Friday, January 30, 2015


   I think I should start with writing something about my personal view on shamanism.

In short: Shamanism is the art of controlled trance journeying and communing with helping Spirits in order to build bridges between the different worlds and to restore balance as much as possible. 
A shamanic practitioner can switch between different states of conciousness at will and maintains good relationships with different kinds of helping Spirits. He or she is able to ask specific questions in the other world and come back with accurate, helpful answers. 

This takes training and discipline and it's a way of life, with daily little rituals, offerings and communication with spirits (among other things).

   Over the years I have met many people claiming to be a shaman. In some circles it's fashionable and very cool to have a title like that. And most of the time there are no questions asked. It is not only cool to be a shaman, it's also cool to be able to say you know one.

After meeting a score of these wannabes online, I met my first in real life when I had just finished my 6 years of training and felt a little lost. All of a sudden there were no other shamanic practitioners at hand to work and share with.
So when I was told I could meet another 'shaman', I had to go to satisfy my curiosity. He would be performing – drumming and singing at a meeting of poets and it was all very special, I was promised.

And there he was, a young guy with a large drum. He was high as a kite. He drummed somewhat arrhythmic and sang “heya heya” slightly out of tune. Everyone present thought it was wonderful shamanic song. Except for me. There was nothing happening. He did nothing but drum and sing a little, there was no purpose, no spirit, no energy, there was nothing but a stoned guy singing a song about nothing.

   While writing this, the memory of another experience pops up in my mind, which was quite the opposite. A concert of shamanic music, with different musicians from Mongolia. There was a lot of overtone singing and elaborate costumes, even a little on stage ritual to call in the spirits, but not much was happening. Until this little frail lady took the stage.

She started by saying that she was a little out of place there, for she did not consider herself to be a shaman. Then she showed of an amazing mastery of her voice ranging 5 octaves. But when she took her drum and started improvising, I could clearly SEE what she was singing. I felt the energy waves go through me, for a moment it was as if she was singing just for me. It was only her and me in that concert hall, together with a Divine presence.

After the concert I went over to her and thanked her for that song. She looked me in the eyes, put her hand on my knee and just said “yes”. No more words needed.
This was Sainko Namtchilak.

   So I tend to take those who explicitly DON'T claim to be a shaman a lot more seriously than those who need to throw in the title to identify themselves. When I encounter a self proclaimed shaman, I smile to myself and - but only if I feel like it - I will ask some questions.
- What do you exactly do?
- What do you know about the different trance states?
- Can you control them?
- How do you maintain your relationships in the other worlds?
- Do you come back from the other worlds, with accurate, helpful information?
Most of the time I get back a blank stare, or some online scolding.

   The word shaman is not patented. Anyone is free to use it.
Just buy a drum as large as possible, put some feathers in your hair and there you are.
Take all kinds of natural or chemical substances, so you can loose yourself in other worlds.
Talk to all kinds of spirits, who will gladly talk back, if you have the talent to invite them.
And you can call yourself a shaman, just like the guy who has been to a sweat lodge once or twice.

You can call yourself anything you like, but don't expect me to take you seriously. You may have a talent, but without proper training, without knowing exactly what you're doing and why, you're a danger to yourself and others. Or just a person with identity problems. And in my humble opinion not a shamanic practitioner, let alone a shaman.

   Why do I care, why can't I just let it be?
Because of all the haziness created by people claiming undeserved titles. And because of the implicit disrespect toward the real shamans: those medicine people of indigenous peoples, who went through all the ordeals of traditional training and initiation.
My training and 12 years experience don't even come close to that.
So how could someone with no training at all claim to be just like them? And how can practitioners who don't even believe in the actual existence of Spirits claim to be one of them? Or those who only met their 'Spirit helpers' through a card deck?

   I do know some Westerners I would call shaman though.
My teacher's teacher is one of them. And another is a guy I worked with for some years, who can raise powerful energy, together with his Spirit helpers and who has helped countless people with their healing. And I'm sure there are more out there.
But they are the proverbial exception to the rule, in this culture where people just love to escape reality with romantic fantasies about being different and special, wearing fancy costumes and claiming vague titles. And where genuine ancient knowledge goes unrecognised.

Please note that all examples mentioned are based on real encounters with different people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shamanism in modern society

This is the follow up to the blog I posted yesterday

For more than 10 years I have trained in shamanic techniques. Apparently I am highly sensitive and have a talent for contacting spirits and working with them. So it was great fun for me to explore the different worlds, in various ritual settings. What I was looking for most of all was to learn, to know and to understand. And along the way I made some friends in the non-daily realities, who showed and taught me some amazing, some frightening and some beautiful things.

I gave up on my shamanic expeditions when the Goddess – The Lady with 10 000 Names – demanded more and more of my time and energy. So for the last 2 or 3 years I just offered my stone readings and some healing with the help of my otherworldly friends, without hardly ever travelling over to them. I simply maintained these friendships with greeting them regularly and giving little presents at their altar in my house temple.

So I've gathered a lot of knowledge and expertise, and I have ancient, faithful friends who come to me whenever I invite them. And that's it. This is all at the moment.
I worked so hard to get there, but now I'm here, I hardly use anything of all the things I learned.

