I was introduced to shamanism

“Paris, Gare de Lyon, I am getting back into my daily world. “Land down softly,” whispers Lisa, an intern who traveled home with me. My man came to pick me up at the station, he looks at her, appalled. He thinks very loudly: “What is this sect?” I understand that he winces: as he leaves me, Lisa hugs me as if we were sisters – we didn’t know each other a week ago – and barely greets him. I’m not much better from the station to the house: “I’ll tell you later” is the only sentence I address to him. I want to focus on the rain. Rain like this in the middle of August is exactly what I wanted. I’m not far from thinking that it was I who summoned this little downpour this morning, when shamanic practices still seemed natural to me. Was five days in the Larzac enough to turn me into an apprentice shaman, who believes she knows how to make the rain fall?

Let’s go back a few months

Over lunch, Noël, a doctor and organizer of primitive rites, introduces me to shamanism as a means of reconnecting with nature and, what interests me more, as a healing technique. Being a shaman when you’re a Tungus from Siberia, I understand, but practicing shamanism when you live in France in the 21st century! To find out more, I register for one of his sessions entitled “Coincidence, dream and reality mixed together”. When I arrive at the site of the course, I am blown away by the beauty of the site. A former episcopal residence with fields, forest and view of the Larzac plateau. At worst, I will take advantage of the setting. During the first dinner, I gauge my companions. We are fifteen. No cool babes or mystics, the public is quite heterogeneous: men and women, from 25 to 65 years old. Almost all have already had a first approach to shamanism, they seem happy to participate in this new week of rituals.

10 p.m., the first evening

We have an appointment in the attic of one of the outbuildings. I get lost and I arrive almost the last. The other trainees are seated in a circle on a tatami, around an altar, with a feather fan, censer and various percussion instruments. Question decorum, I am served. “What is the dream that brought you here?” This is the first question each trainee must answer when the “talking stick” comes to them. An intern explains that he lost control of his car on his way to the internship and that he reversed when he wanted to go forward; others recount their dream of the day before or recurrent dreams. Me, I understand neither the question nor the answers, and the piece of wood approaches. When my turn comes, I improvise, I present myself as a prolific dreamer, and presto! I pass the stick to my neighbour.
At the end of this first “round of dreams”, Noël points out that two of the dreams recounted are addressed to the whole group. There is talk of attempted murder and burglary. According to the shaman therapist, these dreams express the reluctance we all have to come here to get rid of our problems. “The internship has started,” he announces with a big smile. How can he jump from the necessarily personal unconscious to a collective message? I am wary…

Second day, first ritual

We are seated in a circle, back to the center. Posted to the east of the circle, the animators begin to drum and sing a chant that we punctuate by waving sorts of maracas. Each in turn, we are supposed to enter the circle and take advantage of the “collective energy” to feel a blockage that prevents us from moving forward. While I’m sure nothing will happen, when I sit in the center with my eyes closed, I immediately feel like I’m suffocating. I also feel an enveloping heat, then I visualize a black lizard spinning on a yellow wall. Furtive sensations devoid of meaning, but sensations all the same.

At the end of this first exercise, everyone must find a small corner of nature to sort out what they have just experienced. Sitting on a stump, I recognize this feeling of oppression. It’s the one I felt the day I had to choose a training course after high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so much so that I ended up in tears in the arms of a friend’s mother, and finally tossed a coin for my future. I know that feeling well: every time I’m faced with a choice, I suffocate, unable to give up all the other options. So this shamanic ritual awakened a familiar problem in me. So, I put my skepticism aside and I decided to play the game during the day, while in the evening I try to understand by noting everything in my notebook.
During the five days that the internship lasts, I therefore try to get rid of this obstacle that I have created for myself.

In the program

Dream tricks, creation of an object, visualizations, contacts with family ancestors or more generic ancestors, sorts of spiritual guides. While I was both hoping and fearing that nothing would happen, a lot is happening. If I don’t “contact” any ancestors, I have visions. Driven by the beating of drums – I guess it’s hypnosis – but without hallucinogenic substances, I frequently see animals. The lizard appears to me several times to mark the beginning or the end of a vision. I will learn later that, in the Amerindian cosmogony, the lizard is the dream animal because it lives permanently between sleep and the waking state.

