You are on page 1of 17



ISSUE 88 2015


of the SAHARA
Ancient Spirit Lore
from the Sands

Encountering Djinn

Islamic Spirits
of Wilderness


Mongolian Shamans
Moon Ceremony


Giant Bird Spirit of Asia


Tibetan Phowa Practice

Hells Angel Healing

Care for a Dying Biker

Are we stealing
other cultures

SThe Desert Tuareg : pages 16-27

Ceremony for the Moon : pages 6-15

An Encounter with a Djinn Spirit : pages 28-31

Nicholas Breeze Wood
Faith Nolton
Linda Booth, Faith Nolton
Sacred Hoop Magazine
Anghorfa, Abercych, Boncath,
Pembrokeshire, SA37 0EZ, UK
Tel: (01239) 682 029
SACRED HOOP seeks to network those wanting to learn the spiritual
teachings of indigenous peoples as a living path of knowledge. Our
contents cover the integration of both old and new ways, and insights
that contribute to a balanced and sustainable lifestyle in today's world.
We honour all paths and peoples and do not include material from, or
give support to, any individual or group which seeks to oppress or
discriminate on grounds of race, lineage, age, sex, class or belief.
Nor do we knowingly publish any material that is inaccurate.
Views expressed are not necessarily those of the editor.
ISSN 1364 - 2219
Whilst making every effort to be accurate, the
editors will not be deemed responsible for any
errors, omissions or inaccuracies appearing
in Sacred Hoop Magazine.

OOP ISSUE 88 2015



Travelling in Northern Mongolia, Susan Ross Grimaldi
met a traditional shaman who told her about the need to
care for the Moon, and then invited her to a ceremony to
bring the Moon into balance.

SITTING IN THE SILENCE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16-20

In the Sahara Desert of North Africa, when she visited the

desert to take part in a vision quest, Liselle Van Zyl met
the nomadic Tuareg people and the silence of the desert.

THE SPIRIT OF THE FREE PEOPLE . . . . . . . . 21-25

The Tuareg people of North Africa have an ancient
animistic culture and hold a great lore knowledge about
the djinn and other spirits of the desert.

TO DRIVE AWAY THE DJINN . . . . . . . . . . . . 26-27

Sacred Hoop Magazine

and-or individual contributors.
No part of this magazine,
either written text or visual
art, may be reproduced
in any way whatsoever
without the written
permission of
the Editor.


Working with the Garuda Spirit : pages 32-27

The djinn spirits are to be respected and feared, so the

Tuareg people have a long tradition of protection amulets.

UPON THE ROAD TO ASWAN . . . . . . . . . . 28-31

While travelling in the deserts of Egypt, Hank Wesselman
had an encounter with a djinn spirit. He shares the story of
how this djinn was determined to help him - come what may.


Are you Stealing Spirituality? : pages 44-46

ON THE WINGS OF GARUDA . . . . . . . . . . 32-33

When the recent series of earthquakes happened in Nepal
Evelyn Rysdyk realised she had to do something ceremonial
for the people there, and called to Garuda to help.


The Garuda is a huge bird spirit, found from Siberia to
South East Asia. Yeshe Green gives a brief introduction to
the spirit, and explains how Garuda practitioners call up on
it for help with healing and other shamanic work.

HEALING FOR AN ANGEL . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38-39

When Claudia Bonney got asked to help a dying
man she inadvertently walked into the world of the
Hells Angels. Here she shares her story.

Tibetan Healing for the dying and the dead : pages 40-41

PHOWA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40-41
In Tibet, phowa is an ancient psychopomp practice for
the dying and the newly dead. Nicholas Breeze Wood
shares a shamanic adaptation of this ancient ceremony.


Shamans in Siberia often have fabric snakes hanging from
their coats. We look at some of the reasons behind this.

SPIRITUAL APPROPRIATION . . . . . . . . . . . . 44-46

With the internet and books bringing the spiritual traditions
of the world to us like never before, Mary Mueller Shutan
asks if we are stealing and dishonouring these traditions
with pick and mix spirituality.

