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Shamanic Journeying
A Beginner’s Introduction
with drumming CD

Table of Contents
Introduction pg. 3

What is Shamanism? A Contemporary Student‘s Primer pg.6

How to Journey: The Essential Art of the Shaman pg. 9

How do We Call in the Directions? and...Why? pg. 14

The Sphere of Life Outline to help us remember pg.17

Power Animals: Compassionate Spirit Helpers in Animal Form pg. 18

Spirit Teachers pg. 20

Shamanic Ritual to Find Your Power Animal pg. 22

Drum Therapy: Therapeutic Effects of Drumming pg. 26

An Overview of Core Shamanism pg. 30

Core Shamanism: A Discussion and Principles pg. 32

Shamanic Trance States pg. 34

Morning Prayers: Invoking the Seven Directions pg. 37

Healing Power of the Drum Circle pg 40

Invocation of the Seven Directions pg. 42

Prayers and Blessings pg. 44

10 Native American Commandments, Path of the Feather, and Dreamwalking pg 47

On Circle Casting and the Tree of Life pg. 50

Spirit Guides and Totems pg. 53

The World Tree in Classical Shamanism pg. 63

Medicine Wheel: the Circle of Life pg. 68

Websites and Recommended Books pg. 71



Our Ancient roots are shamanism wherever we live and whatever sort
of culture we have grown up in. It is our spiritual heritage. Look back
far enough in time and all of us come from shamanistic cultures.
Long before such recent concepts as organized religion, humans
sought understanding and knowledge of the wider universe using a
variety of experiential ways and tools which are just as applicable
today as ever.

These practices are still in use in a surprisingly large number of

places in the world and many shamans of indigenous cultures are
now teaching Westerners.

Shamanism is the oldest spiritual path on planet earth of maintaining, healing and
harmony in society and the individual and keeping our connection with mother earth
and all creation. Our outer world may be different, but our human inner landscape
has the same components as always. Our outer health and wholeness is an
expression of our inner health and holiness. We are here to bring spirit into matter
and matter to spirit.

The shamanic journey, the trance‐dance, the vision quest, the purifying ceremony of
the sweat lodge, these are ancient but eternally relevant ways to contact the
timeless reality that exists parallel to and just out of sight of the world we so
mistakenly call the 'real world'. It is here in the everyday that we experience the
reflections of who we are, of our actions, our deepest beliefs, our 'dreams', but it is
in the non‐manifest world of the spirit that the hidden causal interactions take place.
Hidden, that is, until we begin to open the doors and 'see' with an expanded vision.

The revival in the West of shamanism since the 1960s embodies an approach of
reflecting the ways and understanding of the ancient and indigenous cultures. This
movement towards self‐development and spiritual awareness, and potentially a
more community oriented way of living, represents a step forward for these cultures
which have been the most predatory towards others and towards the earth in the
recent past centuries.

Shamanism 'good medicine', is like tapping into a vast fund of ancient timeless
knowledge which can be practiced anywhere under any conditions. It is about
helping us humans to heal the effects of past traumas, to live in an inner state of
balance and harmony while dealing with the challenges and vicissitudes of life, to
develop the best in ourselves no matter what comes our way, and it is about the
quality of how we relate to each other and to the earth. All this is as important now
as it ever has been or will be.

Our outer world may be different, but our human inner landscape has the same
components as always. Our outer health and wholeness is an expression of our inner
health and holiness. We are here to bring spirit into matter and matter to spirit.

Cosmology of the shaman


Shamans divide non‐ordinary reality into three other regions, the upper, lower and
the middle worlds. Each has its own characteristics and whilst each individual
traveler experiences initially their own version, once one becomes a proficient
journeyer, it is amazing just how connected we all are at these levels.

The Lower world is the place of instinctual knowing where our animal‐like powers
reside and where we can find practical earthly help and guidance.

The Upper world is the word of spirit teachers, cosmic beings, great wise elders,
ancestors who appear usually in human form. Their help and guidance is often
perceived to be more general and philosophical.

The Middle world is both the everyday physical world that we live in, the world of
ordinary reality, the tonal, and also a parallel non‐ordinary version of our world.

Included in this small book is a CD specifically made for shamanic journeying, and to do this,
the drums have to be as monotonous as possible and maintain a consistent beat between 205 to
210 beats per minute. At this specific beat, the brain is stimulated to synthesis natural
beta‐endorphins which facilitate a person to move into what is known as the ‗second
attention‘, an altered state of awareness, or shamanic state of consciousness. This
state of awareness facilitates the shamanic journey.

A Shamanic Journey to the Lower world.

To begin, find a place that you feel comfortable and will not be disturbed for about
30 minutes. When you are ready, lie down comfortably, and darken the room, or at
least cover your eyes. It is easier to journey in non‐ordinary reality in the dark.

Remove tight clothing, take off your shoes and allow your breathing to move to a
gentle rhythm. Relax for a few minutes, focusing on being centered, and grounded.
When you are ready visualize or imagine, a place which reminds you of the Earth, a
place which you know of. This place should be a real place, perhaps somewhere you
have visited, or seen in a film or photograph, and it can be anywhere, a hill,
mountain, grasslands, forest, by the ocean. At this place allow yourself to perceive
an entrance or opening into the Lower world. This entrance can be a hollow tree, an
animal burrow, a cave entrance, a man‐made opening e.g.; a trapdoor, it can any
entrance into the ground or water. You will find that the right entrance will feel
comfortable to you, take a minute or so to study it in detail.

Now when you are ready, enter into the opening. The beginning of the tunnel may
appear dark, it may angle down in a slight incline, or it may incline steeply. The
tunnel may appear to be ribbed, and often it bends, sometimes it may become
spiral‐like, but it will always lead downwards.

Continue down the tunnel until you come out of doors into a landscape. If you come
into a cavern, you will need to move outside and into the landscape, there will be an
exit for example a door or an opening which will enable you to do this, it should be
easy to get sight of it.

Now in the landscape, just look around. It may be daytime, night‐time, forest,

woodland, or near water. Extend your senses, listen, can you hear anything, the
sound of birdsong, the sound that the wind makes as it blows through the tree tops,
perhaps the sound of running , flowing water. Feel the ground underneath your feet,
feel the ground pushing up against the soles of your feet. Sense the wind, the breeze, the
movement of air around you. What does it feel like? Have an awareness
of being there.

If you want to explore the landscape, remember where the entrance is, keep track of
where you go. Just as in any ordinary‐reality journey, it helps if you keep a note of
landmarks so you can retrace your steps to return.

What is Shamanism? A Contemporary

Student’s Primer
by Dr. Steve Serr

Shamanism is a term broadly applied to many similar practices and

understandings that are found to have developed independently
throughout the world. However, the term derives from just one of
these diverse ethnic, cultural and geographic groups. 'Shaman' is a
term from the Tungus people in North China, and originally referred
to the traditional healers of Turkic-Mongol areas such as Northern
Asia (Siberia) and Mongolia. The term literally translates as ‗(he or
she) who knows.‘

What makes a 'shaman?' Shamans do something quite particular: they enter an altered state of
consciousness referred to as ecstasy, trance, etc., to get in touch with another reality to find
answers to questions, get assistance, facilitate health and healing, and empower themselves
and others. Their role has traditionally been to travel to the spirit worlds to access the power of
healing or divination, and bring this back so that it can be of service to their community.

Today, healing practitioners have a deep-rooted respect for the reminder: "Healer, heal
thyself," and are recognizing the wisdom of personal growth through shamanic means as their
necessary first step. One should turn to facilitating the spiritual healing of others only when
this personal foundation of spiritual health, balance and power has been secured.

What is this 'other reality'? Let us begin by recognizing first that there are other worlds, and
that there are barriers between these worlds. Human beings, in this case shamanic
practitioners, must change their consciousness to get to these non-ordinary realities, such
as what are often called the ‗upper‘ or ‗lower‘ worlds. I usually first teach what is called the
'core' shamanic geography, meaning that way of conceiving of the ordinary and non-ordinary
worlds that are most broadly encountered among the many lands, cultures and people around
the Earth. There are, however, wonderfully different ways of conceiving reality through
shamanism. For instance, there is the Celtic ‗otherworld‘. Or, there is Native American
journeying, which is never 'out-of-body', but always connected to the Earth (the source from
which all regenerates)

Shamanic practitioners can be motivated to learn these ancient spiritual healing ways for many
reasons, however it is often because they want to help in the healing of people, animals, or of
our Earth. The shaman recognizes that our world is full of suffering. Shamanic
practitioners are in touch with spirit helpers who want to help this world, but can do little
since by themselves, they are only powerful in their non-ordinary reality. Thus it becomes a
team approach: shamanic practitioners and spirits work together to bring information and
healing from the upper and lower worlds to where it can help in our everyday world. The
shaman 'journeys', and in other ways learns to bridge our ordinary reality and the non-
ordinary reality in which the spirit helpers and power animals reside. The shamanic
practitioner learns to walk in both worlds.

How Does One Approach Being a Shamanic Practitioner?

Becoming a shamanic practitioner is far more than merely knowing techniques. Learning to be

a practitioner is more like an act of 'becoming', rather than 'knowing'. Here is what I mean:

1) The practitioner must do her or his work with earnest: the more powerful their intention,
the more powerful the results

2) The practitioner becomes a ‗hollow bone‘ (an old expression referring to the hollowness of
such bones as those of the birds): this means getting his or her sense of self out of the way so
the journeys, divinations, and healing bridge can be made, and the work can happen.

3) Finally, the practitioner ‗sees with the heart.‘ This means that the shaman works with
compassion: any meanness or ill will always come back to bite the one who brings it! Not only
do the spirit helpers leave the one who attempts to use shamanic practice for ill, and thus
withdraw their power, but it is warned that a bad end will come to the practitioner.

The Shamanic Conceptual Leap from a Contemporary Western World View

Most people grow up in one or another ‗normalizing‘ socially reinforced world (through the
teaching of family, school, government, etc.) that we (more or less) learn to accept. The
product of such a world view are understandings and agreements that many times
unconsciously constitute and thus construct our world view. Every world view has positive and
negative consequences.

The Western Contemporary Preconditioning Filters:

1) Self and Other are separate. This is the construction of the world where ―I am me, and
everything beyond my skin is not me.‖

2) There is a bias towards a concrete, physical construction and limitation of what is real. In
other words, ―If I cannot touch it, it‘s not real.‖

3) There is a bias towards the intellect and thought such that ―If it makes rational sense, its
more worth my time.‖

4) What is not concrete must be psychological. In this case, ―If I cannot touch it, its only
dreams and imagination.‖

The shamanic world view is heavily weighted in the following:

1) Self‘ and ‗Other‘ are embedded, one within the other, in a fluid combination. There is no
actual division between these.

2) Mind and World are interwoven as one. This is the same as the above, however pointing out
specifically the integration and unity of what we call ‗psychological‘... and everything else!

3) Everything has a life-force, spirit, ‗being-ness‘. This has been given the term ‗animism.‘

4) ‗Reality‘ includes far more than what is physical. In other words, our ‗concrete‘ world is just
the start of it.

5) One walks with a posture of heightened awareness, listening, and observing what is
communicated to us. The shaman is actually the original scientist, who was the observer,
researcher, and collector of information. Shamanism does not require faith or belief as it is
experienced empirically and directly with the senses.

6) Everything is our teacher.

7) You have the right – and responsibility – to communicate the spirit-world directly. This
discomforts a number of established religious organizations, however it is completely
unnecessary to go through a religious representative who serves as an intermediary between a
practitioner and the Divine. In fact, to do so alters the direct experience of the divine so that it
becomes someone else‘s experience of it, not one‘s own.

Plant Teachers, or Drums and Rattles?

Most shamanic work throughout the world does not and did not use hallucinogens. This
surprises a lot of people, especially since the '60's when the use of hallucinogenic plants came
into vogue as the popular 'quick route' to personal growth. However, there are good
reasons why shamans throughout the world rely today, as they have throughout
history, mainly on the sound of the drum or rattle, rather than on 'plant teachers'.

When I tell callers and those who email me that I work and teach with the rattle and drum
rather than the bio-chemistry of mushrooms and vines, some are disappointed. This may be
because some are more attracted to having shamanic experiences, than developing the solid
spiritual grounding of shamanic growth and service. Working with entheogens (plant
teachers) is that it can be compared to trying to study the scenery passing by from a window in
a jet plane traveling inches above the Earth: it goes by too quickly, it is hard to retain, and
exceedingly difficult to control. Needless to say, it also can be dangerous.

On the other hand, a shamanic altered state of consciousness is easily reached through the
steady cadence of a drum beat or the 'swoosh' of a rattle. Psychologically speaking, this is called
'sonic driving' with a (commonly) 4-7 Hz, rapid beat. The steady rhythm remarkably
encourages the altered state of consciousness experienced by someone taking the classic
'shamanic journey'. It is an ancient sound, and one that we now believe stimulate
the production of our brain waves in a low alpha and theta range, which are associated with
creativity and vivid imagery. One additional explanation for the effectiveness of the drum or
rattle, is that the brain is successfully focused by their sound, away from external stimuli, thus
freeing the brain for altered states of consciousness.

Shamanic Journeying
Shamanic journeying with rattle or drum can always be controlled, such that when one wants
to stop journeying and return to ordinary reality, one simply returns. However, the art of
journeying involves learning how to maintain a delicate balance, whereby one always retains
the ability to control and thus direct whatever one needs, yet relax the control well enough to
let the spirits show us, teach us, and take us to where they know we need to go.

Shamanic journeying is a powerful and easily accessible practice just for oneself. The growth,
learning and healing experiences that can come from journeying are truly for anyone, and it is
a practice one can retain their entire life.

How to Journey: The Essential Art of the

Shaman ©2009-2010 By Steve Serr, Ph.D.
It is very important to find personal guidance and mentoring when
heading out to do shamanic work of any kind. The following is a
sound and basic procedure for doing successful shamanic
journeying. However, if you are able, you should locate a teacher
who can walk you through this, listen to your experiences, and with
careful feedback hone your ability. This is because there is much
more that you need to know.

The following, however, is how to journey.

It is also very important to establish a sacred space in which to work, which means self-
preparation, as well as preparation of the immediate area around you. When working with the
spirits, it is the same as meeting another person: we want to make our best presentation so we
want to be at our best. There are many ways to prepare oneself. Some people bathe and dress in
clean clothes. If possible, many have their meaningful shamanic tools and materials with them.
In any event, one should be physically alert, well-rested and emotionally balanced as to be
focused and free to experience matters without inner disruption.

It is important to establish privacy so that your ritual space will not be interrupted once you
start. Schedule your journey time when others are not expected to intrude, and turn off
phones. Thus, it is necessary to journey at a time when any need to answer to the demands of
ordinary reality is not an issue. Darkening the room is helpful if one is indoors, and whether
indoors or out, as well as having something you can lay over your closed eyes to eliminate any
remaining light. Light still permeates closed eyelids, and brings our attention back to ordinary
reality along with it. It is recommended not to wear perfume or be in an area where cooking
(or other) odors persist. It is best to not be near where heavy vehicles pass, or in a building
where even the vibration of someone walking in another area can be sensed. In the same vein,
if journeying with others, one should remain still and quiet until everyone is finished and back
in ordinary reality, so as not to disturb them.

With respect to all of these things we are making efforts to reduce any potential interference of
ordinary reality while we journey. Impinging ordinary reality stimuli can break our non-
ordinary consciousness and thus prove disruptive, interfering with the process. Sound,
movement, smell and sight from ordinary reality can all can signal the brain and cause it to
lapse from its non-ordinary focus, even if momentarily, while it investigates (for however short
a period of time) such ordinary reality stimuli. Until we know we can ‗tune out‘ such stimuli, it
is simply prudent to reduce the probability of such interference.

When one is at any level of shamanic practice and is simply journeying, it is recommended to
lay down and not move until one is finished and fully back from the journey, as one‘s own
movement – just like the movement of others – has the potential to disrupt one's journey
consciousness with ordinary reality stimuli. Some prefer sitting while journeying, and are just
as successful. Seasoned meditators often find this more to their liking, though it is always
recommended to try both. If someone is fatigued or sleepy, there are two approaches than can
help prevent them from slipping out of the shamanic state of consciousness, into sleep. One is
to sit up. The sensitive inner-ear is biologically prepared to signal our brain and urge us to
wakefulness when the head is in an erect posture, and towards sleep if we are laying down!

The other method is to journey laying down, but to leave one forearm straight up (not the
whole arm), a position easy to balance while awake and journeying, but that will topple and
bring us back to wakefulness with a start if we begin to fall asleep.

Though the shamanic state of consciousness and sleep are very different, there is much that is
similar in the situation, and the all-too-familiar combination of laying down with eyes closed
in the darkness and stillness can lull one into sleep. In sleep states, journeying may actually be
continuing, but our ability to consciously retain and later access our journey information and
experiences is drastically reduced. One may have done significant work or discovered
significant things, and not be able to bring the material back with them. Thus, the work may be
ineffective entirely or by degree.

With one‘s own life arranged and balanced such that one‘s own thoughts and emotions are not
going to rise and interfere, and with outside interference eliminated as much as is needed to
stay focused on non-ordinary reality, one is then prepared to begin.

Form a Clear Intention

First, one prepares to journey by having a clear intention of where he or she is going (such as
to the upper or lower worlds) and what is to be done there. After laying down (or sitting if
posture is a non-issue or if sleepy) and covering the eyes, the intention is brought clearly to
mind, and possibly repeated silently to oneself even several times, in order to firmly embed the
general direction and goal. This is important because so much can happen during a journey,
and so much potential experience is available, that a clear general direction is simply
necessary. One can easily become distracted by an experience that is not part of the goal, and
though such an experience may be important in and of itself, it is also potentially secondary to
the business at hand.

