“With all that we’ve got to be concerned about, you’re devoting an entire issue of The MOON to shamanism?
“Well then, you’d better make it rain.”
The above might have been my response to this month’s theme just 10 short years ago. I had little patience with poncho-wearing, rattle-shaking, indigenous wannabes claiming to be shamans.
I’ve since come to think that shamanism might be the most urgent topic on the planet.
That’s because shamanism, as West African shaman Malidoma Somé, explains, is based on a “cognition of the heart,” an awareness of and attention to the multiple other levels of reality that western linear cognition excludes. These are parallel realities, Somé says, and as we all know, parallel lines never meet. Yet this doesn’t mean parallel realities don’t exist. In fact, shamans say they give rise to the physical dimension. Our denial of them, however, in deference to a scientific materialism that is destroying the planet at a furious pace, bodes ill for our survival.
As contributor Anna M. Alkin, a Catholic chaplain-turned-shaman, so perfectly states in her essay this month, “The practice of shamanism is a way of bringing the mind back to Earth, back to the body, and back to the soul to retrieve the guidance and information lurking just beneath the surface of our lives in the dark and subconscious realms of the heart.”
This “cognition of the heart” might be the only thing that can save us from our hell-bent efficiency at converting the wonders of the natural world into ever-growing piles of toys and trash and turning us so viciously against each other.
Shamanism also teaches us—as does Jungian psychology—to read the events and circumstances of our lives as meaningful symbols; indeed, as sacred texts. When we do, the events of our lives become helpful signposts we can interpret. When we slow our pace to consider all the information that is incoming, life becomes fuller, richer, more meaningful—without consuming a single additional resource or spending another solitary dime.
As a result of the teachings and experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have over the last 10 years, I now consider shamanism—a respectful stance of openness and gratitude towards the spirits that manifest through the natural world—akin to the essential manners of a houseguest, who asks permission before, and says thank you after, helping himself to the contents of the refrigerator. The Q’ero shamans call this ayni, reciprocity. Anyone who neglects these forms of reciprocity is not a guest, but an intruder, and liable to be treated accordingly. As the Earth is indicating through wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and earthquakes.
Our interview this month is with Hank Wesselman, a paleoanthropologist who has worked to trace human origins back to Australopithecus, and understands linear cognition at the Ph.D. level, yet who found the path of the shaman to be a much more profoundly rewarding way to live.
Dr. Zohara M. Hieronimus shares with us an explanation for and excerpt from White Spirit Animals: Prophets of Change, a book she wrote following a waking vision wherein a convocation of White Spirit animals came to her and asked her to tell their story. We also share a humorous memoir from Rick Blum, “Rain man for hire,” and a fabulous short story, “The Goddess and the Big Bang,” by Rennie Walker.
We have wonderful poetry from new contributors and old, including Devon Balwit, Joe Cottonwood, Emily Reid Green, Linda Imbler, Joseph Murphy, Judith Prager, and Alan Walowitz. Plus Movies You Might’ve Missed, MOON Shine, and a link to my recent interview on 21st Century Radio about—what else, The MOON!
Dear readers, this is where I close with a plea for support. If you love The MOON and want to keep her shining—and more ambitiously—if you want to support her transition to a print publication, then please consider donating whatever amount you can. If you can afford to spare the equivalent of a cup of coffee monthly, then please visit our Patreon page, where you can become a patron of The MOON for as little as $5/month. The MOON you save may be your own!