During the course, we all made an object symbolizing our blockage. Mine was made up of two shards of stone, one black and one white, tied together with rope and embellished with a trail of leaves like so many preposterous questions, of anticipated remorse, which pollute me when I have to make a decision. On the fourth day, as I am carrying this cursed sculpture, the two horses that live freely on the property come to meet me. I give them the vegetable part of my object to graze on. The day before, during an exercise, I successively visualized a tooth, a horse and a triangle.
By slipping my object – triangular – between the teeth of the horses, I have the impression of giving meaning to this vision, I create my first ritual. At this moment, I feel a certain jubilation, but no “miracle cure”.

On this point, the organizers are clear, these five days do not replace basic therapy. If traditional shamans are healers – but not only (read below) –, neo-shamanism as we practice it is less ambitious: we look for elements of intellectual enrichment and personal fulfillment. During the internship, we work on living better in a way that I had never experienced. We do not dwell on our difficulties, we bequeath them to nature, which takes care of recycling them while we work on the emergence of a new desire.
I was planning to go and live in Japan, without being really sure, leaving myself the freedom not to leave or to come back. In short, in my own way. Finally, in Larzac, I confirmed my decision to settle on the other side of the world. Above all, I discovered a way of apprehending the universe that was both very simple and magical. On the other hand, and contrary to some of my comrades who follow the recommendations of guides encountered in dreams, I think that the rituals and the objects that we fashion are inspired by our unconscious alone. “Unconscious, guides, it’s the same thing”, assures me Noel, everything is in everything, including in each of us. Intellectually, I conceive it, it is the definition of immanence that characterizes shamanism and all animist religions compared to monotheistic religions. But to say that I receive advice from another world is a step I cannot take.

On my return

On my return, I read a lot on the subject. I found in the testimony of Maud Séjournant practical suggestions which inspired me to invent very simple exercises that I perform in secret. I try to be more attentive to nature. I raise my head when the rain, the wind or the brightness please me, and I thank the weather when it suits me, which can make me smile for the whole day. I also wonder which direction I’m heading when I’m moving. From my house to the post office: a quick look at the sun, it’s morning, it’s in the east, the post office is on the opposite side, so I’m going west. I am aware of being part of a while going to get a registered letter!

I became more receptive to coincidences. As a good child of psychoanalysis, I am convinced that these “signs” are messages sent by my unconscious, but I have got into the habit of noting them down and I have fun weaving links between what I see, what what I hear and my personal questions. A few weeks ago, I got on a subway train and sat in the first available seat. In front of me, a Japanese tourist wears a pendant of a horse about thirty centimeters. I smile. It is the animal of strength and will in the Sioux pantheon, and it appeared to me several times during the internship. I decide to make a sign of it for my departure to Japan. And, dear reader, I who had difficulty making a decision, I took the plunge. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, I am sending you this testimony from Tokyo! »

Shamanism, shaman and neo-shamanism

From saman (“monk”, in the Tungusic language), shamanism designates a set of techniques and experiences common to different peoples of Siberia, the Americas, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, South Africa. South and Australian Aboriginal. All “shamanic” peoples believe in a world other than the immediately perceptible world, they are convinced of the importance of balance between their actions and this other world.

The shaman is the one who can act by accessing this world. For this, he is helped by guides he meets in dreams or during trances. A healer, he can also harm his enemies or those of his community, name the children, cause rain to fall, etc.

Neo-shamanism was born in the 1960s, on the West Coast of the United States. Its first promoters, close to the hippies, wanted to bring the Western world a direct contact with the universe. Since then, works, notably those of Carlos Castaneda or Michael Harner, widely disseminated this new syncretism.

For further

Carlos Castaneda

In the 1970s, this anthropologist put shamanism in the spotlight by recounting its initiation by the Yaqui Indian Don Juan Matus. The authenticity of his stories is now questioned. To read,Carlos Castaneda, the truth of lies by Christophe Bourseiller, (Editions du Rocher, 2005).

We would like to say thanks to the author of this short article for this incredible content

I was introduced to shamanism

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