Exploring Relationship between Authority and Guardian Spirits or Power Animals.
Every human and arguably every creature that was born and raised by a parent understands authority as the quality of that parent which provides safety, structure, and nurturance in order that the young might survive and grow. Authority makes decisions about how to act or not in the world. It shares the same root as the word author: one who writes. Authority implies that one with authority "writes" or determines what will happen. It can be experienced within oneself (internal authority), and it is also, more commonly, experienced as an outside force, or external authority.
Examples of external authority begin with parents and expand as children grow and move into the world: older siblings or family members, school, doctors, employers, police and the judicial system, laws and rules of a community or society, and the individual and community conception of god. Authority can be expressed or experienced through fear or love--both unhealthy and healthy--and most humans experience both.
Traditional Indigenous (and many other contemporary) cultures believe that good parenting is not enough authority to ensure the child's and community's survival. Most ascribe to a higher authority such as god(s), spirit(s), government or political structures.
Authority has the potential to create in beauty and harmony, to provide safety, to heal, or to harm and destroy. This paper will explore healthy authority through the lens of that which provides the potency of authority: power. Specifically, we will examine the phenomena of power animals or guardian spirits. Most traditional Indigenous cultures consider the presence of a guardian spirit or power animal to be the key element to healthy internal and external authority which in turn ensures health, survival, and success in worldly endeavors. Can millennia-old wisdom be wrong? Should contemporary people relearn the principles of shamanism and regard guardian spirits more purposefully to ensure our optimal health, relationships, success, and healthy internal and external authority?
To more clearly understand the phenomena of power animals or guardian spirits and their relationship to authority, I will review the literature on this topic. I will also endeavor several shamanic practices as instructed in Michael Harner's (1990) "The Way of the Shaman" which are designed to introduce people to basic shamanic practices for the purposes of remembering, contacting, retrieving, caring for, and consulting power animal(s). My interest in trying these practices is to determine whether they can work for me, a contemporary Western adult woman: Can I revive or retrieve and develop a relationship with my power animal? How might this impact my relationship to internal and external authority? More specifically, could an active relationship with a power animal affect my health, relationships, and success in the world? This is perhaps a long-term inquiry, so for the scope of this paper, I will examine my sense of the direction of my health, relationships, and successes after the processes are completed. Another deeper question that may not be answered: are spirit guides or power animals an incidence of internal authority projected into the world versus being a true external authority coming from the non-ordinary world to support us?
Internal and external authority
Relationship with internal and external authority provided stability and survival for indigenous peoples and their communities. Traditional Indigenous cultures believe(d) in and revere(d) all beings and objects in the natural world as living entities. The reverence shown to all beings and things of the Earth includes a practice of reciprocity or exchange including positive regard, prayer, and offering of gifts and gratitude for anything that the people might harvest or use from the natural world. Among traditional Indigenous Native American elders, the practice of reciprocity resulted from an empirically observed flow of energy through everything:
By observing the behavior and growth of other organic forms of life, they [Indigenous Elders] could see that a benign personal energy flowed through everything and undergirded the physical world. They understood that their task was to fit into the physical world in the most constructive manner and to establish relationships with the higher power, or powers, that created and sustained the universe...[W]e have already seen tribal peoples observe the world around them and quickly conclude that it represented an energetic mind undergirding the physical world, it's motions, and provide energy of life and everything that existed. (Deloria, 2006, p. xxv, 197)
Among Indigenous peoples, the Spirit World is also referred to as the Dream Time and is integral to our existence--it is from where our existence arises, and harmonious relationship with the Dream Time is required for harmony to exist in ordinary reality. Sarah Ingerman and Hank Wesselman (2010) give another Indigenous account:
Right at the core of their [tribal peoples in Africa] indigenous worldview is the perception that the multileveled field of the dream is the real world, that we are actually dreaming twenty-four hours a day, throughout our entire lives, and that the everyday physical world came into being in response to the dream, not vice versa...These assertions were always accompanied by a conviction, strongly held, that the dream world is "minded"--that it is consciousness itself--alive, intelligent, and power-filled, and that it infuses everything that emanates from it with awareness, vitality, and life force...our relationship with the dream world/spirit world is a co-creative one...The process involves shifting the focus of our awareness from "here" to "there." This is a learned skill [that shamans master]. (p. 113)
Carl Gustav Jung, an early 20th century doctor and the founder of psychological analysis, recognized the connective power that lies in all things animate and inanimate. He studied Indigenous cultures and noticed their beliefs and behaviors reflected external authority and that this supported his mana theory of the human psyche:
According to this theory, beauty moves us, it is not we who create beauty. A certain person is a devil, we have not projected our own evil on him and in this way made a devil out of him. There are people--mana personalities--who are impressive in their own right and in no way thanks to our imagination. The mana theory maintains that there is something like a widely distributed power in the external world that produces all those extraordinary effects. Everything that exists acts, otherwise it would not be. It can be only by virtue of its inherent energy. Being is a field of force. The primitive idea of manna, as you can see, has in it the beginning of a crude theory of energy. (Jung, 1931/1978, p. 69)
This life-force energy is perceived in ordinary reality--for instance in a person with a mana personality or a big, dynamic personality. The energy exists, however, in a non-ordinary realm of consciousness or an alternate reality. Evidence of realms outside of ordinary reality pervade Indigenous Native American history. Sioux Medicine Man Nicholas Black Elk relates the vision that made his cousin Crazy Horse into a great chief.
Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world. He was on his horse in that world, and the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit, and nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float. (Neihardt, 1934/2014, p. 53)
Observing the "world behind this world" most Indigenous cultures practiced shamanism--a practice of interacting with the Spirit World lying behind the mundane--to heal, fix, or manifest necessities for community survival and prosperity in the ordinary realms.
Traditional shamanic practices are nearly the same all over the planet and amongst cultures that are unrelated. Harner (1990) reports that shamanic practices are part of the natural phenomenology of the world because shamanic technologies work. "A shaman is a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness--at will--to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons" (Harner, pp. 25-6). Shamanic journeying--the experience of the healer traveling into non-ordinary reality to interact with the Spirit World--implies that there is a vast external authority which normally remains hidden behind the mundane. That external authority is encountered directly by way of the shaman journeying into nonordinary reality which he enters through a trance--an internal process. This suggests that authority encountered by shamans is both external and internal at the same time.