Having a clear intention before journeying can be compared to setting an intention to drive to
the store to pick up some milk, versus just getting in the car. In the latter case, one might
notice and decide to follow all sorts of side-roads that are great to explore, but which wouldn‘t
bring back a carton of milk. Or, one might just sit there, perhaps turn on the engine, but not
even leave the place he or she was parked! Having a clear intention, including both direction
and goal, is crucial when given the vast latitude and potential of non-ordinary reality. Even if
one‘s ‗goal‘ is to head to the upper or lower worlds to let the spirits there show, teach or in
other ways work with us in the manner they best see fit, this is pre-established as the clear
intention of the journey before embarking.

Setting Out
Though there are many ways to begin to journey, ways that vary between cultures as well as
individuals, the following is approach is solid and reliable. One first brings to mind a place,
and a natural landscape, perhaps in ordinary reality, is often recommended. It is helpful if one
has actually visited this place, and thus experienced it through all the senses. Also, it must
clearly go ‗up,‘ or ‗down.‘ One might feel confident and at ease in this place. In any event, it is
a place that can be vividly brought to mind so that details of color, sound and shape can be
clearly recalled.

Ways that go ‗up‘ are utilized if one is journeying to the upper world, and ways that go ‗down,‘
if the lower world is the destination. Consider what goes up: from the human Earth-born
perspective, the trunk and branches of trees go up, as do mountains, birds, and even a plume
of smoke from a campfire. These are thus perfect ‗paths‘ upon which to journey to the upper

world. Ways that go down range widely as well: caves, the roots of trees, whirlpools, springs
are just a sample. Choose for yourself from the places you know, one that you know well
enough to serve as your initial path up or down, a place that you can bring clearly to mind,
filling in the details as you go along. We decide on our path prior to embarking.

After covering one‘s eyes and rehearsing the intention (direction and goal) of one‘s journey
several times quietly, we ‗take off,‘ generally with the initiation of drumming or to the cadence
of a rattle. The ‗classic‘ shamanic language refers to this as ‗riding the drum-horse‘ – meaning
that the sound of the drum (or rattle) provides a kind of vehicle upon which we can journey to
non-ordinary reality. No longer seen from only a spiritual perspective, scientific thinking
suggests that the drum and rattle also stimulate the brain waves into an entrainment that
encourages the visionary process of journeying. Secondarily, the drum sounds from these
instruments may serve as an ‗external attractor‘ that becomes normalized to our ever-curious
and stimulation-sensitive perception. It is theorized that it is loud enough to shield other
ordinary-reality sounds as well as serve as a continually returning focus for our brain‘s innate
readiness to attend to ordinary reality stimulation. However, it is at a cadence consistent
enough (the drum or rattle persists at a steady pace) to become so normalized that it actually
drops from our conscious awareness! It is broadly experienced that the drum or rattle can
actually drop from our awareness, even into a kind of silence. We are now free to focus on
non-ordinary reality without disruption. People often recount later, that ―the drumbeat

Experienced drummers and ‗journeyers‘ may drum or rattle for themselves, maintaining a
consistent beat regardless of their shamanic experiences. This, however, is a learned skill and
not expected of anyone. In the early stages it is helpful to have a good drummer on hand, one
who is capable of maintaining a steady shamanic beat for the duration of a journey. This can
last (in ordinary reality time) anywhere from minutes to hours. Most commonly, they last
somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes. Without a ‗live drummer,‘ a drumming CD is
recommended, which can be set to play for a specific length of time, depending on the purpose
and expected duration of a particular journey‘s intention. There are a number of such CD‘s on
the market, with a wide variety of sounds and combinations of instruments. There is no
standard, for each person may find one or another production has greater personal appeal,
comfort, and effectiveness. I personally favor a live drummer with a natural skin drum.

When the drumbeat starts, with eyes closed, laying still and having a clear intention, we begin
by imagining. In our mind‘s eye, we leave the room or area where we are. Quickly, we go to
the place we chose ahead of time that goes ‗up‘ or ‗down.‘ Then, imagination leads the process
as we head on our path, and it is most helpful that this be as vivid as possible. However, one
also proceeds directly and unhesitatingly. We set out on our way, persistently going up if that
is our direction, or down as the case may be, and always keep going. We keep moving, always
in our up or down direction, no matter what we see. If it is a tree we are going up, we keep
going up it… the tree may never end until it arrives at the upper world. But, as is often the
case, it does. Then what! Well, we keep going up. How? Perhaps a ladder descends from the
sky; perhaps an eagle swoops down and grasps you in its careful talons to assist you; perhaps a
stairway appears that leads into the clouds; perhaps you ‗shape shift‘ and sprout wings,
becoming an eagle yourself… It is entirely up to you and your journey. The point is, if heading
up to the upper world, keep going up!

Following a lower world path is no different. If, for instance, you decided to go down through
the roots of a large tree you know quite well, perhaps you enter the tree by slipping between
the edges of its bark, or perhaps through an owl‘s nest hole partway up. Because you are in

non-ordinary reality, you can do anything, so you slide down the inside of the trunk, down
through the larger roots, deeper through the smaller roots until the roots stop. Then what?
Keep going down! Perhaps you need to shape-shift into an amazing gopher who digs easily
and quickly through dirt and rock. Perhaps you discover a small spring, and enter the water,
flowing through this easy conduit that lets you slip down to the lower world, deeper and
deeper. It‘s your journey! Just, keep going down.

Finding Your Portal

Whether you go up, or down, you will eventually discover something that you must push
through, or somehow give a little extra effort to, in order to get to the other side. Perhaps it is,
when going down, some thicker rock or denser earth, or a doorway. If going up, perhaps it is a
denser cloud layer, or even a trapdoor! The possibilities are, again, as wide and varied as those
who embark on such a journey. The point is, eventually you will encounter something that you
need to push through. This is important, as it validates that you have indeed, crossed over to
the other side, over to the upper or lower non-ordinary reality worlds.

There are countless things to experience and discover when in non-ordinary reality. Thus, it is
the intention of our journey that keeps us focused. This way, with all that is available, we
persist in accomplishing what it is that we set out to do without getting sidetracked.

The lower world is often landscaped with a nature setting, and it is populated densely with
animals. Some of these may be spirit helpers in animal form that are willing to guide, protect,
provide healing and work with you. Many others are probably just ‗part of the landscape.‘ The
upper world is often seen as very ethereal and fantastic, perhaps with villages or cities, perhaps
with clouds, or of stars, or of shapes, colors or terrains constituted unlike anything we have
ever experienced before. The upper world is more densely populated with spirit helpers who
are teachers. But, as all animals encountered in the lower world are not necessarily animal
spirit helpers, the beings encountered in the upper world are not necessarily teachers. They
may again, be simply part of the ‗landscape,‘ inhabiting the upper world, but not a teacher for

Whatever the intention of our journey to the upper or lower worlds, when we hear the ‗call
back, we respond. The ‗call back‘ familiar to many who journey, is first a cessation of the
regular drumbeat or rattle cadence, followed by four series of seven beats or rattles. Thus you
hear them: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then a brief silence, followed by another
seven, and then two more of this series. During this time, you take particular note of what it
was that was happening when the ‗call back‘ happened, and you thank whatever teachers or
animal spirit helpers you happen to be with. Some suggest that the experience you are having
at the moment of the call back may be of particular importance. And, one should always take
the time to thank those spirit helpers who have put their trust in us, and have lent their
wisdom or power.

The Return Home

After the ‗call back,‘ you will hear the drum (or rattle) beating (or ‗swooshing‘) very rapidly.
This is to urge you home, back to ordinary reality, as quickly as possible. You first return to the
portal where you entered the upper or lower world during this journey, perhaps with the
assistance of your spirit helper if help in finding your way there is needed, and then proceed
back to ordinary reality the same route that you went to the upper or lower world. You
scamper back down the tree branches, or down the mountain, or back up the roots or up
through the cave the way you came, moving quickly and not stopping, as you return through
the middle world. The way you went, you return, all the way to where you left the area from

which you were laying or sitting when you began journeying. Arriving back at your body, you
find yourself in it completely, making sure you are fully back before opening your eyes. The
‗call back‘ does not last very long, so it is imperative that you hurry.

Then, there is generally a period of quiet. Journeyers often pull out a notebook and write down
experiences during their journey, as it is fresh and more easily recalled. This is important to
chronicle right after a journey, as our experiences may easily dissipate into less clarity or detail
with even the passage of a little time. Our journeys carry important information, some of
which may not always be clear to us at first blush. However, when we reread our notes, and
combine this information with our other life and shamanic journey experiences, even that
which was at first unclear will begin to make sense.

How do We Call in the Directions?

and...Why? By Steve Serr, Ph.D.

Earth-centered holism is becoming, if not a spiritual movement, at

least a groundswell. It is a contemporary eruption of the ancient
human yearning for a deep connection with our world. There exists
a huge contemporary spiritual thirst for connection with a world
that in the normal ‗day-to-day‘ can become distant and disconnected
from us. Even if it is unrecognized as such, the thirst for a real-
world, present-focused, ‗earthy‘ and tangible spirituality that
celebrates the miracle all around us is a natural consequence of the
several millennia of religious currents that pulled our attention away
from the Earth. Hence, there is an unsurprising interest and draw
towards a shamanic (or preferably, what I refer to as Earth-centered holistic) spirituality
which sprang from the soil.

When we gather today to rediscover an Earth-born spirituality, we often begin with a formal
introductory activity variously called ‗Calling in the Directions‘ or ‗‘Calling in the Spirits‘ or
even ‗Calling in the Spirits of the Directions.‘ I believe there are fundamental psycho-spiritual
and intrinsically human reasons why some variant of this ritual is so regularly enacted.

First, we come from places and lifestyles that have been reinforcing disconnection from our
natural world and each other. The cars we arrived in separated us from the road and
everything along the way, as well as from other travelers. We came from offices and
workplaces in buildings with walls that formed such a protective shield from the sun and sky
and all living and non-living things that we were removed from them. We came from houses
that are not simply physically distant from one another, but planted in broad social cultures
that normalized our hardly knowing our neighbors. As a consequence, we thirst for connection
because through the streams of civilization, we became separated from our community of
human beings and our extraordinary world.

Thus when an Earth-centered spiritual group gathers, it regularly does so in circle: a pattern
that puts people in front of each other. Everyone takes a seat where all are roughly equal from
the center, usually on the floor. None are excluded and everyone is important. In the center is a
candle, a distant memory of the ancient fires around which we gathered as a community,
sharing the warmth and safety. Sage or other incense is lit, earthy and powerful, quite different
from the smells of civilization. The circle bathes itself in the scent , perhaps passing it from
person to person as each washes away the normalized but deeply unhealthy debris that has
accumulated in our lives as a consequence of a disconnected self as we take the first of several
steps back to a primal sacred experience.

Then with a drum or rattle, one or all begin to call in the spirit of the directions. First, we turn
to the east: the direction of the rising sun. This is not simply the direction from which the dawn
of each day arrives, it is the springboard of the day, year and life cycle, the first turn of the
wheel of a new year, or the beginning of a lifetime. This is the direction of thoughts that
precede action. We are reminded of hope and enthusiasm and the innocence of childhood. It is
the direction often represented by birds. As we call in the spirit of the east, it is the same with
all directions: we are reaching towards the wisdom that this direction has to share just as we
are asking this wisdom to come to us.

With the calling of the spirit of the east we are ostensibly naming one of the geographical
quadrants of the world that spatially spreads out around us on all sides, yet it is much more
than that. Earth-centered holistic spirituality is a part of our psycho-biology, in an ecological
relationship with our very genetic structure. Calling in the directions involves a psycho-
spiritual orienteering that summons a comprehensive recollection of the basic experience of
being human. In a sense, we become situated and grounded in what it is to be fully human and
fully present. It is a familiar activity universally to bring oneself fully forward when one
prepares for spiritual practices. It should be unsurprising that such grounding is also found in
shamanic and earth-centered spirituality that sprang from the foundation of basic human

Typically, the participants in this preparation then turn together to face the south. Where the
east had brought to mind and heart the dawn, the south calls forth the spirit of the midday.
Following what I will demonstrate as day, season and lifetime cycles, the noontide of a year is
at mid-summer. In both the day and year, this is a time of high activity and heat, when much
work can be accomplished. There is much building and constructing that which is necessary to
sustain life during the rest of the year. Hence during the life cycle, it is the time of young
adulthood. It is the co-creative and procreative time: the ‗coming together of the brave warrior
and the fiery maiden‘ as a union is forged and families are initiated. It is a time of creativity, a
cauldron of passion and noontime heat, hence represented by flame and crystals or charred

Yet cycles, being cycles, continue and the circle then makes another quarter-turn as each
participant now faces the west. In our day, this is the evening, the time of sundown. In the
year, this is autumn. It is a time of harvest, when the experiences of youth and young
adulthood have matured into a quality of hard-earned perspective. In our life cycle it is our
maturation, with less of the muscle of young adulthood and certainly beyond the innocence of
childhood. However, the west brings a wisdom that only long-sustained immersion in the
cauldron of life can bring. It is the direction often represented by water, the ocean, and fish. It
brings with it a kind of slowing down quality and reflective silence.

Once again, those participating in this ritual turn another ninety degrees to face the north. For
many, this is a difficult direction, for it brings the wisdom of night, winter, and old age. This
can be a harsh teacher for it heralds the letting-go of the day, the year, and life as it had been
known. Of course, such a letting-go has been occurring throughout all of the cycles, however
the end of things comes into a hard clarity when one turns to the north. Here, one asks for the
wisdom of stillness, dreams and cold, the direction often represented by stones, soil, pebbles
and dead twigs. It is a time of hibernation and transition while all quietly waits and prepares
for the coming of a new beginning.

Thus, although geographically situated, calling in the directions provides a rich and clear
grasp of the fullness of a multitude of dimensions in the experience of living. However, there
are actually two more directions: up, and down. First, there is the sky, often referred to by the
male gender and name of ‗Father Sky.‘ The virtues of having such a canopy of stars and moon
at night or the bright orb of the sun during the day are expressed and felt. Father Sky directs
our path when it is dark, and spills the thirst-quenching rain and life-giving sunshine over us
that gives us life.

Then, we turn our attention to Mother Earth, to whom we first fell when we were born and to
whom we will fall again when it is time to give up this body. This huge mother of us all

nourishes us daily. She holds us when we are weak and does not complain when we tread
upon her body in our strength. She supports us always and as with Father Sky, when we
acknowledge her, we further situate ourselves in the psycho-biological and natural world

However, there is still one more step: the circle turns to acknowledge the local spirits. These
are beings everywhere around us: dogs and cats, raccoons and crayfish. The trees, birds,
animals and plants, creeks and mountains, and all beings around us have opened up a space
for us. There is the spirit of the redwoods outside the window, those of the ferns along the
creek, and there is the spirit of the creek herself. In any way that one can conceive of reality,
there are beings that deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated, for in all instances no
matter where we are during our day or life, these often ignored co-participants in our lifelong
journey have parted to make way for us. As a consequence, we can live, have a space to
breathe, build a home, and work or play.

Realization, the process of ‗making real,‘ is accomplished through the ritualistic naming and
reaching for all things called forth in this ritual. In Earth-centered and holistic spiritual
practices, it plants one on a foundation that firmly centers that person in a readiness to bring
to mind and heart the world as it is: not as we might want it to be, or wish that it could be. It is
the purposeful remembrance of the cycle of a full life that is based on wisdom, not wishes.
Because the remembrance is complete, one is left with a sense of awe. Life becomes meaningful
and its transitory nature engenders appreciation. When the vast array of life‘s phenomena are
recalled and seen, the complex miracle is glimpsed for what it is and we are humbled in
gratitude and appreciation.

As you embark in the process of calling in the directions, let yourself be drawn through the
many cycles of human experience. Following such preparatory ritual, the shamanic techniques
of journeying or merging may become far more productive. Yet, whether one participates in
such specifically shamanic practices or not, the consequences of realizing one‘s embeddedness
in our world through calling in the directions is a spiritual activity in and of itself that can
yield awareness, perspective and gratitude and secondarily, understanding and compassion. In
our yearning for a return to a deep re-connection with our world, calling in the directions
brings us back to the present, to the Earth, and to an awe for the living web into which we
were born.

The Sphere of Life Outline to help us

remember by Dr. Steve Serr

First: If with Others,

Gathering with Our Human Community

1. The Circle: Basic meeting-place, shared community, firelight,

egalitarian & equal responsibility, ‗grounded‘ on the floor/ground.
We are embedded in human community. The circle candle
represents the Sacred Fire. Incense help attract spirits and cleanse
the spiritual air, it also helps purify us.

Second: Calling in the Four Planetary Directions

2. The East: Rising Sun, Dawn, Birth and early Childhood, New Life, Renewal, First Months
of the New Year (Starts at Winter Solstice), Air, Fresh, Hope, Birds/ Winged Things,
Enthusiasm, represented by feathers, incense…
3. The South: Midday Sun, Noon, Sexual/Early Adulthood, The Cauldron of Creation and
Procreation, Creativity, Fire, Heat, Summer, Activity, represented by flame, crystals, charred
wood, the Sun
4. The West: Evening, Sundown, Adult Maturation, Autumn, Water, Fish, Wisdom,
Perspective, represented by water, the oceans, lakes, creeks, seashell…
5. The North: Night, Old Age, Winter, Earth, Stones, Letting Go, Stillness, Dreams, Cold,
represented by soil, pebbles, twigs, mountains

Third: Calling in Sky and Earth, Above and Below

6. Father Sky: male gender, brings life-giving sun and rain, moon, stars
7. Mother Earth: female gender, supports us in our strength and weakness, nourishes us, we
generate from her and return to her

Fourth: Acknowledging the Local Spirits

8. Trees, birds, animals and plants, creeks and mountains, all beings around you in ordinary
and non-ordinary reality that have opened up a space for you and your life. It is always very
important to acknowledge and thank every being in your area.

