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Indie Shaman Interview

Howard G Charing:
The Accidental Shaman
June: I reviewed your book The Accidental Shaman for the last issue of Indie Shaman1 and it’s
collecting all 5 star reviews on Amazon. I personally believe that good true-life stories can be very
helpful because not only do they give readers another person’s perspective but also frequently provide
verification for the reader’s own experiences. Would you agree and was this one of your aims in telling
your own tale?

Howard: For sure I agree, personal stories are how people can relate to the writer or storyteller, it
doesn’t have to relate to their personal experience per se but a personal story resonates on many
levels. An account of someone’s experience has the power to touch another’s heart and soul. Personal
stories do connect us profoundly to each other; they allow us to gain an appreciation of a different
perspective and generate a communion or even a community. Stories in fact bring people together in
all manner of ways, as you can see daily on social media, Facebook, Twitter and so on.

Of course the irony is that the book didn’t start from a position of a personal narrative at all. It was far
from my original intention when I began writing the book. Over the past years I had gathered lots of
material and the intention was to go from a third-party perspective, a more dispassionate standpoint.
In fact the original working title for this book was ‘The Shaman’s This and That’. In many respects that
was the approach I had taken with previous books Plant Spirit Shamanism and The Ayahuasca Visions
of Pablo Amaringo.

1 Editor’s Note: My review of The Accidental Shaman can now be read at
So I began writing from that neutral perspective and then, a few months down the road, I was taking
a shower, when suddenly the ‘voice’ (more about this in the book) speaking out audibly said “change
the book title to . . . The Accidental Shaman”. I was for sure quite stunned, it was a great title with a
double meaning (after all I just love word-play and puns). After the shower I sat down and started to
reflect and seriously consider this new title and its implications.

Titles are important as they set both the tone and purpose of a book. I realised that the entire
emphasis of the book would need to change, with a considerable amount of rewriting; to be in
congruence with the title. It was unnerving without a doubt, as I came to the realisation that my
mistakes, my screw-ups and a host of messy situations that I became involved with along my journey
would also have to be included. I was mindful in the objective that I wished to attain, which was that
these stories would act to illustrate the meaning of the practice and of course make a real engagement
with the readers.

I know that a biographical narrative has to be presented without any gloss, puffery or cosmetic
ornamentation, (warts and all so to speak) to engage honestly with the reader. So, I gritted my teeth
and got on with it ... even with some nail-biting along the way ... so the book is the result of this

Pablo Amaringo and Howard with his painting ' Puňusca Muscuna'.
This painting is featured in the book 'The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo'

June: This leads me nicely to your quote which begins the foreword “Never allow your reality to be
undermined”. Why do you think this is so important and how do you think people’s reality can be easily
undermined, particularly for those first beginning to encounter shamanic experiences?

Howard: It was a nice buzz to be quoted by Steve Beyer who contributed the foreword. I dedicated a
chapter to this really important subject. It started with the episode that provided the stimulus to write
this chapter with the woman in a hospital bed. She was recovering and starting to move and at that
moment the doctor entered and said to my friend (her son) who with her “you are wasting your time,
she can never move again”. My friend’s mother on hearing the doctor immediately slumped back into
the bed and became immobile and unfortunately remained that way. His prognosis had proven to
be correct. It was a classic nocebo (Latin “I Shall Harm”) or effectively a curse. I also write another
story about a friend of mine who unfortunately came to grief when her confidence and self-trust in her
healing progress was effectively sabotaged.

Words are powerful, but why? It is because they can either shape or mirror your deep beliefs. It is
your inner belief that holds the real power. Inner belief is referred to as ‘unconscious’ or ‘subconscious’
belief and if the words resonate with this it will for sure have an effect. Regarding your question about
people’s reality being undermined as they begin their shamanic experiences; I think it has much

wider ramifications but that aside, I’ve seen people being told on workshops, circle gatherings and
on internet forums that their personal subjective experience, or feeling, is invalid and that they got
it wrong. How can you get a subjective experience wrong? To quote Terence McKenna ‘Subjectivity is
all we got’. If a person believes that they can’t trust their experience they effectively surrender their
personal power and cognitive autonomy to another, which in my view is the anti-thesis of shamanic
practices. However this is the battle that we all face, to be strong and prevent another person (or
organisation) from distorting, twisting and negating our own experience ie. our own reality. This is
ubiquitous and takes place on a social and national, as well as a personal scale.

June: You met a psychic healer in Italy in 1983 who told you that you would be doing similar work to
him in future. What did you think and feel about this at the time?

Howard: That was some encounter! I had never experienced anything like that before. I felt as if my
soul was being scrutinized. He started to speak, and for the next hour I sat transfixed, as if I was in
the grip of a magical enchantment. He told me about my life, my dreams, my hopes and my dark and
painful experiences. It was if I had become an open book and my inner secrets were being revealed
page by page. It was a hugely intense and emotional experience for me. I dismissed (because it was
so overpowering) what he was saying - that I would be doing the same work as him - but he made it
absolutely clear that he was extremely serious about this. The encounter concluded with a blessing and
he placed his hand on the top of my head and spoke softly in Italian. As he was making his blessing,
my body felt like it was a cauldron, with liquid fire burning and rising in my body, waves of energy
pulsated through me, intense heat flowed from my spine up to my head down to my shoulders along
my arms and pulsed into my hands which now felt as if they were red hot. As soon as I returned to
London and went back to the office, the accident occurred.

June: Shortly after this you experienced the lift/elevator accident at your previous place of business.
Can you explain how this completely changed your life?