SHAMANTUBE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
A look at a few of the better films about shamanic practice
on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

BOOK AND MUSIC REVIEWS . . . . . . . . . . 48-50


Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all,

and around and about me was the whole hoop of the world...
I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the
spirit and the shapes of all shapes as they must live together
like one being. And I saw that the Sacred Hoop of my people
was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight
and as starlight and in the centre grew one almighty
flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother
and one father, and I saw that it was holy.
(From the vision of Nicholas Black Elk Lakota Holy Man: 1863 - 1950)

Twitter: @TheSacredHoop

From the Editor

Weve a bit of a bumper crop of
articles this issue, and we travel to
various places around the world,
starting in Northern Mongolia, where
we are encouraged to work towards
the healing of the Moon. From there
we move on to North Africa, with a series of articles about both
the nomadic Tuareg people and the djinn - the spirits of the
desert - about which they have a great wealth of tradition. Next
we zoom off to Nepal, which has suffered so much in the recent
series of earthquakes, and we look at the spirit of the Garuda,
the huge bird that appears in Hindu, Buddhist and shamanic
traditions right over Central and Southern Asia. The Garuda is
often seen as the enemy of the nagas, the snake-like water
spirits, and so to address the balance, we have an article about
Siberian shamans snake spirits.
Healing and working with the dying and the recently dead is a
theme in this issue too, with articles about psychopomp work for
the Nepali earthquake victims, and for a dying Hells Angel; and
we also have an article about an ancient Tibetan psychopomp
tradition called phowa, which you can - if you wish - use yourself
in your healing work.
In this digital age an important question is whether we are
stealing traditions from indigenous cultures, and not respecting
them? Or are we sharing knowledge that is needed? In that light
we feature a round up of some of the best shamanic films on
YouTube. Balance in all things I guess.
Blessings to all Beings
Nicholas Breeze Wood

Subscription Details: Page 58
OOP ISSUE 88 2015

Bringing Balance
to the Moon
Susan Ross Grimaldi
A Journey to the West Taiga of Mongolias Northern Frontier
to meet with Khalzen, a Dukha Shaman

There are now less than three

hundred Dukha remaining in the
world, comprised of 44 families,
living in the East and West Taigas,
of the most northern province of
Mongolia. The Dukha people are
among the last nomadic, animaldependent, self-subsistent cultures
in the world.
The Dukha live in small family
groups and migrate over an area of
approximately 25,000 square
kilometers (6 million acres). Life for
the people is simple and hard, they
live year around in un-insulated
canvas tipis, with no running water,
or plumbing. The temperature in
winter can drop to a dangerous 50C (-58F). Their very existence,
lifestyle and traditions are in
imminent danger of extinction.
Each family owns reindeer that
are milked daily, and this milk
provides the main component of
their diet. The herds roam freely,
grazing during the day, but they are
staked out at night, within the
encampment, to help protect them
from wolves.
Reindeer are also ridden, and
used as pack animals during the
peoples nomadic moves - which
occur between four to six times
each year. Reindeer are the
essential mode of transport in
these high mountain taigas, as the
area has no roads, and the climate
and terrain are so harsh that only
the reindeer and the special Taiga

horses can survive the rigours of

this northern region. The reindeer
carry riders and all of the
household items, tents, and
personal belongings. They also
carry large, heavy loads of
firewood, fuel necessary for life in
these harsh lands.
The Dukha currently face many
challenges as they struggle to
maintain their ancestral lifestyle in
an ever-changing world.
Several major factors threaten
their survival today: strict national
hunting laws and expensive permits
have resulted in making it illegal
and difficult for the Dukha to hunt
for game animals - which are
necessary for their survival;
traditional knowledge of herbal
medicine has been almost
forgotten; the recent emergence of
gold mining in the West Taiga has
introduced a criminal element to
the area, which has disrupted the
Dukha traditional ways; there is a
growing need for money to buy
commodities such as flour and
school supplies; and the
opportunity for education in recent
years has led many towards other
pursuits, reducing the numbers of
herders in the taiga.
The survival of this ancient
nomadic culture really does hang in
the balance, although their
knowledge of sustainability is
perhaps one of the great treasures
of humanity. We could learn so

much from the Dukha people and

integrate their earth-friendly,
indigenous knowledge and wisdom
of sustainability, into our own