Power Animals: Compassionate Spirit

Helpers in Animal Form by Dr. Steve Serr

Most people have extremely personal, sometimes longstanding

relationships with helping spirits, however they just don't know it!
For instance, one person I taught to journey 'came back' from her
first journey to the lower world having found a hummingbird as
her power animal. She then realized that hummingbirds had been
around her all of her life, and began remembering specific
instances of their presence. She then recognized humming birds as
having always been something special to her, frequently
encountered in her life, and in other ways somehow more
important to her than to other people she knew.

A shaman practitioner, however, is purposeful and aware as he or she develops and maintains
relationships with animal spirit helpers. However, professional practitioner or not, power
animals are here to help us when we need them.

Naturally, in practicing spiritual healing, the shaman‘s relationship and particular partnership
with an animal spirit helper will be potentially more complex and specific than that of non-
shamans. In particular, there is a give-and-take relationship between the shamanic
practitioner and the animal helping spirits. They help you in your shamanic service,

1) by guiding you on journeys (knowing where to go),

2) by empowering you and giving you strength and courage,
3) or by bringing with them particular spiritual healing or informational skills.

However, it is a give-and take: you help them as well. Though they are compassionate beings
and want to help our world, they cannot do this without you. Beings from other realities are,
simply put… in another reality. Moreover, they are not just one, but two barriers distant from
our 'ordinary' reality. First, they are in non-ordinary reality, but secondarily, power
animals are also behind the lower, and sometimes the upper world barriers (when looking at
this in a 'core', 3 level, shamanic world view). There is little they can do in our world without
your assistance.

Animal helping spirits are often conventionally referred to as ‗power animals,‘ because they
bring with them some kind of power. It is sometimes understood that they lived at one time or
another in ordinary reality. One‘s partnership with animal spirits is often very ‗animal spirit
specific‘. For instance, among several that you are working with, one may be particularly good
at tending to a certain kind of suffering, another good at leading you to where you want to go.
One may be excellent at protecting… the variety and particular skills can be vast.

For a shaman working in partnership with the spirits, it is a broad and historical
understanding that for spirits to know you are sincere, they may ‗test‘ you to determine for
themselves if you are really serious about wanting to set up a partnership with them. In this
way, their early relationship with you may carry features similar to the beginnings of any
relationship of importance. Not only can there be joy, fun and play, but you might also
discover them observing you closely, ‗sounding you out,‘ or even testing you. As you are getting
to know and trust them as a spirit helper, they are getting to know and trust you as a shamanic

practitioner. It is a partnership upon which critical outcomes rest, crucial to the wellbeing of a
person or a community.

The properly postured shamanic student carefully nourishes a deep desire to develop, and thus
by her or his very nature, shows the spirits their willingness to ‗go the distance‘ with them in
partnership. On one extreme, this is why some go on a ‗vision quest‘: undergoing voluntary
suffering, perhaps becoming dehydrated, cold, hot, or going without food and water, all the
while beseeching the spirit helpers and visions to appear. No need to worry about having to do
this, since the whole matter is simply one of the heart. It is not necessary that one suffers per
se! The point is, however, that one‘s heart holds the deepest sincerity and one‘s resolve is iron-

Animal Spirit Helpers vary as wide as can be imagined… and wider! Each spiritual helper is a
contact to a certain power of the universe, and each is perfect to the individual with whom the
partnership is established. Don‘t get hung up on what particular spirit helper in animal form
comes to help you. From lizards to cows, and bears to cougars, there is nothing in the spirit
world that makes a cow less than a cougar! As an example, one person in one of my basic
classes journeyed to find a spirit helper in animal form, and excitedly, leapt into her journey
full of anticipation. However, when the drumming stopped and she sat up in our circle, she
had the longest face... Finally, I just had to ask what happened on her journey and if she was
successful. With a kind of a pout, she sadly recounted that she wanted to come back with a
hawk or bear or something. But (she said heavily), ―I got a cow.‖

From what I knew of this person, I had to smile as I asked her what it was that she was most
seeking at this point in her life. Unhesitatingly, she said that she just wanted to be nourished.
Then I explained: both the bull (the male aspect) and in her case what was clearly 'Cow' have
long associations with nourishment, and the cow in particular, with mothering. She had
brought back with her, the empowerment that she most needed. Animal spirits are
individualized spirit helpers: there to help a certain person, and in a certain way.

In many cultures, it is advised that you keep your power animal secret. At the very least, one
should never talk lightly to others people about one‘s spirit helpers, as this dilutes the special
and sacred nature of the relationship. Within a class cohort of shamanic students who are
sincere, such as are in my classes, this is less of an issue, as trust, sincerity, respect and
confidentiality are understood. Furthermore, in the course of learning shamanic practice and
awareness, these things simply need to be talked about. But, be aware that spirit helpers can
withdraw their assistance at any time, and will do so if they detect a lack of sincerity or sense
that one disrespects the relationship or otherwise attempts to utilize their spirit helper‘s power,
knowledge and ability in a harmful way.

Spirit Teachers a brief introduction By Steve


Yes, we do have teachers here in what we commonly consider our

ordinary reality. I am a teacher, for instance, and I have also had
many teachers. However, when it comes to our shamanic practice,
we have to really learn from the teachers in non-ordinary reality.
That is who we need to seek out. We are already, deeply inter-
connected with a non-ordinary reality about which as shamanic
students, we are learning to become aware. This is where the real
teachers are. Some consider me a real teacher. Nope. I am just a
‗finger pointing at the moon‘, to borrow from the Zen folks. I am just
here to point you to where you will get your real education. Once we
begin to integrate the basics of good journeying, it is to the teachers in the spirit world that we
go for our instruction.

Once you know how to communicate with the spirit world, how do you know you are talking
with a teacher? Well, assuming (and this is not put lightly) that you are in the shamanic upper
world, simply put, if you find someone who is teaching you something, that is… a teacher!
What to they teach? All sorts of things. Perhaps, about life in general, or maybe about our life
in particular. Don‘t anticipate that a teacher will necessarily show up as some profoundly
ancient and wise-looking elder woman or man, for teachers can appear to us in all sorts of
shapes and sizes.

It is generally found that when you seek for a spirit teacher that you have a much better
opportunity to find one in the upper world, as there tend to me more of them there. What they
share is wisdom. As shamanic healers, we go to them for power, just as we do with spirit
helpers in animal form. However, we also go to them for information, such as about healing in
this or that situation, or even asking for their assistance in actual healing practices.

Teachers can be tough cookies! Say, for instance, we decide to journey to learn something
about our healing practice, or about our life. Regardless of our intention to do so and despite
what we specifically went to them with the intention of learning, they sometimes teach us what
they (not us) know we need to learn, which may be quite different from what we went for!
Over time, we establish a relationship with a spirit teacher just like our other friends. And, like
our friends, especially ones we have had for a long time, our relationships with them are not
always ‗pain free‘. Actually, it is pretty fair odds that some spat is eventually going to occur
between you and a teacher. This is natural in that because this is a teacher, we will be going
through some kind of growth through them, which may mean awkward and difficult
adjustments. You might even find yourself in an argument with your teacher! No problem, it‘s
ok. It‘s all a part of relationships and growth.

You will find that different teachers work best at different sorts of things. I like to think of
them as specialists. Some specialize in particular kinds of healing, while others may specialize
in providing certain kinds of information, such as in divination.

When you contact a teacher and ask a question, the first thing a teacher says or does after you
have asked the question is often the key to the answer that you are being given. Even though
much may also happen later in the journey, this is further material is generally simply teasing

out further, the answer you have already been given. If you have asked a teacher a question,
the answer is primarily at the beginning of what you then experience. Stick with that. That‘s
the answer. However, there is more you can do after the journey ends. For instance, you can
look at the metaphor or the overall experience of the journey. This may also hold the answer to
your question.

Teachers often teach in metaphor. What is a metaphor? A metaphor compares two things,
indicating that something is like something else. Metaphors are associations, comparisons and
resemblances. So what your teacher says to you may not be clear at first. We may have to sit
with what they say for awhile, or even hold it in the back of our mind for a long time in order
to eventually ‗get‘ what it was that they were trying to point out to us. It‘s not that spirit
teachers try to be confusing (unless they know we will benefit from having to chew hard on
something), however, they often teach indirectly. Simply put, this means that we sometimes
have to figure it all out. The answers we are seeking are not always handed to us on a ‗silver
platter. That‘s just part of the learning curve that we have to be on, when learning from the
spirit teachers.

For those who tend to question themselves, just one last note: try to ignore any of your inner-
talk that second-guesses your experience. For instance, its best to set aside wondering whether
your experience was 'subjective' or not. ‗Maybe I just made it up‘ is usually how this is heard.
Let this self-checking chatter go.

In shamanic terms, the human mind is like the screen upon which plays the information and
material that the spirits communicate to us. I like to think of the shamanic practitioner as one
who develops her or himself as a kind of antenna, a 'receiving station' upon which the
information and visions are displayed. The mind is just as important, in other words, as
anything else in the matter! We serve as a kind of interface between worlds. The shaman's
brain is a kind of nexus, a place of intersection between the worlds.

There is no such thing as 'it‘s only my imagination.' Quite to the contrary: it is precisely your
ability to form images that allows you to see, hear and learn.

Shamanic Ritual to Find Your Power


1: Gather

Gather together your ritual items and set up your altar. Make sure
you have everything you need before starting. The ritual calls for
three candles and a drumming CD (and a way to play that CD).
Take a moment to center yourself.

Shake the rattle, saying:

With my hand this rattle I shake,

Calling the Spirits to my sacred space.
2: Cleanse the Space

An abalone shell with tobacco, sage, juniper and rosemary is lit. Blow the sacred smoke into
your ritual area. Say the Purification Prayer.

Purification Prayer:

May the fires of the sun purify me,

The waters of the earth cleanse me,
The winds of the heavens freshen me,
And may the rich earth feed and strengthen me.
Being cleansed and nourished may I realize our connection with all of nature,
So that with our spirits awakened I may live in harmony with all of creation.

3: Call to the Deities and Directions

Mother Earth
Mother Earth
You from whom all things come and to whom all things return,
I thank you for your many blessings.
Receive now this token of the blessings you have given us,
Returned with our gratitude and love.
(light Mother Earth Candle)
Father Sky
Father Sky, come into me now,
that I may realize my unity with you,
Knowing that as I am your child,
Your spirit resides in all living things.
May I realize my divine nature,
And witnessing your connection in all things,
Share this token of the blessings with you, as you share all with me.
(light Father Sky candle)

Great Mystery
All wise, gracious Mother of Us All,
All powerful lord, Our Father,
Supernal Parents, and Creators of the Great Mystery of Life
Sustain me, your child, this day.
Give me the wisdom to see your path,
And the strength to prevail in the darkest hour.
I thank you for the joys we have
And for the chances you have give me to prove myself
In adversity as well as in happiness.
May I thrive.
(light Great Mystery Candle)
I welcome you, Eagle, spirit keeper of the East, Teacher of Air. Bring with you your keen
insight and teach me to see clearly what is before me, what was and what is to be. Welcome

I welcome you, Mouse, spirit keeper of the South, Teacher of Fire. Bring with you your sense of
order and teach me to keep confusion and distraction at bay. Welcome, Mouse.
I welcome you, Bear, spirit keeper of the West, Teacher of Water. Bring with you your
introspectiveness and teach us to use our inner powers to reach new heights. Welcome, Bear.

I welcome you, Buffalo, spirit keeper of the North, Teacher of Earth. Bring with you your
decisiveness and teach us to manifest abundance. Welcome, Buffalo.
4: Form Your Intent

Make sure you have an intent (a question and a place in mind where you will go). In this case,
if this is your first journey, it‘s advised that your intent be to find your power. As the
drumming begins, and you enter the trance, form your question: ―Who is my power animal?‖

5: Drumming CD

6: Grounding and Journaling

First, ground. Use your favorite method or simply get up, stretch, walk around. Become
present in your body. Next, journal about your experiences.

7: Giving Thanks

Ho Power of the North, power of Wisdom. Thank you wisdom elders of all faiths and traditions
throughout time. You who know Great Spirit's presence working for the greatest good in
everyone, everything, everywhere and all the time. Thank you for your wisdom guidance
whenever we turn to you with an open and humble heart. Help me to see Spirit working for
good in all the challenges of our lives. Help me to walk the Good Red Road, from the south

surrendering with faith and trust, to the north, knowing your presence always--knowing you,
loving you, and walking with you.

Ho power of the West, gifts to be found at the center of my being. Thank you for the gifts of
inner peace, light and love, courage and compassion, healing and forgiveness. Give me the
strength to overcome my shadows and to honor the medicine powers I have been given to
carry in this life bringing them out successfully in the world for the healing of the Sacred
Hoop. Thank you for the power of introspection, of going within to mine the riches you Great
Spirit have placed there for me.

Ho Power of the South, power of faith and trust. Power of innocence. Please send me your
strength, light and warmth in times of weakness, darkness, and cold . Help me to accept the
gifts that belief and confidence bestow. Help me to shed the old, trusting that new growth is
already on its way. I give thanks to you and pray for strengthening of my faith in your always
present presence.

Ho Father Sun, power of the East, power of illumination. Thank you for shining today, for
giving away your light and your love bringing the life force to Mother Earth. Thank You for
your teaching reminder of our true nature, and for your power to cut through darkness. I get
stuck in my darkness so easily and you shine through it and remember your light and love and
to extend it to my family and all who cross my path today. Thank you Father Sun.

Great Mystery
Ho Great Mystery, Creator, Source of All. You have been always and you will be always. You
birth me and receive me when my life path is over as you have done for all the ancestors who
have come before. You are here now in my center and the center of all. Thank you for this day
and the opportunity to know you and to serve you. Thank you for my family, friends, teachers,
and loved ones. Thank you for the work you give me to do in this life. I pray for strength, Great
Spirit, please help me to do the best I can do, to honor what I have seen to be true. Use me as a
channel for your healing ways to help the people and the healing of Mother Earth and the
relationships of all the lived. Thank you Great Spirit for you, thank you for holy right now and
thank you for the gift of the greatest prosperity of all, knowing your presence always.

Mother Earth
Ho Mother Earth, thank you for all the gifts of your creation. You open your body and give me
the food I eat, the water I drink, the clothes I wear, the shelter of my home. You give me
teachings of how to walk upon you with harmony and balance. You give me medicine when I
am out of balance. Thank you for your mysterious, beautiful, growth power healing energy. I
pray for your health and healing and that your sacred waters, body, air and spirit be clean and
fresh, pure and strong. Help me to open my heart to feel your heartbeat so I can walk a healing
path in harmony and balance with all of creation.

Sky Father
Ho Sky Father, You who are above, Father Sun and Grandmother Moon, star people, rainbow
bridge spirits. Thank you for your light and your love, your company through day and night.
Cloud people, thunder spirits, thank you for the gifts of rain that come to quench our Mother's
thirst. Help me to open myself to your medicine teachings of balanced masculine and feminine
energies. I give thanks to all you who are Above and thank you for your gifts of vision.

8: Opening the Circle

Shake the rattle to say farewell to the spirits.

Drum Therapy: Therapeutic Effects

of Drumming by Michael Drake

Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote

healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the
Minianka healers of West Africa, therapeutic rhythm techniques
have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain
physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of

ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews indicate that
drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system
and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self.

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on
Alzheimer's patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma
patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results demonstrate that drumming is a
valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis,
mental illness, migraines, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson‘s disease, stroke, paralysis,
emotional disorders, and a wide range of physical disabilities.

Drumming reduces tension, anxiety, and stress

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. Stress,
according to current medical research, contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause
of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes, and immune system breakdowns. A
recent study found that a program of group drumming helped reduce stress and employee
turnover in the long-term care industry and might help other high-stress occupations as well.1

Drumming helps control chronic pain

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that
drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the
production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the body‘s own morphine-like painkillers,
and can thereby help in the control of pain.2

Drumming boosts the immune system

A recent medical research study indicates that drumming circles boost the immune system. Led
by renowned cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD, the study demonstrates that group drumming
actually increases cancer-killing cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other
viruses, including AIDS. According to Dr. Bittman, ―Group drumming tunes our biology,
orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.‖3

Drumming produces deeper self-awareness by inducing synchronous brain activity

Research has demonstrated that the physical transmission of rhythmic energy to the brain
synchronizes the two cerebral hemispheres. When the logical left hemisphere and the intuitive
right hemisphere begin to pulsate in harmony, the inner guidance of intuitive knowing can
then flow unimpeded into conscious awareness. The ability to access unconscious information
through symbols and imagery facilitates psychological integration and a reintegration of self.

Drumming also synchronizes the frontal and lower areas of the brain, integrating nonverbal

information from lower brain structures into the frontal cortex, producing ―feelings of insight,
understanding, integration, certainty, conviction, and truth, which surpass ordinary
understandings and tend to persist long after the experience, often providing foundational
insights for religious and cultural traditions.‖

Drumming accesses the entire brain

The reason rhythm is such a powerful tool is that it permeates the entire brain. Vision for
example is in one part of the brain, speech another, but drumming accesses the whole brain.
The sound of drumming generates dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain even
where there is significant damage or impairment such as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
According to Michael Thaut, director of Colorado State University's Center for Biomedical
Research in Music, ―Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other
neurological impairment, as with Parkinson's patients...‖ The more connections that can be
made within the brain, the more integrated our experiences become.

