I was asked to watch a video called plastic shamans by a friend to see what I thought about it. Its clearly a fairly old documentary (on YouTube) about the New Age movement ripping off the Native American sacred medicine. There was a select number of indigenous people speaking and honestly the people chosen to represent the New Age practices were in my opinion, pretty lame targets.
I would have been more impressed if those that made the film did their homework better and challenged themselves by interviewing people like Sandra Ingerman, someone who has come from an indigenous background and still today offers guidance and teachings in a compassionate and contemporary manner so she can assist the people of this time, simply to balance out the sharing and garner more wise opinions.
What struck me the most as I watched is the ‘ownership’ of the medicine. To me personally, medicine is not something that one can own. It’s a lived experience by those that experience it and one that is offered in order to be of service.
Of course this made me reflect on my own story e.g: Am I a plastic shaman? Did I come to this path because it was a fashionable thing? Did I jump on a bandwagon of popularity? No.
Completely the opposite really. I got massively slam dunked and found through trauma and a deep sense of fragmentation and ego dismemberment, that this path, when using the tools with integrity, worked like nothing else I have ever come across, still to this day.
Have I stolen anything from anyone? No. Any medicine knowledge I have gained has been freely shared with me to pass on, as its primarily about being of service, not feeding my ego or gaining fame. If I wanted fame I would have stuck with being a theatre actress.
In offering tools and pathways that help people access a more consciousness state of being is not something that is mine to own. It is my service to share.
The earth is not not truly owned by anyone. Neither are the tools and wisdom passed down from generations of medicine learning, whatever culture that comes through.
Spirit shares with me. ‘This is a human thing, to own something’.
I get it though, the language of ownership. Its like I kind of own that I am of strong Scottish blood . I remember when there was an opportunity for Scotland to stand on its own a few years back. I was all for Scotland breaking off from England because I felt that rush in my blood of my ancestors
against the english that came to rape and disable my ancestors from their homelands. But thats my ego pride speaking, well more like shouting, Freedom!! As Mel Gibson did.
The key point is when we die…we own nothing. So lets stop thinking we own it now. We are the caretakers, yes, owners, no. Lets caretake the medicine ways well. Be authentic in what we do. Honour the ancestors that came before both via bloodline and soul line as we walk on.
Look, when you make big bucks off the back of a traditional path then I am totally in agreement. Those big new age money wankers piss me right off!!
There is a blonde guy in the video selling totem astrology. He looks like his ancestors are from Norway or something, yet he is dressed in all the indian tribal gear. I get why the original people feel insulted. There is another bunch that drum and offer sweat lodges. They look pretty laid back but the vibe is kind and they seem to bring people together and it seems to help in connecting them to the earth and their consciousness. But because they all are white and played medicine drums and did a sweat…. this was seen as ripping off sacred ways. Maybe they took these things because it worked for them. It helped them feel more connected. If they charged big bucks then maybe not, but that was not shared or explored.
I remember doing a sweat lodge many years back and it was very sacred, very earthing and very cleansing. No wanky new age agenda at all, nor was the leader of the group full of his own importance and wearing a costume from another culture. It was done with great respect, inclusion and reverence. No one pretended to be something that they were not.
If the medicine is helpful for the people of this time, why is it not ok to practice it? Of course if you are to practice something you need to know what your doing, not just wing it. I have always thought it would be lovely that instead of going to a church once a week one could go into the womb of the mother sweat lodge and cleanse and offer gratitude. Is that not a good thing for anyone to do who feels for it regardless of culture? A place where they could go back to the womb and feel safe to let go of their pain, reflect, cleanse and give thanks. Don’t charge a fortune and do it with reverence and respect to those that came before. Good medicine should be available to anyone.
I have worked with clients that have been abused psychologically and sexually by traditional indigenous shamans, as well as the plastic fluffy kind. The abuse of power and manipulation happens in all areas unfortunately. I tend to attract clients who want me to guide them find their way back to their core and dispel the abuse which was done. In one situation a woman came to me and we cleared her from the abuse that was freezing her and what came out of it is the women of that particular tribe threw the shaman out, as he had been doing this to others and this was the last straw. This woman, when she got her power back was able to move on and blossom.
What my teacher (who has now left her body) taught me, is to learn the core of the medicine and then adapt it to my own recipe. It doesn’t mean water it down or disrespect it in any way. It means make it your own, so it fits you like a glove. I hold strong the core structure that is the essence of the medicine I was taught both via my teacher and by spirit, and the original tools that still work so well to this day. On her death bed, my teacher and I talked and she was so happy that I would continue the work in my own way. You see, she on her death bed saw that nothing of what she taught me was owned. It was a service to give it, to share it and to be of service in this medicine.
In Plastic Shamans they referred to Carlos Castenda, Lynn Andrews and Michael Harner as those who have ripped the indigenous people off. I cannot say I have read a huge amount of Castaneda but what I read didn’t resonate much. I found myself more resonant with Taisha Abelar. Lynn Andrews has offered a few good tips here and there and Michaeal Harner, well admittedly I read him in the early days but even that didn’t rock my boat much. I have had quite a few people come to me after doing his workshops who didn’t get back into their bodies properly and ended up fractured energetically. This is the danger of big group workshops especially if your a sensitive person.