Opposite page:
the shaman
Khalzen smudges
his drum with a
twig of burning


On July 1st, 2012, John R.
Lawrence Jr., and I flew from
Ulaanbaatar, the capital of
Mongolia, to the most northern
airport in Mongolia near the town of
Murun. This would serve as our
jumping off point for the taiga.
We gathered up our final fresh
provisions of food, propane for our
camp stove and many large jerry
cans of fuel for our four wheel
drive vehicle. We would be driving
north, off-road, on meandering
tracks, heading to Tsagaannuur - a
small settlement within a very
sparsly populated area, near the
most northern part of Mongolia,
close to the Russian border. There
we would meet our guides and
horses to complete the trip.
Then we would pack our gear
onto the horses and head off in
search of the nearly invisible, small
bands of nomadic reindeer
herders, camped somewhere
further to the north.
During the 14-hour, grueling
drive to Tsagaannuur, we saw herds
of grazing animals in open
grasslands: sheep, camels, cattle,
yak and horses with their new foals.
In the grass they were grazing on, I

Below: a Dukha
boy rides
a reindeer in
the Taiga

Reindeer are the essential mode

of transport in these high
mountain Taigas, as the area
has no roads, and the climate
and terrain are so harsh
that only the reindeer and
the special Taiga horses
can survive the rigours of
this northern region

Sitting in the
Memories of a Vision Quest
in the Sahara Desert

Liselle Van Zyl

When I first heard about vision

quests I was intrigued, and
thought, that would be something I
would like to do one day. It was
many years later that I eventually
embarked on my first questing
experience, a retreat and vision
quest in the Sahara Desert of
North Africa.
I have an affinity with many
landscapes, and find the desert to
be full of life in a sensual, numinous
way, throwing up images and visions
in its vast shifting landscape.
Back to 2009, when I made my
journey to the desert, I had some
vague idea of what to expect and,
at the same time, ultimately no real
idea of what to expect. But the
journey turned out to be a profound
experience for me, as well as the
start of something special.
At that time, I was nearing
the end of my



ISSUE 88 2015

training as a psychotherapist, and

felt I had done a lot of personal
work on myself as part of my
training. Now, I smilingly realise that
personal work never really ends.
I was at a turning, or changing
point in my life, dying to one way
and birthing a new way. I was
coming out of a very difficult
divorce, and at the same time had
become a grandmother, something
I did not go into with a lot of joy,
until the arrival of the beautiful
being that captured my heart, which
is when all my ego stuff about age,
and all that, just melted away.
Up until that point, I lived a path
that in some ways was fairly
predictable for a lot of women. I
had children, got married, studied
and had a very full busy life, with
lots of activity, but I felt

from my life. I was too busy and

too tired to give any of my activities
or my loved ones my full attention,
and on the other hand I was trying
to do it all.
I felt somewhere in all of that I
had lost myself. And yet, on
another level, there was a part of
me that had not lost sight of me
and was somehow steering me.
The group I was travelling with
into the desert were all meeting at
an airport in Switzerland. I was
travelling on a South African
passport and little did I know that
visa rules had changed after I
booked my ticket, so my first
hurdle was dealing with customs
and obtaining an emergency - last
minute - visa, in order to get out of
the airport for


Spirit of the
Free People

Spirit Possession amongst

the Tuareg of the Sahara Desert
The Tuareg (also spelled Twareg
and Touareg) live in and around the
Sahara desert of North Africa.
They are part of the Berber people,
who - together with the ancient
Egyptians - are the oldest humans
to have settled in North Africa.
The name Berber comes from
the Latin word barbarus, which
means barbarian, the real name for
the Berber people is Imazighen,
which means The Free People.
Just as Berber is not the real
name for the people, neither is
Tuareg. The word tuareg comes
from a local word for people who
live in the district of Targa, part of
Libya. The name the Tuareg use
for themselves is Imushagh almost the same word as the real
name of the Berber people.
Although the Tuareg live in a
confined area of the Sahara, the
Berber people as a whole
live right across North
Africa to the Atlas
Mountains of Morroco.

also settled on the Canary Islands

too, but after the Spanish invasion
in the C14th the Berbers there
were enslaved, and in all effect
wiped out by inter breeding with
the Spanish invaders.
The Tuareg homelands range
from savannah in the south to
desert in the north - where
temperatures can reach 54 C
(130 F). Violent winds are
common, as are sandstorms,
making travel extremely difficult.
Rain in the Sahara is irregular, and
in some places it has not rained for
five years or more.
The Tuareg are nomadic, with
often large herds of camels, cattle,
sheep and goats. They are also
well know as caravaners, criscrossing the Sahara since ancient
times, carrying salt, gold, ivory and
slaves to the Mediterranean, where
the goods continued on to markets
in Europe and the Middle East.
The caravan trade still exists
today, and the people carry
foodstuffs, household tools, spices,
perfume and cloth. Historically the
Tuaregs were also well known for
banditry; robbing caravans and
plundering established villages.