Drumming induces natural altered states of consciousness

Rhythmic drumming induces altered states, which have a wide range of therapeutic
applications. A recent study by Barry Quinn, Ph.D. demonstrates that even a brief drumming
session can double alpha brain wave activity, dramatically reducing stress.5The brain changes
from Beta waves (focused concentration and activity) to Alpha waves (calm and relaxed),
producing feelings of euphoria and well-being.

Alpha activity is associated with meditation, shamanic trance, and integrative modes of
consciousness. This ease of induction contrasts significantly with the long periods of isolation
and practice required by most meditative disciplines before inducing significant effects.
Rhythmic stimulation is a simple yet effective technique for affecting states of mind.

Drumming creates a sense of connectedness with self and others

In a society in which traditional family and community-based systems of support have become
increasingly fragmented, drumming circles provide a sense of connectedness with others and
interpersonal support. A drum circle provides an opportunity to connect with your own spirit
at a deeper level, and also to connect with a group of other like minded people. Group
drumming alleviates self-centeredness, isolation, and alienation.

Music educator Ed Mikenas finds that drumming provides ―an authentic experience of unity
and physiological synchronicity. If we put people together who are out of sync with themselves
(i.e., diseased, addicted) and help them experience the phenomenon of entrainment, it is
possible for them to feel with and through others what it is like to be synchronous in a state of
preverbal connectedness.‖ 6

Drumming helps us to experience being in resonance with the natural rhythms of life
Rhythm and resonance order the natural world. Dissonance and disharmony arise only when
we limit our capacity to resonate totally and completely with the rhythms of life. The origin of
the word rhythm is Greek meaning ―to flow.‖ We can learn ―to flow‖ with the rhythms of life
by simply learning to feel the beat, pulse, or groove while drumming. It is a way of bringing
the essential self into accord with the flow of a dynamic, interrelated universe, helping us feel
connected rather than isolated and estranged. 7

Drumming provides a secular approach to accessing a higher power

Shamanic drumming directly supports the introduction of spiritual factors found significant in

the healing process. Drumming and Shamanic activities produce a sense of connectedness and
community, integrating body, mind and spirit. According to a recent study, ―Shamanic
activities bring people efficiently and directly into immediate encounters with spiritual forces,
focusing the client on the whole body and integrating healing at physical and spiritual levels.
This process allows them to connect with the power of the universe, to externalize their own
knowledge, and to internalize their answers; it also enhances their sense of empowerment and
responsibility. These experiences are healing, bringing the restorative powers of nature to
clinical settings.‖ 8

Drumming releases negative feelings, blockages, and emotional trauma

Drumming can help people express and address emotional issues. Unexpressed feelings and
emotions can form energy blockages. The physical stimulation of drumming removes
blockages and produces emotional release. Sound vibrations resonate through every cell in the
body, stimulating the release of negative cellular memories. ―Drumming emphasizes self-
expression, teaches how to rebuild emotional health, and addresses issues of violence and
conflict through expression and integration of emotions,‖ says Music educator Ed Mikenas.
Drumming can also address the needs of addicted populations by helping them learn to deal
with their emotions in a therapeutic way without the use of drugs.

Drumming places one in the present moment

Drumming helps alleviate stress that is created from hanging on to the past or worrying about
the future. When one plays a drum, one is placed squarely in the here and now. One of the
paradoxes of rhythm is that it has both the capacity to move your awareness out of your body
into realms beyond time and space, and to ground you firmly in the present moment.

Drumming provides a medium for individual self-realization

Drumming helps reconnect us to our core, enhancing our sense of empowerment and
stimulating our creative expression. ―The advantage of participating in a drumming group is
that you develop an auditory feedback loop within yourself and among group members—a
channel for self-expression and positive feedback—that is pre-verbal, emotion-based, and
sound-mediated.‖ 9 Each person in a drum circle is expressing themselves through his or her
drum and listening to the other drums at the same time. ―Everyone is speaking, everyone is
heard, and each person‘s sound is an essential part of the whole.‖ 10 Each person can drum out
their feelings without saying a word, without having to reveal their issues. Group drumming
complements traditional talk therapy methods. It provides a means of exploring and
developing the inner self. It serves as a vehicle for personal transformation, consciousness
expansion, and community building. The primitive drumming circle is emerging as a
significant therapeutic tool in the modern technological age.

Copyright © 2006 by Michael Drake

1. Bittman, M.D., Barry, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard,
Paul O Umbach, MA, ―Recreational Music-Making, A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary
Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers,‖
Advances in Mind-Body Medicine, Fall/Winter 2003, Vol. 19 No. 3/4.
2. Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing.
Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.
3. Bittman, M.D., Barry, ―Composite Effects of Group Drumming...,‖ Alternative Therapies in
Health and Medicine; Volume 7, No. 1, pp. 38-47; January 2001.
4. Winkelman, Michael, Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing.

Westport, Conn: Bergin & Garvey; 2000.

5. Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs; 2000.
6. Mikenas, Edward, ―Drums, Not Drugs,‖ Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63. 7. Diamond,
John, The Way of the Pulse – Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL.
8. Winkelman, Michael, ―Complementary Therapy for Addiction: Drumming Out Drugs,‖
American Journal of Public Health; Apr 2003, Vol. 93 Issue 4, p647, 5p
9. Mikenas, Edward, ―Drums, Not Drugs,‖ Percussive Notes. April 1999:62-63.
10. Friedman, Robert Lawrence, The Healing Power of the Drum. Reno, NV: White Cliffs;

An Overview of Core Shamanism

by Dawn Firewolf

Core shamanism developed out of research done by Dr. Michael

Harner. He discovered that all over the world, while the overall
approaches to shamanism may be different, there were key elements
in common. Dr. Harner then set about synthesizing these elements so
that anyone could use them without pirating any culture's sacred

The Shamanic State

While several cultures have used drugs to induce the shamanic state,
it is entered into by use of a drum or rattle in Core Shamanism.
(Shamans of old used to call their drums 'horses' because without them, they were unable to
ride into the other worlds). Eyes are covered by a bandana so that no ambient light enters and
the steady, constant drumbeat induces what some have called a 'trance'. It is a relaxed state in
which information is allowed to come forth, somewhat like a waking dream. Most times this
information is given in a clear, straightforward manner but sometimes in a highly symbolic
manner that can be understood by the questioner.

Also, unlike pathworking or guided meditation, the shamanic journey is completely

'unscripted'. The questioner goes into the shamanic state with one question in mind and the
rest unfolds in a natural manner.

The Worlds
The shamanic universe is divided into three parts: the Upper, Middle and Lower Worlds. These
have nothing to do with religion's heaven or hell.
 The Lower World: Sometimes called the Underworld. This is the first level encountered
when one begins journeying and it is where power animals are found. Emotions,
memories, and healing usually are here - especially if one confronts their 'dark side'.
Because of this, each person's experience in the Lower World is unique.

The Lower World is accessed in different ways - going down a tunnel; a root, a burrow,
even in escalators and elevators.
 The Middle World: This is where faeries and devas are found as well as plant and rock
spirits. It exists just outside of ordinary reality. Spells, curses and ghosts are also found
here. Working in the Middle World is a personal choice. Some prefer not to work here
very much because of the chance of running into a stray spell or curse while others
work here with plant and/or rock spirits quite often.
 The Upper World: This is where spiritual teachers and the Archetypes (gods and
goddesses) can be found. It is also the one I have the least experience with at this point.

The Upper World can be reached in several ways also - climbing a tree; riding a power
animal up, as well as riding on escalators, and elevators.

Power Animals
The power animal is considered to be a guardian; teacher, a source of power and an alter -
ego. They can be any animal except, usually, for insects (Insects usually indicates that there is a

sickness). Upon the first journeys into the Lower World, the power animal will make itself
known in several ways: directly stating that it is indeed your power animal; doing an 'act of
power' which is something that the animal in ordinary reality wouldn't do, or showing itself to
you four times.

Some believe that an power animal is always with you from birth or else we wouldn't survive
childhood and its diseases and mishaps (In fact, who's to say that some children's imaginary
friends aren't real?). It may be the same power animal throughout one's entire life or there may
be several. They can become the most treasured of friends and family.

Some people, upon experiencing a journey for the first time, ask whether or not it was 'real'. As
my teacher says, "So what? If you are getting something good out of it, does it really matter
whether it's real or not?" Core Shamanism is a safe, fun way to get in touch with inner wisdom,
no matter what faith you practice.

Core Shamanism A Discussion by Alfred

According to Wikipedia

Core Shamanism is a system of shamanic beliefs and practices

synthesized by Michael Harner, PhD. It does not hold a fixed belief
system, but instead focuses on the practice of shamanic journeying
and may on an individual basis integrate indigenous shamanism, the
teachings of Carlos Castaneda and other spiritualities.
Specific practices include the use of rapid drumming [about 220
beats per minute] to attain the Shamanic State of Consciousness,
communication with "power animals", and ritual dance. Those who
practice core shamanism do not usually refer to themselves as
shamans, preferring "shamanic practitioner." They say this is out of respect for indigenous
peoples, and that they are usually very careful to avoid cultural imperialism.

It is my contention that while the term core shamanism is used to refer to the specific work of
Michael Harner, we can utilize this definition to describe all practices that reflect the spirit of
this process.

I utilize the term Metaphysical Shamanism as this term encompasses this spirit of Core
Shamanism, while also utilizing a multiplicity of techniques that are useful in achieving the
higher consciousness, necessary to receive maximum benefit from the practice.

The Principles
All life is connected. This means that trees, plants, furred, finned, crawly, arachnoid, as well as
human are connected through the Universal Life Force or God-Consciousness. Since this is the
premise or our pre-supposition ethic or basis of understanding, certain principals are common
in all these practices.

(1) A call to Heal: shamans (men & women) are called to be healers rather than choosing this

(2) Shamans move in two worlds: physical & non physical reality

(3) A shared conception of non physical reality : the spirit world or "Otherworld"

(4) Accessing Non physical reality through an altered state of consciousness

(5) Sacred objects: shamanic practice harnesses the sacred/healing energies of physical

(6) A responsibility to the community: to heal and to celebrate the sacredness of life.

Each of these principles are obtainable through many avenues.

Some individuals choose to utilize drumming, music, dance, and mantras. The key similarity is
that these tools occupy the conscious mind while the sub conscious mind accesses the "spirit"
or Otherworld. They also serve as a key to the production of the necessary chemicals in the

brain to allow for the "crossing over" to the non physical reality that the shaman or shamanic
practitioner visits to accomplish the work at hand.

It is also well documented that certain mind altering substances can also be used to stimulate
this travel as well. While these will not be discussed here, stay tuned for further articles on
Ayahuasca, DMT, and other similar substances and their usage.

Shamanic Trance States by the Wanderling

In order to journey to the other dimensions of existence a Shaman

induces an altered state of consciousness in himself similar to a state
of self-hypnosis called a state of flow. While in this state of flow, or
Shamanic Trance, he is in complete control. He is able to take his
consciousness and subtle bodies into nonphysical reality where he
visits the heavens and hells of existence, communicates with and
controls spirits, gains information, retrieves souls, and makes subtle
changes in reality which may affect the physical world. Properties of
the Shamanic altered state of consciousness are:

1. There is a sense of egolessness. It is as if a person feels as if they are

merging with people and objects around them. As if they are in a single state of consciousness.

2. A distorted sense of time and space of time. There is a breakdown of normal boundaries.
Intuition takes over in situations where a rational approach was the normal operating model.
Extraordinary psychic and other mental powers.

3. An intense and accurate sensitivity to the emotional states of others.

4. A trance like state often called The State Of Flow

In a state of flow, you feel as if you have actually become one with the activity you are focused
on. You may lose track of your body, emotions, sense of time and even of your physical
location. When you are giving everything you can to a particular vision or challenge, you
become free of fear and anxiety. You have no room in your consciousness for boredom. Many
people who function in this way speak of it as a "drug free high" that comes from the rhythm
that seems to be part and parcel of working at this l00% level. Many people relate to this to
activities as simple as tying your shoes, to something more complicated such as driving a car.
There is an "automatic pilot" effect. When tying your shoe, you JUST tie your shoe. When
driving you know where you are going and you are driving effectively and safely and yet your
mind is not intensely focused on the road. This is still attention to detail and focus, but it is
different than intense concentration. It is not the type of concentration that creates great
mental strain. The easiest way to describe "state of flow" is that you function at a level of
excellence with ease

The lighter trance states feel like those times when you are reading a book, or watching
television or a movie, and are so engrossed that you are not aware of your surroundings. The
deeper trances feel similar to how you feel when you are first waking up in the morning. You
are aware that you are awake, your imagery is vivid and dreamlike, and you feel relaxed, calm,
and good.

The ability to attain and control a trance is the result of cumulative conditioning and mental

A weight lifter trains himself by practicing daily. He begins by lifting relatively light weights
and progresses to heavier and heavier ones. Eventually he is able to lift a 200 pound weight
above his head with relative ease. By working in this manner he has trained his muscles to
respond according to his will. After he has reached his goal he can maintain the ability by

practicing only two or three times per week. If he stops practicing entirely his muscles will
gradually lose their conditioning and strength and, after a time, he will no longer be able to lift
the weight. By reestablishing a routine of practice he will bring his ability back to where it

This same principle applies to the trance state. You train your mind to respond in accordance
with your will in order to produce the ability to develop a deep trance. This is done by daily
practice. It may take some time and effort to establish that ability, but once you have it you will
be able to maintain it by practicing only once or twice per week. If you stop practicing entirely
your ability will gradually lessen. Like the weight lifter you will need to begin a more regular
practice in order to reestablish your abilities.

When you go into any trance you gradually progress from ordinary consciousness into deeper
levels. It's convenient to have a means of measuring the depth of your trance, so the
paragraphs that follow outline some of the symptoms found at various depths. For convenience
sake I've divided the depths of trance into four major sections, and, using terms borrowed from
the hypnotic sciences, called them the Hypnodial, Light, Medium, and Deep Trance states:

1. Hypnodial Trance: You progress from ordinary consciousness through the following steps:
feeling physically relaxed, drowsy, your mind becomes relaxed and you may feel apathetic or
indifferent, your arms and legs start to feel heavy, you may have a tendency to stare blankly,
and have a disinclination to move your limbs. As you border this and the Light Trance your
breathing becomes slower and deeper, and your pulse rate slows.

2. Light Trance: You progress to a reluctance to move, speak, think or act. You may experience
some involuntary twitching of your mouth or jaw, and sometimes of the eyes. You will feel a
heaviness throughout your entire body and a partial feeling of detachment. You may also
experience visual illusions. As you border this and the Medium Trance you recognize that you
are in a trance, but may find that feeling hard to describe.

3. Medium Trance: You definitely recognize that you are in a trance and may experience
partial amnesia unless you consciously choose not to. By giving yourself the proper suggestions
you can make any part of your body insensitive to pain, and can experience the illusions of
touching, tasting, and smelling. You will be more sensitive to variations in atmospheric
pressure and temperature changes. As you border this and the Deep Trance you may
experience complete catalepsy of your limbs or body. In other words, if your limbs or body
positions are changed you will leave them in the new position until they are changed again.

4. Deep Trance: You can have the ability to open your eyes without affecting the trance. You
will also have the ability to control such body functions as heart beat, blood pressure,
digestion, and body temperature. You can make your body and limbs completely rigid. You
will be able to recall lost memories and experience age regression. Here you can vividly
experience the sensation of lightness, floating, or flying. You can also experience both positive
and negative visual and auditory hallucinations both while in the trance, and, if given the
proper suggestions, after awakening from the trance state. (A positive hallucination is when
you are told that you see something that is not there, and you see it. A negative hallucination is
when you are told that you do not see something that is there, and you do not.) In this state you
can also stimulate dreams and visions, both during the trance state and (upon proper
suggestion) later in your natural sleep

Each depth of trance has valuable uses. For example, in the Light and Medium Trances you can
learn to begin practical Shamanic Journeying so that you can see, hear, touch and smell
experiences in the worlds which border ours. In those trance states these journeys will feel
similar to a fantasy or daydream and you may wonder if it is real, or just your imagination. As
you train yourself to deepen the trance the journeys become more vivid, until, in the Deep
Trance, they look and feel as though they are taking place in physical reality.


Received by Seneca Elder, Grandmother Twylah Nitsch
This prayer is appropriate for opening a Medicine Wheel or sacred
NOTE: When opening a circle or Medicine Wheel it is vital to call in
the seven directions. This allows you to tap into the power of the
wheel for reverent and focused communion with Spirit. The
directions will always respond when you call them, which may feel
like energy coming into your hand or arm or showering down
through your crown. People often report feeling "chills" and
"goosebumps". Sometimes it is just a knowing that Spirit, your ancestors, animals and guides
are now surrounding you.

In preparation you will need to take some cornmeal (or tobacco) and go out as soon as you
can, at or just after sunrise. The right hand is used in these ceremonies to make an offering.

Begin by facing East and holding some cornmeal in your outstretched right hand and say:

"To the East: to the new day, to the Light Within/Without. To golden eagle. To illumination.
East, Gate of the Morning, thank you for the moving airs, for the awakening of life. May my
eyes lift to see the freedom of the birds. May my thoughts be in awareness of the gifts of each

To the East: I call for your power and spirit to come in."

Drop a few grains of cornmeal on the ground. Then wait for a response.

