Traditionally, a Medicine Wheel is a circle of stones which are aligned to the four cardinal directions
and divided into four quadrants. This ancient symbol represents life, cycles of time, the Earth, and the Universe. It is a
place to come to create, to meditate, to pray, to deepen your inner being, to mark a change in your life and to seek guidance.
Each direction or quadrant of the Medicine Wheel holds attributes to assist in your journey around the Wheel.
In the East
sits the Eagle. The Eagle walks the Mental path and brings Illumination, Clarity & Wisdom.
In the South sits the Coyote.
The Coyote walks the Emotional path and brings Growth, Trust & Love.
In the West sits the Bear. The Bear walks the
Spiritual path & brings Introspection, Strength & Experience.
In the North sits the Buffalo. The Buffalo walks
the Physical path and brings Cleansing, Renewal & Purity
Shamanism is a system for psychic, emotional, and spiritual
healing and for exploration, discovery, and knowledge gathering about non-material worlds and states of mind. Anthropologists
have identified shamanistic practices in tribal cultures, ancient and modern, throughout the world. Shamanism is a "technique
of ecstasy" (Mircea Eliade) in which the spirit of the shaman leaves the body and travels to communicate with spirit helpers
and other beings for the purpose of obtaining knowledge, power, or healing. However, the shaman usually retains control over
his or her body. In many cultures, a shaman is chosen or called, sometimes by healing him- or herself of a serious illness.
journeying is an altered state of consciousness wherein you enter a realm called "non-ordinary reality." By journeying, you
can gather knowledge and perform healing in ways that are not accessible in ordinary waking reality.
Shamanic healing is
a process whereby a person journeys on behalf of another, and brings back information or instructions that can be used to
provide psychic/emotional/spiritual healing to another person.
How does shamanism work?
Some people think that in shamanic
journeying, the spirit leaves the body, and in shamanic healing, a person is being healed by spirit helpers. Others think
that shamanic journeying allows access to one's own intuition, which may otherwise be drowned out by the prattle of everyday
thinking, or by anxiety; and that shamanic healing is a way of engaging a person's subconscious desires for healing. I think
that as long as it works (which it does, for many people), it doesn't much matter which way you explain it. Use the way that's
most comfortable for you.
The shamanic view of health.
In the system of shamanism that I work with, there are four
aspects to psychic/emotional/spiritual health. If there is a problem with any of these aspects fails, shamanic techniques
can be used to help restore strength. Note that shamanic healing may not cure physical or psychologicalillness, but it may
help one gain psychic energy that will allow one better to handle illness. Shamanic healing therefore is best used in conjunction
with other treatments, not as a substitute for them.
1. Connection with a power animal
A power animal
protects you physically and provides you with emotional support, wisdom, and vital energy. Some people think a power animal
is a spirit being that stays with you because it cares for you and enjoys being able to experience life in a physical body.
Others think a power animal is a symbol for one's subconscious wisdom. almost everybody has a power animal; some have several.
(Perhaps you had an "invisible animal friend" as a child or have always been fascinated with a particular kind of animal.
This animal may be your power animal.) A person may, in the course of life, lose contact with the power animal, thereby losing
the animal's protection, wisdom, and energy. If you lose contact with your power animal, you may feel disspirited, you may
become sick easily, or you may be accident-prone. The shamanic healing technique of power animal retrieval can restore a person's
connection to a power animal. A person can also journey to find his or her own power animal. To maintain a connection with
your power animal, take the time to learn about your animal, learn to feel its presence, communicate with it, and honor it
by doing things that it enjoys.
2. Retaining one's life essence
Life essence is the energy that keeps
you going, keeps you interested in life, in learning, and in challenge. Life essence keeps you healthy and contented and allows
you to trust yourself. However, in traumatic situations, whether they be ongoing (such as child abuse) or singular (such as
an auto accident), a part of one's life essence can leave. This is normal: it helps one avoid the full emotional effect of
the trauma. Usually life essence returns once the danger and shock of the trauma are past. But sometimes a person can't reconnect
with zir life essence after such an event: part of the life essence is "lost." A person who has lost part of zir life essence
might feel lacking in energy, depressed, ill, untrusting. The person might feel an "energy leak," might become extremely involved
in spiritual matters to the detriment of ordinary life, might become obsessed with the trauma, might feel something is missing.
A shamanic healer can find and retrieve one's life essence.
This healing technique is called soul retrieval. A person who
reconnects with lost life essence often finds that life changes afterward.