Tuaregs founded the city of

Timbuktu in Mali during the C11th,
but as a generally nomadic people
they are more likely found on the
move. Traditional Tuareg shelters are
small, lightweight tents of leather, or
nowadays canvas. An average
household can pack all its goods on
the backs of two or three camels.
The Tuareg are matrilineal (i.e.
the mother's line is the primary
line), but they are not matriarchal
(i.e. power is not in the hands of
the women). Tuareg women enjoy
a degree of freedom, and they are
allowed to have sexual relationships
with men before marriage.
Most Tuareg marry late, young
men have to own enough camels to
pay a bride price. The usual age for
marriage is about twenty to twentyfive for women, and around thirty
for men. Marriage always involves a
bride price - which varies according
to both the beauty and social
standing of the bride, and the
wealth of the husband.
Wedding festivities take place in
the bride's camp, and a newly
married couple will live in the camp
of the bride's parents for about a
year, then usually move over to the
camp of the husband. Marriages are
monogamous and divorce is unusual
and generally frowned upon.
In direct contrast to most Islamic
custom, all Tuareg men must
wear a veil called a
tidjelmoust, while the
women go unveiled.
Tuaregs think it is
shockingly indecent for a
man to let

Below: Tuareg
silver cross,
a traditional

Tuareg man
with agadez
crosses around
his neck

Right: old silver

agadez cross

Below: two
shaped amulets
with magical

Another popular amulet is the

tcherot. This word means
message, letter, or paper
on which something is writen
in the Tuareg language
A tcherot is a form of African
amulet, generally called a gri gri,
which are found in many different
sub-Saharan countries. Tuareg
tcherot take the form of a lozengeshaped rectangle, or square metal
or leather box. They are often worn
on the chest - rather like Tibetan
gau boxes - and they generally
have a sheet of paper inside.
Written on the paper are often
verses from the Quran, or nonIslamic magical symbols, all
designed to protect the wearer
from djinn and kel-asuf and to repell
the evil eye, curses, hatred, and
diseases projected at the wearer.

To Drive

Away the Djinn

Magical Protection Amulets of the Tuareg

Because of their concern to be
protected from the djinn and the
kel-asuf, the Tuareg have a
wealth of talismanic amulets,
which they wear to protect
them. Some of these are
in the form of pendants
and others are in the
form of magical rings.
Perhaps the most
commen of these amulets
is the agadez, which is also
known as the amazigh, and in



many Berbers and some Tuareg

were Christian, and familiar with
Christian art. As with the early
Egyptian Christian Coptic Cross,
there is a circle on the top arm
of their cross, sometimes with
another cross inside it. The Tuareg
cross most likely inherited this
Coptic cross design, which in turn
was inherited from the ancient
Egyptian ankh - the symbol of life.

ISSUE 88 2015

English known as the Tuareg or

Berber Cross
The Tuareg say that the centre
of the cross represents God, and
as Muslims believe we are one with
God, humanity also shares this
central spot. The four arms of the
cross represent the four corners of
the world and are said to keep
harm at bay from the human
wearer at the centre.
The Tuareg Cross is probably
based on the Christian cross,
because, before the arrival of Islam,

The Tuareg also have a tradition

of magic square rings which
contain magical sysmbols, often
arranged in grid form. They often
have large front panels, similar to
the type of ring known as a signet
ring in the West. It is on these
front pieces that the magical
designs are inscribed.
These rings have a relationship
to the traditonal square or
rectangular Tuareg tent. A tent is
like a magical amulet in its own
right, protecting the occupants,
and different areas inside the tent
are ascribed different meanings for example some parts of the tent
are male and others female.
There will generally be magical
protection spells painted or cut into
the wooden poles of a tent, and
these poles divide up edges of the
inner space of a tent, marking
them like a sheet of graph paper
into the cells of an invisible,
magically protected grid.
Tuareg rings carry these same
ideas, in effect creating a magical
tent around the person wearing the
ring to protect them from harm.
These same magical square