Although this nonordinary external authority exists and it is pervasive amongst cultures and peoples, it does not seem to imply a hierarchy or dogma. Rather, it is living and therefore changing and evolving. The spiritual practices in shamanic cultures created a form of "direct revelation". Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman (2010) teach shamanism to contemporary people:
In the shaman's practice, there is no hierarchy or set of dogmas handed down to supplicants from some higher religious authority complex. Shamanism is the path of immediate and direct personal contact with Spirit, deeply intuitive, and not subject to definition, censorship, or judgement by others. On this path, each seeker has access to this transcendent connection and all that this provides...We have watched, fascinated, as our inner explorers are led toward an inescapable conclusion shared by the indigenous peoples--that the fabric of reality is composed of a multi-level vibrational field that is conscious and intelligent--and when conditions are favorable, this field can and does respond! (p. xix- xxii)
"[T]he spiritual authorities, as in tribal times, are found directly in nonordinary reality by each individual shamanic journeyer" (Harner, 1990, p xvi). This system of direct revelation meant that authority and responsibility for life on Earth was shared between people, the Spirit World, the Earth and all her creatures.
Shamanic practitioners did not have a malevolent or uneasy relationship with authority. People pursuing shamanic practices:
tend to undergo transformation as they discover the incredible safety and love of the normally hidden universe. The cosmic love they repeatedly encounter in their journeys is increasingly expressed in their daily lives. They are not lonely, even if alone, for they have come to understand that we are never really isolated...Everywhere they are surrounded by life, by family. They have returned to the eternal community of the shaman, unlimited by the boundaries of space and time. (ibid., p. xviii)
Ways of traditional Indigenous communal life were intricately interwoven with relationship to the Spirit World. Even when it wasn't seen, this hidden world was constantly implied, respected, and provided an external locus of authority. Traditional ways provided a relationship with authority that contrasts with contemporary society's conception of authority and power:
[I]n today's western world, our culture is very much defined by a pervading sense of fear, competition, separation, and alienation. Increasing numbers of people are experiencing a deep internal need to feel direct and transpersonal connection to the web of life--and through this to each other. The visionary practices of the shaman bring us into this connection, awakening us once again to the knowledge that we are more than a body with an ego...Many have observed that we are actually spiritual beings inhabiting a body. When we engage with the compassionate spirits directly, everything--both healing and the assistance we need in life--becomes available to us. Dealing with these transpersonal others is not about worship, it is about relationship." (Ingerman & Wessleman, 2010, p. 19)
For traditional Indigenous and shamanic cultures, internal authority was less about individual will and more about an individual's survival, health, success, and prosperity within the context of their community life. Indigenous cultures equated all these positive outcomes with the degree of "power" that an individual had. Many traditional Indigenous cultures used rites of passage such as the vision quest to secure a power animal or guardian spirit for their young children so that they would have power.
The vision quest is a ceremony to help a person or people going through a major transition or to find actions that could solve a problem. Many Indigenous cultures used vision quest as a rite of passage where the initiate experience is akin to a death and rebirth (Eliade, 1984). By making great sacrifice, the child would receive his or her extraordinary gifts and or directions from the Spirit World by way of their newly acquired guardian spirit. Such quests could be brutal--sometimes nine days without food or contact--and children did not always survive. However, many cultures believed that children would not pass through adolescence and into adulthood if they did not acquire a guardian that had sufficient power (Harner, 1990; Merkur, 2002).
Amount or quality of power is important. The shamanic practitioner becomes more effective at healing people or finding solutions when he or she has gained significant amounts of power. Shamans accumulate power by journeying to the Spirit World and entering relationship with various plant, mineral, and animal beings therein.
To perform his work, the shaman depends on special, personal power, which is usually supplied by his guardian and helping spirit. Each shaman generally has at least one guardian spirit in his service, whether or not he also possesses helping spirits...Without a guardian spirit it is virtually impossible to be a shaman, for the shaman must have this strong, basic power source in order to cope with and master the nonordinary or spiritual powers whose existence and actions are normally hidden from humans. The guardian spirit is often a power animal, a spiritual being that not only protects and serves the shaman but becomes another identity or alter ego for him. (Harner, 1990, p. 54)
The shaman actively uses his guardian spirit when journeying in non-ordinary reality.
Relationship with a power animal or guardian is not restricted to shamans. All people can have this relationship. Many cultures, such as early Indigenous North American Indian tribes, believed that children were not born with power, but they had to acquire it during childhood and early adolescence if they were to survive to adulthood. Having power usually meant that the child had attracted a helping spirit most often in the form of a power animal (Harner, 1990). In fact, many Indigenous people believe that Westerners have significant relationships with power animals even though they don't know it. Evidence of Westerner's power animals is the fact that they are successful and prolific (Deloria, 2006).
Even though the people in shamanic cultures often have power animals or guardian spirits, this does not mean that all people in these cultures practiced the healing arts of shamanism.
Most people, even though they went on vision quests, simply expected to live their lives to the fullest with some protection from the spirits. Others sought to obtain powers that would enhance their capabilities. As a rule, however, people avoided confrontations with the sacred because the gift of powers always imposed additional responsibilities on them....Although they [shamans] had special powers and enjoyed alliances with other creatures, this status meant they were "on call" to perform tasks given them by the spirits and/or requested by the people. Thus, while anyone might have a spiritual experience and come to the intellectual understanding the Wakan Tanka [Spirit] was in everything, only certain people, it seems, were called to enter into a knowledge of the deeper mysteries. (Deloria, 2006, p. 13)
A power animal or spirit animal is a benevolent spirit who exists in the spiritual realm, and who may choose to interact with humans to help them. This relationship may exist because humans and animals may have common ancestors.
Millennia before Charles Darwin, people in shamanic cultures were convinced that humans and animals were related. In their myths, for example, the animal characters were commonly portrayed as essentially human in physical form but individually distinguished by the particular personality characteristics possessed by the various types of animals as they exist in the wild today...In nonordinary reality, the animals continue to be able to manifest themselves in human forms to humans who have entered the SSC [shamanic state of consciousness]. (Harner, 1990, p. 73-5)
Many archaeological sites dating back to between 32,000 and 36,000 years ago depict animals as well as half-human, half-animal forms. Ingerman and Wesselman elaborate with specific appearances of power animals throughout history:
Perhaps this too is shamanic art and it is a depiction of a shaman merged with a power animal 32,000 years ago or perhaps a mythic figure such as the minotaur from Greek mythology...Peoples of the Gravettain culture, which dominated Ice Age Europe 30,0000 to 20,000 years ago, carved into rock, ivory, and antler what appear to be fetish objects of animals as well as images of pregnant women like the famous "Venus" of Willendorf found in Austria. They also made the first sculptures combining animal and human form such as the bipedal lion-man from Hohlenstein-Stadel, Germany, fashioned from a mammoth tusk--a power animal or perhaps a shaman merged with an animal spirit ally....The Zuni people of the American Southwest, who are known for their carvings of animal fetishes, utilize different forms of stone, bone, and shells to create power-filled objects that not only represent a spirit but actually hold a spirit. They treat these fetishes as living beings and believe that they will bring protection to those who own them, as long as the fetishes are fed and nurtured. (p. 141, 145)
The power animal is not the spirit of a solitary animal, rather, it is a spirit representative of its entire species and brings special qualities of that species to the human it chooses. For instance, a person chosen by Eagle may have the gift of sharp vision, being able to see precisely or metaphorically seeing truths. A person chosen by Lion may be a master of disguise and a great hunter. Ingerman and Wesselman (2010) report that "It is also understood that one power animal does not have more power than another" (p. 33) rather, they have different qualities, abilities, and lessons to teach.
