Monday, 17 December 2018

Local and Global

I think that we are both locally based and citizens of the world at the same time. So with our shamanism or animism or whatever we call it, we need to find roots in the people and land we are part of; but also to draw inspiration from around the world, and incorporate what others have done as appropriate. I think this is about being true to who we are these days. It is a great opportunity.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018


This is a bit of a thought experiment, and I'm going to be a bit controversial, so please take it in that spirit.

It is this. The way many of us have been taught to encounter the Spirit World is through 'shamanic journeying', as taught by Michael Harner. And it is safe. It suits cerebral westerners who don't want anything too physical or too expressive, and which can therefore achieve a kind of respectability in the worlds of academia (Harner's world) and therapy.

And it works. To some extent. It worked for me and it changed me, many years ago. But most of the raw power is missing. We don't do primordial. When I go to the Spirit world, it is these things. I am taken over physically by the Spirit and I am expressive both physically and verbally in a way that is all-consuming and entirely free-flowing. And it is therefore ecstatic. I have had dogs barking at me when I work, for they sense the animal presence that could dispatch them with a swipe of its claw. 

In the Harner method (which no indigenous person I have ever heard of uses) the body is not involved, and nor is speech/song. THE SPIRIT CANNOT INCARNATE. For Mongolians shamans, it is standard that the spirit comes into you physically. It is standard too in voodoo, and maybe that is why we are terrified of it. It is the power of the irrational, of the unconscious. Harner tries to tame it, to keep it in the service of the rational mind. But you can't do it. Spirit will erupt and destroy that puny edifice.

Trance dance is maybe the nearest we get to this true surrender to Spirit. That is where it began for me. It is such a deep encounter, because Spirit gets to use the whole of us.

And I would like to see the way we teach journeying change fundamentally so that it is geared towards this experience, and doing healing work on that basis. I might even say that if you can't let Spirit use you in this sort of way, then it's not your path. Let us have no more tame 'shamanic practitioners'. Let us have those who are able to be unashamedly possessed by Spirit. It's the real deal.

Monday, 3 December 2018


Here is a great post from October on the snake by Chris Luttichau who runs the Northern Drum Shamanic Centre (see below):

Now is the time when adders go into hibernation. Every year I seek out locations where I can encounter these old friends. Snakes have been part of my life since I was a child. There was a dare in Denmark when I grew up: pick up an adder and hold it by the tip of the tail, it won’t be able to reach your hand and bite (catching an adder can be very dangerous, so do not attempt this).

Later this skill came in handy when I lived in the States and had to catch rattlesnakes that had gotten into people’s dwelling spaces. Rattlesnakes, however, would be able to reach your hand if you held them by the tail, so they require a different approach.

These experiences taught me one important thing about venomous snakes: they are peaceful creatures. It takes a lot of provocation to arouse their aggression and make them bite. However, if you overstep their boundaries, there are dire consequences. It was a vital lesson, one that can be applied in many ways.

The second lesson I learned was that snakes can go almost anywhere. Where many other animals can’t find a way in, snakes can: through crevices into caves, into holes in the earth, up into trees, snakes explore all spaces, nothing is hidden.

Metaphorically this means that snakes have the ability to find their way into any secret space, and unlock what is hidden for others. They find their way into the mysterious chambers of the underworld, and this means that they have the power of expanded awareness.

This quality extends into the snake’s awareness of the Earth, and what is happening on the planet. The whole body of most snakes is in contact with the earth all the time, unlike humans and animals where only our feet are touching the earth most of the time, and in the case of birds where the body is removed from the earth a lot of the time.

The snake knows when an earthquake is coming long before it arrives. Indigenous people know this and have made an art of reading and understanding the behaviour of snakes so that they could see what the snake knew and be prepared for what was coming. Snakes know things that human don’t, and in this way they have mastered awareness and perception.

The close connection to, and knowledge of, the Earth is partly why snakes are depicted in statuettes with ancient goddesses, such as the Minoan snake goddess from Crete, along with goddesses from Asia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern cultures. Snake represents the Earth Mother. This symbolism can also be found in many cultures of ancient Mexico in the form of Quetzacoatl, the feathered serpent. Amongst other things Quetzacoatl represents the union of the snake and the quetzal/eagle.: the earth and the sun, the material and the spirit, instinct and consciousness. Together they take flight into awakened consciousness.