Upon the
Road to Aswan
An encounter with a djinn in Egypt
Hank Wesselman
Early one morning in January 2003,
I was with a travel group proceeding
in our tour bus to Edfu - the site of
an Ancient Egyptian city - south of
Luxor in Upper Egypt, on the west
bank of the Nile. The city ruins
contain a massive temple dedicated
to the falcon-headed sky god
Horus, the earthly son of the mythic
Osiris and Isis.
Our tour guide drew us through
the site quickly - before the crush
of tourists arrived - making sure we
saw all the places of highest
importance, before turning us
loose to explore on our own.
I noted that the whole
complex was alive with
birds, stirring up quite
a cacophony of sound.
When I commented on
this, our guide laughed and
said; You should be here in
June when the entire temple is
taken over by nesting falcons.

Right: inside the

temple of Edfu



When we left the busy temple,

we headed south toward Aswan. As
we drove through small villages and
lush farmlands, with their endless
rows of date palms that bracket the
Nile, my thoughts were focused
upon the site we had just visited, I
was thinking about how ancient
Egyptian mythology told that it was
here that Horus avenged his father
Osiris, by killing his uncle Set - who
was Osiriss murderer.
As the road abruptly rose out of
the farmlands and into the desert,
my thoughts shifted moodily toward
a person about whom I held mixed
feelings, a programme director who
had made a contract with me to

ISSUE 88 2015

present a
workshop at a
conference several
months before. This
person had never paid me
our agreed upon fee, and
had been
me serial
emails, stalling me,
and effectively lying to me.
On checking with the
conference organisers, I
learned that this
woman had not paid
most of the presenters
either, but had simply taken the
money and run. I knew now that I
would never be paid.

As the minibus rocketed along

through the open desert, I watched
the drivers tasbih [Islamic prayer
beads] swinging as they hung on
the rear-view mirror, while I
brooded about this act of betrayal.
My eyes ranged outward across
the barren rocky hills and the sandy
slopes that surrounded us under
the cloudless blue sky. Not a tree
could be seen, nor a single shrub,
succulent, or weed anywhere. It
was now late morning, heading
toward midday, and the sunbaked sand dunes and rocks were
shimmering with heat - like my
dark thoughts.
The motion of the
tour bus and the
bleached, monotonous
landscapes had lulled
me into a semi-dreamy
state, when suddenly,
my mind abruptly
refocused. I felt I
had picked up
something - a presence - a contact
of some sort - and it felt like
something big.
Imagine for a moment if you
would, that you had extended your
right index finger - as though
pointing at something - and then

On the Wings
A Group Psychopomp Ritual for Nepal

Evelyn Rysdyk



My partner Allie and I were away,

facilitating an apprenticeship
weekend with of one of groups of
students, when I first heard about
the recent earthquake in Nepal.
When we did hear, our hearts
sank. We were immediately
concerned about our jhankri
[Nepalese shaman] friend Bhola
Banstola, and his wife, Mimi.
While I knew they were in
Europe at the time of the quake,
we also knew many of their family
members, friends and associates
were in jeopardy back in and
around Kathmandu. I also quickly
thought of all the places which Allie
and I had visited in the Kathmandu
valley, knowing that their beautiful
land had been shaken to ruins!
Thanks to electronic
communications and social media, I
was able to communicate with
Bhola in Scotland - where he was
teaching a workshop - and Mimi his
wife - back at their home in Italy to get news about their beloveds,
and information about what was
occurring in Kathmandu.
Hearing that Bholas family was
OK, and that the other Nepalese
shamans I knew there were also
alive and well, was a great blessing.
But, I also realised that the
fragile nature of Nepals
infrastructure would make recovery
efforts in the country difficult,
despite the strength and love of the
Nepalese people, which can often
work miracles. In short, I knew they
would also need help and support.
In a disaster such as an
earthquake, it is often the case
that many people die, and some of
those who lose their lives do not
cross over to the spirit lands.
Whether this failure to cross over
is because they died too suddenly,
are confused, are afraid of moving
on, are attached to a place or person,
or havent been able to receive
complete funeral rites, I do know
know; but I do know, in such cases,
the dead may linger in our world.
These lingering dead are
suffering souls, as they have not
fully completed their dying process.
In addition to suffering themselves,
they can also produce a spiritual
malaise or illness in the living.
Crossing these spirits over into the
next world is one of the jobs of the



