Tag Archives: shamanism

Re-Blog: Tulpas, Thoughtforms and Monsters, Oh My!


This is a blog that I wrote back in 2013 but, given some of the rumblings about thought forms I have been hearing on-line, I thought this was a good time to re-post it.  

I am an inveterate podcast listener. The job that puts bread on the table can, at times, be very repetitive, requiring little in the way of thought, so I often spice up my day by listening to one or the other of the paranormal podcasts on the Web. The other day I was listening to an interview with the noted paranormal author, Nick Redfern and the discussion turned to the place of tulpas in monster lore. I realized, as I listened to this show, that while I had referred to these beings obliquely in some of my posts, I have not dedicated a post to this subject.

First off, a point of definition. In my view a tulpa and a thought form are the same thing. The only difference is that the term tulpa originates with the Tibetan esoteric tradition while thought form is used in the Western traditions to describe the same process. You will also sometimes see Western magicians refer to a thought form as a servitor. While some people will quibble and say that each of these concepts is a slightly different thing, I am going to throw them all into the hash together and refer to them, from here on out, as thought forms.

So what is a thought form? Pared down to basics, a thought form is a being of desire, visualization and imagination (see Magical Use of Thought Forms: A Proven System of Mental & Spiritual Empowerment by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki and J.H. Brennan). To create a thought form, the magician pulls an image from his or her inner storehouse of images (imagination), visualizes it powerfully and in Technicolor detail (visualization) and empowers it to perform a certain task or tasks according to his or her desire. Simple enough until one realizes how flabby human visualization skills have gotten since the advent of television and film. The other skill that the magician must master in order to work effectively with thought forms is the skill of placing limits on them and de-constructing them once their purpose is finished.

What can a thought form be used for? Almost anything. As I mentioned, some modern magicians refer to these creations as servitors because that is precisely what they are supposed to do – serve the will of the magician. Thought forms have been used for everything from helping a writer with inspiration for a project (no, I do not use thought forms for this purpose) to providing a soldier with actual physical protection in battle. In general, a thought form is not visible to the majority of people (some psychics can see them) but, if you read enough magical lore, you will find stories of magicians who created thought forms that were not only visible but were able to physically interact with this world. In chapter 3 of the excellent book I mentioned above, one finds the story of a Tibetan lama who, after considerable effort, managed to bring a yidam, a type of meditation deity, into physical manifestation as part of his movement toward enlightenment.

That chapter is instructive not only in telling the reader about the possibilities of thought form creation but also in bringing to the attention the knowledge that the process of thought form creation is not as easy as it sounds. In order to do this type of work, one really has to be able to make an image real in the mind and then be able to infuse it with all the force of desire, directed by magical means so that the being is limited in its scope. This is important since magical lore also tells us that a thought form created without proper limits can take on a sort of life of its own.

One of the best known stories in this regard also comes from Tibet. One of the early theosophists, Alexandra David Neel, journeyed to Tibet and, during her stay there, worked on the creation of a tulpa (thought form) in the image of a short, fat, jolly monk. After several months of meditation and practice, this tulpa manifested and was seen by David Neel and others. David Neel also reported physical contact from this thought form on a number of occasions. Eventually, though, the monk began to take on a darker aspect and David Neel was forced to learn how to take the thought form apart and re-absorb it. I suspect that this had to do with David Neel’s not having a clear desire for the thought form when she created it; the being was an experiment and so did not seem to have a distinct purpose other than to assuage her curiosity.

Now, how does the creation of these magical beings tie into the world of the paranormal? I think that an excellent example might be some of the Manwolf sightings around Native American mounds in the Wisconsin/Michigan area of the United States. Archeologists argue about what purpose the mounds served but they are agreed that these were sites of importance to the indigenous people of that period. I think it is entirely possible that some of the Manwolves reported in those areas are actually thought forms, created by ancient shaman as guardian spirits for the mounds. If such a thought form were created by a group of shaman, given the assignment to guard the mounds indefinitely and then turned loose to do that bidding, there would be no reason for the thought form to dissolve. Over time, it would take on a single minded life of its own and the only thing that would prevent it from doing its job would be a lack of energy. It would have gotten a powerful shot of energy in its creation and would have been “fed” periodically by its creators but when those people died or moved away, the thought form would have languished and dissolved unless it found alternate ways to feed itself – such as scaring the heck out of people and feeding off that energy.

