I grew up in an extensive Mormon family with a mom deep-rooted in the beliefs and a dad willing to go with the flow as long as he could research genealogy. The religion is fine and does teach some useful values on how to raise kids and stay humble. What rubbed me was the definitive roles of men and women. I am not going to explain this deeper right now (maybe in another post) as it doesn’t pertain to this conversation. I would call myself agnostic as I believe in energies, karma and connections to the universe. Through my searching, I came across Shamanism and signed up for a weekend workshop. As I sat in the opening circle with 13 other people, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation. The workshop was being hosted in an annex connected to a Catholic church. There were pictures of popes lined up on the walls. Here I was an ex-Mormon in a Catholic church about to experience journeying with a shaman practice that predates Christianity. Hah! The universe has one hell of a sense of humour and the irony wasn’t lost on me.
I love the fact the word ‘shaman’ some say means ‘he or she who knows’. It’s actually a practiced discipline instead of a religion and has many variations depending on the culture and country. The workshop I first attended was a contemporary western version. Which, in short, is a type that tries not to be too specific about meanings or practice. That way, you can experience the discipline before getting detailed protocols based on culture and beliefs. Our first journey involved a quest to find our spirit animal. For non-believers it seems a bit strange to lay down on the floor, cover your eyes, listen to the sound of the drums and focus in on your cleverly crafted question of what animal will guide you as you start this trek. I consider myself an intuitive person. I meditate on occasion and sign up for workshops that will push me into all sorts of uncomfortable situations.
This was different for me though. As I took some slow, easy breaths and listened to the instructions, I had the feelings of rightness. The spirit animal was waiting for me as I opened my mind and the animal was not what I expected. I always assumed I was a deer or grizzly kind of being. Nope.
Spirit allies in animal form (The Shamanism Bible by John Matthews). I like that explanation of what a spirit animal is. As I grow in my practice and partake in many journeys, I have gathered quite a collection of -not only animals – but guides that help me with various challenges and questions I can’t seem to figure out on my own. It’s been a life saver for me in many ways and has helped me get through some very dark moments in my life.
If you are curious about learning more on the practice or the subject, here are some suggestions to explore:
The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Calgary Chapter
The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Main site