of the

Yeshe Green

In learning about Garuda, it is

immediately apparent just how
many forms there are of this
mighty being. From the Garuda
of Hindu mythology, to the
Khyung of Tibet, the Garid of
Mongolia and the Karura of
Japan, Garuda can be found in
many places and under many
names, with different origins.
What these cultures share is
the belief in a deity - a powerful
entity - who is part man, part
bird of prey. Usually, Garuda is
depicted with a mans head
(beaked), torso, arms and legs.
Other forms have a birds legs,
head and horns, with talons as
feet, and a mans torso and
arms. The number of heads and
limbs varies in different cultures,
and for different purposes.
My main focus will be on the
Khyung, the largely Himalayan
form, known to man since at
least since the ancient Shang
Shung civilisation. Indeed,
the Shang Shung
capital city was
called Khyunglung meaning
the Silver Palace of Garuda 1.
Khyung (pronounced
Chung) is the essence
of the element Fire,
although sometimes also
thought of as the
essence of Air, as he is
also so powerful that a
beat of his wings can
cause hurricanes and
storms to rage, and
manifest lightning and thunder,
forces of immense power.
He is supposedly the enemy
of serpents, the Naga spirits in
particular, but it is actually more
accurate to say that some
Nagas cause illness that can be
cured by Garuda. Indeed, in
India, the village healer who
helps those bitten by snakes is
called a Garudika.
For me, Khyung has always
been there, although as a child I
had no idea why. He protected
me often, and I began to be able
to see the visions of his battle
against harmful spirits and
energies with clarity.

I suffered a severe illness in

India - Dengue Fever was
diagnosed. In a way I do not
understand, I emerged from it
having developed an even more
powerful bond, a unity with the
Khyung form of Garuda. On
another occasion abroad, a fer-delance snake was somehow unable
to poison me as it struck me a
glancing blow. Harmful spirits are
sent at times by others with
spiritual power who wish me ill, but
Garuda has never failed me.
I had a more formal
introduction to shamanism and
Garuda rituals through a Buddhist
monk from a Tibetan nomadic
family. Much later, great Tibetan
masters such as Dzogchen
Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu
Rinpoche have transmitted
[given] practices to me, for which
I am forever grateful.


Ill try to explain, from my own
experience, just how Khyung
works with practitioners.
Different Garudas may be
chosen for specific illnesses.
Black Garuda is useful for
combating viruses and fevers,
Red for cancer and so on. Other
colours include Blue, White and
Rainbow Multi-coloured Garuda.
Most rituals require initiation and
practice to be effective.
In forming a protective area
within which to work, I may also
place Garudas to guard the four
Directions: Jewel Garuda (gold,

Left: Mongolian ritual Garuda Tsam dancers mask. Painted

papier-mch with padded cloth snakes. C19th
Above: gilded wooden Garuda carving. C19th
Right: two Tibetan thangka scroll paintings of Garuda


ISSUE 88 2015


Healing for


Claudia Bonney

This is a story of
what happened in
a healing a few
years ago. I was
working from a little
therapy shop in South London,
and a call came through from a
young woman, asking in a panic, if
we had anyone who could attend to
her dying boyfriend at home.
This was not a usual request at
all for us at the centre, but the man
in charge called me over, and
asked if maybe I could help, as I
had been working at a local
hospice, doing healing work there,
for some time.
So I agreed, and asked to speak
to the woman on the phone. I
asked her name, and she told me it
was Liz, and then she told me that
she was the girlfriend of a dying
man called Ric, and that he was
terrified of dying, and might be
suffering. She also told me that he
was not religious or spiritual at all,
so she would never call a priest to
come to him.
I felt that this was very much a
shot in the dark, desperate call,
and I paused for moment to contact
my spirit helpers and my inner sense
of the situation, to see if I had a
thumbs up about working with the
situation. I felt that I had a strong
yes from my helpers and my my gut,
so I packed up my kit and headed
over straight away, as it was only a
short walk away from where I was.