Turn to the South and say:

"To the South: to Trust and innocence. To the Little Mouse. To white tailed deer, to the good
road home. South, sacred fire of creativity, I seek your vitality in healthy alliance. Thank you
for the teachings of relationship; for music, dance and art, those things that carry joy and
communion. I pray that my life may unfold in harmony with my kin in all realms.

To the South: I call for your power and spirit to come in."

Drop some grains on the Earth. Wait for response. Face West and say:

"To the West: to the Dark Waters of Looking Within. To black bear, brown bear, to raven. To
the medicine path. West, power of places between the worlds, I turn to you seeking passage
into the depths of knowing and unknowing. Thank you for the lightening and the cleansing
rain, for those things that teach compassion and nourish understanding. Thank you panther,
for the medicine of solitude and the silent stalking for truth.

To the West: I call for your power and spirit to come in."

Drop some grains on the Earth. Wait for response. Face North and say:

"To the North: Home of the old ones and those gone by. To the wisdom place, place of White
Buffalo and Snow Leopard, Moose and Beaver. North, Spirit‘s mountaintop, I turn to you for
wisdom. In the place free of shadow I seek perspective and a path of service. Thank you for the
gifts of lodge and sustenance. I pray to live upon this gracious earth with remembrance of
gratitude and with respect for my elders in all realms.

To the North: I call for your power and spirit to come in."

Drop some grains on the Earth. Wait for response

Lean down and place your hands on Mother Earth. Offer some cornmeal in a circle on the
ground and say:

"To Mother Earth, enfolding all beings with the beauty of compassion, nurturance creativity
and peace. Hear my prayer for the two-leggeds and the four leggeds, for those who fly and
crawl and swim and walk and run, for all children of the Mother."

Stand (facing East again) and raise your right arm up to the sky:

Now envision yourself in the center of a circle and make a sun-wise circling gesture above
your head (like using a lariat), starting in the East, 3 times, offering cornmeal as you say

"To Father Sky, encircling all beings with the light of protection, warmth, clarity and vision.
Hear my prayer and grant me the courage to bring the radiance of my true Self out into the
world, and the humility and self-esteem to foster the radiance of others."

Now face the center of the circle (if you are in a group, or in a medicine wheel)

Hold both hands over your heart, as you say:

"To that place within my being where the 6 directions meet. May I live today from this center
of wholeness and balance."

End with these words:

"Thank you for this day. Thank you for this opportunity to serve. "

If you are alone, or if the group will continue with silent individual prayer, you may hold the
cornmeal to your heart and speak your words to Great Spirit:

"Great Spirit, hear me. This one calls to you."

Then speak what is in your heart.

When finished, breathe your prayer into the cornmeal and gently place it on the Earth, or you
can let the wind people take it.

Notes on the Medicine Wheel Prayers:

When you address the Directions, you call into wakefulness those particular aspects of Spirit

reflected in yourself. You participate more fully in life. By asking for blessings from the
Directions you begin to explore what these realms really mean to you: what things you actually
associate with Sky, Earth, and the Directions. You deepen your understanding of these realms
and thus your relationship with the forces of life they embody. When your prayers come from
your own sense of relationship, the wheel becomes a true spiritual locus for you. Feel free to
make these prayers your own. Working with the wheel is a way of remembering the sacred
hoop and making it your sacred space of spiritual practice. (some of this wording is from Loren
Cruden in her book "The Spirit of Place")

Healing Power of the Drum Circle

by Michael Drake, Sacred Hoop Magazine,
Spring 2003, Issue 40

Indigenous cultures have been practicing community percussion for

thousands of years. Now people all over the world are taking up
drumming in astounding numbers. At a grass roots level, small
community drum circles are springing up. While some drum circles
are content to jam and make a lot of rhythmic noise, others prefer to
explore shamanic drumming.

Shamanic drumming is a time-honored method of healing and

helping others. Shamanic drum circles provide the opportunity for people of like mind to unite
for the attainment of a shared objective. There is power in drumming alone, but that power
recombines and multiplies on many simultaneous levels in a group of drummers. The drums
draw individual energies together, unifying them into a consolidated force. Synchronized
drumming is the most effective, so individuals should alternate the responsibility of setting the
tempo and leading the group. The basic steps that I describe here I have found most effective.

1: Form a Circle
Simply join together, forming a circle. By creating a circle, you are structuring an energy
pattern that will contain, focus, and amplify the power generated by drumming.

2: Cleanse the Space

Next, you should smudge the space and all participants. Smudging cleanses the mind and
environment in preparation for spiritual or inner work. The sacred smoke dispels any stagnant
or unwanted energy and opens the energy channels of your body. Sage, cedar, and sweetgrass
are traditionally used for smudging, but any dried herb is acceptable. Light the herbs in a fire-
resistant receptacle and then blow out the flames. Then use a feather or your hands to draw the
smoke over your heart, throat, and face to purify the body, mind, and spirit. Next, smudge your
drum by passing it through the smoke. The drummers can then smudge themselves and their
drums by passing a smudge bowl clockwise around the circle. Conclude the smudging by
thanking the plant whose body made the cleansing possible.

3: Call to the Directions

At this point, you may wish to invoke the powers of the Four Directions. This is an ancient
shamanic rite practiced cross-culturally to access and honor the powers of creation. The
facilitator can lead the group in this process. I like to have the participants stand and face each
Direction in unison. Rotate clockwise, facing first the East, then South, then West, then North,
inviting each Direction to participate and assist in the ceremony. If you wish, you can include
Father Sky above and Mother Earth below as the Fifth and Sixth Directions.

4: Form Your Intent

Having invoked the Four Directions, it is important to form the group's collective intention-
what you desire or expect to accomplish. Intent is a kind of decision making that directs the
focus of our attention. It is through our attention that we influence and direct the aspects of
our experience and the world around us.

5: Prayer Round
The next step is to commence the first or prayer round of drumming. All participants should
focus their attention on the group intention or goal during this round of drumming. It is the
responsibility of the facilitator to set the tempo. A steady, metronome-like pattern with
precisely regular intervals, at around three beats per second, is the most effective. This rapid
'eagle-beat' creates the sensation of inner movement, which, if you allow it, will carry you
along. It is projective in nature and carries your intention, prayers, and awareness into the
spirit world that underlies and sustains our physical reality.

6: Finding Unison
The time-frame for this varies from ceremony to ceremony. It is best to trust your intuition in
this process. When leading a group, I move the beater around the drumhead until I find the
sweet spot and my drum begins to sing and hum. Eventually, I can hear the sound of my drum
moving around the circle, resonating through each person's drum. The drums begin to sing in
unison and the experience is indescribable. I sense that each person is connected to the spirit
world. I try to hold this energy dynamic for as long as possible. This climactic phase eventually
wanes and the drums start doing their own thing again. This is usually the point where I signal
the end of the first round of drumming with four thundering beats.

7: Healing Round
Once the group intention has been introduced, commence the second or healing round by
drumming the pulsating lub-dub, lub-dub of a heartbeat rhythm. Stroke a steady heartbeat
rhythm at around two beats per second. This magnetic pulse draws power from the spirit
world into the drum circle. Each participant should clear his or her mind of everything. You
must surrender all attachment to the desired outcome to achieve success. It is best to close your
eyes and focus on the sound of the drums. Let the drums do the healing. The drums will shape
available energy into a powerful vortex that will spiral out into the fibers of Mother Earth's
web. When you feel the power ebbing, signal the end of the healing round with four booming

8: Giving Thanks
Commence the final or thank you round of drumming with the even cadence of the eagle-beat.
Sustain a tempo of three beats per second for one to five minutes. Participants should give
thanks for the needs met and the needs they are asking to be met.

9: Closing the Circle

Finally, signal the end of the drumming with four resounding beats. It is important to conclude
the drumming circle by rotating counterclockwise, thanking each of the Directions for their
participation and assistance. This counterclockwise movement will close the energy vortex and
signal that the sacred time of focus is ended.

I have found these basic steps to be very effective in a myriad of situations. Feel free, however,
to adapt them to serve your own needs. Rhythm is a very personal thing. Experiment with
different tempos and rhythms. My intention is to provide a foundation upon which the reader
can then build.

Invocation of the Seven Directions

―Aho! Great Spirit! God-Goddess! Creator! We are gathered here

today in a sacred manner to drum with intention. We are gathered
here together sitting in sacred circle to connect with the All That Is.
Note: This is where you would state your intentions for either the
circle that is convened or for the clearing of the space you are about
to perform.

We invite and invoke the energies of the East; the energies of Clarity,
Illumination and the ability to See Life from a Great Perspective. We
invite Eagle, Hawk and Owl to be with us in our circle tonight. May
we fly high with them so we may see life from a greater perspective.
We invite and invoke Archangel Michael through the East Doorway.

We invite and invoke the energies of the South into our circle tonight. We invite the energies
of healing; healing of our hearts, our minds, our bodies, our spirits and our emotions and of
our relationships. We ask for healing of our relationships, not only of our relationships with
others, but the relationship we have with ourselves. We invite Snake and Coyote through the
South Door for Transformation and Transmutation to help us to learn our lessons from our
mistakes and to be able to laugh at ourselves when we make mistakes. We invite Archangel
Raphael through the South Door.

We invite and invoke the energies of the West into our circle tonight. We invite the energies of
Introspection and the Look within Place that each and every one of us has to go within
ourselves to know the truth, to know the answers. We invite Bear and her cave to help us to
recognize when retreat is sometimes more powerful than action. We invite Archangel Gabriel
through the West Door.

We invite and invoke the energies of the North into our circle tonight. We invite the energies
of our Ancestors and those Who Have Walked on the Path before Us. We honor the energy of
our Elders who are still with us here on the Planet that we make the time to spend with them
and listen to their stories, and invite their wisdom so we may learn from their experiences. We
open our hearts and minds to messages and inspiration. We invite White Buffalo Calf Woman
and the 13 Original Clan Mothers, all our guides and angels to be with us in circle tonight. We
invite Archangel Uriel through the North Doorway.

We honor the Sky Above Us and the Earth Beneath our Feet and Within ourselves and we know
and acknowledge that we are all connected, we are all related. We are One. Aho! Hey! Hey!‖

The energy of the circle is set. Everything that happens during the ceremony in performed in a
clockwise direction. If they have a smudge blend burning, usually in an abalone shell, it is sent
around the circle in a clockwise direction so that each person sitting in the circle can smudge
themselves. This ritual helps to clear away negative energy and negative thought forms. If
someone wants to use a drum or a rattle, it is passed all the way around the circle in a
clockwise direction. If someone needs to leave the circle, they leave in a clockwise direction
and they return to their seat in a clockwise direction. All people in the circle maintain quiet
while anyone else is speaking in the circle to respect and listen to the one who is expressing

They say this ritual works well with or without the smudge blend. It can be done in a solitary
practice to invite and invoke guardians and archangels to light their presence upon a space or
a building. This invocation is also often considered a shortened version of connecting with the
Medicine Wheel. They use this invocation within consciousness as a prayer to invite the
protection and blessings available to everyone at anytime.

Oh Spirit of the East, Land of the rising Sun, Of Air, the winds that blow across the lands. Of
new beginnings each day. and of open horizons. We ask for your wisdom and blessing here
with us today. Please join us, Spirit of the East.

Oh Spirit of the South, Place of Passion, Fire and Creation and inspiration, whose warm breath
reminds us of summer days. Ignite our hearts with love. We ask for your wisdom and blessing
here with us today. Please join us, Spirit of the South.

Oh Spirit of the West, the land of the setting Sun, Of water and Autumn's whisper. Bless us
with the knowledge of the peace which follows the harvest of a fruitful life. We ask for your
wisdom and blessing here today. Please join us, Spirit of the West.

Oh Spirit of the North, place of quiet, stillness, of cave and deep earth. Place of thankfulness for
the knowledge and blessings that have come to us with time. We ask your wisdom and blessing
here today. Please join us, Spirit of the North.

Oh Spirit of Mother Earth, you support us each day, welcoming our roots deep into your heart.
You nurture and guide us finding sustenance and support. help us to give thanks Always for
Your bounty. We ask for your wisdom and blessing here today. Please join us Spirit of Mother

Oh Spirit of Father Sky, of the angelic realms, the countless stars of the night remind us that
you are vast beautiful and majestic beyond all of our knowing or understanding. Your light
shines upon the earth both day and night guiding our steps. We ask for your wisdom and
blessing here today. Please join us, Father Sky.
Oh Spirit of our souls within, Place of union, love and reverence. We are grateful for this gift
of life and for the love that guides our way. We open our hearts and join with all in love. It is

Great Spirit of the East, Place of the rising Sun, Who counts the years of our lives! and the
opportunities of each day. Strengthen us that we may not neglect our gifts, nor the hopes of
each day and the hopes of each year.

Great Spirit of the South, whose warm breath of compassion melts the ice that gathers round
our hearts, whose fragrance speaks of warm days, kindle our love into growth of true and
living realities. Teach us that who is truly strong is also kind, wise, tempers justice with mercy,
courage with compassion.

Great Spirit of the West, the land of the setting Sun, with Your soaring mountains and free,
wide rolling prairies, bless us with knowledge of the peace which follows effort of striving and
the freedom which emits like a flowing robe in the winds of a well-lived life. Teach us that the
end is better than the beginning and that the setting sun is glorious and our lives not lived in
Great Spirit of the North, who brings wisdom with age and time Bringing the waters of the air
Who covers the Earth with a sparkling crystal above whose deep tranquility every sound is
beautiful. Temper us with strength to withstand the biting blizzards yet make us thankful for
the beauty which follows and lies deep over the warm Earth in its wake.

Great Spirit of the heavens in the days infinite light and amid the countless stars of the night
remind us that you are vast that you are beautiful and majestic beyond all of our knowing or
understanding but also that you are no further from us than the tilting upwards of our heads
and the raising of our eyes.

Great Spirit of Mother Earth beneath our feet Master of metals, Germinator of seeds and the
Storer of the Earth's resources, help us to give thanks Always for Your present bounty.
Great Spirit of our souls within, burning in our heart's desire and in our innermost
aspirations, speak to us now and always so that we may be aware of our greatness and
goodness of spirit, This gift of life and be worthy of happiness Our priceless privilege of living.
~~author unknown~~

We receive and bless now Creation in the Seven Directions – East, South, West & North –
Above, Below and Center. As we pray facing the Direction being addressed…let us take deep
breaths and know the power-strength of that direction:

O Great Spirit of the EAST, we turn to you where the sun comes up, from where the power of
light and refreshment come. Let your warm breeze open us to the miracle of birth and fill us
with new hopes and dreams. Let your light, the color of fresh rising in our life,
be glory to you. Breathe deeply! x3

O Great Spirit of the SOUTH, spirit of all that is warm and gentle and refreshing, we ask you to
give us this spirit of growth, of fertility, of gentleness. Give us seeds that the flowers, trees and
fruits of the earth may grow. Give us the warmth of good friendships. O Spirit of the South,
send the warmth and the growth of your blessings. Breathe deeply! x3

O Great Spirit of the WEST, where the sun goes down each day to come up the next, we turn to
you in praise of sunsets and in thanksgiving for changes. You are the great colored sunset of
red which illuminates us. You are the powerful cycle which pulls us to transformation. Keep us
open to life's changes. Breathe deeply! x3

O Great Spirit of the NORTH, we come to you and ask for the strength and the power to bear
what is cold and harsh in life. Whatever is cold and uncertain in our life, we ask you to give us
the strength to bear it. Of Spirit of Life and Spirit of the North, we ask you for clarity as bright
as the North Star, and for strength and warmth. Breathe deeply! x3

O Great Spirit of all that is ABOVE, of everything that soars, of all high visions, we honor you
and glorify you for the power that you are. Lift our minds and our hearts above the earth so

that they may never be afraid of great heights. O Spirit of All that is Above, put us on the wings
of spirit travel so that we may know this world. Breathe deeply! x3

O Spirit of all that is BELOW, of all that pulls us to deeper places, to the depths of ourselves, we
turn to you in the memory of all that goes down. We ask you to give us the strength and the
courage to face deaths in our lives. When we experience losses and change let us see them as
your revelation. O Spirit of All that is Below, purify us. Breathe deeply!

O Great Spirit of everything that is CENTER we come to you with gratitude. We thank you for
calling us to be centered within ourselves. Remind us that it is only from this Center that we
reach out to others. Breathe through us that Your work of justice may be done. O Great Spirit
of everything of the heart and everything that is mystery, send us forth to walk a way of beauty
and holiness, caring, and hope. Let us never forget that You are the Center. Breathe deeply! x3

Prayers and Blessings

1. Ceremony Blessing
May our Ceremonies
Our songs, our dances, our prayers
our fires, our breath,
our rattling and drumming
be golden filaments
stretching and tied in one
with other Circles
with the Great Mountains
with the Great Trees,
with the Great Waters,
with the Great Sun,
with the Great Moon,
May our Ceremonies
be golden filaments stretching
tied in one with other Circles
from the Land of the Rising Sun
through the Land of Standing Sun
to the Land of Setting Sun
and all the Lands Betwixt and Between.
May all the Spirits help us
May the Day Sun
May the Night Sun
May All That Is
All That Is
See us, Hear Us,
Witness Us
As One with this World
One with the Road
Going on Forever
and the Ceremonies
Never Ending on this Path.
Blessing Blessing Blessing
One with this World
So May We Be
written by Carol Proudfoot-Edgar
on behalf of Tending Sacred Circles

2. Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Celebrating the Summer Solstice
In ceremony we bring together
Eternal timelessness and temporal time.
Through ceremony we connect the
Eternal rhythms with daily living.
We allow our world to be illuminated
by the grander world of the Cosmos, of the Seasons,
of the rites of passage universal to all beings.
Birthing, growing, maturing, dying, and rebirthing.