As with all the theories I discuss on this blog, I do not think that thought forms constitute the universal field theory of the paranormal but, given what is known about them, they should certainly enter into the consideration of any paranormal investigator.


Missing 411: Faery Led?


I have finally gotten copies of David Paulides’ Missing 411 books and am making my way through them slowly (lots of other reading to do). I am finished with the Eastern United States book and will be going on from there. I realize that Mr. Paulides has now moved into some city cases so I am a little behind the times but I felt a need to get down some thoughts and impressions that I have had since I last wrote about this subject.

First of all, I will state right away that I am not attached to any one solution for this mystery and, furthermore, that I do not feel that there is a universal explanation of the cases. As I have said in the previous writings just linked, there are multiple causes for these disappearances. My own psychic experiences have only enhanced this opinion.

Here are some of the other things that have come out as I have investigated in my own psychic and magical way:

  1. A spirit with whom I have a very close relationship got very uncomfortable when I brought up these cases. Now understand that this being is very protective of me but the spirit warned me outright that some of these cases are the results of predators that “are not of this world” coming through and taking people. I asked specifically if this was related to what humans call ET abduction and the spirit showed me that these ‘predators’ were simply alien and not necessarily in the sense of being off planet.
  2. In one shamanic journey that I took, I asked to be shown the site of a recent disappearance. I was transported into a wooded area (sorry, I am not sure where exactly this was – the vision could have been entirely symbolic) and shown a path that led by a huge boulder in what looked to be old growth forest. At first, I did not notice anything amiss but, as I walked around the area in spirit, I became aware that the feel of the place seemed ‘off’. I changed my angle of view and realized that there was, for want of a better term, a hole in the pathway. I approached carefully as the animal guide with me was not happy about any of this and noted that, when I looked directly into the hole, my perception was of looking into space. I believe that anyone who walked into the hole would not likely be seen again.
  3. As I read the Missing 411 book noted above, it became obvious that, in many instances, the person missing could not be tracked by dogs and left little sign behind for human trackers. In those cases where tracking did work, the subject behaved in a completely uncharacteristic manner – wandering off of safe trails, out of back yards, away from the safety of homes – only to disappear and either never be seen again or to be recovered later under mysterious circumstances. As I read, I could not help but recall the faery lore of Europe where those Faery of the ‘Unseelie” variety, the ones who view humans as prey or, at best, subjects for cruel sport, would attract the attention of a human and then lead them away into the Otherworld. Often this dastardly deed would be accomplished by the appearance of lights that led the subject into a swamp or marsh (geography that appears often in the 411 cases) or by the use of glamour to make the person believe they were following a trusted companion or by the use of glamour to seduce the traveller into following. In any event, the person who was Faery led generally disappeared completely (or sometimes drowned in a swamp) and was only ever seen again if the Faery released him or her, often through the exigency of a concerned relative who knew the lore of recovery.

Given my own impressions of heavy Faery activity in an area not far from one of the Missing 411 clusters (I lived for a while in the Catskills, near the Adirondacks) and the discomfort expressed by both spirit helpers above, it certainly seems likely that some of the predators not of this world are Faery in origin and, if we look with eyes to see, we understand that there is a large body of lore that bears on the Faery kidnapping humans, particularly children.  I would note, too, the prevalence of bad weather following these events; The Fae certainly have the ability to effect local weather patterns and have been known to do so when locals aroused either their affection or ire.

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.

Book Review: Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone

As I write this, I am sitting in the midst of a hell of boxes and bubble wrap but all is not lost. The movers come soon and, by the time you read this, I will be back in Georgia, visiting with the in-laws and waiting for my household goods to arrive from New York. The New Year has brought great change into my life but I am hopeful that this change will be for the better.