ISSUE 88 2015

Nothing could have prepared me

for what greeted me, when I arrived
at the address I had been given,
because I quickly realised as I
approached the house that I was
walking into a Hells Angels party in
full swing. Huge motorbikes were
parked all around outside, and loud
music was blaring all the way up
the street.
Feeling slightly daunted I
knocked on the door and when it
was answered I explained who I
was and why I was there.
I was ushered in, and there, in
the middle of all the chaos was Ric,
the dying man, unconscious on his
bed, oxygen mask on his face, in
the final stages of bone cancer. The
party was, in effect, a living wake,
arranged by his biker friends, with
really loud music and his friends
everywhere, drinking, dancing and
shouting at each other, all
apparently having a good time.
Somewhat shocked and taken
aback as I was, I did not judge the
situation. In fact I found it strangely
moving in a way, and the whole
situation was obviously very much in
keeping with how this man had lived
his life. However, I also knew from
my own training in healing,
shamanism and Buddhism, when a
spirit begins to dissolve out of its
body, in most cases it needs great
peace and quiet, so it can complete
its process in a good way, and attend
to the serious job it has at hand.

I spoke to Liz, who was standing

close by me, and explained how I
worked, and how Ric probably
needed a quieter enviornment now.
She seemed to slowly understand,
and the music was turned down and
gradually the guests began to drift
away after saying their final goodbyes.
In the quiet of the now empty
house, I explained to Liz that I
would initially do some gentle
diagnostic work, and see how Ric
was, and then give her some
feedback about the situation as I
perceived it. I told her she could sit
nearby and watch if she wanted to.
As soon as I started working,
Ric's body, which was very tense up
until this time, began to relax and his
breathing changed and evened out.
Liz told me that he had been
unconscious, with laboured breathing
for two whole days previously, and
she was worried because she
thought he was suffering and fearful.
With the help of my spirit helpers
I sensed that Ric was beginning to
communicate telepathically with
me, and I became quiet inside
myself to sense what was being
communicated to me. I got a very
strong sense that he was hanging
on to life for the sake of his
girlfriend Liz, and that he wouldn't
leave her until she was ready to let
him go. This seemed very clear to
me, and so I communicated to him,
telepathically, that I would do my
best to let this be known to her.

Phowa is a Tibetan word which

means transferring
consciousness. It is a very
ancient practise, taught to, and
practised by, living Buddhists to
aid in their own death process,
and performed for others at the
point of their death, and for those
who have recently died.
There are many forms of
phowa, some much more
elaborate than others, and some
need special initiations in order to
practise them, but in recent years
a simpler form, designed for lay
Buddhists and non-Buddhists and which needs no initiation has spread in the West via various
Tibetan Rinpoches.
Phowa lends itself to being
adapted and practised as a more
shamanesque ritual, and the
method presented here is a
mixture of traditional Tibetan
phowa - as taught by Chgyal
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and
Sogyal Rinpoche - put into a more
shamanic frame of reference for
shamanic practitioners, and
removing the traditional Sanskrit
prayers and mantras.


A simple practise of healing and compassion

for the dying and the newly dead
Nicholas Breeze Wood

Begin by making yourself

comfortable. You do not need any
formal meditation training, but you
do need to be relaxed, focused
and quiet. It is good to sit with
your altar if you have one, light a
candle and incense if you wish,
and make any offerings you would
normally make to the spirits, such
as burning tobacco or sage,
offering a bowl of vodka or milk,
or placing sweet cakes on your
altar for the spirits etc.
You should also call to your
spirit helpers and ask them to be
with you and to help you in the
process. Call them in, using
whatever method you normally
use and ask them for their help.
When you are ready, you
visualise yourself as sitting within
a field of light, a bright loving
light, like the radiance of a
Buddhas aura. If you wish to, you
can visualise yourself as the
Tibetan bodhisattva 1 called
Vajrasattva, as that is part of
traditional Tibetan phowa.
From your heart, imagine rays of
light coming out in front of you;
these are in the shape of a hook 2.
This hook of light instantly
summons the spirit of the deceased

Left: Tuvan snake-like dragon

being called Amyrga-eren,
a family protector.
Shamans would
make these for
families in their
care, and
the family
in their
homes for
Often, children
wore a small protection
amulet called a child of
Amyrga, designed to keep
them safe from harm.
Late C19th

Below: fabric
snake from
Buryatia in
Southern Siberia
with red tongue
and red glass
bead eyes


