Shamanic practices can be found in Europe, Asia, Tibet, North and South America, and Africa. The term “shaman” has been in vogue for some time and can be found plastered all over the internet. Our view of who and what a shaman does is influenced by the movies and misconception. The actual reality and practice is very different. People who follow this path are chosen, and when they decide to answer that call it is one that involves a lifetime of study and work. This is the type of practice that is found throughout the world.
Deb Fate-Mental of Elder Grove Shamanic Healing is one of those people who was chosen. In a recent interview I asked Deb what drew her to this particular work. She first explained that people who are drawn to shamanic practices, “... a) work directly with spirits that are known to them; b) work in an ecstatic trance state of some sort to; c) make journeys to some type of non-ordinary reality (the “otherworld”, the upper world, the lower world, different dimensions, into the past, etc.) to create change in this world for individuals and the community. Ecstatic trance states can be arrived at by a variety of methods. I use drumming and rattling.” Deb said that she experienced her initiation as a type of spirit capture. Spirit capture is when “the spirits take all or part of the initiate’s soul/spirit into the otherworld.” She said that she escaped and sought a shaman to help her deal with her initiation. Deb later became her student and mentee. She said that there are usually many initiations that come to practitioners over their lifetime of study. “Initiations are also dangerous; there can be mental fracturing, instability and an inability to tell consensus reality from the spirit world. This happens in all societies. Shamanism is actually pretty dangerous!” Having a variety of teachers is important. Deb considers herself a shamanic practitioner as it best describes her journey. She said that unfortunately the term “shaman” has been culturally appropriated making its use a divisive term. Additionally, there are people who attend one class and feel they can advertise as a shaman. She has seen businesses advertise items such as shamanic shampoo!
So what does it take to train as a shamanic practitioner? Deb has been practicing since 2013. She said the length of time to train depends on your teacher, however, in western culture the training is generally a year. Some teachers require a lengthy residency while others do not. Working with an Indigenous teacher may require years of study and practice as an apprentice. In general, a training program requires work with a human teacher whose teachings will include techniques and ethics. Training should contain both theory and practice, initially on other students, and then on clients. Deb said that she studied for two years with her initial teacher and then trained with other teachers on specific areas of interest over the next five years. She emphasized that people who walk this path do not stop learning from others or their spirit guides. Additionally, this work requires the practitioner to consistently work on themselves for personal improvement (physically, psychologically, spiritually, and mentally). When seeking a teacher, look for a person with integrity, a willingness to answer all your questions regarding their training and their teachers, a willingness to explain their clearing and sacred space practices, and also their practice beliefs. Potential teachers should have clear training intentions and boundaries for their apprentices. A potential teacher should be able to discuss good and evil. If the teacher is unwilling to clearly answer any of your questions or does not believe in evil, Deb says don’t work with them.
To see a shamanic practitioner for personal help, you would employ some of the same questions as for a teacher. You should feel comfortable with the healing techniques the practitioner uses (ask before you book the appointment). The number of appointments needed depends on the work being done and your willingness to do the extra work necessary outside of the appointment. Deb stated that, “people who come to me are in some kind of spiritual trouble, have trouble managing their psychic or empathic skills, people who experience house hauntings, or are just going through deep life changes, or things are just a mess and they don’t know why.” She also works with people who have decreased energy, physical pain, need energetic boundary training, and so much more. I asked what a visit to Elder Grove Shamanic Healing would look like? A visit would vary depending on the needs of the client. “In my practice there is a bit of intake (talking) then the actual healing work. For the client, they relax on the massage table, covered by blankets. I may drum, tone, rattle, (or) sway as I work. I always ask if light touch is okay and respect the client’s answer. After the healing we chat about what occurred and discuss what the spirits would like to have the client do for follow up. The follow up includes personal practice and sometimes offerings to the spirits. If I do divination for people I narrate the journey and interactions with the spirits for them.” Deb emphasized that sometimes the best steps for a client is to seek professional therapy or see other professionals. An ethical practitioner does not know everything and will not claim to do so.
Shamanic practices are based on the belief that everything has a spirit and some level of consciousness. Plants, animals, rocks, spirits, Ancestors, the natural world, and more can provide guidance and are to be honored. Being called to become a shamanic practitioner is both an honor and a life-long journey of learning and discovery. It is one of dealing with the dark as well as the light, as there is not one without the other. This is not a calling for the faint of heart or the untrained. Please see Deb’s recommendations if you would like to learn more.
Deb Fate-Mental at www.eldergroveshamanichealing.com
For a good look into indigenous shamanic cultures and the experiences of those called to be healers/spirit workers I recommend Joan Halifax’s Shamanic Voices.
For a modern anthropological look that focuses on women, Barbara Tedlock’s Woman in the Shaman’s Body is excellent. Dr. Tedlock is an initiated Mayan shaman herself.
To work with shamanic journeying, I like Sandra Ingerman’s Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide
Christina Pratt’s Why Shamanism Now podcast is fabulous and has 10 years of information and interviews to comb through. I highly recommend her podcast. People can find that here: http://whyshamanismnow.com/
Sacred Hoop Magazine, which I highly recommend, has a free guide to exploring shamanism here: http://www.sacredhoop.org/FreeGuide.html
Nicholas Breeze Wood, who publishes Sacred Hoop, also has a good podcast. People can find that here: http://www.3worlds.co.uk/Pages/Podcast.html