Despite the chaos of the move, I’ve still managed to take a little down time and just finished reading a book titled

Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic

by the neo-pagan author who designates herself Lupa. I found the book interesting since I sometimes work in Harner style neo-shamanism but I found this author to be a little frustrating. While I have quite a lot of experience in the magical realms and could follow Lupa’s writing, I am afraid that a beginner in the Ars Magica would find this book difficult.

Part of the issue derives from something Lupa freely admits; she is very much a chaos magician. In other words, she practices a style of magic that is very much tied into the process of experimentation and is quite willing to practice in what she calls the buffet style – in other words, chaos mages have no problem with exploring magical styles and picking what they like from them. For some people this freedom works well and they find practices which really do lead to a relationship with their “Higher Selves” (or whatever they choose to call them) and an ability to hack their reality but others, like myself, like a little more structure. I found, reading this book, that the chaos side of Lupa shone through since she was quite willing to introduce a topic, make some pithy statements about it, drop a few ideas about how it could be worked with magically and then move on to another area.

For example, in her discussion of familiars (which she defines as an animal that partners with you in doing magic), Lupa makes starts off strong and then seems to tail off at the end of the discussion. She tells us something of how to locate a familiar and makes a strong case for not adopting an animal unless you are sure you can care for it (kudos to her there!) but then tells us that she spoke with her familiar to learn how it might assist her in magic and recommends this procedure for others. She does give some ideas about how to accomplish this but really does not give us any good examples of how her familiar assisted her in a magical working or workings. I, for one, would have been quite interested to see how she worked a lizard into her magic and less experienced practitioners would have benefitted greatly from such illustrative stories.

Another issue that gave me pause was her continued assumption that people reading the book were familiar with divination. She often recommends using either the pendulum, the Tarot or some other style of divination to get or check answers from totems, familiars or other animal spirits. While these methods might certainly work for a person with some experience, even flipping a coin for a yes or no answer to a question requires some basic knowledge of how to set one’s mind in the proper frame, how to phrase a question and how to establish some basic protection from outside influences. None of this is covered; the assumption seems to be, again, that the reader has some level of experience in the magical arts.

Again, with the process of invocation, actually calling an animal spirit into your body, Lupa describes why one might do an invocation and some effective ways to bring this magical act to pass (I found her description of dancing in a wolf skin to be practically invocatory all by itself) but skimps on the necessary details. This is most likely a personal bias on my part but I have always been of the opinion that you do not call what you are not sure you can banish and Lupa leaves the reader to figure out the best way to get rid of a spirit that does not want to leave. Even a very simple example of a banishing would have been better than nothing here. Additionally, given that Lupa seems to be shooting for a full on possessory trance in the invocation process, a warning that this work should not be attempted alone might have been in order. It’s all well and good to be possessed by the spirit of a wolf but quite another thing to turn such a person loose in a an urban area, for example. Someone grounded into consensual reality needs to be present to assist the person doing the invocation and help them find their way back to normal consciousness. Lupa describes doing invocation in a group setting and seems to assume that the reader will follow suit.

Lest you think that I did not like this book, let me state unequivocally that I found many new and interesting ideas and concepts in the book and plan to experiment with some of them and to another of Lupa’s books,

    DIY Totemism

If the reader is someone with a firm foundation in magic or neo-shamanic practice, then this book will provide a wealth of information on animal magics outside of the usual encyclopedia of totems construct. If, however, the reader is a beginner in the magical or shamanic arts, then I strongly recommend that this book be read as an intermediate level text with information to be filed away for later experimentation or for practice in the company of a more experienced mage.

On the Ancestors in Neo-Shamanic Practice

Anyone who has spent time reading these pages knows that I do not just talk about magic, I actually do it. This post is slightly off topic but covers a magical issue I am passionate about.

One of the paths that I follow, is modern neo-shamanism – the shamanic journey protocol first established by Michael Harner in his book The Way of the Shaman. I’ve been working with this style of journeying, on and off, since the 90’s and find that it works quite well for me in certain situations. While I do find the ranks of modern neo-shamanism to be swollen with New Agers who are constantly edging toward Native American cultural appropriation, there are also practitioners out there, like Tom Cowan who have derived some interesting and original approaches to working with the spirits of their own culture starting from a modern neo-shamanic base. For those interested in this type of work, I strongly recommend Mr. Cowan’s Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life.