Once in relationship with a human, each power animal serves as a teacher in the initial stages of a fellowship in which it reveals to its human friend the qualities and abilities--or as some would say "the medicine" that it carries...It is not uncommon for people to have a guardian spirit or power animal such as Pegasus or a griffin, dragon, or unicorn. Although these creatures are mythical in our everyday reality, in the Lower Worlds they are real, and this is where they come into our conscious, mythic awareness. The same holds true for species that lived in the past and that are now extinct. The group oversouls of these creatures still exist in the Lower Worlds, so some people may have a dinosaur, mammoth, or saber-tooth tiger as a power animal. (ibid, p. 33)
Indicators that guardian animal spirits have power include their ability to speak to humans, change into human form, and travel through elements that are not their ordinary environment (like a fish who flies or a bird who can fly through the ground).
The guardian comes to an individual through nonordinary reality. This was a ubiquitous occurrence amongst Native American peoples. Deloria (2006) discusses that before contemporary society took over (when American Indians followed their old customs) guardians revealed themselves regularly:
[D]reams, daytime encounters, and visions all consist of communications from higher powers who already know much about us and who have a specific purpose in revealing themselves to us and, at least for American Indians, appear in the form of birds and animals.... [I]t seems as if the other creatures are waiting for humans to make an overture to the higher spirits, and once the quest for a relationship is set in motion, they join in, bringing their knowledge to add to our understanding and enabling us to receive special roles in life and powers to fulfill the roles. Often, it appears that certain birds or animals have been watching particular individuals, and, detecting an attitude of respect, they then initiated communications with them, by dreams or during a vision experience. (pp. 107-108)
Guardians are attracted to the person because they may have pity for them, or because of their family line or special qualities they may have. "[T]he moral profile of the human seems to be the determining factor that caused the animals to choose this individual" (Deloria, 2006, p. 3). The relationship, although initiated by the guardian, is maintained by deliberate actions on the part of the human.
Shamanic cultures believe that a person can have several power animals throughout his life, but that he generally has only one or two at a time. Jung (1961/1973; 2009) had this experience while exploring the unconscious. He found that while deeply exploring his subconscious and unconscious psyche, benevolent and beneficent spirit helpers did indeed appear. He noted several guardian spirits and regarded them as external authority.
Whenever the outlines of a new personification appeared, I felt it almost as a personal defeat. It meant: "Here is something else you didn't know until now!" Fear crept over me that the succession of such figures might be endless, that I might lose myself in bottomless abysses of ignorance. My ego felt devalued--although the successes 1 had been having in worldly affairs might have reassured me. (1961/1973, pp. 183-4)
Harner (1990) reports that it is important for both regular people and shamans to attend to and care for their guardians to get them to stay interested and connected because power animals can lose interest in their host and may leave as a result. Harner says that power animals usually only stay with a person for a few years before moving on. In this case, the individual may continue to have traces of evidence of the departed spirit. However, people can retrieve their power animals or have a shaman retrieve it for them thus regaining spiritual support for skills and qualities they may need.
If one wishes to maintain shamanic practice, one has to change into one's animal regularly to keep the animal contented enough to stay. This involves exercising the animal through dance, singing songs of the animal, and recognizing "big" dreams as messages from the guardian, the power animal...the power animal is a purely beneficial spirit, no matter how fierce it may appear. It is a spirit to be exercised not exorcised. (Ibid p. 87-88)
A power animal or guardian may be an authority for the person it attaches to. The power animal does not impose its will on its chosen person and it does not possess the individual. Rather, it may guide him by showing him good choices or actions to take. The guardian spirit also helps the individual's authority by lending him "power"--qualities and characteristics of that animal spirit with which he can better navigate life's challenges and tasks. Without his power animal, the individual may fall on hard-times: illness, bad luck, and loss.
It appears that the guardian spirits are responsible, at least in part, for the physical energy of the living person. It also seems that they can be detached from the physical body to such a degree as to cause disability in the person they are bound to protect. The medicine man seems able to tap into the conditions of the spiritual world and act with some degree of efficiency in resolving them so that they do not continue to hinder the individual.... If we are as vulnerable to spiritual dislocation as the story implies, we live in a world much more hazardous than we presently believe. (Deloria, 2006, pp. 60-61)
However, the power animal does not control its person. The guardian animal is possessed by the individual. It is attracted to him because being possessed by a human can give the animal spirit the experience of existing in material form:
The guardian animal spirit resident in the mind-body of a person wants to have the enjoyment of once again existing in material form. It is a trade-off, for the person gets the power of the whole genus or species of animals represented by that guardian spirit. Just as a human may want to experience nonordinary reality by becoming a shaman, so too a guardian spirit may wish to experience ordinary reality by entering the body of a living human. (Harner, 1990, p. 87)
Shamanistic practices including the attainment, care for, and support of the power animal or spirit helper, are ubiquitous amongst shamanic cultures from disparate peoples. Harner suggests that the practices did not spread across the globe. Rather, these similar shamanic practices arose amongst all Indigenous peoples because they are universal technologies and communications between the ordinary and non-ordinary realms that work for humans everywhere. They are truths.
This means that all people, not just Indigenous peoples, have access to shamanic practices and technologies. Ingerman and Wesselman (2010) state that shamanism is not just a spiritual or healing practice, but a birthright of all people. They report that if you go back far enough in history, all peoples on Earth originated in Indigenous cultures. Jung wrote and spoke of the "Primitive Mind" as being the unconscious. Through his explorations of the unconscious, Jung helped to open the Western mind toward the possibility of another world behind this one. Jung (1961/1973; 2009) reports that during a dream, the figure of Philemon came flying to him (mythological and Goethean character from Faust).