3. Free flow of emotional and physical
Health requires a free flow of energy that one can use to accomplish one's desires in the world. But one's
energy can become blocked in various ways.
People who have lost parts of their life essence, who have been ill, who have
lost connection with a power animal, or who are regularly exposed to emotionally stressful situations are vulnerable to intrusions
or "psychic infections" that block a person's connection with self or drain a person's energy. An intrusion can be thought
of either as a foreign energy being that takes up residence in a person's psychic body (a psychic infection), or as a psychic
structure (an emotional wall or barrier) that a person built to keep zirself safe from harm, but that now is blocking some
of his/her energy expression. A person with an intrusion might feel drained or ill, might have aches and pains, might have
nightmares or other fears. A shamanic healer can find and remove intrusions and barriers in a healing ritual called extraction.
A sense of purpose
A sense of purpose is necessary to happiness. The person who loves and cares about the world
and fellow beings, who wants to make some small part of the universe a better place, has a sense of purpose. A person can
find a sense of purpose in life by seeking knowledge and direction through shamanic journeys, divinations, and rituals. One
can do this alone, or with a group of people engaged in similar quests. A shamanic healer or counselor can't find another
person's purpose, but can help one seek and interpret information.
How do I do shamanism?
There are two keys to doing
shamanism: Achieving the altered state of consciousness that allows you access to non-ordinary reality. Maintaining a purpose
or intention for your journey. Achieving an altered state of consciousness The state of consciousness that allows you to access
non-ordinary reality is one in which the waking mind is distracted or tuned out. There are many ways to achieve this: repetitious
sound or movement, hypnosis, heat, sensory deprivcation, psychotropic drugs, maintaining a specific posture, lucid dreaming.
The method I use most frequently is repetitious sound in the form of a steady drumbeat. Maintaining an intention Shamanism
is really a system of healing or obtaining knowledge, and it seems to work best when used for that purpose. Journeying tends
to work best if it's undertaken on behalf of another person. In some cases, however, one can journey on one's own behalf,
especially if one has a specific intention in mind. Journeying just for the purpose of "poking around in non-ordinary reality"
doesn't seem to work as well for most people. The best way I have found to maintain an intention is to write down or otherwise
keep in mind a specific question or purpose as you begin your journey.
How to ask a question in a journey
people it's important to word the question precisely. This helps maintain your intention. Use positive language. Keep the
question simple. Ask only one question at a time. Some people use a question in the form of an image. Although everyone's
journeys are different, in general I have found that a question of the form "what can I do to achieve this goal?" will receive
the most specific and useful answer. Asking a question of the form "why does this situation exist?" may provide interesting
but may not help you resolve a problem. If you don't know what question to ask, you might try journeying with the question
"What question should I ask?" or "Show me something I need to know right now."
What are these healing techniques, exactly?
are many ways to do shamanic healing techniques, so I will provide only the most basic descriptions. I recommend you do your
own research and exploration by reading, taking classes, talking to other people who practice shamanism, and journeying to
find out more about these techniques.
Power animal retrieval
The shaman journeys with the intention of
finding a power animal for the client. The shaman must make sure that what he or she finds is really the client's power animal
-- don't go bringing back just any animal! The shaman brings the animal back to ordinary reality and gives it to the client,
perhaps by blowing it into the client's body. It is then the client's responsibility to journey to contact the animal and
find out how best to work with the animal.
The shaman makes sure that the client has a
support system in place, because strong emotional reactions can accompany or follow soul retrieval. Often the client is asked
to have a friend or two present. The shaman makes sure the client is ready for the soul retrieval and is willing to have his
or her life change. Similar to the power animal retrieval, the shaman journeys with the intention of finding the client's
lost life essence. The shaman must make sure that the soul parts found are willing to come back to ordinary reality. Sometimes
this requires discussion, negotiation, or healing. As with power animal retrieval, the shaman returns with the life essence
and gives them to the client. A welcoming ceremony is performed. It is then the client's responsibility to learn how best
to work with the retrieved life essence.
Often a shaman will work with a support system of
several other shamans or drummers when performing an extraction. Some believe that the extracted energies can enter the shaman's
body if the shaman is not well protected, and that noise and chanting will drive the energies away. The shaman journeys or
passes his/her hands over the client's body to detect intrusions. The intrusions may appear to the shaman as foreign objects
or unpleasant creatures, or may be hot or cold spots in the client's body. The shaman, with his/her spirit helpers, removes
the intrusions. Often the intrusions are taken (in ordinary or non-ordinary reality) to a nearby body of water to neutralize
them. The shaman may then fill the cleansed body with healing energies.