The fundamental creative power of the Earth is also embodied in the snake. In India, the kundalini energy is portrayed as a coiled snake at the base of the spine, where it lies dormant, waiting for the right moment to awaken and rise up to the crown, bringing union and awakening.

This is a power that can transform and transmute. Sometimes it will blow things out of the way and tear things apart because it holds the power of transformation, close to the power of creation.

It’s a power of renewal, and like the snake that sheds its skin it leads to rebirth. The snake sheds its skin in one go, not scale by scale. The power of the snake is intense, and not always pleasant, but it leads to rebirth. As the snake repeatedly sheds its skin it teaches us to renew ourselves and not resist change.

The eyes of the snake seem impervious to what happens around it, as if it is a messenger from realms other than the human. In the ancient ouroboros image of the snake biting its own tail, we can see infinity and eternal return, showing us that all life sustains itself upon life in the eternal cycle of birth and death, and that destruction and renewal are part of the cosmic dance of creation. The snake points us towards understanding the union of opposites, integrating our own shadow, and realizing the oneness of all that is. For thousands of years the snake has taught humans that reality is not what it appears to be on the surface.

Friday, 30 November 2018


I love the Otherworld and contemplating its nature and how to be in relation to it. I love thinking and writing too, but it's the connection with the Otherworld which is my source. When I do my spirit embodiment, and get taken on a journey, it goes so deep. And this happened with a dragon the other day, and it has effects on this world beyond just myself. This began to happen in 1999, and the healing work I did on that basis was strong, people still tell me about it years later. 

And then it slowly went, I gradually lost the power of my connection to the Otherworld due to the relationship I was in, and of course I was party to that, but I think it was hard for her if I shone too brightly. And now it is returning, I have the cave in which I live and I am re-establishing my connections to the Otherworld. But I think more confidently this time, I have been scoured and impediments in myself have healed.

Saturday, 24 November 2018


There are different ways of looking at the reasons for things. In my Buddhist days, I learnt that there are 5 different levels of causality. Buddhism has lots of lists. These days, I am happy with 2 sorts of reasons: the ordinary, this-world kind of reasoning; and the Spirit reasons for events, the bigger picture.

So if your car won't start, the natural response may be to feel frustrated, and anxious about that appointment you have to get to. The Spirit perspective would be to wonder what it is about today and the way I am that my car won't start? That way it becomes de-personalised. You may not have an 'answer', but it is a different kind of contemplation. You never need take anything personally any more once you have that Spirit perspective. You can view everything objectively. So someone is unpleasant to you: no need to get offended, just wonder why that person felt the need to do that, and what the bigger picture might be, what Spirit might be trying to tell you. But again, don't rush to find an 'answer', it's not usually as simple as that.

I was thinking about this because of the Great Extinction issue. For me, it is hard to think about, it is that painful. And of course we humans seem to be causing it, and we need to do what we can to halt it. But then I thought, from a Spirit level, it is like why are all these plants and animals choosing to leave the planet? And where is it that they go? There is pathos and mystery in their choosing to leave.

The Spirit level also tells me to just watch what humans are doing to the planet, and wonder about the process. It is a huge collective unfolding. On one level, it is tragic. On another level, it is something to just contemplate, what is it about the nature of life that this is happening? It's not like we are a disease, an aberration, that is outside of life. We are part of life, and this is what is happening. It is not just our doing, it's not 'personal. I'm not arguing for complacency; I'm just suggesting there is a deeper contemplation that takes us to the mystery of things.

Saturday, 17 November 2018


The way I naturally relate to the spirit world, when I am 'working', is through embodiment. For me, this has more power than the usual way of journeying, where one lies still. Perhaps it is because the spirits also have the power of the body, and are therefore more present in this reality. It is the normal way of working in Mongolian Shamanism, where it is called Ongod Orood. But it doesn't seem to be on offer in our society. I have no reason to doubt the ancient British would have worked in a similar way too, as it seems quite natural.