Ceremonies reflect our knowing:

We are related to the eternal Source
from which all life flows and returns.
Doing ceremony together,
we become the ceremony
Doing ceremony together
We learn to live in a Sacred Way.
At the very heart of shamanic living,
dwells the understanding of the profound significance of doing ceremonies.
And now comes round the turning time
called the Summer Solstice
and here we offer some examples
of what Circles might do to celebrate
this Seasonal shifting of the Wheel of Life.
written by Carol Proudfoot-Edgar
on behalf of Tending Sacred Circles

3. Great Mystery Prayer

Oh Grand Mystery;
Preserve the lives of such of our elders who are inclined to give counsel to the young.
Preserve our children and multiply their number and let them be the comfort and support of
declining years. Preserve our corn and animals, and let no famine desolate our land; protect
our villages and guard our lives.

Great Mystery;
If now be time for some of us to close our lives on Mother Earth, let us journey to the great
country of our spirits where we may meet our friends and relatives and where you are pleased
to shine upon all with a bright, warm, eternal blaze!

Great Mystery;
Make known to us your pleasure by sending us the Spirits of Dreams proclaim your will in the
night, and we will perform in the day.

Oh Great, Oh Grand Mystery;

Harken to our voice. Remember us always, for we are all they children, descended from you.
author unknown

4.10 Native American Commandments, Path

of the Feather, and Dreamwalking by

1. Treat the Earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.
2. Remain close to the Great Spirit.
3. Show great respect for all of your fellow beings.
4. Work together for the benefit of all Mankind.
5. Give assistance and kindness wherever needed.
6. Do what you know to be right.
7. Look after the well-being of mind and body.
8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.
9. Be truthful and honest at all times.
10. Take full responsibility for your actions.

The Path of the Feather is about becoming a shaman through your own life as a vision quest.
The Path of the Feather as a teaching, is about becoming a contemporary shaman by seeing and
hearing the voices of the living earth. It is about finding out who you are by making medicine
wheels and listening to the voices of the spirit animals and ancient ones. It is about you living
your ordinary life as your vision quest, as your shamanic journey. It is about you becoming one
who sees and one who heals the earth with intent

This shamanic journey is your personal story of transformation, empowerment, and healing.
The Path of the Feather is about your journey right now, embodying the sacred in the simplest
ways. Here, the shaman's journey is not presented as something that is unusual or foreign, it is
about seeing the earth as sacred, and living your life as sacred, from where you are now. It is
about seeing yourself as a shaman, about seeing who you are on earth and what you are about
to do. It is about personal transformation, about opening your eyes and awakening.

What is a shaman and how does the concept apply to art and healing ?The shaman in tribal
cultures is the person who sees into the sacred world and shares the visions with the people.
The shaman brings their sacred visions out as art, music, dance, and storytelling. By this ritual
art process, the shaman heals themselves, others, and the earth. By having visions of healing
and doing sacred ritual the shaman makes the visions come true. This is ancient magic, ancient
healing. The shaman manifests reality in the outer world, from the visionary world. That is the
someway the world was created from God's vision. We are all her vision on earth, we are.

The Path of the Feather is about you going inward to your source of power. It does not need a
teacher, or a trip to India, it only needs you where you are now, and the earth around you. The
Path of the Feather has three simple steps. The first step is the making of the shaman, which
involves surrender to the earth. It involves your reframing your whole life as sacred and
healing. The second step is seeing the earth as sacred, which involves hearing the ancient
spirits sing, and seeing out of the eyes of the spirit animals in order to understand the earth's
story. The third step is the healing, the making of the living medicine wheel, which involves
doing rituals to heal yourself , others, and the earth. In the moments that you do this, you will
be found, and know who you are, because the living earth gives you the gifts of who you are
and what you are to do. This will lead you to the place on the earth where you will know that

you are perfectly loved. It will bring out your inner artist and healer. It will let you be yourself.
For all we are is her most beautiful aspect, her artist and healer, her visionary dreamer.

In our work with healing artists, we have found that they can work better if they see
themselves as doing sacred or shamanic work. This is because the first artist and the first
healer were one, the shaman, so the concept itself is deeply rooted in history.

We call this site The Path of the Feather because out of all the traces of the animals, feathers are
the easiest to find. It takes a special moment, a sacred space, to see the beauty of the feather,
and if you have paused long enough to notice, and stopped long enough to pick it up, you can
be assured you are already on this path. If you have never stopped long enough to pick up a
feather it is now time for you to begin. Birds leave their feathers as their traces all around us.

You won't find other traces from animals around you as easily. Unless you are lucky enough to
live in a wild place, bears or lions don't leave traces near your home except in your visions. But
right in front of you in the parking lot of the market is a feather taking you on this journey. It
will take you to the sacred sites, it will sing to you of the legends, it will make you alive. It will
take you to the sacred places near you, and give you gifts to tell you who you are and what you
are to do. Each time you pick up a feather it is a reminder that you are on the right path and
that your life is sacred again.

On the Path of the Feather, we pray for world peace. In this dark time, making medicine
wheels for peace and forgiveness is our work. Making art, writing, dancing and making music
for world peace is our work. Pray and make medicine wheels to heal those who are in pain, to
forgive and bring
world peace.

Let me see if I can explain Dreamwalking:

When I enter into the other Realms of existence, I glide where my guides take me. If I happen
to pass through someone‘s dream, they normally won't remember me anyway. Most people
dream around forty dreams a night. I can be considered a Peeping tom I guess. But it's easier to
enter into someone's dream with their permission.

Dreamwalking is a serious experience that should never be done alone and without your
Spiritual Guides and the Power Animals. You might get lost and not find your way back to your
body. Shaman use the Dreamwalks to either talk to the Spirits of the Higher Plains seeking the
future, the Present or the Dream Realms helping out sickness, and the lower plains to talk to
the Dead. It is a state of Trance that takes training to achieve. It took me several years under my
Grandfather before I could do it correctly.

So if you are having disturbing dreams, a Shaman is one of your people who can help you.
This help can come in several different ways.
Dream interpretation, Explaining why your dreaming bad dreams, or helping remove the
Spirit that is haunting your dreams. I have seen all three. The Shaman can enter into his trance
and enter into your dream to see what is going on.

I hope I have explained this to you enough so you can understand now what a Dreamwalker is.

On Circle Casting and the World Tree by

Sarah Lawless

Whether you call it circle casting, treading the mill, or the compass
round, the intention of this practice is to create a ritually purified
space to open a protected doorway between worlds so that the
ritualist(s) can commune with the deities or spirits from the other
realms. The circle casting method, as it is done today in Wicca, is
based on that of the Golden Dawn and also the Key of Solomon.
―Circles‖ have been used for magic long before Wicca, but not using
the Wiccan method of invoking the four elements and the extra
element of spirit by drawing invoking pentagrams with an athame.
Despite its younger age, this Wiccan method is very effective and a
good standard practice for ritualists and magicians whether they are influenced by Gerald
Gardner, Paul Huson, or The Key of Solomon itself. Good resources to draw upon for Wiccan
circle casting are Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson and A Witch‘s Bible by Janet and
Stewart Farrar.

What most modern Witches and Pagans today don‘t realize is that in casting a circle they are
actually accessing the universal World Tree or axis mundi. Circle casting is actually a
misnomer. It isn‘t a circle or ring being created but instead a perfect sphere with one dome
rising above the earth and the other below. In my personal opinion, when one casts a circle
invoking the four elements and the extra spirit, one is only creating half the sphere. This is the
half accessing the upperworld of the Gods and ignoring the realm of the dead below. Casting a
circle is an act of duplicating the World Tree or accessing it as the axis mundi. This intention is
found in all Pagan cultures across the world of both polytheistic and animistic beliefs. For
example, the Egyptians and their djed of Osiris which is considered the god‘s spine and axis
mundi of the world just like Legba of both African and Haitian belief is associated with the
poteau-mitan of the hounfour‗s peristyle which is also considered to be Legba‘s spine and the
World Tree. This poteau-mitan is used to draw down the lwa or draw up the ancestors known
as the ghédé.

The Norse and Scandinavians also had centre poles in their wooden temples and places of
outdoor worship. These poles were made of wood or were live trees and were where rituals
took place as this pole was their representation of Yggdrasil – the Norse world tree. When the
Vikings sailed to settle in Iceland, they brought their carved centre poles with them and threw
them into the sea believing if the poles floated ashore it was a sign the land was blessed and
they should settle there. They also believed that to commune with the gods they must reach
them through the World Tree and it was the same for the spirits of the dead and the gods of the
underworld Hel. The Mayans, Aztecs, Sumerians, Assyrians, Celts, Greeks, Hindus, as well as
animistic Native tribes all have a world tree or ―tree of life‖ as well. In some cases the World
Tree is a ―World Mountain‖ or a colossal standing stone instead.

In some pagan cultures, the axis mundi is itself a god who is believed to guard the gates
between all realms and instead of casting a circle, the god is called upon through the use of a
tree, pole, pillar, staff, or wand which the World Tree god is believed to inhabit or be drawn
into. In many cultures this representation is then danced around while chanting to induce
trance. Then this deity is propitiated with offerings and asked which gate (to the upper or
under world) the participants would like the deity to open. The Norse called upon Heimdal or

Odin, the Greeks upon Hermes, the Gauls upon Esus, the Haitians upon Papa Legba, and so on.
Depending on the culture, there were also deities who specifically guarded a gate either to the
realm of the dead or the realm of the gods. An ancient Roman necromancer would‘ve called
upon Hecate rather than Mercury to open the gate to the underworld.

External Circle Casting for Individuals or Groups

There is more than one method to access the World Tree. One is internal and one is external.
For the external method, which is shamanic in origin, the four directions are called (north,
east, south, and west), but they do not have elements corresponding to them. Then, both the
upperworld and underworld are called after the four compass points making for a total of six
directions invoked to duplicate the World Tree and open the doorway to the otherworld. When
it comes to calling the four main directions one could call upon the four dwarves associated
with them in the Norse faith, the four bees of the Mayan faith, or the four supernatural
creatures associated with the four directions in ancient Chinese belief depending on what
cultural tradition you practice. For the above and the below one can use the terms for the
realm of the Gods and the realm of the dead used in one‘s own tradition or cultural mythology.
Drumming is also a common method of summoning the six directions and many images of the
world tree and the cosmology of the earth are found on the drums of animistic peoples. Drums
were considered by shamans to be horses or deer which allowed the drumming shaman to
travel up or down the World Tree or invoke the World Tree itself. Frame drums are especially
useful for this purpose. Coming up with a chant for the six directions to sing while drumming
is an effective way to create the sphere and access the World Tree.

Below is a diagram of what the ritualist is creating along with two common ancient symbols
which reflect it. Think of the circle (the sphere) as a metaphysical elevator that moves up or
down the axis mundi. Those practicing Traditional Witchcraft who are influenced by the
teachings of Robert Cochrane may notice the diagram is very similar to Cochrane‘s stang with
the two crossed arrows hung upon it and a wreath encircling them

If you practice within the umbrella of Traditional Witchcraft you can use a stang or staff in
your rituals to access the World Tree. For ritual, the stang is struck into the ground outdoors
(at a crossroad is best). The part in the earth reaching down to the underworld like the roots of
a tree, the branch representing our realm, and the tines reaching to the heavens uniting the
three realms and opening a doorway to the Otherworld. After calling upon the six directions
the gods or spirits may be drawn down or up through the stang to be petitioned or
communicated with during the ritual. A live tree or staff can be used in a similar manner.

Those with an interest in etymology may find the old meanings of stang very interesting
indeed. In the Scottish and Anglo-Saxon tongues it most commonly means pole, staff, stick, or
shaft, such as a hay fork, distaff, walking stick, the beam of a plough, or the axle of a car. If
one digs a little deeper into the varying meanings, stang was also used to mean key, phallus,
arrow, serpent‘s fang, intoxication, or ―a means of stimulating the conscience‖ (Dictionary of
the Scots Language). Interesting no? It certainly explains the staff usually found accompanying
shamans, cunning folk, sorcerers, and magicians in history, folklore, and mythology. The word
Völva, used for Norse seeresses, translates as ―wand bearer‖. They were able to access the spirit
realms and commune with gods and ancestors for the people of their communities.

Accessing the World Tree Internally

The internal method of accessing the World Tree is the elemental method. If the World Tree is
a spine then we can also look upon our own spine as a miniature axis mundi. Many culture‘s
myths and folklore say humans were created from trees, but perhaps we were created from the

Tree? I believe in the three sacred elements of earth (land), water (sea), and air (sky) and that
fire is the extra element that completes us and gives us our intelligence and cunning – that fire
is spirit. If I want to walk between worlds in my body I go to a place where the three main
elements are present bringing the fire in my own body. When I wish to commune with my
deities and familiar spirits, or to leave my body, I call upon the four elements contained within
my own body while inducing trance in order to cross between worlds. This is an internal
method because it is done without any external movement or actions besides possibly chanting
or breathing methods to induce trance. Within us all is a doorway to the World Tree. Some can
access it and some cannot. Some just need to find the key. If you are in a tradition that is
influenced by the Kabbalah, the internal method may already be very familiar to you. I don‘t
personally use the Kabbalistic Tree of Life for this method, but it can also be very effective.
Those influenced by yogic practices may use the chakras to access their internal axis mundi.
These Eastern methods are not necessary to achieve the same effect by those practicing within
a different cultural framework. The internal method is how the witch or shaman accesses the
road to the otherworlds and walks between them. Some call this method astral travel, some
flying, and others hedgecrossing.

Let us bring the World Tree back into circle casting and not forget the why and wherefore of
what we do in ritual as witches, shamans, druids, and magicians.

Spirit Guides & Totems by Takatoka

Manataka American Indian Council

I think I could turn and live with animals,

they're so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied,
not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another,
nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.
("Song of Myself", Walt Whitman, 1819-1892)
Talk To The Animals
Mental or Spiritual?
Power of Animal Spirits
Animal Worship
Finding Your Animal Guide
Types of Animal Guides
Meeting Your Animal Guide
Preparation For The Journey
Other Suggestions
Spirit Guide Animals - Defined
Spirit Guide Books

A long time ago, humans were created to be caretakers of the garden -- Mother Earth. They
held all things of creation sacred. The people respected Nature and understood they were only
a small part of the whole circle of life. Humans knew each part of creation played a significant
role in the contentment and survival of the other. They accepted the divine idea that all things
were equal and no animal, including man, held dominion over other parts of creation.

Humankind knew if they attempted to conquer Mother Earth, they would bring great suffering
upon themselves. Man knew that Nature was not ‗wild‘ and hostile but was a benevolent
friend. Then, by a twist of organized religious dogma, many began to think humans are the
greatest and most important part of creation and they saw Nature as ‗fallen‘ and sinful. Man
has attempted to divorce ourselves from Nature to the detriment of all creation.

American Indians, also known as the People of the Land, traditionally and historically hold a
special knowledge of the land and its inhabitants. Intimate knowledge of the world
surrounding the American Indian was possible because of a belief system that considered all
things of creation equal and necessary, worthy of respect and honor.

The results of our belief system is tremendously beneficial to the world. We gave the world
knowledge of a form of government now enjoyed by people of the United States – democracy.
American Indians first domesticated over half of today‘s world food resources. A vast majority
of the world‘s pharmacopoeia (healing medicine) came from American Indian tremendous
knowledge of the plant kingdom. Our knowledge of plant medicine, healing stones, healing
clay, and animal wisdom is unmatched in among any people in history.

Although there are over five hundred American Indian tribes, speaking more than one-
hundred and fifty languages, there exists universal beliefs that transcend ethnic, cultural and
geographic boundaries.

Common among those traditional teachings are the basic beliefs that we should:

Never take more than we need;

Thank Creator for what we have or what we will receive;
Use all of what we have;
Give away what we do not need.

American Indians know to respect Nature and kill only what we eat and use every part of the
animal. We do not waste life nor disrespect their spirits but honor and thank them for
providing us with life and comfort. We ask our spirit guides to lead us to the spirit of the
animal we killed for food so that we may pray in thanksgiving to its spirit. We honor their
cousins by leaving a gift where the animal fell.

Today, as in the old days, American Indians give special recognition to the power of the
animal spirits. We wear their skins and feathers in ceremony and dance. We paint them on
our bodies and carry parts of them in our medicine bags. We paint the animals on our homes
and wear animal fetishes.

These practices allow us to remain connected to the animal guides so they may teach us their
powers and give as lessons of life. These acts remind us that all things in creation are our
brothers, sisters, cousins, and more importantly, our teachers and friends. As humans, we too
are animal spirits.

American Indians view all things in creation as having spiritual energy. All things are
connected and worthy of our respect and reverence. Our way is to seek balance and harmony
within the complex tapestry of life called the Great Circle of Life. As we move within the
circle, we emphasize these truths:

Everything on earth is alive;

Everything on earth has purpose;
Everything on earth is connected;
Everything on earth is to be embraced.

A principal tenant of our belief is that all things are connected and we are related to all things
in the circle.

All things on Earth Mother and all things in the Universe are capable of being Spirit Guides.
Why? Because the Spirit of the Creator is in all things.

Each thing on Earth Mother and each thing in the Universe has its own particular appearance,
traits and other distinguishing qualities. In a general way, we can draw certain lessons from
these traits and qualities for each object or thing in the universe. We do not and should not
attach a particular "meaning" to these things as to do so would be like creating spiritual dogma
or doctrine -- and this is something that is a big no, no.

