the call will be conveyed to witnesses as well who will eventually appear to help the person emerge and accept the call.

3. Another way to find yourself walking the path of the shaman is if a shaman chooses you as an initiate. This was very common in olden times.

4. Finally, there are some who seek out the shaman’s path and ask for the education.

According to tradition a shaman chosen by spirit or instructed by another shaman will be stronger than a shaman who asked for education or fell into it by inheritance. The actual journey of becoming a Shaman is between an initiate and Creator. It’s an intimate, precious and divine experience that usually stretches beyond words. You should never approach a Shaman the way you approach a candidate who is asking you for employment. The whole idea of proving yourself genuine and worthy is actually a Western programming. A real Shaman (so to speak) wouldn’t be interested in giving you a play by play of where he or she was educated and by whom. You’d probably get ignored or you’d get one of those long and disappointed indifferent stares in response. Of course it doesn’t mean that because someone is sketchy or secretive in telling you how they became a Shaman that he or she is a Shaman. They could as easily be con artists.

There is a difference between a spiritual teacher, medicine people, elders and a shaman. Usually the differences between the roles are understood between these people and often, it is believed that nobody else needs to know. Yet we live in a World and during times where knowledge is easily accessible and a priceless commodity. On one hand it is kind of wonderful that the role of the shaman is still a mystery and somewhat out of reach at least for those of us who believe in its beauty and power. On the other hand it is also sad because it means that only a small fraction of people will actually get to experience this gift in their life. Some people prefer to promote the message that the shaman has long been extinct and the teachings forgotten. One way or the other these comments or judgments have never mattered much to a real shaman.

I’m a strong believer in fate and destiny. I think that each of us are born with a story that is meant to teach us very specific lessons and that we are all called to have a role in this World. I know that those who are meant to be Shaman end up being Shaman and that nobody is cheated of his or her own journey, path and purpose. Acceptance, awareness and commitment are again crucial qualities in people really looking for their path.

I do believe in many ways that there should be more information out there on the Shaman and Shamanism I wouldn’t have a blog if I didn’t; but I have to be honest I tend to also believe that too much knowledge can be detrimental. In the past, many shaman were killed and persecuted because there was too much talk on the topic. People tend to assume and interpret experiences according to their expectations. The fact of the matter is the shaman’s journey is completely empirical. If you don’t experience it you may not understand it.

Personally I love the old ways – how a shaman would choose the people he or she felt needed to be touched and would give them the time and the teachings when it was meant to happen. That’s my experience.

P.S. The photo was taken this spring. My son wanted to enjoy the sun, the wind, the birds -- while practicing his drumming. I don't even know if he knows I took this picture. I was peeking through my bed room window.


Wheelkeeper said...

Thanks for writing this Lisa. I also find so many people with expectations of what a Shaman is... in some ways, I found I was lucky to have found out through experience first rather than reading about it. I didn't even think of looking for a Shaman, I was just searching for my path and open to where it took me. Yet, with so much misinformation out there, I think it needs to be counteracted with the truth. When someone comes up to me and says "I'm a Shaman", just like that... I know in my heart that they don't understand what a Shaman is...

We all go through initiations, and some become Spiritual leaders, medicine people, etc... but I think Shamans are rare today, unfortunately... at a time when we need them more than ever. But you're right... they always seem to have to deal with persecution and judgments. There seems to be something out there that wants to destroy the sacred.

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Mary Rose,

I loved your response.
You're right we all go through initiations and they are all equally valuable. The idea is to honor OUR path beyond anything else.

I also agree SHAMANS are rare today.
It's unfortunate but understandable. Sadly.

As for the destruction of sacredness...
What do you think is out to destroy sacredness?


4cougar said...

I also appreciated this blog entry and see my own journey between the lines. Even after years of exploring and walking with the Shaman, being in the experience of the Breath...often just for moments at a time, I still don't feel that I understand it. I wonder if I ever will.

I like what you say about people crossing your path and how the Shaman and synchronicities decides who is touched by the Breath. I like that it isn't based in some sort of judgment, good or bad, worthy or not...but rather a moment when two paths cross...or a time during which we walk together.

