I have posted in the past about the usage of the word Shaman in modern contexts (you can read some of this here, here, and here), as well as my difficulties with the neo-shamanic or “core” shamanic community (you can read about this here and here).
In the past I postulated that there are actually fairly specific criteria for who is a Shaman, and that it is something that you are called to. It is not something you get a certificate in, or take a weekend course and become, and if “core”/neo/aspirational Shamans knew what actually was involved in the process they would run screaming in the other direction.
I still believe all of this to be true. There are people in modern day society, people in the suburbs, and people who are not traditionally classified as “native” who are called to be Shamans. There are people all over the world who are intended to be Spiritual Workers, who have the calling and capabilities to be Spiritual Workers.
But my thinking about the word Shaman has changed, and my desire to call myself one has changed. People who know me or have worked with me know that I think a great deal about energy fields. Each of us has a field of energy around us that makes us up. Not only that, every organization, group, family, archetype, and even every word has a field of energy around it. And the field of energy around the word or the archetype of Shaman is too loaded, too screwed up, too appropriated, too associated with the appropriators, too hated by indigenous cultures for me to want to use it to describe myself. It doesn’t feel good to do so knowing what I know about the energetic resonance of the word, and the energy field behind it.
As I have stated, if we were to create a check-list of what would a “Shaman” be– I could likely check off most of the items on that list. Near death experiences, childhood illness, intense spirit led initiations, series of odd dismemberment dreams and other dreams, a way of looking at the world differently to the extent that it can be alienating, spirit-led knowledge, the ability to easily walk through worlds, other Shamans/Spiritual Workers looking at me and laughing because they know the path I have to take or the path that I am on… I have had or experienced (and in some cases continue to experience) all of the criteria.
But with the amount of animosity that comes from NDN/Native and Indigenous cultures about the “core” shamanic group (some of this is definitely righteous and totally understandable about modern/mostly white people appropriating yet another something Native and turning it into yet another mystical thing to accomplish without understanding anything about the culture and its hardships) I do not wish to call myself a Shaman. I feel some of this anger is misguided, and can see how the anger stems from ancestral sources of grief and terror and anger rather than the usage of a simple word, but I understand their perspective. Each time an indigenous/native healer chooses to sit with me and discuss this, I learn something. And I see their point more and more looking at most of the “Shamans” that they see in modern culture and the workshops they hear about and the “Indian priestesses” that are actually Irish but announce themselves as pipe carriers on a Native roll somewhere when anyone who knows anything about any Native culture knows they are just taking part in some odd delusion that they have concocted.
Also contributing to this energy field is the amount of “Shamans” who have decided that they simply wanted to be one, took a few classes, and now offer Shamanic work. Although many of these people are lovely, or can be lovely, again… there are a lot of delusions and illusions and the odd sort of puritanical thinking that comes up in this group that makes me not want to associate with them. With the appropriation of “core” shamanism it was largely done under the umbrella of really puritanical, rigid, and conquerer type energy and it is hard to see this energy and not react in disgust to it. Adding to this is the difficulty of the upper-middle class suddenly posting a bunch of memes about how Shamanic they are, and how they decided to get rid of some of their possessions because they understand that is what being a Shaman or what being Spiritual means, and it is understandable that most people who are fairly reasonable would not want to be a part of that crowd.
Most of modern Shamanism doesn’t really have much to do with being a Shaman, and most “Shamanic” services really amount to psychological help or life coaching. There is nothing wrong with working in the mental realms, or boosting our confidence or awareness, but it is not what real spiritual work does or is like. For example, most Shamans who are called have spiritual experiences come to them… for example will have a “power animal” that stalks them, that haunts them, for periods of time. You do not go off to a weekend workshop to drum and ask for one. There are many other experiences like this that occur and differentiate modern core shamanism, which is mainly a mental/psychological construct, and actual spiritual work. Mainly the amount of power and the intensity of experiences that the practitioner has, but that is a different blog I suppose.
Another consideration is that most modern “Shamans” don’t actually do any, or much, work for others. They go to workshops and maybe help friends. Most Shamanic workshops are self-help seminars. And this can be wonderful, because any of us that feel a bit better about ourselves is great. But it is rare that people set up, or have success setting up, a practice. This is because it is not their calling and they do not have the power to attract clients and energies to them. Some modern “Shamans” are quite successful because they were formerly in business or marketing and utilize their skills and calling in that arena to be “Shamans”.
So the end result of this is that I call myself a Spiritual Worker. I do this to differentiate myself from the field of energy that now comprises the word “Shaman” which either calls in a sense of anger/fury or the weekend warrior that wouldn’t know something spiritual if it smacked them across the head. From the puritanical constructs of the “Shamans” who think anything to do with this world, or darkness, is bad or “evil” (I could tell a funny story about a woman who basically told me I was too dark in a Depossession/Spirit Release and Curse Removal group, but I will stop). I do not have the puritanical constructs that still heavily influence most “Shamanic” workers. I also do a lot of different work and have studied many paths intensely that are not “Shaman” oriented- such as Occult/Magic(k), Rootwork, Conjure, Vodou/Voodoo, Witchcraft, Energy Work, and Folk practices of a lot of different cultures, including those from my own ancestry.
The other thing is that I actually work. I don’t care to get in lengthy discussions about what a “Shaman” is or how to release spirits or how to work with ancestors because I am actually working and doing so for a living. There is a huge difference between intellectual knowledge and what is gained from actually doing the work. There is a huge difference in having direct spiritual experience, knowing because of having spiritual experiences and initiations… and people who just read books and quote their teachers and take on their cosmologies. Many of my experiences do not have a name, they do not have an easy label. I go through an initiation, or learn something from my ancestors or teaching spirits, and it no longer fits neatly into a specific name, and it isn’t likely in any books.
The point of this blog isn’t “oh, I am so great”… it really isn’t (just to clarify). I do the work that I do because I am called to it, and I am good at it, and at this point I really can’t do anything else (trust me, I have tried). It is partially to say a bit about where I stand regarding the usage of the word Shaman and why I call myself a Spiritual Worker now instead. It is also because I know many of you out there are struggling with your experiences, your very real direct experiences, and do not see yourself in the core “Shamanic” groups, and are sensitive enough to sense the animosity or general oddness of the field of energy surrounding the word Shaman. The energy surrounding the word “Spiritual Worker” is more peaceful, and is descriptive enough to keep many of us away from being identified as Core Shamans and the work that they do, and also describes those of us who actually do spiritual work rather than just talk about it, and those of us who are actually having direct spiritual experiences and initiations happen to us rather than seeking them out.
It is my calling to help others who are having direct spiritual experiences, such as Shamanic/Spiritual Callings, so that they can understand and work with their path. If you are interested in working with me you can contact me.