Connecting shamanic initiates with contemporary elders.

Aimee K. Shawoffline

  • 10


  • 0


  • 3.7K


  • Aimee K. Shaw posted in the group The Urban Shaman Discussion Group 4 years, 8 months ago

    I want to post this discourse that occurred last night on The Urban Shaman Facebook Page. It was in response to the article interview with Sue Kullerd.

    I’m sharing it here not to invite dissension or create a mob, but because I think it’s important that we are open to these kinds of discussions. We’re not going to mediate change until we can learn how to recognize and address these things. This kind of thinking is what compelled us to want to create a place for people who feel frustrated by, or disenfranchised from their spiritual groups because of this kind of belief. How can we lovingly address this?

    From C: Is this page only going to feature predominantly white people who took classes at a western institute… like academics who got “certified” as shamans

    Or will it feature an ecclectice cross section of people? Like indigenous practitioners from unbroken traditions with intact culture and direct relationship with spirits? like curenderos, ayahuasceros, vegitalistas, mayan wisdom keepers, elders from native populations, etc

    This lady seem to be to a shaman what a western asana teacher is to a swami / yogi

    Kind regards

    From TUS: Hi Casey. Welcome to our Page for The Urban Shaman magazine.

    Perhaps our magazine is not something you will find helpful or engaging. We don’t expect everyone to understand or to approve.

    Our mission is to be inclusive rather than exclusive. There are already publications in existence that feature exclusively indigenous curanderos, ayahuasqueros, vegitalistas, and other forms of unbroken traditions with intact culture.

    We at The Urban Shaman have found that in American shamanic practice, and shamanic practice in other urban, contemporary societies, these indigenous practices hold wisdom, but are culture-specific and not translatable in their entirety to Western culture.

    And so, a broken culture is destined to remain broken? And “white people” have no right to define and create their own ceremony, ritual, culture, traditions, and relevance in relationship with the Spirits?

    Your perspective brings to light a long overdue discussion about such things, and our commitment at The Urban Shaman is to discuss such things in integrity, with honor, and respect for all, indigenous or not.

    We are coming from a place of archetypal shamanism- not indigenous stereotypical shamanism. And part of our goal is to provide a platform for discussion on what urban shamanism looks like. So thank you for engaging here on our Page.

    From TUS: C- You’ve edited your comment a few times, and it’s changed a bit in that process. So, let’s go with this: how are American shamans made?

    From C: Thanks for explaining the scope and focus of your publication.

    The native traditions are here in America and growing im not sure who found them untranslatable.

    And yes white people can do what they want … what i have seen from my time in different circles is the western tendency to appropriate things, use things out of context or without proper knowledge, to try and serve medicine without proper training and it puts people at risk.

    Things like western kundalini yoga, hot yoga, sound healing, cacao ceremonies, are popular things people enjoy but when deeper things are concerned….

    working with plant medicines, establishing relationships with spirits, working with energies in a medical way, cleaning entity attachments, or correcting dietas there has to be to real training and not just weekend workshops and book learning

    I think we do have very different perspectives. I dont believe there is any right or wrong…. we all find connection to the divine in our own way and there is no universal path thats right for everyone…

    I wish you all the best on your journey and with your publication.

    From Aimee Shaw, M.A.: C- Thank you for your comments- they initiate a very important conversation! It’s interesting that you state, “The native traditions are here in America and growing im not sure who found them untranslatable”, but then also state, “what i have seen from my time in different circles is the western tendency to appropriate things…”

    In my personal experience this kind of thinking and belief system creates a catch-22 for me. As a healer who was actually initiated in very early childhood, it’s as if you are saying to me, ‘Well, you’re white. So that means you’re either appropriating another culture you have no right to, or you’re studying in some illegitimate way. So you can’t be the real thing, ever. And you white people are just hopeless, because you won’t ever be able to heal yourselves.”

    How do “white people” lean in to the shamanic impulse deep within their hearts and souls in such a way that it’s acceptable to non-whites?

    From C: The Urban Shaman- shaman is a Russian word thats taken on a lot of different meanings lately im not sure what an american shaman is…

    Lets take plant spirit shamanism for example…. one does plant dietas with different teacher plants and the plant spirit comes and teaches in dreams… each plant has its own universe one can enter… go to its hospital, universities, correction facilities…

    In ayahuasca ceremonies the medicine will show us what is happening in the dietas or which plants need to be dieted…

    There are categories of plants and trees that require different amount of times or living restrictions to work with….

    Usually one has to diet these teacher plants for a few years to become a curendero….