Michelle said...

``Acceptance, awareness and commitment are again crucial qualities in people really looking for their path.``
This part of your post spoke to me because I think that being connected to who I am has helped me commit to being a better me in what ever capacity that is and to honor this life that I have been given to live..I laugh at the sites that show you how to be a spiritual leader in 12 easy volumes...somtimes I wonder are people that desperate for or searching that they will get sucked into ordering or attending a weekend for a certificate...I think those that are searching or are called to walk in Shamanism find it eventually I think thats what makes Shamanism so interesting in that it asks you to question, be aware and stand up for what you know inside and to trust that.I was confused also i thought native spirituality was part of shamanism so this is somthing I am learning to rethink in the part of medicine people and their role and the role of the Shaman.

Wheelkeeper said...

As for the destruction of sacredness... What do you think is out to destroy sacredness?

I feel like crying for some reason... I don't really understand who would want to destroy that which is beautiful, sacred and good.

All I can say from my experiences is that those who can't see their own beauty and sacredness seem to want to destroy it in others, as if jealous or angry at something they think they can't have... so they don't want anyone else to have it.

Others may want to destroy Shamans and holy ones who speak Truth, because many don't want to hear the truth, especially about themselves.

Are there unseen forces behind these choices?... I don't know how it works, but proponents of conspiracy theories seem to think there is.


Faithfully-Loving-Raven said...

I like this topic and what you said Lisa.
I personally love how I wasnt looking for Shamanism, so I had no idea what to expect when IT found me.. so I started with a clean slate.. if you know what I mean?!
I was very surprised, and honoured,never disappointed.
I wasnt looking for a Shaman, yet my guides brought me to you! :)
But if I hadnt surrendered to it, or gone forward (followed the dreaming) without expectations I wouldnt have gotten very far at all. I wouldnt be here right now on this path.
So I realise over time through experience that my 'following the dreaming' has allowed me to stay on path (with my purpose/destiny).
If I had been searching for this, I wouldnt have been LISTENING, because i would have had expectations in mind, I would have thought i'd had all the answers.
But instead, i was more of a receptacle, if that makes sense?
At least It does for me lol.

Wapeyit Malsom said...


It makes a lot of sense....
Having faith and believing is the way to go.


Fishrarr said...

Hi again Lisa, I must say very well said. After reading your story on this, I once again wonder way anyone would what to knowingly wish to become a shaman. It is so hard in a lot of ways. It is so much work, it can be very rewarding for sure, but it is a lot of letting go who of you think you are as well, as your expectations, like you said.

I also find that I have a battle with sadness a lot. Because I know that everything could be so much better for all of us if we could just get out of your own way. Also it seems to me most folks what to be followers, and are not willing to walk in their power in a good way.
I do not mean to being a power over, but in the power of who you are right now.

On my own journey of discovery the first four years were what I now call spirit getting me ready (at the time I did not know it). Then for about 10 years I had many, many teachers and guides both in OR (ordinary reality) and NOR (non-ordinary reality). I did a lot of travel, spent a lot of money, to get to where they were, as well as doing healings and a day job to pay for it all.

In the last eight or so years of my journey, there has been a lot of self discovery with a little push and help from spirit every now and again. I have experienced many things that seem hard for ordinary folks to get their heads wrapped around. Like doing a little experience called a Darkroom. It took me a year of preparation and then spending one moon cycle (worked out to 30 days) in total darkness and doing that solo. I did my own meals, laundry, cleaning, with a little support from some great friends. They would bring me fresh fruit once a week and shovel the snow off the roof as needed etc. That was the most amazing earth walk and spirit walk experience I have ever, ever, done. I learnt so much. For me the big lesson was you only get out it what you put into it. That’s how spirit works. That is why it takes so much work and commitment to yourself and trusting spirit in a good way.

At this point I see no end in sight, and that’s a good thing, because it’s always interesting walking on the edge.
Someone once said “When you are ready, a teacher will appear,” I think that is true.

Peace, Tom.