I am reading a wonderful book, The Raven’s Gift, on a scientist’s journey through Siberia; Jon Turk encounters a century old shaman and her reindeer tribe and goes back many times to see what the shamanic viewpoint is so that he can experience it.
He starts out very skeptical but is motivated by the lifetime adventuring he has done and how connected to nature he is when he is out in a kayak or on skiis. Many adventure type people seem to have these experiences (like trekking, climbing, running) even if they do not label them spiritual, they feel more alive.
He starts to understand how the men who guard the reindeer can “hear ” them breathe and how they can “hear” the difference when the wolves come and have a different breathing pattern, far beyond the range of the rifle. In other words a kind of super-sense. The tribe had shamans who used to sing to the wolves to ask for balance and harmony, so that not too many reindeer would get eaten and yet the wolves would get fed.
When the Soviets changed their collective lifestyle, they lost those grandfathers and many people took up vodka and fell asleep instead of staying awake on the 24 hour outdoor shifts with the herd. This meant that the herds got decimated, losing not only the identity of the culture but its source of wealth.
There’s lots of politics, children going to residential schools and criminals taking most of the profit on sale of meat, but the ones who stay with the old lifestyle in the remotest regions are gaining back the shamanic awareness and the sacrifice that goes with it in terms of their “success in the world” because they do not live with much modern technology. The have what we call a subsistence living.
There is a Holy Stone and people make offerings so that the communication between them and the earth can continue; now people source from technology so they go to the hospital and they buy vitamins and go to spas, but orginally they just went to the land, walking, swimming, experiencing it directly and receiving the energy needed, as well as using medicinal plants, doing shamanic ritual, etc. An aboriginal shaman I spoke to 15 years ago said that now the cures do not have as strong an effect because we are more polluted, the plants are more polluted, and in this book the shamans say the same thing, that even the rock may eventually stop being a battery of energy because not enough people visit it, believe in it, take offerings to it.
Turk is explaining why shamanism is important in our century. We NEED huge energy and connection to the earth to ground the cosmic visions, and to withstand the invasion of our our being by technology that may give us cancer.
As he says, he will not trade places with the herders who live very basic lives with huge discomfort and no medical aid, but he is starting to understand why their point of view and experiences are important to the human experience on earth if we are going to survive here. And that if each of us had some of those experiences that humans would benefit and have a richer life (richer in texture and feel).
I see that in the future we who have become dependent on our “stuff” will not survive if we don’t know how to connect. I live in a kind of compromise, like so many people, as simply as I can. I don’t like airports or concrete highways but have to travel on them to get to the primeval places and reconnect and establish spirit tracks for others to find them, and awaken the places where people have not practiced, or draw from the wells where people still do pray. I guess I consider another thing I do is join and connect with others doing the same thing so our web gets larger and stronger.
When we have a convergence we are offering a glimpse of the spirit worlds, not saying the whole point is to journey for a neat experience, but to come back with something we can integrate into our ordinary lives. It is important to hold the energy of the right brain in a left brain society. We are rebalancing a society that has so lost the connection to earth and spirit that we sometimes seem like fanatics in our passion (because our cynical society preferes the “cool”).
Turk explains that the dog is not replaceable with the symbol “dog”; the symbol cannot explain the smelly furry being that sits on your lap and the latter is what we lose in virtual reality. It is not that we don’t need science but there are so few people holding the ecology of what is termed savage or primitive or unlettered, that we are close to extinction.
I have not even got to the part yet where he gets healed by the shaman, I just so relate to what he is saying as an agent who brings skeptics closer to understanding the shamanic point of view and its relevance.
It is not that it is above all other points of view, but it is in the roots and origins of our species. The Stone Age hunters had very little in the way of goodies and they managed to hunt down animals they had to get pretty close to.
There is an example in the book from contemporary times of a man going naked into a cave so that he does not smell of reindeer, and putting a line around a hibernating bear’s paw and then throwing the line to the other men; he goes behind the bear, still without waking him and starts to push, the men start to pull and when the bear emerges, they spear him collectively.This is obviously a very old technique and based on being able not to disturb the bear but to become part of his dreamtime.
People are doing this with horses again, same with reindeer, you have to hold calm in order to keep them from bolting; that takes a certain type of consciousness. Same with water, you need to reach into the purity in yourself to connect with the purity of water, and when you do the act of pouring, stirring, praying, it adds layers of connecting body and soul.
This is why I am passonate about what I have experienced, I have calmed horses and children by doing a chant in my mind and it was noticed.
I am saying this because I want people to know why they should come to the convergence. And I think that the results are similar to meditation or whatever else is available, but that shamanism catalyzes those practices and the rawness of experience adds to the other practices by grounding them in the earth. By putting people in a container where spirit can move through and where people can experience their inner senses (that find essence) and the invisible, we can extend our outer senses and learn from the trees, clouds and rocks.