THE SHAMAN EXPLAINS
Founder of Women on Fire shaman Judith Seelig repeatedly calls for the feminine principle of listening. For all action to come out of the stillness of non-action. The active masculine principle to flow naturally from the receptive feminine. Doing born of being. For creativity to flow not from a bunch of enthusiastic women but through them.
Having the vision held by a shaman makes Women on Fire unusual, if not unique. This is someone who holds the vessel steady and true to course even when the boat is rocked or the wind abruptly changes direction. You might not know much about shamanism. So we asked Judith Seelig to write an introduction.
The Shaman Explains . . .
"Shaman means 'one who knows'. It comes from the name given to the traditional healers of the Tungus people of the Russian steppes, but the role of the shaman exists in many other cultures. He or she helps to regulate the relationship between humans and their environment, including elements like fire and water, birds, fish, animals, trees, plants, minerals and all other resources that support human life. The shaman's job is to maintain harmony in all realms: between humanity and it's environment, within humanity, as in the relationship between people and between different parts of society, and within the complex world of each individual. This last role is recognisably that of the healer, but the shamanic principals are the same: where one part dominates and causes weakness in another, or where weakness occurs for lack of relationship with the whole, the shaman rebalances.
This rebalancing happens through introducing, or reintroducing, the appropriate frequency. How does a shaman know what that is? Because she or he has some experience of the sound of the whole, the harmonic frequencies of life. It's that experience that forms the root of the knowing. No one can come to that place through learning, yet everyone can learn to undo some of the mental and emotional habits that might limit their own field of experience.
There are a raft of ways in which a person might encourage the state of consciousness that is free of personality. Mind-altering drugs, fasting, extreme fear (as in facing one's mortality) and trance-inducing rhythms are all part of the shaman's toolkit. In this way anyone can be apprenticed to a shaman, butlearning how to be true to the selfless whilst living as the self takes practice, self-awareness and continuous self-discipline. The shaman bridges worlds and so must know something of the finite and infinite at the same time. it is this knowing that is of huge value to society.
Is it relevant to our society? I believe it is, if for no other reason than the depth of our disregard for the whole and our profligate use, abuse and neglect of other forms of life calls for the voice of the seer. Our myopic selfishness is gargantuan. Mostly because the cruelty of something like factory farming, the destruction of forests, the polluting of air, soil and water through industrial processes and the consequent suffering in others occur not in our neighbourhood but unseen, elsewhere in the world. We buy something neatly and prettily packaged. Imagine how it would be if you could feel the story in a piece of meat, or see the fallout of mining and processing as you tug on an aluminium ring-pull.
Because the shaman works with the invisible, the shaman is easily dismissed or derided by those who look for certainties. Sometimes the most appropriate way of introducing a particular frequency is in its material form, like a herb, or a drug made from a plant that is known to effect change in a particular way. But where the quickest, simplest remedy is the appropriate sound, the shaman is indefinable. That in itself makes some people fearful. There is plenty of evidence to show that the vibration of pitch or frequency affects matter, as in X-rays, ultra-violet light or audible sound. So the shaman that uses the voice, or an instrument that vibrates in a particular range of frequencies like metal bowls, bells, gongs, a drum or a pipe, is working in a specific section of the electro-magnetic spectrum. (That's the range of different speeds at which energy radiates and moves out from something, including us.)
So a scientist can define the sounds and observe any palpable consequences, but the reason why the shaman chooses a particular pitch is much more difficult to pin down. Is this instinct, personal preference, intuition, chance, guesswork or just mumbo-jumbo? Where the shaman uses her or his voice, the variables are even greater. Cause and effect are more difficult to define. The human voice has a huge range of modalities. There's the actual note, the varying intensity of the sound, its shape, its beginning and ending (consonant or vowel), the indefinable "colour" in the individual's voice, and the intention behind the sound. To say nothing of the shape that the shaman's body makes whilst using the voice. All of those things make the sound or sounds unique.
If the shaman lives in a community others in that community will see how the shaman conducts his or her life. There might be awareness of how he or she treads softly on the earth, speaks rarely and with purpose, is tender and respectful of other forms of life, and has a stillness that can make the shaman seem HUGE.
By contrast, in our society the experience of meeting a shaman is likely to highlight difference. If you recognize elements that you appreciate and would like to live yourself, such as deep stillness or sharp clarity, then you're likely to be receptive. But if you feel unmet, uncomfortable and you compare, the shaman is not attractive.
Is this alterable? Probably not. The shaman is in service to the whole. The shaman does not change course so as to make people feel more accompanied in their separated, very particular state. But that separate condition, which is only a matter of perception, is a part of the whole. So there is always the possibility that the self-separated person can hear the song of inclusion all around them. That feeling of being included, of being a part of something, can come at any time. The shaman can function outside the framework of time and space. The consequences of what the shaman brings are not limited to the moment of action or interaction.
Just as love is invisble yet touches us in endless different ways, so too the shaman is hard to define. Attempts at analysis make the very concept increasingly elusive. If the shaman truly plays a part in re-balancing the whole, it will be in a way that defies definition. It will be beyond language. If we can describe it, then it is in the realm of the self.
The shaman is never self-appointed. Rather the shaman comes to a point in his or her life where the interests of the self cannot be met. Where the forceful power of unconditional love has the individual melting, or so thoroughly broken down that there is no starting place nor strength for resistance. If the shaman is to remind us of what is available beyond our finite minds, it will not be in language. That's why the shaman uses imagery, movement, sound and symbol to reawaken awareness.
If you have a skill to pass on, or something to communicate, you'll teach. A shaman who wants to pass on learnt practices or to teach a way of perceiving creation will have students. But the person for whom there came a moment of no choice, save perhaps this way or death, has nothing to teach. The becominga shaman was entriely personal. Unique. That person can only hope to enlivenin others a similar appreciation of the unique self hand-in-hand with the Self that cares as much for the whole as it does for itself.
The drop in the ocean... no ocean complete without it. The drop very little without the ocean.
When the shaman is singled out as a significant drop, she or he disappears into the ocean. In that sense the shaman has no followers, unless it is for the individual to follow the lead and drown the pain of separation by returning to the ocean of unconditional love."