Suddenly there appeared from the right a winged being sailing across the sky. I saw that it was an old man with the horns of a bull. He held a bunch of four keys, one of which he clutched as if he were about to open a lock. He had the wings of the kingfisher with its characteristic colors. (pp. 182-3)
The day following this dream, Jung found a dead Kingfisher in his garden on the shore of the lake by his home--a bird uncommon in Zurich. Jung spent a lot of time using the consciousness expanding practice of active imagination wherein he developed a relationship with Philemon. This relationship provided Jung wise council and taught him many new wonders. Because of his prolific wisdom, Jung considered Philemon to be like a guru. It is interesting to note that while Jung's spirit helper took the form of a well-known mythological character, he also had some qualities of the Kingfisher and of the Bull--power animals.
Shamanic interaction with power animals
Many compare Jung's explorations of the unconscious to the journeying experiences of shamans in traditional Indigenous cultures (Benning, 2018). Some have even referred to Jung as a Bodhisattva himself (Corbett, 2009). There are some similarities: just as Jung (1961/1973; 2009) communed with Philemon to expand his understanding and effectiveness in working with human nature, Indigenous shamans used the power and support from their animal spirits to heal patients: "The shaman has at least one, and usually more 'spirits' in his personal service...he commonly works to heal a patient by restoring beneficial or vital power, or by extracting harmful power" (Harner, 1990, p. 25-6). A shaman uses his own power, often supplied or augmented by his guardian power animal spirit to help him locate and restore the patient's power.
The restoration of a patient's vital power is most often done by journeying to the "Lowerworld" (sometimes written as Lower World) and finding and retrieving the patient's power animal. The Shaman accomplishes this by entering an altered state of consciousness or shamanic state of consciousness (SSC) and then journeying through a portal that takes him or her through a tunnel and into the Lowerworld. The Lowerworld is the lowest level of the realm of the Spirit World--where all things hidden from the ordinary world reside. Throughout Indigenous traditions, the Spirit World consistently has three levels--a Lower, Middle and Upper World (Ingerman, 2014).
The Lower and Upper Worlds are transcendent realities where there are a variety of helping spirits who can assist the shaman in facilitating the healing of individuals, the community, and the planet... The most common types of spirits who work in partnership with the shaman are animals, plants, or spirits who appear as teachers in human form...The ones who appear as animals, or as combinations of animal and human form (therianthropes) are commonly known as "power animals". (Ingerman and Wesselman, 2010, pp. 32-33)
Existing on the plane of the Lower or Upper World, the power animal is the familiar--it is the intermediary between the ordinary and Spirit Worlds which aids (human) beings in the ordinary world by giving them power and support and ways to achieve balance in non-ordinary spaces. It gives its power in the form of its gifts, talents, characteristics, and strengths. Connection with a power or spirit animal is therefore integral to being effective, successful, productive, and healthy. Reconnection with a power animal can restore health, productiveness, and agency in one's world. Connection with a power animal also restores connection to the benevolence and love from Spirit (Hamer, 1990).
Michael Hamer and Sandra Ingerman are two of the contemporary Western teachers who have researched, apprenticed, practiced, and now teach the technologies of traditional Indigenous shamanism. Harner discovered shamanism through his anthropological research and Ingerman found her way to shamanism via the healing field of psychology. Both write about the importance of the power animal to the individual's personal authority, health, and effectiveness in the world. They found similar techniques for journeying into the Lower World and for finding, retrieving, attracting, and caring for the individual's power animal. These techniques are similar across the world's shamanic cultures including the Native American Indian Tribes of North America. In the interest of learning about the experiences a Western person has when practicing the techniques related to power animals, I endeavored to perform several of Harner's suggested formats for some of the basic shamanic techniques related to power animals. These include "The Shamanic Journey", "Calling the Beasts or Dancing Your Animal", "Acquiring a Power Song", and "Recovering a Power Animal".
Ingerman and Wesselman's (2010) description of shamanic techniques are like Harner's--practices which come from ancient universal technologies that work. Her approach is slightly different: she emphasizes that shamanism is a practice which directly interacts with the Spirit World--a living ecosystem. Because it is alive, the Spirit World grows and evolves, so shamanic practices must also be flexible and evolving or open and creative. Ingerman (2014) discusses the importance of having a clear ending to any ceremony in which the practitioner gives thanks to all the forces that helped, celebrates the beauty of the ceremony without judgement, and re-connects to ordinary reality. In addition, Ingerman and Wessleman (2010) report that shamans and visionaries use the tools of gratitude, seeing, and blessing.
Gratitude helps to open the heart and reveal the Spirit World: "Our false sense of self can only affect our spiritual side temporarily, so the advantage of gratitude is that it engages Spirit by coopting the personality, thus separating it from the clutches of self-importance (p. 22).
For a shaman, 'to see' is to cut through the veils of ignorance, the false appearance of the world, in order to see clearly into the true nature of Spirit as it manifests through all of reality. In other traditions, it is known as forgiveness or compassion...When shamans speak of "seeing" they are actually talking about clearing away the projections and distorted thoughts of the conscious mind onto the world at large and all its forms... Shamans say that when people learn to see they are able to access almost limitless power because they realize they are intimately connected to the vast web of life...In shamanic literature, the words "shamanic seeing" refer to seeing with our hearts rather than with our eyes. The shamans and visionaries of all the world's traditions know that the spirits make contact with us through the doorway in our hearts, and what we receive through that channel is sent to our higher mind, our intellect, our egoic soul or self, which then thinks about it, analyzes and integrates it, and makes decisions about it. (pp. 23-24, 39) To bless means that you become conscious that you are alive, and that spirit is flowing through you. This realization allows you to see that Spirit is flowing all around and that what is coming through you is coming through everything and that it is all the same. (p. 26)
Following are descriptions, purposes, and instructions of each shamanic practice related to power animals:
Ingerman and Wessleman (2010) discuss the shamanic journey as integral to shamanism: "Shamanic journeying is a method of direct revelation and it is the experiential centerpiece through which shamans make contact with their helping spirits to access empowerment, personal guidance, and healing help" (p. 29).
Harner (1990) reports that shamanic journey is the first and most important "technique" in retrieving a power animal. The shamanic journey requires that the shamanic practitioner enter a non-ordinary or "shamanic" state of consciousness (SSC). This non-ordinary state of consciousness allows the practitioner to "see" into and travel in the non-ordinary world while also staying conscious and aware of his ordinary surroundings. Psychological and physiological techniques developed by shamans for altering consciousness:
include fasting and sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion and hyperventilation, and the experiencing of temperature extremes during rituals of purification such as the sweat lodge and the vision quest...It is also a generally known that the intensive physical stimulus of monotonous drumming and rattling, combined with culturally meaningful ritual and ceremony, prayer in chant, singing and dancing, can be equally effective in shifting consciousness into visionary modes of perception. Not surprisingly, the use of drums and rattles by shamanic practitioners is a universal practice. (Ingerman & Wesselman, 2010, p. 17)
Neher (1961) found that drumming causes changes in the central nervous system (as cited in Harner, 1990, p. 66).
