On Shamans and Shamanism ... Shaman, a Tungus (Siberian) word, meaning "to heat", refers collectively to those indigenous tribal members who responsibility for their tribe centered on healing through spiritual means. These individuals were our first philosophers, prophets, priests, mystics, counselors, psychologists and doctors. Through ceremony and prayer ritual, the shaman explored exalted states of consciousness and their ecstatic spiritual experiences were responsible for bringing forth the information and methods, which ultimately evolved, into our current religions and medical practices.
The shamanic perspective is that everything on earth - from the trees, grasses & waters, to her creatures and human beings - is alive and has a spirit. No human being is viewed as loftier on any hierarchical scale; rather every spirit manifesting in physical form is viewed as being an aspect of God, or the one Great Spirit. All beings are seen as relatives and each spirit is accorded honor and respect for it's special gifts, or "medicine". It is this humble, devotional perspective which sets up harmonious relationships and reciprocity between the species, and develops a compassionate heart for the "people". And it is the compassionate heart that compels a shaman to explore the spiritual realms in order to bring help to their brothers and sisters, whether human, animal or elemental, and provides the shaman with their access to power. All powers of the shaman belong to the Creator alone and are drawn through the compassionate heart by the beings(s) in need, for whom that grace is intended.
A shaman understands that the heart is the gateway to the spiritual realms and the purpose and function of their spiritual disciplines is to develop an open heart. True shamans can be recognized by their refusal to lay claim to any personal power to heal, and will dedicate their lives to doing whatever is necessary to become a clear vehicle through which miracles can be made manifest. They have been referred to as "the tender-hearted ones", "those who walk between the worlds", bodhisattvas, yogis and saints and can be recognized within virtually every organized religion of the world.
A shaman's primary relationship in life is with Spirit; their primary focus when considering suffering of any type is the spiritual nature of the disorder and how that correlates to whole health and well-being. Spiritual diagnosis results in recommending "treatments" that may address any one or combination of the four levels of the body, i.e., physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, and can range from the very practical to extremely "out-of -the-ordinary". All are aimed at returning a being to balance and harmony by providing opportunities for a fully-spirited life.
As It Applies to Animals Animal beings tend to respond more quickly and completely to shamanic healing techniques than humans because they have not been subject to our mental educational focus and the associative mental contortions and manipulations of our society.
Four classic shamanic techniques are employed to diagnose the spiritual body and return it to harmony, often resulting in healing at the physical level. These are the arts of divination, extraction healing, soul retrieval and psychopomp.
Divination is "seeing, feeling, hearing and speaking: to the spirits and includes, among other divination practices, direct communication with animals. Extraction healing involves the removal of inappropriate, intrusive energies from the spiritual body which are seen to be the root cause of physical illness, while soul retrieval is the returning of beneficial energies to the spiritual body which have fragmented and broken away due to life's various traumas. Psychopomp, meaning "conductor of the soul", applies to those practices in which a shaman engages in order to help guide the souls of those passing over or who have already passes and are still in need of resolution on the earth plane.
Over 50% of the clients I see in my shamanic healing practice are animals. Cases span the gamut from mundane to "bizarre"; they range from issues of behavior, physical ailments and lost animals to animal spirit hauntings and even possession.
I have performed many extractions and soul retrievals for cats around the issue of declawing; there isn't a cat I've met yet who has been declawed and who has not named that procedure as an issue of concern and pain for them. Many have shown me that when humans undertake this procedure, we inadvertently wound their spirits by taking away an ability essential to their sense of power and self-esteem. In these cases, the extraction involves the removal of their emotional pain and perhaps, the memory of the physical pain involved, while a soul retrieval may be necessary in order to return that part of the spiritual essence, which is necessary to a cat's "catness". (Same-same for a dog's ears and tails!)
Simba, the Dobie pictured with me above, was a willful, out-of-control puppy. A vet and the breeder were in agreement that he would develop severe aggression and advised euthanasia as the solution. However, pairing spiritual diagnosis with an animal communication session clearly revealed something akin to the Attention Deficit Disorder we often diagnose in humans. I decided to try an herbal formula, which is equivalent to the pharmaceutical, Ritalin, and within two weeks saw a remarkable improvement. Simba is nearly 8 years old now, and he is still willful, but he is very connected to humans, well-socialized and is affectionately referred to as "Licky Boy" by my young niece. When another issue of aggressive behavior with a vicious Chihuahua presented, the spirits recommended a neurolinguistic re-programming method, doggy style - to entice the pup to rotate his eyes in a particular direction through the use of a "roving" treat.
I have been fortunate enough to pick up a number of misdiagnoses with animals, and in at least two instances was able to prevent inappropriate surgical procedures. Once was a misdiagnosis of hip displasia, which was really a torn crusciate ligament. Laughably, the other was a misdiagnosis of torn crusciate ligament, which in fact was a genetic arthritic condition of the spine. The process of
Divining has also helped me to point human clients in the right direction when trying to diagnose disorders that are not apparent.