    And this can be slightly different in meaning than the word shaman…. this is a medical path to become an energy doctor… using plants and plant spirits in a medicinal way…

    An ayahescero should have taken the medicine hundreds of times before serving it… one is learning directly from the spirit of the medicine

    So there is a tradition.. people who have explored…. found what is good…. walked the path themselves…. spent their life time cultivating relationships with different spirits….and they can guide others along…. some traditions have unbroken knowledge going back many generations

    People grow up in shamanic families… the way of life is a part of their culture…. they grow up with it and into it..

    That is just an example

    It is a very western idea to think one can become a shaman by getting a piece of paper or thru a few workshops

    The idea that a piece of paper, lectures or academic training will enable one to transmute different energies, protect one in the spirit world, or endow one with qualities to become a spiritual leader or healer is misguided.

    The idea that people can make up ceremonies (with medicine) without the years of proper training is dangerous.

    This is not to say communities cant form new traditions. Or approach the sacred in their own way or utilize holistic approaches to healing there is no path that is right or wrong for everyone

    But there is value in looking at peoples credentials, training, experience, etc
    From TUS: C- thank you. We are very aware. 🙂

    “It is a very western idea to think one can become a shaman by getting a piece of paper or thru a few workshops.”

    And we are “Western” shamans. So it seems fitting! Perhaps this is our culture? 😉
    From C: Aimee Shaw, M.A. – There are many well trained healers that studied with people from intact shamanic traditions here in America holding ceremonies and many indigenous teachers that visit…
    the tradition imported just fine however… many of the people who go to those ceremonies a few times then think they can start serving the medicine and it creates a potentially dangerous situation

    This really doesnt have anything to do with skin color or education i live in predominantly white areas so those are predominantly the people i see doing sketch things

    It was just a broad brush stroke used in the first post.

    I know many wonderful caucasian shamans and a few phds and mds that underwent extensive indigenous training

    But when i was trying to assess if this publication would have articles i was interested in i did want to know if the people interviewed would be most academics, psychotherapists, people who took courses from western institutions etc

    My own area of interest is the indigenous cultures…

    This isnt saying anyone is good or bad right or wrong just what im interested in.

    Obviously there can be indigenous people who are fake shamans, opportunistic to cash in on ayahuasca tourism… and there can be incredibly skilled western people… the dichotomy was only to ascertain the scope of the publications articles

    But overall to be honest i do see caucasians from western culture as a whole as less credible when it comes to shamanic traditions… mainly because much of their own culture has been lost.


    C: Gratitude for the discussion; im wishing you all the best of luck with your publication and a happy holiday weekend 🙂

    Aimee Shaw, M.A.: C- You ran away! I was just going to say:

    Firstly, having been a student at FSS myself, and currently enrolled in the 3 year program, I can tell you anything you want to know from first-hand account as an insider. I wouldn’t believe anything anyone from the outside tells you about it, because that’s just a projection. FSS does not give out “certificates”- never has. There’s no piece of paper, no graduation ceremony. None of that.

    The work that Michael Harner has done is a magnum opus for his own life legacy. It’s pretty remarkable, actually. He truly brought a Big Medicine to the west, in my opinion. And precisely because the Foundation does NOT teach cultural shamanism, it makes it accessible to all- even indigenous people who have lost their traditions. Not everyone on The Urban Shaman team is an FSS student. In fact, I am the only one. So we’re not about promoting any one school or way.

    We’re moments away from publishing an article/interview with a Mexican immigrant/Toltec descendant living in an urban environment. So I think we have a nice mix that honors ALL human beings and shamanic expressions. It’s one of the reasons our commitment is to archetypal shamanism- if we can discuss these things in their purity and essence we can find much more unity and hopefully put an end to these ridiculous shaman wars.

    “But when i was trying to assess if this publication would have articles i was interested in i did want to know if the people interviewed would be most academics, psychotherapists, people who took courses from western institutions etc”

    A combination of all of that, and then some, I think. Actually, I think The Urban Shaman will help us all expand and grow in exciting ways that encourage understanding and acceptance.


    I think as a community we want to build strong foundations that are deeply rooted in etchics, in unity, in strength of practice. While I am grateful to build a platform for these things, I also recognize the potential to create more segregation. While we are creating a sacred space, a vessel and attracting certain people through this process, we also run the risk of becoming just another faction, like the “black churches” and “white churches” in America. I really am committed to not just building this vessel, but to also reaching across the divide. In essence, that is one of the main motivations for this project- to build a platform while also building a bridge. My hope is that we offer a safe shelter for those weary and battered, and also a strong shield defense for those spiritual warriors who also feel called to do this work of bridge-buidling.

    I am still enthralled with Vikings, so no offense meant. I am loving the series (even though it is violent). It has a rich spiritual depth to it in terms of the Hero’s Journey, so the reference to the #shieldwall really rings true for me here.


    liked this