The Snake. . .

“I saved you,” cried the woman
“And you’ve bitten me, but why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I’m going to die”
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

-Al Wilson

I recently had my eyes opened to just how diluted the shamanic path has become – or rather, perhaps I should say, how lax those who claim to walk it can sometimes be.  At a circle this weekend, one of the attendees brought an implement with her which she held while journeying.  Although I did feel some emanations of power coming from it, this is not an uncommon occurrence, and so I said nothing about it – a mistake, and display of carelessness on my part, as will later be seen.

During our final journey, the item, in spirit form, flew at me from across the room and nearly imbedded itself in my chest.  An ally of mine intercepted the attack, threw the spirit form back into the item and sealed it there.  I continued my dialog with an Elder who proceeded to examine me and remove all traces of the item.  After the circle, I received additional healing through a partner of mine I’ve performed ceremonies with countless times over the last few years.

I pulled the woman aside who brought the item in and related to her exactly what had happened.  She explained that she had received no formal training in the use of the implement (a phurba, or Tibetan tent peg, which is used in Tibetan shamanism to anchor sacred space, heal, or in her words, kill demons).  She went on to tell me that she was meeting with a shaman who lived across country who would teach her how to use it, but that it would take some time.

By her own admittance, she did not know how to handle or store the item, nor did she know who made it, or where it originally came from.  She purchased it because she was attracted to it, and thought she might be able to use it to heal herself and others.  I discussed with her the nature of power items, and explained to her that everything is alive, and quite often has its own intent.  I addressed the fact that had I not been protected, I might, and quite probably would, have left this world.  I also explained that it might have attacked someone else in the room, and that they might not have been so lucky. As a final warning, I told her that there are people out there who would just as easily have hurled it back at her, and that she might have learned a powerful lesson in a very difficult way. After promising that she would not bring it out in public again until she learned how to properly work with it, she was on the phone with her teacher.

Then yesterday, I received an e-mail from a student of mine who was offering to teach people to journey and encounter their animal guides and teacher spirits…in 25 minutes.  I immediately called her and asked her about this.  She asked if that wasn’t enough time.  I was taken aback by this, especially since we’d worked together one-on-one for over a year and a half.  During that time, we’d worked extensively with Power Animals and Spirit Guides.

After speaking with her again at great length about the shamanic view of the world, the possible dangers of journeying for the inexperienced, and the nature of a bond between practitioner and Power Animal, she decided to go with a simple guided meditation instead.  She later e-mailed me and thanked me for my intervention and stressed her desire to “do it right”.

We who walk this path are driven by our hearts.  But we must also pay attention to the voice of reason.  We must never place others at risk simply because we are eager to see them healed.  In our service, we are nothing more than a bridge between the Spirit and the Physical.  We “do” nothing except open ourselves to the creator and allow his work to manifest through us.  If we are careless, or motivated by by ego in this, in our eagerness to serve, we can place the very ones we would help in harm’s way. . .


4 Responses to “The Snake. . .”

  1. A very informative and sobering post. True Shamanism requires extensive training, experience, and skill, which you obviously have in spades, but there are many newcomers who do not have these vital skill sets, and naively think that they can man a ship with very little training and no life boats on the deck. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with all of us, my brother.


  2. Thank you, Shelley, for your comment. While I can’t or won’t speak to my skills, I will simply say that you are right about the time requirements, and the fact that many leap into the fray with little or no preparation. We cannot claim title to the healing that takes place, but we certainly can, and must, claim responsibility over how we rise to the calling which makes us instruments of it…


  3. I am frequently amazed at the largess with which shamanism is taught and practiced. On the other hand, we live in an instant society, with very little awareness of the power and spirits loose in the world. To acknowledge power is to take on an obligation to meet those powers and spirits with respect and compassion. (One of my beloved colleagues just refuses to acknowledge evil, running it over with laughter and love. I just haven’t managed that yet.)And yes, she finds joy in the powers alive in the world.)

    Thanks for the, as usual, deeply thought and felt post.


    • Thank you, Michael. It’s a daily struggle. I’ve taught and attended workshops in the past, and have seen some very dedicated practitioners develop with guidance from those humble beginnings.

      As my own practice stems Harner’s Core Shamanism, as taught by two EXTREMELY competent and supportive teachers, I can, from personal experience, say that the method has value.

      Still, the scenarios described above really underscore not only the responsibility of the student, but of the teacher as well. I must admit that I’m torn as to whether or not offering workshops is my path. While we can’t be responsible for the actions of others, we are tied to them karmically, and pre-emptive action as opposed to post-disaster clean-up may be the road better taken…


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