This appears to be due in part to the fact that the single beat of a drum contains many sound frequencies, and accordingly it simultaneously transmits impulses along a variety of nerve pathways in the brain. Furthermore, drum beats are mainly of low frequency, which means that more energy can be transmitted to the brain by a drum beat than from a sound stimulus of higher frequency. (Hamer, 1990, p. 66)
In addition, Jilek (1974) found that some drum beat sounds and frequencies elicited brain waves that are effective creating trance states (as cited in Harner, 1990, p. 66).
Once the practitioner has entered into the SSC Harner reports the journey begins with an opening into the earth:
The shamanic journey is one of the most important tasks to be undertaken. The basic form of this journey, and the one usually easiest to learn, is the journey to the Lowerworld. To undertake this, a shaman typically has a special hole or entrance into the Lowerworld. This entrance exists in ordinary reality as well as in nonordinary reality. The entrance among California Indian shamans, for example, frequently was a spring, especially a hot spring. Shamans were reputed to travel hundreds of miles underground, entering one hot spring and coming out at another. (p. 31)
Other entrances were hollow trees, caves, holes of burrowing animals, and sometimes holes in the dirt floors of houses.
Ingerman and Wesselman (2010) suggest that the shamanic journeyer should engage all of their senses in the Lower World:
By engaging all your senses, you may work with an inner process that engages your body-soul--a process that can be expressed in the physical world. It is important to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste this world as it already is and as it is coming into existence...It is also important to actually be part of this creation by fully engaging in the world you are dreaming into being rather than watching your creation as if it were a movie or flat-screen TV. The other key ingredient is a passion for what you want to create. Loving your creation fuels its manifestation, and from the mystical perspective we are in training in this world to become creators. (p. 87)
They also suggest that the shamanic journeyer may encounter their power animal upon entering the Lower World:
As you emerge into the Lower World, look around you. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone or something will be waiting there for you.... If it is an animal spirit, ask it, "Are you my power animal?" This will give you information on how your power animal communicates with you.... Once you have an answer from your animal, start to build a relationship, ask it a question, or ask it for healing help.... You might also ask the animal if there is anything you need to know at this time in your life. This is why it may have come to you--to convey that information. (p. 45)
The process for Harner's version of shamanic journey is found in Appendix A.
Calling the Beasts
Harner suggests that once the shamanic journey is achieved successfully, the practitioner can do another ceremony in which he attempts to get in touch with one or more of his past or present spirit guardians. This practice is called "Calling the Beasts" and involves rattling, calling in powers, and "Dancing Your Animal"--dancing around the ceremonial space to get in touch with the feelings, movements, and powers of the power animal(s) (see Appendix B).
Acquire a Power Song
One of the purposes of having a power animal is to increase or restore the individual's power. Therefore, Harner's next ceremonial step is the "Journey to Restore Power". However, this journey requires a power song. Power songs help with entry into SSC. "The more you use the song in shamanic work, the more effective it will be as an adjunct in altering your state of consciousness. Eventually, it can act as a small "trigger" to help you shift into the SSC" (Harner, 1990, p. 95). Power songs are also important tools in contacting the spirits or one's guardian animal:
There were two ways the medicine men used that establish and maintain a link between the spiritual and physical worlds. When they offered and burned tobacco, sweet grass, and sage, the spiritual world opened itself up to them. Equally powerful were the songs the spirit gave them. I know of no story that did not have sacred songs as an essential element in invoking the spirits. Indeed, songs were to the medicine men what instruments are to western scientists searching for a deeper knowledge of the world. (Deloria, 2006, p. 200)
So, if the shamanic practitioner does not already have one, acquiring a power song must come before more complex journeying. See Harner's (1990) suggested protocol for acquiring a power song in Appendix C.
Recovering a Power Animal
Traditional cultures believed that illness, bad luck, or lack of success or progress, indicated that a person's guardian spirit has gone away from them. In this case, an individual might go to a shaman to help restore their guardian and therefore their power. Harner (1990) relays a shamanic protocol for recovering a "patient's" power animal to him so that he may feel and do better. If power is related to authority, then recovery of the power animal will also restore the individual's personal authority.
Power animals normally come and go unexpectedly from a person, especially after a few years. Accordingly, the regular practice of this exercise is an important way for a person to be assured of possessing power. And if a person shows power-loss through depression or illness, and asks for help, such work should be immediately undertaken. (p. 99)
Recovery of the power animal is the process that the previous practices lead to. It is important that the practitioner attempting to recover a power animal has already successfully completed the other steps, and that they have a partner who understands the process to assist. It involves an opening, rattling, singing the shaman's power song, the shamanic journey through the opening and tunnel to the Lowerworld, finding the power animal, bringing it back to the "patient", and having the patient "dance their animal". "The intervention of one human being (the shaman) on behalf of another often seems to evoke sympathy in the hidden universe, and usually a former, lost power animal of the patient volunteers to come back with the journeying shaman" (ibid. pp. 98-9).
When a power animal is restored to a person, he usually feels better immediately, and then gradually experiences a power flowing into his body over the next few days.... You should begin a weekly routine to retain the power by keeping your power animal content, for the spirit has entered your body not only to help you, but also to help itself. You gain its power; it gains the joy of again experiencing life in a material form. Therefore, each week you should devote a few minutes to dancing your animal, with the aid of rattles... Those who maintain the weekly routine of exercising their animal report they tend to retain a sense of optimism and power. They commonly say that they are able to deal positively with the problems of daily existence, to be ill infrequently, and to feel physically and mentally healthier. (ibid., p. 125)
Harner's (1990) protocol for power animal recovery is in Appendix D.
Once acquired and retained, the power animal can be consulted for decisions and advice. This can be done by anyone who is able to journey into the lower world, and in fact, the power animal is often waiting to be asked.
Even though the guardian's power is with you, the guardian moves around at will, constantly entering and leaving your body...You may not have to journey far before you see your animal since, more often than not, it is usually close by. Often one's power animal is in the Tunnel or just outside its opening at the other end. (ibid., p. 122)
My intention around trying these shamanic practices was to discover what would happen as I attempted them. I also wanted to discover if I had a power animal/guardian spirit connection and if so whether I could strengthen it. Would this help me to have a stronger sense of power and therefore personal authority? Would I be the author of my life: effective, successful, and emotionally and physically healthy? I had also hoped that a partner would be willing to journey to retrieve my power animal. I used Harner's prescribed methods for these practices while applying the spirit of Ingerman's adaptability and creativity, being open to innovative ideas or directions that might present themselves.
