I Am A Wa-beeno : Part Two
©2007. Turtle Heart
Shamanism requires life and death awareness. The knowledge of suffering and pain (the underworld) overwhelms and destroys most good candiadtes for this work inside tribal culture. You must enter into and survive the dangerous journey into the underground. How many people do you know who have done that? There are no lawyers or 911 to come to your aid inside this underworld. It seems these days many modern people read a few books, beat on a drum they bought in a “shamans supply store”, take some “workshops” and they are ready to be “the chosen” to take away suffering and pain. Usually it is not suffering and pain they seek to relieve but something they call “personal power”. Many of them seem especially interested in this concept. Modern literature, when it talks about these practices romanticizes them with such seductive phrases.
One of the problems is that many people hunger to feel “chosen”...the one special “star” apart from the others. In a good shamanic Indian society everyone works together and there is no “chosen one”. In my culture we had a great society of people with many important skills in healing, philosophy, hunting, dreaming, seeking personal visions…... If someone was very sick, we might call on 44 shamans to look into this suffering. This “please let me be the Jesus” illusion seems to be one cause of this pretending to be shamans. This particular desire, you might say, is essentially an “underworld condition of Christianity” and not shamanism at all.
There is this from the Oxford Dictionary on my Mac laptop:
shaman |ˈ sh ämən; ˈ sh ā-| |ˌʃɑmən| |ˌʃeɪmən| |ˌʃamən| |ˌʃeɪm-|
noun ( pl. -mans |ˌʃɑmənz| |ˌʃeɪmənz|)
a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, esp. among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.
shamanic | sh əˈmanik| |ʃəˌmønɪk| |ʃeɪˌmønɪk| |ʃəˌmanɪk| adjective
shamanism |-ˌnizəm| |ˌʃɑməˈnɪzəm| |ˌʃeɪməˈnɪzəm| noun
shamanist |-nist| |ˌʃɑmənəst| |ˌʃeɪmənəst| noun & adjective
shamanistic |ˌ sh äməˈnistik; ˌ sh ā-| |ˈʃɑməˌnɪstɪk| |ˈʃeɪməˌnɪstɪk| |-ˌnɪstɪk| adjective
shamanize |-ˌnīz| verb
ORIGIN late 17th cent.: from German Schamane and Russian shaman, from Tungus šaman.
Objects like dictionaries give credibility to language. but they are only meant to help us understand our words. Dictionaries are not law books. Some people may feel that if a word gets into the language then that word is validated and means what the dictionary says it means..
Take this “god and evil spirits”, a common reference used in literature discussing shamanism. This is a translation, or worse, his own spin, of what some researcher thought some shaman was telling him long ago. Many interpretations of so called shamanic events use this kind of language. Good and evil are Christian terms, Christian concepts. Good and evil are not distinct concepts in old tribal languages and certainly this christian duality thinking is not present inside of tribal and ritual behavior until very recently. The old original. ritual languages did not embrace Christian concepts of good and evil or heaven or hell. Yet Christian commentators on these people used Christian labels and language to write about these things.
Many modern people do what they want to do. No one shows the slightest interest in the hopes and wishes of the tribal people from whom they are just more or less stealing wholesale from. Plenty of people believe they have the freedom to do what they want without asking anybody anything at all. There is a lot of confusion over what is what, and it is a serious matter. Good people have the obligation to practice careful thinking and responsible language. Like the hissing of a leaky air pipe, there is a lot of unrelated noise being used as language to describe Indians and the Mystery Life of Indians.
My old mother used to say, “just because your lips are moving, does not mean you are saying anything.”
Good people, over time, will buy into accepting a word. I hear American Indians using this word more and more. I don’t buy it. I even use this word sometimes. I am embarrassed. There are no excuses. Sometimes it just takes to long and who cares?
Ask the shaman if they have gone to the Underworld and died there? If they cannot give an absolutely clear answer to this question, then they are liars, at best. Indian or or non-Indian. Many old Indians are unhappy with the modern language words used to describe their sacred life. Ceremonial language never uses fancy modern marketing words. It uses only the language of clarity and they may not sound like your language at all.
In tribal culture, and in shamanic cultures, the principle rules of initiation and permission to use these sacred teachings comes from one source; the tribal elders. You must have their direction, permission, blessing and support. Period. If someone claims to be a shaman and cannot clearly and precisely offer convincing evidence of this involvement with tribal elders, they may believe what they are telling you, but they are most likely mistaken.. Throw stones at them. There have never in any tribal culture been any exceptions to this rule of the elders. The rule of the elders is the whole basis, or foundation, upon which this sort of teaching rests. One way or the other Grandfather and sometimes Grandmother must be in the picture of the life of anyone who claims to practice in this line of knowledge.
There are no “intellectual” Shamans. You cannot study hard and learn how to be one. It exists within a cultural context, not an intellectual one.
It is possible to proceed, in your relations with other people, on the basis of trusting your own senses. It is not always very respectful to blurt out intensely personal questions. I sometimes meet people who ask blunt questions about race, about who my elders are and I want to slap them…and I have slapped a few faces. Out of respect for yourself, you can discover ways to understand who is around you, who is teaching you. It is possible to not only behave with respect, it is possible to have enough respect for these sacred things to seek out good information from people you have clear feelings about. You test what you have experienced by trusting in your senses. It is in fact this education of the senses, this power to understand where in the real world you really are and what is true and what is not. Our tribal elders believed in this power. When I hear the elders talk about these many modern people who say they are shamans, they say they don’t believe them. Whom do I believe? Those talking heads or my elders?