(Organized religions are quite comfortable and totally dependent on man's written dogma or
doctrine for their survival and faith. We call this regimentation "Spiritual Thought Boxes"
because there is little or no room for individual divine revelation found within the confines of
a controlling dogma. Nearly the opposite is found within American Indian beliefs that allow
for infinite meanings and interpretations that we call "Spiritual Freedom." In the same way
everything of creation is different from all other things, so it is with our spiritual beliefs -
founded within the uninhibited nature of all Creation.)

Therefore, we caution you: Statements made below about the traits, habits and particular
distinguishing qualities of various animals, are in no way intended to give a human definition
or meaning to other spiritual entities, objects or things. Messages of this nature can only come
to the individual through the Creator.

Some say knowledge of the natural power of animal guides has been lost. This is not so. Many
people think animals are not spiritual – having no spirit or soul. Most think animals are less
intelligent than humans, savage and without society or conscience. This is not so.

It is said that man once spoke with the animals; however, man lost this ability and other
powers when he placed himself above the animals as master of the earth having dominion over
all things.

Truly, the intellect of animal is different from that of man. Animals are taught differently and
speak in different ways. When intelligence is measured in human terms, the animal does not
fare well, but if the test were reversed, humans would fail to measure up to animal standards.

Animals know the time and place to migrate, but man cannot find his way without a compass
or the stars. Animals live well without the need of tools or weapons. Man cannot. Animals
are happy and contented in their environment. Man is not. Animals live among their families
all their lives. Man does not. Animals have found the right way to live with their limitations
and skills without rancour or strife. Man has not.

Man has long attempted to re-establish communication with animals while trying to teach
apes, dolphins and other animal species sign language and human sounds of speech. Why?
Why do they try to make them walk up a mountain backwards? Animals do not possess the
physical or mental ability for human speech, so why do they try? If humans are so intelligent,
would it not make more sense for humans to learn animal speech?

Thinking in this way, we must realize many animals do not always communicate between
themselves and other species through sound. We must remember, animals also communicate
by touch, smell, and body movement, as well as sound.
There are two other forms of animal communication. The first is sub-spirit or psychic
(mental) telepathy and the second is spirit. American Indians use these two methods as well as
the other more physical forms of communication to talk with animal guides.

This presentation focuses on the two latter forms of communication as we suggest the meaning
of various animal guides (totems) in human terms. The animal spirit guides presented here are
but a small sampling of the hundreds of animal spirit guides that exist in Nature.

Animals have an instinctual awareness of human personality and moods. It is often said that
animals can ‗smell‘ human fear. To the best of our knowledge, this notion has never been
scientifically proven, however anyone who has ever worked with animals extensively knows
this axiom to be correct. Animals not only ‗smell‘ the single emotion of fear, but can also
discern a broad spectrum of human emotions and personalities. How is this possible without
direct communication?

It is our opinion that animals do not ‗smell‘ human emotions, but instead possess a form of
ancient mental telepathy or method of thought transference not understood by modern man.
Animals do communicate with man by receiving mental messages and they carry this ability
with them in spirit as they die.

Communicating with animal spirit guides is not easy. Animals have a different consciousness
and perceive things differently than humans. In her excellent book, "The Magical Lore of
Animals", Yvonne Aburrow says, " is important not to anthropomorphize animals [ascribing
human form or attributes to a being or thing not human]. They are sentient beings, but they
have a different consciousness from our own. When dealing with animals, therefore, one
should never assume that they are exactly the same as a human; nor, conversely, treat them
like an inanimate thing..." Thus, some messages from an animal spirit guides may be
confusing, if not impossible to understand without considerable practice and patience.

We use the terms ‗animal spirit guides‘ and ‗animal totems‘ interchangeably here, as we refer
to either physical or spiritual manifestations from a general or individualized viewpoint. Our
personal preference is to use the term ‗animal spirit guide‘ as it more closely describes an
American Indian practice and the latter is often connected with Eastern European shamanism.

We also occasionally hear the terms spirit totem, power animal, and spirit animal used to
describe an entity that can be either physical or spirit that acts as a guide, messenger or
protector. Fallible

An important thing to remember: A spirit guide is not necessarily an animal. A spirit guide
can be anything in Creation that speaks to a person through dreams, physical appearance,
magnetic resonance (vibration); or by signs, symbols, words, or any other method or means of
communication. A spirit guide can be clouds in the sky or the wind; it could be a horse or a
caterpillar; it could be an ancestor or other human form; it could be anything that speaks to
you -- to the heart and soul. It is more comfortable for many people to call a spirit guide an

A spirit guide is a divine entity. To believe this is to acknowledge and accept the power and
glory of the Creator of All Things that may take on any form, at any time, for any purpose.

Regardless of the proliferation of hundreds web sites and books that associate "birth totems" or
some other weird concoction such as "animal spirit cards" or "medicine cards" with American

Indian belief systems, there is none and never has been any such association. Purveyors of so-
called birth totems combine our belief in animal spirits with astrology and assign various
animal spirit guides to a particular birth date of the individual. Animal spirit cards also assign
an animal spirit to the individual by the chance shuffle of the cards. Both of these practices
have no basis in American Indian religious beliefs.

An animal spirit guide is not and cannot be chosen by the individual. (See Finding Your
Animal Totem below) These 'games' do not work and they give their victims false impressions
that may lead a sincere person far astray from their goal of connecting with animal spirits to
help them in their walk in life. Yes, the games are cute and interesting but the vendors are
replacing spiritual beliefs with modern plastic and disrespect ancient ways in the process of
making money.

There is at least on major "psychic" website that says, "...Spirit guides are often attributed to
giving gut feelings and intuition about people or situations..." and the way to connect with a
spirit guide is through "...some meditation sessions, this will allow your body and mind to
become receptive and open communication channels..."

This is pure New Age mumbo-jumbo, poppy-cock. First, the psychic website fails to
acknowledge and accept the omnipotence of God in the process of creating and empowering
the Spirit Guide. Second, they give all the power to humans who will invent and control the
Spirit through psychic "gut feelings and intuition." A true Spirit Guide is divine and sacred. It's
power, wisdom and actions stem solely from the Holy Spirit of God.

To believe otherwise is an exercise in vanity -- narcissism and a grievous error. The error is
allowing oneself to be guided, not by the Spirit of God, but by a human-flawed supposition
usually spawned by vanity or other emotional responses.

You do not choose a Spirit Guide as your personal spirit guide. The Spirit chooses you and they
decide to whom they will reveal themselves and make their friend. Do not fall into the trap of
saying, ―Gosh, I think the wolf is a smart, good looking and powerful animal, so the wolf will
become my animal guide.‖ It does not work this way.

Each Animal has its own Medicine which is unique to that specific creature as gifted by the
Great Mystery and its spirit cannot be chosen like the color of your new car. Discovering who
your animal guides are is a process of paying attention to the spirits around you and following
the signs. It is a process of developing your inner knowledge and spiritual understanding.

An individual cannot be assigned a spirit guide by another person, regardless of who that
person maybe, no more than another person can say how or when the Great Mystery of Life
will be known to you.

What happens if you want an animal spirit so bad you can taste it (not literally) and one has
not come to you? We have two suggestions for this case. First, pray about it. Second, be
satisfied with whatever happens or does not happen. It if comes, then it comes. If it does not,
then it does not. End of question.


American Indians see Spirit Guides or totems as powerful guardians of the land or spirits of
living animals. Some psychologists conjecture that a vision or message from a Spirit Guide
may be certain aspects of the human psyche resurfacing from the pre-conscious ancient
human mind. For example, fish living in the sea are associated with the unconscious mind and
symbolize a deep mind.

Another example, by meditating on the various qualities of reptiles and their mythical
associations, it may be possible to access the reptilian aspects of the mind that correspond to
the limbic system in the brain, which deals with sensory impressions, pleasure and pain.
Likewise, by meditating on various mammals, a path is opened to the mammalian aspects of
the human psychic corresponding to the thalamus and the hypothalamus in the brain
associated with the emotions, a sense of community, and instinctual wisdom.

No comment here.

The natural power of animal spirit guides has not been lost. The knowledge and power of
animal guides is alive and can be effectively used to improve our lives and all creation.
American Indians call the process of connecting with animal guides and other parts of creation
as being ‗One with Nature.‘

Connecting with your animal guide will make you a better person. You will be healthier
physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. You will see the world and all things in it
with more clarity and understanding.

Animals are wondrous happy creatures. There is no doubt that animals have beautiful,
balanced emotions. They love and defend one another. They feel sorrow and melancholy. Yet,
there has never been a war between animal species. They know nothing about greed, envy,
and hate. They live their entire lives without sin.

They have many amazing powers and use those powers only to benefit their kind and not to
overcome their opponents. There is a reason why the Creator put all of us together on the
same planet. A part of that reason is to learn from one another.

Animals are here to teach humans. They have many powerful lessons to give. They remind us
that we are only a small part of creation; that each part of creation has a place; that each
creature has its own skill and wisdom.

For the learning process to begin we must develop a relationship with one or more animal
guides and this requires time and patience. This does not mean you must be with the animal
physically. But instead, will learn about the traits, habits, skills and spirit of the animal from
afar. As with any new knowledge, practice is important to hone learning into a useful skill.
The rewards will be understanding, love, light energy, skillful knowledge and wisdom.

Moreover, the reward is having a powerful spiritual friend.

Both domesticated and free animals offer an immense heritage of myth, folklore and
symbolism. As we learn about animals, it is important to know their symbolic meaning as a

point of reference and comparison, however we must keep in mind that symbols are cultural
in nature and differ from place to place, from time to time and may not reflect the nature of
the animal as you feel it. Give time to the study of their characteristics, habitat and position in
the eco-system.

Since the beginning of mankind, people believed in the extraordinary powers of animals. This
belief originates in animism – the idea that animals possess souls and consciousness. Early
people around the world honored animals for having a spiritual life similar to their own and
the spirit of the animal existed after death.

They recognized their dependency upon the animal and respected the animal's superior
strength, speed, and other qualities. Some cultures held the animal sacred because it was an
important part of their lives. Various types of animals, especially snakes and birds, were held in
great esteem by early peoples around the world and many cultures adopted prayers, rituals
and built temples in which to worship them. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Hindus,
Buddhists, Aztecs and other cultures venerated and worshiped various animals, birds and

However, there is an important distinction between these cultures and North American
Indians. Most North American Indians were careful not to worship any part of creation, but
held the whole of creation sacred. They constructed no idols or temples to worship animals,
birds or reptiles but made fetishes, art and others works honoring their animal cousins.

Symbolic of the four sacred directions, four seasons, and the four colors of man, there are four
basic types of animal guides.

Whether an animal spirit comes by dreams, signs and symbolic events, or actual events it is
important to first determine if the guide is a Messenger Guide (Totem), Shadow Guide, Journey
Guide or Life Guide.

The meaning and lessons an animal guide brings will differ according to the type of guide it
may be. Learning to differentiate between the four types of totems is critical to knowing how
to react and the actions you will take when an animal totem makes itself known to you. All
guides are powerful.

A Messenger Guide quickly comes into your life and then leaves once a message is understood.
The time a Message Guide stays in your psychic is relative to you seeing and accepting the
message. The message itself can be spiritual in nature, or it can be a warning. The message
may deal with a seemingly mundane aspect of your life or it may be a wake-up call for some
important action you must make. Sometimes the animal messenger will come during an
unusual event and make a powerful statement and others come on the wind as a whisper. A
messenger guide can cause you delays or some unforeseen help in your life. They can be both
negative and positive in nature for they are totally impartial.

A Shadow Animal Guide is one that invades you with fear. Its purpose it to teach a lesson you
have not learned from repeated mistakes because of anger, avarice, greed, insecurity, or other
negative thoughts. A Shadow Guide will return again and again bearing strong feelings of

fear until its message is acted upon or a change in lifestyle or actions are incorporated into
your life. The Shadow Guide is powerful. It can help you to overcome fear by bringing truth
and turning fear into a helper animal guide or spirit animal guide. However, if ignored the
Shadow Guide can become dangerous and its powers will have a negative affect on your life.
The Shadow Guide lives in the spirit world and usually arrives during a time of testing.

A Journey Animal Guide appears at the fork in the road of your life. When a decision is made
to follow a certain path in life, the Journey Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It
represents a path that may take months or years to complete. It can be a friendly traveling
companion if the path is right. If you become lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there
help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey
Guide remains at your side until the current cycle in your life has changed. appears at the fork
in the road of your life. When a decision is made to follow a certain path in life, the Journey
Guide is there to serve as a guide along the way. It represents a path that may take months or
years to complete. It can be a friendly travelling companion if the path is right. If you become
lost along the way, the Journey Guide is there help lead the way back. Unlike a Messenger
Guide who comes and leaves quickly, the Journey Guide remains at your side until the current
cycle in your life has changed.

A Life Animal Guide is also called a Spirit Guide as it remains a part of you throughout life and
reflects your inner-spiritual self. You may have more than one Life Guide and new ones may
come during an expected time. Usually a Life Guide does not move away or disappear but
remains an integral part of your life, however, there are instances when a particular Life Guide
is no longer needed and is replaced with a new one. Its powers are always there for you and
serve as a constant reminder of your inner powers and oneness with nature. If for example
your Life Guide is Bear, you should be a person who is a solitary dweller, a seeker of
knowledge and well grounded. A Life Guide will often call upon other animal guides found
within its domain to assist in giving you special messages from time to time.

After you understand what type of animal guide has come into your life, it is necessary to
educate yourself fully as to the nature of the animal. Learn about its habitat, life cycles, what it
eats, physical characteristics, special skills and traits, social and mating habits. Go to places
where your animal guide can be found in real life. Study it in nature. Gaining insight into the
nature of your animal guide will help you to better understand its messages. Meditate on this
knowledge and discover its power and medicine.

After you learn various ways to work with the medicine of you animal spirit guide, the
medicine becomes a gateway to connecting with other spirit guides found within its domain.
Your animal spirit guide (or those spirits who choose to reveal themselves in the form of an
animal) will teach you how to align with other spirit guides and beings.

Remember: The spirit guide chooses the person. The person does not choose the spirit guide.
A person cannot simply select an animal and begin communication – the results of which are
often frustrating and unsuccessful. A spirit guide must be harmonious with the person.

Communication with your spirit guide requires reverent respect and knowledge of the ways of
the animal guide. You must find ways to honor your spirit guide. The more importance you

give to the spirit guide the more they respond to you. Most spirit guides do not immediately
acknowledge themselves to the person as they are leery of your intention and knowledge. A
spirit guide is sensitive to moods, current events, and a person‘s path in life. They must first
trust you and learn your needs and wants. You must learn to trust them and understand their
needs and wants. It takes time, patience and practice.

Sit down in a quiet place alone. Make certain there will be no distractions or interruptions.
Draw a circle around you and bless the circle with sage, cedar, sweet grass, tobacco or some
other sacred medicine. Begin your journey into the spirit world with prayer and continue with
deep meditation.

Get comfortable. Take a deep breath. Inhale, exhale deeply several time. Release your ego,
desires and expectations of what may follow. Chase away all shadows of fear and negativity.
Begin to dream of some idyllic place like a forest trail, bubbling mountain stream, or flower
covered glen. Move about in this world seeing, smelling and feeling everything. After
awhile, you will hear something and you will see a creature slowly coming to you.

The creature is friendly and invites your touch. You embrace. This is your animal spirit guide.
Spend time talking with your animal guide now.

Be open to any and all types of messages. Do not get trapped by wishing for a certain
messages. Clear your mind completely. Open your heart to its love and lessons. When your
time is finished, thank all the beings in this special place and your animal guide who has
chosen to teach you. Slowly return by the way you came into full consciousness. Open your

Honor your spirit animal guide

Wear jewellery and clothing illustrating your totem;
Decorate your space with pictures and other memorabilia;
Educate yourself on its life and habits;
Visit the habitat of your spirit guide;
Help protect its home, contribute time and resources.
Pay attention to the messages of your animal guide
Spend time in meditation with your friend and guide;
Give thanks to the Creator and your guide for its assistance;
Understand the message can be negative or positive in nature;
Listen. Even when the message seems negative;
Study the element (water, fire, air, earth) most closely associated with your spirit guide.

The World Tree In Classical Shamanism by

Karen Kelly ©January 1996

The World Tree is a common image in accounts of shamanic

experiences from both traditional societies and in modern
shamanic groups. The World Tree forms an integral part of the
shamanic cosmos, linking as it does the world of humanity with the
world of the spirits. Its appearance in numerous tales of shamanic
ritual and its depiction in the shamans‘ power objects both reflect
its importance to the shamans themselves.

The World Tree and Shamanic Cosmology

The universe of the shaman can be broadly divided into three zones - the Upper, Middle ¬and
Lower worlds, or heaven, earth and the underworld. The World Tree is the bridge that
connects these three worlds; it is the axis mundi about which the universe of the shaman
extends. And it is on the Tree that the spirits pass from one world to another.