# 1. I performed the shamanic journey using Harner's (1990) protocol as well as a fifteen-minute recording of Harner (2015) drumming to facilitate shamanic journey. A description of the drum rhythm is included in Appendix A. My first attempt at the journey was at night after not having eaten since lunch. I laid down in a darkened room and played Harner's recorded drumming. The tunnel entrance was through the uncovered sweat lodge in the woods of my back yard. It became a series of cave-tunnels. The other end was vague--I think I was drifting and possibly dreaming. At one point I was in my childhood driveway playing with a naked young boy. This was possibly a childhood memory of playing with my brother in the sprinklers. Then, I saw limestone cliffs with vertical striations and great spires. I saw an animal but did not remember what it was. The landscape was barren cliffs and rocks, but I couldn't see down to the bottom. I was drifting during this session. Other people came in and out, but I couldn't remember them and had difficulty concentrating. At the end, I went back through the cave-tunnel, also a vague journey, and I could see the sweat lodge at the end.
#2. Because my experience was so vague and unclear, I decided to attempt the shamanic journey again on another day, first thing in the morning. I had not eaten since the previous night, so I was fasted, and I was more awake and alert. This time, the sweat lodge was covered and ready for ceremony. The tunnel came out in the back of Redwall Cavern in the Grand Canyon. At first, I could see many ancient people tending fires and working on food and ceremony preparation all throughout the cavern. This was a large group--bigger than normal--maybe several bands of people who had come together for ceremony. There will be a great fire in the middle of the cavern. I see a female (human) guide. She tells me, "If you concentrate on your crown, your spiritual connection, the vision will come to your third eye". I learn that I can feel more present in this vision if I press my body into the floor.
I go to the opening of the cavern by the river. It is clear, and I can see the rock formations, plants, and fish in the water. I get in and feel it cool and flowing all around me. I look up to see the night sky and many powerful stars. Then, I am called back by the drums. I go back through the great cavern and into the tunnel at the back. I come out at home and see the sweat lodge--now just bones of the sapling frame as the coverings are gone.
This second experience was clearer. Pressing my physical body into the ground seemed to help me feel it as more real and to take in and be conscious of more detail. However, I did not quite trust that I hadn't invented the whole thing, so I attempted the shamanic journey one last time just to see what would happen. The last attempt was again in the morning. All three journeys were performed within the space of five days.
# 3. I enter through the cave in the sweat lodge (there is rocky tunnel on the left side leading down into the Earth. I come out again at the back of the Redwall cavern. I am now at the opening on the beach. There are several long dark things on the beach, I look at them and see they are dugout canoes carved out of logs. Then, I am floating in one down the river and can hear a great waterfall ahead. There is someone else in the canoe with me. We go over the edge and fall for quite a while before landing in a pool way down below. It is a primitive landscape with a very old forest with many dead trees right up against the pool. I go into the woods--it is dark, and damp and the trees are close together. At one point, I see a nondescript animal face, brown with a nose and eyes--almost a cartoon shape. I am not far from the water when the return drums sound. I retrace my steps, even falling up the waterfall, and come out in front of the sweat lodge.
This time I was more convinced of the reality of the journey. The appearance of the canoes told me that it was a real experience. I know this because I saw them as dark objects before they became canoes. If I had made them up with my conscious mind, they would have been clear from the beginning and I would have been expecting them. I believe I was seeing my power animal here--perhaps the same figure that I saw in the first journey. She could also be the human guide who spoke to me in the second journey, and the one who traveled with me in the canoe. If this is true, my guardian can take a human shape.
Calling the Beasts
While shaking to the four directions, I had a sense of birds in the East, Grizzly Bear in the South, Wolf in the West, and Polar Bear in the North. When I started dancing to sacrifice my energy to the spirits, I was moved to shake the rattles around in circles. I became aware that this motion formed the tunnel into the Lower World. As I started to slow down and move around the room, Bear became apparent. I made his movements, lumbering slowly through a river. When the rattle speed quickened, I was fishing, pulling salmon out of the river. At the greatest speed, I stood on my hind legs and roared. I was terrifying and unmovable. I roared at all who might try to push me along faster or keep me tethered to their opinions. I felt the power of Bear--perhaps even a Kodiak--the largest brown bear. At the end, I welcomed Bear to stay with me in my body. I could feel him in my heart.
Acquiring a Power Song:
I used half of a Saturday to work on acquiring a power song. This was a fasted process, so I began in the morning, hiking through the Ames Lake Forest near Carnation, Washington. Although there was an extensive trail system good for mountain biking, horses, and hiking, I only saw a few people before and after my process--none during the ceremony. As I began, a granite stone rolled under my boots and continued to roll with me for several feet. I must have been kicking it unconsciously. It seemed to want to go with me, so I picked it up and held it in one or the other hand during the entire morning. I walked slowly through the woods, mimicking the gait of Bear, slow and lumbering and powerful. I did some bushwhacking, crashing through ferns and fallen branches, and I wandered, meandering about to see where my feet would go. Soon, many birds were around me. A small brown bird--the Pacific Wren--was cheeping and peering at me and getting closer and closer. I stood still until it was nearly upon me--very curious. Behind him, there was a knocking. I searched for the woodpecker and found it--a Hairy--maybe a hundred yards away. I continued to lumber on and noticed that the Hairy Woodpecker seemed to be hopping from tree to tree, following my trail. Eventually I stood to watch and it continued to get closer. Then there were two, chopping at trees, hunting their bugs and grubs. Their chopping brought a song which continued in time with my walk:
"I am coming through
Tick tock, tock, tock.
I am coming through
Tick tock, tock, tock,
I am hunting food
Tick tock, tock.
I am hunting soul
Tick, tock, tock."
Later, the song morphed into:
"I am coming through
I am coming through
I am coming through,
I come through"
Instead of continuing to walk, I should have stayed to watch and listen. The woodpeckers and birds had come to me. Greed for more profound experience kept me seeking something more significant. I lumbered on, sometimes sitting against a tree, listening to leaves and branches in the wind, birds and squirrels. Sometimes I sat in the middle of a cedar tree circle. Once, while resting, I was able to see the grid of light and dark that makes up the material world. I had first seen this grid on my vision quest in September 2017. I believe what I saw was part of non-ordinary reality. The grid is an ancient symbol found in petroglyphs and cave paintings, signifying the connectedness of all things (Harner, 1990). I believe this is what my song refers to. Spirit is using the grid to "come through" or manifest in the ordinary, material world. It could also mean that I, as the shamanic practitioner, am coming through ordinary reality to connect with and interact with the Spirit World.