I'm interested in exploring this way with other people. If this intrigues you, and you want to come and see me in Moretonhampstead in Devon, UK, please let me know and we can try and sort something. I work in an informal, let's-see-what-happens kind of way.

Meanwhile, here is an excerpt from the book Chosen by the Spirits, by Sarangerel, a Mongolian Shamaness who also has European ancestry:

"The state is called Ongod Orood, meaning the state of having the ongon spirits inside the body. While you are Ongod Orood, you retain awareness of your surroundings, but your senses are heightened through your merging with the spirits. You will be able to see spiritual beings and forces, something that you will need for your shamanic work. You may have the sensation that you are working in two realities at once: the physical reality of your body and the ritual space and the ecstatic reality of spirit.

While you are embodying the spirits, you are in perfect safety; the spirits will not allow any harm to come to your body while they are in it. You may find yourself singing songs you have never heard, doing ritual actions you have never learned, dancing dances you have never seen. This is because your udha (spirit helper) is working directly through you and teaching you the techniques that have passed down through the sunsnii mur, the stream of shamanic experiences and techniques from the lives of all the shamans your udha has partnered with before. Just relax, release all expectation, observe, and learn."

Sunday, 11 November 2018


According to the latest genetic research, who we are is influenced much more by our genes, and much less by our environment, than we have been led to believe. And the older we get, the more we are an expression of our DNA, and the less we are an expression of our environment. The more, in a way, we become who we are.
This is based on decades of statistical research, particularly into twins. Even our environment is partially a product of our DNA: eg the availability of TV as a child used to be taken just as an environmental influence. But it's not. How much the child actually watches is mainly genetic. Academic attainment is largely genetic. And because it is heritable, the favourable environment for it as a child is also genetically related. If there is genuine equality of opportunity, then heritable meritocracies are produced.

This is not fair in the slightest, and goes against much social theory that tends to favour the environmental influence. But it seems to be how things are. The implications are huge.

Weight is another example. Adopted children growing up in a health-conscious family tend to adopt the weight pattern of their biological parents. The environment makes little difference.

The reasons these findings are controversial is that they seem to give backing to the idea of an innately superior class of people. If you think in terms of some people being 'better' than others, and you assess that in terms of peoples job ability and earning power, the fact that is heritable gives backing to this idea. But I see it as an idea that has always been around: people have egos, and if we can find a way of feeling better than others, we often will. 

Having grown up around such 'better' people, I never noticed a marked ability for sensitivity to and care for others. If anything, it seemed to me worse. And I'm sure that is heritable as well. And ultimately we all have our own unique gifts, and it misses the point to get into comparing ourselves to others. Each person, each plant, each animal has its own spirit.

Anyway, for me there is a mystery in all this. Professor Plomin does not even state his assumption that there are only 2 possible influences on who we are: DNA and the environment. And there seem to be a lot of factors that are not explained by either. Plomin calls these influences 'non-shared environment' to explain the differences between eg identical twins. But these influences continually stump researchers, however hard they look. They seem to be unobservable and unmeasurable. They just assume they have to be there.

I think they have found the spirit-element! It seems to me rather like the brain researchers who, after all these years, are still completely stumped by what consciousness is and how it arises. This, to my mind, is because consciousness, the dreaming, is what lies behind even the perception of a thing called the brain in the first place.

So back to this part of who we are that stumps the geneticists. Good! Plomin is a bit of a straight-line thinker who doesn't even name, let alone question, his own assumptions. He can't bring himself to say well there's a mystery here. But there clearly is a mystery. There is a way in which we are unknowable that is at the heart of who we are. It is the spirit within our earthly presence that continually dreams us into being. It brings influences and characteristics from who-knows-where. And it is creative, it cannot be pinned down.

We are this synergy between spirit, DNA and environment.

I think science can only go so far in any field before it is defied. That is because it is a specialised, and therefore limited, way of looking at reality. Matter dissolves into counter-intuitive quantum reality, in which there are only probabilities. Most of the universe has been discovered to be missing. And much of the human personality turns out to be a mystery, not explicable in terms of either genes or the environment.