Howard: It was a turning point in my life on many levels. On the physical level, where prior to the
accident I was very active in sport, working out and all that, suddenly I couldn’t stand up, or support
the weight of my head. I became ‘dis-spirited’ and felt bitter, resentful and sour about the accident and
the effect on my life. I was also in a lot of pain and I felt disempowered and ‘empty’. How I survived
was a miracle in itself but another ‘miracle’ happened some months down the road. The latter was
when I forgave the people I blamed for the accident, figuratively speaking it was as if a weight of a
thousand tons lifted from me. It was an incredible experience and then my ‘vision’ and other sensory
abilities were activated and of course the healing began. Even if I could turn the proverbial clock back
and not step into that particular elevator at that particular moment, I would still enter it. It was a
personal renaissance, a new ‘me’ emerged into a different world.

In the

June: One experience you describe is of seeing a “beautiful, scintillating, glowing pink cloud” which
approached you. You heard gentle words inside your head saying “Peace” and said that you had
“never felt such warmth, friendship and love”. I had a similar experience in my early days of shamanic
exploration (before I knew it was shamanic exploration!). And many people have described similar
experiences, differently interpreted according to their own religion/faith/beliefs. How would you
interpret this experience?

Howard: This was unforgettable, I can only describe this experience as an encounter with an
incorporeal being like an angel. All the air around was shimmering with glowing lozenge shaped
particles, there was an ‘electric’ charge everywhere. It was the feeling as this glowing cloud entered
me that was sublime, divine and transcendent. I can’t really interpret this in any other way. It was
something outside, external to me that was for sure.

Pablo and Bark painting: Pablo Amaringo and Howard showing a traditional painting
on tree bark of a Shipibo woman. The painting is made with natural plant and bark

June: In your chapter on Ayahuasca, Entheogens and Sacramental Plants you point out that
entheogens are “not recreational and not suitable for everybody”. You also mention that an intimate
relationship has existed between the human world and plant world for thousands of years. Would you
have any advice for people wondering if they are suited to work with entheogenic plants? And do you
think everyone can benefit from connecting with the plant consciousness of the more ‘everyday’ plants
of the land they live in?

Howard: To work with entheogenic plants - it really is not for everyone. I don’t wish to exclude
anybody but there are solid ‘chemistry’ reasons. Certain pharmaceutical medication – the SSRIs in
particular such as Prozac and similar can be harmful if used in conjunction with Ayahuasca. Also if a
person is not sound in mind, so to speak, that can present very disturbing results. It is something that
a person would need to really trust their instincts and gut feeling on, as well as research any potential
medical contraindications. There is a considerable amount of data on these topics in books such as
Steve Beyer’s Singing to the Plants which I highly recommend and also on the web.

I feel that the entheogenic experience offers humanity a new vision, a renewed sense of
interconnectivity to the world and from this place coming back into an equilibrium with nature is
possible. This is counter to our current and pervasive existence myth that we are outside nature as
well as the creator who stands or sits outside of creation. The entheogenic encounter is primarily about
the personal and, by extension, planetary healing but again we are an element of it. People say things
along the lines of ‘I want to heal the planet’ but that predisposes that you and the planet are discrete

elements; no, we are an intrinsic part of it. So start with yourself, this is an adventure we can all make.

I clearly feel that everyone can benefit from connecting with the plant consciousness of the plants in
the areas they live in. A prime example here is the Findhorn community; they work with the nature
devas in the flower and vegetable gardens and they give that as the prime reason why the vegetables
and fruit they grow are so huge. For someone embarking on this, the developing of plant ‘awareness’ is
to recognise plants not as physical ‘things’ but as a living consciousness. The second and possibly the
most important key in developing your relationship with the Plant Spirit or mind and what really helps
to ‘open the door’ ie. makes the connection work, is a benign attitude, to have good intentions and
feelings towards the plant.

The plant consciousness or spirit communicates with us when we are in relaxed, gentle trance-like or
dream state. So the person who holds the desire to commune with the plant needs to know how to
move into an altered state. To put it succinctly the person needs to become more ‘plant like’.

June: The Accidental Shaman is your third published book. Can I ask about your plans for the future?

Howard: I’ve started work on a new book project based on the work of the late visionary artist and
shaman Pablo Amaringo. This will be different from the earlier book I did with him The Ayahuasca
Visions of Pablo Amaringo. Pablo is recognised as one of the world’s great visionary artists and a
master communicator of the ayahuasca experience. His work is rich in meaning and contains a
powerful ecological and spiritual message. I’m very excited about this new project, but at the moment
I don’t want to disclose any information about it. I’ll let you know for sure a bit further down the road
so to speak. I continue to paint visionary art, and I also hold workshops and organise Plant Spirit
Retreats in the Amazon as I’ve been doing for the past twenty years. Details of these and access to the
art galleries are on my website;

Howard G. Charing, born in London,
has lived in the Netherlands, the
USA, Romania and Peru. He worked
in the computer industry but quit
the industry following an elevator
crash in which he suffered serious
injuries; a broken neck and severe
spinal damage. In this accident he
had a near-death experience that
transformed his life, closing the door
to his ‘normal’ prosaic life. However
new doors leading to exploration and
adventure opened.

Over the last 24 years he has become
acknowledged as an international
workshop leader on shamanism, an
author and visionary artist, working
with some of the most respected and
extraordinary shamans and elders in
the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest and
the Philippines. He has run training
and developmental courses on behalf
of the prestigious Foundation for
Shamanic Studies (USA) and for
many years worked with Eagle’s Wing
Centre for Contemporary Shamanism.
He co-authored Plant Spirit Painting by Howard 'Geometry of an Arkana'. An Arkana is
Shamanism and is the author of The a field of spiritual protection. The Arkanas are drawn to the
Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo person often at the start of an ayahuasca ceremony by the
and The Accidental Shaman. shaman chanting the protective icaro.
His website: http://www.shamanism.