And, while shamanic techniques are not always an exact science, neither, apparently, is allopathic medicine.
Soul retrievals can be very helpful in situations of abuse, abandonment, surgical trauma, accidents and separation traumas, and a shamanic practitioner can often find herself involved in a sort-of spiritual midwifery. Of interest was a very special rescue cat who was traumatized by terror, but surprised us with an immediate and complete turn-around when we honored his request to rename his new "fully-spirited" self, Jupiter. He is only one of several who have benefited from the vibrational shift that occurs with a name chosen to honor their true spirit.
A combination depossession/soul retrieval resulted in the joyful reunion of two sibling cats, whose bonded relationship with one another was nearly destroyed when both were attacked by a feral feline while enjoying a peaceful slumber together in the sun. The siblings became violent to one another after the attack, were physically separated and, at the advice of their vet, were being prepared to go to different homes, when I received a call from their caretaker who was "willing to try anything".
The Shamanic Approach to Death & The Process of Dying To me, there is no more sacred or worthy service that we can offer any being than to be fully present with our assistance as they are making their final transition from this life to the next. Engaging with an animal and their human companions to help with choices in the deathing process has proved to be an awesome privilege filled with enormous grace.
I recently came in at the tail-end of a one-year old Blue & Gold macaw's fight with a fatal disease known as Macaw's Wasting Disease.
This fighting spirit kept surprising everyone by making continual comebacks from his illness which earned him the name Otis, though I renamed him Magic at his request. During one of his more serious bouts of attack, I offered to help his person out by delivering him to the vet for his appointment. One the drive, I explained to Magic that we humans were limited in our knowledge of how to help him at the physical level, and that his visit to the vet would involve some pretty invasive explorations of his body to that end, I wanted to give him an opportunity to make his own choices and let him know that he could "leave the body" whenever he decided it was appropriate for him. He died with great dignity one-half hour after I dropped him off, before the scheduled procedure. Before I received word of it, Magic visited me in spirit at the time of his passing. Just before falling off to sleep, I saw him hovering above me, wings fully outstretched. The following morning I journeyed to Magic to ensure that he had made a clean transition. To my complete and unexpected surprise, when Magic appeared to me, he brought along Sam, a Scarlet Macaw, to greet me. I had worked with Sam several years before, when he had lead poisoning, but to my knowledge he had recovered and was still alive. It was later confirmed that Sam had indeed passed over, and even more astonishing, that both Sam and Magic's human companions were one-time business partners and friends.
Nothing I've yet experienced compares to the generosity of Mimi, a yellow lab/shepherd cross. Together with her human companions, I sat vigil with her for nearly two days while she communicated the details of each stage of her dying process, expressing her needs, asking questions and offering her wisdom and parting sentiments. Before she passed, Mimi `s most urgent need was to engage me as an intercessor so that she and her loved ones might learn and practice spirit-to-spirit communication together in order to remain connected and to continue their relationship after she had moved on.
Imagine my overwhelm at witnessing the parting dance of Echo, a magnificent white Arabian, who performed an "honoring dance" on the astral plane to thank me just before crossing the rainbow bridge. Or the final blessing of a Great Blue Heron as he directly transmitted his "birdness", passing on to me the kinesthetic sense of the greatest freedom (not to mention lung capacity!) I have ever known. The experience took my breath away. They all do. But at the same time, it leaves you fuller with the grace and wisdom that is necessary to heal through the grieving.
Conclusion ... All healing modalities (and religions) emerged through the practice of shamanism. When approaching healing from the shamanic perspective, we are accessing the tree of the knowledge, rather than a branch from the tree of knowledge. It is important to understand that each and every being is an individual spirit with a unique set of mental, emotional and spiritual circumstances, and resolutions to each vary dramatically from animal to animal or from person to person.
As "spiritual specialists" shamans understand that the spiritual/physical body relationship is essential to optimum health. Shamanism does not take the place of traditional veterinary or medical care. We must certainly address body-oriented disorders through the use of allopathic specialists. However, many conditions are not physiological in origin, and it is my belief that animals and humans alike would be best served with an alternative compliment. Shamanic practices enhance traditional care, support recovery and do not negatively affect any treatment or procedure.
Healing is not always curing, but the practice of shamanism helps us all to rest peacefully in our processes and to access the knowing that no matter what, all is well.
Nancie LaPier maintains a private practice at The Center Pole in East Haddam Dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of both individuals and animals, she facilitates workshops in the Shamanic Arts. She was a participating editor and featured in the newly released publication, Animal Voices, by Dawn Brunke, and is the Proprietor of The Bird Drop Inn, providing boarding services for exotic parrots and education on their care. She can be reached at (860) 873- 3825. or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at http://www.nancielapier.com