Shamanism is a very ancient form of travel into the spirit world. It was practised in most, if not all tribal cultures. The way of the shaman has been revived over the last few decades – it can be a meaningful way for modern people to gain knowledge and enlightenment. The shamanism of the present day is based largely on Native American traditions, although there are other types, for instance Celtic or Norse. Shamanism is different from mediumship or channelling, for it is a very active approach. As a shaman you ‘travel’ with a question in mind. Your experiences on your journey may answer your question totally or in part, or may give rise to other questions. Or indeed you may receive no specific answer. Whatever the case, you can journey again and again, increasing your wisdom, and your power.
When you travel anywhere you need a map, and journeying into the spirit realms is no different. In fact when you explore the non-material, you need plenty of help and information. Of course, no ‘map’ of the subtle planes is going to be exact, for we can’t really define them by our normal ways of thinking. But a working model is fine, and will provide you with a reasonable guide as you start out.
Most shamanic maps of the cosmos are based on the idea of a World Tree. This is a mighty tree that holds the entire Universe in its structure. The most well-known of these ‘trees’ is the Norse Yggdrasil. Legend tells how the god Odin hung on this tree for nine days and nine nights until the secrets of the runes were revealed to him. So the wonderful shamanic tree is a source of wisdom. This also implies that mystical experiences are to be found in the natural world, and the true shaman has deep respect for nature, and animals. Another link with trees is found in the shaman’s drum, which is partly made from well-chosen wood. The drum is also called ‘The Shaman’s Horse’ because shamanic trances are created by drumbeat. Humans have always lived in close company with trees, both practically and spiritually.
When you begin your shamanic journeying the first place you will go to will be somewhere special in the ordinary world. You need to choose a location that you really love, where there is a way to climb up, and also a way to burrow down. So, if it happened to be by a tree, you would be able to go up into the branches by climbing, or flying, and to get down under the roots through a hollow in the trunk. You might choose a place in the city, with your way up represented by stairs to the roof, and down by stairs to the basement. Or you might begin on a mountainside, with the summit reachable but also the underground available, through a cave. Whatever place you choose, you are, as it were, in the trunk section of the World Tree and you are in Middleworld. It may sound as if Middleworld is just this normal, day-to-day world, but it is much more. As you close your eyes and travel on the drum-beat to your sacred place, you will see that it is more vivid and magical than you’re used to. Leaves are greener, sunlight brighter, shadows deeply mysterious. Nature spirits and elementals can be spotted, going about their work, and your power animal will come to meet you. In Middleworld you will find greater knowledge about the eco-system, what is going on in the earth at an energy-level, how animals really feel – and also the motives of people you know may become clearer.
The branches of the World Tree contain Upper World. This is the home of gods and angels, but it is also accessible to humans who are true seekers. The Big Picture may be seen, blessing received, the future glimpsed and all sorts of uplifting meanings to life can be experienced. If your question is about your spirituality you may find your journey takes you into Upperworld, where you may meet wise beings who give you advice. Enlightenment is to be found here.
The first thing to realise is that Lower World is not Hell. It is the realm of the Ancestors, and of all the elements that make up your instinctual being, your genetic makeup and your subconscious. In terms of the World Tree, it is the roots. Lower World can be scary because repressed feelings may lurk here as monsters, but these can be recognised, transformed and become sources of strength. In fact Lower World is the powerhouse, driving the process of evolution, holding memories that need to be resolved, old wounds waiting to be healed and undiscovered talents waiting to blossom. If your question is about something past, or hidden, you may travel here. Lower World has its own deities, too, and if they are respected they give the gifts of courage, intensity and ‘gut feelings’.
Shamanic journeying shouldn’t be casual. It is best done with an experienced group. Certainly you will need to be properly protected and to have found your Power Animal before you explore. If you ever feel the slightest bit concerned about anything you encounter, contact one of our expert and supportive readers at The Circle, to put you straight.
PUBLISHED: 01 September 2014