| BRIDGING THE WORLDS OF MATTER AND SPIRIT ----THE PATH OF THE SHAMAN
It was the summer of 2000, and I had come to a major transition point in my life. Through a variety of circumstances, I watched as my former way of life fell away, leaving a blank slate on which to create something special and new. I was ready for a big change. Something inside of me was urging a return to a simpler way of life, both physically and spiritually, and a return to my connection with the Earth Mother. It was time for me to become my own healer, teacher and guide, living a life of wholeness and freedom, while serving humanity at the same time.
Around that time, I was very fortunate to be able to attend a one-day soul retrieval workshop given by Alberto Villoldo, founder of the Four Winds Society, a training program in the healing methods and rituals of the medicine people of the Andes and the Amazon, the Inca Shaman. As I listened and participated during the day, an ancient knowing within told me that this was my next step, my path to wholeness, healing and service.
What exactly is a shaman? Most people are familiar with the term shaman, or medicine person in relation to the North American Indian tribes. Shamans are actually found all over the world, serving in the many tribal cultures that still exist, and the name itself comes from the Tungus people of Siberia. This is the person who traditionally is the healer, seer and visionary for the group, the one who can walk between the worlds of spirit and matter on behalf of anyone seeking guidance and healing. The shaman believes that we have never lost our connection to the natural world, or “Garden of Eden”, and that we can call upon the archetypes and powers of this world to assist us in times of distress or illness. The natural world is composed of the visible and invisible realms, but unfortunately, we tend to take the invisible component for granted, not realizing that we are overlooking important resources for our evolution.
Shamanic practices have been experiencing a resurgence of interest lately. This is because they represent a return to the basics, tried and true methods of healing and evolution that have been in existence for thousands of years. Each shaman goes through years of preparation, introspection, cleansing and healing. The result is a high level of integrity and impeccability that is very evident when interacting with one of these medicine people. This is the path that I have embarked upon, both in my personal life, and my healing practice.
As the Inca Shaman attains greater levels of knowledge and expertise, various initiation rites are performed to mark these levels. The first is that of the ayni karpay, which is similar to that of an apprentice shaman. In this phase, the shaman-to-be comes into a proper relationship with the natural world. Up until this point, his experiences have been created, or informed by past or present life traumatic events. He reacts automatically to each new circumstance because the imprints of these past events have remained in his Luminous Energy Field and his chakras, waiting to be triggered. Thus, he has no choice. The rite of the ayni karpay installs archetypes into each chakra which start to inform the life experiences from a more neutral, objective position, so that the shaman can act from this new position, not react because of past programming. Thus begins the path of service to the Earth Mother, her kingdoms, and all of creation.
The next level of attainment is the pampamesayok, which represents stewardship or guardianship of the Earth. This shaman is a mesa carrier. The mesa is the medicine bag of the shaman, filled with the collection of sacred objects used in the practice of shamanic healing. This level corresponds to that of “pipe carrier” in the Native American teachings.
The third level is that of the altomesayok, keeper of the medicine teachings, and one who is responsible to the sacred mountains, or apus. Kurak akuyek, or “elder” follows as the fourth level, in addition to several more levels which may take years of wisdom and power to attain.
When a shaman participates in rites of passage, ceremonies or healings, he begins by opening sacred space. This is a space that is safe, protected and nurturing, where all are connected to the divine. In this space, the cares of the everyday world are left behind, and miraculous happenings can take place. All participants stand equally as members of the human tribe, and the medicine people from the spirit world enter the space to assist.
Using his rattle, the shaman calls in each direction, then Heaven and Earth, starting with the South. In effect, these six directions create the vessel of the sacred space. Each one represents a universal archetype, or organizing principle of nature. The South is the serpent or binding principle, symbolizing healing, sexuality, union, passion, kundalini energy, and the ability to shed the past the way the serpent sheds her skin. The West is the jaguar or renewing force, symbolizing life and death, transformation, chaos and order, and protection. She teaches us how to become the Luminous Warrior who has no need for enemies in this life or the next. The North is hummingbird, or the great journey of evolution and growth, representing courage, stamina, determination, and the journey back to our source. In the North direction, the shaman also calls in the ancestors and ancient ones, who connect us to our past and future, and who bring the ancient teachings to the circle. In the East, we have the eagle and condor, or the self-transcending principle, representing the rising above our current circumstances, vision and the bigger picture, clarity, and the ability to see where we have come from, and where we are going.
As the shaman touches the ground with his rattle, he calls to the Earth Mother, pachamama, and all the nature kingdoms, to join in the healing or ceremony. This represents the feminine principle, which is receptive, nurturing, abundant, and renewing. We always honor our brothers and sisters (the stone people, the plant people, and all the animals, birds, fish, and insects) each time a group gathers within sacred space.
Reaching to the sky, the shaman calls to Father Sun, inti taita, grandmother moon, mama quilla, Great Spirit, and our star brothers and sisters. They represent the masculine principle, the creative forces of the universe, and that which is all permeating and eternal. At this point, the ceremony, initiation rite or healing session can begin. Candles have been lit, or a fire built, and there can be chanting, singing, and rattling. The people within this space unite for a common purpose, always in service to the Earth Mother, and all of creation.
After all ceremonial work is finished, the last thing that is done is the closing of the sacred space. Each direction is faced in turn, and gratitude and thanks are given to the invisible forces that were called to join the circle. The archetypal animals are released back to the natural world, and Heaven and Earth are honored.
The path of the shaman is one of honor, grace, integrity, and service. Through a deeper connection to the Earth Mother, the natural realms, and Great Spirit, may we all learn to tap into the hidden resources for healing and evolution that await us.