Before I got ready to leave, the question came: "God, what should I see?" The answer came "Just what you are seeing." And, "What should I be," with the answer, "Just who you are." As I began to walk back to the trail taking me out of the forest, a different song fragment came, perhaps the rest will come at another time:
"Looking at a piece of you
Looking at the whole thing too"
As I was walking out, I remembered the stone I was carrying. I thanked it and set it down at the side of the road and continued. A minute later, I realized I should have replaced it where I picked it up in the first place. I went back, found it, and started to retrace my steps. Along the way, however, I became aware that the stone wanted to stay with me for a while. I could feel it making hot sparks in my hand. So again, I turned around, taking it back to my regular life.
Now that I was leaving the forest and today's ceremony, I allowed my mind to wander. I thought of the nectarines that my husband Tom had brought home a few days ago and that it was almost blackberry season. I decided to make a nectarine, blackberry, and raspberry pie--a favorite of my family, but I knew I would have to buy the blackberries because it was a few weeks early. Then I rounded a corner and looked up to see blackberry vines with many ripe berries--an early gift of a hot summer. I broke my fast here, eating "Bear" food and collecting just enough berries for that pie.
Making the Journey to Recover a Power Animal
I was unable to do this process as it requires one or more partners and my practice partner has not yet been able to schedule it. I am aware that I would like to do this process both as the shaman as well as the patient. Ideally, I would first be the patient to see if Bear is the animal that my partner finds. Whichever animal he finds, I would like to solidify my connection.
Acquiring a power song was a long process with a lot of stillness and walking. Several reflections occurred to me in that stillness: One was that these shamanic processes aren't meant to be done only once. Their practice is an informative way of living, not a once-off exercise. I learn from each one and will get better and wiser with repetition. Ingerman supports this:
"Shamanic journeying is a practice that improves over time...Where attention goes, energy goes" (2014, p. 14).
For instance, I had followed this intuition when I attempted the Shamanic Journey and found that each subsequent journey was clearer, had more detail, and went further. I thought I saw my guardian a few times, but with practice, I think I could interact more directly with him and deepen the connection. I also knew during the power song process that I should practice it at least once a season because the songs and forest visitors would change with time of year.
Harner (1990) suggests that retrieving and dancing your power animal is important anytime a person feels off, sick, or unfruitful. He also says this process should be done frequently, and I can see the value in this. It is easy to do at home and was for me the most fun process where I felt most powerful. Once my power animal became clear (from dancing), I felt like he was with me, both during shamanic practices and in everyday life. Since dancing my animal, my self-care has improved, and I have had stronger, more effective boundaries. Most importantly, I have been taking my time and going at my own, slower pace.
My intention is to continue to journey once a week and to dance my animal once a week. Acquiring a power song may be a quarterly practice. I am still hoping to do the "Retrieving a Power Animal" process both as the patient and as the shamanic practitioner. I had planned to attempt this process, but my practice partner has not yet been able to commit the time. However, the delay will afford me more time to continue practicing and strengthening the other three processes which are all required for the retrieving journey.
Repetition is important. Through research and practice, I came to understand that Shamanic journeying is an on-going, repetitive practice of relationship development with non-ordinary realms and beings. Relationship with the Spirit World can supply talents, abilities, and wisdom that an individual might not have on their own. It is difficult to determine whether the power associated with this relationship is internal or external. Perhaps this delineation is not important. When in healthy relationship with the Spirit World and the natural world, I have healthy power and it flows through me. Therefore, I have a healthy sense of explicit internal (and implicit external) authority.
Jung (1973/1961; 2009) believed that although autonomous, his guardian spirits were within him--coming from his unconscious. In this way, Philemon, for example was both his internal and an external authority. He was internal in that Philemon did not come to others in the exact form and with the exact information and advice that he brought to Jung. Philemon was external in that his thoughts and actions were autonomous -separate from Jung's ego. Perhaps the power animal or guardian spirit is an external authority in that it exists external of the ego. Perhaps it is also an internal authority because it exists internal of the larger self (Jung's collective unconscious) which includes and is connected to all things and beings.
This study did not have enough time to see definitively whether contemporary people should relearn the principles of shamanism and regard guardian spirits more purposefully to ensure optimal health, relationships, success, and healthy internal and external authority. With time, and cultivation of an ongoing relationship to the Spirit World, we could see the answers to this question. This inquiry has led me (the subject) to be curious and to want to continue to practice and improve connection with the Spirit World and my guardian(s).
Benning, T. B. (2018). Was Jung a shaman? Journal of Psychology & Psychotherapy. 8(2), 1-6. Retrieved from https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/was-c-g-jung-a-shaman-2161-0487-1000339.pdf, doi: 10.4172/2161-0487.1000339.
Corbett, S. (2009, September 16). The holy grail of the unconscious. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/20/magazine/20jung-t.html
Deloria Jr., V. (2006). The world we used to live in: Remembering the powers of the medicine men. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing.
Eliade, M. (1984). Rites and symbols of initiation: The mysteries of birth and rebirth. (e-book edition, v. 2.1) (W.R. Trask, Trans.). Putnam, CT: Spring Publications, Inc. Retrieved from www.Amazon.com
Harner, M. (1990). The way of the shaman. New York: Harper Collins. (original publication 1980).
Harner, M. (2015). Shamanic journey--15 minutes solo drumming, (video file). Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Retrieved from https://youtube.be/MmQ1H4wUOzs.
Ingerman, S. (2014). Walking in light.: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Ingerman, S. & Wesselman, H. (2010). Awakening to the spirit world: The shamanic path of direct revelation. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
Jilek, W. G. (1974). Salish Indian mental health and culture change: Psychohygienic and therapeutic aspects of the guardian spirit ceremonial. Toronto and Montreal: Holt, Rinehart and Winston of Canada.
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Jung, C. G. (2009) The red book: Liber novus. Shamdasani, S. (Ed.), Kyburz, M., Peck, J., & Shamdasani, S. (Trans.). New York, NY & London: W.W. Norton & Company.
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1. Have an assistant drum or use recorded drumming.
2. Avoid substance use the preceding 24 hours. Eat only lightly or not at all the preceding four hours.
3. In a dark, quiet room, lie flat on the floor. Breathe, relax, and contemplate the journey. Close eyes or use a blindfold.
4. Visualize an opening into the earth from memory--one that feels comfortable. Spend a few minutes doing this without going in.