Probably the most familiar example of the World Tree to a European audience is Yggdrasil, the
great ash tree found in Nordic mythology. Yggdrasil grows between Asgard, the realm of the
gods, Midgard, the realm of humanity and Hel, the realm of the dead. Odin, the Nordic god of
death and wisdom lives in Asgard at the top of the Tree. Each day his ravens Hugin and Munin
fly out across the realms of the Tree and bring back knowledge to Odin of what happens in the
lands below. This is a classic example of a World Tree and its ―use‖ by a shaman and his spirit

It is clear that in this Nordic example, Yggdrasil lies at the centre of the world, indeed of the
universe. This is an essential feature of the World Tree and can be found in numerous
shamans‘ accounts of their encounters with the spirit world. One of the most famous of these is
Nicholas Black Elk‘s vision which is the mission statement of the Flowering Tree Federation.
―And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle,
wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the centre grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter
all the children of one mother and one father, and I saw that it was holy.‖

So the World Tree is the centre of the world, but in a typical piece of shamanic paradox, the
centre of the world is also everywhere. It is this thinking that allows the shaman to know that
the birch tree located outside his door is the World Tree. ―Representations‖ of the World Tree
often feature in shamanic rituals. In shamanic ritual or performance, the shaman operates in
an altered state of consciousness with one foot in both realities. In this state, the
―representation‖ becomes the World Tree in fact and the place the ritual is taking place in
becomes the centre of the world.

Nepalese shamans use song and drumming to reach a trance state in which they see a certain
pine tree out in the forest. They then send other members of the village out to the location they
saw, to cut down the tree, strip it of its branches (except for a few pieces of greenery at the top)
and bring it back into the village. There it is placed upright in a hole and as a focus in ritual

Wallace Black Elk, in a recent article describing Kablaya‘s vision of the Sun Dance, speaks
about the tree which stands at the centre of the ceremony (about wehich the dancers dance) .
―In this new rite which I have just received, one of the standing people has been chosen to be
at our centre; he is the wagachun (the cottonwood); he will be our centre, and also the people,
for the tree represents the way of the people. Does it not stretch from earth here to heaven
there?‖ In the Sun Dance, The cottonwood tree found by the medicine person is brought back
to the Sun Dance site, stripped of all but its topmost branches and set up in a way which
closely resembles the Nepalese shamans‘ tree described above.

So in bringing the World Tree into the village, the shaman identifies his community as being
the centre of the universe ( whihc is of course everywhere) and reinforces the community‘s
links to the spirit world. In this role he is re-affirming the community as central to the lives of
the people of which it is made up, but also as part of the greater cosmos of which the human
world is but one part.

The World Tree as Bridge to The Land of Spirits

The World Tree is also a bridge between worlds and is the classic gateway used by both the
shaman and his spirit helpers to travel from one world to another.

In Chile the shamanesses of the Mapuche tribe shamanise from the top of carved ladders
which are topped with leafy branches and a sculpted head. In some parts of the world, spirit
ladders are interchangeable with the World Tree. From the top of the ladder the shamaness
begins to beat her drum, seeking to visit heaven and to carry her people‘s prayer to the
Mother-Father of all things. When she falls into trance, her spirit flies free and her body falls to
the ground to be caught in a blanket by the villagers.

One of the gateways I personally use between the worlds is a great silver birch tree, whose
roots I can climb down to the shores of the River of Death and whose upper boughs lie in the
realm of Sky Woman, far above. Sometimes when I do healing work I see the birch tree in the
centre of the room I am working on and see my spirit teacher in the form of a great white owl
perched in its branches.

In acting as a bridge between the realities of the ordinary world and the worlds of spirit the
Tree reflects the role of the shaman as intermediary between men and the spirit world. This is
one of the most important parts of the shaman‘s job: to use his knowledge of the spirit world to
help human beings in their interaction with spirits, be they spirits of illness or animal spirits in
the hunt. Similarly, he also helps the spirits by speaking for them in this reality. In this way, the
World Tree might be considered a non-ordinary aspect of the shaman him or herself. We shall
return to this concept at the close of this article.

Living on the World Tree

So the World Tree is a path for the spirits between the worlds. But it is also part of the spirit
world itself and has its own inhabitants. Stories tell of numerous animal and bird spirits living
in or on the tree.

Nordic myth is rich with stories of animal spirits that are associated with Yggdrasil. We have
already spoken of Odin‘s ravens. Ellis Davidson gives the following account of the Tree‘s other
inhabitants, chiefly derived from Snorri Sturleson. ―The tree was continually threatened, even

as it grew and flourished, by the living creatures that preyed on it. On the topmost bough sat
an eagle, with a hawk perched on its forehead: the same eagle, perhaps, of whom it is said that
the flapping of its wings caused the winds in the world of men. At the root of the tree lay a
great serpent, with scores of lesser snakes, and these gnawed continually at Yggdrasil. The
serpent was at war with the eagle, and a nimble squirrel ran up and down the tree, carrying
insults from one to the other. Horned creatures, harts and goats, devoured the branches and
tender shoots of the tree, leaping at it from every side.‖

In Siberia, the tree is widely reported to be the home of bird spirits, which in that part of the
world are very closely associated with a shaman‘s power. Among the Yakut, the initiation of a
shaman is marked by his soul being carried off by the Mother Bird of Prey to her nest in the
Tree deep in the underworld whilst his body is being dismembered by spirits of disease and
sickness. Other tribes report that tehre are the nests of eagles and ravens amongst the Tree‘s

In an interesting extension of this some Siberian accounts tell of human souls being nurtured
on the Tree. The Tungus shaman Semyonov Semyon interviewed in 1925 reported: ―Up above
there is a certain tree, a tree where the souls of shamans are reared before they attain their
powers. And on the boughs of this tree are nests in which the souls lie and are attended. The
name of the tree is Tuuru. The higher the nest in the tree, the stronger the shaman will be who
is raised in it, the more he will know and the further he will see. ―

So whilst the Tree is a gateway between the Worlds, it is also a world of its own with its own
inhabitants and powers. Many of these animals are closely connected to the spirits that lend
their power to shamans. Where the Eagle is said to be one of the main sources of a shaman‘s
power, the Eagle is found in the World Tree. Where serpents are important, they coil around
the Tree. This link between the inhabitants of the
World Tree and a shaman‘s power is reinforced by the Tungus story recounted above.

Working With the World Tree

As well as bringing direct representations of the World Tree into the village, shamans often
depict it on their sacred objects. Sacred objects are again a bridge between this world and the
other - bringing power from non-ordinary to ordinary reality. Throughout Siberia the
shaman‘s costume is covered with images of his spirit helpers. There are several examples
which depict the World Tree in a central position.

Drums too often carry the image of the World Tree. Semyon, the Tungus shaman quoted
above, also spoke about his drum thus: ―The rim of a shaman‘s drum is cut from a living larch.
The larch is left alive and standing in recollection and honour of the tree Tuuru, where the
soul of the shaman was raised.‖ As well as being made from the wood of the Tree, drums are
also often painted with images of the World Tree. Sami drums tend to have the universe of the
shaman painted onto them, and in a central position can often be seen a tree. Since the
shaman‘s drum is made from the wood of the Tree and bears its image, the shaman, through
drumming, projects his soul to the vicinity of the Tree.

In Celtic lore a maiden bearing a silver branch meets with Bran Mac Febal and describes the
Land Of Women which lies in the far West. The silver branch was one of the insignia of poets
in Ireland, however it in some ways functions like the drum, calling the hero to the

The Tree of Initiation and Fate

The World Tree is closely associated with shamanic initiation. Stories of shamanic apprentices
climbing trees can be found throughout accounts of shamanic experiences from Taisha
Abelar‘s accounts of hanging in a tree in Mexico to Siberian stories of climbing the World Tree
to attend a school for shamans run in heaven by the ancestors.

Probably the most famous account of initiation among the branches of the World tree is the
story of Odin‘s hanging in the branches of Yggdrasil in his search for the runes from the Poetic

I know that I hung on the windswept Tree

Through nine full nights
I was struck with a spear
And given to Odin
Myself offered up to myself.
Up on the Tree that no man knows
Whither its deep roots run
None aided me by food or drink
And down below I gazed
I took up the runes
Screaming I took them
Then I fell back

Odin‘s ordeal on the Tree is clearly close to accounts of vision quests in North America. Indeed
sitting out in Nature as a way of seeking spiritual power is also known in Scandinavia. The
avoidance of food and drink for an extended period is a common way of opening yourself to

I can also talk about the power of the Tree of initiation from my own experience. A couple of
years ago I decided to sit out in a tree by Raven Lake in Denmark. I was that child at school
who was told to just mouth the words and not to sing. I felt that it was time to reclaim my
voice. At dusk I walked down to the Tree, made a circle of stones around its base and climbed
up onto a long limb and leaned back against the trunk. As night settled around me, the forest
and lake were thick with presences and it grew cold. After a while I started to sing and I sang
every song in the book. And at last I sang the Ghost Dance song - I Circle Around. And as I
sang I found myself flying up above the world through the branches of the World Tree, Raven
flying with me. Me singing my journey. And that night, at the Well of Fate, I found my voice
again. The next morning I sang my experiences in front of the whole circle. It was a powerful
night, a night of initiation and of power.

Among the Gold Eskimos the climbing of a birch tree marks the high point of an apprentice‘s
initiation ceremony. The shamanic teacher climbs a birch tree and circles its trunk nine times.
As he climbs, the shaman‘s soul ascends to the Upper World. Each circling of the Tree marks
the passing of the shaman from one world to another and is described in story and song to
those present at the ceremony below, including the apprentice. The shaman then returns and
the apprentice and other initiates climb the Tree in turn.

An extension of the World Tree‘s Association with initiation is its link to fate and destiny.
Amongst the roots of Yggdrasil is the spring of Urd where lies the cave of the Norns, who are
the spirits who decide a man‘s fate. Eliade reports that amongst the Osmaili Turks the Tree has

a million leaves, on each of which a human fate is written; each time a man dies, a leaf falls. I
too often journey to a still pool amongst the Tree‘s roots to descry what is to come. It is in this
still place, because of the potential bound up in the roots of the Tree, that I find I can do
divinatory work most clearly.

We have already seen how the World Tree stands between the worlds, at the centre of the
universe, and that it is associated with the animal spirits that share their power with the
shaman. It is these characteristics that make the Tree a potent site for the shamanic initiation. It
is a place that is between, and gateways and portals are always places of power, and it is this
power of being between realities that the shaman takes up in his initiation.

The Death Of the Tree

If the World Tree is so closely linked to the shaman‘s power and to his position as intermediary
between humanity and the spirit world, it is logical that injuries to the shaman and his
community should be reflected in damage to the Tree.

This was brought home to me recently when I was doing some healing work for a close friend,
who has herself been doing shamanic work for some time, but was feeling disempowered.
When I entered the otherworld I found a lightning-blasted Tree surrounded by thorns and
brambles which at first prevented me from drawing too close. And in the Tree‘s branches I saw
an owl weeping tears of blood. Her alienation from her power was clearly reflected in the Tree.
Since she dug up the brambles, and began to work with the injured Tree, this has started to

The words of Nicholas Black Elk, in describing the damage done to his people by the white
men: ―There is no centre any longer and the sacred tree is dead.‖ In this it is clear that the Tree
represents not only the shaman but also his community. If there are no longer links to the spirit
world, there is no longer a Tree.


It is difficult, I think to talk of shamanic experience in terms of symbols and archetypes, these
are not terms which would be used by the shamans themselves. But it is tempting to think of
parallels between the shaman himself and the World Tree. Both are intermediaries between the
worlds and linked to sources of power. One of my earliest teachings from my spirit teacher was
that shamans should have their feet in the earth and their head in the heavens - a perfect
description of the Tree. However I think it is the final words of Black Elk that reveal the nature
of the link most clearly. Without a shaman, without a World Tree, humanity is cut off from the
spirit world and I think we are far the poorer for it.
Written by Karen Kelly

Medicine Wheel: the Circle of Life by Debra


The Medicine Wheel is representative of American Indian

Spirituality. The Medicine Wheel symbolizes the individual journey
we each must take to find our own path. Within the Medicine Wheel
are The Four Cardinal Directions and the Four Sacred Colors. The
Circle represents the Circle of Life and the Center of the Circle, the
Eternal Fire. The Eagle, flying toward the East, is a symbol of strength,
endurance and vision. East signifies the renewal of life and the
rebirth of Cherokee unity.

East = Red = success; triumph

North = Blue = defeat; trouble
West = Black = death
South = White = peace; happiness

There are three additional sacred directions:

Up Above = Yellow
Down Below = Brown
Here in the Center = Green

The color for North is Blue which represents sadness, defeat.
It is a season of survival and waiting.
The Cherokee word for North means "cold" u-yv-tlv.

The color for East is Red which represents victory, power.
Spring is the re-awakening after a long sleep,
victory over winter; the power of new life.
The Cherokee word for East is ka-lv-gv

The color for South is White for peace, happiness & serenity.
Summer is a time of plenty.
The Cherokee word for South means "warm" u-ga-no-wa.

The color for West is Black which represents death.
Autumn is the final harvest; the end of Life's Cycle.
The Cherokee word for West is wu-de-li-gv.

RED was symbolic of success. It was the color of the war club used to strike an enemy in battle
as well as the other club used by the warrior to shield himself. Red beads were used to conjure
the red spirit to insure long life, recovery from sickness, success in love and ball play or any
other undertaking where the benefit of the magic spell was wrought.

BLACK was always typical of death. The soul of the enemy was continually beaten about by
black war clubs and enveloped in a black fog. In conjuring to destroy an enemy, the priest used

black beads and invoked the black spirits-which always lived in the West,-bidding them to tear
out the man's soul and carry it to the West, and put it into the black coffin deep in the black
mud, with a black serpent coiled above it.

BLUE symbolized failure, disappointment, or unsatisfied desire. To say "they shall never
become blue" expressed the belief that they would never fail in anything they undertook. In
love charms, the lover figuratively covered himself with red and prayed that his rival would
become entirely blue and walk in a blue path. "He is entirely blue, " approximates meaning of
the common English phrase, "He feels blue. "The blue spirits lived in the North.

WHITE denoted peace and happiness. In ceremonial addresses, as the Green Corn Dance and
ball play, the people symbolically partook of white food and, after the dance or game, returned
along the white trail to their white houses. In love charms, the man, to induce the woman to
cast her lost with his, boasted, "I am a white man," implying that all was happiness where he
was. White beads had the same meaning in bead conjuring, and white was the color of the
stone pipe anciently used in ratifying peace treaties. The White spirits lived in the South.

Two numbers are sacred to the Cherokee. Four is one number, it represented the four primary
directions. At the center of their paths lays the sacred fire. Seven is the other and most sacred
number. Seven is represented in the seven directions: north, south, east, west, above, bellow,
and "here in the center" the place of the sacred fire. Seven also represented the seven ancient
ceremonies that formed the yearly Cherokee religious cycle.

Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel is a symbol for the wheel of life which is forever evolving and bringing
new lessons and truths to the walking of the path. The Earthwalk is based on the
understanding that each one of us must stand on every spoke, on the great wheel of life many
times, and that every direction is to be honored. Until you have walked in others' moccasins, or
stood on their spokes of the wheel, you will never truly know their hearts.

The medicine wheel teaches us that all lessons are equal, as are all talents and abilities. Every
living creature will one day see and experience each spoke of the wheel, and know those
truths. It is a pathway to truth, peace and harmony. The circle is never ending, life without

In experiencing the Good Red Road, one learns the lessons of physical life, or of being human.
This road runs South to North in the circle of the medicine wheel. After the graduation
experience of death, one enters the Blue or Black Road, that is the world of the grandfathers
and grandmothers. In spirit, one will continue to learn by counseling those remaining on the
Good Red Road. The Blue Road of the spirit runs East to West. The medicine wheel is life,
afterlife, rebirth and the honoring of each step along the way.

End of the Trail

An end to the old ways of life,
Freedom to hunt and fish,
Nomad, migrating with the season.
Eagle feathers represent:
Four directions on Mother Earth,
Four seasons of the year,
Four age groups.

Ernest Hunt - Navaho

Medicine Shield

The medicine shield is an expression of the unique gifts that it's maker wishes to impart about
his or her current life journey. This can be a new level of personal growth, or illustrate the
next mountain a person wishes to climb.

Every shield carries medicine through it's art and self-expression. Each shield is the essence of
a time and space that carries certain aspects of knowledge. All persons carry shields of the
lessons they learned from the four directions on the medicine wheel.

They are the healing tools we give ourselves to sooth the spirit and empower the will. The truth
needs no explanation, just reflection. This allows intuition to guide the heart so that
humankind may celebrate more than it mourns.

Sun who looks to four winds on

Mother Earth: North, South, East, West.
Enriching one's health,
Bring good luck, fortune,
Healing the sick.
Buffalo horns for strength, protection
Eagle feathers for wisdom, honesty, happiness.

Medicine Wheel - Circle of Life

The medicine wheel is sacred, the native people believe, because the Great Spirit caused
everything in nature to be round. The Sun, Sky, Earth and Moon are round. Thus, man should
look upon the Medicine Wheel (circle of life) as sacred. It is the symbol of the circle that marks
the edge of the world and therefore, the Four Winds that travel there. It is also the symbol of
the year. The Sky, the Night, and the Moon go in a circle above the Sky, therefore, the Circle is
a symbol of these divisions of time. It is the symbol of all times throughout creation.

Websites and Recommended Books


The Foundation for Shamanic Studies





Andrews, Ted. Animal Speak: The Spiritual Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small

Harner, Michael. The Way of the Shaman.

Ingerman, Sandra. Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner‘s Guide. (comes w/CD)

Ingerman, Sandra. Soul Retrieval.

Matthews, Caitlin. Singing the Soul Back Home.

Matthews, John. Celtic Totems Pack. (comes w/CD)

Matthews, John. Walker Between Worlds.

Sarangerel. Chosen by the Spirits: Following Your Shamanic Calling.

Sarangerel. Riding Windhorses: A Journey into the Heart of Mongolian Shamanism.

Skully, Nicki. Power Animal Meditations: Shamanic Journeys with Your Spirit Allies

Power Animal Meditations: Shamanic Journeys with Your Spirit Allies by Nicki Skully