On Facebook I'm member of some groups discussing shamanism and I meet other shamanic practitioners now and then, IRL or online, but I seldom feel a connection.
Western neo shamanism seems to be all about personal experience. Wonderful trance journeys, amazing mushroom/ayahuasca trips, awesome sweat lodges, hugging power animals, personal healing and a lot of big drums (size does seem to matter here) and feathery accessories. Ah, I forget to mention the drum circles, drumming for Mother Earth, while having a good time getting high. I'm sorry to go a little overboard with sarcasm, but I want to make a point here.

Neo shamanism is about the individual, who wants to feel good, who wants to have a special experience, who wants to work through some personal shit, or who just wants a little ego boost by feeling different and special. When I browse websites of shamanic practitioners here in Holland, all I find, boils down to personal development and healing, mostly through costly workshops and trainings.

Traditionally shamanism is not about “me! me! me! I like it, give me more, cause it feels so good!”
Traditional shamans have their place in a community, not necessarily a comfortable place, but it is an important one. They negotiate with the Spirit world for the well being of the whole community and the land, they restore balance where needed and they are keepers of the places that are sacred to their people.

But where is my community?!
Who wants me to appease the Spirits, or to ask advise from the ancestors?
Who is waiting for me to restore the energetic balance in the land? Who is waiting for a sacred place in this overcrowded country, where every square meter has economical purpose?
The only place where I really, really tried ,is now a shop, selling vintage soccer gear.

When I watch, for instance, videos about Korean shamans, doing large public ceremonies in the middle of Seoul, my whole being is stirred. This is what I have to do! The things I learned are not (just) for healing individual people and they are for sure not to make me feel good. (Although communing with my Spirit helpers does feel good, most of the time.) I have to do something useful with my knowledge, I feel my helpers are waiting to finally get to work with me.

But what and where remains to be seen. As long as there is no community to work with or for, I feel there is not much I can do.
All I can do is ask for guidance and give a shout out to the shamanic community, hoping there are some others like me, who want to take their shamanic work up a level.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

And what am I supposed to do now?

Over the years I got acquainted with with quite a few Spirit helpers. Most of them people who pasted away a long, long time ago. And with a long time I mean more than a 1000 or even 2000 years. A few of them I know by name and they were the ones who gave me my name.

 I met them during seidhr trances, singing while holding my staff. And I met them during utisetta trances, meditating on neolithic burial mounts.
I called them and asked them to teach me, which some of them did. I learned some useful techniques and some other things, way out of my comfort zone.

So, yes I can call Spirits and talk with them, learn from them. I did it out of curiosity, to train myself and because I started liking it. It's a special energy that feels good and comfortable to me.

Some years ago I could make good use of all this knowledge, when I worked daily with an ancient energy spot in the old centre of Amsterdam. It was a weird, spooky place and at the same time beautiful and wonderful. I created an energetic tunnel for all the wandering souls who passed there in an endless parade towards the Summer land and I made a truce with those who wanted to stay. This made it possible for the lovely energy of the leycentre to flow more freely and grow stronger and stronger. It was a truly wonderful work.

I didn't do all this work by myself. I got help from another shaman who summoned some powerful helping spirits for me. He was, at that time, the caretaker of the Stonehenge Skull, a skull carved from a piece of sarson stone, left behind after the restoration of Stonehenge in the '50.
In a powerful ceremony 4 guardians stepped forward to hold the energy in the 4 directions. I made them a place to stay and fed them regularly.

It only lasted for a few months. When the energies were all nicely balanced, the affairs of living humans, a bankruptcy to be precise, spoiled everything. We had to leave in a hurry and my shaman friend called back the guardians, who were connected to the Stonehenge Skull.
I admit I was very disappointed and a little angry, but on the other hand I knew very well that nothing happens without a reason. Even though I would have loved to continue this work, apparently what had to be done at that time, was done.

To me it all seems like ages ago now. So many things happened since then.
Some of my Spirit helpers are with me when I do readings, or they work through me when I give healing. And I keep an altar for them in my house temple. But over the years I started to neglect them more and more. Specially this last year, after I took up the study of Vedanta, I hardly ever contacted them. Until some weeks ago.

All of a sudden I felt the urge to test my abilities. Don't ask me why, I can't really explain, but I wanted to make contact with the Spirit of a historical figure, from another time, another culture and a place on the other side of the globe.
After proper preparation I build an appropriate altar. And because this spirit has the potential to be very powerful and rather nasty, I asked for support from all my trusted friends in the Spirit world.

Usually when I cast a circle I greet and invite the powers of the quarters, but I only ask for the protection of Thor. This time I heard myself call for the protection of the Guardians in all 4 directions.
And there they were! I recognized their energy with tears in my eyes.
They came walking towards me from afar, just like they used to years ago. And they stood guard, protecting silly me.
All my Spirit helpers were there, greeting, watching, circling around me. I never felt so save, so comfortable, so loved, so grateful.

And yes, I did contact the foreign king. And, a few days later, I apologised for bothering him for no good reason. He said it amused him, so no real harm was done there.

What I have to figure out now is:
Why I do have this talent?
Why do these spirits keep hanging around and support me, while I neglect them?
What are they waiting for?
What on earth am I supposed to do with all the things I learned?


The follow up to this blog you can find here