Tag Archives: shaman

Who Chooses the Shaman?


As I mentioned in my last post, I am in the process of reading Mike Clelland’s fascinating book The Messengers: Owls, Synchronicity and the UFO Abductee. I have still not quite completed the book but I am finding it to be a very interesting read.  Mr. Clelland is obviously an intensely thoughtful man who has spend a lot of time considering and researching the subject of his book and the experiences that he describes will leave even the skepdebunkers hard pressed to produce any reasonable explanation of events.

Despite his obviously careful research and contact with First Nation elders, Mr. Clellaand does persist in making one statement throughout the book that puzzles me.  He claims, repeatedly, that the elders of a First Nation tribe choose who becomes a shaman.

This is simply not the case.  While the elders and medicine people of the tribe may recognize the ‘symptoms’ in a member who may become a shaman, it is the spirits who actually choose the new shaman and test him or her.  Only people who pass this extreme test, usually an illness, near death experience, mental breakdown or other assessment that pushes the candidate to the edge of their physical and/or mental endurance, may go on to become shaman.  It is only after the spirits have accepted the new shaman that he or she can go on to train with the existing medicine person.

It is well demonstrated that the role of shaman (or medicine person, if you prefer) is not sought after amongst the tribes and, often, the person who has this communication with the spirits has to be dragged into the new role almost literally kicking and screaming.  The role of shaman – outlier to a tribe, a person who lives in a liminal state through out his or her life, one who is respected but also feared by the group – is not a role that any human could assign.  An elder or even an existing medicine person can no more make an individual what Frank Fools Crow, the famous Lakota medicine man, called an “eagle bone whistle” (a clear channel for communication with the spirit world) than I can construct a computer (and, believe me, that is not going to happen anytime soon).

Having said that, I do agree with Mr. Clelland that, given our utterly materialistic culture, there is really no socially accepted way for one to become any sort of a spirit worker these days and, at the same time, there is a crying need for such people.  I believe, with Mr. Clelland, that some of the experiencers that he describes may be called out by the spirits and that their experiences may be the test which takes them into the spirit world.  Far be it from me to oppose this idea and the good that may have come from some of these abductions events in the form of energy healers, counselors, body workers and others who moved into the healing arts because of these life occurrences.  My own journey into the esoteric has certainly had its parallels to the shamanic initiation though I make no claim to being a shaman.

The fact remains though that many of the experiencers of abduction events do not fare so well.  I suppose that one could make the argument that these are people who failed the ‘shaman’ test but, if that is the case then why are these people still having events?  Why have the spirits not moved on to other, more viable candidates?  And why do they continue to terrorize and traumatize people for not apparent good reason?

While I am prepared to admit that there may be a percentage of abductees who are undergoing a sort of shamanic initiation and that those initiations may be recognized by the fruits of the experience, I still maintain that many abduction experiences are being carried out by beings that do not have the best interests of the experiencers or humanity in mind.   Those abductors may be humans of one group or the other or they may be etheric predators as outlined in my previous work but either way, I think we have to be very careful about ascribing any kind of positive ‘spin’ to the abduction phenomenon.



The Spirit of the Wolf

I do not remember exactly where this notification came from, Twitter perhaps, but I recently saw this story from the amusingly titled Who Forted blog. As anyone who has been reading for a while knows, I have a soft spot for stories of werewolves and Black Dogs and the recurrent reports of manwolves throughout the US (and now, per Linda Godfrey, the world) make my ears perk up, so to speak.

As manwolf stories go, this one is pretty typical. A night shift worker has not one, but two, encounters with creatures that appeared to be bipedal and wolf-like. Interestingly, both times, the beings seemed to be moving in groups and the witness did note several color variations. The author of the blog post, Ken Summers, also noted that Linda Godfrey had reported a manwolf incident in the same area in her book Real Wolfmen. Mr. Summers goes on to note a possible mountain lion sighting in the area – unusual since mountain lions are supposed to have been killed off in this region.


Mr. Summers closes out his article with these words which really got me thinking:

Silver Creek is a tributary for the aptly named Wolf Creek. Long ago, Timber Wolves were common across Ohio, though as farming developed among early settlers, these furry canines became less of an accepted part of the wilderness and more of a nuisance as the animals hunted and killed many sheep. Thousands of Ohio wolves were hunted, trapped, and poisoned in an effort to eradicate them from the area. 1842 marked the final killing of a wolf in Ohio and the end of the wolf’s presence here. While wolves have been driven from Ohio, perhaps something far more frightening has replaced them.

Silver Creek is in Ohio, home of a number of mounds left behind by early indigenous peoples. I’ve theorized, in past blogs, that the manwolf might, in some cases, be a sort of materialized guardian left in place by the medicine people of those early tribes to protect the mounds and burial sites of their people. Reading Mr. Summers’ piece, though, another thought occurred to me.

Anyone who has taken even a cursory look at the new shamanism, as proposed by people like Michael Harner and Sandra Ingerman, will be familiar with the concept of a power animal – a spirit, in animal form, that serves as your guide during shamanic journeys in particular areas. Some people confuse the power animal with a totem animal – a spirit, sometimes in animal form, that has allied itself to a particular group of people. The totem ranges across all of human culture from the varying societies with animal totems in the Native American traditions (the Cherokee and Iroquois had clans that were aligned to various animals) to the wolf and bear warriors of the ancient Norse who actually took on the traits of their totem in battle.

A totem animal is a powerful spirit in its own right and, with the attention and offerings of a group of people, it only becomes more powerful. As with any relationship with spirit, one has to approach an animal totem with respect in order to avoid any negative repercussions and one would never harm the totem’s representative animal unless given specific permission from the spirit to do so (as in those Native and Norse folk who wore the skins of their totem for certain occasions).

Harming of the totem’s representative animal can result in harm to the person who causes that injury and, in extreme cases, even death, if one violates a taboo laid by or about the totem. I am minded of the Celtic warrior Cuchulain (the hound of Chulain) who was forbidden to eat dog meat as a part of the relationship with his totem. Cuchulain was killed in battle after being tricked into eating the flesh of a dog by an enemy.

So, what has this to do with our manwolves? Simply, the wolf is a common totem amongst Native people. It is admired for its hunting ability and for its structured, efficient and loving pack life. We know that the European settlers regarded the wolf with fear and loathing. Once they had driven the Native people from Ohio, settling them in out of the way places or killing them, they turned their hand immediately to what they knew best – farming and livestock husbandry. Wolves and other apex predators went from being respected representatives of their totems to wicked slayers of sheep and other livestock, good only when they were dead.

As the article notes, by 1842, the settlers had managed to wipe out the wolf population in Ohio. I doubt that the wolf totem, the powerful spirit of the wolf, simply skulked off to hide on the reservations or disappeared into what woodland was left. Mr. Summers says, “While wolves have been driven from Ohio, perhaps something far more frightening has replaced them.”

I admit that my thinking is pure conjecture. I’ve not done any journey work to test this theory. It simply makes intuitive sense to me that the spirit of the wolf might want to periodically remind the ancestors of those rapacious settlers that they are not the apex predators that they think they are. The manwolves could be something like a tulpa created by the spirit of the wolf or they could be the spirits of those who walked with wolf skins on when they were alive and who have become a part of the spirit of the wolf in death.

While I have heard of no serious injuries in manwolf reports, the creatures certainly scare the life out of most who see them and many witnesses report the strong feeling that the creatures would and could do them harm. Maybe, just maybe, the physical wolves are gone and have been replaced by representatives from Wolf itself.