I am reading a book by Loren Cruden, Coyote’s Council Fire, that has helped me “find myself” as a shamanic practitioner in the United States. First I want to clarify that I do not see myself as a shaman but as a depth counselor who has been trained to incorporate shamanic techniques into my practice which is mostly focused on dreamwork and shadow-work with a Jungian approach. Shamans work with spirits, Jungians with archetypes. They aren’t the same thing and the work involves engaging slightly different realities. Having said that, I would like to return to Cruden.
The practice of shamanism is arguably the oldest profession in the world, more than likely older than prostitution. (Some 30,000 years at least.) But it can’t be practiced in a vacuum and it doesn’t thrive in a culture that doesn’t believe in spirits. People who dabble in shamanism often try to redefine it in terms that are compatible with a monotheistic or psychological worldview. This doesn’t make sense to me because shamanism is many times older than any religion and it behooves those of us who consider ourselves students of shamanism to be as authentic as possible in respect of shamanism’s timeless mysteries and values. Indeed, it is arguable that shamanism is the source of the great religions. The spirits (helpful and unhelpful) that come up in shamanism are ancestral and indigenous. Shamanism, like religion, is ubiquitous, but like religion, shamanism is also place-specific and its rituals and medicines and even its cosmology are originally local or regional.
Michael Harner’s Core Shamanism (See his book, The Way of the Shaman: A guide to power and healing) takes the local and indigenous out of shamanism for the benefit of a culture that has lost its own local (indigenous and communal) roots. A return to classic or indigenous shamanism would call for a coming home to a way of living that embraces a community and belongs to a place or region.
Cruden writes that there are three levels of community that are all essential for a healthy and balanced healing practice. (A careful reading of her book makes it clear that she understands all deep healing as more or less, that is, essentially, shamanic.) : (1) This first level of community is the community of service and is not limited to proximity. (2) This is the practitioner’s local area of service, literally, one’s personal precinct of relationship and influence, i.e. one’s tribe. (3) The third level of community is “all our relations” or the web of life.
Being aware of these three levels of community can be very helpful when a healer / shamanic practitioner is planning a ceremony or communal ritual or trying to figure out what to charge for a service. Just for example, if one is serving a client from one’s local community it might make more sense to scale back the fee or consider a barter because community is synergistic; people’s gifts, abilities and competencies overlap, or should overlap in a functional community, and, as a general policy, the interdependence and personal nature of belonging to a community must be acknowledged and honored as well as nurtured by the work. When we heal within our community or tribe, there is an element of self-healing that happens in the process, whereas when one is performing healing work outside one’s local community one is putting oneself out and there is more at stake.