Briefly, the road map for the shamanic universe ala Harner includes three worlds. In the Lower World, one encounters spirit helpers in animal form, often referred to as power animals. The Lower World is the place of recovering the power to live in a sacred manner (my interpretation – I am sure there are plenty of practitioners who would argue this with me). In the Upper World, one comes across spirit helpers in a number of forms ranging from human to what one might call angelic. The Upper World is the place of guidance. The Middle World is the realm closest to our own and is inhabited by all manner of spirits ranging from what one might call faerie to the ancestors. In neo-shamanism, one is most often introduced first to the Lower World and then to the Upper World. The Middle World is introduced, if at all, cautiously and with some trepidation at the end of a basic learning sequence. Part of the reason for this is that the Middle World is the place of the ancestors and, as I have been told by more than one neo-shamanic practitioner, they have “their own agenda”.

This business about the ancestors having an agenda is a nice way of saying that these folks view any interaction with the ancestors with suspicion. Now, I do not find this suspicion of ancestor work in all neo-shamanic workers but it is a common thread, depending on who they learned from. I think that some of this suspicion comes from the fact that ancestors are most often encountered in the Middle World, a place on the shamanic map where anything can happen. While one is fairly “safe” traveling in the Upper and Lower World, it is quite possible to encounter spirits in the Middle World who are hostile to humans and their interests (think for example of the nature spirits who have had their habitat destroyed by humans). Encounters such as these can be frightening and require the practitioner to use negotiating skills or ask for assistance from their power animal or other spirit helpers in order to free themselves from the situation.

I think that this fear of “negative” encounters has filtered over to the ancestors, who are most often discovered in the Middle World. If we change focus for a moment and look to Voudoun or, really, any of the Afro-Caribbean religions, we find a rich traditions of working with the ancestors. I have had correspondence with a priestess of Haitian Voudoun who told me outright that, before one can approach the lwa (their gods), one must establish a relationship with the ancestors. I know, too, that the Chinese and Japanese indigenous religions have strong components of ancestor work. It is my feeling that those practitioners of neo-shamanic work who neglect the ancestors are setting aside a powerful group of spirits who can support them and their work.

In answer to the oft cited idea that the ancestors have their own agenda, I respond positively that, yes, they do. This is why, when you commence ancestor work, you are told to reach out first to those ancestors that you know love and support you. This is just common sense; your ancestral pool is vast and there are bound to be some un-evolved ancestors out there. You want to call to you the people who knew you and loved you in life. One of the foremost ancestors for me is my grandmother, for example.

Different traditions have different ways of approaching the ancestors but I have actually found a neo-shamanic approach quite effective. Basically what I do, several times a week, is light candles and a good smelling incense on my altar. I spend a few moments cleansing myself with a crow feather, sing a medicine song and then get out my rattle and begin some light rattling to take me into a shamanic state of consciousness. I offer honor to the powers of the four directions, Above, Below and Within, and then I put myself in my safe spot in the Middle World. I look out over a vast plain and see all my ancestors there. I offer them blessings from deep within me where the Divine Spark rests. I look closer to me and see the three ancestors who love and support me standing nearby. I offer them blessings as well and, if I have time, I ask for their counsel. I then work a little with various spirit helpers before closing out. The whole process only takes few minutes and really helps get things set up for the day.

What I have found, in doing this regularly, is that my shamanic practice has become more powerful. By that I mean that, in given situations, when I call for help from the spirit world, interesting things happen. I recently worked with a friend, long distance, who was having some major health issues. When I asked for diagnostic help during a shamanic journey for him, a whole crew of ancestors showed up and actually did a healing for him, on the spot.

Working with the ancestors is like working with any group of humans. You are going to get along better with some than with others and you have to deal with their little quirks at times but, as long as you hold the strong intention of only working with those ancestors who love and support you, I see no reason to fear them or regard them with suspicion. At worst, you will simply have to tell them “no”.