5. Instruct the drummer to start beating strongly (205-220 bpm) for 10 minutes while the practitioner visualizes entering the hole and going through the tunnel on the journey. At the end of the tunnel the practitioner emerges out of doors and examines and notes the details and features of this place. The practitioner brings nothing back during this exploratory journey. At the end of 10 minutes, the assistant strikes the drum sharply four times to signify it is time to return, followed by rapid drumming for a half a minute during the return journey, and concluding with four sharp strikes to signify the journey is over.
6. The practitioner writes down, dictates, or describes the journey to the assistant to remember details.
(adapted from Harner, 1990, pp. 38-40).
Calling the Beasts
1. Perform this practice in a quiet, half-darkened room with furniture removed. Use two rattles. Eyes may be half closed, or the practitioner can use a fringed blindfold. An assistant drummer can stand to the side of the room and match the practitioner's rattling with the drum.
2. Starting Dance: stand still and erect, facing east. The practitioner shakes one rattle strongly four times and thinks of the rising sun to signal the beginning.
3. The practitioner shakes one rattle at a steady rate of 150 bpm standing in place, facing east. He then turns and does the same to each of the directions for about 30 seconds each, thinking of plant and animal relations in each direction. Facing east again, he shakes the rattle to the sky (sun, moon, stars, universe) and then to the ground (Earth our home).
4. Still facing east, the practitioner shakes both rattles (one in each hand) and dances in place to their tempo for about 5 minutes.
5. The practitioner again shakes one rattle rapidly and strongly 4 times to the east to signal transition.
6. Dancing your animal: "Start shaking your rattles loudly and slowly about 60 times per minute, moving your feet in the same tempo. Move slowly and in a free form around the room, trying to pick up the feeling of having some kind of mammal, bird, fish, reptile, or combination" (Harner, 1990, p. 85). Once the practitioner feels the animal, he slowly moves his body to match the animal's, and begins to experience the emotions of the animal.
7. Shift to a faster rate of rattle shaking (100 bpm) and continue as before moving faster (5 min).
8. Accelerate again to 180 bpm, continuing the animal dance (4 min).
9. The practitioner stops dancing and welcomes the animal to stay in his body while shaking the rattles rapidly four times and pulling them to his chest.
10. The practitioner repeats the starting dance (second step) signaling that the process is ended.
(adapted from Harner, 1990, pp. 84-86).
Acquiring a Power Song
1. The practitioner spends a day alone in a wild natural place that has not been disturbed too much by humans and where the practitioner will not bump into other people.
2. The practitioner does not eat breakfast and will fast throughout the day.
3. The practitioner follows his or her feet, wandering and sometimes sitting. While wandering, he might discover what animal he feels like, taking on its feelings and identity.
4. Stay open to a melody and or words that might spontaneously come.
5. Repeat the song, the words, the melody, over and over as long as it feels necessary.
Power songs may also be acquired during shamanic journeying or may come spontaneously during dreams.
(adapted from Harner, 1990, pp. 94-96).
Recovering a Power Animal
1. This process takes an evening and involves the shamanic practitioner, the drummer, and a third person who is the patient. Abstain from alcohol or other substances, eating only lightly for lunch and skipping dinner.
2. The room should be free of light and outside noise, cleared of furniture, and with a lit candle in one corner of the room.
3. The shamanic practitioner performs the "Starting Dance" and "Dancing your Animal". The drummer beats to match the shaman's rattle and only during dancing.
4. The practitioner shakes the rattle four times in the six directions, whistles four times to call the spirits, and then walks very slowly around the patient four times while shaking the rattle in a slow and steady tempo. After this, the practitioner returns to the patient's side.
5. The practitioner whistles their power song, shaking the rattle with the song. After a few minutes, the practitioner's consciousness alters.
6. The practitioner begins singing the words to their power song, shaking the rattle along in a steady, slow, beat.
7. The practitioner continues the song until their consciousness alters. As this happens, the practitioner experiences an uncontrollable urge to lie down next to the patient.
8. The practitioner lies touching the patient--shoulder-to shoulder, hip to hip, foot to foot. The practitioner shakes the rattle back and forth in the darkness above his chest. The drummer matches the rattle's tempo with his beat.
9. The practitioner shakes his rattle at 180 BPM, covering his eyes with his forearm to block out all light. He continues to rattle until he sees the entrance into the lower world. The practitioner goes into the entrance, stopping the rattling, but the drummer maintains the beat strongly at the same tempo as the former rattle.
10. The practitioner follows the tunnel downward wherever it goes, passing around any obstacles.
11. The practitioner avoids obviously voracious animals, especially passing around swarms of spiders or insects and reptiles, serpents, and fish who have fangs. If the practitioner cannot pass them, he exits out and tries another time.
12. Emerging from the tunnel, the practitioner is in the Lowerworld. The practitioner searches here for the guardian spirit or power animal of the patient. The drum continues.
13. The power animal will appear to the practitioner at least four times in different aspects or angles. It will be a mammal, bird, reptile, serpent, or fish. The last three should not have fangs or appear menacing. The animal can present itself in any form (such as sculpture, painting, etc.).
14. After seeing the animal four times, the practitioner clasps it to his chest with one hand. It will come because it has willingly shown itself. After clasping the animal, the practitioner picks up and shakes the rattle four times to signal to the drummer to stop. Then, the practitioner shakes the rattle very fast (210) bpm and the drummer matches this speed. The practitioner returns quickly through the tunnel, back to the darkened room.
15. The practitioner sets the rattle aside, keeping the animal clasped to his chest. He gets on his knees, facing the patient. The drums stop when the practitioner gets on his knees. The practitioner places his cupped hands on the patient's breastbone and blows as hard as he can through his cupped hands and into the chest of the patient. Then with his left hand, the practitioner raises the patient to a sitting position, places his cupped hands on the patient's crown and again forcefully blows any residual power into the patient's head. The practitioner picks up the rattle and shakes it rapidly and sharply around the whole of the patient's body, sealing the unity of the power with the body.
16. The practitioner whispers the identity of the power animal to the patient and describes the details of the creature and the journey.
17. The practitioner helps the patient to dance his animal to make it feel welcome "by giving it the reward of experiencing its movements in material form" (p. 107). The practitioner shakes the rattle, gradually speeding up along with the patient's dancing. The drummer follows the practitioner's lead. After a few minutes, the shaman shakes his rattle sharply four times to end the drumming and the dance. The practitioner assists the patient to sit on the floor and reminds him to dance his animal often "so that it will stay with him".
(adapted from Harner, 1990, pp. 98-107).
Jenny Frank-Doggett, LMHC (*)
(*) Contact Jenny Frank-Doggett at email@example.com
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|Publication:||Journal of Heart Centered Therapies|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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