All of these people regardless what you think of them or what they practiced, tried to bring some consciousness to the western mindset. Buddhism has done the same, but those that have brought buddhism across from the east have been welcomed, because they get that they don’t ‘own’ the techniques. They are happy for it to spread for the benefit of humanity. When a monk teaches you a technique he doesn’t say if you share it with others you have to pay me or say ‘its mine’.
I feel this ownership comes out of the wound of colonisation. The medicine that has come through and filtered down and changed, is not necessarily anyones fault. Its just how humanity has adapted to information and new concepts. We of this time are ‘personal recipe makers’ and some say that to take a traditional way and adapt it, is disrespectful. But we of this time are not traditional people. We are modern contemporary people and we have been taught to adapt or die. So we adapt things to help us continue to thrive rather than just survive.
The main point for me is how I value and respect and honour those that have gone before me and those that have shared their medicine with me. I am always in honour of them and my path is about integrity, safety and offering the tools I have learned to offer to those who need them.
I do not own a home, car, expensive anything. I do a lot for nothing and keep my prices low. I do not turn anyone away who is in need even if they have not a penny. But neither am I a walk over or someone who can be insulted or mocked for the service that I offer. I have walked this medicine path over 20 years (this lifetime) and I will continue to do so beyond death. This is what my ripping apart (dark night of the soul initiation) showed me, that this is what I came for. To be of service.
Spirit has called me to this path and initially I bucked it like a bronco for a good while until the wake up slap was so hard I had to pay attention. Was I called to this path? Abso-bloody-loootly! So no its not a costume I wear to fluff my ego. I am but a part of the service of spirit. I am but a hollow bone.
I honour all the traditions. But I do not live in that time. I live in this time. And I offer what works for me and am more than happy to share it.
So yes there are plastic shamans, for sure. But there are also people of good heart and integrity who find this path a blessing in their lives and want to share it, who honour what they are doing and from who they learned it from, may that be through spirit guidance, teachers, or helpers on this earth.
I have been writing this for a blog post on and off for the last few weeks as have had a run of clients being messed with via so called medicine men and women healers. Then this morning I got a message from an arrogant man who sat on his seat of judgement looking down at me. He knew absolutely nothing about me or my path of medicine but he was happy to judge me and belittle me. I kind of had to laugh and kindly reflected back to him what he projected and suggested he do better research before he stuck the knife into someone he knows zip about. So hence, this blog had to go up.
This is a contentious subject, I get that. But that should not prevent me from speaking from my heart how I feel about it.
I would like to hear your thoughts and feelings on this, with kindness.
If your path is to be of service in this way, choose to be a lighthouse.
Stand strong in your truth and be a guide for others with your light of integrity. Don’t suck the light from others. Emanate your own.
9 thoughts on “Shonky Shamanism”
I had a similar experience recently where this concept came up for me as well
Thank you for your blog. Oh, how true does this sound to me. So, so true.
Myself, I have learned shamanic ways and techniques in workshops and at first it felt like coming home. Later on, I felt kind of trapped in “you have to do it this way” or … (that was never literally said what would happen).
I have also learned from other teachers, mostly from books and through the internet. And a lot through my own therapy. And now, at age 53, I do feel I can really start to be of service for other people in my own practise, since my health is finally improving enough. And I am getting more clear what my own recipe is. The most important for me is to do it my own way and use my own intuition and wisdom. And I do that as much as possible. I still am figuring out what part shamanism plays in my work. What it really is or means. It seems more and more just about living together with all that is around us, and being respectfull of all other beings and spirits and in healing work asking them to help me, stand by me or work through me. And that all rituals are just about helping to do that. But when a ritual becomes a goal, than I feel the real goal has become lost. It’s about how we feel, how we live, are we loving and respectfull of ourselves and other humans, animals, plants, spirits, …
Again, thank you for being you and doing your beautifull contemporary shamanic service work
Beautifhlly articulated Odette. My sentiments exactly. When we jave recieved some tools through working through our own pain, it is a gift we have to pass on to others to help then in their healing journey. Xx
Amazing…there has been so much coming up around me recently concerning ceremony. Loved reading your views Odette. I sit in ceremony as often as I can. It is personal to me…not learnt from another of this time. It is within my own quietness that it evolves and it brings me such joy. I believe we all hold ceremony within us..we all hold our own medicine…however I do believe it takes time to strengthen and become a sacred part of us, and guidance from those wiser than ourselves is always a blessing. We are all here to help each other to evolve and grow and I do believe we are of most use to others when we are as whole and fulfilled as we can be….then it is time to share and be of service. If you intention is of truth, be yourself and take the many tools you have gathered and respectfully use them for the good of all. xx
Thank You! So eloquently put! I an a shamanic artist/healer/counselor. I resonate and share similar views and experience. Namaste!
Very well articulated and thought evoking. I’ve been the target of some of the vitriol of those labeling me a “Plastic” Shaman. I truly understand what you expressed. I decided to ignore them as I have been in integrity over my 28 years of practice. Keep shining! Love and Blessings, Amari Magdalena, Founder of The Institute for Shamanic Synthesis.
Thanks for the lovely feedback Amari. Blessings on all that you do. Odette
So beautifully explained,thankyou for sharing, I totally can relate to your true words. Bless ❣️
Fantastic post. This reminds me of the time I went on a school retreat to the outbacks with the Australian Aboriginal elders. They shared knowledge and techniques for us teenagers. They taught us that any forms of healing should be shared. It changed our perception on the world and existance. This article reminded me of that time. Thank you.