Snakes, and snake-like creatures made

from fabric, are a common feature
found on shamans clothes right the
way across Southern and
Central Siberia. The snake
is a powerful spirit and
shamans wear the snake
for protection and power.
Snakes are often
associated with the water spirits,
known as lus in Mongolia. These
are really the same as the Tibetan
and Indian Naga, the water spirits
who live in the earth. As
dwellers, they are
associated with the
Lower World of the
shamans universe, and as
dangerous beings, capable of
attacking any that seek they harm,
they form an important part of the
shamans armour, which they wear
when they go to work in the spirit worlds.
In addition to being fixed to shamans
coats, snakes and snake like beings are
also often hung in homes as family
protector spirits.

An old fabric
shamans snake from
Mongolia. The snake has
three smaller snakes emerging
from its lower body. The snake
is stuffed with sheeps wool
and is made of cotton, brocade.
This snake came unexpectedly
from Mongolia, hidden amidst
newspaper packing placed
around some other objects,
it apparently had a life of its
own and wanted to come to
the West, getting itself packed
by accident amidst the
newspaper in the box

Whether on the back of a shamans coat

or hung up in a tent or other nomadic
structure on the steppes, it is important to
remember that these fabric snakes are not
merely symbolic. They are actually ongons, spirit
houses, for a snake spirit to live within. As such
they are alive, and must always be treated with
care and respect. A snake should never be stitched
to a shamans coat, as the passing of a needle
through the snake will harm or even kill it, so instead the
snakes hanging from a shamans coat are tied or bound on
to it.
Often shamans snakes are quite crudely made, some just being
merely a thin twist of cotton or silk fabric bound round with a thread to

Right: a painting
of Kail from
Northern India

When we have an understanding

that everything is alive, and that
everything around us comes with
its own unique, vital spirit, then we
begin to develop relationships with
what surrounds us, much like we
develop relationships with people in
our ordinary lives.
Much like the human
relationships we have, we may
come across spirits that we do not
connect with, spirits that we
would not want to spend an
evening with, and many spirits who
may not cross our path, either
because we are not ready to work
with them, or because we differ too
much from them to form any sort
of relationship with them.
And of course, we may also
form relationships of immense love,
gratitude, and shared wisdom with
the spirits that surround us.
There is a rather seldom-asked
and seldom-answered question
within the contemporary Western
shamanic and spiritual worlds; this
question is; do we have the right
to work with any spirit, energy, or
being that we wish, simply because
we are interested in them? Is this
mere spiritual appropriation?
Spiritual appropriation is the
utilisation of deities, spirits, beings,
and ceremonial forms of all sorts
from other cultures, without
developing any sort of relationship
or respect for the culture or
energy we are working with.
Many of us do this in rather a
buffet style, picking and choosing
what spirits, ceremonies and
practices we wish to work with.
With the availability of
information through the internet and
books - for better or for worse - we
live in a Wikipedia world, where, at
least superficial information is easy
to come by, and so, for example,
we can hear about the Hindu
Goddess Kali, or a specific
Christian saint, or the Vodou Lwa,
or any sort of mythological deity,
spirit, or being. And from a very
rudimentary understanding, we can
if we wish, begin to utilise them in
our spiritual practices.
Often this utilisation has little to no
consequence for us, because we
are working on a surface
archetypal level.
For instance, we hear about
Kali, and we might utilise her to get



ISSUE 88 2015

Spiritual Appropriation
in Contemporary
Shamanic Practice
Mary Mueller Shutan
in touch with the darker,
disassociated aspects of ourselves.
We do not understand - or enter
into relationship with - her motherly
aspects, or anything beyond the
simple fact that she is known as a
destroyer, and so for us, we use
her to represent our destructive
side. Because we are using her
only on a surface level as an
archetype, we dont have to
understand anything about her, her
followers, her history, or anything
about the culture or country out of
which she emerged.

When the next trend in spiritual

appropriation occurs, we are likely
to be off, working with Ganesh, or
Isis, or what ever is flavour of the
month, again working to reintegrate
fractured or lost aspects of
ourselves, using the surface-level
archetype of whomever we choose
to work with at the time.
When we create through
archetypes, we can work with
whomever we choose, and
because they are a disassociated
aspect of ourselves they will largely
tell us what we want to hear