Tuesday, March 25, 2014


By Lisa F. Tardiff

I had a few people approach me lately with questions on Shamanism.  Many of these individuals are students doing research papers (nearing the end of the University Winter semester); but one was a young woman seeking out a spiritual path hopefully (her words not mine) unlike the religion she was born into.  Amongst these people I found at least six different perspectives on “why Shamanism is a topic of interest for young people today.” 

One obvious reason is that Shamanism offers access to hallucinogenic plants as a mean to reach higher awareness.  Even if drugs are illegals in Canada and the U.S – the fascination towards psychedelics has only grown in the last decade making it a trend as well as a popular spiritual and leisure activity. Phenomenon and altered states of consciousness are a close second because it delivers an experience completely different than our ordinary life, alleviating boredom and daily stress.

3.  We’ve been noticing that a good number of therapists come to us to learn about Shamanism in order to complement their healing practice.  More and more shamanic philosophies and shamanic approaches are becoming acceptable means of healing.  4. With Global warming, we increasingly need to turn our focus towards ecology and the survival of our natural environment it makes sense that countless of people are suddenly learning about Shamanism and how our ancestors survived through an intimate relationship with Mother Earth.  5.  There’s no doubt we live in a technological era; but we also live in a World that is obsessed with knowledge.  Fortunately or unfortunately, it was the works of historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, psychologists and scholars; which brought the oral traditions of shamanistic communities to mainstream society.  It was this knowledge; which revived these ancient ways into what we call Neo-Shamanism.  The sixth and final reason: We are people driven by consumerism.  We seek out variety in clothing, homes, cars and food; but we also look for gateways into the Kingdom of God through learning all we can on a variety of Religions and spiritual paths.  Shamanism was the beginning to our quest into the realms of the Gods / Goddesses.  Why not come full circle and re-explore what served our ancestors for tens of thousands of years? 

Possibly this could be the answer to many of our questions…

I remember when I got serious about Shamanism.  I was 19 years old.  I was a hypersensitive out of control and a natural, intuitive Dreamer in the throes of initiation: Unconscious and evidently, lacking discipline. I was petrified of the paranormal, which dominated my life; and I needed resources rather than social programs that literally disempowered me.  At the time, I was in University, and came across a woman who held Medicine Wheel circles in the basement of a Church in Montreal, Quebec.  MR openly shared her journey and it was through her story of learning, healing and personal growth that I opened up to my own personal reality.  Strangely enough it was the potential of mentorship that attracted me to her and to the path.  I was hungry for knowledge; but most of all I was seeking out alternative methods to heal and to learn. 

Honestly, I don’t think today’s youth is any different than the young people of yesterday.

Above and beyond the supernatural, the altered states of consciousness, and the adventures into the unknown I needed someone to commit to me and to my story.  I wanted someone to tell me that I wasn’t crazy and that they shared similar scenarios to my own.  I was looking for people who could put words or vocabulary to my experience and show me how to manage it all…   Without a shred of a doubt, I was seeking wisdom and maturity in a World people knew very little about.  I wanted access to the oral traditions and their guardians. 

It’s so easy to get lost in fantasy and illusionary expectations when it comes to Shamanism.  The tales alone concerning the Shaman and his / her experiences is bigger than life.  In oral tradition sacred knowledge is hidden within the journey of the hero.  The challenges, the issues and the lessons are mythical.  Making sense between what is fictional and what isn’t implies dedicating to the journey ourselves and living it.  For some this kind of time and energy is too much; and for others, it’s a call to grace…

A few years ago, I had a discussion about Curanderos (Mexican Sorcerer / Sorceress) with the mother of a friend.  She’s an elderly woman (80+ years old) who lived her whole life in a remote village many hours from Mexico.  Sipping tea at our kitchen table during a hot and muggy evening in July, in a suburb of Montreal -- it seemed almost surreal to be talking about witchcraft, sorcery and Catholicism.  This wasn’t one of Carlos Castaneda’s books, it was the home reality of an individual I call family.  I realized during this conversation that often the answers we search for are in our own back yard. 

EC (friend and Passamaquoddy teacher) would say: “All you need is right here (with two fingers over her chest) close to the heart.”

It takes dedicating to our story and our journey for the details to take form and bring to us exactly what we need.  It takes faith, patience and surrender as well.  KM (the daughter of the elderly lady I spoke of above) did not share her shamanic experience with her mother.  She didn’t tell her that for almost a decade while she was in Canada, she was actually being initiated as a Carandeiro.

KM assumed her mother who dedicated her whole life to her husband, to her 12 children, and to the Catholic Church would be disappointed because KM didn’t follow the same path.  This was a woman who volunteered her time even at the age of 80 years old, to the local orphanage.  She provided clothes and toys every Christmas to hundreds of children with no families.  KM dreaded telling the elderly woman and fervent Christian that she had been called to be a Carandeiro.  After a little shove (from me) – KM finally opened up to her mother.

“Share your story,” I told her, “because above and beyond all the hocus-pocus, Shamanism is about being true to our selves and our journey.  Respect yourself and the people you love by being real and being true.”

No sooner had KM uttered the words to her mother, the old woman started to laugh. 

“Oh my God!” the woman cried out in Spanish (of course), “it explains so much of what happened surrounding your birth.” 

And that’s how the legend was suddenly revealed. 

KM was mystified, I was curious, and the old woman became a storyteller:  The guardian of sacred knowledge about Spirit, magic and the unknown concealed within experience, memory and oral tradition.  Like I pointed out to KM on the aftermath of the incident, none of this incredible story would have surfaced if she wouldn’t have shared her journey.  Both KM and now agreed that Shamanism is a web of stories and experiences that trigger more stories and experiences all in the name of growth, learning and healing. 

“It all leads somewhere,” I told MR today.
“And we are getting close to the end of this story,” she added with an air of mystery.

Stay open to the legends around you and don’t be afraid of sharing.  The guardians are definitely ready to share!

1 comment:

Wheelkeeper said...

I always love reading your blogs Lisa. They contain so much wisdom and dreaming between the words and I often come back to re-read them.

I can't believe you were only 19 when we met. You were always an Elder, wise woman to me.

Its true that people seek out Shamanism for various reasons and that "leaders" and "teachers" are springing up to accomadate them.

I am concerned about the popularity of the hallucinogenics. They were doing ayahuasca at an Aboriginal Elders Gathering I went to a few years ago... and the organizers said that would not be allowed next time, that its not our tradition here in North America. It is dangerous to your soul. I have heard of bad experiences.

I think people are bored, searching and wanting phenomena. Humans seem to need danger and drama. Yet I am learning that the magic and mystery is in our daily lives if we can just see it. We have forgotten to see the beauty in the sun, the wind, the trees.... We are overstimulated and missing the obvious.

The end is near...lol... And a new beginning is around the corner. New stories and adventures!